One of the great achievements of the capitalist class in the United States has been its ability to enlist the enthusiastic support of the trade union leadership in this country for a foreign policy of intervention and counterrevolution, a policy clearly against the interests of the organized working class here. One recent instance was AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland’s presence on the panel headed by Henry Kissinger which endorsed the Reagan Administration’s war against Central America. The interest of US corporate leaders in a policy supporting rightwing oligarchies and juntas is directly related to the preservation of low-wage, unorganized labor havens for their “runaway” shops and factories. These in turn are used as levers to wrest concessions from workers in this country. Another reflection of this strange alliance is the fact that Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party contender with the strongest ties to “big labor” also advocates a policy of continued military intervention in the region.
The Middle East has always seemed a bit more detached from this transparent contradiction, but a recent labor confrontation at New York’s Kennedy Airport has posed the dilemma of reconciling workers’ interests with US foreign policy priorities in a fresh way. At the end of March 1983, the contract of some 225 members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) with El Al Airlines expired. The Israeli national carrier was then in financial difficulty. In November 1982, in a move to break the strong Israeli workers’ organization at El Al, the Begin government had threatened to liquidate the company and sell its assets off to a new, private company. When the New York contract expired a few months later, El Al demanded that the IAM local agree to a three-year wage freeze and a package of “give-backs” in job security, vacations and other areas. According to one IAM strike captain, El Al management boasted of breaking the Israeli union and asserted that “you are next.”
The local continued working for a year without a contract while mandatory mediation efforts continued. When the IAM finally did strike, El Al flew in some 75 workers from Israel. The IAM strikers suspect that the US government has collaborated with El Al’s transnational scab scam by allowing the strikebreakers in on diplomatic passports, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service has so far not responded to IAM inquiries on this. El Al asserts that the 75 strikebreakers in fact have dual Israeli and US citizenship. What is more certain is that the strikebreakers are being transported through the picket lines each day in Israeli diplomatic vehicles. In addition, El Al management and Israeli consulate security personnel have been enlisted as strikebreakers, in violation of their management and diplomatic visas.
According to IAM District 100 officials, neither IAM President William Winpisinger nor AFL-CIO President Kirkland have issued statements supporting the strike. They say that Kirkland did write a “polite letter” to Prime Minister Shamir and Histadrut officials, and that Winpisinger has asked the Transport Workers’ Union in New York to support the strike. Although the TWU reply was positive, support has not been forthcoming. Despite police violence against the strikers, and despite local efforts to get media coverage, there has been almost none. Some strikers believe that election year politics may be playing a role. The top union leadership, one strike spokesperson told MERIP, may fear that the White House would use support for the strikers to portray the labor movement and the Democratic Party as “anti-Israel.” Local IAM officials are certain of one thing: “this is a strike like no other” in their experience, for they are up against something quite different from what would be involved in a strike against any other national carrier, such as Air France or British Airways.
We reported in our last editorial about the events at Neve Tirtza, the women’s prison in Israel. Just after we went to press, we received word that prison authorities had finally granted the Palestinian prisoners’ demand that they not have to cook for and serve their jailers. The major factor in this victory seems to have been the strong support which the women prisoners had for their struggle from both Palestinian and Israeli women in the Women’s Working Committee and the Women Against Occupation.
We were grieved to learn recently of the death in Rome of Livia Rokach. For the past year and a half, Livia had been providing detailed and unsparing coverage of events in Lebanon in the English-language edition of al-Fajr. Many of our readers are familiar with her 1980 study of Israel’s aggressive policy towards Palestinians and neighboring Arab states, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism. This remarkable book was based on the diaries of former Israeli foreign minister and prime minister Moshe Sharrett. Livia’s father, Israel Rokach, had been mayor of Tel Aviv from 1936 to 1953, and was close to the Labor Party establishment of that era. Livia moved to Rome in 1959 as a correspondent for Davar, New Outlook and Israel radio. Her strong opposition to Israeli policies and her developing anti-Zionist convictions led her to eventually renounce her Israeli citizenship. In addition to her work in support of Palestinian rights, Livia had also been active in solidarity work with the liberation movements in Vietnam and Eritrea. We will deeply miss her tireless and inspiring work.
This May 1 will be more than May Day 1984. It is also the 35th anniversary of Monthly Review, the pioneering independent socialist magazine and press. Monthly Review’s existence and persistence over three and a half decades has been no small ingredient in the emergence of a network of progressive journals in this country providing rich and diversified coverage of all aspects of national and international developments. We take this opportunity to salute and congratulate Harry Magdoff, Paul Sweezy, Bobbye Ortiz and everyone else at Monthly Review for their great work, and we anticipate many more fruitful years of collaboration.
Some subscribers have asked recently about the late delivery of issues. The problem reflects delays we have experienced in editorial production in the first months of this year. We have been steadily moving back towards a schedule which will put the magazine in subscribers’ hands early in the month of publication, and of course we will be trying to avoid such delays in the future.