Like a roller coaster ride, 2007 has had high climbs, stomach-churning drops, painful hairpin turns and finally — at the end of it all — satisfaction and relief as we say, “Let’s do it again.”
And so we shall, as the movements for progress, democracy and peace go into 2008, a year that is shaping up for historic battles, since it will be the last year of the Bush regime.
Expectations were high when the new Democratic-controlled Congress was sworn in last January. Sick of the Iraq war and GOP corruption, the people had another agenda in the making that included college tuition relief, a minimum wage hike, labor rights and immigration reform.
But ending the war took center stage. Of the first 20 issues of the People’s Weekly World newspaper, 15 had the Iraq war as the top story. A major never-before-held battle got under way in Congress to try to force President Bush to accept the reality that the Iraq war must end. Instead, the president “surged” on, sending thousands more troops. The battle at home and in Iraq continues to rage. The current toll is 3,900 U.S. troops dead, at least 29,000 wounded, anywhere from 86,000 to 1 million Iraqis dead from the occupation-related violence, millions of Iraqi refugees and some $600 billion of U.S. tax dollars poured out in Iraq (and Afghanistan).
An example is the State Children’s Health Insurance Program fight, which the People’s Weekly World first reported in March (“Governors confront Bush on kid care”). There hasn’t been one demonstration on keeping and expanding this vital program that doesn’t include a reference to the skewed spending priorities, especially the Iraq war. It’s become a common adage that you hear from so many people as they shake their heads: “The money spent for one day of the Iraq war would cover the whole kids’ health program.”
Likewise, on the numerous education, public transit or other budget cuts that are being made on every state and local government level, more and more people are linking the two: human needs vs. war.
At the same time, a growing cooperation between many different “people’s” constituencies has continued and consolidated in many areas. Labor and immigrant rights groups are working together for legalization and against mass raids and deportations. Numerous civil rights groups, students and Internet activists came together in Jena, La., for one of the largest marches against racism in recent years. A wave of strikes and related solidarity actions — national and global — by union workers and supporters unfolded (see related story on page 8). Labor unions, community groups and entire cities are working together on creating “green jobs and a green economy.” And not a moment too soon, as a new world consensus warns of the looming disasters unless action is taken on global climate change.
These steps signal that we can expect to see the emergence of stronger alliances and coalitions in 2008 that can not only challenge the ultra-right and its extreme, pro-corporate agenda and win in November, but bring to the fore the key problems that the majority of people face and the solutions they need. Putting unity into action, we could see the labor and people’s movement going from a defensive position — always reacting to a lousy agenda — to setting the agenda and seeing that it’s carried out.
2008 will have these struggles and new ones, with new alliances. They will take on a new character of solidarity for jobs, equality, health care, sustainability, democracy and peace. We are seeing the early stages of it with 30 different unions representing some 350,000 workers in Southern California coming together to fight not only for good contracts for their members, but for good jobs for all, and for elected officials who will work for these ends.
A roller coaster ride shakes you up a little, but it just gets you back where you started. This ride we’ve been on, this past year, has taken us to a new starting point.
This is the last issue of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo for 2007. All the staff, volunteers and editorial board members wish all of you safe and hopeful holidays and look forward to a New Year of victories, new challenges and new friends.
Terrie Albano is the editor of People's Weekly World newspaper (www.pww.org).