As last week's CHALLENGE editorial pointed out, Gore and Bush are each Eastern Establishment loyalists. Some tactical differences separate them, but hese are minor. The big losers in the Clinton impeachment were the political forces opposed to the Eastern Establishment agenda--maintaining U.S. imperialist world domination through their control of Middle Eastern oil and preventing Russia's and China's re-emergence as threats to U.S. dominance. The ouster of Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich from the Republican shows that the main bosses have reasserted their control over the G.O.P. Despite some internal contradictions, such as differences with the AFL-CIO union chiefs over "globalization," the rulers also have a lock on the Democratic Party. All the big bosses agree on two things: to tighten the screws more at home and get ready for a long period of foreign wars, starting with the next Middle Eastern oil war.
So the bosses seem to have their own house pretty much in order. What they don't have is an enthusiastic base for their above agenda among broad masses of workers. This weakness shows up glaringly in the lack of voter participation. Sixty percent of the voting age population have participated in presidential elections only three times since 1960. In 1996, fewer than half the voting age population showed up at the polls. One hundred million people stayed home rather than vote for Clinton or Dole. The Bush-Gore "contest" is likely to produce an even lower voter turnout.
The Nader campaign also proves this weakness. Nader, a ruling class loyalist whose "Mr. Clean" act was supposed to get people to vote who otherwise wouldn't. He is now becoming a threat to Gore. This wasn't Nader's assignment or his intention, but Gore & Co. have been so dismal that the Nader vote may help determine the election's outcome. Voting is basically a middle-class phenomenon. As one pundit writes: "The working poor...are especially well represented among those who now abstain..." (Barbara Ehrenreich, NEW YORK TIMES op-ed, Oct. 26)
But low voter turnout by itself is no victory for workers. A president elected with barely one quarter of the voting age population's support, as with Clinton in 1996, can still help the bosses exercise their class dictatorship over us. Look at Clinton's record. On his watch, the minimum wage is still lower than the official poverty level. CEOs and other corporate executives make over 400 times more than the average wage-earning worker. Clinton-Gore continue to criminalize unemployment in the most racist way by imprisoning more young workers than any country in the world. The Clinton-Gore RACIST slave labor welfare "reform" plan throws single mothers and their children on the street while driving down the wages of unionized workers.
liberal Democrat Clinton has brought us these vicious attacks in his eight years. As his successor, Gore promises more of the same. Bush the Republican would grind workers down in slightly different ways, but the results wouldn't differ. Both Gore and Bush want to make war for oil. Voting doesn't change the process. And BY ITSELF, not voting accomplishes nothing.
What must be done? The answer is both simple and very difficult. The only road that can lead workers away from these many evils of the profit system is communist revolution. And the only road to communist revolution passes through the painstaking, consistent building of our Party, the PLP, in the daily crucible of class struggle.
Despite appearances, the rulers worry about workers' openness to revolutionary ideas and practice. The politicians can yap all they want about drawing lines in the sand which Saddam Hussein mustn't cross. The military brass know better. They know that with all its hardware, their military is ideologically weak All the media's hypocritical hand-wringing over the sailors recently killed in Yemen shows that the bosses remain very nervous over the willingness of their army and navy to sustain heavy casualties in defense of Exxon Mobil's profits. No less an authority than the retired commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf warns that the military "would have trouble mounting another major operation on the scale of the 1991 Persian Gulf War" (Marine General Anthony Zinni, quoted by CNN, August 10).
So the rulers of the "world's only remaining super power" have plenty to sweat about. They're nervous about the battle-readiness of their armed forces. All their best-laid plans to force a pro-U.S. "peace" arrangement in the western part of the Middle East are blowing up daily. Their Russian, French, and Chinese rivals are making deals that threaten the Rockefeller-conmtrolled Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco hammerlock on Persian Gulf oil wealth. The next U.S. president will have to send U.S. soldiers and sailors to fight another oil war, regardless of the military's political readiness.
Therein lies the growing opportunity for our Party and our class. Sharpening conditions will help us demonstrate that the system can't work for anyone other than the ruling class and its most committed toadies. The same capitalists who force unemployed black and Latin youth into jail demand that these youth take arms to kill and die for a handful of billionaires. People who don't vote understand this on some level. But vague understanding isn't enough to get the capitalist monkey off our backs. Something else is needed. We have no interest in the results of November 7. The only "vote" that can help the working class is the decision to join and fight with the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party.
This decision was not surprising since in over 30 years Horan has never indicted one cop for anything. It shows cops can kill with impunity as they carry out their intimidating, terrorist role of keeping the working class, especially black workers, subjugated by the bosses.
At the rally, the president of the Howard University Student Association called on the students to march then and there to the U.S. Justice Department to demand action against the cop. Over 200 students marched through the streets, attempting to enter the Justice Department en masse. A scuffle broke out as panicky security guards tried to block the door and push out those who had gotten into this (supposedly) "public" building. Heavy iron doors clanged shut while Department officials cowered in their fortress.
During the ensuing rally outside the Justice Department, students noted that the security guards, like the cop who killed Prince Jones, were also African-Americans. They correctly charged that this proved the problem was the system, not individuals or groups.
A student delegation did manage to meet with Bill Lee, head of the Civil Rights Division. Nevertheless, he arrogantly refused to address the student demonstrators but agreed to come to Howard University "at some future time" to discuss the case.
Angry students marched back to campus, seizing the streets and chanting for justice. Workers, residents and others along the street applauded them. Motorists, including those who were blocked and delayed by the students, honked and cheered in support. Many workers and students in this city are angry about this case. The struggle will continue on many fronts until the killer cop is indicted.
PLP distributed over 200 leaflets during this event, pointing out that capitalism inevitably breeds racist police brutality. It call on students to join the long-term revolutionary movement for communism to achieve justice. PL members are helping to build the militancy of the movement. We collected additional names and phone numbers for future meetings to strengthen and deepen this mass movement and lead it towards a long-range commitment to revolution against the capitalist system.
Those are some student opinions at Purdue University-Calumet about Professor "Nicky" Jackson. She teaches "Criminal Justice" and sociology, almost completely from the cops' point of view. She reportedly said that Rodney King looked like he had it coming to him, and also that after doing volunteer work "in the projects" she could never have "four children by different fathers." She offered no evidence that the sexual behavior of black women is any more promiscuous than that of other females, including even certain professors. Many faculty are very critical of her as well.
But it's her treatment of minority and female students that came to a crisis this semester. Jackson was rude to yet another black female student. Then used students from her other class to try to get that student kicked out of school by filing distorted charges against her with Vice-Chancellor Bryant, a black administrator hired as a token so the university could pretend it was opposed to racism. He refused to listen to this student's side of the story and threw her report back at her without even reading it. He said she was lucky he didn't kick her out of school right then. This was based only on hearing students sent by Jackson who weren't even witnesses. Jackson used members of the Criminal Justice Club to help her, perhaps believing that faking reports and filing false charges would be good training for them if they decide to become cops later.
Then, after the student switched classes, Jackson spent most of the next class attacking her, making false statements and then asking for a show of hands of students who would be witnesses on Jackson's behalf against the student if there was a hearing. Students feared Jackson might use her power as professor to damage their grades and careers if they didn't support her. Now that this extortion story exploded, some of Jackson's supporters have abandoned her. The Black Student Union, including PLP members, has called for a mass, public campus forum to discuss this incident and other complaints about racism. They include one involving Eisenstein, a political science teacher as well as reviewing the way students are flunked out of math courses. The bosses are worried about a lawsuit. Bryant has been almost begging the student not to tell anyone about his behavior towards her. Students are being inspired to build a broader struggle against racism on campus. Best of all, the movement is growing and one student has joined PLP.
Situations like this don't appear from nowhere. Racist abuse surrounds us. Our ability to act is based on consistently working together with others over the long term around common problems, building ties so that people will trust us when serious problems come up, maintaining political struggle and increasing distribution of CHALLENGE. And then being willing to act when these situations do emerge.
Our main job is to take the struggle and debate beyond this incident and tie it into capitalism's general racist war against the working class, especially raising how the capitalists, their media and their universities are preparing us to support another war in the Middle East. The struggle goes on!
FLASH: As we go to press, 250 students participated in a spirited forum to discuss how to fight racism at Purdue. More next issue.
The choices are becoming clearer. The ATU leadership at AC Transit has collaborated with management to build divisions among workers. They promote ideas like, "That's just the way it is. Our wage progression is below the industry standard." "Those workers shouldn't complain. They knew the conditions before they took the job!"
On the other hand communist leadership is proving decisive in building unity among the workers and sharpening the class struggle. MUNI and AC drivers have come to each other's union meetings and have appeared jointly on community TV programs. A call for a Bay Area-wide week of No OverTime shook MUNI management. Negotiating in the shadow of the LA transit strike, SF Mayor Willie Brown told union reps, "We don't want another UTU here." [United Transportation Union bus drivers strike]
Union leaders are trying to divert workers away from direct class struggle and towards getting out the vote for the Democratic Party. A rank-and-file letter from AC drivers supporting the striking LA bus drivers called on ATU mechanics in LA to defy their union leaders and refuse to cross bus drivers' picket lines. This letter was passed at the ATU meeting here but was never sent.
ATU Local 192 President Zook is spending thousands of our dues dollars (without consent) to pay for the "campaign" of ex-driver Wanda Fuller for AC Transit Board of Directors. Fuller came to the October meeting with no program, literature or knowledge of the contract just rejected by 80% of us. The same leadership that tried to pass this garbage claims that electing "politically savvy" Fuller will give us "a voice at the table," and yes, "power to the workers!" Yea, right!
Meanwhile, the ATU leadership here is waiting for the expected passage of a _ cent transit sales tax that will add less than 10% revenue to AC Transit. Much of it will pay for added service, not wages and working conditions.
The Rank and File Action Committee is planning a Bay Area-wide "Labor Solidarity Rally" for November 19, to unite all workers against part-timing, wage progression and two-tier wage systems. PLP will be there to demand a strike that continues the battle begun by MUNI drivers. An AC strike will not be an isolated trade union battle but will be supported by transit and other workers. This could give a real taste of WORKERS' POWER!
The bosses are refusing to negotiate with the APWU (American Postal Workers Union) over wages, while proposing to eliminate job security language for all new employees. They also want to create a new, lower-wage category. Given that most of these workers are and will be black and Hispanic, and will be denied the opportunity for better-paying jobs, the bosses' assault becomes a real racist attack.
The contract expires November 20. This fight will test of how far the bosses can squeeze the workers to increase their profits and improve their competitiveness with southern-based UPS and FEDEX. It will also test the workers and PLP. Workers fighting back can gain confidence and realize what power they have. PLP's organizing and exposing the real enemy can lead to more workers reading CHALLENGE and wanting to join PLP.
These proposed cuts by the bosses are part of a broader attack against our standard of living and job security. However, the union is taking the narrow view, "Show us the money." The national leadership has issued "special contract solidarity stickers" proclaiming, "We Deserve a Raise" and "First Class Workers." They are bowing to the bosses' attempt to split us between older, higher-paid workers with job security, and younger, lower-paid workers with no job protection. We must build class solidarity among all workers. We must refuse to be bought, to settle for a little bigger piece of the pie, especially at the expense of lower-paid workers and workers' sons and daughters in general.
The leadership also pushed the idea that if we vote Democratic, the "good bosses" will take care of us. They didn't mention that under Clinton/Gore, the prison population doubled to over two million, most of welfare was wiped out and over 100,000 more killer cops are being let loose on the streets (Gore promises to add another 50,000). They also omitted the fact that more than 500,000 Iraqi workers and children have been murdered, through sanctions and bombings, as a prelude to a major ground war for control of Mid-East oil.
The new New York City local leadership organized the demonstration to put pressure on the postal bosses and the national union leadership. The latter, not wanting to be upstaged and needing support from the newly-elected local leadership--largest local in the country--felt compelled to attend because they need to look militant for the upcoming national union elections that follow this contract.
While it's good that there's a new fighting spirit among the local leadership, and among postal workers, that's not enough. Contract negotiations can never resolve the fundamental contradictions of capitalism. The U.S. empire is growing unstable, from the Middle East to Latin America. The bosses need to cut wages to meet the increased economic competition from their rivals here and abroad. Ultimately this competition is leading to war, impelling an increase in the military budget. To meet the needs of the working class, we need to get rid of this system once and for all, and build a communist society.
Now comes "Boston Public" and the public school system. To some extent watching a Kelley soap opera about a school is similar to watching one about a law firm or a hospital. The bizarre situations and cartoonish characters are just as abundant. Aside from the general silliness, the show promotes a dangerous distortion of education under capitalism and a vicious attitude toward youth.
Boston Public is a world where students exist to manipulate and harass their hard-working, good-hearted teachers. In "the dungeon" where the "bad kids" are, the torture of teachers is blatant enough to cause them to threaten suicide and be forced by the principal to take psychotropic drugs. Meanwhile, "the good kids" and their parents put an awful lot of energy into driving teachers nuts as well. The football player and his father want the social studies teacher to pass the student even though he has learned no history. The straight-A student runs a web page devoted to mocking and insulting teachers.
The teachers all seem on the verge of self-destruction, although one does insist that she loves teaching. The only older teacher on the show is a stiff-necked codger who wants to dictate female students' underwear and who refuses to tell a black students about Thomas Jefferson's slaves because it will not be on the test. Another main character is sleeping with (and being blackmailed by) a female student. This same teacher brings a gun to class when forced to substitute in the "dungeon," because he can imagine no other way to force his students to learn.
The principal, naturally enough, is the hero. All the teachers seem to think he's the strong, fair-minded leader they need to get through their daily battles. He constantly calls himself their friend and they agree. In fact, he protects the gun-toting teacher because he is a friend. No one points out that the principal is responsible for the fear-inspiring "dungeon." Ironically, he defends a weak student from violence by throwing the bully up against the lockers and threatening him. Promotions for next week's show indicate he will stand up to the superintendent to defend these supposedly pro-student and pro-teacher actions.
The show paints an overall picture of a world where wild and devious students struggle hard not to learn and the noble principal stands at the side of his loyal teachers in their battle against the ignorance and barbarity of the youth. This stands the reality of the schools of working-class teachers and students on its head. Communist teachers and students know they're on the same side and the principal stands against them to serve the needs of the ruling class. We struggle with other teachers to fight for their students so they're able to learn and are not oppressed by the administration.
Capitalism is based on wage slavery, bosses stealing their profits from the value created by our labor. In times of economic crisis and war the bosses will try to cut workers' wages and benefits to the bone while they send our children off to die in their imperialist profit adventures.
For example, in response to their continuing economic crisis and preparations for war, U.S. bosses cut the amounts paid to hospitals by Medicare and Medicaid. This forced the local hospital bosses to cut their own budgets. Jefferson Hospital bosses responded by breaking down full-time Housekeeping jobs into part-time jobs.
The result for patient care was dramatic. The bosses were flooded with complaints about a dirty hospital. The impact on the workers was also dramatic. Hundreds, mainly black, had worked part-time for years, hoping for a full-time job. The very few who got them often waited as long as ten years! On the other hand, many part-timers continue to work six or seven days a week because they don't have a full-time job.
Last Spring a group of members from 1199C, the Hospital Workers Union, began mobilizing co-workers to improve patient care by fighting for full-time jobs. One goal was to make this part of negotiations for the 1199C contract expiring last June. We involved hundreds of workers around this issue and forced the union leaders and the bosses to discuss it. But we weren't strong enough to win much. They created a do-nothing committee to "discuss" the issue.
Then, in October the Housekeeping bosses kindly created a "full-time" position: four hours a day Monday through Friday and eight hours a day on Saturday and Sunday--36 hours a week, seven days a week! The bosses actually claimed they were responding to our campaign for jobs and were "helping" the part-timers.
When a long-time-union delegate filed a grievance against these slave jobs, the bosses withdrew them. The department head even "apologized." She claimed a seven-day week was "not the intention"; she "didn't know" why the jobs were posted that way.
Yet for many of the world's workers such "slave" jobs are the rule, not the exception. Capitalism forces millions who can find jobs to work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while claiming the U.S. economy is "booming." Layoffs, speed-up, part-time jobs and increased productivity have all enabled the bosses to steal even more value from our labor. Now the big capitalists who control the U.S. are headed toward a war for oil that will take many workers' lives.
The fight to improve patient care at Jefferson by fighting for full-time jobs is just one of many problems the world's workers face under capitalism. This profit system will always mean slavery for the working class. Freedom will only come by overthrowing capitalism with communist revolution. Join PLP!
The MTA bosses want to eventually rely entirely on these machines to dispense MetroCards and then eliminate all token clerks. This particular glitch demonstrated the kind of havoc that could be wreaked in the subway system if one occurred during a week-day rush-hour. Capitalism is constantly impelled to replace workers with automated machines to reap the vast profits from cutting labor costs and raising productivity. It thus doubly oppresses the workers-- those who use mass transit to get to work and those who service them.
The bottom line for the bosses is to squeeze the working class at every turn. The bottom line for the workers must be to squeeze the life out of the bosses and their profit system and replace it with one where mass transit is organized to serve the workers who use it and run it. That's communism.
Firstly, one reason the Israeli army had to pull out of southern Lebanon recently stemmed from the growing refusal by many Israeli soldiers to fight and be killed by Hizbollah, the Islamic guerrilla group. For the first time in the history of the Israeli army growing numbers of soldiers are refusing to serve in combat.
Now, when the new Intifada erupted in the Occupied Territories, another Israeli soldier refused orders to go there, saying "the Occupied Territories are not my country." Noam Kuzar, a 19-year-old draftee in the Israeli Army, refused to get on the bus taking soldiers to attack the rebelling Palestinians. He said he could not in good conscience participate in such actions.
In the last few days, dozens of phone calls have been received by the Yesh Guval organization ("There Is A Border/There Is A Limit") from regular and reserve soldiers who think that if the confrontations continue, the number of soldiers that will refuse to take part in them will rise dramatically. These soldiers will not "follow orders" to massacre Palestinians. They will not be "good Nazis."
Kuzar was a specially trained soldier, highly respected by his fellow soldiers. He was quickly sentenced by a military court to a month in jail. His refusal did not receive wide coverage in the commercial press there. The Peace Now movement supported him and gave out thousands of leaflets about his case in areas where soldiers gather. On Oct. 21, several thousands Israeli Arabs and Jews gathered in Haifa, Israel, to demand that the Israeli army stop shooting at Palestinians.
An Israeli writer, Danny Rubenstein, wrote in Ha'aretz, Israel's most prestigious newspaper, that "the readers of the Israeli press are widely, although not completely, protected from these facts. It is more important to keep people in the U.S. in total ignorance, for the obvious reasons that Israel depends on U.S. military and economic aid. This aid to Israel is not very popular in `Middle America' and will be even less if it is known what the aid is used for."
To prove that point, the military analyst of Ha'aretz wrote on Oct. 3, after a week of the current Intifada, about "the biggest acquisition of helicopters by the Israel Air Force [IAF] in a decade." The IAF is buying 35 Blackhawk helicopters and replacement parts worth $525 million from the U.S. Not long before, the IAF had also received surveillance planes and Apache helicopters, "the most advanced multi-mission helicopters the U.S. has," according to the JERUSALEM POST. In the U.S., only one newspaper, in Raleigh, N.C., reported this transaction.
This increased instability poses a big problem for the U.S. bosses' plans to launch a war to seize the huge Iraqi oil fields. The U.S. bosses need a more stable situation in the west flank (Israel/Palestine) of the Persian Gulf. The brutal attacks by Israel against Palestinians have already led to a more favorable situation for Saddam Hussein: "...a growing number of Arab entertainers, intellectuals, politicians and business people have been flying off to Baghdad over the last two weeks, thumbing their noses at [U.S.-imposed] international sanctions and giving the Iraqi government a shower of publicity after its 10 years of near isolation."(NY TIMES, Nov. 1).
PLP's revolutionary communist line of "same enemy, same fight, workers of the world unite" is the road to building a movement to smash all the oppressors, from Barak to Sharon to Arafat and all the imperialists.
All present were appalled at the racism and violent nationalism which propelled the Israeli assaults. Many at the meeting understood the role that Israel plays in securing the western flank of U.S. imperialism's drive to control all Middle Eastern oil.
Planning was begun to initiate street demonstrations, street theater, actions on college campuses (particularly targeting Jewish student organizations), leafleting at synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
This could be the start of an important campaign to organize against U.S. and Israeli imperialism and their plans for war in the Middle East.
On October 29, almost the entire population of the Russian city of Murmansk, gathered at Sea Square to honor the sailors who died when the nuclear submarine Kursk sank to the bottom of the sea on August 12. At that very moment, Russian and Norwegian divers were trying to get the sailors' bodies out of the sub.
During the ceremony four of the sailors removed from the sub were placed in coffins on top of armored vehicles.
The Sea Square has a statue honoring the sailors of the Red Navy who died fighting the Nazis during World War II. But Kursk sailors did not die like that. They died because of the negligence of the new Russian capitalist class.
A few weeks after the Kursk sank, 17 U.S. sailors also died needlessly, blown away by a bomb placed in a small boat. "Low-tech" almost sank a multi-million high-tech ship sent to the Persian Gulf to protect the oil profits of Exxon-Mobil.
At the time the Kursk sank, the British nuclear submarine Tireless had a leaking reactor while travelling from Malta to Gibraltar spilling 1% of its radioactive water into the Mediterranean. The leakage was so bad that the Royal Navy has taken all Tireless-type nuclear submarines out of service.
Organizing among these working class sailors and soldiers must be done now more than ever, as wars blanket the globe. Turning the guns around will not only help workers fighting their oppressors, but also save the lives of soldiers and sailors being sacrificed on the altar of capitalist profits.
(Restore Our Alienated Rights) brought dozens of young anti-racists and communists to Boston in 1975. The racists vowed to kick us out of Boston. We promised to destroy R.O.A.R. and we did!
Join us in revisiting the 25th anniversary with the women and men who engaged in sharp struggle that summer. Hear how their lives changed and how they changed history. You don't want to miss this.
Saturday November 18, 2000, 6pm-10pm
Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
4840 S. Dorchester, Chicago, Illinois
Call Dawn for housing: (773) 233-8930
In LA there were mass demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention.
Later both the MTA drivers and County workers struck.The Federal government is cracking down on the LAPD.What's going on in LA?
Can Nader really help the garment workers here in LA?
Do elections ever work?
Can we change society?
Can any society meet everyone's needs?
Can we create a communist society?
Progressive Labor Party is having a conference on November 11 to
try to answer these questions. Come, take part in the struggle to understand
our world and to change it.
Place:California Institute of Technology, Thomas, rm. 306
Date: November 11, 2000
Why: To get organized, to understand and fight against a war in the Middle East.
For more info: (323) 778-5989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions to Caltech:
From LA: Take 110N, continue until the end.Turn right on California Ave.
Turn left on Hill Ave.Turn left on San Pasqual.Turn right on Holliston Ave.Park in Structure on your right.
From North:Take 210E.Exit on Hill.Go South on Hill Ave.Turn right on San Pasqual.Turn right on Holliston Ave.Park in Structure on your right.
From East:Take 210W.Exit on Hill.Go South on Hill Ave.Turn right on San Pasqual.Turn right on Holliston Ave.Park in Structure on your right.
The majority of workers are immigrants from all over--Africa, India, Asia and Latin America. The bosses maintain a policy of separation. They build suspicion among the workers, push nationalism and take advantage of the fact that workers speak different languages.
Recently we formed a group of friends to exchange experiences and food. Many happily approve this socializing and are open to political discussions. Recently the supervisors checked to see whether the workers could produce more in less time. They claimed we could. Then they eliminated overtime--which we need because of our low wages--and increased the speed of the machines. This angered the workers and some made sharp comments against the bosses.
"The bosses invent anything and everything to make us work more for less," said one worker. "It's true," I answered. Another worker declared, "The bosses are very smart when it comes to exploiting us."
These discussions enabled me to explain that part of the profits they make from our sweat helps pay the cost of wars for oil in the Middle East. At the same time, this bosses' attack and our discussions have combined to unite us and inspire us to plan more and bigger social activities together.
These experiences are small steps in a key industry for the bosses and for the workers as well. The bosses face a very big contradiction here. They must depend on a super-exploited, angry labor force for their war production. We're aiming to resolve this contradiction in favor of the workers by winning them to struggle together against this speed-up and, in the long run, to fight to eliminate exploitation and wars for profit with communist revolution.
Someone said he wasn't really interested in the major issues but rather in the "minor" day-to-day issues like racism and sexism. To think that the media and school have taught him those are the "minor" issues!
In going around the room virtually everyone said racism and sexism concerned them most. We got into a passionate discussion on racism, centering on the Ku Klux Klan. A few felt the KKK had the right to speak. Others said the KKK is not simply "a group with ideas"; they are terrorists who have killed thousands of black people, anti-racists and others. Some pointed out that the Klan is and has been protected by the cops while anti-racists in the '50s and '60s--the Black Panthers, communists--as well as demonstrators lately, at the million youth march in Harlem, have been attacked by the police. There is only free speech for the ruling class and for those who do its bidding.
It was such an exciting discussion that the meeting went on past the normal club time.
A point only lightly touched on was the cause of racism and who benefits from it. Someone argued against ignorance being the main cause of racism, saying there's a difference between white workers who ignorantly think their jobs are being taken by black workers or other minorities and someone who knowingly uses racism to enforce lower wages.
This is the heart of racism. It doesn't arise because of ignorance or from natural differences. It is created by the ruling class as a tool to exploit minorities by saying they are an "inferior race" and undeserving of "normal" exploitation. The ruling class used racism against the Indians to justify taking their land in order to develop railroads, commerce and industry. It was used against black people, at first to maintain slavery, later as a source of cheap labor and now, in addition, to justify the imprisonment of a growing number of black and Latin people and using them as prison labor.
Racism is created by the ruling class and used against any section of the working class for the acquisition of wealth, slave labor, lower wages and foreign lands. It is also used to divide the working class--as strike-breakers, mobilizing armies against "foreigners" for imperialist war or as scapegoats for loss of jobs. It provokes workers into fighting each other to solve the problems created by the ruling class.
We must spread this class understanding of racism to our friends.
The union called a meeting of their strike committee, supposedly to figure out how the local could support the grads. However, instead of fighting to organize members' solidarity, the union emphasized was on the "danger" that members who refused to cross the picket line could be disciplined or fired. The union lawyer, whose role seemed to be to keep potential militancy "within the law," tried only to scare the workers away from strong action.
Our friend brought up some working-class history, highlighting the fact that for workers' strikes to win anything, they usually need to break the law. It's the unions, once led by communists, who are supposed to lead the way.
The union leadership agreed with this in theory, to avoid exposing its real position. However, their wishy-washy tactics, as described above, spell disaster for the workers. They kept stressing that what we do now might endanger our own contract struggle in two years. Well, they're certainly right about that! They want their members passive and fearful, so they won't be prepared to fight the bosses when it comes to their own contract.
After the meeting, a couple of workers talked to my friend about the union's right-wing position. These workers understood we can't win without a big fight. This meeting made it clear that the union leadership won't make that fight.
Although ultimately we can't truly win under capitalism, strikes offer a good opportunity to move workers to the left by exposing the system, making workers aware of their potential power, and identifying left-wing leadership. Strikes can be schools for revolution.
We're urging our friend to make a struggle within the union for militance, and to sell CHALLENGES to the left-leaning union members. She can win workers to fight the official union position and increasingly see the potential of communism.
Looking for a Red World
The discussion on idealism and materialism cleared up many doubts for me. It explained the difference between these two concepts, how idealism (what is in your mind is primary and as important as real life) is totally opposite from materialism (events independent of one's mind). This concept is very important to a young woman like myself. We must bring it to youth, who know little about it.
I have also begun to understand that communism is not only a physical struggle but also a continuous ideological struggle for our Party and its politics.
A Dialectical Youth, Ecuador
Surprisingly that same day the teacher suddenly distributed a reprint of an article about the Middle East and the current U.S. election. The article pointed out that both Gore and Bush have plans for "dealing" with Iraq, preparing for Desert Storm II and the threat of World War III. Even more surprising, the reprint was from CHALLENGE!
My fellow students, all workers, showed more interesting in reading the CHALLENGE reprint than the NY TIMES. As a matter of fact, when the teacher asked the class if they wanted to change the discussion from that CHALLENGE article, all said no.
An ESL Working-class Student
The main informal discussion centered on voting--Gore vs. Nader. Several people were very interested when I pointed out how Gore and Bush were both pledged to war for oil in Iraq, and that Nader had indulged in imperialist saber rattling about China and the World Trade Organization.
These church folks had been involved in actions exposing the embargo-murder of 500,000 Iraqi children and were open to an anti-imperialist analysis. They were also very aware of the apartheid-like conditions suffered by most Palestinians and Oriental and African Jews and were intrigued when I quoted a leading political scientist saying, "The nation state is no longer an agent of progressive reform."
I plan to send copies of my church journal with an article about these issues to six of the people I met. One said, "I'm tired of just helping people one at a time. I want to change the system," and another agreed. They're in a position to influence people in congregations in four different states in a region where we have active Party organization--all part of making it tougher and tougher for the bosses to sell imperialist war.
In struggle, Red Churchmouse