CHALLENGE, Nov. 1, 2000

Editorial: Not Voting Is Not Enough: Fight Against Racism and Bosses’ Oil War!

Ralph Nader: Another Dead End!

‘Peace Process’ Swallowed by U.S. Bosses’ Drive for Control of Oil Profits

Workers, Youth Rally Against Racist Killer Cops

Misleaders Put The Brakes On La Transit Strike

PLPer’s Resolution Links Rulers’ War Plans to Fight for City Workers Contract

El Salvador: Cynicism Has No Place in Fight Against Attacks Suffered by Teachers

LTV Steel Is Bleeding And There’s Sharks In The Water

LTV Steelworkers Fight Racist Firing And Arrest

Welfare Workers, Recipients Victims of Fascist Attacks

Apartheid Continues: AIDS and South African Capitalism


War Alert

Yesterday’s ‘Freedom Fighter’ is Today’s ‘Terrorist’

200 Bucks for a Passport?

Capitalism Drugs Our Children

Poverty, Racism, Sexism Masks US AIDS Victims

Editorial: Not Voting Is Not Enough: Fight Against Racism and Bosses’ Oil War!

‘The Uncommitted’ Vs. The Most Committed

The U.S. Presidential elections should be the show of shows: "Democracy at the Dawn of the 21st Century!" The "world’s only superpower" is enjoying an unprecedented economic boom, paid for in blood by the international working class. The profits are rolling in and the main wing of the ruling class is in control of the roost.

During the 1996 election there was a deep split in the ruling class focusing on the fight for control of the Republican Party. Domestic oil industry financial interests fueled the 1994 Republican "Revolution" and their "Contract On America." These splits led to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

Clinton and the main wing of the ruling class defeated the impeachment. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his successor were purged from Congress. Open Nazi Pat Buchanan, one of the ideologues behind the Gingrich Revolution, was purged from the Republican Party.

However, this year’s election reflects the long-term strategic weakness of the rulers. They have not won, and are not winning the masses of workers, soldiers and youth to enthusiastically support U.S. imperialism.

Capitali$t Democracy In Action

The rulers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in what is easily the most expensive electoral campaign in world history. As they approach the finish line, Gore and Bush are chasing around the country in search of "uncommitted voters."

"Uncommitted" is right! Less than half the people eligible to vote will show up on Election Day. Republican Senator John McCain worries that this election may yield the lowest voter turnout in history (MSNBC, 10/13).

Alan Wolfe, director of the Center for Religion and American Public Life cries, "Voters with no ideology are not self-reliant, but weightless…It is difficult to recall an election with less eloquence about our nation’s calling than this one." (NY TIMES, 10/22)

This doesn’t help the rulers as they face increasing instability around the world, especially in the Middle East. For ten years they have failed to eliminate Saddam Hussein and seize control of Iraqi oil. They may have to invade—and occupy—Iraq before the Russians, French and Chinese set up shop as a new center of power in the region. Time is running out. Many workers and soldiers appear unwilling to accept heavy casualties for an Exxon-Mobil "hoily" war. So far, this election has done little to reverse this.

Cynicism: A Two-Edged Sword

Capitalist democracy discourages mass participation. This, in part, is how the bosses exercise their class dictatorship. Every four years we are asked to vote in a political beauty contest, run by Madison Avenue ad agencies. We choose between the lash and the whip.

Tens of millions don’t vote because they are cynical about politics. According to the Federal Election Commission, the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted in Presidential elections has slipped from 63% in 1960, to 49% in 1996.

But this cynicism is a two-edge sword. While not a vote of confidence for the bosses, it leaves us stuck with the same rotten capitalist system. What’s more, cynicism is also fertile ground for fascism. The "uncommitted" are up for grabs. We can play a crucial role in defeating this cynicism by fighting for the political leadership of the workers in the context of waging daily class struggle. This is reflected in the pages of CHALLENGE.

Democratic Centralism: From The Masses To The Masses

Unlike the bosses, the international working class has no competing interests. We use the scientific process of trial and error, of criticism and self-criticism, to chart the long road to revolution. This process is Democratic Centralism. It requires the mass participation of everyone in developing our political line, testing it in practice, making a critical and self-critical evaluation, and further developing it. This process will not only lead the working class to power, but it will govern the new communist society.

Communist revolution is no more a popularity contest than is finding the cure for cancer. It won’t happen with hollow promises and fancy clichés. It cannot succeed without the active participation of millions of workers, soldiers, youth and others, leading tens of millions more, committed to a new way of life based on production to satisfy the needs of the working class; the dictatorship of the working class. A red future lies in the hands of the most committed, not the uncommitted.

Ralph Nader: Another Dead End!

This year's presidential electoral circus includes several candidates besides Gore and Bush. The Green Party's Ralph Nader and the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan are the best-known "other candidates." Buchanan is an open fascist whose campaign is based on attacking immigrant workers as the "cause" of many problems workers suffer here in the U.S. He has a well-deserved reputation of Führer-to-be whose base of support is mainly KKK'ers and other gutter racists.

Nader presents himself as a "real" alternative to "corporate control" of the system. He is seen by many progressive-minded workers, youth and intellectuals as the only alternative. Nader’s main job is to prevent those workers who are fed up with Bush and Gore from losing hope in the system

But, meanwhile Nader is hurting Gore in some areas. In response, the Gore people are organizing blitz campaigns against Nader on college campuses and among workers.

In previous articles we've exposed Nader as no alternative for those seeking real solutions to the problems caused by capitalism. Nader basically ignores racism and pushes nationalism in the campaign against the World Trade Organization (WTO), and openly spreads anti-communism in the campaign against China joining the WTO.

But Nader's main aim is the impossible dream of pushing the Democratic Party "to the left." "What do you think will happen if we're the difference in six states and we cost the Democrats the election" Mr. Nader asked rethorically. "The answer, he hopes," reported the Wall Street Journal (9/24) "is that the Democrats will shift left, away from the Clinton administration's centrist New Democratic policies."

The Democratic Party is one of the two main parties of the U.S. ruling class, containing the most warmongering bosses of modern times. Yet, union leaders and black and Latino politicians push the age-old, dead-end idea that the Democrats can also serve the workers. But it won’t work. A leopard can’t change its spots.

‘Peace Process’ Swallowed by U.S. Bosses’ Drive for Control of Oil Profits

Clinton’s attempts to force Arafat and Barak to reach a deal and end the current Intifada by Palestinian workers and youth have failed because U.S. foreign policy favors Israel above all. Israel is the biggest recipient in the world of U.S. military and economic aid—$3 billion a year. Congress has actually enacted a law mandating that the U.S. help Israel maintain strategic military superiority in the region against any force(s) hostile to Israel. Today, Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East, with enough of an arsenal to nuke all the major cities of its foes.

During the Cold War, Israel served U.S. bosses in the Middle East and beyond. It helped them maintains relations with South Africa’s apartheid regime and with various military dictatorships in Latin America (i.e., the Guatemala regimes that have murdered tens of thousands of Indians).

Why is Israel so important to U.S. rulers? Firstly, the Middle East is crucial because it contains close to 75% of the world’s known oil reserves (mainly in Saudi Arabia and Iraq). In the past the U.S. relied on the Shah of Iran and Israel to maintain control of this oil, fending off any other power’s Challenge to this supremacy. Once the Shah was overthrown by forces hostile to U.S. bosses, the latter had to rely increasingly on Israel since the other U.S. allies in the area are very unstable, due to forces, both internal and external, opposed to the U.S. The Arab rulers loyal to the U.S. are very shaky. DIE ZEIT, the German weekly edited by Social Democrat leader Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the former West Germany, warned that the danger was not so much these regimes going to war against Israel but rather that it might lead to "an implosion of political relations, the collapse of the Arab regimes."

Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated in Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries having diplomatic relations with Israel. Mass unemployment and poverty are rampant in both countries. Saudi Arabia, whose parasitic royal family is supported by the U.S., has been labeled "the next Iran" by many. The U.S.’s current number one nemesis, Osama Bin laden, is an exile Saudi billionaire with lots of support among Saudi dissidents.

Phyllis Bennis, an expert on Middle East affairs for the Policy Studies Institute, says the U.S. doesn’t necessarily need Middle East oil for internal consumption, but does need to CONTROL this oil: "...The U.S. gets enough oil from Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. Germany and Japan, in particular, depend much more on the Middle East crude. Traditionally, the U.S. has maintained a good part of its global power acting as a guarantor of the access by these countries to the Persian Gulf oil." (La Jornada, Mexico City).

Bennis added that the real U.S. objective in the Middle East is not peace, but stability "which can only be achieved through a combination of brute force and promoting a process that promises something in the long run." That is why the basis of Clinton’s foreign policy during the current violence in Israel/Palestine has been to stop it and maintain some kind of stability. This won’t solve any of the region’s deep problems.

But this is not simply stability for its own sake. The U.S. bosses’ main objective is to try to seize Iraqi oil fields, which can only be secured by a ground invasion and occupation. Presently, French, Russian and Chinese oil companies have been making deals with Iraq. All the more reason for the U.S. to ensure stability in the rest of the Mid-East to topple Saddam Hussein.

Eventually, this war for oil is the only real alternative for U.S. rulers. That’s why Bush and Gore both stand for attacking Iraq. It will be a bloodier war than the 1991 Desert Storm. While these two Wall Street puppets are "debating" troops in or out of the Balkans, they’re 100% in agreement on Iraq, which the U.S.—under both Bush, Sr. and Clinton—have been bombing for years, mainly murdering civilians. Since the end of Desert Storm, 51 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the Middle East. (The latest group sacrificed on the altar of Exxon Mobil oil profits were the 17 young sailors of the SS COLE.) Compare that to the single U.S. soldier—and none in Kosovo—killed since U.S. bosses sent troops to Bosnia in 1995.

Indeed, imperialism and its thirst for maximum profits makes war inevitable. Let’s organize to smash all the warmakers..

Workers, Youth Rally Against Racist Killer Cops

LARGO, MD, October 18 — Today over 100 students and workers rallied at the Prince George’s (PG) County Government Center to protest the county cops racist brutality, the Blue Wall of Silence and the murder of Prince Jones (a Howard University student—see previous articles in Challenge). They also condemned the gross support of the cops’ behavior by Wayne Curry, County Executive, and his police chief.

Chanting, "no justice, no peace, no racist police!" and carrying signs calling the PG cops the "Klan in Blue," students from Banneker High School and Howard University, organized primarily by local chapters of Amnesty International, led the spirited rally. Some speakers condemned what they called "rogue cops," and argued that changing the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) would help stop the brutality.

The mother of Archie Elliot, a youth murdered by the police, called on everyone to continue the fight for justice. Another speaker pointed out that the capitalist system causes racism and police brutality, and that the murderous PG cops were really fulfilling their role of intimidation and terror against the working class. He invited everyone to join the struggle to defeat capitalism in order to crush racism and brutality, from the U.S. to Palestine/Israel, where police brutality is grossly evident in the slaughter of over 100 Palestinians.

Almost everyone at the rally received a copy of Challenge, leading to some spirited discussions among the students on the return to Washington, D.C. about the best way to change the world.

BULLETIN—We have just learned that the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan has decided not to press charges against cop Carlton Jones, who emptied his revolver into the back of Prince Jones. He claimed Prince’s death was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity and that the cop committed justifiable homicide because he feared for his life. He didn’t even try to concoct any kind of story—he just flat out supported the "right" of cops to murder young black men. There will be a response!

Misleaders Put The Brakes On La Transit Strike

LOS ANGELES, CA., Oct. 24 — Striking bus drivers walking in to last week’s ratification vote eagerly accepted PLP leaflets headlined, "Workers of the World Unite," in the face of the bombing of the USS Cole. The leaflets linked the MTA transit strike to the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the deaths of 17 U.S. sailors and scores of Palestinian youth.

Our picket sign read, "$1 billion a week to protect Exxon’s oil — Pennies for Public transit, Public schools and Public hospitals." Our flyer explained that mass transit relies on the use of part-time workers to free up money to pay for enormously expensive warships in the Middle East. Rockefeller/Exxon will fight to maintain their grip on oil, no matter the cost in dollars and workers’ blood.

Inside the Convention Center, it was another story. No mention of the world around us or the flames of the Middle East. Union President Williams coaxed the 1,400 drivers (out of 4,400) to chant, "We Won!" over and over. He told drivers, "We couldn’t have won without you." Then he got down to the real business of the meeting. The bosses’ labor lieutenants spent a solid hour congratulating each other, their friends, Democratic Party politicians and Jesse Jackson for showing magnificent [mis]leadership of the strike. The union, the LA Federation of Labor, Jackson and the LA TIMES called it a victory! Not the drivers (or mechanics and clerks who are working without a contract). The highest-paid union drivers got 9.3% over three years ($25 a week before taxes!). The lowest-paid part-timers will get half of that. The MTA won 350 new part-timers (they wanted 600). And drivers maintained "the right" to work 12- and 13-hour days with overtime pay, to make $50,000 per year. Such is "victory" in one of the most expensive urban areas of the U.S.

The case is different for the real winners of the strike, the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party. This gang will almost certainly elect Antonio Villaraigosa mayor next April. As Jesse Jackson told the meeting, "Villaraigosa is the future of Los Angeles."

Jackson was paid $100,000 by the L.A. Federation of Labor to mislead black and Latin workers into the Democratic Party, and strengthen their community, labor, church and environmentalist coalition. The Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO and the LA TIMES will use this coalition to bring L.A.’s working class, especially its growing mass of Latin workers, into the fold, which includes a war for oil profits in the Middle East.

One of the drivers who helped organize a strike-support rally in the garment center invited two PLP members to a coffee shop after the contract vote at the Convention Center. By the time we arrived, two other drivers had already ordered the food. During this get-together, a driver put forward a plan for organizing the garment shop, using bus drivers whose routes run through the sweatshop districts that employ 150,000 workers. As we left, the drivers made a point of making sure we get together again soon. The friendship and initiative shown by these drivers is the most promising gain for transit workers and the whole working class.

PLPer’s Resolution Links Rulers’ War Plans to Fight for City Workers Contract

NEW YORK CITY, Oct. 18 — The delegates of Social Services Employees Union (SSEU) Local 371 were given the opportunity to jump off the pro-boss election bandwagon. A long-time delegate and PLP'er presented a resolution attack the union leadership’s failure to fight for a contract that meets the needs of our members and the working people who seek our services. The resolution cited Bush’s and Gore’s campaign promises to increase military spending and linked it to the increasing likelihood of war in the Middle East. It also attacked the build-up of police and prisons throughout the U.S., pointing out how slave labor Workfare and prison labor were being used to undermine all workers’ pay scales. Finally, it called for strike preparations of our local and other city worker unions.

Union leaders, including those in SSEU, like to pose as fighters against war, police terror, Workfare and other issues facing the membership. But their allegiance to the bosses and their system is shown by their refusal to lead a fight that would eliminate funds for the imperialist war build-up and the increase in fascist police terror. Meanwhile they build patriotism and support for war and police terror as they mislead workers towards the bosses' Democratic Party.

Although this resolution was tabled for later discussion, it helped sharpen the differences between PLP’s communist ideas and the union leaders’ pro-boss ideas. After the meeting several delegates approached a PLP'er to discuss these issues. As was the case when PLP first raised the need to fight slave labor Workfare, we are confident we can unmask the warmakers, fascist police supporters and pro-boss politician union leaders during this struggle.

Workers need to fight back every day of their lives. When PLP leads and intensifies that class struggle, communist ideas are sharpened for all.

El Salvador: Cynicism Has No Place in Fight Against Attacks Suffered by Teachers

After years of struggle by teachers here, having won some economic gains with blood and sweat, the minister of Education Evelyn Yacir de Lovo now wants to eliminate them by decree. By enacting a law that would guarantee a minimum of only one year’s work, Yacir de Lovo threatens the job security of all teachers. This law would prevent teachers from joining the union and give school bosses more power over hiring and firing. The school bosses will give jobs to their friends and relatives—those loyal to them and the system—and will use the law to get rid of any militant teachers.

This week at my school all the teachers met about this situation. After presenting this government attack, a fellow teacher said, "I dream that one day teachers will have medical care, good housing, all the basic things we need. But this is a utopian dream." I then said, "It might be utopia, but the most important thing is to destroy this capitalist system. What you call utopia would be possible in a communist society."

Many teachers are frustrated over their lousy working and living conditions. Many are also cynical because of the sellouts by union leaders and fake leftists who have joined the system (like the former leaders of the FMLN guerrilla organization). During the Civil War that ravaged the country, many teachers and school workers were killed in front of their students, jailed and tortured.

That’s where we communist teachers come in. We must continue to expose the system and fight their attacks against teachers and our students. We must shatter the cynicism and hopelessness of many teachers and show them that fighting for communism is the only solution.

One liberal teacher reflected this cynicism, saying, "Ideology died when the Berlin Wall fell. Our former leaders are now making $40,000 a month giving conferences" (the income of former FMLN commander Joaquín Villalobos). This reminded me of something I learned at the PLP International Conference: we must pay a high price for the errors of the fake left. We plan to meet with this and other teachers to show them that communism is still alive and kicking in the PLP.

Red teacher, El Salvador

LTV Steel Is Bleeding And There’s Sharks In The Water

EAST CHICAGO, IN. Oct. 23 — Today LTV Steel announced that all workers with less than two years seniority are being laid off. All contractors are out and overtime will be cut 20%. Reduced operations will put steel production at about 65% capacity. LTV may be on the auction block. Orders are at an all-time low, and their market share has collapsed.

This announcement comes just after LTV’s sale of its tin division to USX. LTV's tin mill product plants are located here and in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. The 900 workers produce 600,000 tons of tin mill products annually, used primarily for food cans and other containers. U.S. Steel will close the Aliquippa plant, slashing about 400 jobs. More jobs will go as operations at Gary Sheet and Tin are combined with Harbor Tin.

U. S. Steel president Paul Wilhelm said the deal "will serve both our customers and our shareholders well…" He didn’t mention how it would "serve" the workers.

LTV will save about $30 million in annual operating expenses and reduced future investments. In addition, LTV's integrated steel segment will make profits of about $30 million per year, including a deal to supply U. S. Steel's tin mills with 2,250,000 tons of hot rolled steel over a five-year period.

LTV is desperately trying to increase profits and stay competitive in its core flat rolled steel business in the automotive, appliance and electrical equipment markets, steel service centers and converters. They are hoping the sale of the tin mills, and the previously announced plan to close their iron mining operations, will improve the bottom line by about $90 million per year.

It was just the summer of 1999 when the last round of steel contracts were settled with the steelworkers’ union. Everything appeared to be humming along and many workers thought they would cruise to retirement. Some thought PLP was exaggerating the threat to steel workers from the increasing international competition among the bosses. Now U.S. Steel has taken a bite out of LTV and the other sharks smell blood. It’s up to the PLP steel club to prepare the workers for the struggle ahead.

LTV Steelworkers Fight Racist Firing And Arrest

East Chicago, IN. October 17- Racist foreman Erickson accused Norman Malone of assault. Then he went to the cops who helped him cook up charges of felonious assault with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief.

Erickson claims that Norm, a black worker with more than 30 years at LTV steel, tried to run him down with a small, hand-operated forklift. He has been fired, and faces 11 years in prison on the criminal charges, on the unsupported statement of the foreman. Since the firing, more than twenty black and white workers have come forward with examples being harassed by boss Erickson.

Less than a year ago, another black worker accused Erickson of assault. He filed a grievance and went through the procedure. He dropped his grievance when the bosses promised to "improve worker-supervisor relations." The foreman never lost a day’s pay. LTV backed racist Erickson when he was accused of assault, but fired Norm.

Ed Kathkart, an electrician in Norm’s department, was killed a few months ago when he was fell into a trough of water rushing at 40 miles-per-hour. There was no grating. LTV and USWA Local 1011 had no problem with Ed working in these conditions. They are responsible for his death. No supervisor was charged, fired or suspended. LTV got off with a $5,000 fine to OSHA.

We can’t rely on LTV Steel, the union leaders, the cops or the courts. We have organized a small defense committee for Norm. We have attended his court hearings and we’re planning a fundraiser for his legal expenses. This struggle against racism can open the door to increased CHALLENGE sales, and more workers becoming part of the distribution network. In the steel mills, that’s political dynamite.

Welfare Workers, Recipients Victims of Fascist Attacks

BOSTON—Striking social workers at Family Services of Greater Boston (FSGB) have been threatened with permanent replacement. At issue is the way social services are being delivered to families. FSGB director Randall Rucker wants to impose a weekly quota of "billable hours" on the social workers. Clients are "billable" if they have medical insurance that can be billed, or if they (or someone in their families) have a diagnosed mental illness, so that Medicare can be billed. He’s forcing the social workers to chase the money, even if it means finding clinical depression, retardation, dementia, or Attention Deficit Disorder in their clients’ families.

This is part of the fascist trend to cut services for the working class. They justify this by criminalizing and pathologizing working class people as "defective" rather than blaming capitalism for creating the social conditions that attack our families. (For example the National Institute of Mental Health and nearly all mental health organizations now claim that 8 out of 50 million children in the U.S. are "mentally ill" during some part of their childhood.)

The FSGB social workers in SEIU Local 285 are blocking Rucker’s master plan. They refuse to treat clients like slaves on the auction block. Rucker wants to sweep them aside by breaking their union and firing them all. He forced them out on strike and then hired scabs to replace them and goons to protect the building and intimidate the strikers around the clock.

The SEIU’s strategy is top-heavy. They refuse to rally the power of workers in other social service agencies to spread the strike nor organize clients and their families to join the picket lines. Rather they are relying on legislators and other "big names" to pressure Rucker. Other SEIU locals will soon be negotiating their contracts. The outcome of this strike will have a profound effect on them. Workers need to break the law and build real solidarity. Otherwise the only thing "built" will be cynicism.

PLP is getting to know some of the social workers and bringing the message of the strike to students at nearby Roxbury Community College (RCC), presenting it not as a simple labor dispute but as part of the war on the working class.

College Haven for Scabs

The RCC Administration is letting Rucker of FSGB use its parking facilities to shuttle the scabs back and forth to their cars. The Massachusetts Community College Council at RCC passed a resolution demanding that RCC Pres. Brown immediately terminate its parking agreement with FSGB. Tonight the issue will be raised at the RCC Board of Trustees meeting. Much more than passing union resolutions must be done! The scabs are still being protected.

Apartheid Continues: AIDS and South African Capitalism

"That mother is going to die and that HIV-negative child will be an orphan. That child must be brought up. Who is going to bring the child up? It’s the state, the state. That’s resources, you see."—Parks Mankahlana, spokesperson for South African president Thabo Mbeki, explains why his government won’t provide nevirapine to prevent mother to child transmission of AIDS. The government would rather have the child die of AIDS than use state resources.

(This is the third of a series of articles on the global AIDS pandemic).

During the recent AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa (SA), Pres. Thabo Mbeki questioned whether HIV causes AIDS, and invited a group of crackpot "AIDS dissidents" from the U.S. to serve on an AIDS panel. The South African AIDS calamity is part of a general catastrophic failure to improve workers’ lives since the end of apartheid. International corporations and banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, together with South Africa’s reconfigured post-apartheid black and white ruling class, have preserved the worst features of apartheid.

In 1991, a CIA document predicted 45 million HIV infections by 2000, the majority in Africa. (Present over 50 million people are believed to have been infected; 19 million have died.) Faced with these figures, the U.S. rulers cold-bloodedly debated whether it was "worth" it, from a military standpoint, to combat AIDS. One security official commented, "Oh, it [AIDS] will be good, because Africa is overpopulated anyway." This became the unofficial line of USAID, the State Department’s international "aid" agency, and of the World Bank. When it became obvious the U.S. didn’t face a runaway heterosexual epidemic, further action was shelved. The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the UN all actively resisted paying for AIDS prevention.1 People who believe HIV is a CIA plot are wrong about the facts, but they’re right that capitalists consider millions of African workers expendable.

Why has Mbeki lent an ear to HIV deniers? The initial quote above suggests he’s trying to save money by preventing the birth of HIV-negative orphans. Last year Mbeki’s government refused to spend nearly half of the money in its AIDS budget and blocked the purchase of relatively cheap drugs that prevent maternal transmission of AIDS. Or Mbeki, by appearing stubborn, may be jockeying for a better deal in international aid and drug prices. Either or both of these cynical motives would be consistent with Mbeki’s role in the "new" South Africa.

Liberals praise SA’s "peaceful transition" from apartheid, as though power had actually changed hands in 1994. Power never changed hands. The heroic struggle against apartheid was co-opted to smooth the re-entry of SA’s biggest bosses into global capitalism. By 1990, the more powerful, "forward-looking" wing of the SA capitalists were frustrated by a recession brought on by international sanctions. Led by Harry Oppenheimer (owner of de Beers diamonds and SA’s gold mines), they made a deal with leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) to dismantle the surface aspects of apartheid, while leaving its base in super-exploitation intact.2 By assuring stability, Mandela and Mbeki made SA safer for capitalism.

Mandela, of course, was a hero to millions, and had spent 30 years in prison for defying a fascist court. Like Mandela, Mbeki was a leader of the ANC, then influenced by the SA Communist Party. In 1970 Mbeki visited the Soviet Union for military training. By the 1990s, Mbeki had morphed into a business technocrat. According to a pro-ANC commentator, "Mbeki had been the darling of South Africa’s business community for years, a champion of the type of neo-liberal economics that pleases cheerleaders for globalization. A close friend of the Clinton Administration, Mbeki was considered a man ‘we’ could work with."3

When Oppenheimer died this year, Mandela and Mbeki eulogized him in glowing terms. But Oppenheimer was apartheid’s biggest profiteer, notorious for racist wage differentials and appalling working conditions. Oppenheimer’s gold mines set the pattern for migrant industrial labor that first spread the AIDS pandemic. Men were recruited from all over SA to work in the mines and housed in single-sex hostels. Their wives had to stay behind in the so-called homelands. The bosses encouraged prostitution, and men who became infected with HIV took it home to their wives in remote rural areas.

Life for SA workers has become ever more desperate. Apartheid still rules in the townships, where red-lining (racist housing practices) and loan-sharking have deepened the housing crisis. As formal apartheid ended, South Africa was already in debt slavery to the IMF and World Bank. "Structural adjustment" programs forced dismantling of the public health system and provoked mass unemployment (and prostitution). As a good businessman, Mbeki cheerfully enforced the "belt-tightening."4

These actions fueled the skyrocketing AIDS epidemic. Despite warnings from SA physicians and scientists, Mandela ignored the growing HIV danger, scuttling even safe-sex messages when he was advised that it would be political suicide to mention AIDS. From 1990 to 1999, HIV infection increased from 0.8% to 22%, until today SA has over 10% of the world’s infections.5

Most drugs used to treat HIV are vastly over-priced and out of reach in the developing world. As an HIV-positive SA judge said recently, "On a continent in which 290 million Africans survive on less than one U.S. dollar a day, I can afford monthly medication costs of approximately $400 per month.…I am here because I can pay for life itself. To me this seems a shocking and monstrous iniquity."6

Gore Pimps For Pfizer

Pfizer’s fluconazole is used to treat cryptococcal meningitis, a brain infection in people whose immune system has been weakened by HIV. In 1997, South Africa tried to buy an equivalent drug from Thailand at 1/20th the cost, challenging World Trade Organization patent rules. Al Gore acted as Pfizer’s pimp, threatening trade sanctions if SA didn’t respect patents. Recently, Clinton-Gore, drug companies and Mbeki have been performing a complicated dance. The U.S. has backed down somewhat, as Gore pretends to campaign against "big drug companies" in the election follies. Drug mult-inationals have started to offer South Africa special deals and give-aways, none of which has yet materialized.7

The decades-long struggle against South African apartheid, which was led by millions of SA workers and students, inspired the world. Many of the most committed leaders were black and white communists, but their goal was "black majority rule." They believed that fighting for socialism and then communism would have to come at a "later stage." This reformist and nationalist "stage theory" undermined the possibility of workers’ revolution and is now contributing to tens of millions of deaths. AIDS and poverty holocausts in South Africa and the rest of the world can only end with communist revolution.

1. Gellman, WASHINGTON POST, 7/5/2000, p. AO1

2. Patrick Bond (July 2000), "A Political Economy of South African AIDS" (

3. Danny Schechter, "Mbeki’s Muddle.

4. Patrick Bond (2000) Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa

5. Jon Cohen (2000) SCIENCE, 288: 2168-2170

6. Speech by Edwin Cameron, Durban conference, 7/10/2000

7. Chirac, et al. 8/5/2000 — AIDS: patent rights versus patients’ rights, The Lancet, volume 356, number 9228


War Alert

My defense-related industrial plant was placed on alert after the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen. The bosses are worried that "terrorists" will move from symbolic to strategic targets outside and inside the U.S. These workers have close ties to the military, and many are suspicious regarding the attack on the Cole.

"It’s October in an election year; think about it," said one worker. "The Republicans or Democrats always create some incident before their elections to help themselves." When he was asked who he thought was behind the attack he asked, "Does it matter?" An operator at the plant thought that Israel might have arranged the bombing in order to divert attention away from its very public racism and brutality against Palestinian workers.

Whoever is behind the bombing of the USS Cole, workers at this Midwest factory are not responding in the manner the bosses need to ensure constant production and delivery of goods that makes their military threat possible. Drivers are being pushed far beyond the safe limit and operators are on rotating 12-hour shifts. They see that the end result of their grueling labor is the enrichment of the owners at great cost to the working class.

However, it is not sufficient that we have a general sense of our exploitation. We must overcome many obstacles and develop a class-consciousness that transforms our legitimate cynicism in a rotten capitalist system into revolutionary communist understanding and commitment.

Production workers and delivery drivers, like workers in other industries and soldiers themselves, are the backbone of the bosses’ murderous military machine. Winning these workers to PLP will be a body blow against the enemies of the international working class.

Turn the Guns Around:

Yesterday’s ‘Freedom Fighter’ is Today’s ‘Terrorist’

The recent articles on the Middle East situation have helped clarify what is apparently a very confusing situation. Behind the veils of religious and national conflicts lie the needs for different imperialists and bosses to control the biggest oil-producing countries in the world (Iraq and Saudi Arabia).

But another point should be made clear: the issue of terrorism. The U.S. and Israel bosses always call their current enemies "terrorists." But today’s "terrorists" were yesterday’s "freedom fighters" (pro-U.S.). For instance, Osama Bin laden, the Saudi billionaire is now the number one terrorist on the U.S. hit list. When the CIA, supported by the drug-running Pakistani Intelligence Services, sent billions worth of weapons to the Moslem "freedom fighters" fighting the Soviet Army and the Afghan government, Osama Bin laden was crucial in helping these anti-Soviet forces. The "blind Sheik," now in jail in the U.S. accused of masterminding the bombing of the Twin Towers in NYC, was also an ally of the CIA and Osama Bin Laden during the CIA-financed war in Afghanistan.

Another example: last week the Israeli government asked Yassir Arafat to once again imprison leaders of Hamas for encouraging a holy war against Israel. But as Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of the London daily THE INDEPENDENT, wrote (Oct. 17): "Was it not Israel that encouraged Hamas in the 1980s as a rival to Arafat’s PLO? Did senior Israeli army officers not meet Hamas regularly when the organization seemed hostile to Mr. Arafat? And what of Sheik Yassin, the hoary old prelate who now demands Mr. Arafat leave Sharm el-Sheikh (where the now almost deceased cease-fire was worked out with Clinton, Barak Koffi Annan and Mubarak) and calls for the destruction of Israel? Was it not former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who let Yassin out of jail—as part of a deal to free two Mossad assassins who had tried to murder a Hamas operative in Amman? Alas, memories are short."

As CHALLENGE has written many times, when it comes to terrorism, no one can beat the U.S. bosses and their agents.

A NYC Comrade

200 Bucks for a Passport?

Last week, the NY TIMES ran a front-page article reporting what was already publicly known: the corruption of Bienvenido Pérez, the former consul of the Dominican Republic in New York City. Pérez, the former consul, left the consulate with a $20,000 credit card bill and then took off. He also hiked the already high prices for consular services. He created one of the most expensive consulates in the world. For example, a two-year passport costs over $200. The consulate made big bucks, over $600,000 a month, overcharging working-class Dominican workers in NYC who needed its services. It was a racket. The consul kept part of it and sent the rest back to the government in the Dominican Republic.

The new consul (nominated by the new administration in the Dominican Republic) has lowered prices of some services, but they’re still expensive, particularly for many Dominican workers who can barely make ends meet in NYC.

Many people are very cynical about any changes. After all, the previous consul represented a government that promised to "modernize" things. The Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), the one to which former consul Pérez belonged, used to call itself the only truly "national liberation" party in Latin America and claimed to be anti-imperialist. It borrowed a lot from the Marxist form of organizing and attracted former Marxists to its ranks.

When Leonel Fernández, the PLD candidate, was elected President in 1996, I had several arguments with NYC supporters of the PLD who read CHALLENGE. They were angry, saying I was wrong. But when Fernández took power, he "forgot" all about anti-imperialism and became a practitioner of free market capitalism. Corruption was rampant, similar to previous governments the PLD had criticized.

The system cannot be changed from within. Capitalism is set up to oppress workers, no matter who’s President. Those who claim they can do it from within always end up being corrupted by capitalism.

Others are saying it’s a "shame" that all the recent Dominican consuls in NYC were "not well-educated." Pérez was a hotel porter, his successor owned a chicken farm in the Dominican Republic and the current consul was a building superintendent. Again, that’s not the point. Whoever becomes consul is part of a capitalist government and can’t serve the interests of the huge Dominican population in NYC.

Luperón Red

Capitalism Drugs Our Children

The Coalition Against the Violence Initiative (CAVI) is continuing to fight against biodeterminism in the fields of mental health and education. The Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health states that 20% of children (and adults) suffer a mental health problem in any given year, and that the brain is the source of most of these problems. In other words, not only are millions of us mentally disturbed, but also the source of the problem is from inside our own heads to be remedied with psychotropic medications. About five million children are currently on the drug Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many others are being medicated for "Conduct Disorders" and depression, some as young as two years old. As schools deteriorate and poverty and police harassment worsen, children become more difficult to control. This society’s answer is to drug them into submission, all in the name of medical "progress."

Recently CAVI held one of several forums on this issue. New people who attended included a psychologist in the foster care system, some public health students and a high school student from rural Virginia who stated that over 50% of her classmates are on Ritalin. We agreed to continue our outreach to parents and to contact teachers and encourage them to refuse to recommend students for medication and instead to demand the resources to offer needed educational and psychological support. Several community organizations are interested in this issue and have invited us to speak, and we will continue to hold demonstrations and forums of our own.

There is a growing public awareness that not only are drug companies making millions off our children, but that the schools and health professions are being used to control our children and attribute social problems, such as crime, to their "defective" minds. Our answer is to win children and their parents to fight back against the violence aimed at them, from police brutality to war.

PLP health worker in CAVI

Poverty, Racism, Sexism Masks US AIDS Victims

CHALLENGE’s piece on the origin of the AIDS epidemic in Africa was excellent. The same sorts of causes were behind the U.S. AIDS epidemic, although the latter is frequently portrayed as "different"—a disease of gay men, which only later spread to women and heterosexuals.

According to Chapter Two of Paul Farmer’s book, "Infections and Inequalities — The Modern Plagues," (University of California, 1999), when AIDS was first recognized among gay U.S. men in 1981, it also existed among poor and minority U.S. women, but because of poverty, racism, sexism and the accompanying lack of health care, their symptoms were considered "normal" for their groups and not recognized as signs of a new disease.

Farmer describes the late ’80s, where a computer search for "AIDS" yielded 100,000 references, whereas "AIDS and women" yielded only 2,000 references, and "AIDS, women, and poverty" yielded none. "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS" declared "most heterosexuals...have more to fear from bathtub drowning than from AIDS." Yet by this time millions of women whose partners were neither bisexual nor IV drug users were already infected with HIV. Figures from the Center for Disease Control show that by 1991, in 15 U.S. cities, AIDS was the leading cause of death among 25 to 44year-old black women and the third leading cause of death among Latina women.

Farmer shows that race-intensified poverty, drugs, prostitution, lack of medical treatment for disease or drug addiction, disruption of families, women’s dependence on men and acceptance of multiple sex partners for men all contributed to the AIDS epidemic.

In both Africa and the U.S., AIDS is indeed a disease of capitalism, but actually through racism, sexism and poverty, not through homosexuals. If one were to attribute the U.S. AIDS epidemic to gay men, it would let capitalism off the hook.

Bay Area reader