On August 19, the Chicago Tribune published an article red-baiting several members of the Chicago Teachers Union for taking a trip to Venezuela. The article, “Chicago Teachers Union group’s trip to Venezuela, praise of socialist leader slammed as ‘propaganda tour,’” puts forward several false allegations and smears about the teachers who visited the country in a personal capacity.
The article states that the CTU members Sarah Chambers, Valeria Vargas and Fabiana Casas “crowdfunded the July trip under the banner of the CTU,” and “criticized US economic sanctions against the South American nation and wrote admiringly of its socialism.” Although the blog established by the teachers—radicaleducatorcollective.org—correctly points out the damage caused by the US sanctions, there is almost no charged rhetoric one way or the other, and the activists were clear they were to receive no money from CTU on their gofundme page, despite what the Tribune has reported.
In actuality, the tone of the blog posts is essentially a factual and restrained account of their interactions and are not “excessively complimentary of President Nicolas Maduro,” as the Tribune maintains. This is entirely in line with the stated intent of the trip: “to learn about the situation on the ground in Venezuela, so we can do a report back in the USA on what is really happening.”
This trip came months after CTU’s House of Delegates passed a resolution opposing imperialist meddling in Venezuela inspiring the three members to try “to connect with the Venezuelan teachers, trade unionists and other Venezuelans around how we can support them and learn from their struggle.”
Union President Jesse Sharkey has even gone on the record explaining how the trip was taken in a personal capacity, and was not an official trip or funded by the union. But rather than addressing grievances through the union’s channels, members of the CTU took it upon themselves to go to the Chicago Tribune to criticize the union’s resolution and their own union brothers and sisters in saccharine quotes and veiled rhetoric that only a child would take as anything but the crassest red-baiting.
The Chicago Tribune is not a neutral institution. It is part of the big business media that claims “objectivity” but reports the news from the perspective of what is in the interests of the rich and powerful who own Chicago. Whether the Tribune sought out these union critics or whether these members went to the Tribune, the effect is the same. This article does not clarify matters but seeks to create confusion.
The coincidental timing of the article’s appearance in the leadup to contract bargaining and/or strike action—and the fact that it targets some of the most outspoken and militant activists—was not lost on some union members. CTU and DSA member Kenzo Shibata posted on Twitter, “Read between the lines: this is red-baiting being used to weaken CTU’s bargaining power. Don’t use the corporate papers to attack your own union, they have interests and they aren’t ours … History has shown when you purge the reds from the unions, the movement gets weaker.”
We fully agree, and enthusiastically applaud the CTU for their internationalism on this question and willingness to pass a resolution calling for the US to respect the basic democratic rights of the Venezuelan people. Moreover, we condemn in the strongest possible language any red-baiting attempts and stand in solidarity with the educators and the CTU as they enter into contract negotiations.
The US government represents the interests of the top 1% in both domestic and foreign policy. The interests of American workers is to support Venezuelan workers, not to support the policies of the US government.
An injury to one is an injury to all—no to any and all red-baiting!
For full unity of the trade union movement with the workers of Venezuela!
For the right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination, without US interference!
Signed: US Hands Off Venezuela & Socialist Revolution magazine (IMT)