This gave pro-boss union head Willie James the excuse to tell workers they can't strike even if there was no agreement by the deadline. This is the same James who agreed to Workfare slave laborers to displace union workers as subway cleaners in the last contract (see box). The final settlement (12% over three years) was slightly more than the Transit Authority's original proposal, and less than half of the union's initial demand.
When Giuliani appeared on TV throughout Tuesday, Dec. 14, spewing his fascist threats to break the transit workers, where was AFL-CIO president John Sweeney's "re-invigorated" labor movement? Not a peep! No offer of mass solidarity, no organization of a general strike to answer this fascist strike-breaking. Nothing about joining strike picket lines, stopping all scabs, preventing all private bus lines, vans and taxis from operating. Nothing about workers on the Long Island RR, Amtrak and the Path lines walking out in solidarity, along with all city workers, whose next contract may be patterned after the transit agreement. These labor leaders are truly "lieutenants of the capitalist class" in their abject kowtowing to the bosses.
While Giuliani tried to "blame" the loyal opposition faction, New Directions (ND) (which nearly ousted James in the last union election) for any potential wildcat work stoppage, this is the same group that has gone repeatedly to the bosses' courts to sue the union. While spouting militancy and opposition to the settlement, virtually right up to the last minute the ND leaders were saying they were backing James. They were calling for a "good contract, without a strike if possible." They even called a riot a few years ago by Rikers Island prison guards a "strike." They are working within the system as much as James' machine, trying to become the "outs" who "get in" to union office.
Without transit workers, billions of dollars of profits for all NYC bosses would go down the drain. Without mass transit in a city of 7.5 million, all the major department stores would go broke. Wall Street, the financial capital of the world, couldn't function if tens of thousands of workers could not get to their jobs. That's why the bosses passed the Taylor Law (see box).
In New York, the city and the MTA's first obligation is to pay the interest on the city and transit debt to the big bankers. Service, maintenance, workers' wages and benefits all come AFTER bankers' profits. That's the definition of capitalism.
But in a period when U.S. bosses face intense competition globally, and are preparing for wars to control oil supplies and markets, they need ever more surpluses wrenched from workers' labor to pay for their war economy. This inspires even greater attacks on workers, a la Giuliani, slave labor Workfare (see box), etc.
The new "free" transfer system (paid for out of the last 25cents-fare increase) has increased the ridership, especially on buses. This forces workers to work harder and longer hours, causing more accidents, increasing stress among drivers and riders, creating longer bus runs and cutting out others entirely--in a word, SPEED-UP.
A strike of 32,000 workers could provide great potential for mass working class unity, black, white and Latin. It could have been a blow against racism since the bosses figure they can get away with squeezing these workers (a majority of whom are black and Hispanic) based on fanning racism among the rest of the working class. It could have been a blow against the fascist slave labor Workfare attack, where again the majority of welfare recipients are black and Hispanic. It could show the power of the working class, in breaking the bosses' laws and exposing the government as a tool of the capitalist class.
But strikes have limits. What workers win in one arena, the bosses take away in other ways: higher taxes, inflation, Workfare and fewer union jobs, speed-up, eventual wage-cuts in "hard times," fines imposed by the bosses' courts, etc. The bosses still control the state, its laws, and the very leaders of the union who themselves work within, and support, capitalism. By working within that system, the pro-capitalist union leaders become defenders of the bosses' interests.
The biggest victory transit workers could win out of this struggle is understanding the nature of the system that oppresses them and causes all our problems; understanding the fact that the bosses control the government, lock, stock and barrel; and understanding that the only solution to our class's problems is to destroy capitalism with a communist revolution. This goal can only be achieved if organized and led by a revolutionary communist party--the Progressive Labor Party. So real victory in this class struggle is to join and build PLP.
Organizing for that goal must come in the context of: (1) championing the workers' cause; (2) fighting to smash the bosses' anti-worker laws; (3) uniting all workers to beat back the fascist slave labor Workfare; and (4) relating all this to the necessity to get rid of the profit system.
Under capitalism, the government (the "state") is a tool of the tiny ruling class (the bosses), to be used to oppress the majority class (the workers) whose labor produces everything. These laws are enacted to prevent workers from fighting for their class interests. Under communism, without bosses or profits, workers will reap all the fruits of their labors. Mass transit would be free.
Said a Vietnam vet, "I voted for you because communists are good for workers."
These local elections are just one battle MUNI workers face in a long war. Drivers are fed up with racist attacks, management running roughshod over the contract and no response from the union leadership. Anger at the leadership is boiling. Secrecy about union finances and back-room deals are causing an explosion.
It was within this context that PLP members ran on a loose slate along with other opposition forces. About two-thirds of the local's 2,000 members voted, an unusually large turnout. John received 782 votes to the machine incumbent's 587. John's total actually surpassed the vote received by the incumbent president, who was narrowly re-elected.
The election caused widespread debate about capitalism, communism, how to fight the corporations and how to educate the membership in political economy.
"Just by challenging the machine, we are already winning," said another opposition candidate. "There is much more to this battle than just holding office." While the rest of the slate did not win, some newer activists won shop-level positions. Younger, minority workers are becoming active, and they don't plan on begging for crumbs from politicians. "Job Action," "Sick Out," "Strike," and "Wildcat" are echoing around the city.
PLP targeted capitalism as the cause of our problems at MUNI. The antagonism between capital and labor is built into the very framework of the system. One new activist told us that she re-reads our literature many times. "This is just common sense. I don't care what they call it. You have to look beyond the label of communism to understand it."
The next battle is the contract negotiations with the City and the downtown business interests. On hearing of John's victory one driver said, "That's great. Now what do we have to do? You can't do it by yourself."
Among a smaller group of activists we were able to bring up the history of communists' role in organizing the CIO unions, and the TWU in particular. Many said they now understood why the union leadership and Big Business fear the spread of communist ideas among the workers.
We may be at a new stage in the union, with a new set of problems. We may have a greater opportunity to unite with our co-workers and lead sharper class struggle. While voting in a union election may be a partial barometer of workers' sentiments, we must be careful not to allow ourselves and our co-workers to be sucked into thinking winning elections will do the trick. The bosses still hold state power and union elections cannot challenge that. Only an armed working class led by a revolutionary communist party can overthrow the bosses and their profit system.
We can sharpen the contradiction between reform and revolution, and convince many workers of the need for a mass PLP to lead our class to power. The contradiction between workers and bosses can never be reconciled. Capitalism must go. We are fighting in our union to build a mass PLP and to abolish wage slavery with communist revolution.
Almost 600 were arrested and jailed as the combined forces of the Seattle P.D., other King Co. cops, and the National Guard went wild firing tear gas, mace and rubber bullets at protesters and anyone else who got in their way. Some of the horror stories were told and retold this week when several public meetings were held for people to vent their anger. The cops screamed that they were outnumbered and unprepared, as speaker after speaker condemned them for their extremely violent tactics. (see photos) They certainly looked prepared, in full riot gear and with plenty of ammo!!
Many people in Seattle, a city with a reputation of being friendly and nice, were shocked by the behavior of the police. However, given the political situation that was unfolding at the WTO talks, it isn't surprising that the cops acted like fascist storm troopers. The WTO meeting was a fiasco. No agreements could be made because the major players, the U.S., E.U., Japan, Russia and China, were busy forming blocs in preparation for war .In order for the U.S. rulers to successfully wage war, they need to bring the working class under their control. They do this in many ways. One tactic is supporting and promoting NGOs, whose line is, "Capitalism just needs reforming." The unions do the same. Another way to control us is through police terror. (Certainly the black community has known this for a long time!) It was this face of fascism that shocked so many in Seattle, and that included some of us in the party! We secretly thought that this only happens in LA or New York or Chicago! This realization has made us get bolder about bringing the Party's line to others.
Just last weekend, some comrades went to a vigil outside the jail where the protesters were being held. There was a few moments between speakers when the microphone was free. A comrade saw an opportunity and grabbed the microphone. She spoke to the crowd of several hundred about the need to get rid of capitalism, not reform it. She talked about the role of the cops and the courts, and the need for real communism. She ended by urging people to read CHALLENGE. Everyone applauded, and several came forward with comments and questions. The other comrades circulated and distributed 60 Challenges.
As the weeks go on, a lot of (business) people here seem to be hoping that all the noise over the WTO will die down and Seattle will return to being a nice, quiet seaport town where you can go shopping and get a good cup of coffee. But to most people, the "Battle in Seattle" has changed things forever. This gives us a great chance to build the party here in the year 2000! Happy New Year! Fight for Communism!
Even if the Israelis and Syrians are bribed or threatened into temporarily settling some of their differences, the main contradiction in the Middle East isn't going anywhere. The region is still the world's most important source of oil. U.S. imperialism needs to control the flow and pricing of this oil. U.S. foreign and military policy is geared to this strategy.
The U.S. maintains a large naval presence (at a yearly cost of $50 billion) in and around the Persian Gulf and an important ground force in several Gulf countries as well. The Israel-Syria "peace" talks must be viewed in light of recent U.S. oil wars against Iraq. Basically, U.S. bosses want to secure their western flank in order to free themselves for future war in the east.
The New York Times chief foreign correspondent, Thomas Friedman (who usually front for Exxon-Mobil) said as much in his December 12 column: "Many Israeli generals feel such a deal is both possible and preferable to the status quo, particularly if you add the regional implications: bringing Syria into the circle of peace would close down the Lebanon front and totally isolate Iraq and Iran. That would constitute a major strategic realignment of the Middle East."
But other imperialists don't see why they should dance to Washington's tune, as the recent flop of WTO talks in Seattle proved. All doesn't always go according to plan, even for the world's "last remaining super-power." Iraqi boss Saddam Hussein just pulled his oil off the world market, as a temporary tactical probe against the U.S. He proved that the world capitalist economy still needs cheap Iraqi oil. During the halt in Iraqi shipments, U.S. Energy Secretary Richardson (another mouthpiece for Rockefeller's Exxon) said that the oil prices had risen too high and something had to be done.
The world's main imperialists can't live without Iraqi oil. Rockefeller's Exxon & Co. can't live with pending deals between Iraqi oil. bosses and U.S. imperialism's rivals: Russia, France and China. This is hardly a script that promises peace on the near horizon. U.S. rulers have few choices in the Middle East short of another oil war. Workers shouldn't be fooled by U.S. support for the Israel-Syria love-fest. Imperialism and oil add up to war. The next one can't be too far off.
A Philippine activist from a nationalist group presented a paper that said neither fair trade nor free trade is possible under imperialism.
When a PLP member spoke briefly to attack the nationalism of the leaders of the demonstrations, and to tell how well our communist literature and banner were received, some applauded. She attacked the nationalism of George Becker (head of the steel workers union) who said we must be prepared to defend American jobs and to defend America. But the leader of the meeting countered, Yes, protectionism was a small part of this event, but we brought workers from around the world to speak, to build internationalism. Another member of the audience said all the demands of the march pushed nationalism and protectionism. It was reactionary. So was the march to dump steel with marchers chanting `USA! USA!' The PLP member added that on November 30, Gore proposed a 178% tax on Russian cold-rolled steel and now more Russian steel workers will be out of work. She tried to ask how that solved anything for the world's workers. The leaderof the meeting cut her off and showed a video of the Seattle police beating the demonstrators.
The police riot against the demonstrators and residents of Seattle in itself shows the lie of the human rights position of the AFL-CIO and the NGO's (non-governmental organizations) which say the great standards in the U.S. should be pushed around the world! Many got CHALLENGE during and after the meeting.
The next day two friends in this group called the PLP member. One congratulated her on what she said and added that she was pleasantly surprised at the applause when she said she was a communist. The other agreed that the anti-WTO movement is justifying U.S. imperialism based on the lie of human rights. She fears they could convince good people into thinking that the U.S. is fighting for high standards of human rights around the world. But, we shouldn't be afraid. Just like us, more people can see through the hypocrisy of high standards from a U.S. ruling class responsible for more deaths and anti-communist, racist, anti-worker crusades than any other ruling class in history. The key to that fight must be that more of the people involved read CHALLENGE.
The Washington Post said that this fiasco sent a "grim message" and could "usher in a period of trade friction and cause the already burgeoning U.S. trade deficit to climb even higher." The WP quote Lawrence Chimerine, of the Economic Strategy Institute, which expressed concerns that without a mechanism to open up markets for U.S. goods and services, particularly in Asia, there is no prospect of controlling the US trade deficit, now approaching $300 billion. This widening trade gap is an "economic and political time bomb just waiting to explode at the first sign of economic downturn in the U.S."
This sharpening dogfight among world's bosses is taking many other forms. At almost the same time, the Seattle fiasco took place, the U.S. rivals in Asia and Europe were busy shoring up their own defensive positions. "The Asian countries [including China] held an ASEAN meeting over the weekend [preceding the WTO conference] that was much more important to them than anything going on in Seattle." (Stratfor, Inc. 11/29/99) On November 24, Mexico and the European Union (EU) put the finishing touches on "the most comprehensive free-trade agreement ever negotiated," according to EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo praised this direct attack on NAFTA saying the accord will put the nation "in a strong international trade position."
To add muscle to their position, the Europeans began building their own independent military machine. A few weeks before Seattle, the EU announced the merger of the military arms of Germany's DASA, France's Aerospatiale and Spain's CASA. The week after, the EU announced the formation of an "autonomous" rapid reaction force, separate from NATO. "U.S. fears rose," reported the Times of London. (12/8/99)
Trade wars among the world's bosses will eventually lead to shooting wars. Workers must understand this, and be prepared not to become cannon fodder in their respective bosses' war plans. There is an alternative, build a mass communist PLP to turn the imperialist dogfight into a revolutionary struggle to wipe them out from the face of the earth.
SAN FRANCISCO -- It is worth recalling this history. Within a week of the Battle in Seattle, 120 people (up from the usual 10 or so) attended a meeting of Global Exchange, to evaluate the "victory," and gather forces for the up-coming battles. And plenty is planned.
In February there will be an Open World Trade Union Conference in San Francisco. In April, mass protests are planned when the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meet in Washington, DC, followed by mass May Day marches. A campaign will be launched against the use of prison labor in China, the China's entry to the WTO. Medea Benjamin, the new darling of Business Week, introduced these and other plans.
But it was the next speaker, Vincent Menotti from the rich man's club, the International Forum on Globalization, who really caught our attention. For him the battle in Seattle spelt "patriotism." Unfortunately only one person hissed in opposition, although one or two attacked that position in speeches later on. Hardly were the fruits of this so-called victory picked when they were being packaged in patriotism!
A PL speaker pointed out that the Nazi Party in Germany and fascist forces in Mussolini's Italy developed with a mix of nationalism, populism, and racism. He called for building a mass communist Party. Afterwards several participants came up to buy Challenge and express their agreement.
A PLP meeting held early the following week generated a heightened urgency about building communism, advancing the sale of Challenge, and combating the spread of nationalism. Speaker after speaker joined in a lively discussion on the role of Challenge, and the necessity and opportunities for fighting for communism within mass organizations led by reactionary forces. Six of the newer forces agreed to start distributing Challenge, and one young worker joined the Party. There were 36 people at the meeting. It's from the determination of groupings like this that the rulers attempts to build fascism will meet their doom.
These union leaders put a lot into this campaign. John Sweeney, top honcho of the AFL-CIO, came to the demo (the first time he attended one of the anti-sweatshop protests). Their idea of fighting sweatshops, child labor and prison labor is mainly to attack bosses in other countries, particularly China. They are trying to build patriotism (Buy American products and support Our Democracy said one group's leaflet) and anti-communism, mainly blaming China (without saying it is now a capitalist country). But the fact is that U.S. bosses now have 500,000 prisoners working for dirt-poor wages (many producing for private companies like Dell and Boeing). If the AFL-CIO wanted to fight prison labor and sweatshops, what about the sweatshops in Chinatown, many of whose workers pay dues to UNITE (the garment union behind the National Labor Committee).
PLP participated in this protest with our banner calling for workers' power. We distributed 200 CHALLENGES and hundreds of leaflets analyzing how the sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry was mainly behind the WTO fiasco in Seattle. But we must do more to organize inside the anti-sweatshop movement to win the honest workers and youth interested in fighting sweatshops and prison labor to fighting them right here in the U.S., as well as all over the world. After all, capitalism is based on wage slavery, while communism fights for its abolition.
The strike of the workers of the Salvadoran Social Security System has now lasted more than a month and the workers continue struggling. The march was a demonstration of the unity of the working class, including teachers, workers, and students who joined the demonstration.
A wave of strikes has been organized in El Salvador. The government thought that with wage cuts and firings, they would hold back the workers' movement. How wrong the capitalists were. More than 11,000 workers of the Social Security have been on strike since Nov. 7 and we aren't planning to give in to the government's repression. The bosses have just fired 226 workers. A group of unions called MOLI is announcing a strike in the different government ministries. The labor climate is like that of the decade of the 1970's, which led to a civil war in this country.
Sharp struggle has been carried out among the workers in the Social Security system, showing them that with or without privatization, its wage slavery that keeps us in a situation of hunger and poverty. It's a lie to think that by rejecting being class conscious fighters, we can keep our jobs. In a meeting that the union called, a worker said, "if in January, they privatize the Social Security system, more than 30% of the workers will be fired, whether or not they have participated in the struggle. So, why not join the struggle?" At least that way the workers are taking the offensive.
"Several workers have commented to me that the only way this struggle will be resolved is through armed struggle, and I've been thinking that the only way out of this crisis in which we are submerged by capitalism is the road of communist revolution proposed by PLP. I've passed Challenge to several workers, and they think the same way," said a friend of the party and a Challenge reader. This is a clear sign that PLP is on the correct road. We must continue to involve ourselves in the mass movements and build consciousness among the working class that the fight against capitalism is a life and death struggle. It's us, the workers, or them, the capitalists. There's no middle ground in this war.
In the daily struggles of the workers in El Salvador and throughout the whole world, we shouldn't lose sight of the source of these problems: capitalism, and its crisis of overproduction and the imperialist wars it causes. The only solution to these problems is to destroy the bosses and their profit system. No reform struggle, even if we win, will improve our lives. As long as capitalism exists, the bosses' thirst for profits will dominate. That means hunger, poverty and death for the workers. Only a communist society will improve our lives. Join the Progressive Labor Party to strengthen us and to make it our tool to fight for power and, in that way, to bequeath our children a better life.
The MLA is the professional organization of college and university-level teachers of language and literature; it has a substantial and well-respected radical caucus--in which many of our friends are active--that over the years has led significant fights against racism, sexism, and other manifestations of the movement toward fascism reflected in higher education.As we engage in these struggles, it is crucial to put forward a class analysis of the world situation in which they occur. This context is contradictory. Because of increasing international competition, the U.S. capitalist class has the need for a certain number of college graduates trained to be critical, literate, and skilled workers, politically faithful to the ruling class and capable of performing the sophisticated labor capital needs to amass its profits. Hence the current drive toward higher "standards," k-12 and beyond. At the same time, the capitalists have access to an international pool of such workers; only a limited number need come from the United States. Thus the talk about "standards" is mainly a matter of weeding out. Most of the working-class students who aspire to go to college and rise upward in the system are targeted for relatively low-skilled and poorly compensated work; their situation has more in common with that of prison and Workfare laborers than it has with the corporate lawyers and magnates they are urged to take as their role models.
Thus the recent drive toward eliminating so-called "remedial" courses at CUNY (City University of New York) represents the wave of the future, at least for public higher education. Those working-class students not already weeded out by high school proficiency tests requiring skills far beyond those they have been taught encounter the next hurdle in college. A significant number are either flunked out or confined to junior college programs funneling them into low-wage employment. Even those receiving their B.A or B.S. Degrees rarely achieve their "dreams". And the racism shaping this whole process is of course notorious. The recent, racist statement of the president of Queens College, CUNY, regarding the presumably low quality of its student body--`sh__t in, sh__t out'--exemplifies this trend.In the context of these cutbacks, the humanities departments are the first to go. Most English departments now serve the function of providing the most basic literary skills for workers entering the lower echelons of the labor force. A crisis in academic labor--especially in the humanities--has resulted from this situation. More and more courses are taught by non-tenure track workers, either graduate student, teaching assistants or part-time adjuncts.
The Radical Caucus where we are intensely involved has addressed these issues. This Caucus has initiated these reform struggles: unionization of all campus labor, defend the committee on campus bigotry, expose the use of sweatshops or prison labor, etc. We realize that all of these reform struggles won't destroy the true culprit of racism, sexism, and wage slavery: capitalism!The greatest achievement of PLP members and friends at the MLA convention and through continuing mass work and basebuilding will be to win more members to join PLP and fight for communism.
Other comrades and friends helped to distribute 1,200 leaflets calling for another protest on December 9. The leaflet's headline was "Giuliani to Homeless: Work Will Set You Free (Nazi slogan over concentration camp gate)." People at the rally asked for bunches to distribute, to take back to their shelters or give to their friends in organizations they belong to.
Some PLP'ers openly agitated by distributing PLP leaflets and CHALLENGES.
Slowly PLP members are building visible anti-fascist trends within organizations to which we belong countering the dangerous illusion that liberal politicians can and will rescue workers.
Thirty people from one church and soup kitchen took a bus to the rally. Several gave out a special edition of the church newsletter in which anti-fascism was the theme:
"New York has become lot like Dachau! Unions have allowed slave-labor, WEP workers to be super-exploited in place of unionized employees. A militarized police force has been given marching orders to clear the streets of all `undesirables' and `mental defectives.' And if the latter object to being `cleared' and forced into slave-labor run shelters they are imprisoned as an example to the rest of us. Mayor Giuliani is serving as Camp Commandant, `AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT! he subtly reminds us every other day...'
"The Mayor, riding on a nearly unprecedented wave of racist media stereotyping, has driven the next stake in the work-camp fence he and his Wall Street mentors have designed for most of us: to imprison us when the next economic `downturn' inevitably hits, and any of us dares to rebel. But Giuliani's emerging fascist politics are a totally predictable outgrowth of the `Welfare Reform Act' passed in Washington by a Republican Congress, but proposed and signed by a Democratic President. There is blood to go around for all politicians' hands."
On December 9 almost 40 workers and students protested at the Department for Homeless Services. Prior to the protest two people from the planning group delivered a "Nazi-of-the-Year Award" to Mayor Giuliani and Homeless Services Commissioner Martin Oesterreich. High school students and their teachers led the picket line, loudly chanting, "Housing, yes; Crack down, no! Fascist policies got to go!" and, "Hitler rose, Hitler fell, Giuliani go to hell." Then the protesters marched to City Hall Park where we broke the ban on demonstrations there. A homeless friend from the soup kitchen which helped plan the protest had promised to speak about his arrest two days before. But he was arrested again for sleeping under the same bridge and so was unable to get to the demonstration.
With Giuliani's "take-no-prisoners" approach to breaking a potential transit strike, it's more important than ever for PLP'ers to reach out to the working class to take bold action against developing fascism. As the church newsletter said, "Those of us who keep the city running, everyone who works here in other words, can slow the city down. Or stop it. And now is the time to do just that! In every workplace we need to be discussing concrete actions to be taken on behalf of our sisters and brothers who are being forced into the streets, then into slave labor shelters, or into jails."
Through all of this activity PLP'ers are carrying out the sharp struggle to convince our friends to join and become active members of PLP. Some have become hand to hand distributors of CHALLENGE. So we will build the mass revolutionary communist party that the working class needs to destroy fascism.
Clinton and the thugs of the AFL-CIO used the discontent of the masses to defend their industries and try to slow the decline of their exports. The Europeans protected their agricultural industry, and the emerging capitalists of Mexico, Brazil, India. Indonesia, and Malaysia defended slave labor as the only source of wealth to keep them competitive.
Slave labor has allowed the Mexican capitalists to sign NAFTA and the new Trade Agreement with the European Union. Mercosur, the third largest market in the world, is accelerating the process of regional integration in all of Latin America, and with the Europeans. All the capitalist trade agreements have brought misery and death to hundreds of millions of workers. No worker in the world should support his own executioner! All the capitalists and imperialists are the sworn enemies of the workers. The working class needs an international Communist party to confront all of them.
The fight among the imperialists for markets is sharpening in the whole world, showing that worse calamities for the workers are ahead. Only the rebuilding of the international Communist movement can put the working class on the offensive to turn these fights and wars between the imperialists into class struggle for communism. This is the alternative of PLP. Join us!
What's really behind the U.S. military build up in Colombia? Is it to stop drugs or to stop "terrorists"? No, it's mainly a fight between the US and European imperialists for control of resources, markets and labor of Latin America. The fight for the oil and gas of South America is key in that inter-imperialist dogfight. The Europeans are making great advances in what was previously the private domain of US imperialism.
France's Total oil company (now Totalfina after merging this summer with Belgium's Petrofina) is growing by leaps and bounds in Latin America since it first ventured into Colombia in 1973. It is presently the top foreign oil producer in Colombia and is Argentina's second-largest gas producer. It is also actively preparing two major undertakings that, by 2001, aim to make it one of the biggest foreign oil producers in Venezuela and perhaps the number one gas producer in Bolivia.
Totalfina is also planning to broaden its Latin American presence with potential projects in Brazil and Peru, while keeping an eye on the possible privatization of Mexico's oil industry.
Totalfina is positioning itself to become the main gas supplier of Brazil and neighboring countries. Totalfina is also building pipelines to transport its Argentine production to Santiago de Chile and Porto Alegre in southern Brazil. It has several projects for gas sales for electrical power plants and transformation of gas into methanol or fertilizers. ("Totalfina Invests in Colombia," in the Petroleum Economist, Sept. 30, 1999, p. 18.)
The French bosses' goal is to become the biggest supplier of gas and energy in South America. Their plans for producing oil can't be less ambitious. They are making serious inroads in this respect. Other European bosses are doing likewise. Spain's Repsol recently bought most of the oil industry of Argentina.
In addition, a Brazilian aerospace company has made an alliance with the French company that produces the Mirage fighter. This will open up the South American market to European aerospace interests. And Spain, in addition to huge investments in Latin America's banking industry, has invested over $10 billion and now owns one out of every three telephone lines in the region. Renault of France, taking advantage of the newly signed free trade treaty between Mexico and the EU, will start building a subcompact in Mexico. VW is considering expanding its plant in Peubla. "The greater European presence in Mexico will intensify competition in the US market for Detroit and Japanese makers." (LA Times 11/30/99)
South America is an important market, rich in natural resources. Brazil alone has the eighth largest economy in the world. Being able to turn off most of the energy supply to the industries of the major countries in the region is a very powerful position. This obviously would relegate US imperialism to second fiddle in Latin America. US bosses won't roll over and play dead. That's why eventually they must invade Colombia and any country that seriously threatens to switch imperialist camps. Capitalism means competition, and competition means war. The best way to prepare for this is by building the PLP today to fight to bury the imperialists with communist revolution.
My first night on the job a supervisor yelled at me to do something. Now, I take pride in being a hard-working, and conscientious worker who gives respect where respect is due. I would not have spoken to a dog the way she yelled and screamed at me.
"Hey don't come that way because I'm not in that kind of a bag. If you want me to do something just tell me to do it politely, and I will know how to respond to it." However, I'm not the only worker some of these supervisors talk to like that. The P.O. has several classifications of workers; myself and others are one of the lowest ones, 21-day casuals. They hired 44 casuals since I was hired; 24 have quit.
I go home and I'm completely sick, not physically but sick because of all the stuff that goes on. The supervisors don't know how to talk to you. They scream and holler to get out their frustrations, like we don't have frustrations.The other night a regular (full-time) employee brought some pallets over to the room we were working in. I told him not to bring any more pallets because the room was too full. He said O.K., he didn't have a problem with that. Five minutes later the supervisor came hollering at me, saying that, as a casual, I had no right telling a "regular" what to do. We're all in this workforce together, working for these nickels, dimes and crumbs. These supervisors just do not understand this.
My facility is 80% black, with Asians and whites. All the supervisors are black. I understand why postal workers are stressed and go off and do the things they do. These untrained supervisors get a taste of power. But they don't know that management uses them too. This supervisor on the second shift has been busted down twice. Every time management wants her to do their dirty work, they will move her off the line. But after she's done, they'll move her back on the line.
Casuals need some voice in the P.O. because there is no one voice for us.
Frustrated Casual in Palatine
On the other hand we want to refer to the misnamed "left" in El Salvador, the FMLN. We only see them as another part of the bourgeoisie who want to get power to continue exploiting the people. They don't have a clear vision. What are the structural changes they would make to the current neo-liberal system, or that they are currently carrying out in our country? That's why we see the communist organization of PLP as the viable alternative to change the destitute situation in which the great majority of our population lives. Let's fight for a just society!
A Group of Red Youth, El Salvador
The International Forum on Globalization (IFG), founded by Ralph Nader, Jerry Brown and Jeremy Rifkin in 1994, sponsored the main teach-in at the anti-WTO events. They advance the idea that "small is beautiful," that people should use local resources and push environmentalism. They opposed GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
The IFG is backed by the Institute for Policy Studies, a ruling class think tank founded by Jerry Mander of San Francisco's Public Media Center which supported U.S. military attacks on Iraq and Yugoslavia. They have lots of money. Their web site lists associates as: Friends of the Earth, Ralph Nader, the Sierra Club (with ties to Chevron) and Canadian Trade Unions. Their teach-in at Berkeley was supported by Kirkpatrick Sale and the Max and Anna Levinson Foundation.The other NGO active in the anti-WTO and anti-sweatshop groups is Global Exchange (GEX) which is now planning a campaign against Wal-Mart's use of Chinese labor. They hypocritically claim they're fighting for "high labor standards," but the U.S. government and corporations are among the main powers responsible for low wages worldwide!
GEX was founded in 1988 by Medea Benjamin, a self-described "ex-hippie" from San Francisco. She makes money organizing tours to Tijuana and Chiapas in Mexico, and the Strawberry Fields of northern California, as well as to Cuba and Brazil. She sponsors anti-sweatshop tours and sent observers to the elections in Mexico and Indonesia. There are GEX lawyers in the campaign to free Leonard Peltier (jailed native American).GEX and UNITE (garment union) filed a class action law suit against 18 garment companies in the US-Marinas islands, called Saipan, alleging illegal labor practices by Nike, the GAP, Wal-Mart, Target, Jamboree, etc. In mid-year some settled, supported by UNITE, Levi-Strauss and Democratic Congressman George Miller from Martinez, California. In 1992 Levi's canceled its contract there. GEX then labeled Levi's products "fair trade" products. In a deal worked out about the Saipan case, some contractors now get to stamp "made in USA" on clothing produced in Saipan.
GEX is funded by the Compton and San Francisco Foundations (a SF ruling class group) as well as by James Gaither, an officer of the James Irvine foundation. Gaither, a lawyer, is a director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, of Levi Strauss, of the Hewlett Foundation, the Rand think-tank and is a trustee of Stanford University. Others on the GEX board are also connected with Stanford. Many directors of Levi-Strauss are also on the Boards of these foundations. Levi's is more a part of the ruling class than other garment companies. Its Chairman, Peter Haas, is also a member of the San Francisco Foundation. This is hardly a grass roots organization!GEX has an agreement with Reebok, Levi's and Mattel to adhere to proper labor standards and become "fair trade" companies. GEX filed its suit against the 18 garment companies in courts in LA, San Francisco and Saipan. The suit was joined by Sweatshop Watch, UNITE, and the Asian Law Caucus. GEX's Mike Dolan, who claimed a big victory in Seattle, helped the Los Angeles mayoral campaign of Richard Riorden. Before becoming LA's mayor, Riorden was a Mattel Vice President.
In June, 1997, Benjamin explained to an LA Times interviewer that she is pro-capitalist. Her group encourages indigenous people to make products and sell them via Global Exchange. She says she sells "ethnic crafts" at "fair prices," avoiding the middle man, and pays "decent wages," She herself leads about four trips a year. She says she advises young people who want to do "human rights work" to "get an MBA," teach accounting, tell the oppressed to open their own businesses and become part of the "global exchange/fair trade craft center." GEX receives grants from foundations that are interlocked with Levi's. Obviously, GAP and others are Levi's' competition.
We hope this information helps those active in this movement to see the ties and ideology of those behind it, so they can better fight to build PLP.
Los Angeles Reader
But you are missing an opportunity! When the focus of consciousness of democratic forces is on building alternatives to the status quo, you must be there with a content-filled presentation of your alternative. When everyone is dialoguing on an alternative future, you too must emphasize what you wish to build. Can you inspire and motivate people to your vision of a communist society? You made no such attempt in Seattle.
But what is communism anyway? Certainly it is worth revisiting Marx's and Lenin's writings on this. But they didn't say much. Can you really develop and expand a somewhat detailed vision of what a communistically organized society would look like? I mean a vision in accord with our realities in the year 1999 and beyond. Can you engage in a four-hour presentation on what communism might be, much as non-communist, anti-WTO forces could deliver four hours of lectures on their alternatives? Ideas move history. Marx recognized this when he wrote that while the economic base determines the superstructure, the superstructure turns back and influences the base in countless ways.
A final thought on the anti-WTO movement. I understand that PLP considers many protesters in Seattle as part of a reactionary movement. Nevertheless you would recognize that there are also sincere democratic forces involved. Democratic forces--who seek justice and a curbing of the violent excesses of the capitalist system, yet do not have the vantage point of system thinking--are part of the evolutionary unfolding of this system. Both Marx and Lenin recognized this.Can you deal with democratic forces as such in a comradely way? Can you move beyond speeches directed at them fueled by an ideologically-driven anger, delivered from the wings of the auditorium, to dialoguing with them from a place of balanced poise, where you really listen? If so, they will listen too.
Nevertheless, our friend is right in challenging us to present our communist goals with greater clarity and confidence. With friends like this the Party will grow.
The partial agreement doesn't solve any of these workers immediate or long-range problems. But the lessons of the experiences learned by these workers during their strike should be now used to fight for long-range solutions. Welcome to the real world; it's very different from the arts and entertainment world. It's the real world that forces workers to fight the system that has turned their lives into a living hell. We in PLP here in Chile have supported your struggle consistently and now invite you to join us in the fight for a world without bosses.
PLP Club, Santiago, Chile
Charles Mickens, a black man, was arrested last summer by Johnstown cops for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Mr. Mickens had been institutionalized for mental illness and had attempted suicide in the past. The police department was well aware of Mr. Mickens' problems. On the night in question, the police placed Mr. Mickens in a town jail holding cell. The cell has a video camera which monitors prisoners. The cops made no attempt to monitor Mr. Mickens. They claim he was found dead at 5:00 A.M. after hanging himself "with his socks."
The police have never released the report. Even the right-wing editor of the local paper wrote an editorial about the corruption in the police department, demanding the police release the Mickens report.
Also, the police should have sought medical attention for Mr. Mickens or taken him to the hospital psychiatric ward instead of placing him in a holding cell without monitoring him. Social workers know it is mandatory to constantly monitor anyone with suicidal thought patterns during a crisis. Another question: just how did Mr. Mickens hang himself with his socks if he was drunk? Could it be that the police are withholding the report because Mr. Mickens did not hang himself. Racism is common in police departments. Throughout the history of capitalist Amerikkka many black people have been killed under suspicious circumstances while in police custody.
We need a mass movement to demand the report be released and that this incident be investigated thoroughly by a citizens' panel. Communists must point out that this type of incident is rooted in the growing fascist nature of capitalism, and that can only be stopped by workers power.
Written by a ship captain, it basically called Puerto Ricans "savages." The author compares Rosy Roads and other U.S. military facilities in Puerto Rico to the rest of the island, stating that "everything is perfect" in the military bases, but outside the bases all one finds is "dirt and antisocial attitudes from the natives that throw everything into the streets in total carelessness." It also says that the local population should thank the Navy for what it has done for Vieques; how the Navy helped the people of Vieques after hurricane George caused devastation all over Puerto Rico in 1998, etc.It's not just the Navy and its racist articles, racism and the armed forces go hand in hand. It's impossible to end racism in the bosses' armed forces, because they represent the system that breeds it.
I underestimated my fellow workers. Workers fighting back against "globalism" (which we call imperialism) inspired them. They want to know what we think, and respect our ideas, even if there isn't total agreement. Most important, as communists we are expected to be in the struggle, fighting for our ideas. We are held to a higher standard.
The bosses are working overtime to line up workers for the next war, whether with guns or tariffs. George Becker and his crowd are waving the red, white, and blue to get steelworkers and others to side with "their bosses" against whomever. The struggle is on. If we in PLP don't win workers to internationalism, to the unity of all workers, no one else will. It's our duty!
Midwest Steel Worker