Editorial: Doubling CHALLENGE Distribution Is Trouble for Bosses
Editorial 2: Fight to Give Gore the Welcome He Deserves
Immigrant Workers Slam Bosses and Union Sellouts
The Tale of Two Racist Chicago Boards
AFL-CIO Dangles Amnesty To Get Immigrant Workers To Pull Gores Wagon
AFL-CIO Flunkeys Want to Win Workers to Gore/War
Democrats: No Friends of Workers
RulersDogfight Over LAPD Wont Help Workers
40,000 Teachers Protest: Helluva of a Lesson Plan
Anti-Racist Strike of Hospital Workers
Bosses Racism in the South Pacific =Troubles in Paradise Islands
Horn of Africa Blows Up
Israeli Armys "Vietnam Syndrome"
What Is Behind NY Times' Sudden Discovery of Racism Among Cuban Exiles in Miami
Protestors Go AFTA Expansion of NAFTA
Better Off with Unions or Without?
Recently, a very committed and active veteran member of PLP said about a union struggle, "CHALLENGE is important. But Im not sure that increasing the readership of CHALLENGE is the most important." We would like to respond.
The struggle over the importance of our communist press is not new to our Party or our movement. It dates back at least to 1901 when Lenin and his comrades were organizing the Bolshevik Party. Then as now, there were many who opposed the building of a Party like ours, which aims to lead the seizure of power from the bosses. Then as now, there was no Soviet Union or Red China to draw strength from, and the forces of communist revolution were small. Lenin and his comrades understood that building a militant, centralized Party that spoke with one voice was the key to leading the working class to power. The Party newspaper is that one voice.
In the Marxist classic "What Is To Be Done?" the Party newspaper was described as "the scaffolding erected around a building in construction; it marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, permitting them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organized labor." In other words, CHALLENGE is a mass organizer through which millions of workers can be trained politically to participate in the building of a communist world.
The ruling class and its agents are building mass movements "against" globalization and police brutality. Over the past few years, our Party has marched modestly into the enemys camp, to challenge them for leadership of the working class inside their mass organizations. For instance, in NYC our Party gave leadership to many workers and students against the racist acquittal of the four cops who murdered Amadou Diallo. This included small job actions and mass student walkouts.
We participated in the AFL-CIO anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, DC. While the union leaders shouted, "Stand Up for Steel," and hypocritically attacked capitalist Chinas "human rights violations," we exposed prison and slave labor in the U.S. and put forward communism to a very receptive audience.
In the past year, transit workers, postal workers and health care workers have elected veteran PLP members to their union executive boards in NYC, Detroit and San Francisco. There are many other examples. This is a very dicey situation. On the one hand, workers feel increasingly threatened by the bosses economic boom and are ready to try communist leadership. On the other hand, theyre counting on us to be militant, honest fighters for "better contracts."
Therefore, the more we get involved in the mass movement, the greater the need to expand CHALLENGE distribution. The Reform River always flows to the right. The more active we are in reform struggles, the greater the pull away from revolution. Concentrating on CHALLENGE distribution is the anchor that keeps our work from drifting downstream. Winning many new readers, writers and distributors will be the engine that pushes us to the left, and allows us to sail against the capitalist tide. It is absolutely vital for our readers to know how to win that struggle between reform and revolution.
CHALLENGE helps workers understand developments in the class struggle worldwidewhats behind the Kosovo war, the Clinton impeachment, the Giuliani withdrawal, the Gulf War, etc. Only a communist paper can give workers the ideological weapons they need to understand and therefore change the world.
Lets make this a CHALLENGE Summer and increase the base for our paper on the job, in the schools, in the barracks and on the streets. This will require the active participation of many more workers, soldiers and youth. As Lenin said, " there is no other way of training strong political organizations except through the medium of [the communist party] newspaper."
By next May Day, we can double the distribution of CHALLENGE. This is a pre-requisite for more mass recruitment to the Party, and larger May Day marches. The Party cant grow without CHALLENGE growing. Readers and distributors of CHALLENGE today will be members and leaders of our Party tomorrow.
LOS ANGELES, June 6 The Democratic National Convention (DNC) will be held here August 14-17. Anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) student groups, unions and immigrant rights groups are planning protests at the Convention and throughout the city.
On the conventions opening day there will be a march for "Human Need, Not Corporate Greed." The LA teachers union is planning a march to support public education. Protest leaders say the Democratic Party should be open to all and responsive to the workers needs. Thats exactly the image Gore & Co. want to portray! They want workers and youth to feel the system works, that the rulers listen to us.
Some of the Clinton/Democrats "achievements" include putting 100,000 more racist cops on the streets to kill and jail black and Latin workers and youth; Desert Storm and the sanctions against Iraq, killing one million; bombing Yugoslavia; nearly doubling the border patrol and deporting one million immigrants; forcing women and children off welfare and into Workfare or the streets.
Students in PLP are becoming active in the groups planning these protests. Last Thursday, there was a teach-in at UCLA, led in part by students in the Direct Action Network (DAN). They said you could protest the sanctions against Iraq and still support Gore. Theyre planning civil disobedience during the convention and also want to demonstrate against racist attacks on black and Latin workers.
A student in PLP questioned the tactics of sitting in the streets and letting the cops beat and arrest you. He called for demonstrations against the LAPD and prison labor, and to attack the sweatshops in the garment center, near the convention site. He described Gore and the Democrats as the party of rich capitalists, saying the system cant be reformed to meet workers needs. He called for a movement to replace production for profit with production for needcommunism. A professor familiar with the farm workers struggle also called on students to build a mass revolutionary movement.
Many angry students in DAN and other groups are open to a different point of view. A movement with no leaders, as DAN claims to be, is like a car with no steering wheel. The rulers want to win these youth to support their plan for more war and fascism under the guise of fighting for "democracy" in China and worldwide. PLP says that millions of workers and youth can learn to lead a mass revolutionary communist movement to challenge the racist dictatorship of the capitalist billionaires. As we become more involved in the planning of the protests against the DNC and get to know the students better, well take the opportunity to make friends and build the long-term fight for communist revolution.
NEWARK, N.J., June 1 A group of laid-off immigrant workers from a large industrial factory led a spirited protest here today against everything from sexual harassment of the women workers to dangerous health and safety conditions to threats and arbitrary firings.
The cry of "Este puño sí se ve, los obreros al poder" ("this fist can be seen, workers to power") rang out as the workers and a few supporters organized a picket line and distributed flyers written by themselves and the NY-NJ Factory Workers Project.
Immediately the president and treasurer of the union Local appeared, asking to speak to the "person in charge." Workers surrounded them. While the union leaders lied, saying they "knew nothing about the case" and that the workers were being "used and manipulated by those people," many more workers and students joined the picket line. "Were the laid-off workers in charge. But obviously you dont know us," said one worker to the shocked president. "YOURE using US. You take our dues, but dont fight. Weve never seen you talking to us in the factory, not before, when or since we were laid off. Not until today!"
Men and women workers grabbed the bullhorn. "Were not stupid and incapable. We are leading our fight and we welcome all support." "We are determined and united. Well fight to the finish whatever happens. Our fight is more for the workers who remain in the factory." "Luchar, vencer, Los obreros al poder," (Fight to win; workers to power!) chanted people joining the picket until we were 60 strong. The union president, unable to understand Spanish, slinked across the street shaking his head.
Weeks before the protest, laid-off workers met with the NY-NJ Factory Workers Project to discuss the struggle, strategy and tactics. They distributed the two leaflets the Project produced to co-workers boarding vans to the factory. The leaflets appeared throughout the plant. One worker made 150 additional copies inside. "Support the laid off workers by walking out" was on everyones tongue. Although the walkout didnt happen, the boss and supervisors became alarmed.
The following day the irate union president threatened a Project organizer. "Youre going to have 200 workers walk out. Youre going to ruin the lives of over 2,000 workers! Were not a company union," he bellowed as he read from the leaflet. "The factory isnt a sweatshop and this globalization is of no concern."
The he called back. "This other leaflet is worse than the first. All lies. The workers could never have written a letter like this, talking about concentration camps and Nazi tactics."
"You presume a lot," responded the organizer calmly.
"Im not saying the workers are stupid." He snapped. "You should stop and desist. Talk to me first, not some group of disgruntled workers. Im going to have the FBI investigate you; Im going to take you to court."
Minutes later the factory chief of personnel called. "We have a beautiful factory here. We have a clean cafeteria. The workers are always asking me for favors "
"Excuse me," said the organizer. "Im sure you know the union president has already called me."
"Yeah, I sent him the leaflets," he said. "So theyre upset, I knew they would be."
The workers were laid off in April for refusing to work overtime on Good Friday, a violation of the union contract. The bosses strategy was to get rid of documented, militant workers each holiday while replacing them with undocumented workers. Now theyre scrambling, together with the union leadership, to get a federal mediator to "resolve" the issue quickly. At the meeting with the mediator they will me met by determined, united workers who will continue to take the offensive with the five categories of demands listed above. Workers inside the factory have pledged to "take the day off" to bring vanloads to join the struggle.
PLP members are deeply involved in this movement. We met these workers through our ties with other factory workers. Because of these ties, we have been able to distribute leaflets about this fight inside other factories. Were beginning a workers school with English as a second language and with political education classes. Sixty workers have already signed up. Over half are factory workers. In informal gatherings, the English school, home visits, social events, PLP meetings and workshops, there is constant interchange between workers in the Party and the workers we are asking to join about subjects like the World Trade Organization and the unions, imperialism and sweatshops, war and internationalism, communism, democracy and elections.
PLP doesnt use or manipulate the working class. We learn from the workers. We rely on the working class to lead the class struggle, to join the Party, to learn about communism. As one laid-off woman worker said, "Ive always been quiet, but this struggle is teaching me a lot. I wont be quiet anymore!"
CHICAGO, June 7Two recent mass militant actions in Chicago exposed the racist nature of the educational system and the rol of cops as protectors of the racist profit system.
Two hundred parents, students and teachers confronted CEO Paul Vallas and Board President Gery Chico at last months School Board meeting. Vallas gave a half-hour talk about the Boards fascist commitment to high stakes testing, ending social promotion, and raising reading, math, and science standards.
One parent yelled, "You have one standard for poor kids and one for rich kids." With total disdain to the workers, Vallas walked out of the auditorium. That left Chico and his supporting cast to answer why thousands of eighth graders are not graduating due to low IOWA test results (The Board insists on basing promotions solely on these test scores). All hell broke loose.
A Special Education teacher at Curtis Elementary asked the Board to do something about the "worn, outdated books my children are using." Chicos answer? Well take another look at it."
This teacher is scheduled for a termination hearing June 10. PLP members Moises Bernal and Carol Caref are being fired, along with 200 other teachers who have been fired under the "School Reform" that Clinton called, "the model for the rest of the country." Over 700 mainly black and Latin students have been expelled and double that number have been suspended under their racist Zero Tolerance policies. There may be a janitors strike against the Boards plan to privatize the janitorial staff to cut out family health benefits.
Meanwhile at last months Police Board hearing, 80 people demanded answers about the four police shootings in the first few days of the month. Everyone who spoke was mad as hell at the cops.
One woman demanded to know why her dead sons clothes were not returned to her. Top cop Terry Hillard told some lie and directed her to some flunky. The woman said she had already seen the flunky, who had done nothing. The place went up for grabs.
One woman had been arrested for bringing birthday cupcakes and ice cream to her daughters elementary school. The principal doesnt like the outspoken mom, and told her not to bring the desserts to the classroom. When the mom defied these insane instructions, the principal had her arrested!
Others spoke about the four shootings, pointing out that all the cops who killed people last summer were either on the job, suspended or fired. None are in jail. Speakers from an anti-police brutality group were enraged over an incident where a cop was disciplined for NOT joining in on a beating of a suspect!
Throughout the hearing workers jeered, heckled, laughed and chanted. One black worker called the whole thing a racist fraud. The Party led chants and waved signs. Our presence emboldened the anti-racist forces. Speakers were cheered. Each was more damning than the last. Every cop comment was met with disbelief. The crowed jeered and booed almost everything they said.
Finally a friend of Arthur Hutchinson came to denounce the cops murder of this homeless man last April for holding a fork. The friend was cut off, the meeting was adjourned and people rose from their seats chanting, crying and yelling, angrier than when this fraud began. The cops had to call in reinforcements to escort the top brass out. One young Party member grabbed a sign that compared the cops to Nazis and slammed it on the desk saying, "This is what you are!"
This summer well have a big opportunity to become more deeply involved in the mass movements in the schools and against racist police terror, where we can learn and grow.
CHICAGO, IL, June 3 Today about 600 people attended the AFL-CIO conference on Immigrant Workers Rights and Amnesty for Undocumented Workers. Most who attended were workers from factories, restaurants, hotels and health care workers. But the conference was completely dominated by union hacks that earn six-figure salaries, and by Democratic Party/nationalist Latin politicians.
At the main table sat AFL-CIO Executive VP Lynda Chavez-Thompson, flanked by the Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME (government workers), the heads of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the State AFL-CIO, HERE (hotel and restaurant workers) and the UFCW (meatpacking and poultry workers).
Two panels of workers "testified" to this motley crew about the racist attacks theyve suffered at the hands of the bosses. The workers ranged from fired union organizers from Minnesota to Chicago day laborers and laundry workers. The janitors and their union leaders were noticeably absentthe conference organizers didnt want any hint of strikes and class struggle. This phony "hearing" was aimed at winning immigrant workers to think their salvation lies in citizenship, and the way to get that is to vote Democratic in November. Most workers were not impressed.
The opportunist union hacks could not hide the contradictions of their position. They started out saying, "Whether you came here on a slave ship, to Ellis Island, or across the Rio Grande, every group has had to deal with racism, poverty and exploitation." Then they welcomed these undocumented workers "to this great country of ours"!
A local Carpenters Union official from Cincinnati said, "This country exports poverty around the world and then we wonder why people come here looking for work." Then he let the cat out of the bag. He described a program to get immigrant workers into the construction trades and said, "This is a chance for us to work with business. They need labor, and we want these new workers well represented. This program was developed by the Chamber of Commerce, is backed by General Electric and Proctor & Gamble, and is being financed by five large banks."
As the PLP flier explained, these are the same union leaders who 15 years ago attacked bosses who hired immigrants. Now due to the "booming" economy and the need for more workers, they are doing the bosses bidding. At the first sign of economic trouble, they will turn on these workers, just as they sacrificed hundreds of thousands of black and white industrial workers in the 1980s, granting billions in concessions, give-backs and wage-cuts. A leopard doesnt change its spots.
PLP brought about 65 workers from school, church and community organizing. We distributed about 75 CHALLENGES, several hundred leaflets and made contact with a group of angry workers who walked out of the conference. The vast majority of the people we brought are not in PLP, so this gave them a chance to get involved with us around an issue thats very important to them. It also gave us an opportunity to show the difference between the union hacks lining up workers for the Democrats, and PLP fighting to smash all borders and lead the working class to power.
LOS ANGELES, CA "What do you think of amnesty?" asked Maria, a garment worker, at lunchtime. "I dont have many illusions, but it would be good." answered Juana, organizer of many struggles in the garment shops. "I think that it will be very limited and I dont have any confidence in the union leaders," she said.
"The bosses plan to use amnesty to build loyalty among us workers to the USA," continued Maria, "so well trust the Democratic Party and also send our children to the army and to the next war."
"I dont think therell be a war," answered José. "And if there is a war, Im sending my kids to Mexico," he said, laughing.
Maria explained that during the wars in Central America in the 1980s, many families sent their kids to the U.S. Here they met the racist terror of the cops, drugs and gangs. A ground war in the Middle East or elsewhere will be worse. We cant hide. Maybe even the youth of Mexico and Central America will be sent to the U.S. army. She invited them to form a factory committee to participate in the campaign for amnesty and to link that fight to organizing 150,000 garment workers against exploitation. Some said they would help.
"Amnesty? But I havent committed any crime," said a worker from another factory. The criminals are the bosses who created the borders and who own everything. The demand for unconditional amnesty for undocumented workers has been raised for many years by many organizations, including PLP. But the AFL-CIO is spearheading the current campaign to be seen as the workers saviors. Actually, in the 1980s the AFL-CIO led the fight to penalize employers who hired undocumented workers. But now in many areas of the U.S., there is a labor shortage so "legalizing" more workers is the top bosses plan.
The AFL-CIOs main role is to support the plans of the Democratic Party and the bosses behind it. Theyre fighting to win the loyalty of the workers to defend the direct interests of the big bosses, mainly the Rockefeller wing of the U.S. ruling class. Undocumented immigrants feel no loyalty to the U.S. bosses, or to the Democratic Party. Rockefeller & Co. want to change this. As a reward, the bosses let the unions collect millions in dues and allow them to be their junior partners in defending U.S. imperialism.
The bosses never give anything for free. In this case, theyre organizing a movement to give amnesty to some. These workers will be in the factories, fields, construction sites, restaurants, working for the pitiful minimum wage or slightly higher, and the youth will get rifles to go off to war. This plan doesnt just apply to immigrant workers. The top US bosses are also building movements to win the sympathy of citizen workerswhite, black and Latino.
We should all participate in this campaign, immigrants and citizens. Thousands will welcome the call for amnesty. But we should, on different levels, expose the AFL-CIO role and its "humanitarian aid." We plan to build factory committees, and work within the unions and community organizations to fight for amnesty, and against racism, exploitation and war. This is part of the ideological battle for the hearts and minds of the working class. PLP members and friends will participate in this struggle to fight, learn, make friends and build PLP.
The basis of this fight will be CHALLENGE. To answer the bosses patriotism and nationalism with workers internationalism, we must use CHALLENGE. To build a movement to destroy fascism and wage slavery, we need to spread CHALLENGE and the fight for communist revolution to thousands and then millions of workers. This campaign can put thousands of workers in motion.
Let the bosses bring the workers into the political arena to win them to liberal imperialism. PLP plans to win them to the long-term fight for communism!
The AFL-CIO is aiming to turn out an army of campaign workers for the Democrats in November. Clinton/Gores main contribution to immigration has been "Operation Gatekeeper." From 1996 to 1998 the fascist Border Patrol rose 42% and is growing by 1,000 annually. This has led to the deaths of more than 1,500 immigrants trying to cross the border in the desert or mountains, and one million arrests! The fascist vigilantes in Arizona who are attacking immigrants cant hold a candle to the U.S. rulers.
Los Angeles is important for the ruling class. Its the second largest city in the U.S., with the busiest port, largest concentration of manufacturing, biggest point of immigration and the center of capitalist culture. Its movies, TV shows, music and Internet "content" are not only massive industries, but buttress capitalism on a global scale. It has growing numbers of working-class youth who can go into the army.
Thats why the U.S. ruling class is now engaged in an internal struggle over the notorious Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Its a fight over how to exercise state power, since the cops are the most immediate weapon of the bosses against the workers. The LAPD is and has always been racist, brutal and murderousespecially in those Divisions in black and Latino neighborhoods! But why the calls for the Justice Department to take over the LAPD right away?
Los Angeles importance was brought to a head in 1992, when the citys multi-ethnic working class rebelled in one of the largest uprisings since the Civil War. Unlike LAs 1965 Watts rebellion, this one included blacks, Latinos, whites and Asians. The 1965 rebellion prompted many social programs, such as Model Cities. The response to 1992 was much simpler. Phase I was mass arrests, the mobilization of the National Guard and three days of curfew. Phase II still goes on: major expansion of the LAPD and police attacks on minority communities. It also features sporadic "community policing" to develop a network of police collaborators throughout Los Angeles, especially in minority communities.
The fight over control and policy of the LAPD has escalated, with a slow-moving legal investigation and major press exposés of massive police abuse at the Rampart Division and others, like the equally notorious 77th St. police station. Over 50 cops have been implicated for shooting people, planting or faking evidence, selling drugs, lying on the witness stand and giving unofficial "awards" for police shootings.
The LAPD gang "crash" units have been singled out for attack for their brutality and their gang-style tactics. So far nearly 100 convictions have been dismissed, with LAs legal settlement bills already estimated at $200 million and still rising because similar crimes are being exposed at other LAPD stations.
Years ago, the LAPDs gang crash units were made a national model of policing. Then Police Chief Darryl Gates led massive arrests of black and Latino youth who "violated curfew" for things like taking out the trash at night. These tactics have led especially many black residents of LA to view the police as the enemy in a war against them.
Todays LA Mayor Riordan and Police Chief Parks have been stalling the investigation in order to save their reputations and their control over the city. But they are losing. The U.S. Justice Department, representing the Eastern ruling class, is asserting its power over the LAPD. These imperialist butchers have a new strategy. LA is too important to leave to the crude, open suppression policing of Riorden Parks.
In the past, LA cops were praised and copied for many years for their brutality (called "professionalism"). However, the Eastern Establishment needs a base of support among black and Latino workers to defend their empire and accept low wages. The LAPDs naked fascism needs to be no less brutal but prettied up with "community policing," accompanied by a campaign to win community leaders support and defense of the police.
Along with black workers, Latinos led the 1992 rebellion. They number over 1.6 million in LA, soon to be the majority of the population. The ruling class needs to establish a cadre of liberal, pro-police leaders who fight for the loyalty of these workers in both labor strife and imperialist wars, and win them to believe the Democratic Party can make capitalism more livable. They need them to send their children to the U.S. army. Its no coincidence that a new monument is being built in LA to commemorate the Latino war heroes who gave their lives in past wars so that the USA could be the number one imperialist power in the world.
This is also why many politicians supported the recent Justice for Janitors strike here. They hope that puny raises of as little as 30¢ an hour will build up a loyal Latino section of the LA working class, as well as a reliable Latino leadership group to control "their communities."
Another immediate issue facing the ruling class in Los Angeles is the August 2000 Democratic Party Convention. Many groups, including some anti-globalization forces, which opposed the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, and some unions and immigrants rights organizations, will hold rallies here. Their actions will be very limited because most, including the AFL-CIO, are pro-Gore. The AFL-CIO wants no repeat of the anti-WTO riots in Seattle or of the police riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. They want to ensure the demonstrations are "patriotic."
So the Justice Department wants an immediate consent decree to manage the LAPD and prevent Chief Parks from attacking the demonstrators. They know that Parks could cause a police riot and tarnish the image of the Clinton/Gore Democrats.
Communists in PLP are involved in these upcoming activities. We are encouraging protestors at the Democratic Convention to demonstrate against racist cops, prison labor and sweatshops HERE. But the police cannot be reformed to be "nice" to workers. The cops job is to terrorize workers, especially black and Latin workers, to work for low wages, leaving youth the "choice" of jail or the army.
We will raise before the protestors that such police terror and penal wages will end only with the end of capitalismand that can happen only with a revolution for communism.
(More on bossesdogfight over the LAPD in a future issue)
MEXICO CITY Over 200,000 teachers from various states have mobilized with the CNTE, an opposition group inside the union, for a wage increase and for free public education.
Some 40,000 occupied the Zócalo, the government square and demonstrated against the centers of the citys financial and political power. Although the government and the bosses press have tried to discredit the teachers, workers and others have backed them. So far the teachers have won some demands.
All politicians claim that education is the key to developing Mexico. They say teachers are crucial to this goal. However, they really want an elitist educational system to meet the needs of the market and train students in capitalist ideology. Meanwhile, theyve cut the education budget.
The result is 41 million Mexicans have not finished elementary school, 54% of secondary school youth have no access to any education and 85% of all youth cant go to college. An elementary school teacher starts at $300 a month. Teachers real salaries have fallen 70%. In the last few years, more than 100 teachers have been assassinated and many more have been jailed.
The Ministry of Education says theres no more money in the budget for teachers. But there IS money to rescue banks, an amount six times the funds allocated for education this year. The $22 million used to rescue Serfin (one of the major banks) could pay for the education of 30 million students.
PLP Offers a Better Lesson Plan: Fight for Communism
"A system that defends the banks and cuts education doesnt deserve to exist," declared a PLP flyer. Over 8,000, along with 300 CHALLENGES were distributed to the CNTE contingent by many striking teachers and friends of the Party.
The electoral parties have tried to use the teachers discontent to win votes. This citys mayor, the liberal opposition partys (PRD) Rosario Robles, publicly blamed the federal government for not solving the teachers crisis. Some PRD bosses have tried to curb teachers protests to save the local governments image. In Chiapas, PRD teachers burned the ruling partys (PRI) propaganda. Yet many teachers repudiate all the politicians. Although they dont see the necessity of a communist party to organize the working class for revolution, this only means that PLP must intensify the ideological battle.
The teachers struggle demonstrates the power of the masses, shown when they took over the privatized tollbooths in the Mexico City/Cuernavaca area and allowed all vehicles go through for free. It also shows us the great need to double our efforts to recruit more teachers and build the Party with workers and students, to destroy capitalism and replace it with communism.
GARY, IN, June 5 "We have workers doing the same work, side-by-side, making $2.00-an-hour less than other workers doing the same job. Now they want to add more tiers. It's not fair for the younger workers and it's not fair for the older workers."
"Wait until the nurses have to scrub the floors in addition to taking care of the patients. Maybe our strike will finally help them to organize a union!"
So spoke two striking workers at Northlake Methodist Hospital. Methodist made a $3 million profit last year, and the administrators are paid ridiculously high salaries. They offered the workers $1.00 over three years, and want a three-tier wage system.
About 450 mostly black women housekeepers, nurses' assistants, dietary and maintenance workers in Service Employees International Union Local 73 have shut this hospital down, along with Southlake Methodist in Merrillville. Garbage and medical waste are piling up and patients are being transferred, demonstrating the power of the working class. The picket lines have been spirited, with 50-100 workers covering the four entrances. Workers from many unions are supporting this strike.
PLP members distributed 85 CHALLENGES to strikers and workers passing by. Some strikers gave us their names to be visited. We are bringing college and high school students to the picket lines, and mobilizing support among postal, steel and hospital workers.
This strike opens the door to working class unity in this region where 20% of all U.S. steel is produced. Morale is high but the workers will have to hang tough to keep the hospital shut. The racist Methodist bosses are using the local newspapers to attack the strike. Scabs, cops, court injunctions and professional strikebreakers are on the way.
This strike against racism can open the door to building the revolutionary movement in Northwest Indiana, especially in the steel mills. The next issue of CHALLENGE will have information on where local unions, community, youth and student groups can send donations and letters of support.
"A single spark can start a prairie fire," said Mao Zedong, referring to how a single rebellion can spread. In the idyllic South Pacific Fiji islands, this single spark is turning into a reactionary racist fire. On May 19, armed anti-Indian racists who opposed the 1997 constitutional changes that supposedly gave equal political rights to all citizens for the first time, stormed the parliament. They took as hostages many members of the multi-ethnic government, including Mahendra Chaudhry, the first Prime Minister from the Indian minority. Nearly half of the 800,000 Fijians are Indian, descendants from indentured laborers brought by the British colonialists to work in the sugar fields.
On May 29, the Fijian army reacted to this crisis by seizing executive authority from the president and declaring martial law. Fijian nationalists dominate the army.
The military has made concessions to George Speight, leader of the hostage-takers, like scrapping the 1997 constitutionso much for "equal political rights"and promising him amnesty. But Speight is now demanding that one of the Fiji tribal chiefs who supports him be appointed president with "all executive authority."
The current situation is very similar to the fascist take-over of 1987. Then Colonel Rabuka staged a CIA-backed coup against the liberal Labour government whose aim was to make Fiji "nuclear-free" and non-aligned (meaning not siding with the U.S. in the Cold War against the former Soviet Union). Rabuka launched fascist attacks against the Indian minority. Indo-Fijians were beaten and women were raped by racist street gangs who called for "throwing Indians in the oven." The Rabuka regime fiercely attacked workers in general. In 1991, miners who had been on strike for a year were threatened with 14-year jail sentences to force them to end their walkout. Rabuka had to end military rule. He ran and lost badly in the 1999 elections.
The imperialists, particularly Australia and New Zealand, are very worried that the political turmoil in the Fiji islands might spread and threaten their investments and political stability in the South Pacific. This is already happening. On June 6, a paramilitary group called the Malaitan Eagle Force captured the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, located 1.600 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia. The rebels put up roadblocks around the capital and overran key installations, including police stations. The rebels are demanding $14 million compensation for land they lost in Guadalcanal, seat of the capital of Malaita. The rebel leaders represent people who immigrated to Guadalcanal after World War II in search of jobs and land. Twenty months ago the so-called Guadalcanal Liberation Army (GLA) forced them to abandon their homes and threatened their jobs. Some 50 people have died in the fighting in the last 20 months and 20,000 have been forced to flee their homes.
These tiny islands are important sources of profits. In the mid 1990s, garment exports, which in the past had been very small, represented 40% of Fijis merchandising exports, employing 25% of the workforce. Tourism is also a source of huge profits for local bosses, like millionaire Ah Koy, who owns 80% of Air Fiji. He is a friend of Speight, leader of the hostage-takers.
Turmoil Reaches Australia, New Zealand
But the turmoil is not limited to these small islands. "In New Zealand...several leaders of the indigenous Maori minority have voiced support for Mr. Speight....One radical Maori leader, Kingi Taurua, said that a Maori-led coup in New Zealand could occur if the government did not act to recognize indigenous rights. In Australia, the largest and most powerful country in the South Pacific, some leaders of the indigenous Aboriginal minority are demanding that the government negotiate a treaty recognizing the right of Aborigines to self-determination and a separate homeland." (International Herald Tribune, June 5).
A combination of racism, different capitalist bosses fighting for a bigger piece of the pie for themselves and imperialist investors have turned this South Pacific "paradise" into a modern hell of capitalist and imperialist intrigues. Capitalism is Midas in reverse: everything it touches turn into fecal matter.
As the May 31st CHALLENGE explained, it is capitalist and imperialist rivalry which causes war throughout Africa. The war in the Horn of Africa between Ethiopia and Eritrea reveals this deadly truth.
The nationalist leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), in Ethiopias two northern provinces, united to oust Ethiopias brutal Mengistu regime that was supported and armed by the Soviets and Cubans. They then dismantled and stole most of the factories from Ethiopias capital, Addis Ababa, shipping some to Tigray and some to Eritrea. This TPLF/ELF alliance also enabled the Eritreans to secede once the TPLF took power in the rest of Ethiopia. This occurred with full U.S. support.
When, in 1993, Eritrea became independent, the now land-locked Ethiopians lost access to Red Sea ports. Conflict arose. In 1997 Eritrea introduced its own currency, ending use of the Ethiopian "birr." Ethiopian rulers refused to recognize the new Eritrean money. At the same time, the bosses in landlocked Ethiopia complained about the cost of access to the port of Assab in southern Eritrea. When the Eritreans occupied Badme, some barren land in western Ethiopia, the Ethiopians used that as a pretext to launch a wide-ranging war.
The same Tigray nationalist rulers who oppressed Ethiopias masses divided the different ethnic groups to gain advantage for themselves. They also repressed the leftist opposition and cast thousands of workers onto the street, while pushing Ethiopian nationalism to get the masses to fight for "their country." The Tigray Liberation Front now ruling Ethiopia was formed by a formerly Marxist-Leninist group. Nationalism is used on both sides to set workers against each other and keep these murderous rulers and their imperialist backers in power. Now the Russian newspaper IZVESTIA spilled the beans, revealing that Russian generals and weaponry helped Ethiopia carry on the war.
Famine is now threatening about 15 million people in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The government did not prepare for it, except in the Tigray province. Some relief from abroad is being diverted to the war against Eritrea and to help mainly Tigray. All kinds of military technology worth billions of U.S. dollars are going to both sides, while millions starve.
The U.S. ruling class is very disappointed with both Ethiopian and Eritrean nationalist rulers. The Ethiopians may change masters and U.S. imperialism may arm some other nationalist group to fight against the current regime. There can be no relief for such endless pain and death without a communist movement to win rural and urban workers, soldiers and youth to turn the guns around and smash the nationalists and their imperialist backers. Real communists will then unite all groups in the Horn of Africa to build a society based on production according to our needs. Then away with all pests (famine, ethnic divisions, etc.) will become a reality.
As we go to press, the "peace" that had been declared exploded into all-out war again. Hundreds, if not thousands, have died in this latest round of fighting.
This conflict in the Horn of Africa has been called a "civilized war" because, unlike the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Russian bombing of Chechnya, and the civil wars in the Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, etc., civilians are not targeted. However, over 100,000 soldiers, sons of the working class, have been killed in two years of battle. Meanwhile, millions face famine while the nationalist rulers of Ethiopia and Eritrea fight for access to Red Sea ports.
The recent CHALLENGE article (May 31) about the chaotic withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Southern Lebanon area they had occupied for many years was very good. I want to add one point.
Southern Lebanon has been called Israels Vietnam. It was the first defeat for the "invincible" Israeli army. It also produced anti-militarist feelings in Israel, previously almost unknown. The Four Mothers movement, created in 1996 by mothers who either have lost their sons in battle in Southern Lebanon or did not want them to die there, represents this sentiment.
The results in Lebanon, where many young Israeli soldiers died, have also encouraged young draftees to refuse service in "difficult areas." All Israeli men are drafted for three years, women for two.
Many new recruits are seeking to serve "near home" or connecting their service to civilian life. In 1998, 65% of all men of military age wanted to serve in "combat units," while only 23% of all enlisted soldiers wanted to stay near home. Today, 34% are demanding it. According to the newspaper HAARETZ, the percentage of those not wanting to serve at all in the military has jumped from 1% to 6.2%.
This also reflects Israeli racist and class divisions. Less than 30% of youth from working-class families request duty in combat units, compared to 60% from more well-to-do families who want to join these units. Those from Askhenazi (Eastern European Jews) background are more apt to serve in combat units, while Sephardic Jews and the newer Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not as interested in dying for "their country."
War, particularly if one is on the losing side, does tend to sharpen the contradictions in all societies, including those claiming all-class unity in the name of religion or other reactionary ideologies.
The June 7th CHALLENGE article "Kosovo Comes to Miami" described conditions in Miami quite well. The sharp divisions there between Cuban exiles and the rest of the population did not occur because of little Elián González, but were sharpened once his distant relatives kidnapped the Cuban boy.
Interestingly, the NEW YORK TIMES, the leading voice of the Eastern Establishment media, has suddenly "discovered" this division. On June 5, the second of a series entitled "Black and WhiteRace Relations in the U.S., described relations between two young Cuban men, recent arrivals in the U.S. One is white, the other black. They were best friends in Cuba, but once in Miami their friendship cooled. Why?
The article traces it to racism among Cuban exiles. It says that in any other major city with a large Latin population, these two young men would probably have remained friends. The article even points out that despite the poverty in Cuba, there is not much racism or inequality among blacks and whites compared to the U.S.
So why does the TIMES run such an important "Pulitzer Prize-type" article attacking Miamis Cuban exiles?
Obviously, things are changing. Last week, at the same time an Atlanta court ruled in favor of Juan Miguel, Eliáns father, and against the distant relatives (the kidnappers) in Miami, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the head of the Black Congressional Caucus were in Havana as part of the drive by certain sections of the U.S. ruling class to end the embargo on Cuba.
The political leadership of Miami-Dade County is run by Cuban exiles linked to the National Cuban-American Foundation, a group financed by the Franjul family and other billionaire Cuban exiles who control sugar production in Florida and the Dominican Republic. An end to the Cuban embargo will hurt their businesses since Cuba is a leading sugar producer.
So the Cuban exile leadership has, for now, became an obstacle to U.S. capitalist interests who will benefit from an end to the embargo. Thats the story behind the Elián saga.
On June 4,, several hundred workers, students and others protested in Detroit the planned expansion of NAFTA throughout the Western Hemisphere at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS). This protest grew out of the anger of workers and their allies against their worsening working and living conditions, as well as the growing and ever-present threat of layoffs. The proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) would worsen this situation by making it easier for the bosses to shift production to wherever labor is cheaper. A member and a friend of PLP were there and explained that the only way to end the horrors of globalization is to smash the fascist capitalist system behind it.
The rally was preceded by a brutal crackdown by the Detroit cops in order to terrorize workers and youth into not fighting the bosses' attacks. Detroit bosses spent over $5 million on the cops and their riot gear. Forty-five bicyclists were arrested for wearing masks. The capitalist press had a field day in supporting this, saying the demonstrators were "terrorists," and that protesters would be arrested. This affected some people. Some friends and family told us not to go, fearing the cops would attack us.
However, at the rally our leaflets were received very positively. One person enthusiastically yelled out "smash capitalism!" when he saw it in the title. We also met with members of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, with whom we hope to work in the future. We made several contacts, including one autoworker who told us of the massive overtime and speed-up he and his fellow workers face. We also ran into two friends whom we had met at a student-labor conference last year. We pointed out the fascist nature of the cops' crackdown, their role being to protect the bosses and their property.
Well keep in touch with these contacts and build our work in organizations to continue fighting the bosses' attacks.
PLP College Student
Concerning the recent letter to CHALLENGE (May 31) from "Grandmother Jones" on whether its better to have a union, despite rotten leadership, than no union at all:
Historically, the quest by workers for a union was certainly part and parcel of the attempt to gain some degree of control over working conditions, etc. It was a manifestation of the class struggle.
Workers who won unions, especially with communist leadership during the Great Depression of the 1930s, demonstrated their ability to confront the bosses head-on and win. Workers died fighting for a union. But the bosses weeded out the militant, left-wing unionists during the anti-communist witchhunt of the 1950s, and installed Cold Warrior anti-communists in union leadership, such as the AFL-CIO's George Meany who bragged that he never walked a picket line. From then on most union leaders were in bed with the bosses and the unions declined.
Currently, only 14% of the workers have a union of any sort. Also, these rotten leaders did everything they could to suck the militancy out of rank-and-file workers. In the heroic miners strike in West Virginia against Pittston Coal in the 1980s, the United Mine Workers union leaders "selective strike" position defeated the strikers by forcing them to wage their courageous class war all alone.
A recent book, "Why Unions Matter," by Michael Yates, demonstrates that unionized workers receive higher wages and better benefits than non-union workers doing the same type of work. Also, the grievance procedure makes it harder to terminate a worker on a bosss whim, as happened at the non-union place where Grandma Jones worked.
Thats why companies bust unions or simply close the plant and move to a non-union area, either the South or to Mexico, El Salvador, etc., where they are free to exploit.
It is essential for communists to support workers in their fight for a union, higher pay, benefits and safe working conditions. But they must point out that even small victories by workers do not ensure that the capitalists, in this period of growing fascism, will not turn them into a defeat down the road. Only by eliminating capitalism can workers truly gain justice and resolve the problems created by the profit system.
Lenin, the Soviet Bolshevik leader, advocated the need for a revolutionary communist party to elevate workers from trade union consciousness to communist consciousness and to provide leadership to the workers for a revolution against capitalism and the establishment of Workers Power.
Concerning Grandma Jones' other question about whether strikes would be legal under communism: it would seem that with the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and with workers power, that any problems workers faced would be resolved as quickly as possible and that strikes probably would not be necessary.