CHALLENGE, Vol. 36, No. 12, Jan. 12, 2000




















The New York Times used the millennium hoopla to distort history in "defining the American Century." The chief mouthpiece for the U.S. ruling class hailed a "society based on…political freedom, economic opportunity, individual worth and equal justice," that "guided the world away from totalitarian rule and economic ruin." Compare that crap with real history.

This century began with the U.S. intervention into the Colombian province of Panama, to set up a puppet regime to build the Panama Canal. The canal was built on the dead bodies of thousands of immigrant and native workers. They were worked to death and subjected to widespread disease, untreated by their murderous U.S. oppressors.

At home, racism against black people continued with thousands of lynchings. Jim Crow laws put black workers into chain gangs and a plantation/sharecropper economy that left generations in abject poverty. Millions of immigrants worked 12-hour days in the mines and mills, with barely enough to keep body and soul together. Thousands died in firetrap sweatshops like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. U.S. troops and hired gunmen murdered miners and their families in the Rockefeller-engineered Ludlow Massacre.

In World War I, U.S. bosses, fearing that the spread of communism would endanger their profit system, tried to crush the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution by sending troops into the fledgling Soviet workers’ state until 1925, at the cost of 4.5 million workers’ lives. Communist-led Soviet workers and peasants, and the organization of the international working class, defeated that counter-revolution.

After the War, U.S. rulers launched the Palmer Raids. Thousands of immigrant workers were jailed as "suspected" communists and anarchists. This was capped by the frame-up and execution of two left-wing anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, who symbolized resistance to the rulers’ vicious anti-communist, anti-union drive.

Marines Plundered Central America

The "American Century" invaded virtually every country in Central America and the Caribbean.. Nicaragua faced U.S. Marines on 15 separate occasions. Marine commander General Smedley Butler proclaimed himself "a racketeer for capitalism," making Nicaragua "safe for the National City Bank."

The "Roaring ’20s" saw "prosperity" fueled by the Henry Ford-style sweatshop. Autoworkers could barely crawl up the stairs to their homes after 10 or 12 hours because of the speed of the Ford assembly lines.

Then the capitalist bubble burst into the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Seventeen million workers walked the streets, millions starving, homeless and forced into tarpaper shacks called Hoovervilles, named after Wall Street’s servant in the White House, Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt called out the army and National Guard against communist-led union drives in basic industries. Thousands of workers died from soldiers’ bullets and the effects of mass unemployment.

Meanwhile, the genocidal racist attacks on black workers continued unabated. Scores of imprisoned black workers were murdered when denied treatment for syphilis in the infamous "Tuskeegee experiment."

Soon World War II erupted. The U.S. and the Western alliance helped Hitler build his army, aided by U.S. bankers and industrialists like Ford and GM. They wanted him to move East and destroy the Soviet Union. But the heroism of the Soviet working class and its Red Army—led by its Communist Party—foiled this strategy, holding 80% of the Nazi troops at bay on the Eastern Front. The U.S. and Britain deliberately postponed the invasion of France for two years, hoping Hitler would bleed the Soviets. Leading Western generals admitted, "If Hitler had conquered Russia, untold number of us in England and the U.S. would not be alive today."

U.S. A-Bombs Slaughter 250,000

While President Roosevelt turned his back on saving million of Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust (the "Times" defined it as a "lapse"), he put tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans in U.S. concentration camps for the duration of the war. A culmination of these atrocities came in August 1945. With the Japanese about to surrender, Democratic President Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two blasts slaughtered a quarter million Japanese civilians instantly. Millions more suffered genetic defects and cancers, right to this day. The real reason for dropping the bombs was to threaten the Soviets that they could be next if they didn’t knuckle under to U.S. imperialism in the post-war world.

U.S. rulers re-Nazified Germany while, along with the Vatican, helped thousands of other Nazis to escape to South America. They brought over 400 Nazi rocket scientists to lead the U.S. rocket/missile program. These Nazi "scientists" had literally worked and starved to death tens of thousands of slave laborers in concentration camp experiments developing the V-2 rocket. Not to be out done, the U.S. government conducted experiments on hundreds of thousands of military personnel, human guinea pigs, often without their knowledge or consent. (See History Channel, Jan. 8, 8:00, EST.)

Soon U.S. imperialism was running rampant throughout the world, supporting every anti-communist, fascist regime it could lay its hands on. In 1950 the US provoked the Korean War, invading Korea and killing a million Koreans. In 1953 it overthrew a nationalist government and installed the fascist Shah of Iran, to protect its Middle East oil interests. The U.S. government’s CIA trained the Shah’s Savak secret police, torturing and murdering tens of thousands. In 1954 the US overthrew the left-wing government in Guatemala, installing a puppet regime that murdered 200,000 workers—mostly indigenous peoples—the next four decades.

Atrocity in Vietnam: 3,000,000 Killed

Then came the invasion of Vietnam by a million U.S. troops to prevent the defeat of the fascist South Vietnamese regime. Throughout the Republican and Democratic presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, U.S. rulers rained more bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than had been used in all of World War II! They killed 3,000,000 Vietnamese before being driven out by a communist-led movement that would not quit.

Meanwhile, anti-racist rebellions exploded in U.S. cities. National Guard and army troops were needed to put down black and Latin workers and youth, many of them Vietnam vets, who rebelled against racist police brutality and mass unemployment.

In 1961 the CIA assassinated Lumumba in the Congo and installed a puppet dictator there, which set up the slaughter of the past 40 years. In 1965, Johnson invaded the Dominican Republic with 32,000 troops to save a pro-U.S. military dictatorship. Then in 1973 the U.S. brought the fascist Pinochet to power in Chile, killing tens of thousands. Bush invaded Panama, sending thousands of civilians into mass graves, to freeze out competing imperialists. At Fort Benning, Georgia, the School of the Americas has trained fascist death squads from all over Central and South America. (In the early 1960’s the Second Declaration of Havana accused US imperialism of killing two million people a year in Latin America.)

The CIA brought planeloads of drugs into the U.S. from Central America, in aircraft used to deliver weapons to fascist troops in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Then Reagan’s "War on Drugs" made possession of one gram (1/33 of an ounce) of crack cocaine subject to a 5-year prison term; one-third of an ounce brought ten years, without parole. This swelled the U.S. prison population to two million, the highest in the world. Two-thirds are black and Latin. Including those on probation and parole, 5.5 million are in the criminal "justice" system, with hundreds of thousands forced into prison slave labor.

U.S. bosses under Bush and Clinton killed 500,000 Iraqis during and after the Gulf War. Many more are still dying from the effects of that war. Somalia and Yugoslavia were bombed and invaded to guarantee oil supplies and oil pipelines.

Nike, GAP Spread Sweatshops Worldwide

U.S. corporations exploit tens of millions around the world. The garment sweatshops of New York and Los Angeles have been spread to the Nike and GAP sweatshops in Indonesia, China and Southeast Asia. Millions die each year due to exploitation which causes poverty, disease, mass unemployment, inadequate medical care, death squads, cancer-causing pollution—all for U.S. corporate profits. This is the REAL "American Century," the one the "Times" deliberately "forgets."

But also in this century communist revolution emerged as the qualitatively new force in world history. The Soviet and Chinese revolutions, the Red Armies’ defeats of Hitler, the Japanese fascists and Chiang Kai-shek and the communist-led anti-fascist Resistance movements of Europe and Asia built an international communist movement that Challenged the 400-year-old capitalist world order. Although temporarily set back mainly by its own internal weaknesses, and also by attacks from world imperialism, communism is still, in Marx’s words, "the specter haunting world capitalism."

The one constant throughout this century-long profit-making orgy of capitalism has been the unceasing fight-back by the world’s exploited working classes. In the U.S. there has been continuous working-class struggle, including rebellions led by black workers, as well as mass anti-imperialist war movements. On a world scale there has been the heroism of the Soviet and Chinese Red Armies, rebellions throughout Latin-America and Asia and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa

The second half of the century saw the emergence of the Progressive Labor Party, initially in the U.S. and now in many countries in Latin-America and many friends organizing in Europe and Asia. We stand on the shoulders of the past giants of Marxism-Leninism, and are building a new international communist movement.

U.S. bosses rant about "the next American century." It is up to our class, led by the PLP, to smash their plans for a "1,000-year reign," just as the Red Army did to their Nazi predecessors in World War II. It is up to us to make the 21st century the century of the working class, the Red Century of communist revolution, especially here in the U.S., the belly of the monster. "Workers of the world, Unite!" is our clarion call. "We have nothing to lose but our capitalist chains! We have a world to win!"


The latest Aero Mechanic, newspaper of Boeing’s largest union, distributed to 30,000-40,000 employed and retired Boeing workers, devoted most of its pages to celebrating the anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) demonstrations in Seattle. The Aero Mechanic declared the protest events "a marked victory, indeed!"

"The week produced a stunning breakthrough in the public debate over globalization and heightened public awareness of our issues," bragged this mouthpiece of the union hacks. "In taking to the streets, we gained a very important political ally…President Clinton."

It will do us no good to sugarcoat this point; there was no victory for the working class at the Battle in Seattle. The demonstrators did not cause the collapse of the talks in Seattle; the increasing tension between imperialist blocs did.

In fact, the world is a more dangerous place after these talks. This period carries undeniable similarities to the build-ups to World Wars I and II. "It is a phenomenon that the world has seen several times before. It is, over the course of a generation, a very scary phenomenon. Tensions among, and within blocs grow, beginning as economic tensions, and then turning into political tensions." (Stratfor, Inc., 11/29/99) Bromides about the "Victory in Seattle" will not help us destroy this murderous system, which was pushed further along the path to war and fascism by the events at the WTO meeting.

What then does AFL-CIO John Sweeney have in mind when he hailed the "victory" in Seattle? He is talking about democracy and defending human and labor rights abroad as a cover for building a movement to support U.S. imperialism worldwide. While he barely discusses labor abuses here in the U.S., he focuses his fire on other countries to paint U.S. capitalism as the savior of the world. The AFL-CIO has marched to the beat of U.S. imperialism for almost 50 years. This latest incarnation is nothing more than the same old wreck of a car with a new coat of paint.

Building this reactionary movement under a "progressive" cover is a tricky business. This is not the 1930’s when Hitler had millions of German workers goose-stepping to the Nazi beat. At this point the AFL-CIO misleaders do not have the thousands of committed cadre needed to organize the type of political movement that compares to Hitler’s. As our experiences showed during the Battle in Seattle, many workers were open to our communist analysis of events—if we don’t hold back!

The AFL-CIO, along with allies like Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, hopes to turn the Battle in Seattle into a campaign to attack the Chinese. They falsely label the Chinese capitalists "communists" to be able to spread anti-communism. Our warnings that this campaign is an attempt to win workers to support the imperialist aims of U.S. bosses against their imperialist competitors has met sympathetic ears among the rank and file in the unions and other groups. We can make qualitative gains if we fight like hell within these groups. Then, we can talk about some real victories!


SAN FRANCISCO, CA., Jan. 3—This city’s AFL-CIO Central Labor Council is organizing an "Open World Conference on Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights." It will be held here from February 11-14, and is endorsed by the Labor Party and supported by Global Exchange. Already some 200 delegates from other countries, including mainland China, are committed to join 100-200 from the U.S.

This Conference is billed as a follow-up to the "victory" in Seattle. The ILWU, (West Coast Longshoremen) and the Teamsters have endorsed it. (The ILWU organized strikes against the WTO on the day of the AFL-CIO demonstration in Seattle.) The conference supports the protectionist demands of the Steelworkers’ union against "dumping" foreign steel.

PLP encourages workers to attend this Conference to put forward a fighting program against fascist conditions and imperialist war. We’ll fight against plans to turn the conference into a celebration of the AFL-CIO’s hypocritical campaign for "human rights" and the building of "independent" (pro-US imperialist) unions. The AFL-CIO leadership has a long, dirty history of supporting U.S. imperialist wars (helping the CIA to foment them), including the bombing of Iraq and Yugoslavia. The conference leaders are planning sessions to attack China’s admission into the WTO, to use China-bashing to get workers to support U.S. imperialism.

Revolutionaries in PLP must raise our communist politics at this Conference to win delegates fighting prison labor in China to link that to the even larger issue of fighting prison labor and Workfare right here in the U.S. Our experiences in the recent past, both in Seattle and in many mass organizations, demonstrate that hundreds, even thousands, of workers and others are very receptive to the Party’s ideas. Many are wide open to them.

"We are in a death struggle against NAFTA and against the ‘corporate free trade’ agenda," says Jack Henning, Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the California branch of the AFL-CIO, and a convener of the Conference.

Sure, workers are in a life-and-death struggle all right. But NAFTA is just one of the symptoms, not the cause. The source of the attacks on unions and workers’ conditions worldwide is capitalism. The crisis of capitalism is leading to sharpening rivalry among the imperialists, and towards war. The AFL-CIO leaders have tried to cover up the fascist increase in prison labor in the U.S. and the spread of slave labor Workfare in their attempt to win U.S. workers to support a fascist pro-U.S. imperialist war movement.

Boeing is about to lay off thousands of workers while it turns to sub-contractors and prison labor to produce airplanes. More than 150,000 garment workers in Los Angeles face sweatshop conditions without a peep from the AFL-CIO. In transit systems across the U.S., Workfare and/or prison labor are being used to clean subways and buses. PLP urges angry workers to attend this Conference to raise the need to fight these fascist conditions and to expose the phony "internationalism" of the AFL-CIO as a cover for the U.S. bosses’ plans for fascism and war. Workers should follow up the fight at this Conference by joining PLP and marching on May Day, to fight for true internationalism and communist revolution.

End production for profit and produce for the needs of the international working class!


MEXICO CITY ¾ During the Thanksgiving weekend Progressive Labor Party members participated in a mini-project here to support the strike at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). During the extended weekend we distributed a communist flyer in a university that has shown some solidarity with the UNAM strikers. The flyer’s main point was that only communist revolution could alter the educational system in favor of the working class; that the class nature of the current UNAM bureaucracy was a reflection of the needs of the worldwide capitalist system. The flyer was warmly received by thousands of students on their lunch break.

Several high school strikers participated in building support for their strike. We had a Political Economy study group with them there. We began the next day with another study group. It was pointed out that the ideas in the Party’s pamphlet should be used as a guide to lead our struggle and to be better able to analyze the forces involved in the UNAM strike. The students said the university’s main role was to indoctrinate the working class and prepare it ideologically to serve the bosses. They were also aware that the bosses’ economic crisis is fomenting the attacks they’re suffering. They said their strongest support has come from the most oppressed masses of workers. The latter’s sons and daughters can hardly attend the university now and will be even more restricted if the tuition increase takes effect.

The UNAM struggle is teaching our Party many profound lessons: (1) We must be involved in the mass movement and struggle with our friends there to join the Party; (2) it is possible to participate in these sharp struggles and at the same time build the Party and spread revolutionary communist ideas; (3) to respect the profound nature of the masses’ knowledge once they are in struggle; and, (4) rely on the masses to help us lead this struggle and figure out the best way to participate in it.

The crisis changes the nature of political struggle. Examples include UNAM, the World Trade Organization and the Decatur, IL. 7 (suspended black students). It directly Challenges us to lead in a more mass way, to immerse ourselves in these struggles and learn to lead. One very dangerous pitfall is the reformist misleadership. We must present communism as the only alternative. We need a deep understanding of our friends’ reformist ideas so we can win them to revolutionary communism and the Progressive Labor Party.

As one worker said at a meeting with students, this strike is a golden opportunity to extend our Party and expand its influence. He is absolutely right! At a march of thousands of students demanding the start of talks with the new rector of the university we were able to distribute hundreds of leaflets pointing out the need for revolution. This is a small step toward the eventual victory of our class. We have become leaders in this movement and earned the respect of many militant fighters. This bodes well for our Party and our continuing efforts amongst students.


LOS ANGELES, CA, Dec. 13 — "Don’t stop the line. Keep working!" shouted one of the supervisors when several workers ran to see what happened with a fellow worker who had fallen off a flight of stairs, dying instantly. The workers were very angry and sad about the death of Armando. The Woodland Farms bosses tried to blame the worker, saying, "he didn’t even try to get up." The next day workers wore buttons with a big red fist that proclaimed, "We come to work—not to die!" They all wore black in memory of their fellow worker who died and collected money for funeral costs to take with their condolences to the family.

The anger and unity of the workers frightened the company and its supervisors. The bosses began a campaign to intimidate the witnesses who saw the "accident." They have hidden the stairs from which the worker fell and have tried to erase all memory of the dead worker. But what they can’t hide are the inhuman conditions under which these workers are forced to work. The pressure and speed of the line, racist insults, starvation wages and unhealthy and dangerous conditions make the processing plant an intolerably hard place to work.

This death is one more added to the long list caused by the bosses’ system which, in their drive for profits, kills workers in their factories, in their wars, at their borders and in the neighborhoods where racist cops terrorize the youth. The murder of this worker shows us once again the hypocrisy of Clinton’s government, along with his lackeys in the leadership of the AFL-CIO, who say the U.S. respects "human rights." What rights? The right to exploit and kill? The workers in this factory are constantly getting sick due to the terrible working conditions and lack of proper safety equipment. But OSHA (US Govt. Occupation Safety and Health Agency), in charge of supervising safety conditions, has given its approval to Woodland Farms!

Armando was a CHALLENGE reader. Every week he read his paper and came in the next day with questions and examples showing he identified with the whole working class. The bosses and their rotten, racist profit system killed one more working-class fighter. But his death will not be in vain. Many more workers have been politicized with CHALLENGE’S communist ideas. Many more see the need to organize and fight against all the bosses.

We will keep fighting for a communist society where the most important thing will be workers’ lives, where there will be no wealth made from workers’ blood; where workers won’t be forced to risk death to cross borders to survive, because we will abolish all capitalist borders. We will build a communist society where workers share whatever we produce, in scarcity and abundance.

Let the death of our friend Armando inspire us to fight for a society without bosses. We’re not asking for a moment of silence, but for a lifetime of struggle.



I see from some recent articles there are a lot of people who still think social democrats are kindlier, gentler capitalists and that, in particular, workers are better off working for nationalized companies. From my own experience, I can tell you all this is very wrong.

I lived for a while in the UK (England). I arrived in 1974, soon after the first big miners’ strike which smashed the Conservative government’s wage-freeze. For a short while there were big pay raises for almost all unionized workers. The bosses were set back somewhat and there was very little unemployment. But the situation didn't last. The social democratic Labour party took over the government later that year. Many workers thought this was yet another victory. However, the social democrats immediately began to undo everything won in the miner's strike—and a lot more.

It took a while but Labour had the advantage of being able to talk about "our" government, "our" problems with the economy, and the need for "us" to make sacrifices. Otherwise, they said, the meaner, leaner Conservatives would return, and destroy (through privatization) everything Labour had worked for. (The post-war Labour government had nationalized all the main industries in the late 1940’s.) The Labour politicians and the big union leaders (basically the same people) proposed the "Social Contract," which meant pay freezes and an end to strikes. On the whole, union members went along with it. The firefighters, for example, didn't, and Labour crushed their long strike by bringing in the army. Once the Social Contract was established, Labour moved on to the second phase, downsizing (of course they didn't use that word) the main industries (all government-owned). Workers were told this was in the national interest and that it was the only way to save these industries from going bust or (gasp) being privatized. Those who voluntarily abandoned their jobs were given a few thousand pounds of "redundancy payments" and sent to useless retraining schemes. As a result hundreds of thousands of industrial workers (in British Coal, British Steel, British Leyland, etc.) became unemployed, many never to work again. Whole areas, especially in the North, were economically devastated (and still are today).

And all this didn't even prevent privatization. Eventually, Labour was ousted. The clique of capitalists who had made it big through nationalization was replaced by the more traditional clique (centered around Barclays bank). This clique appropriated what was left of their rival’s property (through nationalization) and were able to defeat (in the second miners’ strike) the resistance of a much-weakened union movement.

Reader in Canada


MORAZAN, EL SALVADOR—"You have to be more careful when you talk about the Party’s ideas with the youth. We could turn them off. That happened to us when we started to organize people for the Front [FMLN guerrillas] in the 1970’s," said Robert. A young friend answered, "Don’t worry about us. We’re clear about the Party’s ideas. There’s no way that talking about them will scare us. On the contrary, you motivate us to keep learning." Another youth added, "We’ve already been reading CHALLENGE and we like the way the Party focuses its points, for example, predicting another inter-imperialist war."

This day in mid-December we gathered in the immense mountains of Morazan. It was very gratifying. The weather was very cold, but the warmth of our camaraderie gave a festive atmosphere to this communist get together. We ate a delicious bar-b-que meal, while comrades told stories about what had happened in these same mountains during the war.

There was time to be critical and self-critical about the scarce ideological training occurring during that conflict. We vowed that this will not happen in the future as we fight for communism. PLP members cannot fall into the FMLN trap of fighting to reform capitalism. Instead we will fight for every member of the Party and the working class to know the basic communist ideas of Marx, Lenin and Stalin.

Our agenda began with the world situation, then the political situation in El Salvador, and the development of CHALLENGE. We read and analyzed the CHALLENGE editorial. We had a profound discussion about the inter-imperialist rivalries, and the ways that the capitalists fight for profits. We understood this means there will be a third world war, and we communists have to prepare the working class, starting now, to fight to take power, for the dictatorship of the working class.

We reviewed the coming elections in El Salvador. We discussed the recent television interview with Mayor Hector Silva of San Salvador in which he emphasized belief in a free market economy to solve workers’ problems. If the FMLN leadership believes blindly in this capitalist idea, it can never offer the working class a real alternative, communism, to change the economic system.

Four comrades joined the party at this gathering, filling us with pride. Other comrades whose responsibilities with electoral parties conflicted with our meeting put those tasks in second place. "The elections won’t resolve the workers’ problems," these comrades said. "The primary thing is to study the communist ideas of the Party. That’s why we’re here. In the FMLN, they only think about elections, not about ideology, which is fundamental."

PLP is advancing. Our communist literature, including CHALLENGE, is reaching places that previously appeared unreachable. But today we are taking steps to be able to win many more workers to the fight for communism during the new millennium.


Helen and I met each other at a Marxist training school some 51 years ago. Our immediate affection for each other was reinforced by several dates through which we began to get to know each other better. Shortly thereafter we decided to marry.

We were both communists when we met and have remained so ever since, committed to creating a world in which profits play no role, in which the motive force for society is producing what people need, and in which the factories and fields belong to those who labor in and on them. A world free of racism and of all oppression of one human being by any other.

Helen was stricken with breast cancer in 1976 and carried on an almost unbelievably valiant struggle against it for 23 years. Even though she lost her final struggle against this disease, she won for herself and her family 23 good years during which four of her grandchildren were born so that she was able to enjoy them and they her. Unfortunately, she did not live to see the birth of her newest grandchild, due in July. During these years she also continued to lead our Party’s work in Connecticut in spite of her infirmities. She set an example of commitment from which we should all learn. She touched and changed many people’s lives. Her dedication to the struggle for communism and against racism is an inspiration to me and many others. She will be sorely missed by both her family and many friends.

We were married for over 50 years. During those years she was always my best friend and sharpest critic at the same time. I have loved her throughout and learnt much from her kind, caring and courageous example of how to live. I miss her terribly. Her loss leaves a great hole in my life. But in spite of this I intend to carry on the struggle as she would have wished me to.


Book review: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond.

Diamond’s book covers tens of thousands of years of human history. It is an anti-racist answer to questions like why Europeans sailed across the oceans and conquered Native American and African societies, rather than the other way around. Using evidence from many branches of science—including archeology, geology, linguistics, and genetics—he proves that it was not due to supposed differences in innate abilities or biology, which he shows did not (and still do not) exist.

Diamond’s history begins with the origins of humanity in Africa and traces the migration to the rest of the world over tens of thousands of years. Around 40,000 B.C. people built boats and populated the South Pacific islands. Meanwhile, other people spread out over the Eurasian continent. Around 11,000 B.C., people migrated to North America and reached South America thousands of years later.

Diamond describes the various social organizations—bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states, increasingly larger and more tightly-governed forms. Bands were small mobile groups of related individuals, who hunted and gathered plants for food. Tribes were large enough so that not everyone knew everyone else. These larger groups became possible only through plant and animal domestication—agriculture and herding. As population size and density grew, tribes became chiefdoms and chiefdoms became states.

Agriculture requires the availability of plants that provide sufficient nourishment. Such plants only existed in a few places. The only peoples who did not develop agriculture were those without available domesticable plants. The same was true of animal domestication and breeding. These allowed societies to become sedentary (non-nomadic) and, in turn, larger and denser. Infectious diseases then spread from animals to people. Those who didn’t die from these diseases developed immunities. These germs later accounted for at least as many deaths of conquered peoples as guns and other metal weapons.

Technological inventions took place in many societies at many times, but only took hold in societies that could use them. While Europe was slower than Asia to develop states and technology, its eventual advance in this millenium was in part due to the predominantly east-west orientation of the Eurasian land mass. This allowed agriculture and technology to spread from the Fertile Crescent (today’s Middle East) to other peoples in Europe, Asia and North Africa, without its having to cross different temperature zones.

In contrast, Africa and the Americas are predominantly north-south oriented and cross equatorial deserts, which acted as barriers to the spread of agriculture and animal breeding until domesticable plants and animals were brought in by ship. Thus the differences were not due to innate qualities of the people, but to external circumstances of geography and domesticable plant and animal availability.

Diamond places the origins of organized religion in chiefdoms and states, in which the rulers required priests to justify their right to rule and enslave the masses. The priests pacified the masses. While Diamond doesn’t say so, this continues to the present time.

Filled with scientific falsehoods

The major areas of falsehood in Diamond’s otherwise useful summary of human history include, first, his failure to even mention social classes and how they arose once populations were large enough, and food production efficient enough, to free an increasing portion of the population from agricultural labor. Second, he fails to even ask what it was about the social order that determined when technological advances were needed.

Third, while Diamond asks why Europeans, but not Chinese, sailed abroad to conquer peoples all over the world, he explains the difference in terms of the unity of the vast Chinese land mass under one ruler, in contrast to Europe which had many competing societies, each with its own ruler. But he never asks what gave rise to the competition. Furthermore he never mentions that the conquerors were not Europeans as such, but rather European rulers, who enslaved the laboring classes of Europe no less than those of other geographical areas, though sometimes with alternative forms of slavery—wage slavery and serfdom, rather than chattel slavery. Nor does he mention that the conquered societies in the Western Hemisphere and in Africa were themselves class-divided. The rulers in these areas were either more easily conquered because of these divisions (e.g., Aztecs and Incas) or were willing to cooperate by selling their own working classes as slaves (as in Africa).

Competition is inherent in a profit-based, class-divided form of society, capitalism, which requires that profits be maximized to stay in business ahead of other profit-makers. This in turn gives rise to the outward expansion of capitalist ruling classes, and continues today in the form of inter-imperialist rivalry among all the capitalist rulers in the world. However, Diamond completely avoids discussing modern-day imperialism.

Worst of all is Diamond’s assumption that people naturally try to kill strangers unless prevented by external forces. He says that in large societies where most people don’t know each other, the state and religion were the only things that stood in the way of mayhem. This assumption about human beings smacks of the fascist explanations for modern war provided by sociobiologists and other biological determinists. And he ignores the fact that in the modern world, it is the state itself, as the main prop of profit-based capitalism and imperialism, which commits mayhem against working class people all over the world.

Diamond’s complete failure to criticize capitalism and imperialism is one reason why the book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize by the capitalists. But the book is also very useful to the working class in filling some of the gaps in pre-capitalist history.


(to the tune of "Silver Bells")

Buy and sell, buy and sell,
Avarice thrives in the city.
Jobless? Well, what the hell!
Isn't free enterprise grand!

Inside trading, corporate raiding:
That's the way they get rich.
In the air, there's the stink of big business.
There's strip mining, bank red-lining,
And the old bait-and-switch,
And in every posh board-room you hear...

Arbitrage, slick tax dodge,
Avarice thrives in the city.
Poverty? C'est la vie!
Isn't free enterprise grand!

Toxic land fill, massive oil spill
Make the profits increase.
In the air, there's the reek of pollution.
When there's sludges, buy the judges,
Legislators, and police.
And in every plush penthouse you hear...

Real estate, speculate,
Avarice thrives in the city.
Rising rents? Move to tents!
Isn't free enterprise grand!

Leveraged buy out, workers cry out
As their unions get smashed.
In the air, there's the stench of reaction.
Oh the slum folk are just plumb broke,
And their hopes are all dashed,
But there's now growing voices we hear...

Organize, rainbow ties!
We all still need social justice!
They globalize, we mobilize!
There is a world to be won!


In previous CHALLENGES, we have erroneously estimated that there are about 500,000 inmates working in prison labor in the U.S.

Latest figures show that there are nearly two million prisoners in the U.S., 800,000 more than ten years ago. The U.S., with less than 5% of the world population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners. This, according to the London Financial Times, is a huge and relatively "untapped vein of young, able-bodied workers who can do more than hammer out license plates or trawl highways for rubbish."

There are now about 3,300 inmates in state prison systems who work for private firms, like Dell Computers, Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Josten’s Caps and Gowns, and many others. Most work for smaller companies who do sporadic subcontract work for the larger companies mentioned. This is a rapidly expanding sector of the economy. The Prison Industry Enhancement program, as it is called, aims to have 10,000 prisoners working for private firms by 2005.

There are also 25,000 prisoners in federal prisons working for UNICOR, the federal prison labor agency, producing over 150 products, including 100% of all Army helmets, ammunition cases, body armor, ID tags, tarps, shirts and pants; 18% of the country’s electrical hardware; 61% of household utility contairners; 36% of household furnishings; 30% of headset/microphone speakers, all of which used to be made by workers in private industry. In 1994, 76,000 prisoners in state prisons produced $900 million worth of goods.

Private prisons are also increasing, run by such companies as Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of America. Because they are strictly in business to make money, they are in the forefront in using convict labor. The circuit boards for Dell computers are made in one such private prison in Lockhardt, Texas. Another $22 million prison is about to be built in Texas, devoted entirely to employing inmates in private enterprise.

While the union bosses squeal about prison labor in China, prison labor in the U.S. is growing by leaps and bounds. As the U.S. moves to consolidate fascism in preparation for war, the U.S. bosses will increasingly ape their Nazi mentors in the use of prison labor. "Made in the U.S.A." will mean made by our brother and sisters caught in a racist "injustice" system.

LA Comrade


I am sending a letter written by a 13-year-old student of mine at a residential school in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She and several other students were inspired by our political discussions in class, especially around the recent fight against the Klan in New York (I showed the news footage of that in class). Her letter concerns the MCAS tests, statewide standardized assessments being given to 4th, 8th and 10th graders. These tests have received widespread criticism. Some Party members are getting involved with one of the groups trying to organize a boycott of the tests. Soon the MCAS will be a requirement for graduation from high school, even though a large percentage of students have been failing. I believe there are currently 40 states using similar tests. Her letter follows:

We, as students of the Northeastern Family Institute school in Dorchester, strongly oppose the MCAS tests. Why do students who work hard all year have to stay back just because of a test? All kids have strengths and weaknesses, and these tests don’t show a child’s full potential. The same courses in different schools are taught at different levels, so how can you give all students the same test? This is a test that does not help, it just wants you to fail, and makes kids stay back in school.

The MCAS are not fair to people who can’t speak English or who just got to America [all bilingual, as well as special education students, must take this test]. These tests are also racist, because black and Latin working class students go to schools where they do not get the best education, and the schools don’t have enough money to buy supplies. The MCAS tests will only add to a hostile atmosphere and will punish these groups for their shortcomings.

Why would the government want students to fail? The government wants this test because there are not enough jobs in the working world today. It is a way of keeping kids from getting jobs. My point is that these politicians are just pathetic, ignorant assholes. We students will refuse to take and will protest against these tests.

Boston PLP’er


CHALLENGE has long and often held that the deadliest forms of fascism come from liberal leaders who pose as friends of the working class but actually serve the biggest capitalists. The sordid career of Elliot Richardson, who died on New Year’s Eve, bears this out. The establishment media have made Richardson a hero because, as Attorney General, he helped bring down Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

Nixon’s real crimes lay in his inflationary economic policies that were enriching upstart capitalists at the expense of the big bankers. Earlier, however, Richardson as Nixon’s Defense Secretary played a major role in the slaughter of three million Vietnamese workers and 55,000 mainly working-class GI’s. Richardson felt no need then to oppose Nixon, because the Vietnam War was a creation of the ruling elite’s main wing. When Richardson left the government, the Rockefeller family rewarded him with a cushy job at its main law firm, Milbank Tweed.

In the late 1950’s, Richardson killed two birds with one stone on behalf of the Eastern Establishment in which he was a full-fledged member. He prosecuted Bernard Goldfine, a textile boss charged with buying influence in the Eisenhower White House. Richardson was limiting the clout of smaller bosses and insuring the reign of anti-Semitism. Richardson showed his true colors early. In 1939, he led scores of his Harvard classmates in a brown shirt parade, complete with fascist songs and salutes, goose-stepping through Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was supposed to be a college prank, but Hitler and Mussolini’s savagery was anything but a laughing matter.

We must continue to expose and attack Nazis who masquerade as liberals.

A Regular Reader


The Administration of Daniel Freeman Catholic Hospital in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, announced to the housekeeping staff that as of January 1, 2000 a private company will take over their department. The workers’ jobs will end in February. They can apply to work for the new company. Those selected will continue working at the hospital.

Hospital management says the workers will keep their present salaries and seniority. They say the new company has benefits but they are not sure how this will work.

The workers suspect they will lose benefits, and think the hospital may be lying about salaries and seniority. After all, the hospital is making this change to save money, and the new company is coming in to make a profit, so where will the profit come from? There is only one place…from the workers.

Maybe the company will lay off some workers and speed up others. Or lay off workers with seniority and bring in other workers at a lower rate of pay. One way or another, they have to push the workers down if the hospital is to save money and the company is to make a profit.

The housekeeping and all workers should get together now and organize a counterattack, before it’s too late. Even more important, they should join PLP to get rid of the system which says that their must work for lousy wages in lousy conditions either for the hospital or for the private company.

LA Hospital Worker


"Welcome to the Taj Mahal, the Crown Palace of Agra. In 1631 the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj constructed by a force of 20,000 workers, working around the clock for 22 years!" This was the greeting my wife and I recieved upon arriving at the Taj Mahal in India recently.

"Welcome to Varanassi,(Benares); 140,000 Hindu pilgrims come to bathe in the Ganges, the holiest of rivers, every day!" Thousands in dire poverty and the most filthy conditions in the name of religion! This is a small example of life under capitalism in India today!

In 1990, I observed a glimpse of what life under communist equality could be. Some of the accomplishments after the communist revolution in China were truly inspiring!

We visited a commune (a collective farm) near Shanghai, where 60,000 people worked together to provide for all their needs. You got the feeling people really cared and were in this together!

We in PLP are aware that serious mistakes in China, compromises on leadership, wages, nationalism and socialism were made which led back to capitalism.

But we cannot take away from the tremendous accomplishments of people like "the Barefoot Doctors," who transformed the health of China in a few short years!

Ours is but to learn from the lessons of the past which wll lead to a better future for all of humanity, based on communist equality!

Keep up the good work in CHALLENGE.

Bay Area Comrade


I was very excited about the anti-WTO protests in Seattle last November because they show that many workers and students are protesting exploitation and oppression, and therefore are very open to PLP’s view of ending ALL exploitation and oppression by smashing capitalism with communist revolution.

The masses are on the move! They could move either towards fascism or towards communism. Which direction depends a lot on what we in PLP do next.

PLP did a great job during the WTO meeting but it was still not nearly good enough. Most of us in PLP did not take the growing anti-WTO movement seriously. Not enough people were won to going to Seattle. Not enough are in mass organizations raising revolutionary communist ideas and leading the class struggle. If we were, many more of us would have naturally gone to Seattle to raise our revolutionary communist perspective inside the unions, environmental groups, student groups and other non-governmental organizations.

This growing anti-globalization movement is complicated and full of contradictions. Students want to stop prison labor or sweatshop labor throughout the world but groups such as Global Exchange who are backed and funded by major capitalists like Levi Strauss direct this anger against exploitation into attacking U.S. imperialist rivals like China. Clinton, Sweeney and the liberal fascist bosses wanted controlled, peaceful, non-disruptive demonstrations to put pressure on U.S. rivals.

But, many workers and students are really pissed off about what is happening to them and their fellow workers. They are angered by the extreme exploitation and oppression they see in the world, even as they are influenced by the pro-U.S. nationalism being pushed by the bosses. However, while Becker (steel union leader) pushed anti-foreign, pro-U.S. rhetoric (calling for the dumping of Russian and Japanese steel while chanting, "USA, USA", I did not hear of any steel workers or others in Seattle attacking Asians or Russians as the enemy. More mass fascism could come but it’s not here yet. Only if more PLP members vigorously raise our anti-nationalist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, pro-communist line in mass organizations will that day never come. Developing fascism is an inevitable feature of capitalism in crisis but the mass support of workers and students for fascism is not.

I think some in PLP become frustrated by the complicated, faced in capitalist mass organization. Some view this activity with little enthusiasm because it is full of contradictions including confronting nationalist and fascist ideas. We easily say yes we should be involved in these mass groups but basically we should expect little from them because we already have a mass fascist movement with few open to communist ideas (i.e., it is too late, workers are all basically goose-stepping behind the bosses). Thus, we take a limited view of mass work. We see it as some kind of forced effort with little political reward. But, we should not just work in this growing movement, we should be fighting to win the hearts and minds of the workers and students in this movement (the bosses sure are). We believe workers and youth will see that communism is the only solution to capitalism and all its horrors. Imagine if workers and youth shut down the WTO with PLP in the lead or at least with large sections of that movement being led by or influenced by PLP members. We are not going to suddenly have revolution with everyone joining PLP all at once. We are going to have many, many messy, contradictory situations were workers are going to be won to both nationalist, fascist ideas and communist ideas. Some workers will attack us and many others will join us along the way.

The Seattle mayor and cops did not attack the anti-WTO protesters from a position of strength but from a position of weakness. The bosses are terrified by masses of workers who are not in their control. Many workers and youth got a lesson of what state power and growing fascism mean (something many black and Latin workers experience all the time). What happened last week embarrassed US imperialism and further revealed its weakness. We all need to make the fight for international working class unity and the need for communism central to the anti-WTO/anti-globalization movement.

Boston Comrade


At a recent meeting of the American Public Health Association, a group of homeless people in Chicago Public housing is being destroyed an entire block at a time so the number of homeless is soaring. The weather is so cold they are forced into shelters. Each morning the shelter flushes occupants out into the street, where they file into temp agencies like Manpower, located next door to the shelter. From there, they are loaded onto trucks and sent all over Chicago to become day laborers. They are then trucked back to the temp agencies, which take a big cut of their pay. The shelters then take another cut. The homeless are left with a little bit of money, but never enough to escape their situation. Once you fall into this trap, it’s almost impossible to get out.

What struck me is that this is a form of slave labor that doesn’t depend on ownership of people, like chattel slavery of the old South; nor does it depend on the welfare system, like Workfare slavery; nor does it depend on the penal system, like prison industry slavery. This slavery is based solely on the wage system that we all work under, homeless or not. Slavery was supposed to be ended by the Civil War, but it will only truly be ended with the war to uproot capitalism.

West Coast Comrade



The 20th century is now history. How well do you know it? (Answers follow.)

Globalization is now in vogue, particularly after the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) end-of-millennium bash in Seattle. Who defined it as imperialism and analyzed it some 90 years ago? (This revolutionary argued against political theoreticians of his time who predicted the imperialists would settle their differences because they had "too much to lose" if they fought each other.

Which was the most important event of the century for the international working class? (The person in the answer to question #1 led it.)

Who wrote one of the most important books about the event mentioned in question #2? What is the name of the book? (Warren Beatty didn’t do him justice in the movie "Reds.") He also wrote about the nationalist revolution in Mexico in 1912 and later became a leader of the U.S. Communist movement.

What was the key battle of World War II which led to the eventual defeat of the most powerful and murderous war machine of its time: the Nazi Wehrmacht? (The battle took place in the winter of 1942-43. The city where it occurred was named after the Communist leader of the USSR.)

Which flag flew over the Nazi Reichstag (parliament) in May 1945, marking the end of the Nazi "Thousand Year Reich"? This was followed by the "Battle of Manchuria" (August 1945) when the Soviet and Chinese Red Armies wiped out the bulk of the fascist Imperial Army of Japan.

Michael Jordan, Pelé, Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali, Roberto Clemente—these are the choices of some sportswriters as "athletes of the century." Our choice is the person who became the first black football All-American at Rutgers early in 1918 when racism was even more rampant in sports. Who was this modern Renaissance man—a great singer and actor whose pro-communist, internationalist position for the working class in the face of the U.S. government’s attack inspired millions worldwide who hated racism and fascism?

Which war in the 1960’s and early ’70s revealed U.S. imperialism as a paper tiger? Millions protested this war. The U.S. armed forces have not yet recovered from it and have suffered from a syndrome named after the country in which it took place.

What organization terrorized thousands in the U.S. with its anti-communist witch-hunt? Which communist group defied, exposed and attacked it in 1964, leading to its demise? (Later that year, several members of this group were jailed because the ruling class blamed them for the first massive anti-racist, anti-cop rebellion of the ’60s, the 1964 Harlem Rebellion.)

In 1973 which organization led the sit-down strike at Chrysler’s Mack Ave. plant in Detroit, the first such strike in a U.S. auto plant since the 1937 Flint sit-down? (It was smashed by a thousand goons led by the union hacks of the United Auto Workers.

Since the early 1970’s, which anti-racist organization has consistently opposed, attacked and smashed the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis? (The latest occurred on October 23 in New York City where some members and friends of this organization were able to evade the Klan’s police protection and punch the KKK grand lizard and rip their fascist banner.)



1. V.I. Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that freed one-sixth of the world from capitalism. The book, "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism," is a must-read for those who want to understand the current world situation after the debacle in Seattle.

2. The Bolshevik Revolution that established the USSR.

3. John Reed, a Seattle journalist who became a communist. He wrote "Ten Days That Shook The World." Eisenstein, the Soviet film maker, and regarded as one of the greatest of the 20th century, turned it into a classic movie, much better than Hollywood’s Reds in which Beatty played John Reed.

4. The Battle of Stalingrad where the Red Army smashed the Nazi army. It is sometimes referred to as the greatest military battle in world history. It was the turning point of the war, presaging the end of the Third Reich.

5. The Soviet hammer and sickle was raised atop the Reichstag by Red Army soldiers.

6. Paul Robeson used his many talents to fight racism and capitalism and sang across all borders for the working class worldwide.

7. The Vietnam War and Vietnam Syndrome. Even though U.S. imperialism murdered over three million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians, it was soundly defeated.

8. House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC). Members of the Progressive Labor Movement (forerunner of the Progressive Labor Party), called to testify before it in 1964, organized mass demonstrations against it in Buffalo, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. PLM members refused to hide behind the bosses’ Fifth Amendment and proudly proclaimed themselves as communists while calling the committee by its rightful name: fascist.

9. The Progressive Labor Party. This revolutionary communist organization has led hundreds of thousands in the last three decades to attack the racist terrorists of the KKK and the Nazis.

10. Workers’ Action Movement, an organization formed by PLP, led hundreds of auto workers to take over the Chrysler plant.