* Even with its latest "corrections," when compared to last year, the stock market has gone through the roof. So too has the prison population. A world record two million are now jailed in the USA.
*A recent Wall Street Journal article claimed "peace has broken out" throughout the world, with fewer wars than ever in recent memory. Yet India and Pakistan test atomic bombs. Today, thanks to the U.S./NATO 78-day air war on Yugoslavia, you would be lucky to see even a water-rat swimming in the Danube. Only last summer it was Europe's busiest waterway. Today Russian imperialists have once again reduced Grozny to rubble, along with other Chechnya towns. And the U.S. and British imperialists continue their genocidal embargo and virtually daily bombing of Iraq.
* The U.S. boasts more billionaires than ever. Simultaneously, the Tribunal on Africa, meeting in February, asked if there would be another generation of Africans, concluded that --because of poverty and preventable disease--for parts of Africa, the answer is "No!"
In Washington, D.C. tens of thousands demonstrated against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, demanding they stop impoverishing the world's workers. AFL-CIO leaders blamed China for low wages, not the world's bosses--including U.S. outfits like Boeing--who exploit Chinese workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of prisoners in U.S. jails who are paid even less.
In Los Angeles, workers and students marched and walked out against racist Proposition 21, which will imprison more teenagers, especially black and Latin youth. Meanwhile, liberal politicians say "vote" to stop fascism.
Over 8,000 LA janitors struck, stopped scabs, picketed and marched in a month-long struggle against the richest landlords in Southern California. When a cop from the Rampart police station attacked one of the women strikers, her brothers and sisters planned a march to the police station. This inspired other workers and youth to prepare to join them. The union leaders called it off, instead diverting workers to march elsewhere against the building owners.
The worldwide anger of workers and youth against the capitalist system in crisis spilled onto the streets as well. The UNAM student strike in Mexico lasted almost 10 months, with mass mobilizations every week against the planned school cutbacks. Battles against attacks by the government's fascist goons continue today. From El Salvador to Brazil, workers have led mass strikes against privatization and murderous cuts in services. In China, 20,000 miners struck against the privatization eliminating their jobs.
Clearly workers and youth are unhappy, angry and fed up. The crucial question before us is this: to whom do we entrust our future? Whose leadership will we follow in the coming greater battles against racism, exploitation and imperialist wars? Progressive Labor Party is determined not to abandon the working class to the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO leadership, nationalist politicians and other outright agents of the bosses! We will fight tooth and nail in every boss's organization.
In times of crisis, the working class, led by its communist party, has taken up the challenge, and twice in the last century has seized power and built a society run by the workers. That it was reversed, that socialism retained too many features of capitalism, doesn't change the fact that communists led workers to take power. And communists, especially the heroic Soviet Red Army under Stalin, led workers to smash Hitler's fascism during World War II.
Capitalism is a deadly system, serving only the needs of the capitalist bosses by attacking the world's workers. It can't be reformed to meet the workers' needs. There are no lesser evils, "good" corporations, or "friendly" cops! Racist, fascist terror and war are the "riches" that the profit system "bestows" on our class!
PLP's long-term goal is for workers to take power once more, this time to destroy capitalism once and for all and build communism! Communism means production for the needs of the international working class, not the bosses' profits...from each according to commitment, to each according to need. This is not an easy fight. Yet, even in this period we are growing modestly. And we can continue to grow! Join the PLP. Help make it a mass Party of the working class, a Party steeled in fighting and giving leadership in small and large battles against the bosses--in the factories, unions, schools, churches and other mass organizations.
The only sure path for victory for the working class is fighting for communism. Each new member of PLP, each new CHALLENGE subscriber, becomes a step forward on the long march to working-class liberation. Each member is a fighter against racism and imperialism, a potential leader of the working class. Join us! Fight to put the future in the hands of the workers.
Even after the armed raid ordered by Reno and Clinton, the kidnappers have received very little sympathy from most people except for a few Republican fascists and the hardcore supporters of the Cuban exile leadership in Miami. Most people justified the INS raid when they saw Elián united with his dad. People also saw through the kidnappers, who used anti-communism to cover their economic and political greed.
As we've said previously, apparently the main section of the U.S. ruling class--represented by Clinton--has decided that the Miami exile leadership is now more an obstacle to, than a benefit for, their interests. While European and Canadian capitalists are investing in the growing Cuban tourist industry and in other joint capitalist enterprises with the Cuban government, the powerful Miami exile lobby makes it almost impossible for U.S. businesses to do the same.
The media deluge is ignoring another aspect of this kidnapping. The hard-line Cuban American National Foundation, the most powerful exile group and one of the most powerful lobbies in the U.S., suffered a big defeat. This group, founded by millionaire Mas Canosa, ran U.S. policy towards Cuba for almost 40 years. Mas Canosa became strong through its connections to the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations. He also made millions from juicy building contracts awarded by crooked politicians in the Miami-Dade County government (many of them Cuban exiles in Mas Canosa's pockets).
Mas Canosa died in 1997 and his son José Mas Santo took over. But other right-wing exiles refused to recognize the son's leadership. There was a constant fight among them for control of the Foundation. Mas Santos saw the Elián case as a way to win this power struggle. He financed the kidnappers and tried to use his Washington connection to prevent the boy's father from reclaiming him. When this failed, Mas Santos was forced to confront the federal government. His side lost.
Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who leads one of the moderate exile groups in Miami and opposes the U.S. embargo on Cuba, attacked the Foundation group, saying that no dissident voice is allowed. "They control the mass media in Miami," he charged, "and they use anti-Castroism as a cover to control Miami and the money from the contracts with the city." Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo also said that the silent majority of Cuban exiles in Miami opposes the right-wingers and wanted Elián united with his dad.
The Cuban workers in Miami who have followed these crooked fascists may have learned a great lesson about capitalism: anti-communism and belief in capitalist democracy are deadly for most workers. To side with one group of bosses against another won't win you any friends among other workers. For years, Haitian immigrants have been deported and jailed in the Krome federal concentration camp outside Miami with no protest from the right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami. This city's poverty rate is among the highest in the country, particularly among children. For years, black workers have been brutalized and murdered by cops in Miami, many of whom are of Cuban origin. Again, Cuban exiles have said nothing. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
When we called workers about the details of the march, one worker said, "Look, I want to go, but I have my doubts, because some of the union leaders say the police could arrest us or attack us, and that the union won't be responsible for us. I'd like you to come tomorrow to the picket line to talk to our group of strikers."
A Party member and two other workers went and boldly explained the need to march together with garment workers, bus drivers, aerospace workers and anti-racist youth, people marching against police brutality and with communists from PLP. The strikers gave them the megaphone to speak and answer the strikers' questions. One worker came close to a comrade and asked "do you have material in Spanish n Dialectics?" "Absolutely," said the comrade. When this discussion ended, more than 40 workers re-affirmed their desire to come to the march.
One rank-and-file leader from another building said, "The list is growing. We better be ready with buses!" At the contract ratification meeting, some workers lined up to sign up for May Day.
During the strike, hundreds of janitors read CHALLENGE. Thousands read the Party's leaflets. Many called the office for information about the May Day March and the Party. Many of these workers can become leaders, not only of the strike, but revolutionary leaders as well. The opportunities we have after this strike show us that, by fighting for our ideas, we can build the Party and fight for communist revolution in the mass movement. It's a long hard road and we're marching on it.
On the other hand, this is how the strike ended:
"Si se puede" (Yes, we can!) chanted the leaders of the Janitors' union. "No se puede" (No you can't) loudly chanted many janitors. The leaders were telling the workers about the "last, best" contract offer by the bosses. They asked the members to ratify the new contract. The workers received about half the increase the union had demanded. The union leaders had promised this struggle would raise the janitors out of poverty. Not true. The workers had been fighting for an increase of $3 an hour over three years. They now average $6.80 an hour. Some received $1.90 and others got $1.50 over three years. In some areas, sick days were taken away.
The day before in a similar meeting many workers yelled "sellouts, traitors" at the union leaders. The majority was not satisfied with the contract offer after three weeks on strike. But the majority voted for it because they didn't see a serious strategy to win more or to continue the strike.
However, the strike experience can be an advance for many workers. During the marches and picket lines, thousands of women and men heroically showed their courage and strength in the fight against the bosses. Dozens of scabs and abusive supervisors got a little of what they deserve. Hundreds of workers helped lead daily struggles, from keeping peoples' spirits up to organizing political discussions, to spreading garbage and dog food in the buildings where the biggest bankers and law firms have their offices, and preventing scabs from entering the buildings.
The strike exposed the police as the first line of terrorists for the bosses and their state. During the strike, the police arrested and beat many workers. We never saw them arrest any bloodsucking boss for refusing to negotiate with the workers. When a cop from the Rampart Division beat a woman striker senseless, her enraged brothers and sisters planned to march on the Rampart police station, but the union leaders, rather than upping the ante, re-directed them elsewhere.
The cops' role is to protect the bosses and their property. The bosses use their hired thugs for racist terror to keep workers' wages low and the system of wage slavery in place. The social-fascist union leaders played their role, diverting the angry workers away from a political target--the state apparatus of the ruling class--to maintain a strictly economist outlook.
Under capitalism, the wage system is a chain around the workers. The bosses only pay us what's needed to get us to work so we can produce more profits for them. It's a big lie that we're going to rise up out of poverty under the wage system.
The power to change the situation is in the workers,' relying on themselves, not on liberal politicians and their buddies who head the AFL-CIO. During the strike there was a parade of Democratic Party politicians from Jesse Jackson to California House Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, to Cardinal Mahony and even Vice-President Gore. Gore is part of the Clinton administration that brags they've deported more workers than any other administration, including the 1,500 people who've died trying to cross the border in the last five years. Clinton and Gore and the biggest bosses they represent are also responsible for the deaths of thousands of workers in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Colombia. And they've thrown millions of workers in Mexico and Central America into deep poverty. They are not the workers' friends!
One of the most important lessons of the strike is the need to destroy this capitalist system and build a new communist society. Then workers will have power and production will be planned to meet the needs of the international working class, not to enrich the bosses. This means that the janitors' struggle continues. It won't stop here.
Many workers signed up for PLP's May Day March in San Francisco and to learn more about PLP. These workers are open to seeing way beyond this contract fight and to joining the long-term struggle to destroy the fascist bosses and their wage slavery with communist revolution.
This conversation may be crude, but it represents some modest, yet significant political developments in building May Day at Jefferson Hospital here. Making May Day a mass activity won't happen by one organizer bringing everyone. It can happen, however, when many workers become May Day organizers. Jane is one of them.
This year is the first time Jane sold many May Day tickets. She's gone further in explaining to workers why they should march. This year workers approached Fred and said, "Jane told me about May Day and I think I'll come," instead of, "Jane told me to ask you about May Day." Jane's efforts are helped by the development of several other workers who are marching for the first time and are bringing other workers.
We also learned how to better link May Day to daily struggles--from the ongoing contract negotiations to the struggle of part-timers for full-time jobs--as well as relate it to building ties at work. For example, in all of our on-the-job struggles workers complain about the many divisions among us. May Day, on the other hand, represents the interests of the united international working class. Participating in the March helps to break down these divisions.
The current contract negotiations represent the sharpest attack on workers here since the union was organized. Several negotiating team members have reported the discussions from the meetings to the union members. This has become very controversial and has raised good questions.
During the last contract talks, the Local 1199C union leaders told the negotiating team members NOT to reveal anything to the workers. The union leaders said that this would cause "trouble" among the workers. Some of the members figured the only "trouble" worrying the union leaders was trouble for the bosses, and so they continued to report directly to the workers.
As workers learn more about the negotiation process the basis exists for them to understand its limits, how this process is the bosses' way to curb class struggle. Once the day-to-day fights on the job and the principles of May Day are linked, building for the March becomes more significant. It helps workers more clearly understand the need for class struggle and the long-term outlook of communist revolution. In many ways, a busload of Jefferson workers at May Day can be more important than all the negotiation sessions combined!
Marched through downtown Brooklyn, thousands lined the sidewalks, many applauding the march. Passing by some factories, workers at the windows gave the clenched fist and shouted support. Marchers angrily yelled at the hundreds of cops walking alongside us, warning them of retribution the next time they murder a Patrick Dorismond or an Amadou Diallo.
I marched alongside a sanitation worker who energetically chanted "Giuliani Must Go!" We talked about how police brutality, especially against people of color, was rampant throughout the U.S. I offered the opinion that this wouldn't stop as long as capitalism,
with its inequality and poverty and the need of those on top to keep those at the bottom in place, prevailed. He agreed and took a copy of CHALLENGE to read.
In capitalist China, infant death rates among infants are rising again, now that free services have been eliminated. The following cases are from a major U.S. "public" hospital, but they could be from ANY major U.S. "public" hospital.
After only 24 hours, the patient was sent home where he lived alone. He gave himself insulin as he thought he'd been instructed by the floor nurses. Two days later, his daughter broke into his apartment and found him unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital and into intensive care, diagnosed with dangerously low blood sugar from insulin overdose. He remained in a "persistent vegetative state" (coma) and was sent to a special hospital for long-term care.
As fascism develops in the U.S., we see the opposite. Mistakes are covered up. Decisions once made with collective input from nurses, therapists and interns, are now made in a dictatorial style by head doctors. Hospital budgets are cut to the bone and selfish attitudes are pushed.
We must fight hospital bosses who want to remove life-saving services from our patients. We must struggle against the insidious growth of anti-patient and anti-worker attitudes among health professionals. But none of those fights will lead anywhere unless they are connected to the overall fight for working class power. When the workers hold power, "Serve the People" will be the order of the day.
The 500 demonstrators were part of the truckers' and sanitation workers' union federation, which will be severely affected by the "reform," ending industry-wide contracts and allowing each company to negotiate separately with its workers. In late February, 18,000 of these workers demonstrated in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires' main square, while the Lower House of Congress passed the bill. Last week's protest was to demand that the Senate reject it.
The reform bill was introduced after the International Monetary Fund demanded that the new government of President Rua reduces Argentina's "high labor cost" in exchange for a $7.4 billion loan.
The truckers' federation head, Hugo Moyano, is trying to portray himself as a defender of workers' rights. He broke with the leading CGT (the Central Labor Federation), led by the opposition Peronista Party, whose Senators already approved the bill. Moyano denounced the CGT leaders when they refused to organize a general strike against the bill.
But union leaders in Argentina are no different from union leaders worldwide. The current CGT boss, Rodolfo Daer, used to lead the Argentinian Workers Movement (MTA) and attacked the old leadership of the CGT for not opposing a similar labor reform bill in 1996 when Peronist Menem was the Argentina's President. Moyano succeeded Daer as head of the MTA, and now considers his union faction the "real" CGT.
Just as cops serve and protect the bosses, union leaders also serve them by keeping workers tied to capitalism. Sometimes these hacks sound militant, like Moyano, but they end up betraying workers. Why? Because reformists function within capitalism, according to the bosses' laws, which are geared to enforce the profit system..
This is the opposite of communist workers, who are active in unions and other mass organizations and participate in all workers' struggles precisely to raise the idea that capitalists and workers have irreconcilable contradictions. Bosses thrive on exploiting workers. The only way to end this is by destroying their system, with its police terror, and building a society where workers rule: communism.
From the beginning, CHALLENGE exposed Washington's big lies and printed the truth about this air war. U.S. rulers' immediate goal was to keep Milosevic & Co. out of the oil pipeline business. Their long-range strategic purpose was to prevent a Russian-Yugoslav alliance which would spur the revival of Russian imperialism. Despite their overwhelming tactical superiority, Clinton and his masters failed on both counts. Milosevic still holds power and continues to make oil deals. And U.S.-Russian imperialist rivalry is heating up all over the world. New oil wars, possibly soon, are in the cards.
Clinton's bombs seem to have accomplished little more than a postponement of the inevitable. Milosevic's plans to build an oil empire call for a pipeline network from the Russian-dominated Caspian to Skopje in Macedonia, then north to Pancevo in Serbia, and west to Croatia's Adriatic coast. This scheme would enable Milosevic to make billions as a middleman supplying western European oil needs. The key to the operation is the construction of the Skopje-Pancevo link.
The destruction wrought by NATO may have slowed down this grand design. There seems to be little mention lately of the Skopje-Pancevo connection. However, Milosevic has become an energy partner with Russia, through the intermediary of Hellenic Petroleum, owned largely by the Russian oil giant Lukoil. Hellenic is building a pipeline from Skopje to Thessaloniki in Greece. In late January, Greek and Macedonian ministers celebrated the completion of its first ten kilometers, gloating about "a reply to those [e.g. Clinton & Co. -ed.] who disputed the agreement" (Athens News Agency, 1/21). Hellenic plans to export electric power to Kosovo.
As for the U.S., one of its planned Caspian export pipelines seems to be going ahead; a second never had a chance. According to Stratfor's Global Intelligence Update, the route from Burgas, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea through Skopje to Albania, is likely to be built. But there's a big drawback for Exxon Mobil: Rockefeller's rival, BP Amoco, will use this pipeline to ship Russian oil. Protecting the line would mean a permanent U.S. military presence in Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo. U.S. rulers, whose main wing represents Exxon Mobil, still haven't reached unity about what to do on this question.
U.S. oil moneybags confront a further strategic dilemma. Clinton had made a false promise to build a pipeline from the Caspian to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. This plan would avoid Russia and Iran and at the same time tempt Turkish rulers with a cut of the action. But it's too expensive to build, and Clinton probably knew this all along. Oil is far more profitable, especially for Exxon Mobil, when it comes from the Persian Gulf instead of the Caspian, and can therefore be shipped anywhere by sea under the U.S. Navy's protection. But not building the costly Turkish pipeline could politically damage U.S. imperialism's carefully built relationship with the Turkish fascists, whose support Washington needs for its overall Middle Eastern oil goals.
So after all the bombing, U.S. rulers face the same contradictions they went to war to eliminate. The main difference is that the basic conflicts have sharpened as a result of Clinton's "problem-solving." Under their new president, Putin, Russian bosses have served notice that although they may not yet be ready to tackle the U.S. head-on, they intend to mount a challenge for world supremacy. They already cancelled their "no-first-strike" nuclear war pledge. A new Russia-Iraq-Yugoslavia axis appears to be emerging. "There is a substantial history of military cooperation among the three countries" (Stratfor, April 18), and the Russians are upgrading both Iraqi and Yugoslav air defenses. The U.S. and British bosses continue their almost daily bombings of Iraq.
It doesn't take a wizard to see where all these maneuvers are headed. As Saddam Hussein and Milosevic have demonstrated, the best way for a two-bit dictator to retain power in a tough situation is to get himself declared U.S. bosses' number one enemy of the day. But U.S. rulers will keep picking up rocks only to drop them on their own feet. Their need for maximum oil profit forces them into contradictions they can't solve. The logic of these contradictions is more war. Already, the Democratic Leadership Council, which sponsored Clinton and Gore, has identified the next president's chief immediate foreign policy goal as ousting Saddam Hussein.
As the burgeoning Russia-Yugoslavia-Iraq romance shows, Putin & Co. won't give U.S. imperialism the blank check for mass murder that Russian leader Gorbachev handed George Bush in 1991, when Exxon launched its Desert Storm slaughter for oil. The next oil war may well be even bloodier than the last and will further sharpen the antagonism between Russian and U.S. bosses.
As we prepare to demonstrate on May Day, we should reflect on our responsibility as communists. Only communist revolution can end bosses' wars for oil and profit. Communists in PLP have this as our goal. We must not only warn of bosses' wars but also prepare to act as militantly and massively as possible when they break out. Building PLP in the crucible of anti-imperialist struggle becomes the order of the day.
We discussed topics which the students are angry about, mainly the passage of Proposition 21, the new law which will make it even easier for the cops and the courts to throw young people in jail, sentencing them as adults and for longer terms. The students tied the racist prison system to the media in two ways: first, the two institutions are used to control the working class, building mental and physical prisons to lock us down; and second, the media is actually instrumental in the prison boom because of the racist, sensationalist portrayals of crime on television.
One student illustrated the racist character of the laws by explaining that penalties are much harsher for crack cocaine than powder cocaine, since crack is more commonly used in poorer, black and Latin neighborhoods than it's "designer drug" counterpart, powder cocaine (See PLP pamphlet PRISON LABOR: FASCISM U.S. STYLE).
"Why don't we see much fighting back in our community? What is holding us back?" asked the teacher. The most frequent response was that students don't feel they can make a difference. The teacher responded with an insightful comment: "I think you're right; talking about a revolution seems overwhelming. We learned about slavery in class. Don't you think, for a man or woman born into slavery, that it seemed like things would never change? But after a long struggle, it did change."
That insight reflects an important aspect of dialectical materialism, the scientific philosophy of the working class. It talks about the coexistence of the actual (what we see around us today) and the potential (what might be achieved sometime down the line). As one youth said, "It seems like we still got slavery, but instead now they give you a little money and call it something else." He's right, it is slavery; it's capitalist slavery, wage slavery. But while the actuality today is "overwhelming" and the system seems strong and invincible, we can't lose sight of the potential, that is, the society that we can build when the working class is united around the communist Progressive Labor Party.
Sign-up sheets were passed around. By day's end, 49 students had signed up to march on May Day in San Francisco on April 29. Just as these angry students have the potential to become communist organizers, so does our Party have the potential to replace the bosses' flags of exploitation, racism and war with the red flag of communist revolution and workers' power. Onward to May Day!
Then and now the capitalists feared this revolutionary side to May Day. In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, "A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Communism." By 1886, the rulers of Chicago saw this specter. "The newspapers and industrialists were increasingly declaring that May 1, 1886 was in reality the date for a Communist working class insurrection modeled on the Paris Commune. According to Melville E. Stone, Head of the Chicago Daily News...a 'repetition of the Paris Communal riots was freely predicted' for May 1, 1886." (Page 90, "Labor's Untold Story," Boyer and Morais)
In December 1886, San Francisco transit workers joined this rising strike wave. They demanded a workday reduction from 13-15 hours to 12 hours (then 7 days a week), and for a pay increase from $2.25 to $2.50 a day. "Strike-breakers were hired, and there was a great deal of violence. Cars were damaged, strike-breakers were beaten, and one person was killed." Newspapers reported eight instances of the use of dynamite by the striking workers. In March 1887, the Governor signed a bill "limiting gripmen, drivers, and conductors to a 12-hour day." ("Transit In San Francisco" published by SF MUNI RR Communications Department.)
In the 1880's the early leaders of the American Federation of Labor were somewhat radical--it was actually an AFL delegate's report to the Marxist-led International Workingmen's Association that led to the call for the first May Day. But by the 1920's the pro-capitalist AFL leadership, fearing the growth of communist ideas in the working class, collaborated with the U.S. government to subvert May Day. At the 1928 AFL Convention, the Executive Council supported a Congressional resolution to make May 1 "Child Health Day." They said, "May 1 will no longer be known as either strike day or communist labor day."
The revolutionary side of May Day dominated when the communist movement was strong. During the peak of the communist organizing of the CIO unions in the 1930's and '40s, May Day was celebrated in the U.S. As many as 250,000 would march to New York's Union Square. However, with the advent of the Cold War, and U.S. imperialism's launching of a worldwide anti-communist offensive, the bosses' government in Washington helped oust communists from union leadership by making it illegal for them to hold union office. With the triumph of business unionism and anti-communism, organized labor discarded May Day and recognizes Labor Day in September.
From the Haymarket battle in 1886, revolutionary workers spread May Day around the globe. But history is written by the conquerors, and many workers born here know nothing of the contribution that the U.S. working class, with the support of the international working class and communist movement, made to the development of this revolutionary holiday. Today May Day is the official Labor Day in most countries, but the leadership of these marches demand reforms, and stress the "common goals" of labor and capital.
PLP has learned from the triumphs of the communist movement in the USSR and China, and from their failure to fight directly for communism. We advocate "Abolish the Wage System" as part of changing the relationship of workers and work in a new communist society.
The abolition of money, of production for sale or profit and of the wage system is absolutely necessary to establish communism. When the international working class wins and holds control over all economic, political and cultural institutions of society, it will unleash a creative power that will propel the human race to its highest accomplishments in all fields of endeavor. We call this the dictatorship of the proletariat. We need a mass revolutionary communist party to do this. The capitalists will use every means--including mass, fascist terror and war--to prevent it.
In the San Francisco Bay Area and Canada, some groups now want to "Reclaim May Day." They want to reform the "evils" of capitalism, but disconnect May Day from its communist roots. PLP seeks to keep May Day as a revolutionary international working-class holiday; to advance and popularize communist production for need as the future of the human race; to develop a strong and healthy class hatred that will destroy wage slavery and fascism everywhere.
Long live the 1st of May, the revolutionary, international, working class holiday! Fight for communism!
The film begins with interviews of company bosses explaining they've moved operations to Mexico and the Philippines. The attraction is not only because of low wages and benefits, but also the predominantly female workforce would be "good workers"--those willing to work long hours doing boring, repetitive detail work. Electronics workers endure toxic chemical fumes. Company bosses state they must seek lower costs or go under to the competition. When they close U.S. plants, lay off workers there and exploit the hell out of workers abroad, it's "nothing personal," just the logic of capitalism.
Mexican and Filipino workers explain how they became conscious of their exploitation and the need to unite and fight against their exploiters. There is dramatic footage showing strikes in both countries. In 1983, in the border town of Reynosa, Mexico, 8,000 workers, mostly women, shut down 11 of the 12 maquiladora factories, including the General Electric and Zenith plants.
The struggle reveals the limited possibilities of reform under capitalism. First, the workers are under enormous pressure to limit their demands because of company threats to relocate to another Mexican city. The strike succeeds in winning two concessions: "a brief two-month wage increase," and the right to elect their own union leadership. Elections are held and workers celebrate their reform candidates' victory. But the local authorities prevent them from taking office. Four of the five leaders go on a hunger strike in the main plaza, but after 14 days are dragged away by the police to a hospital, where they are force-fed.
We also see a militant strike of Filipino electronics, textile and garment workers. At one point the workers form a human barricade to prevent the transfer of goods from one of the struck factories to a different city. The army breaks up the barricade and arrests the strikers, who resist bravely. In the end, workers in both countries are shown continuing their struggle.
Yet the film, funded in part by the AFL-CIO, fails to draw the important political lessons: (1) that the government is not and cannot be neutral but represents the interests of the owners, both national and international capitalists, and (2) that no reform movement can win more than a few concessions from the capitalists, who have the state on their side and can always move operations elsewhere. The workers must be won to go beyond their trade union consciousness, as militant as that is, to revolutionary class consciousness.
The only possible solution offered by this documentary is the idea of forming transnational unions in order to combat the multinationals. As Brecht once said, the goal of these mainstream unions is to convince the corporate masters to turn over a slightly bigger piece of the coat, while the workers need the whole coat, which they've created in the first place. After listening to the workers in this film, one becomes convinced that these women and men have the capacity to run these factories and a worker-led society themselves.
The 125 Connecticut working-class students who attended the presentation were most excited about the report of the recent anti-Klan action in New York City. The smashing of the Klan happened only because of PLP. The Klan is very active in Connecticut where the presentation was held and those students need to know what PLP fights for and why they need to join PLP for their own survival.
Whether we are known as PLP'ers or pro-working-class comrades, we should try to find a way to steer the enthusiasm of 125 potential comrades in that direction. They will be facing racist attack and other capitalist horrors. They should not only learn more about Paul Robeson but should be inspired by that knowledge to begin reading CHALLENGE and learning about PLP and its 39 years of serving the working class and the lessons from that.
The next day protesters blocked off as many intersections as possible to prevent the IMF and World Bank delegates from reaching their meeting site. Some linked arms across intersections, others chained themselves together. Some moved parked cars into the middle of the street.
We were out there at 6:00 A.M., but the delegates--anticipating our blockade--arrived at 5:30 A.M. With no heavy clashes between the cops and protesters that day, the event began to resemble a street fair. Some even played stick ball.
Our group included PLP members, environmentalists, Anti-Racist Action members, a local university newspaper photographer, and some unaffiliated people. All of us were angry over the way people worldwide are being exploited for profit, and how the IMF and World Bank are facilitating that. For our group, going to D.C. was mainly a way to take a stand against corporate "globalization," or its proper name, imperialism.
The question is, how do, or can you "reform" "globalization," the IMF, the World Bank or the World Trade Organization? Many groups advocated debt relief for countries owing so much money to the IMF that they can't even pay the interest. Others wanted to "democratize" the IMF and World Bank.
One example is an oil pipeline through Chad and Cameroon in Africa. The World Bank is funding it in the name of "development," but without the input of the inhabitants who will be displaced. So reform was on the minds of many protestors.
Reform, however, is sure to get us another version of the World Bank with a friendlier face, but serving the same oppressive purpose. PLP's main theme was that capitalism was the number one enemy and that the World Bank and IMF are only tools of that system. One comrade said exactly that at a teach-in. People couldn't believe he'd said it! But globalization (imperialism) is not new. It's been around since the beginning of capitalism. What about Columbus? American ventures into Latin America (Cuba, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Chile)? European adventures into Africa (Congo, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa)? Japanese invasions in Asia (China and Korea)? No reform will eliminate such fundamental components of capitalism. These institutions and the system that surrounds them need to be wiped out. Then we can talk about ending human exploitation.
PLP needed a stronger presence in D.C., but the literature we distributed at the main rally raised peoples' interest in the idea of communism. PLP is organizing for a future without IMFs and World Banks. No more capitalist exploitation. No more debt. Instead a future communist society--to each according to need, from each according to commitment. Elements of this future will be on display in full force at May Day marches in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco in the coming weeks. There we will see it isn't about reforming these capitalist institutions, it's about organizing a revolutionary army to take them down once and for all, and building our future as a communist society. To paraphrase muckraker Lincoln Steffens, "We see the future, and it will work!"
A Midwest Comrade
The ditty in question is "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard." It's Harvard's main football song. It got to Hitler via a character named Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl. Putzi, a German with family ties to the U.S. establishment, had graduated from Harvard in 1909. As heir to a Berlin art publishing fortune and one of the Nazis' earliest supporters, he used his social connections to introduce Hitler to the German ruling class. It's no exaggeration to say that Hanfstaengl was crucial in helping Hitler get the contacts and financial backing necessary for the Nazi party's rise to power.
Hitler and his propaganda minister, Goebbels, needed gimmicks to use in mass mobilizations. According to John Tolland's book, "Hitler, A Study in Tyranny," Hanfstaengl proposed the song, "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" and Harvard pep rallies as models. Hanfstaengl played the song for his Führer on the piano and later told an interviewer: "Hitler loved it." This is how the Nuremberg rallies were born. Hanfstaengl broke with Hitler in 1939, probably over the plan to double-cross the western European bosses by attacking them before the Soviet Union, and made his way back to the U.S., where he became an advisor to President Roosevelt.
Harvard Hillel has now made this source of Nazi inspiration part of its own repertory. Why not, after all? Given Israeli racism against Arab workers, the choice seems fitting. The next song on the CD after "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" is "Jerusalem the Golden." What's to follow? A Hebrew rendition of "Deutschland Über Alles" and "The Horst Wessel Song?" Or are the leaders of Harvard Hillel going to trot out the old excuse: "It's not our fault. We didn't know?"
Harvard Hillel's directors may well be unaware of the football song's links to the Nazis. But ignorance is no excuse here. They certainly know Harvard University's long history of anti-Semitism, which was particularly virulent in the 50-year period between the start of European Jewish emigration to the United States and Hitler's rise to power. In fact, as Allen Chase has shown in his valuable book, "The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Cost of the New Scientific Racism" (1975), the "American Anti-Semitic Association" was founded in 1893 by two Harvard professors. For many years, Harvard had strict admissions quotas limiting the number of Jews it would accept. Harvard Hillel's leaders surely know of this history as well. And if they took the trouble to spend a few minutes researching the illustrious graduate who gave "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" to Hitler, they would also discover that on February 17, 1933, Harvard's alumni notes boasted that Hanfstsengl, "one of the best known and most popular undergraduates of his time in College," had just become "confidential aide to Adolf Hitler, recently appointed chancellor of Germany." Hitler's anti-Semitism was no secret at the time, but the blurb about Putzi doesn't mention it. Harvard seemed quite proud that one of its sons was engaging in "public service."
As Chase's book shows, Harvard's anti-Semitism is exceeded only by its long and shameful record of contribution to intellectual racism and imperialist war. Harvard Hillel's leaders cannot possibly be ignorant of this history as well. But ignorance and choosing to ignore, not knowing and not wanting to know, are two entirely different things.
It's good to read in the pages of CHALLENGE that the PLP is once again active at Harvard, particularly around the school's recent contributions to the rulers' plans to expand racist police terror. Our Party has a long and honorable history of sharp struggle in this bastion of liberal fascism. Obviously, plenty of important work remains to be done.
A Former Harvard SDS'er, still plugging away