The bosses' media is spilling a lot of ink over the supposed "shortage" of certain fuels. But this is a myth. As Ali Rodriguez, the president of OPEC (the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries) admitted on Sept. 13, "the organization's members have up to three million barrels a day in spare capacity." (Bloomberg News) So there's no lack of supply. The real issue is a conflict between the haves and the have-nots within OPEC. The have-nots--Venezuela, for example--worry that a large production increase without an equal increase in demand "could create a massive drop in prices," like the one in 1997-98, when the so-called Asian "Tiger" economies--South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore--temporarily went into the tank.
A drop in prices would harm mainly the OPEC have-nots, whose oil costs more to produce than the relatively cheap Saudi, Kuwaiti, and UAE Persian Gulf crude controlled mainly by Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and BP Amoco. The biggest oil companies can make money when prices crash because their cheap, plentiful resources enable them to gain market share over their rivals.
So one aspect of the present fight over prices is the attempt by upstarts like Venezuela to break away from Exxon Mobil's domination. Venezuela used to be a Rockefeller vassal. Now it seems intent on freeing not just itself but the entire world oil supply system from Exxon's domination. Venezuelan president Chávez recently invited U.S. competitor Russia to join OPEC. And Exxon's French arch-rival, Total Fina, has become a big player in Venezuela.
But the big prize remains Iraq. Beyond appearances, the current oil "shortage" hides a general overcapacity. The international energy bosses are really fighting over who will dictate how the surplus is used. Control of world oil supplies lies with the producer that can raise or lower production quickly and in large quantity. Right now, only the Saudi-Exxon-Chevron-Shell-Texaco combine can play this role. Iraq could do the same if the U.S. sanctions against it were lifted and its oil production facilities were brought up to speed. French, Russian and Chinese oil companies have signed multi-billion dollar deals to walk into Iraq and do just that once sanctions end.
Exxon Mobil, backed by the U.S. government it controls, can't allow its main business opponents to develop Iraq as an oil source rivaling Saudi Arabia. The only alternative to war would be for Saddam Hussein to break his contracts with Total Fina, the Russians and the others, and roll out the red carpet for Exxon. This isn't in the cards. So in the middle of the presidential campaign, U.S. rulers are defining the conditions under which they will launch further military attacks against Iraq, which they have been bombing since December 1998.
In classic imperialist fashion, the murderers in Washington are looking to provoke an excuse for war. Clinton's Secy. Of State Madeline Albright admitted as much to the press on September 13, talking about "red lines" that Saddam Hussein must not cross. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti oil bosses linked to the U.S. are drilling oil in a zone also claimed by the Iraqis.
We can't predict when U.S. rulers will launch the next oil war, nor what the concocted provocation will be. Another oil war is surely in the cards. The continuing fight over prices shows how crucial oil remains to modern capitalist economies, much more crucial than "new economy" products like software. Whoever controls oil supplies and can defend them holds a decisive advantage over the competition. Exxon Mobil holds this advantage now and will do anything to keep it. We should have no illusions: the 1991 slaughter known as "Desert Storm" is due for a sequel. It will be even bloodier and spawn more opposition than the first, and it will happen regardless of the U.S. presidential results in November.
The system, not individual politicians, dictates the nature of events. Capitalism, which lives for maximum profit, always leads to instability and war. When Exxon's next mass murder for oil wealth erupts Progressive Labor Party must organize workers' opposition and build its forces by advancing the fight for communist revolution as the only alternative to the bosses' periodic blood-lettings.
In Europe, high energy prices are due primarily to taxes, which pay for social services. French bosses just cut the gas tax. This was probably a political ploy. They don't need to mobilize French workers into a war frenzy against Iraq. Quite the contrary: French oil companies have an open invitation to rebuild the Iraqi energy industry.
This isn't the case in Britain, where prime minister Tony Blair refused to cave in to recent protests demanding lower gas taxes. This is probably a political ploy in the opposite direction: the old British Petroleum company had major interests in Iraq, and its successor, BP Amoco, would love to recoup losses there. Blair seems to be trying to direct mass anger in Britain toward the Middle East. A "take-back-Iraq" campaign could emerge. New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman (9/17) praised Blair's "courage" in refusing to heed the protesters' demands for lower taxes.
The shifting sands of alliances among these oil barons are reflected in the current jockeying for the post of OPEC secretary-general, the organization's top spot. The new OPEC chief is slated to be picked in November. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq have all fielded candidates. The winner needs unanimous support. The Iraqis won't back a pro-U.S. Saudi. Now a Venezuelan, OPEC current president Ali Rodriguez, has said he may run. Rodriguez would be a compromise between the U.S.-British rulers, who want a Saudi, and the French-Russian-Chinese bloc, who are hoping to refine and market Iraqi oil. Even though the Venezuelan oil bosses lean toward the French-Russian gang, U.S. firms, led by Exxon, still pump a lot of oil from Venezuela.
So there are wheels within wheels. But "compromises" among bosses, especially with control of the world's oil market at stake, are castles in the sand. The main aspect of the relationship here is conflict. All this maneuvering will still end in war.
Such is the spirit of the United Transportation Union drivers in their strike against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The bosses have stated publicly they want to grab $23 million from the drivers over a three-year contract.
The union leadership is fighting a defensive battle to merely keep what we've got--which means working 12 hours and 51 minutes a day, 5 days a week (24 hours overtime) in order to pay bills and send your kids to college (LA TIMES, 9/16). It means continued use of prison slave labor to clean buses and bus stops. Keeping what we've got means 20% part-time drivers and 24-month wage progression to reach base pay for new drivers and mechanics (a two-tier system). These union leaders would have transit workers keep one foot on the gas pedal and the other on a banana peel.
Striking MTA workers are maintaining solid picket lines. MTA mechanics and service personnel--not on strike--are respecting the lines. The strikers have received support from janitors, garment workers, teachers and students. PLP has gone to the picket lines with CHALLENGES and other Party literature. We have exposed the power struggle behind the strike among different groups of bosses (see box).
PLP says strikers and riders should not take sides in this bosses' dogfight. This lhs led to some good discussions with striking workers. Some are now seriously considering joining a PLP study group and helping to distribute CHALLENGE.
But the main wing of the U.S. ruling class, led by the Rockefeller forces and their Exxon-Mobil oil giant, are using the Federal government to take power from these local bosses. They had already defeated the old Committee of 25--leading industrialists headquartered in LA--which had been running the city and represented money independent of the Rockefellers. The latter are building a labor-community-environmental alliance of, especially, the large Latino and black population so they can use their youth in a war to maintain control of Mid-East oil.
They are taking hold of the out-of-control LAPD. Their next move may be on the MTA which, for the last four years, has been under a Federal District judge's consent decree to spend $1 billion to rebuild the ruined bus system. Mayor Riordan's MTA is appealing the federal ruling mandating purchase of 300 new buses.
The liberal LA TIMES (bought by the pro-Rockefeller CHICAGO TRIBUNE) and the Spanish language daily LA OPINION are running articles sympathetic to, and respectful of, the striking drivers (just as they had with striking janitors earlier this year). Similarly, they are presenting the case for the mostly low-paid workers who ride the buses in a way that holds transit bosses responsible for the misery caused by the lack of bus service.
The main beneficiary of all this activism will likely be mayoral hopeful Antonio Villaraigosa, Speaker of the House in California's Legislature. He can be the junior partner of the coalition being built by the Rockefeller forces to put the final nail in the current local rulers' coffin.
Drivers carried out a very successful N.O.T. (No Over Time) campaign over Labor Day weekend to expose short-staffing at MUNI. Only about eight of 160 drivers signed up for OT actually worked, resulting in a 15-20% cut in service. This show of the potential power to shut the city down forced General Manager Burns to admit that MUNI was short about 200 drivers.
Management retaliated by threatening to cut OT, leading to service cuts, particularly on the weekend. Then the bosses end up calling drivers in for OT to fill missing service.
Far from terrorizing drivers, it's angering everyone, including the riding public. The bosses need overtime more than we do, even though many drivers rely on it. Unless they hire hundreds more workers, they cannot run their mass transit system without it.
The American Public Transportation Association is meeting here (Sept 24-28). This "professional association" of transit managers from around the country has plenty to talk about. MUNI and AC drivers have rejected contracts on both sides of the Bay, and LA transit workers are on strike. Actions here in support of the LA transit strike, against weekend service cuts at MUNI and the lack of progress in contract talks, can advance the struggle and keep transit workers in the driver's seat.
The bosses are determined to get a four-year contract. They want "labor peace," not another year of struggle, and they'll pay a few more pennies to get it. They are using everything from the Mayor as "the good cop" to front-page attacks on PLP in the San Francisco CHRONICLE. If drivers don't maintain the momentum with growing job actions while reaching out to AC workers and LA transit strikers, the bosses and union hacks will keep us "voting until we get it right."
The workers' anger, the union leaders' isolation and PLP's mass base have temporarily blindsided the bosses. Their plan for low-wage mass transit with no protection for the workers has been exposed. Joint strikes by MUNI and AC drivers would further expose the whole system of wage slavery. This could definitely open the doors for bigger recruitment to PLP and increase the Party's influence far beyond Bay Area transit workers.
By fighting for leadership of this struggle, we can learn many valuable lessons in the fight for communist revolution. We have struck fear in the bosses and many rank-and-file leaders are emerging. The bosses are downloading CHALLENGE off the website while more workers are saying they want to be part of our movement. We are closing the gap of understanding and confidence that exists between the Party and the workers.
Last year California passed Proposition 21, a dangerously fascist law, which increasingly targets black and Latin youth for prison. Students state-wide, including those working with Progressive Labor Party here, led walkouts against Prop. 21. One of the main reasons the rulers launched the Prop 21 campaign was to spread the racist lie among millions of adult voters, that youth, especially all black and Latin youth, are in violent gangs and threaten public safety in California.
This fascist attack invaded the educational system itself. Every high school has cops on campus harassing students for non-criminal misbehavior. Some schools have more cops than others, perpetuating the racist idea that kids in some neighborhoods are "more dangerous" than others. What used to be considered ordinary adolescent behavior now gets you into the courts and the criminal "injustice system." An ordinary fight--two kids squaring off on the playground--is grounds for a citation, and will land the student in court along with his/her parent. So will being more than an hour late to school, or being off campus at the doughnut shop after lunch.
We are fighting for the union to address these demands: (1) "Cops and courts out of the schools"; (2) lower class size--20 students per class; (3) well-equipped, clean classrooms with a Teacher's Assistant in every room; (4) the district build 200 new schools.
The President of the Board of Education admits it would take new classrooms for 200,000 students right now to eliminate year-round schools--at current inflated class sizes of up to 38 and more high school students in a room! It would take at least 200 new schools to adequately house LA students.
Both the school bosses and the union give lip service to "improving education." The district says put more power in the hands of the principal (Oh, sure!) and make all teachers work an extra hour every day. (Many teachers already do this.) The district wants to punish teachers at schools that score low on the racist standardized tests by instituting forced teacher transfers, allowing the principal to "choose his own team" and eliminating local school leadership councils. This will only result in more harassment and intimidation, instead of fighting for real working-class accountability to parents and students on the part of teachers.
The union says the way to "improve education" is to pay teachers more money. Teachers need more money to live on, but what makes a good teacher is his/her commitment to the working class--not how much money he/she is paid. The union has a vague demand, without any real teeth, for a grievable Classroom Bill of Rights covering class size cap, clean, safe and adequate facilities, and textbooks, materials, equipment and furniture.
The district's proposals and the union's counters, as well as the union's refusal to fight for enough schools and small enough classes to really teach, shows what hypocrites they are. Schools that don't really teach students the skills and knowledge they need are consigning them to a future of poverty jobs at home or as cannon fodder in the next imperialist war abroad.
Neither the district nor the union will confront the more fundamental issue in public education, the way that national standards for content of education, and textbooks and tests aligned with those standards, are increasingly focused on preparing--and forcing--students to join the Army and go off to fight in the next war.
One tiny example of this is the California Social Studies Standards for 11th grade history: The United States in the 20th Century."" The only reference in the Standards to the indigenous population of this hemisphere is to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the U.S. beat Japanese Intelligence during World War II. Not only is this incredibly racist in omitting their cultural heritage as well as the savage racist treatment Native Americans received, but it shows, as one student pointed out, the purpose of teaching U.S. history in high school. The Navajo code talkers were included to teach students the "moral" that even if "your people" had been treated badly by the government in the past, you should still believe in and fight for it when asked. History is taught to indoctrinate students to be "good citizens and soldiers."
As teachers of the working class, we have qualitatively different and higher standards than racist standardized tests or principals. We're fighting to teach what's in the interest of the working class--the truth about society. Although this is most clear in a U.S. history class, it applies in all our classrooms. To win we must teach students the class nature of society and fight for as hell to teach this.. Simultaneously we must show we'll only have such complete schools that operate in the interest of the working class when the working class controls society.
NCEE's program carefully steers between the ideological wars on literacy instruction that have split the ruling class in the past. They advocate both immersion in "authentic reading and writing activities" (whole language), and explicit instruction in reading skills and strategies (phonics). Their research shows one will not work without the other.
The emergence of this bridge between what have been warring factions mirrors the victory of the liberal Rockefeller agenda over their New Money competitors. To put their plans into action, the bosses must use whatever dialectical materialist research has crept into science.
On the surface, this approach to literacy instruction is similar to ours. Students will learn about language as a process, step-by-step. It will be presented as something knowable, but alive and changing, not a set of immutable laws to be memorized for no good reason. Students will get instruction in higher order reading strategies from the beginning, but instruction will also be tailored to their individual needs. Classes will be between 20-25 students. Skills instruction will be spiraled from the more simple to more complex in a comprehensive manner. Teachers will get ongoing training, and an on-site instructional specialist who will assist them and team-teach with them.
However, the bosses are not about to start serving the working class, not by a long shot. Capitalist schools, especially in the cities, are just plain broken. Philosophically and programmatically, the program has many problems.
It is based on students learning a process, reading. However, the content of their learning is pro-boss and pro capitalist. And in case the ideas don't stick, it doesn't matter WHAT students think, only that they follow directions. This encourages the same know-nothingness so common in popular culture. Following directions, although admittedly more complex, is still a high priority for capitalist education.
The program is steeped in the junk culture of popular young adult novels. These works reek with self-centered characters, petty jealousies and competition, either gross-out blood and guts or wildly idealist romance, all kinds of ethnic and gender stereotypes, and of course, no consciousness of social classes or class struggle. While the best of them do deal with more realistic themes and even anti-racism/anti-sexism, they still steer students away from class struggle and into an accommodation with capitalism.
Some teachers say, "At least they're reading." But this represents a cynical view. Communists believe young people can be won to reject capitalist culture, which must be exposed for the almost total lack of literature with pro-working class values and lessons. Without a communist analysis, students will learn all the wrong lessons from junk culture.
The lessons for teacher development are also scripted and mechanical, showing that the bosses can't trust them either!
Formal tracking is being reintroduced into schools. Many classes have students at varied skill levels. In the name of focusing on students who need specific and basic literacy instruction, many schools are now tracking on three levels. Several pro-working class teachers questioned the program's commitment to high expectations, fearing students would end up languishing in the lower levels of the program.
The second year of this two-year program centers almost exclusively on reading non-fiction so students can understand science, math, and social studies. These texts are the tools the bosses rely on to spread their ideology to future workers. The history of U.S. education, and the collective experience of the working class, confirms that capitalism will never truly educate our young people.
(Next issue: the bosses' unsolvable contradictions and the role of communist teachers.)
The petitions have been circulating at Howard University, at Prince George's Community College, at federal agencies and among labor unions in the area. This presentation was to put the county officials on notice that workers and students will not let this racist murder of a Howard University student be swept under the rug. The petition campaign is just beginning. More actions will be carried out to demand justice.
Justice cannot be achieved under capitalism, however. The police are a critical force for keeping workers, especially black workers, terrorized and intimidated. It is their role to be brutal. Capitalism's attack dogs need constant "exercise." Murdering Prince was just one more example of this.
Al Gore held a campaign rally at Howard to win black students to his side in his campaign against Bush. He even held a minute of silence for Prince. Yet Gore and Clinton promote racist policies, like welfare repeal and war in the Middle East. We should have no illusions about their fundamental support for capitalism and its brutal police, whatever pious words they may preach to sucker us into voting for them.
This murder was the 5th (and 13th shooting) in 12 months by PG police officers. The list of PG residents murdered by cops is long. PLP vows to continue the struggle to smash the capitalist and racist system that needs such cruel racist terrorism to thrive.
At the hearing, the Board's attorney questioned our opposition to police protection for the Klan. He asked Carol, "Wouldn't you agree that PLP's ideas are also unpopular?" "No," she said, "not at all. I have discussed communism with lots of people, and explained that communism means an end to the racist profit system. It means organizing society based on people's needs, not the needs of the corporations. That idea is very popular with people I've talked to."
Arrests are only the tip of the iceberg. Students are subjected to daily indoctrination and harassment. The Board uses scripted lessons and high-stakes tests to teach racist lies. They set up military academies to prepare students to fight and die in support of imperialism. In the last five years, these fascist policies have greatly increased under the regime of CEO Paul Vallas.
Many teachers were fired when their schools were taken over by the Board for low-test scores. Those attending the hearing included teachers who have been fired for speaking up or refusing to kiss their principal's ass. The Board is about to fire many more teachers under "intervention." They are not interested in implementing programs that might actually help students learn. Instead, they want to blame teachers, students and parents for capitalism's dismal and calculated failure to educate children.
Teachers like Carol and Moises Bernal (another PLP teacher being fired) teach students to think and to understand the world in order to change it. By firing them and trying to remove PLP from the schools, the Board is sending a message: don't fight back. The decision on Carol's case probably won't come until December. But the legal fight is only one aspect of our struggle.
We are linking the firings of Carol and Moises to the hundreds of other fired teachers. We are fighting racist attacks on students, such as the policy that expels any student who is arrested at any time, even on the weekend, and even before going to court.
We are organizing for next week's Board meeting, together with other teachers, parents and students. We will see many more parents and students that we know in their homes and invite them to participate. The Board meeting is Wednesday, September 27, at Amelia Earhart School, 1710 E. 93rd St. from 4-6 p.m. Join us.
Bob: In the last few years, I've gotten the paper to perhaps a hundred different workers. Recently, however, it's gotten difficult because my job assignment doesn't allow me to get around to see all of these workers. I put 30 CHALLENGES on a literature table available to various organizations at the school where I work. I get the papers to my co-workers when I see them. I've tried to get some of them to help set up a distribution network but that hasn't happened yet.
Joe: It's great that so many of your co-workers have seen CHALLENGE. I think you should establish regular readers. We need to guarantee that you get the paper at the start of each issue. Then you can make a plan for each day of the week to get the paper to all your regular readers and to as many others as possible.
Ned: I sell 35 papers each week in my office and at nearby offices where other members of my union work. At union meetings and demonstrations, I sell up to another 40 or 50. I'm trying to increase my regular weekly sales from the pool of occasional readers.
Joe: I'm new on my job and I was never that good at selling the paper. I'm trying to get to know some of the workers on my job. They're higher-paid workers, professionals. I'm trying to get more involved in the union. I want to relate what's in CHALLENGE to struggles here on the job. I've had some good talks with A. B knows my politics but doesn't take them seriously. I'm going to ask some of my old friends if I can mail them the paper. I agree that CHALLENGE puts forward communist politics more fully than any of us do individually, but sometimes I think CHALLENGE is too strident.
Bob: It SHOULD be strident and make us angry and want to fight back.
Joe: I like the articles and the editorials. I learn a lot from them. But I'm afraid the jargon will turn off the workers on my job.
Ned: We can go through an issue of CHALLENGE to see what we think of what Joe and Bob are saying. Joe, you could get a paper to A. You could also approach some of the support staff in your office. There might be some workers in WEP [Work Experience Program--Workfare] assignments there. They might like CHALLENGE more than higher-paid professionals. I agree you should get involved in the struggle at your job. There's a contract coming up. Perhaps you could write up some of the discussions you have with your co-workers.
Jack: I distribute 15-18 on my job. That number has gone down in the last year as the number of workers in my office decreased.
Mary: I don't sell any papers. I'm here mainly to find out more about PLP. I think there are some workers at my job that would be interested in CHALLENGE. We often have discussions about what's happening in the world.
Ned: When I think about selling CHALLENGE, I think how quality and quantity constantly interchange. The more we understand the need for a communist press in building for communist revolution, the more we try to increase the circulation of CHALLENGE. The more we try to circulate the paper, the more political discussions we're apt to have with our friends. This in turn can lead to more class struggle. This happened on my job around the acquittal of the cop-murderers of Amadou Diallo. More class struggle then can bring about increased readership and distribution of CHALLENGE. This process strengthens the political awareness of our friends and can help convince them of the need to join PLP to help build the revolutionary movement.
Mary: This has been a good discussion, I think I can try to get a few papers out to my friends.
read the ads in a Berlin tabloid. For what? Jewelry? Produce? Caviar? Nope, they're advertising for prostitutes. Now that free market capitalism has swallowed the East whole, "half a million women from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are being shipped abroad each year."
"Communism put women to work, post-cold war capitalism does not," reports the NEW YORK TIMES (9/19). "More than 60% of Russia's unemployed are women."
"The business of trafficking for sexual exploitation is booming. It's an industry worth several billion dollars a year," says an official of the European joint police force, Europol. The trade in women from the East has spread throughout Europe. It's increasingly well-organized, dominated by the Russian-German and Ukrainian-German mafias.
It is "a world of violence, disease and misery." Children are born from this capitalist "business." "There are regular clients for pregnant women." Child prostitution is growing as well. (Profits have absolutely no scruples.) Three cases involving 12 children in Usti, a Czech border town near Germany, included one 9-year-old.
This prostitution is borne of the mass poverty and unemployment bred by capitalism. "Prostitution is the only way to feed their families," admits the TIMES. "Others come deluded, lured [by] work as babysitters or barmaids, forced into unpayable debt, deprived of all freedom in the end." The women may be teachers or farm laborers or unemployed, 18 to 30. Often they have one or two children to support.
"The women are terrorized," often unable to pay off the debt to the gangsters for their transportation and visas to the West. And they're terrified the gangs will harm their families back home if they try to escape.
The average rate in brothels is $75 for half an hour. The women are "paid" no more than a tenth of that. From these "wages" they must buy food and pay rent, so their debts mount. Prostitution is not illegal in Germany in designated urban areas. Most of the 7,000 prostitutes in Berlin are from Eastern Europe.
One young Gypsy woman, forced into prostitution at 15, "with a ravaged look in her big brown eyes...seemed a waif broken before she could live." In contrast, the TIMES says, "Under the former Communist governments, Gypsies had jobs...and overt racism was repressed....Women here [in the West] from Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia and elsewhere would also have had jobs."
So capitalism's "human rights" campaign marches on, over the ravaged, exploited bodies of millions of women. Despite all the shortcomings in the Soviet Union and China, under communist workers power prostitution was wiped out for the first time anywhere in human history. With full-blown capitalism comes full-blown degradation of women. The communism that PLP fights for is one in which the cause of these horrors--profits, and the bosses who reap them--are wiped out. Only under such a system will women and men be able to lead full and productive lives, contributing to the greater good of the working class that produces everything of value.
The Summit's stated purpose was to discuss "global" problems like poverty, disease and war. Rosa sighed, "It sounds like so much talk, vague proposals and nothing for the working class." "Capitalism is still capitalism," said Jose. When some delegates applauded Fidel Castro's speech, they were not on the road to communist revolution. Rather they were uniting so-called "third world" countries for a bigger piece of the capitalist pie.
"What about Fidel visiting the Riverside Church where you go?" asked Angel. "Are people more interested in communism?""The church is an Eastern Establishment Rockefeller-built institution," replied Susan. "Since the Elián case, it has spearheaded the move to shift U.S. public opinion towards ending sanctions and "normalizing" relations with Cuba. The Old Money wing of the U.S. ruling class wants to invest and gain market share in Cuba, where they are losing out to their European and Asian competitors because of the 40-year-old embargo. Far from being pro-communist, these forces claim that U.S. capitalist relations with Cuba will cement "civil, democratic society" there."
The goal of the various groups, which attended Fidel's event at the church, was in essence the same as those of the eastern liberal rulers. However, while there is a lot of anti-communism, there is also interest. "One of my church friends told me she started a singing of the `Internationale' in the Nader contingent at the Labor Day parade," said Susan.
A new comrade to PLP, fairly recently in the U.S. from Cuba, said, "The embargo has strangled Cuba, but the workers are ideologically prepared to confront U.S. imperialism. They have defended socialism and under harsh conditions have developed an advanced educational and medical system. I haven't seen the repression they talk about. One is proud to be a communist. Cuban workers went to fight Apartheid in South Africa. Cuba has been a beacon for workers' aspirations.
"But you can't mix capitalism with communism," he continued. "Communism doesn't exist in Cuba. Cuba used to import 13 million barrels of oil annually from the Soviet Union. Since it fell, the figure is now three million. We're at option zero.""There are lessons we must learn," said Manuel. "Cuba followed the line of the Third International, as did all communist parties at that time." "In fact," added Susan, "PLP was born as members of the old Communist Party USA left it to begin the long fight against revisionism."
"Yes," continued Manuel. "The concept of socialism resulted in state capitalism and a new capitalist ruling class. Socialism kept money, material incentives and wage differentials for technicians and managers. It promoted nationalism within countries to `unite all the people,' rather than internationalism to further the struggle of the workers for complete power as a class."
Comrades then made plans for monthly classes on dialectical materialist philosophy, to advance organizing in factories, expand CHALLENGE distribution and participate in a Coalition march for amnesty for immigrants in NYC on Oct. 14.
The international working class needs power and communism. Can do, but not without fully learning history's lessons, building the movement for revolution from below, in every "country," at a new stage. Such is PLP's task. What we don't know we can learn as we evaluate and re-evaluate our daily efforts, actions and inter-actions, struggles and thoughts.
Again, CHALLENGE was correct about the "dirty secret" that the boom capitalists are enjoying in the U.S. and worldwide rests on the backs of workers. The latest World Bank annual "Report on World Development 2000-01: The Fight Against Poverty" clearly shows almost half of the world's population (2.8 billion) subsists on less than two dollars a day; 1.2 billion live on less than a dollar a day. Even though 70% of these poor people live in Africa, Asia and Latin America, extreme poverty has also increased in the imperialist countries and in Eastern Europe. Between 1987 and 1998, the amount of poor people multiplied by 20 times in the former socialist countries (from 1.1 million to 24 million earning less than a dollar a day). In Russia it's 19% and in former Soviet republics of Asia, like Tajikistan, it's 68%.
If capitalism gets away with murder when it's unopposed in what it calls "the best of times," producing such mass misery for so many people, all the more reason to oppose it and fight for communism.
Red and Proud
Today, hip hop--like all culture--belongs primarily to the bosses, to promote capitalist culture and win youth to defend the system. In its early days, rap music was a source of street entertainment and creativity (the originals MCs were black urban youth marginalized by the capitalist system). Their politics even then pushed individualism, trying to brag about their skills to distinguish themselves from other MCs. There was little if any criticism of the society. However, the fact that these youth were "making" the music by themselves--apart from music industry influence--was a powerful statement on the inherent creativity of the working class. Rap became a wildly successful underground phenomenon.
The ruling class caught on, quickly bought the music and institutionalized certain forms, primarily the super-nationalism and later gangsta rap and pretty-boy entrepreneurial rap, with heavy doses of women-hating/exploiting and continued emphasis on individualism. They also attacked anti-police trends.
The ruling class has made hip hop appear "subversive." The bosses market many rappers as social critics because they talk about the "real deal." But much of rap--in the name of "reality"--depicts black and Latin youth as sexist, racist and willing to screw their fellow workers to get ahead (just as capitalists do). This ideology forms the overwhelming thrust of rap music today.
There are always exceptions to the general trend. For example, many politicized youth in New York City like a lesser-known rap group called Dead Prez. They have been at police brutality demonstrations selling CDs for a dollar "for the cause." While their music appears to condemn aspects of capitalism, like the police, their "cause" is counter-revolutionary, ultra-nationalist politics. In the name of hatred of the bosses' state (we're for that), they're primarily working for the bosses by dividing the working class (not surprisingly, they are now being promoted by the local media to a wider audience).
There are undoubtedly working-class rap groups advancing more pro-working class, anti-racist politics who could be won to our ideas. We should review them in CHALLENGE and develop relationships with some of them. We should create communist culture, build a base in cultural groups around our ideas. The ruling class may control culture now, but we communists want to take advantage of their internal contradictions to expose them and eventually destroy them and their sick culture once and for all.
Rap is influential among the Party's base. Let's continue this debate! Articles on culture will get more youth reading, selling and writing for the paper, and better understanding the bosses' lies. READ, SELL, AND WRITE!
Author of literacy series
Well, under capitalism the big fish always eat the small ones. Big Oil pressured the U.S. Embassy, which warned the local politicians that interfering with the "free market" would risk getting El Salvador kicked out of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (which lower tariffs for local exports to the U.S.). The three oil companies threatened to move their operations out of the country.
President Francisco Flores did his job and overturned the legislature's decree. He produced a "consensus" allowing the oil companies to self-regulate their profits for two years. That's like letting the wolf guard the sheep.
So while some local bosses might suffer from increased energy prices, workers will wind up paying with higher prices and wage cuts in this bosses' dogfight. What other choice do workers have but to fight to destroy all the bosses, for a society where workers rule: communism?
PLP comrade, El Salvador
We also distributed flyers concerning our local campaign against prison labor, PL pamphlets about prison labor and several CHALLENGES. The local Green Party agreed to provide assistance as well as attend a forum concerning prison labor in the future. Although time will tell whether our revolutionary ideas made an impact, it was still a great opportunity to try to show honest local people how capitalism works to exploit all of us.
Your brothers and sisters in Texas
Advocates of the "white skin privilege" theory very mechanically pick and choose the "benefits." Yes, white workers do, on average, earn more money, live in better neighborhoods and are more likely to go to college than minority workers. But this alone is not enough to actually determine a benefit from racism. To actually substantiate a real benefit from racism one must compare the position of white and non-white workers when they experience different levels of racism. Compare wage differences between white and minority workers in different areas of the country, a study PLP has made. If "white skin privilege" was correct, then the wages of white workers would be highest where the wage differentials were highest. But the exact opposite is true. In the south of the U.S., wage differentials were the highest, but BOTH WHITE AND MINORITY WAGES WERE THE LOWEST.
Places with the highest degrees of racism are among the poorest in the world. The liberals' answer is that poor people are just racists because they are poor--another lie. Historically the ruling class--the wealthiest--has been the most racist group. They created racism to justify slavery and super-exploitation and the Ku Klux Klan and their ilk to spread racist ideology. The rich paid for eugenicists to "scientifically" justify their racist actions and funded the rise of Nazism.
But, quite the opposite, the working class has made the most strides against racism. From the multi-racial communal working class ghettoes of Seattle during the great depression to the mass actions of the working class today in protests against the Klan in New York or fascists in New Jersey or California, the working class has shown itself to be the most active fighters against racism.
It is incorrect, though, to ignore racism and treat all workers exactly the same. The most important lesson to be learned from all this is that because minorities are by and large super-exploited, they are more aware of capitalism's horrors. Such workers often become the most militant fighters in class struggles. This again shows how racism hurts white workers: racism separates white workers from the proletariat's most militant fighters.
Racism divides the working class into small powerless groups, creating incredible exploitation and oppression. The fundamental aspect of capitalist society is the exploitation of the WHOLE working class. Thus, racism's separatism hinders the working class's fight for its own societal need, communism. Saying that some workers benefit from racism is saying that continual exploitation is a benefit.
We must fight "white skin privilege" and show that racism hurts all workers in order to work towards a revolution and an end to racism and exploitation. If masses of workers are won to believing they benefit from racism, they will then see anti-racism as only a moral issue. Worse, they will be won to fighting wars to "help" the oppressed for "humanitarian" reasons. The ruling class could then easily win workers to fight a war to "help" the Iraqis, Colombians, etc. and thereby rid themselves of their "white skin privilege." Our future depends upon working as a class against racism, both in the U.S. and with our brothers and sisters around the world.
Unfortunately, some of the nurses on our unit resented these measures-we were "wasting limited resources" on a patient who was going to die anyway. One nurse said that if she had a car accident and there was no blood left for her she would have a fit. I have known this young black woman for some years. She is a militant anti-racist and a devoted caregiver. How could such a fascist idea have corrupted her thinking?
Discussion of this incident made me realize that many medical professionals believe "wasting" limited resources on "futile" care drains these resources from other areas of need. This attitude is in sharp contrast to the philosophy described in a book called "Away With All Pests." It describes a number of cases in which heroic measures were taken to save the lives of individual workers in Socialist China. This dedicated care of individual workers took place at the same time that vast social efforts were made to eradicate disease. All of this was possible because medical resources were not limited by capitalist profiteering.
In Philadelphia there is a PLP collective working in an organization fighting for universal health care. Our collective used this example to promote the struggle against medical fascism by this group. We received a sympathetic response from these doctors, nurses and community activists. We're presently discussing how to best lead this group in class struggle against medical fascism. We're carefully considering a campaign against hospital understaffing, an issue that could unite non-professional workers fighting for jobs with professional workers fighting for better patient care. Any ideas how we can best build the Party in the midst of this struggle?
PAN's Principles say it strives for the "unity [of the nation] above all forms of divisions like classes..." Therefore, PAN is for all-class unity of workers and bosses, of "all Mexicans." This myth of a society where nobody exploits anyone else, where we are all "one happy family," means that in case class struggle threatens to break up this "happy family," nationalism will slam those who do the threatening.
PAN will continue to do what the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) has done for the last 60 years ruling Mexico, use the educational system (private and public) to push the nationalist myth that "All Mexicans are brothers and sisters." They bow to the Mexican flag and sing the national anthem in the schools. The teachers (both from the national teachers' union--SNTE--and the dissident CNTE union) are the human tools imposing this.
When a ruling group seest its primary interests best served by maintaining class peace, it will fight like hell to make all of us believe that the "national interest" benefits all.
What can we do? Fight against what PAN and all the bourgeois parties push, and show that the class interests of mental and manual workers are opposed to nationalism. The only valid nationalism occurs after an effective social change in society. And then it will be used very briefly.
That's the only reason Fox's PAN could be considered more dangerous to workers than the PRI, since at least in principle PRI doesn't say to use all means at it's disposals to fight against those who would break the "national unity" of Mexico. But PRI has its own way of pushing this nationalism, combining it with "internationalism." It says Mexico must have its own particular "national personality" to efficiently function internationally. That's because PRI repreents Mexican companies like Telmex, Vitro, Femsa, Imsa and many others which export overseas.
So, just as former PRI president Zedillo advanced the cry of "independence" on September 16, Fox will do it his way, telling us to bow to the Mexican flag and the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the "founding fathers."
A new reader in Mexico
CHALLENGE RESPONDS: Thanks for your letter. Nationalism is indeed a weapon used by all bosses in one or way or another to exploit workers. Nationalism was born with capitalism, particularly aftter the French Revolution of 1789. We don't believe workers' revolution will have any use for any forms of nationalism, not even for a brief moment. Internationalism today and tomorrow is the order of the day.