The State Of The Bosses Union:
Organize Mass Outrage Against Killer Cops
MEXICO CITY,FLASH: COPS ATTACK UNAM STRIKE
Brooklyn Hospital Workers Square Off VS; Subcontracting Threat
New $25 Million Computer Kills Patient
Boeing Computers Upgraded to Prison Labor; Click on Subcontracting = Mass Layoffs
Dell Has A Better IdeaSubcontracting To Prison Labor
AFL-CIO Protests Prison Labor Abroad; Backs It Here
Poultry Bosses " Raffle" Workers Lives
European Bosses Vs. Rockefeller Gang Vs. Miami Exile Mafia Vs. Fidel
Oil War.... Exxon-Mobil-Clinton Squeezes BP Amoco
80,000 March in Berlin for Lenin-Liebknecht-Luxemburg In Spite of Police Ban
Bosses Use Math For War And Profits: Workers Need It To Change The World
One Nazi March Halted: But Others March in Berlin and Nazis Form Government in Austria
Philadelphia Hospital Part of Healthcare Battle; Union Fiddles While Workers Burn
PLP Exposes Liberal Fascist Plan for Youth; Jail or Cannon Fodder
A New Comrade
Red Teacher Suspended For Being Anti-KKK
Notes from Coal Country
A Different Slant on WWII
Math and Dialectics
Communism = Production According To Needs Of Working Class
To hear Clintons "State of the Union" speech, youd think we were living in paradise. He trotted out all kinds of statistics to portray U.S. society as a land of milk and honey with an endlessly bright future.
The truth contradicts this fiction. In the midst of an economic boom which has created unprecedented numbers of billionaires and millionaires, life is getting progressively worse for tens of millions of U.S. workers. The gap between rich and poor is widening. For example, from the late 1980s to the late 90s, the increase in the average family income at the wealthiest 5% rose by $50,760115 times higher than the poorest 40% (Business Week, 1/31). The average wages for blacks and Latins present an even wider income gap. Thirty million people in the U.S. go to sleep hungry. Forty-three million have no health insurance.
The Clinton boom has been based on one orchestrated body blow after another against the working class, all of them described in CHALLENGE the last few years. The liberal Clinton has hired tens of thousands of racist cops and given them a mandate to terrorize working-class communities. Millions of workers have been thrown off welfare and forced to perform slave labor Workfare for bare subsistence. Workfare drives down all workers wages. A big source of superprofit in todays economy is the bonanzas bosses are reaping from hundreds of thousands of prison laborers. The list goes on and on.
Some small business owners, professionals and some higher-paid workers may not be feeling as much economic stress right now. But dont hold your breath forever. A lot of this is based on the soaring stock market. Forty-nine percent of all U.S. families own stock, either directly or indirectly through pension plans or mutual fund plans. Sooner or later, we cant predict when, the stock market will go down, as it always does. And millions of workers dont even have this unstable retirement protection.
Furthermore, many are working longer hours and have accumulated a massive amount of doubt that hides real trouble. And according to the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 1), a "grim factor is helping improve" the unemployment figures, the nearly two million in prison (highest in the world) who "are excluded from employment calculations .Jailing so many people has effectively taken a big block of the nations citizens out of the equation." On top of all that, the WSJ also reports that "Rises in many salaries barely keep pace with inflation" and "some wages have fallen despite the economic boom."
Such as it is, "prosperity" in the U.S. is based on grinding down billions around the world. As we have frequently pointed out, "global economy" is really a term used to disguise vicious dog-eat-dog rivalry for profit among the worlds major imperialist bosses. Right now, U.S. rulers are managing to stay on top of their competitors during the ongoing crisis of overproduction, which is a feature of the capitalist system. But this supremacy, along with the bones U.S. rulers are able to throw to a certain section of the working class here, comes at a terrible price. A recent World Bank report pointed out that the number of people living on less the $2-a-day increased from 2.5 billion to 2.7 billion between 1987 and 1996. Theres no reason to believe this number will stop growing.
So this is the profit systems claim to fame. In "the best of times," a relative handful of workers in a few countries serve as a "labor aristocracy," while the vast majority live in misery almost impossible to describe. And even this small number of better-off workers, always at the mercy of the next downturn in the boom-bust cycle, have no real security. "Peace" is defined as the absence of open armed struggle between the major powers. Meanwhile, dozens of smaller wars kill millions in a prelude to the next world war, which will inevitably break out sooner or later. Capitalism can do no better than this.
Our Party has a different idea: communism. Our class can learn to run society. We can collectively define and meet our needs without the profit motive, without wages, racism and imperialist war. To do this, we must make a revolution, seize political power and learn to hold on to it afterwards. We are discovering from our collective efforts over several decades that this is a long, uphill process. It requires building a mass base among many workers, youth and soldiers to fight the bosses day after day. It is the only commitment worth devoting ones life to, and the only goal worth living, fighting and dying for.
Our answer to Clintons smug lies about the "state of the (capitalist) union" should be a resounding promise to work harder than ever for a successful May Day 2000 and for a spurt in the growth of the Progressive Labor Party.
ALBANY, NY, Jan. 31 Chanting "Diallo," and counting to 41 (the number of bullets the NYPD shot at Amadou Diallo last year), demonstrators from NYC and Albany protested outside the courthouse where the cops are being tried for the murder of this African immigrant. They were also protesting police brutality in Albany. Courthouse demonstrations are good but not enough.
This whole trial is an outrage. It is the biggest case of racist police murder since the early 1980s when Eleanor Bumpurs was shot by cops evicting this black grandmother from her city housing project apartment. It is a racist outrage also that the trial was moved to Albany, three hours away from the Bronx where the murder took place. But the bigger outrage is that anti-racist workers and youth have been influenced by the pro-Democratic electoral politics intent on "getting Hillary Clinton elected Senator." Thats the reason Al Sharpton and Herbert Daughtry curbed any militant protest. Theyve openly said that their efforts are the main reason the black community has not exploded.
Anti-racist workers and youth must break with the Democratic Party and organize no-holds-barred actions against racist police brutality.
As we go to press, scabs and cops have attacked strikers at the National Autonomous University (UNAM). Many have been arrested. Now more than ever the strikers need solidarity and support from workers and youth all over the world. More next issue.
Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 31 On Thursday, January 27, workers at a Brooklyn hospital took the offensive in combating subcontracting. Fifty workers stood in the lobby protesting the hospital bosses hiring of low-paid workers through a subcontractor.
At about 10:00 that evening, the news spread through the hospital that non-union workers were in the lobby to clean the floor. The word was passed for all workers to meet in the lobby at the end of the evening shift.
The workers began assembling at 12 midnight. They then stopped the work from continuing. The subcontractor confronted the workers and demanded the work be allowed to proceed. A shouting match developed. It escalated into an altercation when one union worker pulled the plug from the cleaning machine. This immediately stopped the work again.
Security guards and supervisors came running to the scene to bring "order." The workers shouted at these bosses, accusing them of subcontracting to increase profits, ignoring the needs of the workers and patients. One worker exclaimed, "Were not here to fight with the subcontractors workers. Thats what the bosses would like to happenworkers against workers. The workers here at the hospital make three times more than the subcontractors workers, with health care benefits and vacations. The subcontractors workers are not the enemy; the bosses and the subcontractors who use the workers for their own profits are the enemy!"
The dispute leading up to this confrontation was brewing for some time. Recently the hospital bosses had laid off workers in the building service department while announcing "no overtime" during December. The workers reacted by going on a work slow-down. Then, in January the bosses decided to ask a few workers to work overtime. They refused. The bosses then hired subcontractors to do the work. The workers felt subcontracting could spread throughout the hospital. For the first time, they decided to take direct action.
The Local 1199 union leadership is not building a fight-back campaign to stop subcontracting throughout the hospital industry. Rank-and-file workers at every hospital MUST build our own campaign against subcontracting. Many workers at this Brooklyn hospital are CHALLENGE readers and are planning to attend our May Day march in Washington.
The drive for profits and the competition between the hospitals is part of a worldwide competition between the U.S. bosses and the rest of the capitalist world. At home, the U.S. bosses must squeeze the working class to secure maximum profits. They must inevitably drag down our standard of living, depressing wages and eliminating benefits any way they can.
But there is another alternative for the working class: fight to build a mass communist PLP in the 21st century!
CHICAGO, Jan. 31 On December 4, the new Cook County Hospital SMS computer system went "live." Minutes later it crashed, and it would be four days before it worked. With the old system gone and the new one down, labs couldnt report results. Manual systems had disappeared years ago, and the number of lab staff and phones couldnt handle a fraction of the hospitals huge test volume. By December 8, the SMS computer was working, more or less, along with a manual system with runners and paper lab reports. But by then it was too late for Darlene Owens. She died of a curable disease, not helped by delays in reporting her lab resultsthe latest victim of that vicious system called capitalism.
Early Sunday morning, December 5, Ms. Owens, 41, came to the emergency room with chest pains. She didnt make it to the ward until Monday around 3 AM. Her dangerously abnormal blood test result didnt get there until Tuesday. When the family came to check on her, Darlene was off the ward for a test. Staff told them she was "not acting right," and had become "confused." Late Tuesday night the family got a midnight phone call that Darlene had died. The news was especially intense and painful. On the day of the funeral, Darlenes mother said, "They should have told us face to face."
This Never Should Have Happened
Hospital ward staff told Darlenes mother that she "never should have died," and that there was a problem getting needed information from the computer. The workers were quickly put on notice by the hospital bosses and lawyers not to discuss what happened with anyone. Cook County is plagued by corruption, budget cuts, short-staffing and inadequate facilities. When tragedies occur, the bosses try to cover it up or look for a scapegoat. But the County Board is to blame for this death.
Darlene had a blood disease called TTP. The critical blood test that leads doctors to that diagnosis is a low platelet count. (Platelets help blood clot.) At one point, Ms. Owenss platelet count was nearly zero, but this crucial lab data didnt reach the doctors in time. The new computer system was down and there was no back-up. Labs were overwhelmed with unreported results. Phones were ringing off the hook, and workers all over the hospital were running frantically from one crisis to the next.
When one worker declared, "This system stinksscrap it!" another asked, "Do you mean SMS or capitalism?" The answer is, "Both!"
The computer system should be scrapped before it kills more patients. The lives of workers, especially black and Latin workers, mean nothing to the racist bosses. The County bosses should hear from every union and professional group, in letters, resolutions and protests, that we will not sit by while they kill our patients with their corrupt schemes.
It doesnt have to be like this. In the 20th Century, workers in Russia (1917) and in China (1949), seized power with communist revolutions. For the short time the working class held power, life was cherished. The Soviet Union enacted the first universal free health care. We must learn from that experience, and build a mass PLP to make another communist revolution, on a higher level. We will wipe out money and abolish wage slavery. Societys goal will be to meet the needs of the working class. Organizing a big Cook County May Day contingent is an important part of this process.
SEATTLE, WA, Jan. 26 The Boeing News Clip service, which usually deals solely with aerospace matters, today ran an article from the New York Times entitled, "Dell, It Turns Out, Has A Better Idea Than Ford." Computer companies and auto companies: whats up with that?
Dell, it turns out, is all the rage among manufacturing gurus. Professor Charles H. Fine, from M.I.T.s Sloan School of Management, has anointed Dell the next wave in manufacturing. He attributes the companys success to mastery of "supply chain management." That is, its "complete flexibility about whether a particular function is performed by its own people or by outsiders." (New York Times, 1/26)
Dells primary suppliers provide more than mere parts. They produce complete "systems," modules that click together, like a home entertainment system. The auto industry is following suit. Primary suppliers like Delphi and Johnson Controls now make climate control systems or braking modules, entire interiors or fully equipped cockpits. Beyond lean, beyond agile, "modularity" is the next big thing!
All this has a familiar ring to us Boeing workers. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Deborah Hopkins has initiated a company-wide program to identify those components that can be off-loaded. As Boeing lays off tens of thousands, they are building up prime subcontractors to produce whole sections of the aircraft. These suppliers pay less than half the Boeing wages, often forcing these low-paid workers to put in 12-hour days. The implications are clear. But what this article doesnt say is even more perilous.
Dell can guarantee "just-in-time" cheap computer components because they are made with captive slave labor in Texas prisons, supplied by the infamous Wackenhut Corporation (see box). This is the ultimate in a "flexible" work force. No worry about strikes here! Prisoners are available for work during peak demand and can be sent back to their cells during lulls.
Boeing just made Dell its sole computer supplier. No doubt, Boeing felt comfortable with Dells corporate profile since Boeing also exploits prison labor here at Washington State Reformatory at Monroe, WA.
As we passed this article around the shop floor, some workers asked, "Is prison labor really so bad?" The company even presented it as a "community service," giving prisoners training.
In fact, prison labor is part and parcel of U.S.-style "humanitarian" fascism. The disproportionately large numbers of black and Latin prisoners are not only a source of cheap labor, but they are used to drive down the wages of the whole working class. There are many federal and state programs-all packaged in a humanitarian cover-promoting prison labor. Are we going to wait until these programs grow, as in Nazi Germany? Lets take them on now!
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, along with Bill Jordan, head of the anti-communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, urged the bosses at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to "commit themselves to work towards universal social justice." According to the AFL-CIO, social justice means attacking China for using prison labor, but here in the U.S. its a different story. The Wall Street Journal reported last Auust that, "The AFL-CIO backs the idea of inmates [in the U.S.] working but wants it done carefully." Dell and, for that matter, Boeing have nothing to fear from the likes of this trade union movement.
Lean, modular production, super-exploitation and captive prison labor. Progressive Labor Party has a better idea: lets bring a large contingent of Boeing workers to this years May Day March in San Francisco, April 29, to build a communist movement that will put the bosses "humanitarian" fascism six feet under!
Dells Better Idea
The private company, Labor-To-Industry, a subsidiary of USXX, also known as US Technologies in Atlanta, uses Texas prisoners to assemble circuit boards for Dell Computers. USXX operates under an exclusive agreement with Wackenhut Corrections Corporation; a company, which, among other things, manages privatized prisons.
In 1995, Wackenhut Corporation transferred its circuit board assembly operation in Austin, Texas, to the Lockhardt Work Program Facility in Lockhardt, Texas. Some 180 Texas State prisoners now do the work for 50˘/hour once performed by 130 workers, earning $10/hour at the Austin plant.
The Lockhardt Work Program Facility was made possible by a special federal program, the Prison Industry Enhancement Program. In order to further camouflage this slave labor program, Lockhardt Technologies, which works out of this facility, changed its name to Labor-To-Industry.
This duplicity is nothing new to Wackenhut, whose board is made up of former FBI, Pentagon and CIA officials. Wackenhut also maintained the largest privately held file on dissidents in America, reportedly over four million names, which it regularly shared with government "red squads." No doubt, these lists will come in handy to fill the corporations jails with prison laborers.
Poultry Bosses " Raffle" Workers Lives
LOS ANGELES, CA."The ducks have doctors. The workers dont even have a first-aid kit," said a Woodland Farms worker. There are health inspectors checking the production line to make sure all the ducks go out in perfect condition. When theres something wrong with one, they immediately stop the whole line. But for the workers, not only is there no first-aid kit, theres no health insurance either. When a worker gets hurt or dies, as happened when Armando died last December, the bosses yell, "Dont stop the line. Keep working."
The workers prepare the ducks for restaurants and stores. The bosss profit comes from this preparation and presentation. The boss views the workers health as one more "needless expense." To him if someone gets sick, or dies, there are many more out in the street looking for work. Thats how capitalism functions. Its not based on workers needs but on bosses profits.
Woodland Farms sales are $100 million a year, but they dont spend even $1 million on workers wages. This situation has created a lot of discontent among workers who have begun to form a Struggle Committee to fight the bosss attacks. A few days ago, the Committee met and (after a delicious bar-b-que meal), watched a video where white, black and Latin workers in an Indiana chicken-processing plant were fighting the came kinds of bosses attacks. Then a PLP member showed a movie about the Party and talked about marching on May Day to fight these slave labor conditions.
The bosses have counter-attacked, forming their own "Security Committee." Starting in February, every month four names will be chosen to win a prize of $30. To be eligible, you must have no on-the-job reportable accidents. At years end, therell be a big raffle, among those whove had no accidents all year.
In the poultry industry, its well known that lots of accidents happen every day. With this idea of "prizes," the bosses are trying to get workers to hide their injuries. In addition to exploiting us, they risk our health and our lives. But it wont fool us. On the contrary, it makes us more determined to expose the capitalist greed of the Woodland Farms bosses.
Centuries of hunger, exploitation and death caused by the rich, greedy bosses are enough. We know that the workers, who produce all of societys wealth, can live in a better world. Thats a communist society, a system where a workers life will be the most important thing, a system where the workers will produce to fill their needs instead of the murderous bosses bank accounts.
Workers must bury all the bosses and their capitalist system. We workers "have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win"a communist world without bosses. We are coming to May Day with workers from this plant.
And a 6 Year Old Boy Shall Provoke Them...
Should Elián González, the 6-year-old boy who was the only survivor of a boat trip from Cuba to Florida, be sent back to his father in Cuba since his mother died on the trip? This apparent no-brainer question has become the center of a soap opera involving the INS, Clinton, the National Council of Churces and the Cuban government on one side, plus the right-wing Cuban exile Mafia and its supporters in Congress on the other. Is "humanitarian concern" for Eliancito (Little Elián) behind this dispute or are capitalist/imperialist interests at work?
Firstly, since when does the hated "migra" care about reuniting families? Besides other hideous racists crimes, the INS is notorious for deporting undocumented parents and leaving their children behind with no one to care for them. And is President Clinton a defender of children? His sanctions against, and bombings of, Iraq (as well as Yugoslavia) have killed hundreds of thousands of children. Not to mention the tens of thousands of U.S. kids driven into the streets with his welfare reform program. So, whats up with these murderous hypocrites?
Clinton and the INS are doing the bidding of their masters, the Rockefeller gang, the dominant sector of the U.S. ruling class. Their embargo failed miserably and the collapse of the former Socialist bloc did not see Fidel handing them Cuba for a song. They watch helplessly as the European imperialists and the Canadian bosses take over the island. They want to reverse this. Rockefeller & Co. want to lift the embargo against Cuba and normalize relations.
They are courting Fidel by flying Eliáns grandmothers all over in private jets, sponsoring a huge pharmaceutical exhibition in Havana and having 600 Pittsburgh University students make a friendly stopover at the island. They are also using this case to curb the power and influence of the anti-communist Cuban Mafia which has begun to outlive its usefulness.
On the other hand, these anti-Castro Cubans who dream of becoming the rulers of Cuba after Fidel, are against lifting the embargo. This will spell an end to their dreams and to their cozy relations with U.S. ruling circles. With their court suit they hope to galvanize the anti-communist sentiments in the Cuban community here and of the U.S., and use it to force Congress to maintain the embargo. Mas Santos, the son of the late gusano billionaire Jorge Mas Canoso, is the mastermind behind the Elián campaign. He is also using the Elián case to defeat his enemies in a power struggle for the control of the leadership of the Cuban exile mafia.This is what lies behind the rhetoric of "family values" and "concerns" for Eliáns future under Fidels "communist" rule.
Fidel also has his own political and economic reasons, unrelated to Eliáns well-being. Fidel would like very much to normalize relations with the U.S. In 1995, during the worst of Cubas economic downturn caused by the collapse of the socialist bloc, Fidel came to New York, put on a business suit and dined with David Rockefeller. But they could not agree on a price. Rockefeller thought the collapse of the Cuban economy would topple Fidel or force him to settle for peanuts. None of this happened. The European imperialists bailed him out.
But Fidel is not totally happy with them, either. He wants to industrialize the country but the European bosses dont want this. Cubas labor cost is double other Latin American countries and as yet it has no access to the U.S. market. Fidel thinks he can play the U.S. against the Europeans to get a better deal all around. He is mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Cubans in the streets to have greater leverage at the bargaining table.
Under capitalism, appearances and reality are two different things. We must look below the surface of things. Capitalists, be they socialist like Fidel or imperialist like Rockefeller, will always trade with the lives and aspirations of the working class as long as we let them. They wont do this forever. In the U.S. and other countries we have a growing PLP. In Cuba we have friends reading CHALLENGE. The working class will rise again, this time to bury all bosses with communist revolution.
Unlike 1996, the current presidential campaign reflects a period of relative unity among the biggest U.S. bosses. Every one of the leading candidates represents a compromise between Rockefellers Eastern Establishment and another sector of bosses. True outsiders like Buchanan have been marginalized. But competition, which is part and parcel of capitalism, makes it impossible for the rulers to achieve absolute or even consistent consensus. The current flap over BP Amocos proposed buyout of ARCO (owning large holdings in Alaska and on the West Coast) shows an important crack in the big picture.
This battle features the same capitalist factions that slugged it out in the Clinton impeachment brawl. Defending the Rockefeller wing, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is blocking the deal until it can wring major concessions out of BP Amoco. BP Amoco, in turn, has hired the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis to counterattack Clintons FTC (Bloomberg News, 1/24). Kenneth Starr, who led the impeachment drive against Clinton, was Kirkland and Elliss top partner and remained on its payroll well into the proceedings. At the same time, Starrs firm was advising Amoco in its megamerger with BP.
Clinton unleashed the FTC watchdogs because a BP Amoco-ARCO combination would create a stranglehold on Alaskan crude. Fearing a shut-off of oil imports in its next major war, the main Rockefeller wing needs a ready supply of domestic crude, but doesnt want it monopolized by BP Amoco. BP Amoco also threatens the dominance of Rockefellers Chevron on the West Coast. As a condition for the takeover, the FTC demands that BP Amoco unload large amounts of ARCOs Alaskan North Slope holdings and several of its West Coast refineries. In contrast, the government allowed Rockefellers Exxon and Mobil to unite without a hitch. Exxon Mobil avoided anti-trust suits by selling refineries and outlets to Tosco, which is wholly owned by Rockefeller allies such as J.P. Morgan. BP Amoco has no such allies.
Something greater than West Coast oil supplies is at stake here. The Rockefeller and BP Amoco camps have competing interests that bear directly on foreign policy. Exxon Mobils and Chevrons main strategy is to hold on to cheap Persian Gulf sources at all costs. This means a war to stop Iraqs attempts to open up its oilfields to the French, Russian and Chinese bosses. BP Amoco, however, the biggest foreign investor in Russia, is increasing its operations from Siberia to the Caspian Sea even as the Kremlin becomes more virulently anti-U.S. And unlike the Rockefeller wing, BP Amoco is ready now to cut deals with Irans pro-Russian fundamentalist rulers.
WarWith Or Without Britain
BP Amoco stands to hinder another feature of the stronger factions game plan. The anti-Iraq alliance between Britain and the U.S. survives only because Shell Oils outlook coincides for now with that of Rockefeller & Co. Shell is Britains largest company and has tight financial links to the U.S.s Eastern Establishment. It works with Texaco and Saudi Aramco in a joint venture that has become the U.S.s number one oil importer and refiner. If the pro-Europe, pro-Russia BP Amoco faction gains the upper hand in Britain, the alliance against Iraqs Saddam Hussein will fly out the window. But such a break-up would not make an oil war less likely. Policy-makers for the biggest U.S. bosses have often said they are willing to take military action alone, if they must.
Through heavy support from financial ally Goldman Sachs, with which it shares two directors, BP Amoco tried to buy presidential candidate John McCain early in the running. McCain has since proved so loyal to the Rockefeller Establishment that New York Times editorials have praised his honesty and Laurence Rockefeller himself has gone to bat for him in a ballot dispute. But the menace posed by BP Amoco nevertheless heightens the Rockefeller wings need to impose economic and political discipline on itself and others and to galvanize the working class for war.
BERLIN, Germany, Jan. 15 About 80,000 marched today in the annual Lenin-Liebknecht-Luxemburg demonstration. The march has grown every year since 1990, climbing to 100,000 marchers in 1999. Todays march had been scheduled for last Saturday, but was abruptly banned by Berlins Police Chief the night before. He claimed he was "protecting" the demonstrators from "terrorists," who supposedly wanted to attack the march with machine guns.
Nevertheless, thousands gathered and defied the ban. They were surrounded and attacked by the police. Over 200 were arrested. It was the first time the "LLL" march was banned since the end of Hitler fascism, and is the ruling class reaction to the growing influence within this annual march of Marxist-Leninist forces to smash capitalism.
General, your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.
General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.
General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill
But he has one defect:
He can think.
-- Bertolt Brecht, German Communist, 1898-1956
Why does the ruling class need mathematics education within the public schools? Math has at least two contradictory roles to fill for the ruling class: the teaching of mathematics and the building of capitalist anti-working class ideology.
First, but not primarily, some math skills and understanding must be taught to some members of the working class. Many jobs, including traditional ones, require certain skills. Carpenters and other construction workers must be able to take measurements to make parts fit together properly. They must know how to calculate in order to know how much material is needed to complete a job. Cooks and mechanics must understand mathematical measurements, whether fractions or metrics. Some working-class children are needed in engineering, bookkeeping, accounting, science and other jobs that require greater knowledge of mathematics.
These needs have existed for ages. Today, however, there are new needs. As manufacturing, transportation and warfare depend more and more on technology and computers, the ruling class finds an even greater need for workers with the skills necessary to use, build and repair this new technology. Soldiers must be taught skills they "should" have learned in school. In the late 1950s the U.S. ruling class lacked enough engineers, scientists and mathematicians. They watched the Soviets launch the first satellite into space. To catch up, they were forced to spend millions on university education. Today too few workers have been taught to operate the technological tools of production or of modern military weaponry. Now Clinton and the Republican Congress have agreed to put billions into the public schools.
However, the primary role of math courses in schools is to push capitalist ideology. This includes convincing workers its their fault for not having "made it." Math, perhaps more than any other subject, is used to make working-class youth feel dumb, unable to learn. We who teach math have heard many students say they "just cant do it." Many workers have been taught that math is a "mystery," to be understood only by a small elite. If workers feel theyre "too dumb" to learn math, the next step is teaching them this is why theyre poor; that bosses "must be smarter" than workers and therefore deserve to be on top. Many workers think Bill Gates is rich because hes a genius who knows more about computers than anyone else and therefore deserves his wealth.
The rulers guarantee that black and Latin youth go to the worst schools and get the least education. This combined with the racist and anti-working class nature of the "standards" tests now flooding the country guarantees that black and Latin working-class youth will do especially poorly. Then these racist results are used to justify the racist inequalities of capitalism.
The rulers dont want working-class youth to learn to use math to understand and change the world; to understand political economy while using graphs and other quantitative analyses of class society; to show the likenesses of most workers. They certainly dont want us to figure out how racism lowers living standards for all workers, how much the bosses make off our labor, and how dependent the rulers are on us. A working class that understands the world, recognizes its own potential power and is led by a communist party is the ruling class worst nightmare. It is up to us school workers to do our part to make it a reality.
January 27th marked the 55th anniversary of the Red Armys liberation of the 66,000 remaining inmates at the Auschwitz death camp. In less than a year it had become the deadliest of the Nazi concentration camps. In 1944, Eichmann came to Nazi-occupied Poland and in less than six weeks sent 450,000 Jews to Auschwitz, the most people sent to an extermination camp in such a short period.
A few days after the 55th anniversary date several hundred Nazis marched in Berlin to the site of a planned memorial to the victims of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. The Nazis marched through the Brandenburg gates, "an act symbolic in Germany given that the Nazi troops during Adolf Hitlers reign once held torchlight processions through the Gate. During past neo-Nazi demonstrations, police have not allowed participants to go through the Brandenbug Gate." (Associated Press, 1/30).
There were counter-demonstrators along the way shouting "Nazis Raus!" (Nazis Out). In Goettingen, 2,000 anti-Nazis prevented a scheduled rally.. This a good way to fight these fascists. As the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said at the Goettingen anti-Nazi event, "No tolerance for racists!" (AP).
This Nazi resurgence is not limited to Germany. In the homeland of fascism, Austria, another Nazi, Jeorg Haider, is about to become part of the government in alliance with the Conservative Party. For decades, a Conservative/Social/Democratic coalition has run Austria. Several weeks ago, this coalition ended. Haiders Freedom Party, which got 27% of the votes in the October elections is about to run Austria with the Conservatives.
Haider is not just another populist who hates immigrants, he is an open Nazi. He praised Hitlers "work policies" and said "Austrian soldiers during World War II werent criminals, they were victims."
Haiders rise to power is sharpening certain contradictions in Europe. A number of countries there were horribly victimized by the Nazis. The European Union, in order to keep its control and its "anti-Nazi" image, has threatened to isolate Austria diplomatically if Haider comes to power.
Why has Haider received so much support in Austria? Although Austrias economy is relatively strong, and there are scarcely any open pockets of poverty as in France, Italy and even Germany, many workers and others fear the changes of capitalism nowadays. Given the worldwide crisis of capitalism, the benefits they have enjoyed (the so-called welfare state) are being threatened by privatization, globalization, etc. Haiders Nazi populism is seen by many as a solution.
Fifty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz by the communist-led Red Army, the job is not finished. We in PLP have learned from the fighting spirit and dedication of the millions who fought and died against the Nazis. We have also learned that capitalism must be destroyed in all its forms. Workers and their allies worldwide must fight not only for Nazis "raus" but also their masters, capitalism. The only way to accomplish this is to fight for communism, for the abolition of the wage slavery of capitalism.
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 21 Henry Nicholas, the President of the 15,000-member Local 1199C Health Care workers union, is calling for a Leadership Summit in March to discuss "the cost of health care and its impact on the July 1, 2000 contract negotiations."
This is the first that Jefferson Hospital workers have heard from the union leaders since contract talks broke off in November. Jefferson bosses are demanding that we start paying $10-a-week toward our health benefits. The union refused, and Nicholas declared this a "strike issue."
The union is urging us to save five weeks pay in preparation for a possible strike. So far, there have been no membership meetings about the contract. Barely 100 of the 1,100 members attended the two meetings to ratify the contract demands months ago. Those meetings were so disorganized that many thought the union leaders intentionally sabotaged them.
Nicholas says hes a health care "revolutionary," and supports a Bradley-style single-payer national health insurance plan. This doesnt sound too bad to many workers and union activists who hate the profit hungry HMOs.
But health care has become a battleground for competing bosses. The for-profit HMOs are tied to those bosses who get their profits mainly from domestic oil production and high-tech industries. The Rockefeller capitalists want to reduce the cost of health care to re-arm the military for war. They are behind "single-payer" universal health care. "Single-payer" will allow the bosses to use their control of the government to reduce health care costs by rationing. This will mean much worse medical care, especially for black and Latin workers.
Workers should not support this idea. The danger is that Nicholas will use this Leadership Summit to win workers to the bosses plans for fascist health care. As CHALLENGE has said, "much like the bankers and industrialists who bankrolled Hitler, Rockefeller & Co. are turning to the labor unions to build a pro-capitalist, patriotic work force."
PLP communists are fighting to bring this understanding to workers as the union contract struggle develops. We try to connect every workers concern with day-to-day hardships to the development of fascism and war and the need for communist revolution. We have the advantage of many years of involvement with these workers.
For example, a petition by a rank-and-file worker, Sally, is now circulating in the Housekeeping Department declaring, "Its time to fight for our rights!" Sally is a part-timer who, like a growing number of them, are angry that the bosses stopped assigning part-time jobs by seniority. Now they pick who they want. "Lets do something!" her petition urges.
PLP communists are struggling with Sally and her co-workers to understand how this fight is tied to developing fascism and war. Our discussions can get rowdy and sharp. But we have confidence in the workers and our ties to them.
LOS ANGELES "Would anyone on the panel be willing to comment on the parallels between what is happening in the U.S. today and the early stages of fascism in Nazi Germany?" asked a PLP member at the Schools Not Jails Conference against Proposition 21 last weekend.
"No parallel at all," said Saul Landau, the liberal spokesman. He was brought in to tell young people that because youth fought for reforms in the 1960s, life here is so much better now. Many groaned. They know how bad life is right now for their friends and families!
The latest attack is California Proposition 21, the so-called Juvenile Justice Initiative. It would make it easier for the INJUSTICE system to railroad minority youth into prison. It would allow the District Attorney to try young people as adults for many offenses; allow young people to be identified as gang members on the flimsiest of evidence; make more offenses felonies; and keep juvenile records open, denying young people the opportunity to change their lives after they had been convicted of a crime as a minor.
This proposition is one aspect of growing fascism. The rapid increase of the prison population (two million people in the U.S. today, more than any other country in the world), plus the high proportion of black and Latin inmates, plus the increase in prison labor and the impact of "Three Strikes" legislation all add up to a war on black and Latin working-class communities, targeting young men, but with drastic impact on entire families.
Another aspect of growing fascism is the liberals. They are focusing youths anger on Pete Wilson (author of Prop. 21) and his small potatoes backers, like Hilton Hotels. Multicultural nationalism"we must understand our own ethnic culture and be part of a rainbow American culture"fits the liberal fascist agenda of winning more youth to fight and die for U.S. imperialism. The lie that youth activism and the electoral process can resolve the basic contradictions of capitalism is important to the liberal fascists. They are deathly afraid the youth they need in their army will understand that this system is racist to the core, cant be reformed and will conclude we need revolution.
The army is another institution with very high percentage of minorities. The soldiers who U.S. imperialism relies on to fight its wars are the friends and brothers and sisters of the youth who are being targeted and criminalized. So at the same time theyre jaiing black and Latin youth, they must win young people to believe that the U.S. is basically "a good country with a few problems" that can be reformed. They want us to believe that the federal government is not as racist as ex-Governor Pete Wilson and his friendsif the federal government says it needs you as their "heroes" to fight and die for "American ideals," then you better do it.
At this conference, PLP members pointed out those heading this movement are leading us right down the road to war and fascisma road that is even deadlier than the movement of Wilson and his small potatoes allies. We said instead of limiting ourselves to fighting against Prop. 21, we should fight against the entire system thats based on racism, exploitation and war. Young people, the generation under attack, can be a revolutionary generation. They can use the guns the bosses give them to make revolution and to fight for communism.
We distributed a leaflet to the 350 people there, as well as 70 CHALLENGES. We were able to focus some discussion on the question of fascism and war, and made several contacts for May Day. Because weve been involved in mass organizations with teachers and youth, and because our Party has developed deep personal ties and struggle in this area, it allowed us to advance the Partys ideas.
We ran into several people who had known us and other Party members for many years. While theyre not in the Party or even that close to the Party, they know us as principled fighters for the working class. This gave us the confidence to fight for our ideas and we discovered there were many more people open to them. As we continue to fight the bosses attacks, we will recruit more people to the Party.
A friend and neighbor of mine invited me to a meeting of PLP with workers from a duck processing plant. There I heard the Partys ideas. They seemed right to me, that youre fighting for a world without the horrible inequalities that exist today, between the rich and the poor and the injustices that come from that.
I would have liked to talk more about the question of pollution. This is yet another problem where the poor are the most affected, because the rich have the money to move and live in places where the air is purer. They can buy "organic" food (100% natural, without chemicals) which is expensive and inaccessible to the poor.
I liked the meeting and I want the Party to grow. Count on me for future activities.
New Comrade in LA
In following up the recent story on my suspension by the Chicago Board of Education, this is the text of what I said at their January 26 meeting.
My name is Carol Caref. I have been a math teacher with the Chicago Public Schools for 16 years. We all know there is a shortage of qualified math teachers, so it might surprise you to learn that the Board has removed me from my classroom at Chicago Vocational High School and is planning to fire me. What are they saying I did to warrant this?
One group of charges centers on my participation in a rally against the Ku Klux Klan. Anti-Klan, not pro-Klan. Would they have preferred for me to don a white sheet? Would the school board have tried to dismiss the 50,000 workers who marched against the confederate flag in South Carolina? The other group of charges are related to my being a communist. You probably thought Joseph McCarthy, the famous anti-communist senator in the 1950s, was dead. Well, evidently, hes been reincarnated.
What is this really about? Most of us are familiar with the reform Boards strong-arm tactics in the schools. Scripted lessons, high stakes tests, a curriculum thats more about indoctrination than education; the teaching of patriotism, nationalism and unquestioned support for authority. Both as a math teacher and a communist, I take exception to this. I want my students to think for themselves, to investigate, to demand proof. I want them to fight injustice and stand up for what they believe in. I dont want them to be terrorized by the police state tactics used against them. Thats what this is really about, and thats why their attempt to fire me is indicative of their desire to wipe out all opposition in the school system.
I am here to say to this Board, put me back in the classroom. My students need me.
Thanks for sending me the new PLP video. It was really uplifting and showed how PLP can do what no other group canorganize thousands to march under the Red Flag.Thats why I consider myself a proud member of this Party and wish I could be somewhere to help build the Party with others. Maybe I can make it to the march this year. I could speak for the Coal Country Coalition from the coalfields of Western Pennsylvania and talk about how the bosses have turned it into a rural ghetto, how the only solution is workers power and not any sort of sugar coated reforms.
News: hundreds to be laid off from railroads in Altoona. At Penn State, 90 students received racist messages in their e-mail boxes, traced to Temple University. An incident in Johnstown provoked letters. A woman wrote today attacking the police over a cop who overdosed on drugs and only got a suspension with pay, while a young woman who witnessed it died mysteriously. They actually cremated her without toxicology tests and ruled it a suicide. The woman was from a wealthy family from Lancaster, had quit school, gone to Hollywood, and then mysteriously picked Johnstown to live in. According to the news, she was living on public assistance. I talked to a young woman who knew her in the Johnstown Chorale group. She said the victim was a very fine soprano but seemed troubled. She was the only witness to the cops overdose. The whole thing is mind-boggling. It sounds like a scene from a film on Nazi Germany where a Nazi gets involved with a woman and is found using drugs and then the woman is bumped off by the Nazis.
This CHALLENGE is a good issue. I read it cover to cover and watched the video. I read "The Hurricane" movie review but I must say there were things about "Soldiers Story" I liked when I saw it originally as a play. The black Sarge who was shot by two black soldiers was very abusive to black GIs and called them racist names. He really hated one black soldier who played a guitar and was a great blues singer and blamed him for holding back black people. Also, the play allowed many black actors, men and women, to perform. Many plays have few parts for black people except for "A Raisin In The Sun."
Although I thought that the lead article entitled "100 Years of American Holocaust" (CHALLENGE, 1/12) was very interesting, I found that I differed somewhat with what was written about World War II.
The central point is that the U.S. established itself as the moral leader of the world in helping to smash fascism. Although it is certainly true that the role of the Soviet Union has always been underplayed by U.S. and Western historians, the U.S. emerged from World War II as not only the most powerful force (e.g., witness Hiroshima) but able to withstand the tide of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism to rule the world order, especially after the demise of the Soviet Union 10 years ago.
Secondly, the alliance of the Soviet Union with the U.S. and other Western powers was not even mentioned, much less commented on and learned from.
Third, fascism was destroyed. Because of the particular nature of German fascism, people in the U.S. do not see how this country could head, in its own unique way different from the use of German fascism, toward its own brand of fascism. This historical trend in the U.S. toward fascism needs to be explained thoroughly in CHALLENGE and other publications, because of its different "look" from the fascism of World War II.
Lastly, I do not think that enough emphasis was placed on how the war was a war of destruction of certain peoples, especially of Jews and others at the expense of conducting the war, a complex war that has left a long shadow on history.
Thanks for starting the series on mathematics. Ive already found it useful in talking with students and parents. We look forward to future articles. Like other parts of science, math is based on concrete real-life experience. So learning arithmetic and other parts of mathematics can help us in the everyday situations described in the article. The working class also needs to learn math to do science, engineering, and all sorts of technical work as we take power, and even more under communism. After the Russian and Chinese revolutions, victorious workers found they couldnt always rely on middle-class professionals. They needed to become both "red and expert." That process starts now.
A key feature of math is abstraction. Workers, in our daily lives and in our struggle to change the world, need to think abstractly as well as concretely. Studying math is one of the main ways we learn to do this. Even basic arithmetic is abstract. A small child may know her age and the numbers, but still be unable to say how old she will be next year. Its a big step from pushing three apples together with four apples and counting seven apples, to the generalization that 3 +4 = 7. Fourteen-year-olds often have trouble figuring that the number after "x" is "x + 1." They can add and count, but this is a new level of abstraction to learn.
So even elementary mathematics is a "school for dialectics." Just learning
"the numbers" is an exercise in the relation between the concrete and the abstract. Children learning arithmetic should be getting experience with both quantitative and qualitative concepts and their inter-relationship. Add one to nine, and you get a different kind of numberone where position matters. Change the lengths of the sides of a (general) rectangle, and you can get a particular kind of rectangle with a different name (square).
Mathematics develops on increasing levels of abstraction. As it becomes more abstract, it becomes more general. It rests on a huge accumulation of concrete human experience, and therefore its abstractions are very powerful.
Since the origins of class society, ruling classes have tried to keep the power of abstract thought in the hands and minds of a few. This is central to the social division between "mental" and "manual" labor, a division we are fighting to destroy. So I think it s more helpful to think of learning math in terms of the inter-related concrete and abstract, than in terms of the "pragmatic" and "ideological."
Im sure that future articles will develop these ideas further.
West Coast Teacher