The AFL-CIO is bringing thousands of steel workers, teamsters and others to lobby and rally against China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). As in the NAFTA battle, they are temporarily parting company with their ruling class masters, and their politicians like Clinton and Gore.
The AFL-CIO has accused the Clinton administration of "prostrating itself for a deal with China that treats human rights as a disposable nuisance." And Teamster president James Hoffa praises Hitler-apologist Pat Buchanan as "the only candidate that is speaking about the issue of world trade, of China..." The back page of last month's Teamster magazine showed a picture from Tienanmen Square, with a pro-U.S. demonstrator standing in the way of three tanks. The message reads, "If he can stand up to `Communist' China, so can you."
They claim to be outraged at China's record on "human rights" and the use of prison labor. In reality, they are afraid of seeing auto assembly and other jobs transferred to lower-wage capitalist China as the price for opening up new markets for U.S. bosses. While these labor bosses want to appear to be militantly protecting U.S. workers, in fact, "The AFL-CIO backs the idea of [U.S.] inmates working but wants it done `carefully." (The Wall Street Journal, 6/29/99)
Currently there are two million prisoners in the U.S., double the figure of ten years ago. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners, about two-thirds black and Latin, are working for private corporations like Dell Computers, Boeing, Microsoft, and the Federal Prison Industries, for as little as 20cents an hour, some as low as 75cents a day! They make everything from clothing to aircraft parts, from computer circuit boards to Army helmets and ammunition cases. The garment industry lost 8,000 jobs to the federal prison system alone (Wall Street Journal, 7/22/99).
Global Exchange is on the board of the Fair Trade Federation. It hopes to make production in U.S. sweatshops and prisons more competitive by slightly raising labor costs in Asia and Latin America. By focusing on China they promote protectionism and patriotism. Global Exchange receives grants from foundations tied to manufacturers who benefit from Fair Trade's campaigns against their competitors. Would these foundations keep contributing if Global Exchange targeted exploitation of workers in the U.S.?
Take the garment industry. Hundreds of thousands of mainly immigrant workers have no unions, sub-minimum wages, no benefits, no overtime pay, work in death-trap conditions and are subject to physical abuse by their bosses. Nationwide only about 12% of U.S. workers are covered by union contracts, one of the lowest percentages of any country in the world. In New York City, there are an estimated 4,500 garment sweatshops. In Los Angeles, with 150,000 garment workers, thousands of undocumented workers labor for less than minimum wage under terrible working conditions. The murderous LAPD terrorizes black and Latin neighborhoods to enforce these low wages.
There are also tens of thousands of Workfare participants who labor under slave-like conditions, well below the minimum wage. In New York City more than 60,000 Workfare participants clean parks, streets, subway stations and hospitals, replacing city employees who earned union wages.
When Global Exchange joins with the leadership of the garment union UNITE in opposing sweatshops, with the leadership of the Teamsters who oppose Mexican truck drivers entering the U.S., with the leadership of the steelworkers union in opposing steel imported from Brazil and Russia, they are not building international solidarity. They are uniting with U.S. imperialism in its trade war against its European and Asian competitors. Trade wars eventually lead to shooting wars.
Police terror, sweatshops and prison labor are symptoms of growing fascism. An anti-racist worker-student alliance must be at the core of any movement to defeat imperialism. We must fight racist exploitation, police terror and wage slavery right here in the U.S. We can build a mass communist movement, from the factories and fields to the campuses and barracks, to smash U.S. imperialism with communist revolution. This movement and these goals will be on display in PLP May Day marches in the U.S. and Central America.
First, many U.S. companies have fat contracts with China. Boeing alone has deals worth $19 billion. So there's a large lobby of U.S. rulers who, for their own selfish profit motives, want to normalize business relations with the fascists in Beijing.
There's a broader strategic question as well. The current U.S. foreign policy doctrine calls for preventing an anti-U.S. alliance between the Chinese and Russians. Granting China entry into the World Trade Organization could be viewed as a tactic within this strategy. Obviously, it generates contradictions between the U.S. ruling class and the capitalists who lead the AFL-CIO (see editorial). But the strategy itself will never work for other reasons as well, because it's based on the drive to maintain U.S. imperialist dominance in Asia.
The Chinese rulers have a different idea. They want to rule the roost. All their business and political arrangements with U.S. imperialism are merely tactics on behalf of their own strategy to become top dog. The Chinese have already taken steps to develop a strategic alliance with the Russians. All this wheeling and dealing can lead only to war.
However, as CHALLENGE briefly pointed out last week, imperialist rivalries have turned little Elián into a political football. With the exception of his father, who seems to want the same as any dad under the circumstances, all the actors in this sordid drama shout about the boy's welfare in order to cover up their true class motives. The hypocrisy is nauseating.
First come Elián's Miami "family" and their supporters. This is a motley little army of out-and-out fascists. Their parents and grandparents were members or allies of Cuba's pre-Castro ruling class, in the days when the island was a low-wage paradise for U.S. sugar companies and a playground for the degenerate rich and famous. Many of the Miami-based "Cuban exile leadership" are using the Elián crusade as a big lie to disguise their true dream of recovering the property Castro & Co. confiscated from them. They don't want U.S. imperialism to make any deals that would keep Castro in power. They're allied with the powerful U.S. sugar industry, which hopes to prevent cheap Cuban sugar from penetrating the U.S. market and lowering prices. So this gang has decided that Elián belongs in the U.S.
Then there's the Clinton White House. Clinton is so passionately "devoted" to the welfare of children that his economic sanctions have murdered hundreds of thousands of them in Iraq since he began his first term in 1993. He loves them so deeply that he bombed them in Yugoslavia for nine weeks last year. In fact, the liberal bosses who run U.S. imperialism are so "child-centered" that they have been murdering, terrorizing, and starving youngsters around the world for decades. Now they want to make Elián the beneficiary of such "humanitarianism."
The bosses' real motive is to prevent Cuba from once again becoming a strategic pawn for their biggest rivals. In the heyday of the old Soviet Union, Cuba was a major thorn in the U.S. rulers' side. When the USSR broke up ten years ago, Cuba's threat to U.S. world domination diminished. But now Russian rulers are making a comeback. It will take time to mature, but the logic is clear: "As relations with the U.S. deteriorate, Russia's interest in Cuba will be identical to the Soviets' interest" (Stratfor Global Intelligence Update, "Russia Revives Relationship with Cuba," 12/22/99). The Russians still have a military arrangement with Castro and an intelligence-gathering site in Havana. They're also trying to arrange a three-way oil-for-sugar deal among themselves, the Cubans and Venezuela, which happens to supply 17% percent of U.S. oil imports.
The European Union (EU) bosses have become an ingredient in this scramble. These imperialists have launched a big trade offensive throughout Latin America. They're building a beachhead in Mexico, from which they intend to penetrate the multi-trillion dollar U.S. and Canadian markets. U.S. imperialism is in for a long-term battle to control foreign investment in a region it once considered its private plantation.
Cuba is thus re-emerging as a strategic key. Despite U.S. rulers' cynical red-baiting of him, Castro is no communist. He's a state capitalist looking to get the best possible deal for the class he leads. He's promoting trade relations with Africa, China and the European Union, in addition to his renewed romance with the Russians.
The U.S. liberal imperialists want to prevent Cuba from allying with their enemies. Clinton's insistence on returning Elián to his father must be viewed as part of a plan to bring Cuba back under U.S. economic and political influence. We can't predict whether the U.S. or the Russian and E.U. rulers will succeed here. Either way, the sharpening imperialist rivalries that lie beneath the Elián case must lead to more war. As they have in the past, new imperialist armed conflicts will slaughter millions of youngsters like Elián Gonzalez. Only the successful fight for communism can lead to a society in which profit wars become unnecessary. Then children can be brought up to lead fulfilling, productive lives.
CSU students repeatedly beat back threats from PUSH security. When a "PUSH Police" grabbed a high school student by the arm and shoved him into the line of the march, a CSU student (herself the mother of a teenager) got in his face and made it clear that this will not happen again.
This action grew out of the March 1 forum against racism initiated by PLP, followed by two May Day dinners. Students decided it was time to stop talking about racism and do something about it. They collected several hundred signatures on a petition, and were given an excused day from class to attend the march. An ad was placed in the student newspaper and PUSH provided a bus to take students to the march.
On the ride to the march, a PLP leader led students in militant anti-racist chants. This built our unity and drew a line between PLP and PUSH, which never mentioned police killings and beatings. Instead they focused on school funding and less money for prisons. Students were ticked off because they had to wait in the freezing cold while Jackson was inside a school mouthing off to the media.
Students were sharp in attacking the "PUSH police." PUSH security were laughing and joking with the cops. The way security threatened and assaulted marchers was typical of the cops. A PLP member pointed out that Jesse Jackson had hired one of the cops fired for the murder of Latanya Haggerty as a security guard. Only protest within PUSH led to his dismissal.
In class we looked at the PLP May Day video. Four students said they are going to the march, and others are very interested. Fighting for the political leadership of the mass movement against police terror has given us more confidence in the Party and ourselves.
Our banner read "Smash Racist Police Terror with Communist Revolution!" As we marched, one comrade explained the meaning of the red flags to the 1,000 marchers. It was inspiring. The confidence and support displayed by the college and high school students for the Party was a big improvement over the Jackson/Operation PUSH demonstration last November over the expulsion of six black students in Decatur, Il.
The main difference was our struggle to mobilize for the march. At Bogan H.S. we spent three weeks trying to organize a walkout. A group of students tried to talk to the principal about providing buses for the march, but she refused to meet with them. This only made them more committed. Many students circulated literature throughout the school. There was much discussion about whether to walk out. Should students risk suspension? What about the police? Even teachers were involved in the debate. It appeared large numbers would be walking out.
However, "for every action there is an opposite reaction." The administration sent out letters to all parents saying that police brutality, funding for public education and stopping the incarceration of youth of color were important issues, but high school students should not be "used" as warriors, and high schools should not be battlefields. It said that a walkout would "disrupt the educational process," and anyone who participated would face a 3-day suspension. Our counter-attack was to struggle with parents to march with the PTA. We were unsuccessful but it was important to wage the struggle.
The week before, a lunchroom full of students watched as a cop put a student in a choke-hold. The student was suspended for three days. What hypocrisy! Bogan High suspends black and Latin students daily for the least infraction. What does that say for the administration's commitment to not "disrupt the educational process?"
The day of the march, the school looked like a fort. But despite the fascist intimidation of squad cars and police wagons, five students walked out and four marched in the PLP contingent. At Lincoln Park and Whitney Young, more "liberal" schools, more students walked out. The students gained a lot from their experience with the Party. We now have the big job of winning them to be organizers for May Day.
"The strike should not have been ended until the workers were reinstated!" declared a Social Security doctor.
The FMLN party (former guerilla movement) said the strike was a complete victory for the workers--that they had halted privatization, been reinstated and forced the government to negotiate improvements in workers' health care. But in reality privatization has brought guards, laboratories, washing services and clinics run by private companies. In addition, the hospitals do not have adequate medicines--one must go to private pharmacies to fill prescriptions.
Union representatives will be visiting the U.S. to meet with union leaders and workers. They should not be fooled by "victory" statements. The Social Security workers are being left to twist in the wind.
Although we respect the workers on the hunger strike, we don't think that tactic will win. The bosses are already killing us from hunger on a daily basis. They couldn't care less if one or two more workers die of hunger. During the civil war these same bosses massacred over 100,000 workers. They're only affected if their profits suffer.
We need to re-start the strike and organize more workers to support it, until all strikers are re-hired. However, the most important lesson learned from this strike is that capitalism cannot be reformed. It must be destroyed and replaced by a new society based on the needs of the workers, not the profits of the bosses, be they nationalist, U.S.- or European-dominated.
We must prepare ourselves for total war against the bosses. Today it is Social Security. Tomorrow it could be your factory, maquiladora, high school or university carrying forth the battle against the capitalist system. March on May 1st behind the Communist Red Flag of the Working Class.
During the teach-in, one of the leaders from United for a Fair Economy (UFE, a Boston-area AFL-CIO-backed group) asked people where their clothes were made. They were pointing out that most of our clothes are made in countries in Latin America or Asia. Another student discussed the horrors that workers face in Nicaragua.
These rulers' group want us to believe the horrors of capitalism only happen elsewhere. But you don't have to go overseas to find exploitation. One comrade pointed out that clothes made by Lee were made by U.S. prison labor.
The meeting's high point came when the UFE speaker called on everyone to oppose granting normal trade relations (NTR) to China and it's entrance into the World Trade Organization. A comrade responded by pointing out that while the AFL-CIO hypocrites denounce prison labor in China, they don't lift a finger against slave labor programs like Workfare and prison labor in the U.S. He noted that the AFL-CIO march set for April 12 against granting NTR status to China, builds the lie that U.S. bosses are "better" than Chinese capitalists. This helps the rulers win workers and students to fascism and war!
Earlier in the day hundreds of workers and students attended a rally called by the Harvard "Living Wage" campaign. This group fights for a $10.25/hr minimum wage for all Harvard workers. At the rally we circulated our petition against George "Killer" Kelling, a Rutgers professor who was a fellow at Harvard's JFK School of Government where he developed many of the murderous policing policies used to terrorize black and Latin youth in recent years. We connected Kelling to the anti-globalization movement, as well as exposing that wage slavery can never be "fair."
We made several contacts during this action. We will continue working with rank-and-file students to expose the horrors of this system, and why it must be destroyed with communist revolution!
Q: How's the strike going?
A: I think it's going well. Of the 3,500 janitors on strike, 98% are actively supporting the struggle. We are 8,500 janitors in the union, but some haven't been called out on strike yet, like the airport janitors. The morale of the strikers is very high. Relations between rank-and-file leaders and the rest of the workers have gotten stronger. There's more trust between us.
Q: What do you think about the official union leadership?
A: They put their faith and confidence in the politicians and the Catholic Church to win this strike. They've brought experts in "putting out fires" to the marches: Jesse Jackson, Speaker of the California House of Reps, Antonio Villaraigosa, Cardinal Mahony, Mayor Riordan and others. It's an election year and they're looking for votes and to get workers to support the Democratic Party. The sellout leaders have confidence in the politicians, not in the masses of workers. I think the real leadership in this struggle comes from the rank and file, from the masses.
Q: What have you won from this struggle?
A: More unity and confidence in the workers. On the picket lines, we've stopped some scabs. But the best is that we've discussed with some workers that it's the bosses and the capitalist system that are the problem. These discussions have given me the opportunity to distribute CHALLENGE to more workers and to talk to them about communism and coming to the May Day march.
Q: How can other workers and students support this struggle, locally, nationally and internationally?
A: The most effective support locally is to participate in the marches to politicize them. Nationally and internationally people can send letters of support and organize activities to publicize this struggle, which can inspire other workers around the world. It shows that workers will fight for our interests.
Q: What motivates you to march on May Day?
A: It's International Workers' Day. PLP celebrates it as a communist day, and we workers are communists.
Q: Do you think you'll bring a busload of janitors to the march?
A: We're going to try. What I do know is that many brothers and sisters want to come, and if they help give leadership, a bigger group will come to the march and come closer to the Party.
This strike has produced three important aspects: the militancy of the workers, the social-fascist leadership of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party, and the opportunities to build the revolutionary communist PLP.
Hundreds of CHALLENGES have been sold to the strikers. In a recent march a group of strikers asked for CHALLENGE and one striker took 20 to distribute among his brothers and sisters. Many are open to discussions about the need to fight for workers' power and some to participate in PLP study-action groups.
The bosses have launched a mass media campaign to support the strike. This is the same media that supported the bombing of Yugoslavia, which murdered thousands. Cardinal Mahony is negotiating between the strikers and the millionaire cleaning companies. This is the same Mahony who in 1985 smashed the union of Catholic cemetery workers. The strike is "supported" by the LA City Council, the Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Riordan. They have all looked the other way at racist police terror, or at more than 140,000 garment workers earning less than minimum wage in LA sweatshops.
Why are all these bosses' agents supporting the strike? To win Latin and other workers to see the unions and the Democrat Party as the way out of poverty and racist police terror. They want to win our allegiance so we'll send our children to the army to defend U.S. rulers' interests around the world. They offer us a few pennies more in exchange for this, but we won't accept it.
Two opposing forces are fighting for the hearts and minds of the working class. On one side are the liberal social fascists with their plans for police terror, mass jailings, exploitation, racism and wars. On the other side is the PLP with our goal of revolution and workers' power. We're small but the potential of the workers is great. March on May Day against racist exploitation. March under the red banners of communist revolution.
A speaker from South Africa said the apartheid regime had made huge international loans for military equipment to oppress and kill revolutionaries. International financial organizations are requiring debt repayment. Mandela and the new post-apartheid capitalist government have refused to repudiate that debt. Black South Africans are paying twice for these armaments-first with their blood, and then with higher taxes.
We met some American University (AU) students who have organized protests against AU's connection to the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison labor corporation in the U.S. This is important if we are to avoid the trap of only opposing super-exploitation abroad.
Some PLP'ers have been active in this group and a related group since before "the battle in Seattle." After Seattle we began raising the issues of China and prison labor and sweatshops here in the U.S. in these groups. The debate on China emerged from a long struggle. It occurred because several members of the group fought hard for it.
We explained that since the end of World War II, the AFL-CIO spent more money outside the U.S. than inside, organizing workers to help U.S. imperialism. They helped overthrow the governments of Guatemala, Chile, and Indonesia and destabilized many movements in Africa and Europe that opposed U.S. imperialism.
The other side said they were concerned for Chinese workers and lowering standards for all workers. While some may be concerned about the workers, the AFL-CIO leadership is concerned with building anti-communism and support for U.S. imperialism. We displayed the back page of the Teamsters newspaper that says, "If He [a man in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square] Can Stand Up to Communist China, So Can You!" A goodly section of the ruling class see China as a long-term strategic enemy. China's expanding capitalist economy needs a source of oil that's independent of the U.S. They have signed oil deals with U.S. rivals like Iraq and are building a deepwater navy to defend their interests.
In the U.S., hundreds of thousands of prisoners make products for sale for "wages" of 23cents to $1.15 an hour. Racist police terror keeps wages down and is an attack on all workers. Wages for most workers in the U.S. have been declining for 20 years. Instead of mobilizing workers against these attacks, the AFL-CIO leadership is mobilizing them against China. Another panelist pointed out that the anti-China campaign leads us into the camp of Hitler-apologist Pat Buchanan who blames "Communist" Chinese workers for lower wages here.
A PLP member pointed out that as long as the profit system exists, corporations will cross borders for lower paid labor. Some countered that the imperialists, led by Clinton, were the ones pushing free trade with China. That's true. But Sweeney and the AFL-CIO leadership push protectionism and blame Chinese workers, rather than U.S. bosses, for low wages here. In a speech at the National Press Club last November, Sweeney attacked China 23 times! Pushing nationalism among workers here also helps the rulers win us to their wars for profit.
A Teamster found the debate very interesting. Another woman asked the "against" panel whether the bosses were after cheap labor or markets in China. "Both," answered another panelist. "It's the classic dilemma of capitalism." They're competing with the Japanese and Europeans for market share. The Party member panelist also explained that some people thought a long-term plan for war between the U.S. and China was impossible because that could mean World War III. She said that's exactly what it means and it's not unthinkable because Exxon & Co. won't give up their empire without an all-out fight.
A panelist for the other side said that the way to stop imperialism was to keep China out of the WTO. In the following discussion, a student PLP comrade explained that the only way to stop imperialism is to build a movement of workers and youth across all borders that eliminates the profit system with communist revolution. He said that siding with the agents of imperialism means building a fascist movement.
We made an impact. Afterwards many were trying to figure out how to oppose China's entry into the WTO but at the same time oppose the anti-communist stance blaming Chinese workers for low wages here. Most people took copies of the PLP prison labor pamphlet. After the debate, an AFL-CIO organizer said the AFL-CIO had just endorsed the A16 demonstration in Washington, D.C. A worker in the back of the room yelled out, "What are your demands?" She was now less willing to take whatever this organizer said at face value.
The dinner was a real sampling of what the PLP has to offer to workers and youth. The evening began with a great meal from a Flatbush restaurant. While we ate, two high school comrades spoke on world and U.S. politics and on communist responses to attacks by fascism and imperialism. Other youth read their own communist poetry, including a performance of the reggae song, "Anytime" by an energetic group, "The Suspects," from Wingate High School. The evening was rounded out with a talk by a worker from Guinea (for background on this worker, see page 1) on the state of the African working class, by a teacher on the challenges of teaching in the bosses' schools, and a screening of the May Day video.
As always the Party brought together a wonderful mix of workers and youth, all united in a struggle to smash capitalism. We should not underestimate the tremendous significance it has for us, for our friends and our movement each time we organize a multi-racial event. On top of this, high school youth led the way in reports, poems, music and speeches, showing that communist consciousness is sinking deep roots in various areas. Due to the determined efforts of comrades to respond to an anti-police brutality demonstration in Staten Island, a contingent of new friends from hat area also attended.
The strengths in the program at this year's dinner can be traced to relationships and political struggle developed over months and years. In leading walkouts, confrontations with bosses on the job, with tutoring and organizing social events, our relationships have become increasingly political. May Day is our time to call on all friends and allies to march against fascism and imperialist war and for communist revolution. That is our task. "Let's go, Revolution!"
A PLP member with CFC received 2,352 votes, the second highest of 20 candidates for five Trustee positions. This reflected the positive reputation earned by the PLP member's activism as a shop steward and as an open communist for most of his 29 years on the job.
The results reveal the widespread sentiment among rank-and-file union members that the former union leaders were too passive, complacent and/or corrupt. NYC postal workers hope the CFC slate will improve working conditions, wages, etc.
The fundamental goal of communists in PLP is to actively struggle on behalf of the class interests of all workers and through that build the Party. The PLP member supported and campaigned with the new union leaders, most of whom seem to have an honest desire to lead the union on behalf of postal workers. But the class interests of workers also includes fighting against racism and racist murders by police, supporting striking workers, opposing sexism, protesting U.S. imperialism and organizing for communism.
The new Executive Vice-President wants to register more postal workers to vote for Democratic Party candidates this year. This will not protect us against the loss of jobs from privatization. All politicians are puppets of one or another group of bosses. They want our votes and our subservience. Clinton and the Democrats led Congress to pay for 100,000 more cops nation-wide. This produced more harassment and intimidation of workers and youth by cops, as well as the racist murder of Amadou Diallo and other victims of "law and order."
Severe limits on what can be accomplished within the system are imposed by USPS management and by bosses in general. Our labor may produce all postal revenues, but the bosses control those revenues. They use the system to enhance their profits and power at our expense. The grievance procedure, the courts, politicians, the government, cops, the military, the mass media are the tools through which the rich exercise power and control. Their state power and their ownership of the means of production--from which they amass great wealth--puts them in the driver's seat. If we restrict ourselves to using the grievance procedure, the courts, etc., we may win some small battles, but we will lose the war.
To best serve the interests of postal (and all) workers, we must build the movement to seize power from the rich and impose workers' power through a communist revolution.
During the election campaign our PLP member worked long and hard to win votes for the CFC slate, and at the same time to build support for our communist movement through the expanded sale of CHALLENGE and in discussions with other CFC candidates and rank-and-file workers.
The first resolution directed the UESF leadership to notify our state and national affiliates that we condemn all racist acts including the killing of Amadou Diallo and sent a copy of the resolution as well as a check for $100 to his family as a sign of support.
The second resolution called for the union to urge members to participate in May Day activities. It was signed by approximately 30 members from various schools. At a meeting of the Teachers for Change caucus, several copies of a petition calling on the UESF to support May Day were distributed. Fifteen of the 30 teachers signed it. They received a photocopy of that petition to get more signatures at their schools. Some did that. Now it's time to win them to march on May Day here.
The second resolution reads as follows:
Whereas May Day has been the international holiday of the working class for over 100 years; and,
Whereas May Day demonstrates the unity of the world's working class; and,
Whereas issues such as the criminalization of youth, police brutality, racism, the use of prison labor and Workfare to replace union jobs, and the preparations for war all affect our students and ourselves and must be opposed; and,
Whereas the struggle to build an international movement that opposes these attacks on the working class will be aided by participating in May Day events; therefore,
Be it resolved that UESF urges its members to participate in May Day events.
Many speakers expressed anger towards the brutality of the cops as evidenced by their killing innocent unarmed black men. However, their solutions called for reforming the capitalist injustice system--"sensitivity training," more black and Latin cops, "community policing," voting and participating in the Census 2000.
The PLP speaker explained that the cops' role is to protect the bosses' profit system. Therefore these reforms would merely help continue their role behind a different mask. Only the overthrow of capitalism by a communist-led working class will bring justice for working people.
His remarks were greeted warmly. Many participants came up to him afterwards and said his speech was one of the best things about the demonstration. Many more took CHALLENGES.
PLP's invitation to, and presence at, this demonstration grew out of a year of developing ties with a worker from the African country of Guinea. He is a leader of The People Rally of Guinea (RPG). It fights against the exploitation of workers in Africa as well as police brutality here in New York City.
We met this worker a year ago at the second Bronx demonstration protesting the cops' murder of Amadou Diallo. It was organized by liberal Democrat Al Sharpton. PLP moved through that march chanting on the bullhorn, but was never invited to speak. However, the crowd around us pushed us forward to the spot where Diallo had been shot where we did speak. It was then that we met the Guinean worker. He asked us to join forces with him.
Two months later he invited PLP to speak about May Day at a dinner in Harlem organized by workers from Senegal. A month later our Guinean friend was a featured speaker at last year's May Day march. He said his friends in Guinea saluted the Progressive Labor Party for having a May Day march in the U.S.
Last week he was invited to a Staten Island meeting that planned the April 8th demonstration. At that meeting, he distributed all his CHALLENGES and invitations to our annual May Day dinner. He asked if PLP could have a speaker and literature table at the rally and his request was granted. A phony leftist attacked PLP and told him PLP doesn't really fight for communism. He shot back, "Don't go there! Don't go that route! Wait until you meet my friends and then you will see." And so they did, as PLP'ers attended the rally and march.
We talked to demonstrators and distributed 150 CHALLENGES and other literature. They were extremely friendly to our ideas. A fourth of the people at the rally had already received papers and invitations to the dinner from our friend. He introduced us to many at the rally and encouraged us to exchange phone numbers and addresses with many workers and students from Staten Island.
As a result of our friend's work, four people from Staten Island attended our May Day dinner in Brooklyn the following day. He spoke at our dinner and linked conditions in Africa to capitalism. He closed his talk with a call for revolution. Both he and another member from his group have May Day tickets and are now organizing for our May Day March.
To build a mass Party we must have confidence in the working class. Every person we meet is a potential organizer for PLP. We invite all workers and students from Staten Island, friends and members of The People Rally of Guinea and every worker who reads this paper to our May Day march. Join us!
We were evenly divided between seasoned Party members and friends completely new to communism. People came from LA, Seattle, the Bay Area and the Central Valley. We started with an explanation of commodity production, discussing what "value" meant. Using a basketball as an example, we discussed the difference between its use value and its exchange value. Some said humans need more and more "things" and this leads to greed and social problems. But it was explained that social problems under capitalism occur because those "things" were produced for exchange, not use. Having a basketball didn't cause problems, but having Spalding and Nike compete to make them did.
From there we discussed super-exploitation and racism. It was said that the concept of race was completely manufactured by capitalism. In the U.S. in the 1700's they had to legally define a "black man" just to make that distinction. Many people shared stories of how racism affected their lives. One Party member exposed the liberal line of "celebrating diversity" as a support of racism. It was pointed out that in some LA garment factories the managers are specifically hired if they are a "different nationality" from the workers, making racism a useful tool for the boss.
After lunch, we talked about imperialism, war and fascism. We pointed out that world conflicts are based on imperialist rivalries. These rivalries are worsened by capitalist crisis, like overproduction and the falling rate of profit. To suppress workers' resistance to these crises capitalism builds towards fascism and war. During these sections Party members described their recent work. The discussion of worldwide problems needed to be balanced with a sense of hope about what can be done locally to build the Party. The light at the end of capitalism's tunnel doesn't need to be an oncoming train--it can be PLP! We touched on how imperialism will lead inevitably to World War III and highlighted events in the Balkans as an omen.
We ended the day with plans for building May Day 2000. Although we made mistakes, the mood was open and friendly without a sense of heavy-handed lecturing. It was a reaffirmation that revolutionary communist politics inspires people--it doesn't scare them. We will chalk this up as a victory and continue the struggle forward.
I began with a very brief overview of May Day's history and what the Party hopes to accomplish by mobilizing its base. I also noted that there is always a personal reason or two to detest capitalism. I had just learned that a mutual friend of mine and the teacher had been diagnosed the day before with colon cancer. He had gone for months ignoring some symptoms because, as a free-lance musician, he has no health benefits!
One of my friends from the soup kitchen had marched two years before and gave a vivid description of the day's events, including her efforts to help supervise my sometimes "challenging" son. I gave her credit for helping to develop him into the march-marshal organizer he has become.
Then a long-time friend of one Upper Manhattan organizer remembered having gone to May Day years before as a little girl. She described the horrible situation on her job now. Her supervisor and some co-workers are making life hard for her because she became a "whistle blower" about theft and corruption in her workplace. All of us tried to help her figure out how to keep fighting. We plan to connect this particular struggle to a likely union-busting campaign. Thus we can prepare for a struggle that will help all the workers there and involve some outside forces in support.
This created an excellent atmosphere for relating the May Day march to the class struggle in specific ways. Everyone took ticket books, CHALLENGES and May Day stickers and promised to ask friends to march.
The following Sunday one of my friends announced the march in church. Three visitors were sitting next to me, one from the Congo, his niece and her friend from Paris. After the service we discussed "Le jour du travail" [Workers' Day]. He promised to come to May Day and the two Parisians promised to write us letters of support.
The results of our efforts in this stage of class struggle are modest. But if we can make May Day-building a regular part of our lives it will help to deepen and transform relationships and yield an ever-renewing group of workers who will be active with us, learning from us and teaching us how to be better communists.
From the belfry, Red Churchmouse
Twenty-five years ago, Boston was one of the most segregated and racist cities in the country. The ruling class of Boston profited greatly from dividing workers along racial lines and many white workers bought into the racist ideas pushed by the politicians. It was dangerous for black people to enter all-white neighborhoods like Charlestown and South Boston. Black families who moved into white neighborhoods were attacked. Schools in black neighborhoods were woefully underfunded and overcrowded and schools in working class white neighborhoods were not much better.
For years, black parents and community organizations had fought for better schooling for their children. It was found that the city of Boston had engaged in a deliberate, systematic pattern of segregation of its public schools. Therefore, in 1974, Boston was ordered by a federal judge to desegregate its schools by busing black children to schools in white neighborhoods and vice versa. Immediately, racist city council members Louise Day Hicks and Albert O'Neil organized a group called ROAR-Restore Our Alienated Rights, (which was more accurately nicknamed Racists on a Rampage) to protest the busing order. During the 1974-75 school year, ROAR organized mob violence against black children bused into South Boston.
PLP decided to organize a project in the summer of 1975 to combat this fascist violence. It began with our May Day march in Boston where we were physically attacked by a group of racists and soundly defeated them. Then the Party and INCAR sent more than 125 people from all over the U.S., mostly students, to Boston for the summer. Our activities varied. Some organized an anti-racist summer school for black children who had lost considerable schooling due to a year of racist attacks. Others enrolled in courses in community colleges to spread ideas of multi-racial unity. We held daily rallies against ROAR's racist ideas and collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for multi-racial unity, an end to mob violence and quality, integrated education for all. We went on the offensive against the local racists by fighting them physically again and again. There was a constant tension that permeated the city. By the summer's end, we so weakened the power of the racist anti-busing movement that ROAR was defeated.
For many, Boston'75 was a defining moment in our lives. For some it marked an increased commitment to fight for a communist revolution. Even for others who are no longer members of Progressive Labor Party, it was a time of political commitment and activism that is looked back on with pride.
We invite all the participants in this heroic struggle to join us in Boston on July 14 to celebrate those accomplishments. We also invite other members and friends of Progressive Labor Party to join us in workshops to learn more about the history of that summer of struggle. It is especially important now to learn about that movement since the ruling class rewrote history, and expunged the blatant racism of the anti-busing movement from the record.
We are planning a weekend of social and political activities. If you would like to attend, or want more information, please contact PLP at: 1-800-330-9953; E-Mail: PLCD@compuserve.com
A Boston '75 Participant
When Seattle turned ugly and got media attention, most of the discussion within the community turned to the protests. It was really disheartening to see so many people with the right intention being swayed to believe that only the WTO is responsible for destroying the environment and exposing people to slave labor conditions. I was afraid to speak up in a group of over a thousand people who all believed this lie. I was afraid that in trying to tell people what's really going on, they would feel insulted, so I let it go.
Last month people started discussing labor conditions in other countries since there is going to be another protest against the WTO in D.C. However, there seemed to be a slight change in the tone of the discussion this time around. People seemed more interested in the labor conditions than the environment. I felt more comfortable joining in the discussion.
One person had written about the awful labor conditions in countries in Asia and Latin America. So I replied saying that although labor conditions are unbearable in other countries, those in this country were not much better. I mentioned garment sweatshops and then prison labor. I informed the thousand plus internet community that when they buy a garment that says ``Made in the U.S.A.,'' it's probably made in a prison. I ended my e-mail with an invitation to receive a pamphlet on prison labor, the one put out by PLP. Within a couple of hours two people had asked me for pamphlets. I wrote them back to let them know that the pamphlet was communist literature and I asked if they still wanted the information. I realized that I had unintentionally omitted that and wanted to let them know ahead of time what they would receive. They both wrote back and said they still wanted the pamphlet. In fact, one of them asked for seven pamphlets to pass around to co-workers and friends. I mailed off the pamphlets feeling reassured that I had done the right thing getting into the conversation ; there was really no need for me to be so reluctant.
When people get as upset as they were in Seattle, they are open to new ideas, to real solutions. The protest this week in D.C. is the perfect opportunity to talk to the youth and other people who have the right intentions but are being swayed by the ruling class to concentrate on the wrong issues.
We discussed the production afterwards. We agreed the acting was very good and the whole production brought about some struggle and more class awareness among the people attending. But we felt there was not much emphasis on the conditions of society that led Marx and Engels to write The Communist Manifesto urging the working class to build a revolutionary movement.
My classmate had expected to learn more about the class struggle for communism that Karl Marx wrote about instead of the speculation on Karl Marx's daily life. This kind of "this-is-your-life-Karl-Marx" information was really unimportant.
When the question arose about a consistent, reasonable plan for the working class to get from point A, (our current condition in capitalist society) to point B (revolution for international communism) the general answer was really no answer. No one said the working class needed such a revolution to really improve conditions permanently. We both felt this was Marx's main message to the working class.
I told my classmate that only the Progressive Labor Party is actually organizing a revolutionary movement for communism, not one for socialism, as in the past. The ruling class will not voluntarily give up state power; the working class must take it by force. We struggle to bring communist leadership in the many current battles against growing fascism--police brutality, prison labor, Workfare, and bosses' attacks on working class youth. These fights build for revolution because, for one, they unite us as a class. We learn from class struggle against the bosses.
We decided to plan our own student/community forum on Marx's writings and connect them to present-day class struggle, followed by open discussion.
My two classmates are seriously considering marching on May Day with PLP. Marx did not stand for a gradual reform of capitalism. Both Marx and Lenin told us revolution, ASAP, is necessary to free our sisters, brothers and our children from capitalism.
Mid-West College Student
May 4th will mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of four students at Kent State University in Ohio who were protesting against the National Guard's presence on their campus. James Michener, named CIA article and a popular writer here, wrote a book on the Kent State killings which promoted the "outside agitator" theory and depicted the murders as an accident.
Later, a made-for-TV movie was based on Michener's book. As pointed out in a book by I.F. Stone, "Kent State: How Murder Went Unpunished," and in another very good book by Peter Davies and The United Methodist Church, in reality the National Guard actions were murder pure and simple.
The Guardsmen were acquitted in a sham trial. The dead students were labeled communists and were the ones on trial. The Guard claimed they were defending themselves, but there were many photographs taken that day and Davies uses them in his book. A Guardsman shot Jeffrey Miller directly in the mouth, blowing out the back of his head. He was standing at the top of the hill, 100 yards away from the Guard. The other murdered students were even further away. Allison Krause was shot in the side as she attempted to hide behind a car in the parking lot. Another dead student was well over 200 yards away and was lying on the ground to protect himself. It was a turkey shoot.
Nine students were wounded, one remains paralyzed to this day and many of those wounded were hit in the backside as they were running from the Guard. Michener conveniently ignores the reality of the situation and tries to make it all seem like just a bad accident. In Davies' book, one man testified that after the shootings he overheard a Guardsman state: "I put one right down the alley." Of course, not long after Kent State, black student protesters were shot to death at Jackson University in Florida by the cops. This incident was conveniently swept under the rug. Racism, no doubt, played a big part here as it does in the recent cop killings. So it comes as no surprise that Michener would help the CIA attempt to re-write history, as he did at Kent State.
This May Day thousands will march under the red flag for workers' power all over the world. The murder of those at Kent State, Jackson State and countless others can only be avenged with a workers' revolution against capitalism, which is the real villain here.
Personally, I did not witness anything that called for any arrests. Additionally, even if there was any wrongdoing, I'm sure over 300 people were not involved. The overabundance of police at the event was disgusting and unnecessary. It was almost like a military war zone with the excessive number of police. Police were posted on every corner, driving up and down the street in squad cars, in police wagons, and overhead in helicopters. Who knows exactly how many undercover police I could add to the list?
It does not matter where the event takes place or what the event is, if it involves young blacks the police will react on their racism and make it a priority to be around and capitalize on it. I am sure that off of the Black College Reunion alone, the Daytona Beach Police Department made millions of dollars off from arrests and citations. The system sucks and furthermore it is sickening.
A Black College Student
(Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, when--as reported in Long Island Newsday--a bikers' union resulted in over a dozen bikers getting killed racing head to head, getting drunk, etc., the Daytona Beach rulers did essentially nothing. The same city that virtually coddles white college student spring rituals treats black college reunions as a gathering of "criminals.")