Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed a candidate for the U.S. Senate, coordinator of the Center for Social Justice in Los Angeles and a member of the Socialist Unity Party John Parker. The head of the Foundation found out from Parker why no one from the political or military leadership of the United States was ever brought to justice for American war crimes, what impact the Biden administration had on the humanitarian crisis in Donbas and for what reason the US political elite is interested in increasing the number of convicts in their country.
Mira Terada: Hello, dear viewers and readers of the Foundation to Battle Injustice. Today our guest is the coordinator of the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice in Los Angeles, leading member of the Socialist Unity Party and a candidate for the US Senate, John Parker. Good afternoon, John, nice to meet you. Please tell our viewers and readers a few words about yourself?
John Parker: Thanks for having me here. Well, my political biography, I guess, starts as an activist. When I was 13, I was working in the solidarity movement for the United Farm Workers Union in defense of immigrant and migrant workers, putting food on people’s tables. And as an adult, I worked as a copy editor for the newspaper, and I was a member of the Communist Party. And then I worked various jobs from factory work to dishwashing to even marketing positions. And I was able to bring about some union elections at some of those jobs. And when I got to California, my family came with me to California, we got involved in the anti-war movement and we worked on the $15 minimum wage struggles here. And we began fighting another U.S. war. And that we’re trying to fight right now. So we’re full circle here.
M.T.: You organized your first union elections at the age of 18, when you came up with a proposal to raise the minimum wage for employees of a steel mill in New Jersey. Please tell us more about this episode of your life.
J.P.: Yeah, that was a pretty much of a highlight, but those are actually two separate things. At the steel pipe bending and processing plant in New Jersey I was working a summer job in between my attendants at a very expensive college in New York University. And I had the grades to go, but not the money to stay. So but in between the summers there I was able to work at this plant. I got the help of the international Union of Electrical Workers. That was the union my father belonged to. And, you know, we did what we needed to do to get the election going on official NLRB election but the election wasn’t successful. The plant closed down later on. And so I’m not sure if there was another attempt to do it again. But for the first time, those workers learned about unions and their potential power as workers. And then around 2014 inspired by the $15 minimum wage initiative in Seattle, we began the process of advocating for that here in Los Angeles. I authored a ballot initiative that unlike other like other bills, this would have taken place immediately in 2014 as a way back in 2014. We could add $15 an hour and but it also had provisions for also progressive local grassroots organizations to help ensure that this would take place, that these workers would get the wages they’re supposed to get. So that way we were trying to get the local organizations involved in the union movement too. But the Democratic Party, using our friend Vice President Biden, he took a trip to Los Angeles and discouraged the initiative for an initiative more in line with business interests and the unions followed suit and discouraged the initiative. So they got another initiative that’s going to take effects by next year. Everyone will have $15 minimum wage, but they could have done it in 2014. It was sure that the initiative that we started forced the city to act and do something about them.
M.T.: All right. Well, better late than never. As a member of the Socialist Unity Party, you have repeatedly participated in protests and campaigns against military actions. Given this fact, how do you feel about the conflict in Ukraine? In your opinion, was it possible to resolve this conflict without the use of weapons?
J.P.: Yeah, it would have been nice to be able to resolve it without the use of weapons. But, you know, we’re not against all military actions. And one of the ways oppressors maintains their tyranny against the oppressed is to convince us that violence by the oppressed is bad. So some compromises and some say they’re both equally bad, but this is just a method to discourage self-defense, which everyone has a right to. However, the oppressor’s violence is not in self-defense. It’s an offensive, not a defensive aggression. And the violence used by the oppressed, for example, the black slaves revolting against their slave masters was in self-defense against genocide. So if we look at the border of Ukraine on February 22nd, we see over 100,000 troops poised to come in and finish the job that they started eight years ago after the U.S. funded and orchestrated the coup put there by pro-U.S. and pro-NATO allies to put pro-U.S. and pro-NATO allies in power. And they wear a mask to perform genocide. And a humanitarian crisis was about to unfold. If not for the request by the people in the Donbas’s region, the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, pleading for the Russian assistance to stop it and the people have that right to do that in that region. Donbass region, they had a right to get military help, to stop genocide, to protect their children. And the Russian government actually had a responsibility to help them and they did. Self-defense applies to countries that are defending themselves against the well-established violence of U.S. And that existential threat posed by the Ukrainian, NATO member state with a military led by Nazi forces is indeed an existential threat to Russia, not only in terms of snuffing out life, but also snuffing out a way of life by fascism, which is the most evil system produced by capitalism and imperialism. So they had a right to self-defense. I often say, what would the United States do if the Taliban had put had billions of dollars that the U.S. has and changed government in Canada to an anti-U.S. government and then allowed the ISIS or al Qaeda in charge of their military and nuclear weapons? What would the United States do? Well, it’s the same kind of thing. So that’s up there. We had a right to self-defense, and they also needed to stop a humanitarian crisis.
M.T.: Since the collapse of the USSR, the United States has invested at least several billion dollars in the creation of “Ukrainian democracy”, that fact has been repeatedly confirmed by the US political leadership. In your opinion, what is the true goal of the United States in Ukraine?
J.P.: Well, you know, it started in 1990 with the asinine decision by President Gorbachev to unilaterally dissolve the Warsaw Pact with no more guaranteed resource than the Western and U.S. world leaders who consistently lie about foreign policy objectives. So the imperialists, especially the United States, now are unfettered. It could go forth and multiply the most belligerent, violent and dangerous military alliance the world’s ever seen. And this is the US led NATO which nine years later they bombed Yugoslavia, bombing 10,000 homes, passenger trains, markets, killing journalists. And then they went on to go after Syria, Iraq, Libya, all of these countries. 500,000 children killed in Iraq and decimated and totally decimated Libya. And that’s kind of the nature of this that system. Now I can’t even go and go to Libya because they in Libya brought back slavery. And it’s ironic because this is under Obama that this happened. But, you know, that’s the nature of imperialism. They’ll do whatever they think to get short term profits or long term profits.
M.T.: How do you assess the role of the United States in the events that led to the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine? Is it possible to say that the United States entirely directed this conflict?
J.P.: Yeah, it’s, you know, the strategic plan of the United States against Russia was elaborated about three years ago by this group called the Rand Corporation. It’s headquarter in Washington, DC. It’s a global research organization, has an army of 18000 researchers and specialists in 50 countries and things like that. But did it describes itself as a nonprofit, but it’s actually funded by the Pentagon, U.S. Army and the Air Force and the CIA and others and things. And they came up with a plan to destabilize Russia. And it’s also to try to overextend Russia. The main lines of the attack and the Rand plan was first to attack Russia and its most vulnerable side, make its economy dependent on gas and oil, cease with the sanctions and all the other economic means of economic destruction that the U.S. was doing, also to get Europe to not use the Russian oil and things. So that was these sanctions that we see right now. And is part of the plan. And the military aspect of it, they said it was necessary to operate so that the European NATO countries increase their forces in an anti- Russian function. And the U.S. can have high probability of success in high benefits with moderate risk by investing more in strategic bombers and long range attack missiles directed against Russia. I’m quoting what the Rand Corporation was saying about what it’s going to do. So basically, to do what the U.S. was doing, create situation, you put Ukraine on the border of Russia, that with a president who says he’s willing to have nuclear plant, nuclear missiles and these missiles could be 5 minutes away from Moscow. And not only that, they would be controlled by a military which has Nazi forces in the military. The Azov battalion and the Right sector are officially part of the military. And that’s partly why I went to Lugansk to gather evidence of this. And we gathered lots of evidence from people in the shelters who were talking about it, who had just escaped the Ukrainian military bombing their apartment buildings to others to seeing these symbols in places where the Ukrainian military had occupied. So it’s without a doubt the Nazis were leading the Ukrainian military. And without a doubt, the Ukrainians were consistently and systematically bombing civilians.
M.T.: US war crimes committed in recent decades have gone unpunished. No one from the American political and military leadership has been held accountable for the bombing of civilians in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and so on. Do you think such crimes have a statute of limitations, and who should be held responsible for them?
J.P: Yeah, it’s really interesting how the United States accuses everyone of war crimes, but the greatest war crimes that are ever committed were from the United States. You know, like I said, after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, then in 1990 they bombed Yugoslavia and in other places, you know, it killed before in Vietnam based on a lie again they killed about 2 million Vietnamese and 500,000 Vietnamese suffer from the effects of Agent Orange lifetime effects. And we didn’t even mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki where they dropped bombs, where 80,000 people were instantly killed in Hiroshima, and then 140,000 died painfully torturously later and that’s just Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So when they talk about, you know, that Putin is targeting civilians, it’s interesting that even the news publication Newsweek admitted that after the first 24 days of the Russian intervention, that it was less bombings and sorties than the United States and one day in Iraq. So we know who really commits these war crimes. But the United Nations is basically accountable only to the United States and the Western European powers in the International Criminal Court refuses to prosecute anyone but African leaders and other folks who are targets of U.S. imperialism. So it’s going to take a real big movement in the United States to bring these criminals in the United States. And every president who’s been part of these imperialist wars should be a defendant in these things because they helped make this happen, including Obama.
M.T.: Is it true that, by keeping conflicts around the globe in a hot state, the United States of America makes a profit from them by selling equipment and weapons?
J.P.: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a big business. You know, military industrial complex expends its inventory on the lives of our international working class family and sells it off to the local police forces as well. Here I’ve been in demonstrations where I’ve actually seen tanks by the police. They’re not the military. This is just the police. And they’re using these things against peaceful protesters and have nothing in their hands but picket signs. Then they develop the new weapons of mass destruction to replace those lost in these proxy wars and the other wars. And, you know, the reason partly, you know, is capitalism the rate of profit is less in manufacturing, but it’s more and making bombs and making war. So the military industrial complex has a great return on profit and the ruler ruling class invest there, but they won’t invest in hospitals. You know, we’ve got a crisis right now. Baby formula, the richest country.
M.T.: Yes. We’re we’re keeping an eye on the situation. Yes. I’m always personally surprised invest in so much money in healing, you know, weapons in the wars. But when you have problems with the medical care because a lot of people don’t have access, a lot of people don’t have insurance issues because they’re some of the social services as opposed to education and so on. And just a day when the United States signed the $40 billion that’s another amount to be sent to Ukraine. There were like 42 million or something canceled for some organization or wherever, like the business development or something. I was surprised because this is something for your own country. But when it comes to something outside of your country, United States government is willing to finance that. And I will never understand that because to me, when you become a president, you give an oath to your people to protect them, to defend them, to develop their lives, to give them better quality. And what we see right now is just makes me very sad because there are so many good people in the United States, and I don’t want to see them suffering.
J.P.: That’s because the interests of the of the ruling class is very different than the interests of the working class. So what’s hurts us helps them.
M.T.: Unfortunately, hopefully, it’s not going to last too long. How would you comment on the fact that a number of high-ranking American officials criticized the former US president for inflating the defense budget, but as soon as Joe Biden came to power, their position immediately changed?
J.P.: Yeah, that’s the nature of the Democrats and the Republicans were really with the phrase two sides of the same coin. You know, there was tremendous wealth came from the slave labor of African peoples in this country. And that went to finance the railroad industry in this country owned by the Vanderbilts and the great Standard Oil, owned by the Rockefellers and the creation of the U.S. Steel owned by JP Morgan. And the money went into making the Rockefellers, the Morgans, the Mellons, the Manhattan Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank. And by 1868, these entities had so much money that they controlled the Democratic and Republican parties, and they could sway public opinion with the millions they gave one or the other party, depending on what their needs were, to maximize profits. So the politicians from Carter to Bush to Clinton to Trump to Obama to Biden, they all serve the same financial and industrial monopolies that funded their campaigns. And it’s really an oligarchy in this in this country. It’s not a democracy. And that’s why they, you know, the Democrats will act a little bit different, maybe a little more progressive on domestic situations, maybe with jobs and other things. But when it comes to imperialist war, they both acts pretty much and pretty much in the same. There is some exceptions but in general, they act the same.
M.T.: What do you think about lend-lease for Ukraine, a package of forty billion military aid for Ukraine? Do you agree with the senator from Kentucky who opposed it?
J.P.: Yeah, you know, it’s a little curious now. People are wondering why the Republicans seem to be talking like peace activists, and the Democrats are talking like warmongers. It seems like things are flip. But I have no idea why some Republicans have turned into the peace activists. But perhaps, you know, Trump and his friends have some investments in Russia and they’re concerned about. But the majority of Republicans and the Democrats are on the same page. And all the Republicans support the type of white supremacy and fascism that has continued to be grown in Ukraine. And we know they’re not our friends, and neither the Republicans nor Democrats are our friends. And none of this changes the facts about this proxy war being a most dangerous attempt to expand the most belligerent, violent and dangerous military alliance the world has ever seen. And that’s the US led NATO. You know, Dr. Martin Luther King said that the greatest purveyor of violence today is my own government. And NATO is a primary example of that statement. Since 2004 it’s been about $100 billion that’s going to Ukraine that they’re spending now. And now they’re talking about spending about 100 million a day or something as well. So this is all the money that we need to search for jobs, for teachers, for hospitals, to fight COVID and it’s going for this.
M.T.: In your opinion, why does the current US President Joe Biden, who promised a “giant” social package during his election campaign, completely ignore the problems inside his country after coming to power?
J.P.: Well, when Biden encouraged that COVID money, there is a federal program through ARPA and CARES. Money is supposed to go for COVID relief. And he said instead of sending it to COVID relief, maybe that should be spent for the police and then when he sent $16 billion of COVID funding for use of the Nazi forces leading the military in Ukraine, it showed that he cares little about what working people need, and he’s very happy to promote and fund white supremacist forces in Ukraine and here in the police departments. And after all, when he was senator and he contributed to the racist bills that allowed the jailing of predominantly black people with long prison sentences, and when he was running for office, he told a group of wealthy investors that nothing would really change. So we know that he says one thing, but actually he’s not working in our interests.
M.T.: He says one thing he does completely opposite. What measures do you think the current American political leadership needs to take in order to solve pressing social problems in the United States? By social problems, I mean poverty, also among children, social injustice, and so on?
J.P.: Well, I guess maybe the first step is to recognize the problems. And for example, two of them include the health care crisis that the pandemic exposes so well in this country. And the other is the systemic racism and police brutality and the current leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties allowed COVID money to go to the police. In San Francisco they gave 62% of that federal money that was supposed to go to COVID, went to the police. That’s $194 million that went there. In Los Angeles 50% of the COVID money went there. So we know that the all of this money and things that it’s not going to help for social services and it’s going to basically make it exacerbate these crises like inflation is another big crisis that we have here. And it’s the highest it’s ever been in 40 years, partly because of the war and partly because the ruling class decides that it wants to invest in the war instead of manufacturing baby formula, factories, building bridges and infrastructure and things like that, because that will turn a higher rate of profit. But what it’s doing is causing a supply chain problem where we don’t have the products that we need because there’s not a good supply. So that means the prices go up. So they can easily solve that by investing in manufacturing, public manufacturing things. But instead they’re going to use it to cut unemployment and make it even worse for workers here and create more social problems. So the money for the proxy war in the Ukraine is especially draining our ability to fight these social problems.
M.T.: One of your priorities as a candidate for the U.S. Senate is to stop killings by police officers. Indeed, the number of victims of American officers breaks all records, literally every day at least three people die from US officers. What measures, in your opinion, can solve this problem? Will the funding reduction help?
J.P.: Yeah, there was this call for defunding the police. Yes. It really came as a substitute for the call that was becoming accepted by even mainstream politicians after the George Floyd murder. So in Minnesota, the demonstrators won the concession from the city council to disband the police force completely and build a community based model of policing and that began to resonate throughout the country. However, that demand to abolish the police and replace them with those chosen by the working class communities is an existential threat to the ruling class, which needs these repressive police forces to maintain the status quo. That keeps in place injustice and poverty on one hand and an oligarchic system of billionaires and millionaires on the other. So that that demand was replaced with one that was far weaker because it was unenforceable. The demands of defund the police, it’s really a misnomer because it was never meant to take away all of their funds, which would have made it effective. But it was just to take a small portion away, which still leaves the money for the bullet aimed at my child’s head and the various police departments were able to reshuffle funds, and even COVID relief funds were used to supplement the so-called defunded police departments. So that the demand needs to be to abolish the police and disarm the police. The communities, especially those most affected by police terror, they should have the right to create their own police departments using the resources the current police forces have.
M.T.: Another equally important point of your election program is the destruction of the prison–industrial complex, which exploits the labor of prisoners. What do you think a prison system that does not violate the rights of prisoners should look like?
J.P.: Well, there’s lots of examples of this one who’s in Cuba, and they’ve mastered the art of rehabilitation and the ability to take anti-social behavior and use techniques that respect one’s humanity to make qualitative change in people’s behavior. You know, the root cause of much of the criminal behavior that goes unpunished because, well, actually, the greatest crimes that affect the most committed by the ruling class and their administrators on Wall Street in Washington, they go unpunished. But the root cause of the anti-social criminality that affecting workers targeting workers has to do with desperation, economic desperation, and people simply trying to answer the question of how do I feed my children or how do I feed the addiction of drugs that were used to self-medicate away the pain of depression and capitalist alienation. So that type of criminality and even the criminality of the ruling class can be solved very quickly once the reins of the economy are given over to the working class, which would quickly be able to using the vast resources of the ruling class in this country, the trillions of dollars in resources going for war, they could use it to end poverty, lack of health care, and provide jobs and livable wages with hours of work reduced so that they could allow leisure time and self-care and these mental things that are very important, you know, to solving crime and mental health issues as well.
M.T.: How would you comment on the punitive and repressive justice system in the United States? Don’t you think that this system also needs to be radically changed?
J.P.: Yeah. You know, the U.S. has the largest both in terms of absolute numbers and the percentage of the population in prison, more than any country in the world, with about 2.1 million people in prison. And that’s what the population far lower than that of China. Yet the U.S. holds a far greater percentage of its population in absolute beats. I say China because that’s what the U.S. always blames. They say: “oh, look at China. They don’t have freedom to look at Cuba. They don’t have freedom.” But look at the U.S. and it’s far worse in terms of imprisoning our population. And this is a function of capitalism in general and capitalism in the United States, which must continually find more and more repressive means to keep the population of growing, have nots in check from protesting their situation. This is why the U.S. continues to allow its police forces to kill over a thousand people per year. That’s according to the Washington Post, which revealed we began recording those numbers in 2015. In fact, last year, they broke the record of police shootings and killings and black and brown people are well overrepresented in those numbers of people killed. So it’s a system that represses the working class in general with the most acute oppression against black and brown peoples. But to not only keep those populations quiet and in fear, but also to maintain the system of racism and the ideology of racism to keep our working class divided and weak. And that’s the purpose of racism, to keep us weak as a class and state repression and the justice system maintain that status quo, keeping the property and sole ownership of the means of production and wealth generated by workers solely in the ownership of the ruling class in order to challenge that reality we have to build a movement to challenge the system.
M.T.: Economic sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation primarily harm residents of the USA and the EU. How far do you think the leaders of Western countries are willing to go in an attempt to harm the Russian economy? Are they willing to risk the safety and well-being of their citizens?
J.P.: Yeah, and I’d say they even risk the safety of their own selves because I think Marx was quoting someone when he said they they’ll sell you the rope to hang themselves with if they can get a decent profit for it. But the U.S. is withholding about $9.5 billion in assets from Afghanistan and after devastating that country in 1979 with another proxy war than it was they were using the Mujahideen which turned into the Taliban against the Soviet Union. And they totally devastated the economy there in Afghanistan, creating a lot of food insecurity and now with the asset theft there, the United Nations estimates that at least 1 million children are going to die of starvation. In fact, they said that while the number of those. The meeting with the United Nations report said that that means only 5% of the population has enough to eat, while a number of those facing acute hunger is now estimated to have reached a record 23 million. And they say a million children are at risk of dying. So if the U.S. is willing to do that with sanctions, they are willing to do anything with these with these sanctions. And no matter how it’s how much it hurts the people of Russia or the people in the United States, they really don’t care. Like I said, they’ll drop a bomb on civilians in two major cities in Japan. And they don’t care about the 500,000 children that were killed in Iraq based on a lie.