Editorial: Whether Bush or Gore, Prepare for an Oil War!
Win Voters and Non-Voters Away from Capitalism!
Winning Youth at Nader Group to Oppose Racism
Proviso Teacher Strike Can Serve The Working Class
Sterilize Racist Bosses, Not Poor Women
Union Relies On Cops, Politicians
CIA: -- Worlds Biggest Drug Cartel
Building blocks for revolution at Purdue Calumet Univ.
LA Teachers Must Include Demands in Favor of Students
Mid-East War Becoming More Urgent Question
It Felt Like New Blood in my Body
Postal Union Leaders Treat Rank-and-File Workers as Second Class
Lessons in the Life of a New Teacher
History Channel Ignores Fact that Red Saved Jews During WW 2
Battered WomenAnother Freedom Under Capitalism
On Actors Strike
Red Delegate Blasts UFT Racism on Middle East Conflict
As we go to press, the worlds "only superpower" is behaving more like a "stuporpower." The "recount" of the Florida votes reminds us of the 1960 elections when Kennedy beat Nixon in Illinois by some 6,000 votes, a margin created by the Daley machine (famous for "allowing" the dead to vote). Regardless of how this election turns out, workers should start planning what our class intends to do now. We live in a world of growing instability. Instability and war are built into the nature of capitalism. No politician or rulers policy change can alter this fact of life. We must carefully estimate events and trends, in order to better organize for the long-range fight of building our Party and winning communist revolution.
The science that guides communists in our thinking is dialectical materialism. It teaches us to look beyond appearances and try to grasp the complex essence of things as they are constantly changing. This election is a great lesson in dialectics. On the face of it, U.S. bosses lord it over the international scene. Their economy is dominant. No other military can challenge them on the battlefield. Their navy rules the sea-lanes. Their cultural domination of TV, movies and music helps them promote profit-making illusions among billions of young minds. And yet, all this overwhelming strength is accompanied by growing signs of weakness:
For all its firepower, U.S. imperialism cant make Israeli and Palestinian bosses sign a deal. In fact, the NERW YORK TIMES warns: "The next war in the Middle East may already have started" (Nov. 5). U.S. bosses dream of pacifying their western flank in that area of the world so they can make oil war in the east Iraq) is turning sour in a hurry.
U.S. grand strategy is based on continuing to control cheap energy sources, particularly in the Persian Gulf. The Rockefeller-controlled Exxon Mobil-led Eastern Establishment is determined to oust U.S. oil rivals from power. Specifically, this means Iraqs Saddam Hussein. But every move the U.S. makes solidifies a growing anti-U.S. coalition. Exxon Mobils Russian, French and Chinese competitors are flying to Baghdad, Iraq to make clear their opposition to U.S. policy. Even the Venezuelans, formerly under total U.S. control, have gotten into the act. When Washington launches its next oil war, it will face heavy international political, if not military, opposition.
Indonesia, in which the U.S. ruling class has a vital stakeits sea lanes command all the oil passing to Japan and Southeast Asiacould blow apart in a civil war.
The "nuclear club" is expanding, and the U.S. cant necessarily dictate what countries like India or Pakistan will do. Nor can the U.S. determine what North Korean bosses will do with their own nuclear missiles. If they see a big profit or political advantage by peddling these deadly weapons to some U.S. rival, they may just grab it.
In the spring of 1999, Clinton and NATO waged a massive destructive air war in Yugoslavia. Beyond their humanitarian lies lay the truth of an international dogfight for control of pipelines to transport oil and gas from the Caspian region to Europe. Bombing the former Yugoslavia back to the stone age settled nothing. The oil rivalry is sharper than ever. And U.S. companies arent necessarily winning.
Another cornerstone of U.S. imperialisms grand strategy is preventing the rise of Russia or China to super-power status. This plan may succeed over the short run. The Russian and Chinese rulers face many problems of their own and arent yet ready for a showdown with the U.S. However, these rivalries have a clear logic, and neither the Russians nor the Chinese can or will play second fiddle forever.
Much of U.S. strength is based on the current record economic boom. Even though in the "best of times," this racist society still forces tens of millions of U.S. workers to live in dire poverty, many others are relatively well off. A large middle class still exists. Were not predicting the bottom will fall out of the economy soon, but things are bound to slow down at some time. Many signs already point to the conclusion that this high-profit paradise isnt eternal. The stock market has stalled. The huge U.S. trade deficit isnt lessening. If the stock market declines, foreign investment that subsidizes the deficit will probably look elsewhere for profits. The European Union rivals of U.S. corporations are grabbing market share because of their own low currencyand they have a huge trade surplus. Again, despite appearances, many giant U.S. companies, like AT&T, are in big trouble. U.S. auto companies inventories are so bigoverproductionthat the car barons are planning to close eight of 55 plants for a week, with resulting mass layoffs.
So although U.S. rulers still sit atop their throne and may continue to do so for a while, theyre seated on increasingly uneasy ground. As the Texas-based intelligence-gathering agency Stratfor points out:" The trajectory is clear. Interests between the worlds great powers will diverge. Since each by itself is incapable of restraining the United States, many will band together, forming ad hoc and formal alliances as necessary" (November 6). This is what PLP has long identified as inter-imperialist rivalry leading to war.
Instability is inseparable from the universal capitalist scramble for maximum profit. Presently U.S. bosses are quickly finding out that its "lonely at the top." Their solution to this growing isolation will be a series of wars. Each is likely to kill more than the previous one. Have no illusions on that score.
As the next president prepares for the next oil war, we should ask: What can our class do to break this vicious cycle? The answer? Join the Progressive Labor Party. Become a communist. Fight for revolution. Nothing less will meet our needs.
The voting age population is 205,813,000. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the total vote cast was slightly under 100 million (Gore, 48,566,000; Bush, 48,332,000; Nader, 2,653,000; Buchanan, 440,000)about 48.6% of all those eligible to vote. This was an even lower percentage than in the 96 presidential campaign. And this is after the bosses spent $3 billion on this election, the most in history.
As we've said, simply not voting wont get us too far. While tens of millions are disgusted with the bosses electoral circus, 100 million DID vote, including tens of millions of workers and youth who wrongly think this is the way to change things for the better. Many of them are active in the very same unions and other mass organizations were in, and follow that leadership. These organizations influence goes far beyond their membership. We must win these working-class voters away from the entire capitalist electoral system and its rotten politicians, as well as winning the millions who didnt vote, and organize all of them to take the only road that can really lead to a better world: a communist-led movement to destroy capitalism and its racism, poverty and imperialist war.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREAIn early October, members of the Bay Area Youth PLP Club joined a mass organizationStudents for Nader (SFN)to spread revolutionary politics among youth seeking protest against the system. SFN comprises leftist students united in political dissatisfaction. It is led by the International "Socialist" Organization (ISO) and Green Party members.
Our goal was to contrast the Partys ideas with Naders nationalist politics. We didnt want to appear as "Nader haters" but we also didnt want to blindly support Naders acceptance of capitalism. Life is a great teacher. We made our first mistake at the very first meeting by openly attacking Nader for cooperating with Roger Milliken (U.S. textile boss) and supporting capitalist "democracy." We were written off as "outsiders."
We then decided to build on points of unity and show support for the groups members, without supporting Naders politics. These points of unity were: anger at a two-party "democracy"; knowing that capitalism puts profits over people; the belief that working people need health care and education; and fighting racism. Our point of struggle was opposing the idea that capitalism can be reformed into a kinder, gentler exploitation. Over the course of a month we leafleted, participated in teach-ins and developed friendships.
Once we felt more comfortable in the group, we "upped the ante" at the weekly meeting. We pointed out that the group was predominantly white, and that we should try to change this. We also heard racist undertones in comments from a few people. In explaining the overwhelmingly white Nader rally in predominantly black Oakland, one person said the $15 cost excluded "some people" (read: "black people"). In response, we proposed a prison labor forum highlighting racism which could attract more minority students. This turned any racist tone at the meeting into its opposite.
We invited any and all group members to help organize and plan the forum on the prison-industrial complex. Guest speakers from several campus groups were suggested, including PLP. An SFN flyer and an independent PLP flyer were distributed for the event. Our open criticism of Nader in the PLP flyer drew fire from the ISO leadership, who attempted to crucify us in front of the group for supposedly "masking" our politics and "deceiving" the group. However, those members who had helped plan the forum defended us, one saying our politics were not dishonest or hidden. To the disappointment of the ISO, the event went on.
The forum was successful, drawing 19 students and workers. Points of view and personal experiences with the prison system were exchanged and the Partys ideas were presented in a positive way. The Partys prison labor pamphlet proved an invaluable resource. Ten students signed up to receive more information on PLP meetings and events.
We have learned several important lessons: find the points of unity such as fighting racism and prison labor and then struggle to advance PLPs line; be up front about where were coming from; try to use dialectical materialism to analyze the situation; and, most important, build close ties with those involved.
PROVISO TOWNSHIP, IL, November 6 ¾ Teachers at Proviso Township High Schools have been on strike since October 31. The main issues are teacher pay, higher insurance costs and a restructured school day.
Union meetings before the strike were very disorganized. The union leadership was plagued with in-fighting. They were very reluctant, unsure and contradictory. The Board seized on this and made its final offer worse than the previous one.
Most of the leadership told us they would vote against it, except for the President and another official. The President is very disliked and many union members are openly disgusted with him. At one meeting, a teacher told him to shut up because the teacher was fed up with how he was always blaming the students.
At the "emergency" Board meeting tonight, parents and students berated the Board for failing to negotiate an end to the strike. One parent also berated the teachers union for past racism.
Many rank-and-file teachers are dedicated to serving their students, but this is not reflected in the union demands, which represent only the teachers most immediate interests. This puts the teachers in a weak position to marshal support from parents and students, who are mainly black and Latino.
The pro-student teachers want to teach their students, even tutor them outside the schools during the strike, but a fight must be made to include strike demands that put the students first. Otherwise the narrow trade union demands can be seen as a racist attack on the students.
The bosses need the schools to train the next generation of workers to be passive wage slaves. They rely on the teachers for this. Thats exactly what most teachers were doing before the strike. In order to represent the mostly black and Latin working-class students, we must prepare them to understand the class forces in the world so they may change it. Presently its how the coming oil wars and a growing prison system threaten their very survival.
We are using the strike not only to benefit teachers, but more importantly to get to know our students and their parents better, vital to building a base in the working class. Tutoring will strengthen our ties and clearly identify us as their defenders and advocates. This will carry over after the strike.
Eventually our students, as workers, will lead a revolution. We must give them that opportunity. With state power in the hands of the working class and its Party, education will serve the working people. We can build that communist future now in the middle of class struggle.
BOSTON, Mass. November 8 Activists at the American Public Health Association (APHA) meetings here were scheduled to propose a resolution opposing C.R.A.C.K.a fascist organization that is bribing drug-addicted women with $200 to submit to sterilization or use long-term birth control . Communists and anti-racists believe we need a society without drugs, where substance abuse is treated not promoted, and where education and jobs are open to all. It is the capitalist system which sells drugs and alcohol for huge profits and then attacks the addicts it creates.
Opposition to C.R.A.C.K. In the U.S.
Last November when Chicago community workers tore down C.R.A.C.K. campaign billboards. Healthcare workers introduced a statement condemning it to thousands of other health care workers at the APHA convention in Chicago. This July C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity) posted ads in Washington, D.C. buses, bringing swift opposition. Unions at Metro (transit) and a large government agency passed resolutions demanding Metro remove the ads. People stated their disgust with its racist nature in calls to a local radio talk show where the C.R.A.C.K. founder Barbara Harris was speaking. The Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association voted to oppose the ads and raise issue at the current APHA meetings.
Follow-up meetings have broadened opposition to C.R.A.C.K.s message from its narrow focus on reproductive rights to emphasize its racist ideology and discriminatory impact as well as its wrong approach to substance abuse. In Washington, D.C., an "Ad hoc Committee Against the C.R.A.C.K. campaign" has assembled a packet of information and sample resolutions for legislators, campus activists and professionals. This Committee is planning a workshop next Spring at the National Reproductive Rights Conference. (For packets, e-mail or call (301) 779-7432.) The Committee includes feminists, substance abuse activists, reproductive rights organizations, and communists in the Progressive Labor Party.
C.R.A.C.K. Is A Racist Attack on Poor Women
C.R.A.C.K. doesnt care about women or helping them get off drugs. It exploits myths that babies born to drug-addicted mothers are seriously damaged and can never be productive human beings. This lures well-meaning people into their fascist ideology. Theres no scientific evidence proving that crack cocaine causes malformation in fetuses (Neuspiel, 1992, 1994; Hadeed, 1989). C.R.A.C.K. also exaggerates the impact of prenatal exposure to crack cocaine while ignoring the harmful effects of smoking (Nordentoft, 1996) and alcohol use (Streissguth, 1991) on the fetus.
Womens health needs and reproductive rights are being dismissed. One billboard says, "Dont Let Your Pregnancy Ruin Your Drug Habit"! Theyre punishing addicted women for the "crime" of being poorignoring the fact that many low-income women have no health care coverage or cannot find or afford the substance abuse treatment programs theyre eager to enter.
The number of uninsured women rose from 14% in 1993 to 18% in 1998. (Commonwealth Fund 1999 survey) Women with incomes below $15,000 without private insurance coverage increased from 37% to 44%. Even women with private health insurance or Medicaid find drug treatment coverage extremely limited.
In fact, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which funds 40% of such services, has cut programs for women has by almost 40% since 1994. Federal funding for drug treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women and their children has been slashed 90% since 1995.
Meanwhile, states are prosecuting pregnant women who use drugs, extending child abuse laws to cover "fetal abuse" or "transmission" of drugs to a third "person"the fetus. They expect doctors and other health professionals to betray their patients trust to police and child protective services about the patients drug use. This counter-productive policy generates fear of prosecution, driving women away from the very prenatal care they need. C.R.A.C.K. and these states are attacking and addressing the reproductive capacity of poor women rather than their oppressive conditions. Poverty, racism and gender discrimination often lead women to use drugs to medicate their pain (Kearney, 1994; Rosenbaum, 1997).
Fascist Birth Control Policies Have a Long History
Various U.S. laws and movements have spawned eugenics"purifying the race" Hitler style. In the 1920's, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger sought "to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit." (Sanger, Margaret, The Birth Control Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 11). C.R.A.C.K. aims to entrap low-income women of color and "eliminate their problem children." Offering cash bonuses to women who "agree to be sterilized" is similar to racist William Shockleys proposal basing the amount of cash a woman could receive on so-called "scientific" estimates of disadvantageous hereditary factors such as heroin addiction, diabetes, epilepsy and low IQs. They both want to eliminate the disadvantaged rather than eradicating the social conditions causing disadvantage.
In the 1930's, 27 states enacted compulsory sterilization laws targeting the mentally and physically disabled and those who were convicted of committing crimes. An estimated 60,000 Native Americans, African Americans, mentally and physically disabled and poor persons were sterilized because of these laws, which were eventually annulled. By the 1940's private organizations and foundations drove the sterilization movement, including the American Eugenics Society, Hugo Moore (of Dixie Cup Corporation) and the Rockefeller Foundation.
By the 1970's an estimated 100,000 to 150, 000 low-income women were sterilized annually under federally-funded programs. Many women were coerced into accepting sterilization or their welfare benefits would be withdrawn. In 1974, the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled that such practices must be ended (Relf v. Weinberger). It declared the "federally assisted...sterilizations are permissible only with the voluntary, knowing and uncoerced consent of individuals competent to give such consent." The court further noted that, "Even a fully informed individual cannot make a voluntary decision concerning sterilization if he has been subjected to coercion."
However, no capitalist court ruling can eliminate forced sterilization, much less poverty, both spawned by the racist profit system. Only communist revolution can do that.
Partial List of References
Neuspiel DR. Cocaine-associated abnormalities may not be causally related. American Journal of Diseases of Children 1992;146:278-279.
Neuspiel DR. Behavior in cocaine exposed infants and children: association versus causality. Drug and Alcohol Dependency 1994;36:101-7.
Hadeed A.J., Siegel SR. Maternal cocaine use during pregnancy: effect on the newborn infant. Pediatrics 1989;84:205-21.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Pregnancy and Health Survey: drug use among women delivering live births, 1992. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health publication 96-3819.
Nordentoft, M. et al. Intrauterine growth retardation and premature delivery: the influence of maternal smoking and psychosocial factors. AJPH. 1996;86:347-354.
Streissguth, A.P., et al. Fetal alcohol syndrome in adolescents and adults. JAMA 1991;265:1961-7.
Kearney, M.H., Murphy S., Rosenbaum M. Learning by losing: sex and fertility on crack cocaine. Qualitat Health Res 1994;4(2):147.
Rosenbaum, M. "Women : Research and Policy" in Lowinson, J.H., et al. Substance abuse, a comprehensive textbook, 3rd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1997, pages 654-5 and at viewed on October 9, 2000.
BOSTON, MASS, October 30 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 285 led 150 people on a march to Family Services of Greater Boston (FSGB) where social workers are striking to save their jobs and to protect client care against fascist attacks.
FSGB director Randall Rucker is trying to fire all the social workers because theyre blocking his master plan to change the way social services are delivered. Hes demanding that social workers meet a weekly quota of "billable hours"a quota of clients who can be billed, either those with medical insurance or those with a diagnosed mental illness for which Medicaid can be billed. This would force social workers to label their clients as mentally ill in order to receive services.
This fascist trend cuts services to the working class, turns professionals against the people they serve and blames societys problems on peoples alleged brain or genetic "defects."
SEIU organized the EVENT as a funeral march, "mourning the death of family services." SEIUs leaders rely primarily on politicians as advocates. They invited Micky Roach, a former police chief and city councilman, to speak at the rally. He thanked the cops for their "patience" with the strike. But the police are working as strikebreakers, clearing the strikers from the driveway every time a van full of scabs enters. Unfortunately, the strikers have been convinced they will lose if they dont have "friends" like Mickey Roach.
Todays march should have been a rallying cry to spread the strike among workers in other social service agencies. Instead, SEIU narrows the strike to a labor dispute at FSGB. It refuses to expose Ruckers racism and war against clients, or draw parallels to what is happening in other social services and refuses to activate clients in support of the strike. Until workers see through this labor leadership strategy of limiting struggles, we will be fighting one losing battle after another.
PLP members sold CHALLENGE and distributed a leaflet exposing the role of such union leaders who consciously march their members into the arms of the enemy.
Some faculty from the Massachusetts Council of Community Colleges at Roxbury Community College (RCC) marched in solidarity with the striking social workers The strike and RCCs Administration support of FSGB management (see CHALLENGE, 10/22) have given us a political opportunity. Now at RCC a small group of faculty is meeting with PLP, discussing articles in CHALLENGE and some immediate issues.
Swiss banks just froze $48 million in secret bank accounts of Vladimir Montesinos. How did Montesinos, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimoris Rasputin, get those millions? Apparently, by using his power as chief of Peruvian Intelligence Service and as the CIAs top man in Peru to launder millions from the very drug cartels the CIA is allegedly trying to "stop."
To those who know the CIAs history, this is not surprising.
During the Vietnam war, the CIA-run airlines which supplied the anti-North Vietnamese among the Hmong tribes and others, also flew opium for the warlords supporting the U.S. More recently. during the Reagan-Bush years, the CIA allied itself with the Medellin drug cartel to help finance the Contras who were waging war against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
When journalist Gary Webb exposed the CIA-Contras-Drug Cartel connection in the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, major newspapers helped the CIA discredit the reports. Webb was forced out and the MERCURY NEWS even apologized for the articles.
Last year, secret Congressional hearings on the CIA-Contras-Drug Cartel connection revealed some important facts about the CIA, despite "clearing" it of all wrongdoings.
CIA inspector general Britt Snider told the hearings: "In the final account it seems that the goal of overthrowing the Sandinistas was primary over the adequate treatment of potentially serious accusations against those with whom the Agency was working." Duane Claridge, who oversaw the CIAs secret aid to the Contras in the early years of the war against the Sandinistas, reported that "the anti-drug programs in Central America were not a priority for the CIA personnel at the beginning of the 1980s."
The Congressional Report exonerating the CIA is very revealing. For example, it concludes that "the CIA as an institution, did not approve the connections between the Contras and the drug dealers " [The key word here is "institution."] Meanwhile, CIA operatives were allowing the drug cartels to transport drugs north into the U.S. in the very same planes the CIA used to carry guns south to the contras. Garry Webb blamed this CIA connection for the crack epidemic that hit inner cities throughout the U.S. during the 1980s. While Webb was fired and blacklisted, not a single CIA or Reagan-Bush official ever lost anything for this drug-dealing.
The CIA also performed a similar task during the 1980s in the war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. It used the drug-running Pakistani Intelligence Services to smuggle opium out of Afghanistan while supplying the "Freedom Fighters" warring on the Soviets.(Osama Bin laden, the Saudi billionaire, was one of those CIA-financed "freedom fighters."). Last year, the CIA/Pentagon and NATO allied themselves with the drug-running Albanian mafia linked to the Albanian Liberation Armyto fight Milosevic and the Serbian army).
Today, the same story is being repeated in Colombia. U.S. rulers have sent billions in aid to the drug-running Colombian army and death squads to "wage war" against drugs. Anyone who believes this is a sure customer to buy the Brooklyn bridge.
HAMMOND, IN. "The best thing about it was the unity!" These words were spoken again and again by students from all backgrounds about the forum against racism sponsored by the Black Student Union on Nov. 3. Although the university "forgot" to set up the microphones and students had to shout, that just added to the energy and enthusiasm! Even faculty who stopped by for a while were impressed at the energy and unity. In the past, there have been many cynical comments made about how students segregate themselves, especially in the lounge, but on this day, student after student got up and spoke about their grievances against the university. The strong sense of unity deepened as black, latin, and white students all spoke about their common problems and the need to fight back. Black students even brought up the need to keep anti-racist professors, including one white professor who is being terminated. The impact of seeing black students support white professors and white students criticize the racism of other professors did more to build solidarity and trust than all the phony "diversity" workshops the bosses set up. Some speakers also tied these abuses in to the ways that capitalism is based on racism and wars, including possible military action in the Middle East.
The incident that started this protest centered around Professor "Nicky" Jacksons treatment of a black student, but the issues soon spread to critiques of other professors, (including one who continually comments that black students from Gary are involved in drugs) as well as other serious problems concerning the way that students are being driven out of the university. Remedial math courses are often poorly taught or with classes too large and there is a new rule being set up that will cut students off of financial aid if they have to drop a few classes. The professors who were criticized are apparently furious at leaflets and the Challenge article. Students are making plans to start a petition with numerous demands and keep the pressure on with more speak-outs. Whether or not the university takes action against Jackson, there are many more problems that need to be addressed. The BSU, including members of PLP, will continue to keep building the struggle. The responsibility for members of PLP is to broaden the struggle and help develop the understanding that racism and capitalism were born together and the only way to eliminate racism is to destroy capitalism. Additionally, we are building for November 18, the big 25th anniversary dinner celebration of the "Boston 75" Project, when a hundred anti-racist youth spent the summer in Boston organizing against the racist anti-school integration (busing) movement. A big turnout for that dinner will help strengthen the unity and further help develop the revolutionary movement for the bigger battles to come!
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 7 "Mr. Chairman. I teach high school in South Central Los Angeles," said a PLP teacher and delegate on the floor of last weeks teachers union House of Representatives meeting. "My students ask me why were going on strike," she continued, "and why they should support us.
"If we want their support, we need to be committed to fighting in their interests. We need to make the fight against overcrowded, under-supplied, dirty and unsafe schools and for quality public education the lead demand. We must demand that new schools be built to relieve overcrowding and to reduce the number of students per teacher. We must demand that the school policewhich targets working-class and minority young people on a regular basisbe disbanded, and that the money freed up be used to hire parents to guarantee the safety of the students, and that the military recruiterswho also target our young people to fight and die for oil profits in the Middle Eastbe denied access to our campuses.
"If we strike for these demands, we can expect students and parents to understand our commitment to them, and to support us in our struggle. Therefore, I ask the body to consider Special Order of Business #1."
The union president had been giving his usual lackluster report on the lack of progress in negotiations when our comrade rose to make the above motion. Teachers here have been working without a contract since July. Although negotiations have been on-going, the unions timid reluctance to sharpen the struggle indicates theyve really been marking time until the elections. The leadership is tied to the Democratic Party and a business unionism approach, relying on "changing" conditions through passing laws and electing "friends" among the bosses politicians rather than on organizing the power of teachers, students and parents through class struggle. Our motion reflects a continuing discussion among teachers and students about linking the fight against police terror and imperialist war to teacher and student demands for better education.
The main people being screwed in the schools are the students. Our demands, unlike the union leaderships, reflect that reality, and our commitment to fight for the students and for quality public education. Many people agree with the first point, about making smaller classes, more schools, etc., the lead demand, ahead of demands for higher teacher salaries. We are in a coalition with other teachers for "educational justice" which advances these demands.
More controversial, however, has been the anti-racist demand to get the cops and courts out of the classroom. It takes more struggle to win teachers to support this. An incident after school demonstrated its importance. Two middle-aged communist women teachers tried to break up a fight, eventually stopped by two young male teachers in a big brotherly fashion. Afterwards, the cops drove up and arrested half a dozen kids who were on the outskirts of the fight. This showed more clearly what we should be fighting forthe kind of working-class security Progressive Labor Party organizes to guarantee May Day, a group of workers who are strong enough and committed enough to the working class to guarantee the march and isolate and deal appropriately with any attack.
When the working class runs society, for the workers, thats what well have. Copsincluding the school copsexist to protect private property and to serve the capitalist ruling class. Part of that job is to harass and attack working-class youth, especially black and Latin youth. At this point we feel we should demand parent and community patrols at our schools, responsive to and respectful of the community they serve.
All this was in our motion. Although it was ruled out of order, the vote to consider it showed at least 25 of the 120 or so delegates present in favor. After the comrade sat down, one of the members of the Bilingual Education committee, who had been active in fighting against Proposition 21s attacks on young people, approached her. They had a long discussion about how the cops always target minority workers and how only communist revolution can eliminate police terror.
This resolution demonstrated how the Party can be active in the labor movement, and struggle for our ideasshowing that capitalism REQUIRES racist police terror and warand at the same time fight to incorporate student interests into the union struggle. More consistent work can recruit some honest teacher activists to PLP.
We are raising the nature of imperialist oil war n the classroom and with our friends, but we were not very successful in getting this into the union meeting. At this time the question of racist police terror seems more urgent to our students also. The situation in the Middle East is heating up and can soon become very urgent for these students. The bosses will try to get teachers to win our students to support the U.S. in the coming wars for oil profits. We plan to raise this urgent question increasingly with students and teachers in this current struggle.
(The following letter came from a comrade who met the Party in Mexico in the 1970s and was active with PLP for many years. He moved to another country and lost contact until now.)
I come from a peasant family. Capitalism keeps people in rural areas in extreme poverty and ignorance. Life was so hard that children were not just seen as new beings to be loved and cared for, but as additional help in doing farmwork.
To escape this hell I looked for work in a textile mill in a nearby city. For seven months I went daily to the plant looking for work, without much success. I saw the company giving jobs to friends and relatives of the union hacks, compensating them for their sellouts.
Finally one morning I got lucky. A foreman came looking for a mechanic. Though not a mechanic I was so desperate I said I was. My dream came through. I learned fast. Everything was wonderful, from the smell of the machinery oil to the colors of the tints used in the textiles. It amazed me to see workers running from place to place operating the machines.
But as time went by I began to see my dream was not that perfect. I saw the spinners eating their lunch standing up while working at the same time. The oil smell and tint colors began to change to me. I saw many workers coughing a lot because of the fumes and dust. Later, I discovered that 50% of those workers had TB.
Then that I met some young people selling CHALLENGE. At first I was not interested, but seeing them selling that paper every Saturday made me curious. I asked one young seller if he was paid for doing it. I couldnt conceive of someone selling a paper, without pay, with so much commitment, even when it was raining. His answer amazed me: "We do it because the working class is the only one that can change the course of history, the only one capable of destroying capitalism."
I became more interested when he said the ideas of communism have been written for workerswhen workers grasp them and understand their exploitation, they will change the world.
I was 18 years old and those were the sweetest and most beautiful words Ive ever heard. That day I felt very important. A fire, hope was born inside me.
I then asked workers in the plant if they knew what being a communist meant. Some said communists were anti-god, wanted to burn churches, want to turn people into slaves. These answers made me think even more.
The next Saturday I asked the CHALLENGE sellers I asked what communists did who was financing the paper. I thought that would annoy them, but one young woman looked at me with the kind of tenderness I only had felt from my mother. She said communists were people like myself and the other workers in the plant. The difference is that "we have awakened."
"Awakened from what?" I asked. She replied that we see how world history has been the history of class struggle, of how the exploited masses fight against those few who exploit them, the have-nots against the have-everythings. She added that labor power is all workers have to sell to the bosses.
She then asked me if I ever saw a boss work for his/her money. I said no, but that is what they pay us workers for. She then explained how the bosses get surplus value from our labor, that the value of what they pay us is a small fraction of the value we produce.
It was then that I decided to read "The Communist Manifesto." Although I didnt realize what was happening to me, it was like new blood flowing through my body. I began to see things differently. I began to understand what was happening around me. Then I discussed with some fellow workers, mainly with the lowest-paid, what I was learning. The older workers were afraid to talk because they were nearing retirement and feared losing their miserable pension.
After working with PLP for several years, I moved and lost contact. But finally, after two decades, I found the Party again, and know that the Partys ideas are needed now more than ever. Whether under the name of globalization or free markets, capitalism continues to bring misery and wars to the worlds workers. I am glad PLP is still around and will do my best to help the fight for communism.
An old comrade somewhere in Latin America
NEW YORK, Nov. 8 Last week a shop steward of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) local here reported to dozens of co-workers at several lunch room meetings the latest news on shop steward elections, the current contract negotiations (Nov. 20 deadline) and the unions October 26 contract rally (see CHALLENGE, Nov. 8).
The steward spoke favorably of the rallys rank-and-file solidarity and militancy, saying the greater the unity, the more can be achieved. He also emphasized his disgust at the dominance of national and regional union leaders as rally speakers. These mis-leaders came for exposure, hoping for votes in the 2001 national union elections. William Burrus, the lead candidate for APWU President, revealed his plan to "threaten" management by taking the contract to arbitration! Such "militancy" will lead to another rotten contract.
Union leaders gave little news at the rally about the negotiations, but outlined a few of managements demands for give-backs affecting wages and job security. Many workers in the lunch rooms agreed with the steward that the union leaders should have been made to listen to more rank-and-file speakers rather than talk themselves.
The steward pointed to an APWU poster stating that less than 1/3 of postal revenues are used to pay for workers salaries and benefits only 9¢ from each 33¢ stamp. Thus, postal workers deserve a raise. Well, thats true. However, the union mis-leaders avoided a more fundamental truth: all postal revenues are earned by the collective labor of postal workers throughout the country, 33¢ of every 33¢ stamp. By grabbing 24¢ of each 33¢ stamp, USPS bosses steal hundreds of millions of dollars a year from postal workers labor. (The same is true for every public and private company.) Its "The System" that makes this huge theft "legal" with their laws, protected by the U.S. government, the Supreme Court, the police, National Guard, etc.
Workers applauded when the steward said, "The millions in profits should not go to pay big salaries to managers, nor bonuses to ass-kissing supervisors." The shop steward made it clear it is his conviction "that the value produced by our work should be shared" according to need. Many nodded in agreement.
More than the usual 30 to 35 CHALLENGES were distributed this issue. This will be a vital addition to the postal workers understanding of the importance of a communist analysis and program.
Ive been teaching in a Jersey City high school for almost two years. When I started, a district-wide teacher strike had just ended. The environment I entered was hostile and unstable. New or untenured teachers were being pitted against senior teachers. Many new teachers, like myself, were seen as puppets for the administration. If teachers stayed late or came to school earlier than the union contract stated, others would say new teachers were trying to "please" the administration.
As a communist, my role is to, (1) serve the working class; (2) unify teachers and students; (3) build and lead class struggle; and (4) build a base and recruit teachers and students to the Party. For example, I taught a class focused specifically on reading and writing skills. Students needed to pass this class in order to graduate. Unfortunately, many didnt have the necessary skills to pass. I would come in early and stay late to help my students complete the assignments and improve their literacy skills.
Many teachers disagreed with this. "These students cant do the assignments," said these teachers. "Theyre not going to pass anyway. Why bother?"
I was disgusted and angered by these racist and anti-working class ideas. At first, I struggled with them and talked about things I was doing in my classroom, but many of them didnt want to hear this. Soon I became cynical about these teachers. I didnt realize I had fallen into the "new-teachers-vs.-the-senior-teachers" trap. In a nutshell, I stayed away from all but a few teachers.
I decided to concentrate on my students. I helped them complete the assignments required by the state in order to graduate. I also helped them improve their reading and writing skills. This meant I had to come in an hour earlier each day and stay at least 40 minutes after school. The administration does not want any seniors failing the class. Consequently, many teachers feel pressured to help students pass at any cost. In the past, some teachers would write the assignments for the students. This, they say, is "easier" for them. They do not have to actually TEACH or come in early or stay late.
I would discuss this situation with my students, about how racist and anti-working class these ideas are. Some mentioned other teachers who taught them and who respected them. I reached out to these teachers and shared teaching ideas with them. We are building a collective of new and senior teachers. This has helped eradicate my cynicism because I saw there were other teachers fighting to teach their students.
I am building close ties with my students. I have showed several CHALLENGE. Some have come to Party functions.
Its Nov. 7 and Im bored to death with all the reports about the electoral circus thats about to elect another bosses puppet to the White House. Suddenly, I get a fax from the History Channel (the War Channel, as some call it). Its about a program to be aired Nov. 26. The first paragraph reads: "It is well known that over 6 million Jews were brutally murdered during the Holocaust, but few realize that 4 million Jews were saved!"
I begin to think; I get this fax on Nov. 7, the 83rd anniversary of the most important event of the 20th century, the Bolshevik revolution that for over three decades freed one-sixth of the worlds surface from capitalism. For sure, the History Channel will report how Stalin and the Red Army saved most of those 4 million Jews.
Wrong again. Its another "Schindlers List" (the movie about the Nazi boss who used 1,000 Jewish slave laborers to produce for the Nazi war machine and supposedly "saved" them). The program will depict four diplomats who used their posts to help save about 100,000 Jews from the death camps. Okay, they helped 100,000.
But what about the other 3.9 million Jews (millions more) who were freed from the Nazi butchers? Well, you wont learn about it on the History Channel (and its very anti-communist coverage of World War II). Instead, read PLPs special May 17, 1995 CHALLENGE supplement, "50 years Ago the Communist Red Army Defeated the Nazis").
A friend of ours volunteers her time at a battered womens shelter, where women can take their families when men becomes physically abusive. Recently she was assigned to help cater a banquet honoring those who donate money for the shelter. Shelters arent free; nothing under capitalism is.
It would be a fine spread and she wasnt much looking forward to it, except that she knew overall it was for a good cause. The banquet was being held at one of Chicagos finest hotels and the honorees would be big-money people, the kind who own companies that need workers to run them.
You start thinking about these rich people, how they make their money, what they pay their workers40 hours a week, $10 an hour, trying to support a family of five. Thats not easy. People with financial problems many times relieve the stress by trying to escape reality. Thats true with capitalism in general. Maybe we turn to drugs or alcohol. Maybe we take it out on our families. Its a no-win route, not acceptable, one that should always be struggled against with our friends, family and comrades.
But its a funny circle. Working-class families under financial stress will inevitably experience more instances of domestic abuse. The mother will seek assistance at a battered womens shelter. Lo and behold, the owner of the factory where the abuser works for subsistence wages finances the shelter!
This is not to say there will be no domestic violence problems under communism. There will be. But not nearly as many, and they will be handled differently. Capitalist exploitation causes the stress which leads to domestic violence and then builds a few shelters for a small number of the victims of their greed. We will attack the root cause of this violence, primarily the profit system that cant provide for workers families. If domestic violence persists, we will continue to attack. There is no room in a communist society for abuse against women or men.
The producers and the striking Screen Actors Guild have reached a deal. After a long walkout, the commercials contract will likely be ratified by the Guilds membership, although with only minimal gains.
During the battle, the stars were more militant than the AFL-CIO leadership. For instance, when it became clear that the same financial barons who produce commercials own and control the TV and radio networks and therefore were not publicizing the strike, nor actors demands, principal players were brought to massive street rallies in major cities.
At several such mass protests the local union bosses tried, unsuccessfully, to squelch workers rising anger. One fine autumn day in New York, Paul Newman told a rally, "Even Charlton Heston, who is no friend of labor, said, regarding the strike, Theyll have to take the smoking gun from my lifeless hand and the media still didnt mention it." Others spoke of "going to jail too, with you."
The militancy shocked State union reps. The day Newman spoke, angry protestors tied up the city while thousands marched, despite directions to reassemble later. One striker told reporters she "followed a tradition a lot like the one you can see in the movie Cradle Will Rock."
On the way we were embraced by groups of wildly sympathetic hard-hats, construction workers breaking for lunch. The strikers managed to encircle GMs skyscraper headquarters. Some chants were changed. Instead of "Shame on GM," it became "Smash GM" and, in English and Spanish, "The workers, united, will never be defeated." These caught on, first among some jingle singers and from there the entire GM block.
A commercial contract giving performers needed residuals is fairly certain. The vast realm of the Internet was addressed superficially, with a flat rate payment. But gains should be weighed against the skyrocketing cost of living.
Typically, the unions members were cynical. And no wonder. Aside from mass protests very little done to organize the strike. Non-union actors were used as informational pickets in exchange for the promise of union membership. This widened the gap between union and non-union even more. Reformist factions, misleaders and would-be hacks, rather than unite with other striking workers, such as the LA bus drivers, tried to vote each other out of union office. Rallies were only partially publicized or given wrong times and locations.
Of course, more needs to be done to win over actors and performing artists generally to communist ideas. Self-critically, more CHALLENGES could have been sold. Those such as the jingle singers, who expressed interest, might have been asked to get together around strike issues or, perhaps, anti-racism.
Some believe its far-fetched to expect anything from Hollywood or the performing arts under capitalism. A total revolution is needed to root out bourgeois notions, such as "art for arts sake," but its clear that intellectual workers can indeed be won to communist ideas.
At a United Federation of Teachers (UFT) delegate assembly on November 1, PL members as usual distributed a communist leaflet. This one dealt with the presidential election and the coming Iraqi war. We werent planning to raise any new motions. However, the union leadership had placed a resolution on the agenda about the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Though the item appeared innocuous enough because it talked about the killing of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, it primarily attacked the Palestinians: "Resolved, that the UFT condemn the crimes, atrocities, desecrations and acts of terrorism committed in the present strife."
In the bosses press, the only people called "terrorists" are Palestinians or other Arabs. The only "desecration" is the desecration of a Jewish temple. The only "atrocity" is the killing of two Israeli soldiers and a rabbi. Therefore, behind the apparent evenhandedness, this agenda item really subtly favored the Israeli rulers. It also said nothing about the role of capitalism/nationalism and imperialism as the cause of this conflict. One PL member (with only five minutes to prepare) called for an amendment to this resolution. He changed the leaderships resolution to read: "Resolved, that the UFT condemn the killing of Arab, Jewish and Palestinian workers by whoever kills them." Clarifying his amendment, he explained that the current struggle stems from capitalism; working-class children are dying because of the imperialist drive for oil.
Four speakers attacked the amendment. The first said it was Marxist. The second said it "muddied the water." The third accused it of "being too one-sided" because it was "more supportive of Arabs being killed." All these speeches were anti-communist. Forty delegates voted for the amendment; most voted against it and some did not vote. Of the 800 members present, approximately 60% voted for the union leaderships motion.
After the meeting several people stopped the comrade as he walked from the hall. One African-American woman took his hand and said, "Thank god youre back in the assembly." Another person said, "That was very brave." Still another said, "Its a good thing somebody spoke on the matter like that."
Outside the hall, another union member told him, "You were the one who raised the amendment? Thank you. I teach Palestinian children, and its been very hard." She also thanked him for pointing out the cause as capitalism.
We should have been more aware of the agenda so we could have prepared properly. It is an important part of building a communist movement. In this very critical period we must look very carefully at our actions as communists. We should be more serious about our work in this assembly.
A Red Delegate