MORRISTOWN, NJ, July 4 -- Hundreds of workers and youth demonstrated here today against the fascist Richard Barrett and his Nationalist Movement organization. PLP organized local workers from Morristown, and students and teachers from New York and New Jersey to confront this Nazi filth.
Barrett and his racist followers called their Fourth of July Rally "Independence from Affirmative Action" day and urged support for the former head of the fascist New Jersey State Police, Carl Williams. Williams is the racist who admitted cops use racial profiling to stop Latin and black motorists.
Morristown's liberal bosses and religious leaders successfully extinguished much of the local anger by organizing a candlelight vigil the night before the march, urging everyone to stay home. We leafleted the vigil, struggling with residents to come. Many did show up at the protest. Many immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, came to protest Barrett's fascist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Yesterday cops drove through Morristown's Latino threatening workers with arrest and deportation if they showed up today. But this didn't work, one worker saying, "We have to be here in mass numbers to fight against these racists."
When the fascists finally appeared at the Morris County Courthouse, we chanted, "Death, Death, Death to the Fascists!" and "Racist Barrett you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" We drowned out the fascists and gained support from the anti-racist crowd. People clearly saw how the cops in riot gear protected the Nazis and let them march around the courthouse spreading their fascist message. The crowd gained momentum and chanted, "They march, We march!"
Angered by the racists, workers and youths broke through the police barricades. The fascists in blue stopped us with pepper spray and horses. Several people were arrested as the hundreds of anti-racists chanted, "Let them go! Let them go!"
PLP organized a group of sixty to march to the precinct, completely shutting down the busy downtown South Street. The cops were caught off guard and rushed to control the situation, but they failed to stop the march. As we strode down the streets, we chanted "Fascism means, fight back!" and encouraged people from the community to join us.
Bail money was raised to free those arrested. The students and teachers who participated were militant and committed to fight the battle against fascism. When we charged the barricades, they were ready to go with us to smash the racists. They joined the chant of, "Asian, Latin, black and white, workers of the world unite!" and distributed CHALLENGE and thousands of leaflets to workers.
After the protest, workers and students refused to leave until our comrades were released from jail. This showed unity and their support for the Party and the working class. A Newark friend said, "I have a profound respect for PLP. I was impressed by the youth, the leadership, and the planning that went into the action. PLP doesn't just talk, but puts actions behind those words." We need dozens, hundreds and thousands of workers and youth like this to make sure next time the neo-Nazis show up their faces, it will be very very hard for their buddies in blue to protect them.
The Fight Against Racist Terrorists from Coast to Coast needs $
Many comrades were arrested on July 4 fighting racism. It cost thousands for bail and legal expenses. We need your help. Send contributions to CHALLENGE Periodicals, 150 West 28th St. room 301, NYC 10001, USA
LOS ANGELES, CA., July 4 -- Two hundred anti racists confronted about 150 racist thugs and their supporters at the Federal Building in Westwood. The cops defended the racists and had to call in reinforcements to try to keep the anti-racists away from them. Glen Spencer, head of VCT (Voices of Citizens Together) and Roger Barnett, the vigilante killer who brags about shooting immigrants at the border, were featured speakers. But Spencer doubled over in pain when he was hit in the stomach with a full soda can. A cop defending the racists was hit in the face. PLP youth led the action, in which many other youth and workers gave leadership.
Spencer whined to his supporters, "They're terrorizing people, scaring people from joining us."
When we arrived we set up a picket line as close to the racists as possible. The cops tried to move us off the corner, but more people joined us. Several minor skirmishes broke out when racists tried to walk near our group. The cops moved them further away. The crowd became angrier and tried to break through the police to get to the racists. Other groups had set up a rally across Wilshire Blvd, directly in front of the racists. This included anarchists and members of MECHA (a Chicano student group).
Our rally marched across the street to join them. We led chants against the racists: "Death to the fascists, power to the workers"; "Same enemy, same fight, workers of the world unite"; "Este puno si se ve, los obreros al poder." And we joined their chant, "VCT-KKK."
Then a group of youths went into busy Wilshire Blvd, running toward the racists who were protected by police lines. Much of the crowd followed them. They threw cans of soda at the racists. A couple made it through the police lines to punch the racists before being arrested. Others skirmished with the cops. One cop, hit by a soda can, fell to the ground.
The cops attacked the anti-racist fighters with pepper spray. Then more cops came, pushing the demonstrators back onto the sidewalk, where we continued to rally. We denounced VCT, Clinton and Gore and their "Operation Gatekeeper." We condemned the capitalist system as the cause of forced immigration for jobs and the source of racist attacks on the working class.
Many people eagerly took CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets. A group of workers carried huge pictures of the dead worker found on the land Barnett leases from the Federal Government in Arizona. Some youth from other groups asked when our next meeting was. Several gave their names to work with the Party. Others in these groups who we already know said they'd like to attend Party meetings. We plan to ask them to join a PLP study group. We'll also approach some whom we're already working with to join the long-term fight for communist revolution, to get rid of borders, racist vigilantes and the system that thrives on exploitation and terror.
One teacher, opposed to racism and US. Imperialism for many years, said (after washing off the pepper spray) that he was really proud of the role he played. "I read a lot," he said, "but there comes a point when reading isn't enough. You have to act." This event showed this teacher and others who've been reading CHALLENGE and discussing it with us that they can be part of a movement committed to fighting the fascists--big and little.
The hypocrisy of the bosses' media knows no bounds. They "expose" Barnett's racism, but protect him as he spews his filth and organizes death squads at the border. Glen Spencer attacks immigrants on a weekly radio show. It should be closed down.
On the other hand, Operation Gatekeeper, administered by Clinton and Gore, doubled the border patrol at major border crossings. This forces undocumented immigrants desperate for work to cross the border far from cities and risk the death squads of the likes of Roger Barnett. Clearly PLP must grow so that we can involve more workers and youth in the battle against fascism and to crush it with communist revolution.
The Direct Action Network (DAN) and D2K (planning mass protests at the Democratic Convention) are pushing pacifist civil disobedience in the upcoming protests against that Convention. They refuse to criticize the Democrats for their real crimes, like putting 100,000 more racist killer cops on the streets, and bombing Yugoslavia for 78 days. But the anti-VCT actions demonstrated that many respond to leadership that rejects pacifism and fights to unite workers of the world against racism and imperialism.
The new D2K leaflets will feature the Statue of Liberty. They are building a patriotic, pacifist reform movement, geared to win youth to support the next imperialist blood bath with a humanitarian cover. The Party-led actions against the fascists, as well as against the liberal bosses who organized Operation Gatekeeper, and who are planning the next oil war, stands in sharp contrast to the latter's patriotic pacifism. There's a lot of potential for the Party to grow.
PHILADELPHIA, PA. July 1 -- The contract signed yesterday between Jefferson Hospital and Local 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees represents one more sellout of the working class. At the same time, there was a victory for the working class. The revolutionary communist PLP has moved forward, especially symbolized by mass applause at the contract ratification meeting for PLP's leadership in this struggle.
Our plan for this contract struggle--formulated months ago--centered on spreading PLP's ideas, increasing the CHALLENGE readership and recruiting new members. The good news is that CHALLENGE readership increased modestly and at least one new CHALLENGE readers group was formed. We are working on recruiting several new members. We deepened our participation in the union, helping lead hundreds of workers in various struggles. The need for communism was put forward even at the contract negotiation table.
Earlier in the week, mainly due to the hard work of two comrades, we distributed 1,000 PLP flyers and all the CHALLENGES we had at a march of thousands of hospital workers, city workers and delegates.
To advance our plan, we made the fight for jobs the main issue, with us in the leadership. We emphasized full-time jobs for super-exploited part-timers. This would be a unifying demand. It contrasted with the union leadership's focus on the issue of workers paying for their health benefits. Our battle cry in this struggle became, "Strike for Jobs and No Co-Pay!"
In the end, the union leaders saddled us with a five-year contract. Our annual 3% "raise" over the first three years will be eaten up paying for our health benefits; $4.00 a week for the first year, and $10.00 a week for the remaining four years. There is a wage "re-opener" after three years. Several issues affecting scheduling and wage upgrades were lost.
We worked with several groups of union activists to organize a strike. There were countless meetings filled with political struggle among one group of union delegates. Several delegates were questioned about their close relationship with a known PLP member. This forced us to tackle anti-communism head-on in our meetings. It worked: other delegates began working closer than ever with PLP. One worker asked a delegate if he wore "red underwear," meaning was he a secret communist. He stood up to this anti-communism so strongly that later we gave him a gift of real red undies!
Groups of rank and file activists were organized to lead the struggle, especially younger, part-time workers. These "wage slaves on demand" are desperate to work more hours. The bosses use them to fill in the scheduling gaps caused by the short staffing. Some work seven days a week just to get a 40-hour paycheck.
By working with, and introducing CHALLENGE to, different groups of workers, we were able to involve hundreds in several "Solidarity Lunches" as a show of force. Most were held in the hospital cafeteria, breaking the bosses' rules. But they never moved against us.
At the "Solidarity Lunch" during the last week of the contract, workers lined up in the cafeteria to receive "STRIKE" buttons from our table! Security prowled around the perimeter and the terrified bosses very politely informed workers we could not wear them on hospital property. But when the bosses left, one of them was sporting a "STRIKE" button on the back of his white shirt!
At the last negotiation session several of us fought hard to make full-time jobs for part-timers the main issue. After four hours of going round and round with the union leaders and the bosses, the best we could get was "a committee to investigate the problem." So much for trying to talk and negotiate with the bosses. To offset this, we're organizing part-timers to lead a campaign for full-time jobs.
Over 400 Jefferson workers attended the contract ratification vote. In what was meant to be a slap at PLP, 1199C President Nicholas referred to our efforts to fight for the workers. He said he "respected" us for continuing to "fight for the revolution that no one else believes in." To Nicholas' surprise, the entire room of 400 workers rose and cheered thunderously. We were also stunned. The workers cheered because we are a fighting communist party and the workers want to fight. Our goal is to lead that fight toward communist revolution!
SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 3 -- "This man has been against everything this union has stood for ever since he's been here. People really don't know what he stands for." That's how the union vice-president attacked the PLP member on the Executive Board during a heated contract meeting at the bus barn.
The PL member shot back: "It's true I've opposed the union's give-aways for 26 years. I am proud that I have fought against every sellout. Everyone knows my politics. I'm a Communist! That's the reason I fought against part-timing, wage progression and for full-time jobs for part-timers. That's one aspect of what it means to be a communist. You always fight for the working class." The bus barn burst into applause. But that's just the beginning of the story.
Two weeks ago, negotiations between MUNI management and TWU Local 250-A were stalled. After they resumed, it took only two days for MUNI bosses to get what they wanted, mainly a weakened grievance procedure. General Manager Burns said that disciplinary action can now be taken faster, and it will be easier to discipline drivers involved in serious accidents. (SF CHRONICLE, 6/30).
All hell broke loose at the first barn meeting where the union leadership tried to sell the contract. The July 5th CHALLENGE article had been reprinted and distributed throughout the room. The local President tried to lull the 150 members to sleep by reading from a 9-page contract summary. After the third point, a member interrupted.
"Let's cut to the chase. Why did you negotiate on the grievance procedure when we passed a resolution saying it was non-negotiable?" The president tried to explain his position. After he finished, the PL member on the board asked if workers wanted to hear another version. The majority roared, "Yes," breaking the long-standing gag order that no one on the Executive Board could speak against a tentative contract. The leadership had lost control of the meeting.
The PLP'er explained how the proposed changes weakened the grievance procedure. This was the main issue that divided the board, and why five board members refused to sign it. He reminded everyone that the president had called the grievance procedure, "the soul of the union." He said they had sold a piece of that soul, and would sell more next time.
The more people asked the president why he did this, the more he refused to answer. Workers began yelling and demanded a new person chair the meeting. A chief steward said he was, "fed up with a no-fighting leadership." The meeting ended with another driver calling on everyone to sign a petition for a mass general membership meeting.
This was more than just a spontaneous rebellion. Many workers gave leadership and took initiative to prepare this meeting, speak from the floor and prepare and distribute literature. This emerging leadership requires more formal organization. If this contract is turned down, the forces of the Downtown Corporations, the City government and the International Union will unite to stop us. The SF CHRONICLE and the local TV media will lead this attack, to isolate drivers from the riding public. On our side we have CHALLENGE, 100% for the working class. CHALLENGE must be a vital part of this struggle.
We need an organized leadership to pass a strike authorization vote, make strike preparations and send a new negotiating team back to the table from a position of power. We deliver 850,000 people a day to work and shop for those corporations. We can turn Downtown into a ghost town.
Win, lose or draw in the contract, we will get stronger as the PLP grows among drivers and mechanics. The recent modest upturn in the circulation of CHALLENGE, and years of communist organizing, are opening the door to many workers. But we have a long way to go. We cannot get "dizzy with success." Capitalism is the class dictatorship of the bosses. They will soon remind us of this. For every driver that cheered the PLP member, and the many more that have or will, we invite you all to join PLP. This is your Party. And it will lead the working class to power, no matter how long it takes!
AUBURN, WA., JUNE 19 --"I understand where you are coming from," pleaded IAM District president Bill Johnson to a stream of angry workers at a series of union meetings today. As the day wore on, he began to understand all too well as his attempts to silence the thousands that turned out failed miserably.
Boeing had just announced it would sell its St. Louis military fabrication division, involving 1,700 workers. The company is studying options to sell its larger commercial fabrication divisions in Auburn and Spokane here.
Boeing is following the recommendations of the new Pentagon task force on maintaining the "health and competitiveness of the U.S. defense industry." U.S. aerospace firms have been losing market share to the Europeans, Russians and even the Chinese. The answer according to Phillip Odeen, the chair of this new task force, is "competitive outsourcing" and focusing on "core competences." In other words, slash our wages and benefits.
We would do well, this July 4th, to remember that this is the real meaning of patriotism.
Knowing that this attack would not go over well, the company, in an unprecedented move, gave us time off with pay to attend union meetings on company property. "Things are better now," began union president Johnson launching into his "stump" speech. "We are working with the company. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes we have to educate them, but we have a working relationship since the last contract." That's about as far as he got as worker after worker peppered him with hostile questions and gave speeches of their own. The same scene was repeated in meeting after meeting the whole day through.
Johnson should have known what was coming. A few days before, he received a call from an old "friend" who let him have it. "How come we have to circulate a petition to get a Business Representative (BR) down to the shop?" his "friend" asked angrily. Nearly every machine operator on all shifts signed a petition protesting the company's plan to break the work rules. The company hopes the threat of the sale will get us to accept this speed-up.
At the on-site meeting, one BR even tried to convince us that if we bend the work rules the company might stay. "That's the company line," shot back the workers, "but it's not the history of how these things work. The more `flexible' the workforce, the more inviting the target for sale." The BR shut up, but he still hasn't set up the meetings with us that he promised.
"The whole point of those [on-site union] meetings was to demoralize us," concluded one CHALLENGE reader. She could be right. Historically, these pro-capitalist union leaders have tried to make the working class feel helpless--especially in times of crisis.
But there is an answer to this company-government-union gang-up. It was no accident that CHALLENGE readers were prominent among the more vocal opponents of the union leaderships' collaboration. Our long-range strategy of communist revolution gives us the edge in the day-to-day battles against Capital. Even as we organize groups to fight this latest attack, we must all remember to get CHALLENGE into the hands of many more workers.
QUITO, ECUADOR, June 22 -- Teachers are now six weeks into a militant strike closing all public schools. Capitalism pays lousy wages which can't cover basic needs and forces teachers to work under rotten conditions. Students are packed concentration-camp style into decrepit, poorly-lighted rooms and filthy buildings. Now the bosses are trying to privatize public education, making parents pay for their children's rotten education. The strikers are demanding higher wages and no privatization.
The situation is worsened by union leaders who play by the bosses' rules. The rulers violate their own constitution, which calls for 30% of the state budget to be allotted to public education, but its down to 8%.
In the last few years, the entire working class's standard of living has declined even more. Inflation is above 100%, probably the highest in Latin America. These attacks have sparked many mass, militant struggles, forcing two presidents to quit in just three years. But the rulers, with the help of sellouts and opportunists, have managed to derail these struggles.
PLP teachers and CHALLENGE readers among teachers must spread the paper's ideas to other workers and youth. Our best education comes from fighting for a society without bosses, without racist capitalism. "Learn to fight, and fight to learn" is our slogan to turn our strikes and all our struggles into schools for communism. In the process we learn there is no lesser evil among politicians or bosses. Capitalism in all its forms is a dictatorship of the bosses over workers. Join PLP and fight for a society where production and education serve the needs of workers and their allies.
BROOKLYN, NY--A PL'er had just been elected union delegate at Harry Van Arsdale Vocational High School. Teachers vary in their outlooks on life. One teacher, Joe, had often made racist and anti-Semitic remarks in the teachers' lounge. He's a 6'5" ex-cop, so people rarely argued with him. During regents week (state-wide tests), Joe started again attacking black and Hispanic students. This time, however, a PL member was present. The following ensued:
Joe: "Yeah, Hitler had a good way of dealing with students that caused trouble."
PL'er: "What are you talking about?"
Joe: "Well, these Hitler Youth had caused problems, and Hitler took them down to a stadium. He also brought the parents. He had the students shot down in front of the parents. He really knew how to deal with problems."
PL'er: "Why would you tell us this thing unless you're a Nazi? Our children need love and attention, caring and thought. Need more money spent on them, not being shot down! You're a Nazi."
Joe (screaming) "How dare you call me a Nazi in front of my colleagues? I fought under the stars and stripes."
PL'er: "People have done terrible things hiding behind the stars and stripes. You can't cover yourself with the stars and stripes. If you spread poison, it's poison."
Joe (getting angrier by the minute): "I'm not a Nazi, I'm an American. I'm not a Nazi, I'm an American. I'm not a Nazi, I'm an American."
PL'er: "You were a cop for 15 years. There are many Ku Klux Klanners amongst the police. Then you're a Ku Klux Klanner." (At this Joe jumped up and ran around the table. The 5'8" PL'er stood up and folded his arms. Joe came no closer than 12 inches. He looked down at the PL'er and cursed him.)
PL'er (looking up at Joe): "I'll go as far as you want to go--whatever you want to do, I'll do."
Joe: "I'm not a Nazi. I'm not a Klanner."(more cursing)
PL'er (arms still folded): "I'm not frightened, let's go. Do it."
Joe still kept cursing. At this point, Al, who was watching but saying nothing, moved between both teachers, facing Joe. He didn't say a word. Joe turned around and sat down, still shouting and cursing.
PL'er: "It's very good, we now know you're a Nazi so you can't hide. Be honest, it's good that you're honest and we know you're a Nazi."
A few minutes later the PL'er left the teachers' lounge to proctor an exam. About two hours later one witness to the argument, an Afro-Caribbean minister whose church the PL'er had attended, put his arm on the PL'er's shoulder and said, "God sent you to this school to uphold the truth and to fight against terrible ideas." (The following week this minister told this story to his congregation in his Sunday sermon.)
About 15 minutes later Al told the PL'er, "You were unbending and unyielding. You stood up against him. He's probably never had that ever before. He'll probably shut up now." About half an hour later another teacher (who hadn't witnessed the argument) approached the PL'er and said, "I think there's a Nazi on the fourth floor."
That evening the PL'er and many of his friends were at the faculty end-term party, a wonderful affair with music, dancing and good food. During the party the Principal stopped the PL'er's wife and said, "In the middle of October I was down in Atlanta at a symposium. I was watching CNN and there I saw the man I had hired a week before being dragged off by the police shouting, "Death to the Klan." The Assistant Principal of Organization, sitting close by, said, "We learned something about the Board of Education from your case. That there is one kind of person you can hit and not lose your job--a Ku Klux Klanner!"
Two people from this school are coming to a PL teachers' study group. And because of the anti-Nazi incident, and the news that spread through the building, the PL'er was also voted onto the school leadership committee by the staff.
By what we do are we known. What we do makes a difference.
MEXICO CITY, July 5 -- The capitalist class achieved a long-cherished wish in this presidential election with the victory of the PAN party and the greater participation by the population in the electoral process. The bosses took advantage of the masses' anger at and rejection of the PRI (the party in power for 71 years) to strengthen their system of exploitation. Many workers were deceived into thinking they could vote for a "change" that would help them. Soon it will be apparent that the victor Fox will only attack them more.
For the first time the bosses staged "debates" to show that their electoral system "works." But poverty and exploitation of workers will increase. All parties, mainly the PRI, PAN and PRD, represent ruling-class interests, both local and foreign. The lack of a mass, revolutionary communist alternative among the workers has allowed millions to fall into this capitalist electoral trap.
The U.S. imperialists brag about democracy flourishing in Mexico. But these elections only trap our class into thinking they can chose a "good" ruler in this murderous capitalist system.
In this fight for power, a section of bosses in Monterrey and the COPARMEX (an association of Mexican businessmen) pushed the PAN party and were able to confuse many people using populist-fascist language like "law and order" and "zero tolerance to end crime." These ideas retain political and economic strength, aided by NAFTA and foreign capital.
During the election campaign, the Europeans made significant gains when a Spanish bank merged with Bancomer, owned by Monterrey bosses, creating the country's largest financial institution. Billionaire Carlos Slim supported this merger. He does business with Bill Gates and has investments in Europe. Some Mexican bosses more markedly associate with European imperialists. U.S. bosses won't sit idle while this happens but will sharpen their fight for control in Mexico. That is why the NEW YORK TIMES praised Fox, calling him "Clintonesque." The Rockefeller bosses seem to glow over Fox and PAN's victory over the PRI.
Manipulation, trickery, corruption, fraud and expense characterized the presidential election. Billions of pesos were wasted to pay for this circus, while 60% of the population lives in poverty. The TV stations raked in the loot, manipulating the politicians' shows. None of the candidates' proposals can solve the murderous poverty and unemployment.
It was evident that the capitalist elite was waging a dirty war over who would wield state power. There was a fierce fight over markets. The crisis of overproduction was sharpening. PAN's triumph will guarantee more of the same.
As the July 4th LA TIMES reported, "What may startle Mexicans the most is what does not change, the deepening gap between the rich and the poor..." What is more, the TIMES predicts it will get worse as president-elect Fox, an international business executive and cattle rancher, "accelerates the trend" of privatization started by outgoing president Zedillo who "sold or closed more than a thousand state-owned companies." This will spell more hardship for millions of workers in Mexico and huge profits for Mexico's bosses and their imperialist masters.
Thousands of students, including PLP members, attacked Cuauhtemoc Cardenas when he tried to enter UNAM (the university), yelling "fascist repressor of students, sellout of the strike." His speech lasted only 15 minutes; he left under heavy security. The PRD retained Mexico City's mayoralty as a prize for its capitalist role.
To gain votes the bosses resorted to bribery, lies, threats and promises of miserable government programs. People were ferried daily by the tens of thousands, forced to participate in rallies or face losing their jobs. Besides spending public money, the companies and banks that contributed to the campaign had previously been rescued from bankruptcy with public funds. It is this circus that the capitalists and their apologists have called a "shining example of democracy at work."
We communists expose the bosses' electoral circus as a dogfight between them and their imperialist masters. Capitalist democracy only legalizes the oppression of, and means more war for, the working class. Workers shouldn't take sides in the fight between the bosses over who will exploit us. Each group of bosses is fighting for its own interests, at the expense of the working class. As long as capitalism exists it will be based on exploiting the working class.
To solve its problems, the working class needs to fight for a communist system where workers decide what to produce and how to share the wealth to satisfy their needs. It is vital that we massively build the communist alternative, PLP. Join us!
Scientists have just announced completion of the "rough draft" of the human genome. An exciting milestone in biology, the genome is receiving nearly as much attention as the first walk on the moon. Its importance to the ruling class was highlighted by Clinton serving as referee between rival groups. But the scramble to the finish line, and the embarrassing bickering which accompanied it, reveal more about the rot of decaying capitalism than about human biology. During the decade of the Genome Initiative, genetic research was transformed into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry.
The "genome" is a string of three billion letters (A, G, C, T) in the DNA code, which spell out instructions for making some 80,000 proteins, the cell's working molecules. As a living record of human evolution, it's a wonderful resource for medicine and basic science. But an inventory of genes and proteins is just a first step in explaining how life works.
When the Genome Initiative began in 1990, it was hyped as a crystal ball that would reveal human nature and destiny. Now that it obviously hasn't, the deterministic rhetoric has been toned down, or at least deferred until the structure and function of all these proteins is known (the "proteome"). While the subtle ideological function of claiming genes cause everything is still important to capitalism, it has been superseded by raw greed in the era of globalization.
At its onset the Genome Initiative was publicly funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy, later joined by the British Wellcome Trust. Mapping proceeded slowly while new technology was being developed. Meanwhile biotech venture capitalists became impatient with the glacial pace of gene discovery. Craig Venter, then at NIH, and already an arrogant profit-seeker, began trying to patent random bits of human genes, in case they ever led to profitable drugs. The gene grab continues, as thousands of applications for gene patents wind through the courts. (Someday historians will marvel at this monument to greed--mining our common biological heritage for profit.)
Venter, now a biotech boss, began large-scale sequencing of bacterial genomes. In 1998, with high-tech industry backing he founded Celera and began racing to sequence the human genome. This is unprecedented. It's as though the Manhattan atom bomb project had been trumped by Boeing, which then proceeded to build and deploy its own nuclear weapons. Celera outspent the government, streamlined the technology, and won the race. Of course, it had the benefit of pirating the sequence done by the public genome centers, which is placed on the Internet daily.
Venter, it turned out, did not intend to make his sequence accessible. Timid criticism of this policy in a joint statement by Clinton and British Prime Minister Blair caused the high-tech stock market to plummet. At the last moment Clinton forced the NIH's Francis Collins (who, like most genome scientists, hates Venter's guts) to negotiate with Venter. They issued a joint announcement, which barely saved face for the government project.
What's at stake here? In a worldwide crisis of overproduction, high-tech novelties are the only products with unlimited growth potential. The pharmaceutical industry is targeting concerns of the affluent and elderly: obesity, baldness, impotence, wrinkles, anxiety, as well as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The world's major killers--infectious diseases--receive short shrift. DNA information can be used for profitable drug design, tailored to (wealthy) individuals. Venter & Co. are gathering and selling information on human genetic diversity, the 0.1% of DNA letters in which we differ from each other.
Young people enter science because they are curious about nature, or hope to alleviate misery. Of course, there never was a golden age in which bosses were nice and science was pure. Government funding steers science into pathways useful to the bosses. But it was once possible to get a job in basic research where you had fun, could support a family and didn't do too much harm. All this is rapidly changing. Elite universities have become research parks for Novartis and Pharmacia/Monsanto, and most young scientists will be employed by biotech, if at all. The only way to combat the resulting cynicism and anti-science backlash will be to recruit scientists to "science for the working class"--as communist revolutionaries.
As the strike enters it's second month, Methodist Hospital bosses are still demanding low wages and a three-tier pay scale. Most of the 650 striking workers, who took a long time to decide to go out, make under $10/hour after 10 and 20 years of service. The strike has crippled the hospital and involved many workers in a variety of activities such as strike captains, rallies and the hardship fund. So far this collectivity has kept strikers from crossing the picket lines. One surgical technician said that the instrument tray is so dirty, the surgeon wants to cancel all surgeries.
Support for the strike is high. Workers from Cook County Hospital, many who have never actually seen a hospital strike, showed their class-consciousness by marching and picketing with the strikers.
SEIU Local 73 leaders are hoping to stop scabs and strikebreakers by obeying the bosses' laws. The strikers have turned around many delivery trucks using their legal five minutes (in some cases sympathetic security guards have given them up to 40 minutes). They also mass picketed a temporary agency and used community support to discourage scabbing.
The bosses unleashed their fascist cops. A Gary cop on the hospital payroll waded into a rally at Northlake, grabbed a striker around the neck and pulled his gun on the crowd. Three strikers were arrested for trespassing. When the angry strikers remained unified and refused to back down, the Gary police were banned from working for hospital security. At Southlake, company-hired rent-a-cop thugs attacked workers for trying to talk a trucker out of crossing their line. They came off hospital property onto "public" property to asault sevral strikers.
Instead of mass picketing, Local 73 leaders took about 200 strikers and supporters to see #1 sellout Jesse Jackson. On June 24, an impressive sea of purple union T-shirts filed the Rainbow Push meeting hall. But the "strike support rally" turned into a five-minute speech by the union president. No strikers spoke. Jackson said, "Help is on the way," but never offered a dime to help the strikers who are living on $75 a week.
Instead he took up a collection for RainbowPush memberships, and the strikers gave generously. The union wrote a $500 check to Rainbow Push and the president added another $100. The union leaders hope that for a small fee, Jackson will come out to the picket line. But celebrity support won't win anything for workers. Mass solidarity and militant action is needed.
PLP is organizing steel, postal and other workers and youth to walk the lines, give money and sign letters of support. Our communist politics have been eagerly received as hundreds of strikers have been introduced to CHALLENGE. The bosses are showing their teeth as they call out the cops, hire $1,000-a-week strike-breakers and endanger patients' lives to keep wages low and profits high. We can learn many valuable lessons from this strike, the main one being the need for the working class to build PLP and a communist movement for the seizure of power.
Send money and letters of support to: Workers Strike Fund, C/O Local 73, SEIU, 1165 N. Clark Street, Suite 500, Chicago, Illinois 60610
With "Independence Day" here and gone, the new movie "The Patriot" reminded me of Frederick Douglas's famous speech about why black people have no reason to celebrate the Fourth of July. According to Brandeis University historian David Hackett Fischer, in a NEW YORK TIMES op-ed column (July 1), the film's hero, played by Mel Gibson, owns a "Gone With the Wind" South Carolina plantation and "a work-force of free and happy Black Folk who toil in his fields as volunteers."
"The Patriot" is one of two blockbuster movies released for the Fourth of July, one of the biggest movie-going, profit-making weekends of the year. Beyond the obvious attempt to make money and push patriotism, Hollywood is advancing an amazingly racist view of U.S. history. Moreover, to have the hero hail from South Carolina, which has stood out so prominently this past year as a bastion of the most blatant racism, waving the Confederate flag, is to go out of one's way to maximize the racist insult of this movie. After all, the majority of South Carolina's population was enslaved at the time of the Revolutionary War.
What will Hollywood think of next? Will some director like Stephen Spielberg make a movie about a Nazi-era German industrialist who is a hero for the Jewish workers he exploits? What does it say about the U.S. that such a movie is released to celebrate "Independence Day"?
An article in the July 2nd NEW YORK TIMES offers further revealing information about this movie. It turns out that the plot was given to officials at the Smithsonian Institution (the national museum in Washington, D.C.) who gave it its "factual seal of approval. "Why?. Because there supposedly were up-country planters in South Carolina who had non-slave labor, unlike low-country planters whose plantations were based on slave labor. This made the movie "true." However, it was not a planter from South Carolina but one from Virginia named George Washington who led the secessionist fight against the British. And Washington's Mount Vernon plantation was based on slave labor. In fact, Washington was just about the biggest slaveholder in the British colonies. "In 1781, the same year that George Washington led French and colonial troops to victory at Yorktown, seventeen of Washington's slaves scrambled to freedom by boarding the HMS Savage [a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay]. Five were recaptured." (Information from an African American history exhibit at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.) All told, the British freed about 3,000 slaves during that war and another 4,000 in the War of 1812. (Some resettled in Nova Scotia and others in Barbados.) Thus, "during the American Revolution, the British offered a better chance for freedom than the colonists did" for African-American slaves. (Not that the British were anti-slavery or anti-racist. They were just trying to weaken the colonists. They were leaders in the slave trade and in African colonialism.)
So the movie, endorsed by the Smithsonian, portrays the "American Revolution" as led by a non-slaveholding hero from South Carolina. But the real history is that the U.S. secessionist fight was led by a slaveholder whose slaves attempted to run away during the war. It is unlikely Hollywood will be making a movie about how George Washington's slaves escaped from his plantation while he was fighting the British, any more than Stephen Spielberg is likely to make a movie about how half a million Jews fought in the Soviet Red Army which saved nearly all of Europe's Jews who survived Nazism during World War II. However, since both Al Gore and George Dubya want to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein, in order to take direct control of Iraqi oil fields, maybe the patriotism of this movie is another attempt to convince people to support a ground war during the next presidential administration.
Workers are paying through the nose for gasoline these days. A host of factors, all rooted in the rotten profit system, has made a fill-up more like a hold-up. Gas prices rise and fall because the world's capitalists fight ceaselessly over control of oil. The drive for maximum profits by Exxon-Mobil and its rivals are behind this. Sooner or later, workers will be paying for the bosses' oil with their blood.
Early last year, the big oil exporting countries were pumping vast amounts of crude as they battled one another to gain market share. This overproduction, along with an economic depression in Asia, kept oil under $10 a barrel and gas under a dollar a gallon. But in the Spring of 1999 the major producers, led by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico, agreed to cut back in order to raise prices and squeeze more profit out of their customers.
A number of developments boosted rising prices even higher. Industry picked up in parts of Asia, particularly in China, which is building a deep water navy to challenge the U.S. for access to Mideast crude. Warring among local and imperialist bosses prevented the oil wealth of the Caspian and Central Asia from coming on stream. The U.S.-led NATO air war over Kosovo failed to guarantee a BP Amoco-Halliburton pipeline through the Balkans.
In the U.S. Midwest, a bosses' dogfight is driving gas through the two-dollar threshold. Refining there is dominated by Rockefeller/Exxon rivals, mainly BP Amoco and Koch Oil. They comply with federal clean air regulations by blending their gasoline with more expensive corn alcohol (ethanol), which they make themselves or buy from another Rockefeller enemy, Archer Daniel Midland (ADM). The feds have been on ADM's back lately for market rigging and improper campaign contributions. On June 22, Exxon devoted its weekly ad on the NEW YORK TIMES op-ed page to blaming the high cost of gas on ethanol. Four days later the TIMES ran a news story with exactly the same message.
On top of everything else, a fire at a Kuwaiti refinery is now depriving the world market of some 440,000 barrels of fuel a day (STRATFOR, 6/27). But the situation in Kuwait reveals an underlying worldwide overcapacity in oil. To keep up revenues, Kuwait is exporting a like amount of unrefined oil. Crude prices are gradually dropping, and oil firms see a trend. A spokesman for French oil giant Total said, "We're a long-term business. We cannot believe that prices will stay at these high levels. Exploration and production budgets are thus still based on a barrel costing between 15 and 17 dollars" (LA TRIBUNE, 6/26).
No less an insider than former Saudi oil minister Ahmed Yamani foresees a crash in oil within the next five years. "It is coming because oil companies who generated a huge profit from this price of oil are spending so much on exploration and developments" (REUTERS, 6/24). More ominously, Yamani warned of the return of Iraqi crude to the market. The U.S. Navy has assembled a fleet of invasion ships in and near the Persian Gulf. Its mission is to make sure that Iraqi oil does not come back under the control of Saddam Hussein or his French, Russian and Chinese allies. To retain their dominance, Exxon & Co. need access to the Mid-East's cheap sources. So do their enemies. The general glut in oil, which today's prices temporarily mask, puts the world's oil bosses on a collision course that is leading straight to Desert Storm II.
We are not in the commodity futures business. We cannot tell when oil prices will come down or by how much. It is our job, however, to prepare the working class for the capitalists' next deadly oil war.
As the article above indicates, control over oil is behind the U.S. rulers' war drive towards Desert Storm II. This will push their imperialist competitors, especially those with an interest in making deals with Iraq over its oil, onto a collision course with the U.S. Both U.S. presidential candidates are committed to plotting a ground invasion of Iraq. The WALL STREET JOURNAL (6/30) reports that "Saddam Hussein....next year will face a new American president who is publicly committed to get rid of him."
Gore has "reaffirmed the administration's strong commitment to...removing Saddam Hussein from power." He has just met with the leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella organization of Saddam's enemies, for the purpose of "working with the opposition to drive him out." Gore's plan, says the WSJ, is "to persuade Iraq's neighbors to let the opposition operate from their territory" and then "to precipitate a crisis that creates an opening" for U.S. troops to "back up" this opposition with a ground war.
Bush is no less committed. Hiding behind the "missile threat," Bush says he would "hit Iraq hard if he saw any clear sign that it is building weapons of mass destruction."
As if on cue, the lead story in the July 1st NEW YORK TIMES reports that "Iraq has resumed a missile program," flight-testing short-range ballistic missiles (within permissible UN "guidelines") which are adaptable to the construction of long-range missiles.
Bush will be holding his own meeting with the Iraqi "opposition" soon. His lead foreign-policy advisor, Condoleezza Rice, warns that, "Regime change is necessary." Richard Perle, another Bush advisor and former senior Pentagon aide, proposes to help the "opposition" (read U.S. puppet government) "re-establish control over some piece of territory" inside Iraq. This will force Saddam to counter-attack militarily, providing the perfect pretext for a U.S. invasion.
Robert Zoellick, a former top aide to Bush's father, is even more specific, saying the present "no-fly" zones should be turned into "no-move" zones, blocking Iraqi troop movements on the ground inside Iraq. That "would open the way," reports the WSJ, "for the opposition to occupy a piece of the country," to be "protected by U.S. forces."
Either way, Bush or Gore, the Rockefeller/Exxon forces, the dominant wing of the U.S. ruling class, will have their way--a ground invasion to set up a puppet government and secure control of Iraqi oil.
So we can see, election 2000 is just another way to prepare for Gulf War II to defend the imperialist profits of Exxon-Mobil/Rockefeller. That's what capitalist democracy is all about.
I write you from a modern-day slave camp in the southern United States. Here we live in the misery capitalism creates.
I arrived here in debt up to my bones, trying to figure out how I could survive and save on $5.50 an hour. The work is hard and unhealthy: construction, cold rooms, lifting heavy loads and waiting for the elusive opportunity for decent work. I accepted the "marvels" that the agricultural packing houses offer: "no rent nor transportation and work under the roof." But when I arrived the reality was a lot worse. The rent is tripled, they don't pay you for all the hours and the work schedules are crazy because they leave you in a room until the tomatoes arrive or they take you to the packing house and you have to wait 1 or 2 hours to start.
If there aren't enough local workers we, the slaves, must speed up. The illusion of a good life persists because your mind converts dollars into pesos or lempiras. The few dollars we make are enough to solve problems our families back home still face. Therefore little by little and without realizing it we become zombies or robots, exhausted from working 14 or 18 hours.
Capitalism does its job perfectly, squeezing the little energy we have left to sustain the profits of its parasitic class. My family, the doubts of my trip and fortunately communism echoes through my head. We in PLP have the promise to keep it very much alive.
One communist packing tomatoes amongst farmers, workers, the unemployed and the displaced from all over Latin America, is like an itch in the body all day. Why? Because we can clarify many doubts, organize study groups, club meetings, recreation and in that way fight for communism.
The happiest day in this concentration camp was when a fellow worker came to me during work and said, "Comrade, when can we talk about the "Big Bang" theory you were discussing last night in your room?" With great delight I told her let's discuss it one of these days.
A roommate of mine who believed in Adam and Eve already discusses evolution with his friends. But in the end the most important thing we learn is that we are not "brutes" like the decadent ruling class would have us believe We are unemployed, displaced, exploited and maybe even crazy, because capitalism is a curse, the plague, the enemy to destroy.
We talk about how the bosses treat us with their cynicism of Messiah. We only have one bathroom for forty men. We discuss the fact that our shifts last 14 to 18 hours because the company owns the bus that transports us and decides when we should return. If we don't go to work because of exhaustion or sickness, we are charged $25 for a hotel and are in trouble because if a work-week ends without us working they fire us and pay us nothing. Our lunch is eaten cold because the poor capitalists don't have enough to buy microwave ovens. These damn bosses pit Mexicans against other workers or against themselves, while using their police and nationalism to break our unity and destroy our solidarity...but there still remains the COMMUNIST ITCH.
I have been reading PLP literature, observing its political actions and attended an amazing May Day march just two months ago, and I feel my political sympathies lie with your Party. (I am "Red Rocker's" stepson.)
I recently read an article in your magazine THE COMMUNIST about professors attempting to organize on college campuses. This hits home for me. I just graduated from high school and enter the University of Pittsburgh in the fall. I have been in contact with the so-called socialist groups on campus there and have found them reformist and practically inactive. I would rather like to form a PLP student group at my university if that is at all possible. I realize this is a very difficult task.
Your article mentioned professors but are any students organizing on campus? Is there a certain way to go about this? I realize that it is the workers who must lead a communist revolution. However, PLP student groups on campuses could bring future workers to PLP's communist politics. I would love to know what I could do. Thanks.
In Solidarity, W.J.
A patient brings her empty bottle of Pepcid 20mg tablets (for ulcers) to my pharmacy window. The bottle says no more refill so I ask her to wait while I double check her computer profile to see if she is due more medication. It says she has used up all her refills. I tell her to go to the doctor on duty and get a new prescription. She says it's not her regular doctor. I reply that if you're sick you need to see the doctor even though it's not your regular one (who was not scheduled for today). She says the Illinois Department of Public Aid does not want her to visit the doctor too often. Surprised, I tell her if she's ill she should get medical attention even if the government says otherwise. She refuses to see the doctor. I end up giving her a five-day supply. I also give her a printout of her medications, costing nearly $500 a month. I tell her to show her medication expense to the caseworker. I also tell her if the caseworker is not convinced, please give her my phone number.
Meanwhile, in Washington the U.S. Senate approves a 1.2 billion "aid" package for Colombia. The Senators say it's to combat drugs there. Yet the U.S. government itself has been a promoter of drug smuggling in Central America and Southeast Asia.
Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and to a certain extent Peru are major oil producers. Turmoil reigns in this region. The bosses in Venezuela, a major oil producer, are trying to cut a better deal for themselves. They have kicked out the corrupt pro-U.S. politicians. Colombia's economy is in shambles. The workers are suffering while groups of guerrillas with pro European social-democrat backers survive the attacks by the U.S.-supported army and fascists bands. In Ecuador, the economy is also going to pot. That government can't last very long.
This region is right in the U.S. backyard. Will Europe and Japan reduce U.S. influence? Will BP AMOCO and EXXON keep control of this oil? The U.S. is not exactly an innocent bystander. It's meddling in other countries' oil turf (the Caspian Sea and the Middle East).
Why should the big oil companies get oodles of money? Why should we health workers see health benefits whittled ? Should we or our children sacrifice for the big oil companies?
We should build PLP. We should increase CHALLENGE distribution and get workers to discuss the articles. We should not fight for BP Amoco or EXXON. We should fight for communism!
Even if it's true that the Zona Franca (maquiladoras, or free zone enterprises) has created jobs around Santiago, Dominican Republic, they pay rotten wages with the worst working conditions.
Thousands of women and men work in these factories suffering constant physical and verbal abuse. The bosses withhold money from our paychecks for various "reasons," but we never get anything back. Most workers eat their lunch under trailers, trees and the hot Caribbean sun.
In one shop with some 500 workers there are only eight toilets. People must wait on line during lunchtime to use them. The bosses play very loud music all day so workers cannot even talk to each other, even when real close. We are also forced to work overtime, from 8 A.M. to 9 P.M., with only a sandwich and juice from the boss for dinner.
Unions are banned. The bosses spy system ensures that workers fired for union activities in one shop are blacklisted in all the other shops, even if this violates the labor laws here.
As you can see, when capitalism creates jobs, it's only to reap more profits from intense exploitation of the working class.
A Young Worker, Dominican Republic