CHALLENGE, VOL. 36, NO. 14, JANUARY 26, 2000

May Day 2000: Let's Bury Capitalism in the 21st Century with Communist Revolution

Rocker Pitches Rulers’ Racism, Workers Hit Back

Big Media Megamerger = Keep Workers UNinformed

Chicago Communist Teacher Under Fire, Fight Racist Board of Ed

46,000 March Against Confederate Flag of Slavery and Racist Lynching

Workers Rebel in Haiti Against Murderous U.S. ‘Democracy’

Rulers Send Army to Attack Mass Strikes in India

Learning Math Helps Understand and Transform the World

AFL-CIO Anti-China Policies Cover for Prison Labor in the US

FMLN Wants to Become Next Hangmen of Workers in El Salvador

Welfare Layoffs Plus Mass Cutbacks = More workfare

The More You Learn The More You Can Learn


Challenge, Good Bedside Reading

TV Promotes Nazis

More on 'Cradle Will Rock'

Millions for (Sports) Stadiums, Nickels for Houses

How to Win MLA Members to Subvert Bourgeois Culture

Editorial 1: May Day 2000 --

Let's Bury Capitalism in the 21st Century with Communist Revolution

The first MAY DAY in the 21st century symbolizes the turning of this century into a fight for a communist revolution. May Day is that day of the year when our Party mobilizes all our working-class brothers and sisters worldwide under one flag—the red flag of workers’ power. We demonstrate our needs and demands, especially our commitment to bury capitalism in this century.

It is a great building time for the Party of the working class. Many workers and students join the Party on or around May Day. It is the living proof of a multi-racial organization fighting for communism. May Day is also a time when we organize social events—visiting our friends, raising money on our jobs and organizing campaigns to help raise political and financial support for our working class international holiday.

The bosses all over the world celebrated the emerging 21st century with a display of fireworks, in an atmosphere of music and dancing in the streets. The bosses’ "resolutions" were for "peace and prosperity" for the capitalist system, but the reality reveals the conflicts within world capitalism. The political, economic and military competition among the capitalist countries is growing sharper, leaving millions of workers in poverty, millions homeless and dying from starvation. With the fights for markets and raw materials around the world, we can surely see that this century opens with inter-imperialist rivalry as the dominant contradiction. This will inevitably lead to a third world war.

In the U.S., conditions for the working class in the 21st century will worsen. We already see more subcontracting and slave labor programs lowering workers’ living standards. The bosses are expanding an even cheaper source of labor—imprisoned workers. By the year 2005, they aim to have hundreds of thousands of prisoners—possibly one million—producing for bosses’ profits.

Meanwhile, as the genocidal racist attacks on black workers continue, we will see even more black workers imprisoned in the 21st century. However, as millions of working-class brothers and sisters enter the U.S. this century, we can build a mighty tidal wave of multi-racial internationalism. We will march on May Day as one army under one flag and led by one Party to build the fight for communist revolution that will fight the rulers’ fascist attacks.

Editorial 2: Rocker Pitches Rulers’ Racism, Workers Hit Back

On December 27, an Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Rocker, showed his racist, fascist face when he was interviewed for Sports Illustrated. Rocker lashed out against "too many foreigners" on New York City streets speaking different languages and then spewed forth some more racist filth.

The firestorm of debate that followed in the media has tried to isolate Rocker as ignorant, stupid and moronic. Baseball commissioner Selig "sentenced" the pitcher to be examined by a psychologist. This labels racism as a "mental illness."

Is racism "psychological" or a problem of "ignorance"? Absolutely not! Under capitalism, racism is the bosses’ main weapon to divide workers. The Rockefeller-led ruling class in the U.S. uses racism to super-exploit millions of black, Latin and Asian workers, which acts to limit white workers’ wages. Rocker’s rantings come from all the racism that exists in capitalism. And Rocker isn’t the first in the last several years to have a "slip of the tongue."

• In 1994, liberal President Francis Lawrence of Rutgers University said that black and Latin students don’t do well on the SAT exams because of their "inherent genetic inferiority." Coincidentally, The Bell Curve, by Nazis Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the rage for all the fascists and liberals, was the book arguing the same thing.

• CUNY President Herman Badillo just last year told an educational conference that Mexican and Dominican youth are filling school space and learning nothing because they are mostly from the mountains and rural areas and, in the case of Mexicans, mostly Indians, "with no history of education." (N.Y. Post, 9-23-99)

• Just a few weeks ago, Queens College President Alan Swenson, regarding student’s low testing scores said, "S--t in, s--t out."

The bosses’ drive for profits and control of markets, competing fiercely against other imperialists, requires the open police brutality of the NYPD and LAPD who kill and terrorize black, Latin and immigrant workers like Amadou Diallo, Roberto Close and Tyisha Miller. They need the imprisonment of two million workers and youth (two thirds black or Latin). They need the racist sterilization of Chicago mothers addicted to crack, and they need the imprisonment of homeless workers in NYC.

These racist attacks keep the working class divided and not fighting back, helping to keep profits up.

Words don’t exist in a vacuum. They just don’t pop into the head of racists like John Rocker. He, like others, has been won to believe that black, Latin and Asian workers are "inferior" to white workers. He’s of the same stripe as the murderous Ku Klux Klan, the NYPD or the Clinton Administration which forces millions of workers into slave labor Workfare programs.

Whenever a racist word is uttered, PLP and our friends will be there to attack it. Whenever fascists like the Ku Klux Klan rear their racist heads, we’ll be there to smash them. And whenever bosses launch racist attacks on our class, in the shops, schools or communities, we’ll be there to expose and fight it.

Why? Because we want to unite the working class to build a new society—communism—that will smash racism once and for all. There’s no such thing as "worker-friendly" capitalism, which the liberals promise every Martin Luther King Day. Racism will never be destroyed under capitalism. The bosses require it to remain in power and they will never give it up until they’re smashed. We should organize our friends, co-workers and fellow students to march on May Day to show the bosses that the workers united will never be defeated and that the working class, led by Progressive Labor Party, will end racism once and for all.

Big Media Megamerger = Keep Workers UNinformed

Now More than Ever, CHALLENGE Must Be Your Newspaper

AOL and Time-Warner’s recent megamerger will create another huge monopoly in the mass media. What the bosses have done to the other news sources (newspapers, TV, Radio), they are now rushing to do to the internet. For capitalism, "free press" means freedom to spread lies and distortions of the real world, while making huge profits. News reporting, as distorted as it used to be in the past, has now given way to treating all news as entertainment. The mainstream mass media is making the National Enquirer looks like a serious paper.

But that is the job of the capitalist press: keep workers misinformed and distracted from the real cause of their problems.

There is an alternative: CHALLENGE-DESAFIO. The job of this newspaper (and its internet version at is the opposite of AOL-Time, etc. It is to show workers the real nature of capitalism (racism, exploitation, war, sexism, inequality, etc.), and the solution: organize to smash it and build a worker-led world where production and distribution are according to need for the working class (communism), not profits for a few (capitalism).

CHALLENGE’S main problem is that we are too small; we don’t reach millions and millions of workers to counter the bosses’ media lies. That is a problem every reader can help solve. Here are some suggestions:

(1) Buy a sub for a friend (only $15 a year).

(2) Order a weekly bundle to distribute 5, 10, 20 or as many papers as you can among fellow workers and students.

(3) Show our web page to your fellow workers and students who have access to the internet.

(4) Send us your letters, comments and articles about local struggles, as well as pictures and cartoons.

Make CHALLENGE-DESAFIO your source of news for the new millennium. Write to us at PO Box 808, GPO, Brooklyn, NY 11202, or e-mail us at

Chicago Communist Teacher Under Fire, Fight Racist Board of Ed

(This is a copy of a letter I sent to students and teachers at my high school, CVS (Chicago Vocational H.S.), to let them know about the Chicago Board of Education’s plans to fire me.)

January 14, 2000

Dear Friend,

Yesterday I was on the bus ready to go on a field trip when I was asked to report to the principal’s office. She informed me that the Board was coming to serve me with papers and I had to wait there and couldn’t go with my students on the trip. The Board (Paul Vallas) told me I was to report downtown. There I found out that this Wednesday, Jan. 19, they plan to suspend me without pay. Sometime after that they want to fire me.

In my opinion, they are firing me because I am a communist. I am a good teacher and the schools need math teachers. But they are willing for the students to suffer because they want to make sure that only the ruling class viewpoint is in the schools. Communists are organizing to overthrow the capitalist system. Paul Vallas and his flunkies don’t care whether or not students learn to think on their own, or make decisions based on hearing different ideas. No, they want to make sure the students are indoctrinated with patriotic ideas.

There are seven charges against me. Three of them involve a former CVS student who attended an anti-KKK rally with me and hundreds of other people in Beloit, Wisconsin. She was arrested at the rally, although she never had to go to court and nothing happened to her. Her guardians knew where she was going, but the Board still says I’m responsible and should be fired for what happened over a year ago. Three of the charges are about distributing communist literature and encouraging students to go to meetings and rallies. The last charge is totally ridiculous. It says I had coed sleepover parties at my house. I’m sure they will be forced to drop that charge because it is a complete lie.

What’s happening is not just about me. It’s connected to a whole trend in society towards a police state, or fascism. They’re locking people up, especially young black men, constantly. They’re making it illegal to stand on the street corner. There’s an increase in racist groups like the Klan. Lots of companies are merging and becoming bigger and more powerful, at the expense of the working class. Wages are going down. Homelessness is growing. Those in power want to get rid of communists, who are organizing against this fascist government. But they won’t stop just with just going after communists. Today it’s me and another CVS teacher, Mr. Bernal (his termination hearing, on similar charges, is Jan. 25, 26, 27). Tomorrow who knows what teacher or students they’ll go after?

If you would like to discuss this more, please call me at home. Some students and teachers are writing letters to the Board or circulating petitions protesting its efforts to fire me. If you decide to do that, please send me a copy of the letter or petition. I intend to fight them. I want to teach, and I want to be at CVS. If you want to help me, give me a call.


Carol (Ms. Caref)

46,000 March Against Confederate Flag of Slavery and Racist Lynching

COLUMBIA, South Carolina, Jan. 17 — To the tune of We Shall Overcome, about 46.000 marchers sang "The flag is coming down today." The largest march in this city’s history united veteran organizers of anti-racist marches and young people who had never marched before. Some 10% of the marchers were white workers and youth. They were demanding that the Confederate flag be removed from the state capitol building. The turnout surprised even the NAACP, which organized the demonstration.

The flag, which was used by the pro-slave Confederate States during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, is a symbol of the worst racist scum (KKK, neo-Nazis, etc.) The few thousand racists who rallied here a week before in support of flying it claimed it represents "Southern Heritage." But to anti-racists—black and white—it is like the Nazi Swastika; it’s a symbol of racist lynching.

The Other Bosses’ Flag Is Also Racist

But during the march today, the NAACP waved another symbol of mass murder and terror, the Stars and Stripes of the U.S. bosses. Under this flag, the U.S. has committed atrocities all over the world, murdering tens of millions (see CHALLENGE, 1/12, for a history of U.S. imperialism’s crimes). The NAACP is trying to use the anti-racist anger of workers and youth to win them to die for the Stars and Stripes when their masters in the Rockefeller wing of the ruling class go to war to protects their oil profits.

Workers have only one flag: the red flag of revolution for workers’ power—communism. That’s the flag we’ll be waving high on May Day. We in PLP invite all those anti-racists who hate slavery and racist terror to march with us in Washington, DC and San Francisco on May 6 for a world without capitalism—the cause of racism.

Workers Rebel in Haiti Against Murderous U.S. ‘Democracy’

FORT LIBERTÉ, Haiti, Jan. 15 — Remember when Clinton ordered U.S. troops to invade Haiti and depose the military butchers in power there. Clinton said he was bringing "democracy" back to Haiti’s poor workers and peasants. Clinton’s buddy, Jean. Aristide, the liberal priest-turned-politician, was returned to power. He had been overthrown a few years earlier by the military. Several years have now passed. Most of the U.S. and UN troops have now left, and conditions for most people here have gone from bad to worse.

This week, this city, near the border of the Dominican Republic, witnessed a mass rebellion after one of the few remaining U.S. soldiers shot and killed a 14-year-old youth. A UN military vehicle was burned and several cops were injured along with many civilians.

It all began after one of the "zongledó" (night burglars), who control the nights here, robbed a motorcycle. The local cops responded and, as usual, shot the owner of the motorcycle. Angry demonstrators stoned the police station. UN military personnel shot at the demonstrators. A U.S. soldier, part of the UN forces, shot and killed a local youth among the protesters. Others protesters were also shot by the UN troops.

Now, according to the Dominican Republic’s newspaper, the Daily El Nacional (1/16), "This town is practically in the midst of social convulsions. Many of the social services are paralyzed, including transportation through its streets and roads (which are regularly in such bad shape that it is quite a task traveling through them)."

Next time someone proposes an imperialist invasion to "help the people," think about Haiti. Nothing short of fighting for communism can ever help the masses anywhere.

Rulers Send Army to Attack Mass Strikes in India

NEW DELHI, India, Jan. 19 — The government called out the Army and Navy to confront striking dock, power and oil workers as well as state and postal employees, all are part of the biggest strike wave in recent times.

Port workers, who handle a quarter of a billion tons of cargo per year, brought shipping activity in eleven ports across the country to a complete halt. The Army and Coast Guard moved in to scab. The workers are demanding a 106% wage increase.

The government of the state of Uttar Pradesh began firing striking power workers and hiring scabs as that walkout entered its sixth day. Over 2,000 workers have been arrested, but the strike intensified and the state’s electric power crisis has escalated, threatening service across the entire north of India. The Army has taken over power stations.

Oil workers have struck to force implementation of a recommended wage hike and postal workers are planning a nationwide strike in March for the same reason.

A walkout by thousands of state workers in Jammu and Kashmir entered its second month. They are demanding back pay and benefits due them, Troops have moved into the large cities. The Indian rulers did not hesitate to use the troops fighting pro-Pakistani separatists in this area to scab. Over 300 strikers have been arrested.

India has long been touted as a "great Asian democracy," but as always under capitalism, when workers attempt to fight for a little better life, the ruling class brings the full weight of its state apparatus to bear on the class that produces its profits. Is there any better "advertisement" for communism?

Learning Math Helps Understand and Transform the World

In mathematics as in all areas taught in schools under capitalism, there is a major contradiction between what we as the working class need to learn and what the ruling class needs for the schools to accomplish. Understanding the role of mathematics involves at least five major questions:

Why is the study and understanding of mathematics important for the working class?

Now that the Rockefeller-led Old Money forces are solidly in charge, what does the ruling class especially need for the working class to learn, or not learn, in studying mathematics and how is math education used to build racism and anti-working class ideology?

Why do students in the U.S. find learning mathematics so hard, even compared to students from other countries?

How should we as communists teach differently and what results should come from that difference?

How will mathematics be taught under communism?

Each of these questions contains many others.

Why Is Mathematics Important?

If asked this question (or why is arithmetic important), many, if not most workers, would reply, "So that you don’t get cheated by the boss or store owner." I remember as a child watching my mother sitting at the kitchen table on payday adding up her hours and production (she was paid partly by piece-work) to be sure her paycheck was "right." She had no calculator, just pencil and paper. But while she was certainly no revolutionary, like most workers she understood that a boss would cheat you out of your hard-earned pay. Of course, communist politics makes clear that the boss lives by stealing what is produced by—and rightfully belongs to—the working class.

The working class needs to understand mathematics both for the immediate and pragmatic reasons as well as for the more long-range and ideological ones. It is important for workers to be able to calculate our paychecks, know how much change we should get from a store, have some idea of what we are paying when we buy on credit and to do other day-to-day survival mathematics.

For many jobs today, including those in transit, manufacturing and other places that are crucial for communist organizing, getting the job requires passing a math test. We want workers, including young comrades, to have a chance to pass these tests and get these jobs.

It is important for workers to read and write CHALLENGE articles and flyers and other information that will help in gaining an understanding of the world and how to change it. For the same reason it is important to understand math. Charts and graphs give quantitative analyses of things that are happening in the world. Quantitative changes lead to qualitative changes. Likenesses and differences in world events are sometimes made clearer by using numbers. Today the schools are not teaching many working class youth the basic understanding and skills needed to do the above.

The study of mathematics can also be part of the study of dialectics. As discussed in a CHALLENGE article a few years ago, calculus was developed as a way of quantifying and understanding change. In the study of different geometric figures and their properties, students see the importance of likenesses and differences. Later in discussing the role of communist teachers, we will analyze this more deeply. (To be continued)

AFL-CIO Anti-China Policies Cover for Prison Labor in the US

LOS ANGELES — "When I was in Seattle, I saw a sign that said, ‘Is prison labor OK in the U.S. and not in China?’ Where I work, they use prisoners to clean the buses. Those jobs used to go to full-time union workers. The AFL-CIO leadership said that they support prison labor here as long as it's done ‘fairly.’ There’s nothing fair about paying someone 23 cents an hour to do work that was done by a full-time, paid union worker."

This statement caused quite a stir at the meeting of the Fair Trade network. It was part of a debate in which one of the participants said, "We must make opposition to China’s entry into the WTO [World Trade Organization] the issue of the year. If China is admitted to the WTO, it will lower labor standards for the whole world." Another person shot back that the U.S. bosses are responsible for lowering labor standards all over the world. We shouldn’t end up blaming Chinese workers supporting the U.S. bosses’ plans for a war for world domination.

Another person declared, "We can’t let the AFL-CIO leadership build a racist campaign against China in the name of U.S. workers. There are more people in prison per capita in the US than any other country in the world."

The group decided to hold a forum about this issue before deciding on its position. An article in the Los Angeles Times (1/12) bolsters the "fair traders" position. It claims that in the upcoming congressional debate about trade with China, the AFL-CIO will be fighting not only for protectionism but also for needed reforms and independent unions.

Prison labor is growing in the U.S. by leaps and bounds. Workers need to sharpen the fight against prison labor here, especially its racist character—two-thirds of prisoners are black or latin. We must expose the "human rights" lie behind the fake concern about conditions for Chinese workers. "Independent" unions mean pro-U.S. unions. The truth is that from China to the US, the problem is capitalist greed for profits. Chinese socialism led back to capitalism. The solution is not tariffs and trade wars, which ultimately lead to shooting wars. The solution is to re-build the international communist movement to destroy the profit system from Shanghai to LA.

FMLN Wants to Become Next Hangmen of Workers in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Jan. 18 — The campaign has begun to "elect" the new hangmen who will tighten the noose around the workers’ necks. In March, mayors and deputies will be elected for a three-year period—2000-2003. According to the latest polls, the FMLN (the former guerrilla movement) has a big lead in the campaign for mayor of the capital city while the ARENA party has a small lead nationally in the elections for deputies. The polls predict even lower overall voting than in last year’s presidential elections, when 65% of the population stayed away.

"The FMLN is one more instrument of the system, and the capitalists must be very happy since the FMLN candidates run for office as leftists and rule as rightists," declared Dagoberto Gutierrez. Gutierrez is ex-commander of the FMLN and has been replaced by Shafick Handal in the leadership of the FMLN because of his "extreme leftist" ideas. The FMLN’s participation in the elections is now old news, and the expectations that were generated by the FMLN in the mayoral and deputy elections have brought nothing but disillusionment. Their only accomplishment was to legitimize the arms with which capitalism kills the working class.

The electoral parties are having trouble fooling the workers. They have launched a fierce campaign in all the media to win people to vote. Politicians of the right and of the phony left are hugging old ladies in the marketplaces and kissing children in the slums. Their actions are ridiculous and grotesque, these candidates, who have never in their lives eaten in the market place, much less lived in a slum.

The electoral parties represent the interests of different groups of bosses, the pro-U.S. imperialists or the pro-European imperialists. But the essence of all of them represents capitalism. It doesn’t matter which party wins; the workers always lose. Privatization, super-exploitation, poverty, hunger and repression are parts of the process by which the local or imperialist bosses squeeze their profits out of the working class.

To end this capitalist hell, workers—voters and non-voters—must join the Progressive Labor Party and help organize a real communist revolution, which sets the working class free once and for all.

The communist Progressive Labor Party has been trying to win workers to see that there are no "lesser evil" candidates—that elections, and those who participate in them, only serve to maintain this rotten system. We are telling our class brothers that this system’s problems are structural. As long as the wage system exists, there will be no change.

Workers, students and teachers, join the Marxist -Leninist study groups of CHALLENGE, the organizing newspaper of the Progressive Labor Party.

Don’t Vote! Organize for Communist Revolution!

Welfare Layoffs Plus Mass Cutbacks = More workfare

NEWARK, NJ, Jan. 18 — The development of fascism in the welfare system has given PLP one more chance to present our communist alternative. Essex County, NJ, contains the extremes of wealth and poverty in this "boom" capitalist economy. The three largest cities in the county—Newark, Irvington, East Orange—are all mostly black, with high unemployment. Despite the fact that Essex has many wealthy suburbs, the county also has 25% of the total number of welfare families in the State (30,000 as of 1994).

Now comes "Work First, New Jersey"(WFNJ). Clinton’s welfare law, signed in 1996, contained many attacks. But WFNJ goes the feds one better. WFNJ limits a family to 12 months of emergency shelter payments no matter how long that family is on welfare! So in New Jersey, 1998 and 1999 have seen an orgy of benefit terminations, mass "sanctioning" of clients who miss appointments, cutoffs of emergency shelter payments, and wholesale denials of benefits to immigrants. This was particularly true in Essex County.

Thousands of families have been slashed from the rolls. Many of those adults are working in $6- and $7-per-hour jobs with no medical benefits. Now Treffinger, the Essex County Executive, has announced the layoff of 66 welfare workers, 62 of whom are black. Racist Treffinger says that the welfare bosses did such a good job cutting families with children off welfare that they no longer need these "surplus" welfare workers. But he made sure his political hacks were hired from the outside into welfare department management positions just before the layoffs were announced.

Unfortunately, when WFNJ was first passed, many welfare workers were fooled into supporting it, or at least passively accepting its racist, anti-client provisions. Let this be a lesson to all welfare workers: WHEN YOU

Help The Bosses Attack Clients, You Are Slitting Your Own Throats

Welfare workers should draw a line in the sand and refuse to carry out all Nazi-like policies such as mass sanctioning, helping to take kids away from their parents, and forcing clients onto slave labor Workfare. (Will these laid-off welfare workers themselves now be forced onto welfare, be put on Workfare, then into their old jobs to work for their welfare checks?)

A PLP member and some friends attended a rally against racist layoffs called by the union and the local NAACP. He spoke briefly, and promised to bring out more workers to support this struggle against racism. The Party will make this struggle part of our developing campaign in welfare in the NY-NJ area. Welfare cutoffs and slave labor Workfare are part of the bosses’ fascist drive to lower wages and beat their competition.

Only communist revolution can put an end to a system which must create mass poverty in order to save the profits of the bosses. Communism will eliminate capitalist laws like WFNJ and never again allow one group of workers to be used as a club over the heads of the whole working class.

The More You Learn The More You Can Learn

BOOK REVIEW: The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning by John T. Bruer

There is a common myth about child development: a child’s first three years are a window of opportunity for learning. This determines the child’s ability to think, reason and learn, as well as its artistic abilities, throughout its entire life. If you miss this opportunity the child’s intelligence will be stunted for life.

This myth affects funding for public education, both pre-school and Kindergarten through 12th grade. It supplements the equally pervasive myth that intelligence is limited by what you inherit from your parents. Most parents, teachers and psychologists are influenced by both these myths.

Bruer is a neuroscience researcher. His book explodes the myth that there is anything special about the first three years in terms of windows of opportunity, except for the basic sensory functions of sight, hearing, etc. He confirms the report in the December 1, 1999, issue of CHALLENGE that learning is a lifelong property of the human brain, and shows that almost nothing has a window of opportunity that closes at a certain point in life, let alone in early childhood.

Only those brain functions that are common to the entire human species, such as sight, hearing, and other basic sensory functions, have windows of opportunity that close at a certain point. If a baby is blind or deaf, it may never develop normally, even if the vision or hearing are later corrected (other than exceptions like Helen Keller).

However, for all brain functions that are specific to different cultures--such as speaking particular languages, music, math, reading, writing, science, philosophy, political understanding, etc.--there are no critical periods. These culture-specific brain functions remain available for learning and modification throughout life, and indeed improve as one gets older.

There is no fixed capacity. The more you learn the more you can learn. Rather than being like a bucket that gets filled to a certain capacity, intellectual ability is something that can constantly be expanded.

Bruer identifies three strands to the myth: (1) relationships among rapid nerve and synapse (connections) formation, 2) critical periods of development and learning, and 3) enriched environments. The first is part of neuroscience and the other two behavioral science.

Bruer shows there is no support from neuroscience for any links between the rapid nerve/synapse development (which goes on from a couple of months old to maybe 2 to 16 years, depending on the part of the brain) and critical periods of learning or effects of enriched environments, despite repeated claims to the contrary in the media and in professional journals. He shows that learning takes a great leap forward not during, but at the end of, the rapid nerve/synapse formation, but when it finishes.

In fact, following a stable period from about 2 to 8 years old, the predominant change in the brain is pruning, i.e., shedding unnecessary nerves and synapses. Learning after this stable period involves as much reducing the number of connections as increasing them, if not more so. Less is more. The myth that larger brains are more intelligent is just another lie.

While Bruer doesn’t say so, a ruling class that needs to transfer money from, say, education to war, needs a myth to win the working class’s acceptance. A myth that says that the schools can do nothing to improve a child’s learning capacity after age 3 clearly marks school-funding as a waste. The ruling class is willing to put a few more crumbs into pre-school programs like Head Start in exchange for cutting much more massive funds for K-12.

The myth further justifies keeping workers in boring, repetitive, low-paying jobs since their "mental capacity" can't do anything more challenging anyway. A lie with more widespread and vicious effects is hard to imagine. And if the working class can be sold on the idea, all the better for the ruling class, since workers then have no one to blame for their oppressive conditions.

Bruer does not point out that the myth has severe racist connotations. The myth holds that since black and Latin children in the U.S. are most severely deprived of funding in the early years, they will therefore be the "least intelligent." The myth also says that the environment of the U.S. white middle-class is what all children need. This implies that all other societies are less intelligent. Blinded by their own myth, the U.S. ruling class was taken completely by surprise when Vietnamese peasants crushed the vaunted Special Forces in the 1960's and '70s. (Their answer was to slaughter millions. That also didn't work.)

Liberals like Hillary Clinton and the New York Times (1/16) push for more funding for the formative period—the first three years—while hiding behind the myth in order to support the cutting of funds for older children. Professional liberals are the main enemy of the working class because they appear in the guise of friends of the workers’ children.

The idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks may or may not apply to dogs, but it most certainly does not apply to people. This is very good news for a communist movement that hopes to win the entire world’s working class to a new outlook, and away from our capitalist upbringings. Belief in this outlook should help all, but especially, communist teachers to be among the leading forces fighting for the teaching of math, reading, writing, and all basic skills for children of the working class. Communists in general, even without neuroscience, know that people are capable of change throughout life. The destruction of the myths reviewed here is a powerful confirmation of the communist philosophy of dialectical materialism and one of its primary concepts that there is constant change in all things.


Challenge, Good Bedside Reading

Here is a donation ($20) for the newspapers that you have been sending me. I know its not much, but hopefully later I can send more. This is the best paper that I have read for a long time. PLP reports the honest truth. I am still learning about socialism, so I am a little slow in responding to the great articles in CHALLENGE. I go to bed reading CHALLENGE. I would be interested in a study group at CSULA. It is easier for me to get there, and I am a student there too.

In Comradeship


TV Promotes Nazis

Last week I watched a TV documentary on Nazis in America showing George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the U.S. Nazi movement. There is a campaign to make the viciously anti-communist McCarthy look good. The show described how the American Nazi Party was a big supporter of McCarthy. The supposed "historians" and "intellectuals" like Buckley, who are reviving McCarthy as a hero, are merely revealing more about themselves. They are fascist scum just like Rockwell & Co.

The film also had a lot about the Aryan Nation Compound and the racist vermin who visit there, many of them young people who are well-indoctrinated in Nazi ideology and then follow it to carry out acts of terrorism. We looked up the National Alliance on the internet and saw its suggested reading list, including three books by Solzhenitsyn. The best-selling book these days is "The Turner Diaries" by William Pierce, head of this group and a friend of the deceased Rockwell.

These guys are waiting in the wings to carry out, in their own words, "the biggest ethnic cleansing" in history. The rulers will keep them there as they may need them, while pretending to be "against" them. An article in today’s paper talks about the growing gap between rich families and the so-called middle class families and the working poor and others. The economic boom mostly helps the rich, but look out when the blast goes up to the top.


More on Cradle Will Rock

(The last issue of CHALLENGE contained this paper’s review of Cradle Will Rock. The following letter is a young comrade’s comments)

Cradle Will Rock criticizes culture under capitalism. Politically this makes it a good movie to see with one’s friends. Of course, since we’re dealing with Hollywood, it’s important to consider why a movie like this is considered "safe" enough to release, and therefore also note the negative aspects.

Here are some of the good aspects: first, the movie portrays individual leftists in a positive way. The characters played by Hank Azaria, Emily Watson and John Turturro to stand by what they believe, put on a play intended for the "masses" and risk their memberships in the union. Other actors followed their example and joined in. In the case of Watson and Turturro, they were willing to risk losing their own homes/shelter for their principles.

Second, the movie has a subplot containing a ventriloquist skit done by Bill Murray’s character. The skit is symbolic because it shows how artists are merely mouthpieces for the ruling class. In addition, the destruction of the Diego Rivera mural demonstrates how the ruling class attempts to control and dictate much of what we produce. They make us dependent on them because they pay us. Through its characters, the movie makes it clear that, armed with political consciousness and support, people will fight back and change their attitudes about communism.

Lastly, the movie depicts historical alliances that have existed between the ruling class and fascists like Mussolini. A steel boss buys paintings from Mussolini’s mistress, played by Susan Sarandon, and so funds fascism in Italy. Sarandon has sold out, is openly aligned with Mussolini and is called a "Jewish fascist."

Some of the negative aspects: first, the film is a liberal criticism of censorship of art and freedom of expression. As communists we must make it clear that capitalism censors anything with leftist content to preserve the status quo. Culture under capitalism is produced, fashioned and funded in the interests of the ruling class. For example, government cutbacks of 20% throw many out of work; the army shuts sown the theater scheduled to show The Cradle Will Rock; and actors and musicians participating in the banned play will lose their union cards.

Revolutionary art is meant to inspire workers to fight back. This threatens the ruling class and is considered dangerous.

The movie portrays unions as mostly positive structures with poor leadership. In the movie the actors are threatened by their union but the play that they perform suggests unions as a necessary structure in order to win workers’ rights. Today we view unions as compromising workers’ demands to preserve capitalist institutions.

Another play in the movie reduces class struggle to a question of morality. It’s a play for children about a beaver that is kicked out of his dam, not because it represents the capitalists but because it’s "different"—it’s greedy. Also, the whimsical wife of the steel capitalist who objects to his ties with Mussolini is shown supporting the actors’ protest, suggesting that there are "good" and "bad" capitalists.

The original play The Cradle Will Rock was intended for masses of people but the movie appeals to a much narrower audience. A lot of the dialogue is historically related, referring back to a period of time that few people today know much about. Scenes are constantly shifting, making it difficult to follow. In addition, the movie is being shown in very few theaters.

In summary the movie is liberal. It says change the system by "degrees" or fight for reforms like unions or for better unions. We need to point out that everything under capitalism is measured by how profitable it is, even human labor. The movie also shows art as the sole form of protest. As communists we know that this will only "rock the cradle." Communist revolution will bring the cradle down and create a culture produced by and enjoyed by the masses.

NJ H.S. Student

Millions for (Sports) Stadiums, Nickels for Houses

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s all-news radio station KYW recently reported that newly-elected Mayor John Street to triple the after-school program budget from $1.4 million to $4.2 million. Mayor Street explained that finding the funds to do this "would not be easy" but he "wanted to assure everyone that the necessary hard decisions would be made to make it possible."

Then, a few minutes later, during sports, it reported that Philadelphia had agreed to reimburse the Eagles football team for the upgrading their practice facility if no agreement on a new stadium had been reached by November. A city spokesperson said, "finding the $23 million reimbursement would not be a problem."

Perhaps Mayor Street should talk to this person. He might find it much easier to find the extra $2.8 million that he needs.

On a more serious note, this is just one more indication that capitalism will never serve the interests of the working class. Finding money to build sports stadiums is never difficult but finding money to deal with homelessness, unemployment, lack of health care, etc., is always "impossible." This is not an accident. Nor is it due to who is mayor or who runs the City Council.

Capitalism only does what produces profits. Sports stadiums, riverboat gambling, luxury housing, etc. generate big bucks for a small number of financiers but housing for the homeless generates no profits. It is an honor to be part of the process of smashing this rotten system and replacing it with egalitarian communism.

Pennsylvania Reader

How to Win MLA Members to Subvert Bourgeois Culture

The Challenge (12/22/99) article on the Modern Language Association (MLA) annual convention in Chicago and the Radical Caucus indicated that the Caucus will initiate some reform struggles. This indeed proved true. A set of Radical Caucus proposals to the MLA delegates assembly dealt with trade unionism, working conditions, salary improvements and continuing MLA vigilance against racism.

The CHALLENGE article says such reform issues are not revolutionary, not geared to replacing capitalism with communism. It then says the PLP members’ greatest achievement at the MLA convention will be to win more people to PLP and to fight for communism. It doesn’t give a clue how this is to be done at the MLA convention. The convention, as far as I can tell, is left with a grand effort, publicly at any rate, to adopt a series of reform issues. Reform issues are important when working with large numbers of people. It is not, however, the only part of that task.

Over 10,000 teachers and professors of literature and language attend the MLA convention annually. The sessions organized by the Radical Caucus and by the Marxist Literary group drew a little over 100 people. While this group may have a wider influence than its numbers suggest, its numbers aren’t substantial. More important, it cannot be substantial based on most MLA members’ primary interest in coming to the MLA Convention each year and or their primary interest all year long.

The way to win teachers and professors of literature is through what the thousands at the convention are interested in, subverting the whole process of producing ideology from within. This can’t be done by struggling for trade union, living condition and salary issues.

These are necessary struggles for other reasons. They do not address the heart of the ideological matter. The latter is ultimately the conflict between the bourgeois and Marxist approaches to literary analysis and evaluation.

The Radical Caucus and the Marxist Literary Group need to develop a profound way of tackling literature and language and how they function. That way is not simply condemning art because it does not call for joining PLP and fighting for communism. Nor is it simply condemning art for not explicitly and favorably presenting the working class and/or does not explicitly present the brutalities of racism.

Most art produced under capitalism is permeated with bourgeois ideology, whether deliberately or unconsciously. But art produced under capitalist rule also symbolizes, reflects and represents the many contradictions (cultural, social, class, "race") that characterize capitalist politics and culture. That is true even where the art is most abstract or appears to be most distant from history and politics.

A Marxist analysis should be able to dig out these contradictions in a sophisticated and convincing way, that will open the eyes of a host of those who attend the conventions.

MLA members are trapped in their own contradictions They have fallen for the weird and inflated bourgeois methods of analysis that obscure the bourgeois origins of the literature they are interested in. Still they are dissatisfied with the rarefied nature of their conclusions. They recognize how much of what they do is silly and subject to easy satirizing, as newspaper accounts of their annual meetings do quite regularly.

Still, they are not dumb. They will respond, in many cases quite readily, to analyses and evaluations from a truly dialectical and historical approach, a Marxist approach. On the other hand they will laugh off the oversimplifications that pretend to be Marxist.

A sound Marxist approach is only the beginning. It must be taken into as many sessions of the MLA convention as possible. It’s foolish to restrict it to Radical Caucus or Marxist Literary Group sessions.

We must tackle from the inside the notably strained and silly attempts most professors use to deal with literature and from inside the literary interests that make up the practice of their careers on a daily basis. This will subvert directly the schemes of bourgeois culture and open up professors and English teachers to the revolutionary alternative.

The Marxist approach to literature along with the respect we acquire as fighters concerned with day-to-day exploitation and oppression makes a powerful force for revolution and communism.

S. Agonistes