Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Mar. 27, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
April 1 is often referred to as "April Fool's Day." For non-citizen immigrants, however, that day will be no laughing matter. On April 1, a million of these fully documented immigrants will find themselves no longer eligible for food stamps. An estimated 500,000 will lose Supplemental Security Income disability payments in August.
A number of states have received a deadline extension on the April 1 cutoff. But it's only for a few months.
All this is just the beginning of the nightmare, courtesy of the new anti-welfare law bearing President Bill Clinton's signature.
Pouring salt onto the ever-expanding wound, two big capitalist corporations recently announced major layoffs. On March 14, Apple Computer said it will lay off 4,100 employees, or 30 percent of its work force. That same day, H.J. Heinz, a giant food conglomerate, announced it will eliminate 2,500 jobs.
This news tears to shreds the bourgeois claim that the new law is meant to "move people from welfare to work."
Sure it is--if the work is one of the two latest forms of slave labor: workfare or prison labor.
For those who won't subscribe to these, the bosses have yet another tack: totally free labor, also known as "volunteerism."
This is the theme of the Olympic-like extravaganza planned for April 27 in Philadelphia's Independence Hall. The event, called "The Partnership for America's Future," is being organized at the top levels of the U.S. government. The robber barons of big business, including top executives at Shell Oil, American Express and AT&T, are paying for it.
Clinton and former President George Bush will co-host the Philadelphia event. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford are also expected to attend. In fact, it's known as "the presidents' summit."
And who's the appointed chairperson of this sordid event?. None other than former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chief Gen. Colin Powell, who ran the Pentagon's bloody 1991 war against the people of Iraq.
According to the summit's web page on the Internet, mayors of the country's 100 biggest cities have been told to attend. The welfare law is causing major headaches for all of them. The poverty, homelessness, hunger and general desperation that will come in its wake will play out on the streets of the cities.
Most of these local officials are Democrats. Some have a fairly liberal reputation. To varying degrees, they may criticize the president for having signed on to the vicious welfare "reform." Yet the power and speed of this steamroller--along with their party loyalty--is sweeping them along with the propaganda campaign selling this huge attack on the working class.
Because that's what the Philadelphia summit is shaping up to be: a major political event used to solidify and propel the right-wing program of broad cutbacks.
Will it work? Can a "summit" convince the masses of people that it's okay to force people to "volunteer" their labor instead of being paid a decent wage at a real job or getting survival benefits when decent jobs aren't available?
It won't work if a group of uninvited guests has its way. Not invited to Philadelphia, but coming anyway, will be thousands of demonstrators protesting this anti-worker, anti-poor farce.
The National People's Campaign has enlisted hundreds of organizations and individuals to mobilize to protest at the summit's April 27 opening ceremonies.
Powell has called the April 27 meeting a "non-partisan effort." By this, the general-turned-politician means workers, bosses and politicians are all uniting around the view that "volunteerism" is a wonderful and proven vehicle for addressing the country's social ills.
Those who live in the real world will be forgiven for calling this rubbish.
When poor and working people freely give their time and effort to help each other it's because of a natural desire to assist another human being in need. When the bosses "volunteer" it's to get a tax write-off.
Will the capitalists volunteer to do something really helpful--like reverse all the layoffs and give every worker a job at union wages?
There is nothing "non-partisan" about the April 27 summit. In fact, the selection of Powell as head cheerleader means the summit enjoys the dubious distinction of having a representative of the military-industrial complex pushing the joys of charity. Of course, no one ever sees the Pentagon brass going around with a tin cup asking for donations.
According to the March 17 issue of Time magazine, Powell runs his Philadelphia office with military-style precision. "It's getting wild around here, and I say that as someone who went through the Persian Gulf War," said Col. Bill Smullen, Powell's top aide.
The Gulf War is a more than appropriate analogy. The U.S. government volunteered its mostly working-class troops to slaughter thousands of Iraqis and, in the process, poisoned its own soldiers with radiation and other lethal toxins.
Here at home, the U.S. ruling class has launched a vicious war against the working class. This war is called capitalist restructuring. It has many fronts: attacks on unions, building more prisons, dismantling welfare and escalating deadly police repression, to name just a few.
The bosses have volunteered the masses to be the casualties in this war. And there is no let-up in sight.
Will the former workers at Apple and Heinz end up on welfare? If so, the businesses behind the presidents' summit have plans for them.
Herman Cain, the head of the Godfather's Pizza and the National Restaurant Association, is said to be trying to "persuade" 33,000 restaurants to start school-to-work and welfare-to-work programs.
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