Note: Challenge is biweekly in December. We return to our regular weekly publication in January 2001
Gore-Bush Brawl: Punch Out All Bosses!
200 Years Of Racist Elections Marches On
The Two Bulls And A Frog
Auto Workers Battle vs. Bosses Car Wars
U.S. Bosses Rivals Adopt NAFTA Tactic
Racist Chilean Cops Attack Mapuches
Postal Bosses, Union Shafting Workers
Philly Hospital Struggle Is Right Medicine For PLP
Classroom Struggles Spur Teachers Pro-Student Demands
PLPer Rallies Teachers Behind Student Needs
Blast Nazi Gene Theory At Public Health Meeting
Bush-Gore Dogfight Opens Doors For Russian Rulers
Thousands Attack Visit By Barak And Sharon
International Conglomerate Oppresses Brewery Workers In Colombia
Protest Racist Murder of Howard University Student
Solidarity Communist Style
Prison Labor Delivers the Campus Mail
If these ideas are communist, Im a communist...
Fight For Hearts and Minds at APHA
Wants More Internationalism
Build PLP in The Mass Movement
Pro-Student Flier A Hit With UFTers
Crack Down on Bosses Fascist Plans
New Voices, Old Songs
A Discredited History
Under New Management
AFL-CIA Labor Buddies Exposed in Venezuela
As this issue of CHALLENGE goes to press, the rulers are still feuding over the presidential election. Theyre violating their own rules in wholesale fashion. At the moment, the Republicans seem to have stolen the election. But the Democrats, who have long experience in voting swindles, are proving theres no honor among thieves.
One of the biggest lies in this election is the one that says "every vote counts." The Bush-Gore dogfight shows just the opposite. Many Florida ballots were confusing or unreadable. Others, particularly in Miami-Dade County, where a lot of black people live, werent counted at all. Many other people were prevented from voting through intimidation or fraud. When Gore seemed to be overtaking Bush in the recount, the Florida Supreme Court gave an unrealistic deadline and tens of thousands of ballots spit out by the machines went uncounted.
A lot is at stakefor Bush, Gore and the bosses they represent. The presidency is crucial to the biggest U.S. rulers. Key areas of contention include the approach toward Russia, domestic oil production, how best to exploit and discipline the working class, as well as others we dont yet fully understand (see CHALLENGE Nov.29). In any event, the biggest rulers consider the White House important enough to brawl over like two dogs viciously pursuing a bone.
They didnt seem to want this fight at the beginning. During the electoral campaign, Bush and Gore pulled many punches. In the wake of Clintons impeachment, the rulers appeared ready to unite once again. But with the presidential results a virtual tie, the unity collapsed quicker than a politicians promise. The bosses are making a spectacle of themselves. Each sides hypocritical bullshit about "democracy" cant cover the truth about capitalisms basic nature. This is a contest for profit and political powerwho gets the most and howand ego. The working class has absolutely no stake in siding with either camp.
Nazis Hiding in the Bushes
The Bush Republicans appeal to the most openly racist forces in the U.S. Bush himself comes from a long line of fascists. In the 1930s, Bushs grandfather helped his own father-in-law finance Adolf Hitler through Wall Streets Union Banking Corp. (Rogers and Mamatas, "The Albion Monitor"). Papa George used neo-Nazis Jerome Brentar, a Holocaust denier, and Akselis Mangulis who was involved in the SS-inspired Latvian Legion, in his 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns.
Baby Bushs Texas is the death penalty capital of the worldespecially for the poorest and mostly black workersand the home of regular racist atrocities.
Liberals are Real Evil
Many people, including a large number of black workers, voted for Gore because Bush & Co. are so blatantly anti-working class. But Gore and the Democrats are no better. Voting for them is a serious mistake. CHALLENGE has repeatedly exposed the Clinton/Gore record of racist mayhem. Slave labor "Workfare," the doubling of the prison population (70% black and Latino, mostly non-violent offenders or framed outright), the dramatic increase in cop terror and the rise in anti-immigrant attacks are just a few of the current administrations "accomplishments."
The foreign policy disagreements between Bush and Gore are apparently tactical. The two camps differ about how, when and where to draw the line about trading with U.S. rivals. They disagree somewhat about how, when and wherebut NOT whetherto go to war for U.S. imperialist super-profits. When push came to shove in 1991, President Bush, Sr., launched the Gulf War to safeguard the oil riches of Exxon, which is now basically in the Gore camp. The Senate support resolution for Gulf War I was written by none other than Gores god-fearing V-P sidekick Joseph Lieberman. The war became a genocidal attack on Iraqi workers. Despite the rulers many disagreements, they all unite on the basic issue of maintaining their class dictatorship over the working class.
Bush and the Republicans may succeed in stealing this election. On the other hand, perhaps Gore and the Democrats will find a way to defeat the Bush coup. Workers will lose regardless of the outcome, if we line up behind either side. But we can do something else. We can fight to build our own Party, the revolutionary communist PLP.
The present mud-slinging exposes many internal weaknesses among the bosses. Their key strength lies in our own momentary weakness and passivity. We can change that! We can increase our commitment to the historic struggle that will bring about the profit systems downfall. Under capitalism, your vote only helps one or another rich boss. If you join the PLP and work to build it, everything you do will count in favor of the working class. We are the revolutionary communist Party and the class of the future.
PLP has always said that voting under capitalism is just another fraud through which the bosses who own and run the society maintain their dictatorship over the vast majority who produce their profits. This was again proven true when thousands of Floridas black voters were denied their "right" to cast a ballot in the latest election.
A century after the Civil War, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, supposedly "guaranteeing" everyone the right to vote. Heres what happened in the "sunshine" state, all violations of Florida law and testified to at NAACP-conducted hearings:
Polls in black districts closed as early as 4:30 P.M., although the state closing time was 7 P.M.
Police set up roadblocks to frighten and/or bar black voters from the polls.
Black voters who had been registered and voted for years were told they were "not on the voter lists."
Voters were shunted from polling place to polling place until it was too late to vote.
Voters without Florida IDs were turned away, even though the law says they can cast an "affidavit ballot."
Black voters were stopped even with voter cards.
Only black voters on the rolls with an ID were questioned about whether they had been convicted of a felony since they last voted.
One black minister said the boxes of votes cast at his church, an official polling place, had never been picked up to this day, despite repeated requests.
Haitian voters were threatened with deportation when insisting on being allowed to vote.
Haitian voters were denied the help of Creole translators, despite being legally entitled to such aid. Translators holding copies of the appropriate statute, and offering such help were told to "move on" or be arrested.
One white newswoman, a former cop, testified she saw police cars stopping black voters, asking for IDs and challenged with, "What are you doing here?" She saw one elderly man ordered to "assume the position." When she tried to intervene, she was told to move or be arrested.
Its obvious that despite whatever "law" the bosses might be forced to pass, all bosses use their state power to violate their own laws when it suits their purposes. Interestingly enough, so far the Democrats, those "great champions" of civil rights, havent lifted a finger to bring even these cases to their own courts. It only exposes "the right to vote" as just one more ploy with which the ruling class maintains its rule, to exploit the working class and safeguard its profit system.
The vaunted Electoral Collegehighly touted as such a democratic feature of presidential elections devised by the wondrous "founding fathers"was based on slavery. In the original U.S. Constitution slaves were counted as "three-fifths of a person." Since representation in the Electoral College was based on state populations, the slave-owning states were awarded disproportionate power in electing a president, to convince them to ratify the Constitution.
No wonder that in 32 of the first 36 years of this "great democracy," every single president was a slave-owner from the state of Virginia.
Workers cant "vote out" capitalism. Gore and Bush represent two sides of the same ruling class oppressing workers since 1776. We can only organize communist revolution to overthrow it.
A pair of amorous bulls stood vying
Over a heifer both would woo and service
"Misery me!" a frog sat sighing,
Eyeing their combat-timorous, nervous;
Whereat one of her croaking kin
Queried: "Good gracious, why the fuss?"
"Why?" cried the frog. "For us, that's why!
One of those two is sure to win;
And when he drives his rival out,
Far from their green and flowering fields, what then?
Then he'll come stomping over swamp and fen,
Trampling our reeds! And us as well, no doubt!
Tomorrow we'll be dead. And why? Because here, now,
Two bulls are fighting for some silly cow!"
Frog's dread predictions came to pass.
When the bull, defeated, seeks their dank morass,
Twenty compatriots an hour croak
Their final croak: a crushing fate!
Alas, 'twas ever thus. The little folk
Have always paid for follies of the great.
The fable (above) offers an interesting insight into the error of taking sides when two bosses fight. It was written over 300 years ago by a Frenchman named Jean de La Fontaine, who lived under the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. The two bulls represent rival factions of the French nobility, and the frogs are the common people.
If we reread it with Bush and Gore in the bulls role and the working class as the frogs, we can see that the principle of refusing to support warring rulers applies to us today. The main difference is that we dont have to get trampled by the winner; we can choose to fight back by building our Party.
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 23 Last week one of the major U.S. automakers, supported by the union leadership, fired 700 temporary workers and threatened more firings and a possible plant closing. The issue is the companys ability to implement lean, modular production methods.
In several departments workers denounced their terrible experiences with these programs. "I wont participate because it only cheapens our labor," said one, confronting his supervisor. Another worker told a group of bosses, "Even YOU are going to lose your jobs." "They lay us off anyway, so why should we collaborate?" asked another worker. The company tried to interview workers on the line. Many protesting by refusing to answer.
In Mexico and Brazil, modular and lean production have significantly increased productivity and reduced costs, especially the cost of labor. In modular production, parts of the car are sub-assembled in other factories, where wages are even lower, and shipped to the main plant for final assembly. In one factory, seats, dashboards and tires are the first modules made this way. The Pontiac Aztec is assembled in Silao, with 32 modules and hundreds of other components that are added just-in-time. This GM plant pays the lowest wages in the whole auto industry.
Making the process lean means reducing and eliminating areas that dont directly add value to the product: maintenance, storage and transport of materials. Part of this work is delegated to the production worker on the line, like cleaning, security and detection of errors by the team in your whole work area. The bosses "Team Concept" tries to get workers to spy on each other, while telling us that workers and bosses are "in the same boat." At Ford in Hermosillo, workers are now "technicians."
In Brazil the modular system is even more advanced. Racist U.S. and German auto bosses are experimenting in Latin America. Autoworkers in Mexico make $2.60 an hour. In the US, they make $21; in Germany, $19. Theyre in a race to use modular and lean production in all their plants to maximize their profits and impoverish the workers of the world.
Ford calls these slave labor methods "Ford Productions Systems (FPS)." In one plant, workers resistance has stopped them from implementing FPS for three years. PLP has organized against this system of super-exploitation through CHALLENGE, leaflets and meetings. Weve confronted them on the assembly line, and in company meetings where they push their programs, always linking this to the bosses deadly competition for markets. Several workers have joined the Party and many more look to us for leadership.
To resist is important, But to smash the imperialists, we need an international movement for communist revolution. We need to build international working-class unity, and build PLP into a party of millions. This will transform the current resistance into a revolutionary torrent, which will wipe the greedy capitalists, their markets and their wars off the face of the earth! Every worker who reads and distributes CHALLENGE, and who joins a PLP study group, is on the road to fighting for a bright red future.
The NAFTA treaties with the U.S. now face similar treaties with the EU (European Union) and Central America and a possible agreement with Mercosur (South American trade group), transforming Mexico from a U.S. "province" into an imperialist battleground for markets and cheap labor. Workers in Mexico produce cars at low cost for the biggest markets in the world. The battle includes trying to dominate the Latin American auto market, with a population of 400 million, where one of every nine people buys a car.
In the last five years, the auto bosses have invested more than $40 billion in new plants here. Brazil produces 3,000,000 cars annually. Mexico will match that in the next two years. Including auto parts, Mexico exported $29 billion in cars last year, making it one of the biggest exporters in the world. Auto-related trade between the U.S. and Mexico grew from $14.6 billion in 1994 to $37.6 billion in 1999. The agreement with the EU greatly reduces the tariffs on autos and auto parts. VW has announced big investments in Mexico. Nissan-Fiat will increase its investment in its Cuernavaca plant.
SANTIAGO, CHILE From 9 AM to noon on Nov. 17, 400 cops attacked the Mapuche community of Temucuicui, Chile, injuring and arresting many. The cops assaulted anyone in their way, using racist slurs, shooting in the air and shouting threats "to rape all these Indian women"; "were going to beat you to a pulp," etc. They chased women who took refuge in a local school. There they shot their guns in the air and repeated their racist slurs in front of the schoolchildren.
The Mapuches are waging a legal battle against Forestal Mininco, a company trying to exploit land belonging to the community. The "InJustice" System has railroaded the Mapuche demands and sent cops to attack them.
Maybe the Mapuches expected something different from the "Socialist" government of President Lagos. The latter is playing games with the Mapuches. On Oct. 12, "Columbus Day," Guido Girardi, a high-ranking government official, joined the Mapuches as they marched on Congress demanding a "law of reparations for the Indigenous people." Meanwhile, President Lagos wife was in Spain invited by the Borbon monarchy to "celebrate" the genocidal colonization of the "New World" by Columbus.
Our Mapuche brothers and sisters must see the hypocrisy of this capitalist government. They need to unite with all workers in Chile to fight the brutal racism, segregation and murder that has been occurring for 500 years. The PLP group in Chile invites all workers to join with us to fight for the only society that can end so many centuries of genocidecommunism. Just as capitalism gave birth to modern racism, communism will give birth to a society where racism will be a crime.
NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 29 As of midnight last night, contract negotiations broke down between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the 300,000-member American Postal Workers Union. The dispute now goes to binding arbitration.
Union leaders had asked for a paltry 13.5% wage increase over three years and continuation of the (inadequate) cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). USPS bosses offered NO WAGE INCREASE over four years and elimination of the COLA. Union leaders had planned on arbitration from the beginning and USPS bosses obliged.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 14 the USPS Board of Governors announced their unanimous decision to push for "regulatory reform"full or partial privatization of the postal service affecting hundreds of thousands of jobsclassic capitalism treatment of highly productive workers. (More next issue.)
PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 27 "Im interested in a change," said Jane. "But how do we do it?"
This question, asked by a hospital worker new to PLP meetings, opened a new Party gathering of healthcare workers. Jane is a regular CHALLENGE reader and a rank-and-file leader on her job.
"PLP studies the science of dialectics so we can understand how change happens," answered Juanita, a re-charged veteran Party member who helped organize and lead the meeting. We then discussed the recent contract struggle at Jefferson Hospital, using dialectics to understand how the workers were mobilized. "From the outside it looked like the workers wouldnt organize to fight," added Lenny, another Jefferson worker. "That was the hope of the Jefferson bosses and the union leaders."
"Yeah, but I stayed on the workers ass," continued Jane.
"Yeah, you stayed on their ass," said Lenny, "but remember, we spoke with a lot of workers to see what they really thought they needed. We did some investigation. Thats how we came up with the Jobs campaign that you helped lead. Workers were more willing to fight for our Jobs campaign than the official union agenda. We got past the appearance of the workers being complacent and passive and were able to identify what they would fight for," going from "appearance" to "essence."
"Yeah, but I still had to stay on their ass," said Jane.
"Youre right," said Lenny, "We need masses of workers, but individuals can make a difference and we need leadership."
Indira, a veteran party member who normally is pretty cynical, continued the lively discussion. She described an important struggle she led among the nurses on her job. She hadnt planned to lead these other workers, but when she showed another nurse a letter she had written about the job problem, Indiras letter became the "spokesperson" for the other nurses. Other workers participated and, surprise, Indira and her co-workers got the boss to back down.
This meeting was significant because it involved new workers who were active in the recent Jefferson contract struggle as well as veteran Party members taking on more leadership. We have plans to invite several other new workers to these meetings. All this holds great promise for May Day.
BROOKLYN, NY, Nov. 27 Over 20 teachers from our high school traveled together to the Nov. 16 UFT (United Federation of Teachers) rally at City Hall. It occurred during several struggles within the school. The prolonged one is the attempt by a group of teachers to work together with 9th graders who all read well below their grade level. The school has, in fact, discarded them as "unteachable" while creating the appearance of promoting learning by organizing them into special double period teaching blocks. All the teachers in this program must fight to teach, and struggle with the youth to fight to learn every day.
This has led to many struggles over the semester. Teachers get discouraged because were working with students who are discouraged. Throughout it, a PLP member within the program has fought for us to maintain confidence in ourselves and our students. We have organized trips, visited parents and shared our experiences on a daily basis. We cannot abandon our youth just because it is hard work to overcome years of bad teaching.
Meanwhile, the administration began observing the new teachers, many of them thrust into the 9th grade program, and began writing "unsatisfactory" ratings. The day before the rally, our UFT chapter committee confronted the principal about this harassment of hard-working new teachers who were receiving no support from the school. Such a unified front from senior teachers in defense of new teachers was a positive development for our chapter. (Two of the "U"s were subsequently reversed).
Nearly all the teachers involved in these struggles were the ones who attended the City Hall rally. The difference between the rank and file and the UFT leadership was obvious at the rally, and provoked interesting discussions. Rather than marching, or even having speakers from different schools relate the problems we and our students face daily, union head Randi Weingarten turned it into a political rally for the Democratic Party and its next candidate for mayor. We laughed about how much it felt like the meeting with the principal the day beforeus against them.
The next day we held the semesters second UFT chapter social. Over 30 teachers and staff met for drinks and chat at a local restaurant. There we had even more political discussion, including long ones about communism and capitalism. Many of these teachers have read CHALLENGE. With weeks like this, many more questions will be asked.
NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 28 Fifty staff members from Boys and Girls High School signed up to attend the November 16 UFT (United Federation of Teachers) rally at City Hall. The Party member at the school initiated the organizing effort, signing up 16. Many of those asked are CHALLENGE readers; others are "new" to our organizer. The unions chapter leadership did nothing to organize the staff until the PLPer did so. Then the Chapter Leader signed up the remaining 30 or so people in the last day or two.
It important to bring people to this rally despiteand becausethe UFT was failing to fight for our students, and against the attacks on them.
Actually, the union leads the attacks on the students, supposedly to provide better working conditions for teachers. We used the occasion of the rally to fight staff passivity and struggled to bring pro-student and anti-fascist signs and literature there.
The PLPer did just that, and fought with the Chapter Leader to organize the staff to travel together, while also putting a note in staff mailboxes calling on them to meet and go together. The Chapter Leader refused to call the staff together, leaving everyone to go their own way. The PLPer went to the rally with two members of her department.
Many who signed to go ended up not going. We dont know how many people did attend. The PLPer spent the following week discussing the rally with some who did go. They felt it was good to get out and fight, but questioned about whether the union leaderships focus on money alone was right. They would have liked more signs demanding things like smaller class size.
The rally and its politics provided an opportunity for more discussion about the Partys pro-student ideas on schools and their role, and the mistaken frustration and anger towards students expressed by many of our friends. The rally will be the starting point in organizing for PLPs January Schools Conference and a CHALLENGE readers group.
BOSTON, MA., Nov. 20 Significant headway in the fight against biodeterminsm was made here last week at the national convention of the American Public Health Association (APHA), a meeting of 13,000 health workers. Biodeterminism is the concept that our ideas and actions are determined by our genes or our brain chemistry.
For seven years, PLP members and members of the Coalition Against the Violence Initiative (CAVI) have been opposing research which claims that violence has a biological causeabnormal brain chemistry in young minority boys. Many psychologists have also become convinced that more minor forms of childrens misbehaviorrestlessness and inattention in schoolare biologic.
The "disease" of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is now being diagnosed in about 10% of boys and 3% of girls, nearly all of whom are treated with the drug Ritalin. The drug companies are ecstatic about this vast new market of millions of children, and the politicians figure they can avoid improving schools and hiring more teachers by drugging millions of children into passivity.
Last year, after a long struggle, a resolution was passed by the APHA condemning all violence research which does not fully consider environmental factors. This year a session on the issue attracted an audience of over 500. A biological researcher tried to prove that genes play a role in violence, but a Harvard geneticist demonstrated that this is unscientific and unprovable. A CAVI speaker pointed out that violence in society comes not from teenagers but from the police and the military, and that Biodeterminism is a way of blaming the problems of society on workers, not on the system. She argued that the imminence of war and economic decline increases the need for social control and drew parallels between U.S. eugenics and Nazism.
CAVI is circulating a petition against biodeterminism in research and mental health. Many APHA people signed it and took more to distribute. Several promised to become active in NY CAVI. We also leafleted and spoke at a drug company-sponsored forum on Ritalin, attended a panel by psychologists skeptical about ADHD and held a reception for our new contacts.
Our task now is to reach more parents, teachers and health providers so that racist research and drugging of our children becomes a mass issue in the schools, teachers unions and in professional organizations. As Party members we will struggle to show people how biodeterminism is an idea necessary to fascismto justify racism, inequality and war. Only a communist society will eliminate this idea forever.
The Bush-Gore melee over the presidency has given U.S. imperialisms main rivals an opportunity to move forward on important fronts. Russian rulers, in particular, are taking advantage of the disarray here. Their long-term goal is to unseat the U.S. ruling class as the worlds chief imperialist. Although the Russians arent yet ready for a military showdown with the U.S., the temporarily weakened U.S. presidency has given them major political and economic openings:
Russian oil companies are moving rapidly to close Iraqi oil deals. The latest news is about a Russian-Belarussian company, Slavneft, which plans to sign a contract this month to develop the Subba oil deposit in Iraq (REUTERS, Nov. 24). This is only one of several major contracts the Russians have negotiated to develop Iraqi oil fields.
Now the Russians have asserted themselves as Middle East "peace" brokers. On November 25, Russian president Putin announced a three-phase strategy to cut a new deal between Israeli and Palestinian bosses. This is a clear attempt to take advantage of the Clinton "peace" plans failure and the Gore-Bush deadlock. The Russian plan would also involve U.S. oil rivals in the European Union (EU).
On November 25, Iraqi deputy prime minister Aziz began a trip to Russia and China.
The Russians also announced their readiness to "cooperate with the new military force being drawn up by the European Union." (REUTERS, Nov. 26) CHALLENGE readers will remember that the plan for a EU military independant of NATO was one of the first decisions French, German, and other EU rulers made in the wake of the air war Clinton & Co. forced them to wagealongside the U.S.over the former Yugoslavia in 1999.
So the dogfight over the U.S. presidency is helping to accelerate a process of sharpened inter-imperialist rivalry thats been under way for some time now. Increased Russian and French presence in Iraq ups the ante for U.S. bosses plans to drive Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with an Exxon-friendly regime. Whoever captures the U.S. presidency will have to deal with mounting challenges to U.S. world domination, particularly in the Middle East. These rivalries, in one way or another, will inevitably produce another imperialist bloodbath for oil.
CHICAGO, IL, November 13 - Tonight more than 4,000 people protested the visit of Israeli butchers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon to the University of Illinois. The enthusiasm and energy of the many young protesters was very positive. The politics of the revisionists (fake leftists) and nationalists was not. They shouted down chants against imperialism and for "Workers of the World, Unite!"
PLP members received a very warm response to our call for unity of Arab and Israeli workers to fight for communism in the Middle East. We sold about 200 CHALLENGES and distributed more than 1,000 Party flyers. We also made some new friends and have been invited speak at a forum on Palestine.
"They are rats"; "That's terrorism"; "They're slave-drivers," were some of the comments angry workers made about the Bavarian Beer bosses here in Colombia. This year 80 workers have been fired, including a supervisor who refused to accept the bosses' fascist attacks.
There's an organized group of workers in the plant who daily fight the bosses' deception. For example, the bosses force us to attend meetings about "quality control, peace and labor harmony." Meanwhile, they threaten the most militant workers who rally with the union outside the plant to demand a new contract.
This offensive by the Bavaria bosses is part of a fascist assault on workers throughout Colombia. Besides the civil war and death squads murdering workers and others every day, the working class suffers from the "normal" oppression of capitalism (unemployment now affects three million workers in a work-force of 25 million).
Bavaria is part of a conglomerate which includes Avianca Airlines, insurance companies and even a brewery in Ecuador, where workers are paid less than here.
We in PLP are exposing capitalism to these workers as an international failure as far as our class is concerned. We're also trying to show workers we must not fear to struggle, that the bosses get away with all this because we're not fighting harder for our class interests. We're also using CHALLENGE to explain that the only answer to the attacks by Bavaria and Plan ColombiaClinton's billion-dollar support for the Colombian army and the death squadsis to fight for workers' power, communism.
Red Worker, Colombia
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA Demonstrators demanding indictment of racist cop who murdered Howard University student Prince Jones, picket office of Virginia Commonwealths Attorney Robert Horan. Horan later exonerated the cop. (See CHALLENGE stories Oct. 11 and Nov. 8, November 29.)
On Nov. 19, some Party members helped organize a solidarity rally at the AC Transit workers union hall in Oakland. An LA mechanic came to describe the recent transit strike there. A local president reported on the 1st-ever strike against Sees Candy. A carpenter told us about his 2,000-member-strong union wildcat. Two Teamsters filled us in on the current Safeway strike. My friend, whos VP of the California Nurses Association, had just returned from leafleting Safeway with some other nurses.
Two hotel union organizers trying to unionize the Radisson Hotel thanked the nurses for helping publicize the lack of health coverage for the hotels workers. The hotel organizers also reported that French workersin solidarity with the workers hereorganized against the French company loaning money to Radisson. My friend thanked the transit workers for honoring the nurses picket lines. Longshore workers were acknowledged for refusing to ship a Safeway container.
Organizers spoke about the 46 Oakland General Strike led by transit workers, the 34 San Francisco General Strike led by the longshore union, the anniversary of singer Joe Hills execution on that very day, the need to break the bosses law, the importance of multi-racial unity for our group, and so on. All the seeds of left-wing trade union organizing bore fruit that day in impassioned speech after speech for workers power and solidarity. Im not telling the half of it.
We began the rally with the LA speaker who spoke about the need for communist leaders, and we ended the rally by singing the Internationale. In between, all these dedicated organizers, who have obviously been influenced by communists and their ideas, didnt raise revolution or communism. So we have a long row to hoe and re-seed, but what an inspiring bunch of fighters we get to work shoulder to shoulder with!
Recently, in talking with a friend who works at Western Michigan University, he commented that campus mail was very slow, sometimes taking several days to get across campus.
"Why so inefficient?" I asked. "Well," he said, "theyve replaced all campus workers who were handling it with an outside company."
I was surprised. I knew there was lots of "outsourcing" going on to destroy unions and lower wages in steel mills, offices, and elsewhere. This is one reason unemployment statistics look relatively low, while workers standard of living is basically stagnant or declining. But mailroom employees on a college campus? They dont get paid much. How much could be saved replacing them with "outsourced" labor hired through an agency?
My friend told me he had asked why the mail was so slow and an administrator replied, "You cant expect too much from those workers. After all, theyre tethered."
"Tethered"? Thats work release. These workers are all in jail or under the authority of the jail. Are they forced to work, like slaves? "Officially" they have the right to refuse. But if they do, theyre considered "non-cooperative," leading to longer sentences.
This is growing everywhere. Sixty years ago, the Nazi concentration camps were actually forced labor camps as well as execution chambers. Private German companies "rented" workers from the Nazi government, and company bosses could decide whether prisoners lived or died, depending on how hard they worked.
How can people continue to call the U.S. a "democracy" as it adopts more and more of the characteristics of a Nazi dictatorship? Are we reading too much into this? This is a college campus. If theyre doing it here, they are doing it in lots of other places. Forced labor under penalty of jail. Forced labor with a lot of the slave laborers coming from the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Gore "War Against Drugs." And these policies oppress not only those workers but all workers, whose wages are lowered by having their jobs replaced by this forced labor.
We should all investigate how much of this is occurring where we work and organize campaigns against it. All the "anti-China" rhetoric of some nationalist elements, including some well-meaning members of the "anti-sweatshop" movement, should be confronted with the reality of forced prison labor in the U.S. Dont let anyone attack the forced laborers as being the "enemy of law-abiding workers who lost their jobs." Demanding that forced laborers receive wages equal to other workers might be a decent reform campaign for a start.
But as long as theres capitalism, there is wage slavery. And as capitalisms crisis intensifies, there will be more forced labor and other characteristics of a fascist dictatorship. Building the revolutionary communist movement is the only way to end this terror once and for all.
Recently I visited relatives in Victoria, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. A university student there has been a CHALLENGE reader for some time. During my visit, she told me of her interest in the paper and about other students with similar feelings.
We spoke with one of these students who confirmed their interest in the paper and in its revolutionary politics. I suggested meeting with some of her fellow students and friends. Maybe there would be four or five, she said.
A week later she called to say a meeting would take place at the University. When we arrived, to my surprise, there were 15 students present, members of the same class, and their teacher.
Although the meeting was somewhat improvised, the students expressed great interest in communist politics. After the presentation, some asked questions like, "Whats the negative side of communism?"; "Is Fidel Castro a communist?" and so on.
Afterwards a student exclaimed, "If all of these ideas are communist, Im a communist too!"
So Im sending my greetings to all these students and their teacher. I hope theyre receiving the ten CHALLENGES
I offered to get to them.
A California Grandfather
Recently I attended American Public Health Association (APHA) meetings in Boston. I went with two other people from the Coalition Against the Violence Initiative to assist and support the session against biodeterminist violence research. While there I was impressed with the participation of PLP members. The Party work was well-planned and carried out.
One morning at a breakfast meeting of PLPers and friends we discussed why the APHA leadership has been silent about resolutions passed against racist police violence and the effects of welfare reform on workers. We also discussed our plans for raising the Partys ideas in sessions on the effect of racism on medical care, reform and revolution and public health in the 20th century, bioterrorism, violence research, ADHD and Ritalin.
We spoke about countering the corporatization of the APHA as exemplified by its recent statement: "APHA must be an effective leader and/or reliable partner who strives to collaborate with corporate entities as well as (others). This includes the reconciliation of ideologies that impede progress toward creating a safer and healthier world for all." I might add also countering the militarization of the APHA as exemplified by the government sponsored and funded effort to have the APHA prepare for a bioterrorist and/or other attack on U.S. soil.
Ironically, at the very same time in an adjoining room, the top APHA leadership was holding its own breakfast meeting. The fight for the hearts and minds of thousands of public health workers went on right under the noses of these corporate, military, health collaborators.
I would like to suggest using the word "internationalist" on the front page of CHALLENGE. Weve discussed it in our PLP club and with non-Party friends who read the paper. The idea is for people to see visually what we stand for. It also works great when selling CHALLENGE as we explain to workers or students on the street that we are an internationalist communist party that exists in many countries. Pushing internationalism creates an open door for discussion with prospective readers. It helped bring me to the Party. It motivates me to see people from other countries in the Party. Its a great feeling! Despite the nationalism my bosses push, workers are naturally internationalist in time of natural disasters. We should promote it more by visually printing it in our newspaper.
One Day Red World
The main discussion at a recent Party meeting with workers from auto, textile, health and transportation was about the importance of involving ourselves in the mass movements. We examined our participation in the city councils of different cities in the state. Three comrades are actively involved in these councils and distributing CHALLENGE in communities where many factory workers live.
At the beginning I opposed joining these councils because I was convinced reformism wouldnt get us anywhere. "Its true," said a comrade, "but if we dont get involved in the reform movements, how are we going to build the Party? How are we going to win the masses away from the reformists?"
Another comrade asked me, "Why do you think workers in your community want you to represent them?" I thought, if people support me its because they have confidence in me, so by not participating Id be failing to take advantage of a great opportunity to build the Party. By having confidence in the people, I can struggle to win them to understand our politics and expose the anti-working class nature of the system. I can turn a bad thing into a good thing.
Another comrade in a textile factory is leading a struggle against the union leaders and the slave labor conditions there. The work is hard, the pay is lousy and the bathroom and lunchroom are filthy. He said he wasnt afraid of being attacked since he was thinking about quitting the job anyway. But the comrades struggled with him to stay and carry out the fight in order to build the Party. "We cant win the confidence of the workers only by starting struggles. We have to finish them," said one comrade.
To build a mass Party, we must become seriously involved in the mass movements in the factories and the neighborhoods. This discussion motivated us and gave us more confidence in our communist analysis. We feel that building the Party isnt a "heavy load." Its a privilege to serve the working class.
Many PLP teachers organized for, and led teachers and other staff at a NYC United Federation of Teachers (UFT) contract rally on November 16. We distributed thousands of fliers, adapted from a CHALLENGE article, calling for pro-student demands in our contract. Many of us and our co-workers carried pro-student signs.
UFTers grabbed our flier. The response was terrific! While the union leadership organized teachers around their own self-interest, most educators are frustrated by our miserable working conditions and care terribly about our students. Many, especially the black and Latin workers, know first-hand how this system is destroying our young people. When push comes to shove, they want more than just money. The Party was the only group we saw with a pro-student, not just an "our-money" political line.
Now we must ensure that we dont lose the opportunity this rally has afforded us as we immerse ourselves in the union struggles in our schools, and in our mass organizations.
A Brooklyn Teacher
A recent CHALLENGE article (11/29), "They Want To Control These Kids," reported how parents and teachers in our PLP study group are planning an offensive against the rampant drugging of our youth. Parents shared stories of their own children being "mis-labeled" with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and given harmful medication. We linked this to growing war and fascism.
At the next session, a new parent from our elementary school joined us. We also invited a guest speaker, a NYC social worker and active member of the Coalition Against the Violence Initiative (CAVI). She linked the rampant diagnosis of children as having so-called hyperactive and violent disorders to the long history of Biological Determinism. This fascist "theory" says human behavior and our social existence are primarily genetic or biological and have nothing to do with capitalism.
One parent said, "They've been trying to blame us for our problems for years." Another added, "It's easier to say it's genetic and give people drugs than to look at the whole system .It's the system that's the problem."
Everyone took more than one copy of CHALLENGE and agreed to show our article to a friend. They also took a copy of CAVI's petition against The Violence Initiative and agreed to circulate it among their friends and co-workers.
We agreed the petition would: (1) help spread this issue in a mass way and help build our group, and (2) spark conversations about the fascist nature of capitalism and why its rulers want to drug our children. We also agreed to find out how many children are, in fact, being given medication for any form of "behavioral/emotional disorder" at our school. Six parents and one teacher attended this PLP study group. We're trying to involve more teachers.
Everyone will also be asked to buy a subscription to CHALLENGE and consider joining PLP. Only a communist world, committed to the needs of the working class, will end the fascist terrorizing of our youth. We will report our progress in a future issue.
A Bronx Elementary School Teacher
When John Sweeneys "New Voices" slate captured the AFL-CIO leadership in 1995, it promised big changes. But the same people are paying the piper, and the "new voices" are singing the same old tunes.
Along with vowing to reinvigorate the national labor movement, Sweeneys group promised a new, internationalist foreign policy. No longer would the AFL-CIO relations with unions in other countries be based on mindless anti-communism and slavish devotion to the interests of U.S. multi-nationals. They set up the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS or just the "International Center") under Barbara Shailor.
Shailor, the Machinists International Affairs director, can talk the talk. She said the Sweeney group was "beginning a new fight for workers rights across the globe" against a reborn "brutal 19th century capitalism" supported by "repressive states."
We all know whats happened domestically. Sweeney & Co. made some changes, but class struggle trailed far behind getting out the vote for Al Gore.
However, internationally the AFL-CIO continues to work hand-in-glove with the State Department, the CIA, and other "non-governmental" ruling class organizations, except with attractive new gloves.
Sweeneys International Center replaces the four regional institutes through which the AFL-CIO used to conduct its overseas operations. But the institutes have not been forgotten by millions of workers who saw them destroy their unions, their livelihoods, and the lives of families, friends and leaders.
The American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), covering AFL-CIO activities in Latin America, was typical. The AIFLD was established in 1962 under the Kennedy administration in response to the Cuban revolution and the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Its board of directors joined then AFL-CIO president George Meany with United Fruits Peter Grace, Chase Manhattans David Rockefeller and a flock of other corporate and high-level henchmen.
The CIA/AIFLD masterpiece was the overthrow of the Allende govenment by the Pinochet fascists, who then murdered tens of thousands of leftists, union leaders and ordinary workers in Chile. The AIFLD was dedicated neither to democracy nor even to "acceptable" unionism, but simply to extending the rule of U.S. imperialism.
Many of the Institutes projects seemed harmless: training labor leaders in leadership and academic research about the union movements in different countries. But many of the "trainees" were simply being bribed while others were recruited as agents. And the information gathered by harmless researchers wound up in CIA hands and were passed on as hit lists to fascist death squads.
How exactly is Sweeneys new International Center fighting for "workers rights" against "brutal capitalism" and "oppressive states"? Not so easy to find out. The Center itself has no website and theres practically nothing about it on the AFL-CIO site. Somewhat suspicious since this kind of political work is central to the AFL-CIO missionboth internationally and domestically.
The U.S. government, however, can tell us a lot about the Centers activities because its paying for them. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is currently funding Center programs in dozens of countriesCuba, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, Egypt, South Africa, the Philippines, Burma, Croatia, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Serbia and Russia. These are the same kinds of programs the same government agency once paid the supposedly discredited AFL-CIO regional institutes to carry out.
One of these grants alone was for $45 million. The goals include promoting "political and economic liberalization"neo-liberalismwhich the AFL-CIO is supposedly against!
The USAID website itself makes it clear that workers in other countries dont believe theres any difference between the old and the "new" AFL-CIO. The page reporting on the Cuba programs admits that.
Apparently, the source of funding for these Cuba programs has caused some union representatives to back off active participation in the Centers Cuba initiatives.
The Center is even taking money (at least $4 million) from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), infamous for its support of the Nicaraguan contras and the El Salvador death squads. The NED now says the International Center is one of its four "core institutes" in the area of labor, open markets and political party development. One of the NED directors is Thomas R. DonahueLane Kirklands successor as President (for a few months) of the AFL-CIO. Donahue was the leading "old voice" defeated by Sweeney.
The AFL-CIO committee which established the International Center recommended it be funded "without government supervision," pointing out that the old regional institutes got a lot of their money from USAID and NED. This recommendation was quietly buried with no discussion. And not a peep of protest from any of the "New Voices"!
Clearly, any real "New Voices" will have to come from a communist-led rank and file that sets its sites on smashing imperialism and imperialisms agents in the labor movement.
(Information from: "On Building An International Solidarity Movement," by Judy Ancel, Labor Studies Journal, Summer 2000, p. 26; Council on Foreign Relations website; Taking Care of Business, by Paul Buhle)
Workers in Venezuela are suffering the fruits of many decades of union sellouts. For years, the main union federation (CTV) sold workers down the river. While the hacks, allied with the two main capitalist partiesCOPEI and AD (Christian-Democrats and Social-Democrats)lived la dolce vita, imitating the corrupt politicians, workers wages and working conditions declined.
The CTV union hacks also served the interests of U.S. imperialism and its junior partners in the AFL-CIO. The book "Workers of the World Undermined" by Beth Simms, reports that, "In Nicaragua, the Confederation of Trade Union Unity and its allies in the Permanent Workers Congress [CRT] received NED [National Endowment for Democracy] support through the AFL-CIAs AIFLD [American Institute for Free Labor Development] for their anti-Sandinista activities prior to the Feb. 1990 election. As part of these efforts, a special cadre training program was conducted for selected CRT leaders. They attended classes in political action and voter participation at the George Meany Center in Maryland and the Labor University of the Venezuelan Labor Federation (CTV) in Caracas."
Now nationalist President Chavez is using the discredited reputation of the union hacks to "democratize" the union movement by "demolishing the CTV." His plan includes a December 3rd referendum to build a new union federation following the ideals of his "Bolivarian revolution" (Simon Bolívar led the war of independence against Spanish colonialism in several South American countries).
Chavez wants to build a base among workers for his brand of capitalism. In spite of his nationalist rhetoriceven selling oil to Fidel Castro, partially using a barter systemChavezs government hasnt touched foreign investments in Venezuela. It keeps on paying the foreign debts to imperialist banks while capitalism still makes life miserable for workers.
The lesson workers? Dont ally with any capitalist politicians or union hacks.