JANUARY 3, 2001 VOLUME 37 NO. 1

  1. Vote Recount Reveals:
  3. Bosses A Real-Life Grinch
  4. Working-Class `Jewel' Rises to the CHALLENGE
  5. Grad Union Struggle Worker-Student Unity
  6. Shipbuilders Battle Boss, Union, Gov't Racism
  8. U.S. `Terror' Bankroll Is Real Public Health Hazard
    1. Criminal Cops Can't Solve Crime
    2. Raising Red Ideas In the Classroom
    3. `Us together' vs. `Me first'
    4. `Drunk' on Spirits of Camaraderie
    5. Feasting on Anti-racism
  12. Class Struggle in Academia
  13. Film Hides SDS' Worker-Student Alliance
  14. Palestine--Case Study of Imperialist Oil Greed
  16. Bosses' `Math Reform' Doesn't Add Up
  17. Who's `Madder'? Cows or Capitalists?

Vote Recount Reveals:

The partisan brawl over the U.S. presidential election took on a life of its own. The greed for power on both sides brought out hatred and anger that neither gang of bosses seems able to control. This was mirrored in the Supreme Court decision which handed Bush the presidency. This decision was totally consistent with the partisanship permeating the whole disgusting spectacle. These events provide a valuable lesson for workers in the basic nature of the profit system and its political process.

The hypocrisy of the Bush and Gore organizations is sickening. Both camps want you to believe the lie that every vote counts. Sure--provided you voted for THEM. Ironically this second Supreme Court ruling was based on "one person, one vote," a concept that formed the basis of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which--allegedly--gave the vote to disenfranchised black people in the South. And these were the very voters who were kept away from the polls in Florida! That's how the Bush racists have stolen the election. They hired a private security firm to identify and exclude workers who had been convicted of felonies (who are barred from voting in Florida). Thousands who had never had a felony sentence were "accidentally" disqualified. The Gore forces made a big deal about counting many disputed votes, but wanted recounts only in areas where Gore looked strong.

The so-called "independent" judiciary split sharply along transparently partisan lines, first in Florida for Gore, then in the U.S. Supreme Court for Bush. Both Bush and Gore lust so much after the White House each flagrantly contradicts positions he's supported in the past: Bush now opposes "states' rights," and Gore favors them. Anything to win.

The presidency is a huge prize for the forces who control it. But something beyond economic gain is at play here. These guys really hate each other--so much so that they can't seem to cut a deal which would objectively benefit both. The sections of the ruling class that respectively back Bush or Gore have serious tactical differences, which we've written about and will continue to do so. However, conflicts within the ruling class have always arisen over economic and foreign policy. Usually, the big bosses manage to agree to disagree. If they can't eliminate or settle their disputes, they find ways to limit them in their overall class interest. This isn't happening now. This fight over the presidency shows that for the time being, at least, the ruling class is virtually out of control, blinded by putting its various subjective partisan desires ahead of its class interests.

This temporary chaos shows how the contradictions among the capitalists lead to increasing instability. The rulers' ability to act in their overall class interest is severely limited by their need to maximize profit at each other's expense. That's the material basis for the present dogfight. But the subjective element shouldn't be underestimated. It's an important aspect of all political developments. In the wake of the Clinton impeachment both sides are still pursuing each other with venom. The latest Supreme Court decision simply intensifies the anger, which is likely to persist for a long time.

While U.S. capitalism is still the most powerful force in the world, this electoral free-for-all isn't doing it much good. U.S. rivals are taking advantage on many fronts. Russian bosses are venturing political risks they might not have dared a few months ago (see CHALLENGE, Dec. 13). Saddam Hussein is making a mockery of U.S. Persian Gulf oil policy. The international challenges to U.S. domination can only grow in the coming period.

Of course, these challenges will all be within the profit system itself, as Russian, European, and Chinese rulers compete to replace the U.S. as top dog. In the coming months and years we will see if the U.S. ruling class manages to overcome its own internal differences to meet these challenges. As the process unfolds, particularly in the likely event that the U.S. economy heads into a downturn, we should expect to hear the beating of war drums.

The most significant question concerns the course to be taken by workers and by our Party. The brawl over the presidency is possible only because the rulers do not now have to face a mortal threat from their strategic class enemy, the workers. Because of our Party's present weakness and small size, they can enjoy the luxury of fighting each other. Once they see a communist movement gaining strength, they will put aside their differences, as they have in the past, to focus their hatred on the working class and its red leadership.

The rulers' present weakness won't by itself cause their system to collapse. But it presents us with the opportunity to buld our base and develop our own forces. U.S. imperialism's political troubles provide us with a chance to grow. We should vigorously organize to build the PLP on all possible fronts in order to sharpen the class struggle and earn the bosses' hatred. Bush and Gore represent the selfish, racist values of a sick system that can never get well. All the determined steps we take now will eventually help bury it--starting with the campaign for a successful mass May Day 2001.


WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 6 -- Thousands of Metro transit workers elected five new leaders of Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). None of them have ever held positions higher than shop steward. The most striking rejection of the old, corrupt leadership was the election of PLP member Mike Golash as Financial Secretary-Treasurer, the union's number two position. A new door may have opened for mass revolutionary organizing! Mike has worked at Metro transit for over 24 years. As he campaigned at garage after garage, and shop and after shop throughout the 6,000-worker system, he met workers he hadn't seen in years. They urged other workers to vote for him because of his integrity and militancy, and in some cases, because he is a communist. Many workers want communist qualities in their leadership. Six rank-and-file Metro workers helped lead Mike's campaign, which centered on ending "wage progression."

This policy limits new workers' wages to just over $11 an hour for years (half of top pay), before moving to the top rate. This divides the union and super-exploits and alienates younger workers. There is a good foundation for a Metro-wide PLP-led organization, to move swiftly against any anti-communist attacks, and to prepare for the upcoming contract struggle. Mike's victory was overwhelming, but ripe with contradictions. He got 50% of the vote in a three-way race, and nearly doubled his nearest opponent (1970-1047). But not all of these workers are voting for communist revolution. Some feel that honest, militant leadership will lead to better wages and working conditions. The truth is that communists can lead by mobilizing thousands to fight effectively against the bosses, but there is nothing automatic about it. Many workers must become active leaders in their shops and garages. And even then, the bosses still hold many trump cards. They run the government, the police and other repressive forces. Communist leadership can't guarantee that things will improve under capitalism. We do guarantee a stronger and more intense struggle, and we will not sell out. More than that, we will treat every battle against the bosses and the "old guard," as an opportunity to win more workers to communist revolution and PLP. Our movement requires that workers understand the world in order to change it and run it. A long-time PLP bus driver in San Francisco won a similar victory in TWU Local 250A. This led directly to a fierce contract battle at MUNI this past summer, which strengthened the movement for communist revolution and won some victories for the workers. PLP gave active leadership within the LA transit strike, and is emerging as a force among Oakland AC Transit workers. New Directions, a reform caucus with a mass following in TWU Local 100, appears to be on the verge of victory in New York City. Perhaps these are some early signs of a new upsurge in the labor movement, which includes an important communist component. Especially the emergence of PLP is a crucial communist component in this development.

This election took the old union leaders and management by surprise. They misread the growing anger of the workers. They didn't launch a major anti-communist attack against PLP. However, they will counterattack before long. Maybe they will try to overturn the election. Maybe they will take a hard line in the coming contract negotiations. To ideologically strengthen Metro workers, we are circulating thousands of pamphlets about communists and the trade unions. The order of the day is to sharply increase the circulation of CHALLENGE. The 1,970 workers who voted for us can produce many new CHALLENGE distributors. This is an important opportunity for the growth of PLP, not only in the industrial unions, but also among students and professionals who can help strengthen and develop a communist base in the unions.

Bosses A Real-Life Grinch

This next issue of CHALLENGE goes to press on January 3, 2001. During this holiday period, when workers and youth are supposed to rejoice, the bosses are becoming a real-life Grinch. And we are not just talking about "Hang' em High" Bush, Jr. apparently getting away with stealing the election from Bore Gore. The recession all economists have been predicting began with a bang for GM workers who just received their Xmas "bonus," elimination of 10% of the company's workforce in North America and Europe.

And for 6,000 soon-to-be-laid-off Whirlpool workers.

The new millenium brings us a capitalist world as bad or worse than the old one. UNICEF just published its 2001 report on the state of children worldwide: 11 million children die each year because of preventable diseases. Of the 1.2 billion people in the world who subsist on less than a dollar a day, a half billion are children. Ten million under 15 have become orphans by losing their mothers to AIDS. Some 20 million children are war refugees. And the list goes on...

This living hell that is capitalism calls for revolutionary change. CHALLENGE and PLP fight for that change, for a communist society without bosses and their racism, wars and depressions. CHALLENGE is crucial to bringing workers and youth the communist politics needed to fight and destroy capitalism. It costs a lot of money (dollars, euros, yens, pesos, pesetas) to publish a paper without any advertising. We need to raise more money to continue bringing workers the only paper fighting for their class interests. Please help. Send contributions to: CHALLENGE, P. O. Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA

Working-Class `Jewel' Rises to the CHALLENGE

PHILADELPHIA - "Just do it!" Margarita damn near yelled. "Anyone can sell those newspapers!"Margarita is well known and well loved for her explosive but profound declarations. The discussion topic was how PLP members distribute our Party's newspaper CHALLENGE. Margarita is probably our number one distributor. But the roots of her success go much deeper than "just do it." Margarita actually spends lots of time thinking about her CHALLENGE distribution. From the moment they arrive, Margarita's zeroes in on getting out those papers. Margarita is also friendly as hell with damn near everybody. Over the years she's become a recognized rank-and-file leader dealing with workers' problems. She always spends time with her co-workers and knows a lot about their daily pains and joys. She's constantly mentioning this or that person as a potential CHALLENGE reader.

Yet Margarita's success also involves problems. Several of her CHALLENGE readers actually want to discuss the paper with her! And Margarita feels she "doesn't know enough" to have a good discussion. So her Party club decided to help her. A less active veteran comrade volunteered to personally work with Margarita on this problem.

But not everyone has Margarita's style of doing things. Lenny is a long-time union delegate, involved with many on-the-job situations. Sometimes Lenny's been overwhelmed by all these activities and his newspaper distribution became the last thing on his "to-do" list. But Margarita's development has helped Lenny ensure that CHALLENGE distribution is job number one. If he doesn't, he's sure to hear about it from Margarita!Margarita helps Lenny constantly look for ways to bring CHALLENGE into his many different union activities. Grievances, social events on the job, contract struggles--Lenny has learned he needs to be like a shark, always on the look-out for the many opportunities to use the paper. Like Margarita, Lenny also learned that thinking and planning are crucial to distributing the paper.

Ned has a different style of distribution. He's often very quiet, but very observant and thoughtful. When he does talk, he's often very insightful. When a veteran comrade recently was on sick leave, Margarita took it upon herself to urge Ned, "Joe's out. You and me got to pick up for his paper sales!" Surprise! Ned's CHALLENGE distribution quadrupled! Twice during Joe's absence Ned distributed between 50 and 60 papers by himself when his family came to town. Beneath Ned's quiet surface there are obviously some deep currents that we need to develop.

This discussion of the paper's distribution also helped our club confront a big problem among the workers we know. Many don't read or write well, or not at all. We're developing a plan for a literacy campaign that will hopefully involve our union, many rank-and-file workers on the job and some other organizations.

We don't see CHALLENGE distribution as an isolated activity. It's closely linked to the level of our relationships with our co-workers, political struggle and leadership and participation in class struggle. The more immersed we are in workers' lives and their struggles, the better we can make CHALLENGE a mass paper.

In one of our clubs, the best paper distributors are two black workers. This recently prompted Margarita to question why the other members, all much more "educated" than she and Ned, couldn't do a better job. "And they can read!" she added a bit angrily. But capitalist education by itself doesn't bring communist political understanding. PLP member's continuing immersion in the lives and struggles of the workers on our job led us to working-class jewels like Ned and Margarita. They may not have much capitalist education, but their lives and their experience with PLP has taught them the meaning of CHALLENGE. Each worker they get the paper to helps CHALLENGE become a mass newspaper.

Grad Union Struggle Worker-Student Unity

SEATTLE, WA., Dec 5--University of Washington undergraduates--in support of the new graduate student union--organized a "victory" rally today to celebrate the 11th hour deal that averted a threatened strike by grads and teaching assistants. As part of the deal, the University Administration agreed to back legislation at the State level legalizing the grads' union, a local of the United Auto Workers (UAW). The University reversed its long-held position against "bringing industrial relations to the university community."

A Progressive Labor Party undergraduate, introduced as a representative from the Washington Students Against Sweatshops, addressed the crowd about the necessity of a united working class at the university. She said the interests of all the students and workers on campus--fighting racism, sexism, and fighting for better working and living conditions for everyone--merge with the interests of the working class and that "rising above" the working class should not be the students' goal. She also warned that the newly "recognized" graduate student union should not give up the power to discuss university curriculum changes and should fight the university's racist admissions policies. She maintained that all students should be able to contribute to the content of their classes.

These ideas were very well-received at the rally. She concluded by urging everyone at the university and in the community to "Fight to Learn! Learn to Fight!" With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies? Interestingly, everybody--from the National Labor Relations Board to the NEW YORK TIMES--has supported graduate student unions. A closer examination of the "deal" reveals why.

The proposed legislation will undoubtedly strictly limit the union to "economic" concerns. The Administration jealously guards its racist and anti-working class curriculum. "This legislation must acknowledge the University's unique culture and environment and recognize that academic matters are inappropriate subjects of collective bargaining," states the administration on its web site. Another key issue is the racist admissions policy. In 1998, before the passage of the racist I-200 initiative, 9.7% of the freshman class came from "underrepresented" groups. This year it is 6.4%. The union leadership has put all these "non-economic" issues on the back burner despite protests from the rank and file.

Meanwhile the Contract Staff Association, the largest union on campus and affiliated to SEIU, discouraged its members from supporting the strike by withdrawing union support for anyone who refused to cross the line. They were full of ideas for e-mails to the University President, letters to Congress, etc., but nothing which might really affect the University's power. Their tactic was to scare workers from supporting the students.

A powerful worker-student alliance that exposes the university as both an exploiter and center for ruling class ideological indoctrination--like our comrade called for in her speech--is the last thing the bosses want. This is particularly true, as the bosses prepare the population for another oil war. The UAW mis-leadership has a long history of sabotaging such political movements by limiting discussion to economic issues, while organizing for imperialism behind the scenes. We PLP members on campus have a different idea. We plan to build a campus movement among workers and students that spreads communist ideas on the campus through struggles around campus and world issues, in-class discussion and campus forums, and broader sales of CHALLENGE.

Shipbuilders Battle Boss, Union, Gov't Racism

NEW ORLEANS, LA, December 7 -- "Workers are starting to stand up, but we still have a long way to go," is how a black worker described the contract ratification vote at Avondale Shipyard here. The four-year "partial contract" excludes pension and health care benefits. "Not one worker was involved in the negotiations, and it took a big fight to get a black worker on the subcommittee," he said. The mainly rural workers, most with little or no union experience, voted approximately 800 to 200 for the contract. The union wants a contract so it can start collecting dues. But it's the workers who will have to live with it.

Avondale workers had voted to be represented by the Metal Trades Union in 1993. The Gulf Coast's second-biggest shipyard was an "employee-owned" company. CEO Al Bossier challenged the election, launching a six-year legal battle in court and in the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He said keeping the shipyard non-union was the only way to "stay competitive."

Legal expenses were paid for with government contracts. Of the top five U.S. shipbuilders only Avondale was non-union. During this period, workers fired for being pro-union took their cases to the NLRB. In fact, of all the black workers who were observers in the 1993 union election, only one remains. The rest were fired, retired or quit under extreme pressure.

In 1998, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the company's favor. Thousands of workers rallied in Washington, D.C., demanding an end to government contracts during the dispute. Workers filed health and safety complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), which ultimately led to Avondale being fined $750,000. Fired workers won their cases at the NLRB and the workers took their fight to "employee-owner shareholder" meetings.

Litton Industries bought Avondale and inherited all its debts, including the OSHA fine and back pay for fired workers. The government cut the OSHA fine in half, and the company appealed all the NLRB cases. The "Committee of 25" fired black workers have still not returned to work, even though they "won" their cases. Workers believe the union sold out these workers in exchange for a "neutrality agreement" from the company. In just two days, the majority of workers signed a petition and the union was recognized. Meanwhile, many pending cases are being thrown out because the union is not pursuing them. No wonder one worker said, "There's been a sellout here!"Racism Hurts All WorkersOf the 5,500 workers at Avondale, 70% are black. Racism means big bucks to the company, the union and the U.S. government--and every Avondale worker is a victim. Top pay at Avondale is $14.54/hour. Average pay is about $9.00/hour. Many young workers and single mothers make less than $7.00/hour. Many work two jobs to support a family. Avondale has used the profits from racism to expand in New Orleans and Tululah, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi.

National Metal Trades union president John Meese is a racist thug. He once came to a local meeting and told a packed hall, "You people this, you people that." One worker asked, "What do you mean, `You people?'" Angry workers surrounded Meese, who was so shaken he put the lit end of a cigarette in his mouth! Avondale workers would be the largest local and potentially the strongest force in the New Orleans Metal Trades Council. But local honcho Peter Babin fears the militant, anti-racist workers and is dispersing them into twelve separate unions. When Avondale workers threatened to boycott and picket last year's Christmas party, the union called out the cops. Meanwhile, the nearby McDermott Shipyard is mostly white. They have one local union, and higher wages and benefits. An Avondale worker declared, "They're trying to rob us of leadership." Building PLP Guarantees Workers' Leadership.

Avondale workers are up against the whole capitalist system. One worker said, "Over the last eight, nine years, I've grown, but it's also taken something out of me. But I'm relentless." Another worker, a veteran of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf said, "I fought for this country, only to be treated worse when I got back!" Capitalism "robs us of leadership" through wage slavery and production for profit. It steals from us all the wealth we produce, and we produce everything. The answer is to build the revolutionary communist movement out of every anti-racist struggle. To abolish wage slavery and meet the needs of the working class, millions of workers must actively participate and give leadership. One's leadership is not "requested," it's required.

Like the worker said, "We have a long way to go." But bringing CHALLENGE to the shipyards, and Avondale workers to PLP can be the start of something big!


LOS ANGELES, Dec. 8 -- Last week some of us from Manual Arts H. S. took a field trip to an open meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). We wanted to see how the Board makes decisions and to give our views. When we arrived we couldn't believe how beautiful the building was--especially compared to our school, or to the Twin Towers Jail across the street. The Board members were mostly male and dressed in fancy clothes. They were obviously rich.

Many people wanted to speak about the proposed service cuts. Several workers described the hardships in having to rely on the buses. One said he spent three hours every day on a bus trip that would take 45 minutes by car. The Mayor praised three 4th graders for presenting changes they'd make if they ran the MTA, but left when high school students began speaking. He didn't want to hear what we had to say! Several students opposed the service cuts. Members of the Bus Riders Union said we need more buses. The Board members weren't really listening. One of them was even reading a newspaper. But when we applauded speakers who told the truth about dirty, overcrowded and late buses, MTA Board President Yvonne Burke scolded us, saying we were rude. She's a black lawyer and politician and a Manual Arts graduate. Afterwards we discussed the hearing. Several students, who didn't get a chance to speak, said we need more buses in the South Central area, and that routes should not be cut. The Bus Riders Union organizer said we did a great job, and that this might force the MTA to buy more buses. One of our teachers, a member of PLP, noted that we deserve buses, light rail, decent schools and everything because the working class produces all wealth. "The only way we'll get what we deserve is through a revolution," she declared. All year, we've been learning in U.S. history about the racist bosses who make money off our work, keep us poor, exploited and oppressed, and then send us off to die in their wars. We've learned about the history of class struggle, and how working people made the Paris Commune and Russian Revolution. This was a good experience for us. We took a stand and got involved in the struggle for a better life. This can spark more struggles. The teachers' union is discussing a strike. We can insist they fight for the students. Garment workers are fighting for a better life. Two of us went to a rally this week to support them. In these struggles we can unite with workers and students around the country and the world to fight for revolution. We can organize for May Day. Stay tuned for more news from Manual Arts! u

U.S. `Terror' Bankroll Is Real Public Health Hazard

BOSTON, MA., Nov. 22 -- At the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting last week the liberal "loyal opposition" held a forum on "bio-terrorism." APHA Peace Caucus speakers warned that last year the U.S. government allocated $10 billion for "anti-terrorism" initiatives, including $2.8 billion to prepare for attacks against civilians and for computerized infrastructure. Large sums have been directed to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), public health departments and researchers for biomedical research and planning to prepare for so-called bioterrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The money has come through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the Department of Defense, together with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Since President Clinton's 1994 Executive Order 12938, funding for bioterrorist initiatives has increased. Emergency response teams are being assembled in 120 cities, and mock attacks have been staged to gauge U.S. readiness for attack. According to Donna Shalala, DHHS Secretary, these plans represent "the first time in American history in which the public health system has been integrated directly into the national security system." A Peace Caucus panelist explained the public health community did not seek the money for bioterrorist preparedness, nor was the scientific community consulted.

Of the panelists supporting this research, one was a slickster from the CDC. This "anti-terrorist" spokeman gave a smooth, almost matter-of-fact presentation of why this research is necessary. The other proponent was an honest scientist seduced by the money.

Peace Caucus speakers argued that funds for bioterrorist initiatives drained resources from the study of and preparedness against diseases passed through tainted food, global infectious disease epidemics and chemical and biological threats from pollution and industrial spills. They pointed out that no person in the U.S. has ever died from bioterrorism. While these arguments are academically correct, there's more to the story. During the Q&A segment, a PL'er warned this research was an attempt to suck public health workers into building fascism. U.S. rulers want to use this sizeable sum of $10 billion precisely to win public health scientists into research "proving" there is a serious "internal terrorist threat" to the U.S. government and "democracy." It follows Clinton's bipartisan Commission on National Security report (see CHALLENGE, Nov. 29) that an attack by unnamed "terrorists" on U.S. soil would be the only thing that would encourage the "American people to be ready to sacrifice blood and treasure" (for the profits and power of U.S. imperialists, that is). Militarizing public health agencies by putting them under the direction of the Department of Defense in pursuit of "bioterrorist preparedness" also follows the goal of the Commission to "integrate economic agencies fully with national security agencies." This is a hallmark of fascism, as we have seen in Nazi Germany.

The PL'er also contrasted this kind of funding with how teachers were being sucked into fascism by the threat of violence in the schools. Although there has never been a killing rampage by inner city youth like the one at Colorado's Columbine High School, most inner-city schools have metal detectors and random student searches. Many teachers have been won to the racist ideas that all black workers are "potential criminals" and should be treated as such. The PL'er also asked, "Who are the terrorists?" Currently thousands of Iraqi children are dying due to the sanctions maintained by Western imperialists (mainly U.S. and British). In part this is why these "terrorists" view the U.S. as an enemy, because U.S. rulers are killing and oppressing millions worldwide. This discussion prompted the honest researcher to reconsider his role in this research.

Participating in this "anti-terrorist" research gives credibility to the smearing of all Middle Eastern people as "terrorists," which can be used to bolster fascism domestically and as a racist rationale to win workers here to support an oil war in the Middle East. These meetings inspired us to find ways to influence the membership's thinking. We in the APHA have lots of work to do.


LOS ANGELES, November 1 -- "Were not here for your pity, we're here for your support in struggle," declared a garment worker at a teach-in on sweatshops held at Santa Monica College (SMC). "How can students help?" asked a student. "Organize other students to oppose sweatshops," the worker replied, "with the understanding that workers and students belong to the same working class that is exploited by capitalism." About 40 students attended the event, organized by PLP and Progressive Alliance, an SMC student club, and supported by the Latino Student Union, the Pan African American Coalition and the UCLA chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). A few weeks earlier, USAS at UCLA sponsored a talk there by several garment workers from the same immigrant rights group. Students at both meetings were excited about uniting with workers.

The teach-in began with a PLP member describing the garment industry as a pyramid: manufacturers and retailers like Nike and Target at the top, providing textiles and material to the contractors in the middle, who hire the 150,000 garment workers, over 50% women, at the bottom. He said this pyramid reflects capitalism, the ruling class (bosses) oppressing the working class.

Two garment workers, each with over 20 years on the line, described factory conditions as not much better than the sweatshops in Saipan, Mexico or Latin America. They're organizing struggle committees to fight exploitation and unionize the garment industry. They invited all those present to join protests in the garment center. Many signed up.

The teach-in helped break the limitations of electoral politics, which have taken center stage at SMC and other colleges. Garment workers suffer unsanitary and oppressive conditions whether the president's Republican or Democrat. And conditions are deteriorating. A PLP student pointed out that we can't limit our fight against garment sweatshops to individual corporations like Gap and Guess Inc. It's the entire capitalist system which profits from the exploitation of workers.

The garment workers said it was important for workers and students to unite to fight capitalism. They pointed out that the leaders of the AFL-CIO, UNITE and USAS ignore the struggle to improve workers' conditions. Most workers and students want to fight exploitation, but the union leaders rally behind the politicians instead.

A week later, high school and college students, teachers and garment workers demonstrated in the garment center. Chanting, "The Workers, United, Will Never Be Defeated," and "Workers' Struggles Have No Borders," we distributed over 1,500 leaflets and hundreds of CHALLENGES to the thousands of workers in the area. A garment workers immigrant rights group also distributed a leaflet exposing the fact that of every $100 produced, the workers get $6. The worker-student alliance is crucial to ending exploitation with communist revolution.


LOS ANGELES, December12 -- Two days ago we met to form a caucus of drivers and mechanics inside the unions at the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). This victory grew from advancing aspects of the Party's ideas during an election campaign in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1277. Political opportunity often presents itself from unexpected directions, and we should always answer when opportunity knocks.

The election results were announced last week. In many respects this campaign mirrored the disgust generated by the U.S. national elections.

A friend of the Party was unexpectedly nominated for Executive Board-at-Large. Over the years, a number of workers had asked him to run for higher office. Until this was dropped on him, he had never seen this as another way to reach workers with revolutionary politics. At the last minute, he faxed in his acceptance of the nomination and organized his campaign. There were seven candidates for the position.

Out of a membership of 2,000, 940 voted, many of them retired members. Like the presidential elections, money made a difference. The three leading vote-getters spent $1,000 for a leaflet mailing to the entire membership. Our friend received 72 votes, the highest of the three candidates who did it the old fashioned way--by hand.

Self-critically, we could have run a better campaign. Our friend issued a good campaign leaflet, with some advice from the Party, but it was late coming out of the chute. A number of workers correctly criticized us for not getting it out sooner.

This campaign enabled us to promote PLP's ideas to the entire membership at every division. We should view these elections as an opportunity to expose capitalism and educate our fellow workers. In the San Fernando Valley, where MTA bosses are moving full steam ahead with plans for privatized Transit Zones, a woman took our friend to campaign at two divisions. "I want to introduce you to my friends. I'll let you talk to the ones who really want changes in this union. At Division 5 a service attendant said, "So you want the Executive Board position so you can make things better for us." "No," he said. "I'm running so I can recruit you and your friends to fight with me to rid the MTA of prison labor. Any candidate that says `I'll fight for you while you wait here,' is blowing smoke up your ass. We don't want passive workers.""Do you really think you can win?" asked a worker emptying fare boxes at Division 9. "Whether or not we win, I want you to read this leaflet about Workers' Power so when we come back we can talk about a plan to get rid of prison labor and wage progression," said a comrade.

We'll discuss CHALLENGE to understand MTA's role in the world at large. We'll make an effort to understand Dialectics, and introduce the scientific way of looking at society. We can do better in the future. It's good we answered this small knock at the door.


Criminal Cops Can't Solve Crime

Many workers and others have had enough experience with the cops in their personal lives to know that the police are dangerous and deadly enemies. But capitalism encourages a certain amount of crime and violence, through such things as the drug trade, ETC. It fills workers and their allies with the illusion that the only protection we have from this crime are the cops, bad as they may be. And this doesn't even address the major crimes committed against the working class by the capitalists and their government.

A series in the WASHINGTON POST may help to dispel that illusion. The series traced the D.C. Police Department's investigation and closing of homicide cases. It showed that in a growing number of murders the homicide department closes them without solving them--a so-called "administrative closure." This can be either because the cops have decided to pin the murder on someone who has already been killed or because the prosecutor's office has decided not to prosecute for their own reasons.

When this happens, the murder victim's family often is not even notified that the cops have stopped "investigating." They assume they're still looking for the killer. Many families discovered years later, that this was not true only after the POST interviewed them for this series.

Often even when the cops have eyewitnesses who identify murderers, they fail to arrest them, allowing them, not infrequently, to murder again. And this doesn't even include those cases in which the murders are committed directly by the cops themselves.

The bottom line is that the cops hold no one accountable in almost three-quarters of all murders, a figure the POST found had not changed over the last decade.

It doesn't matter at all whether the cops fail in all these cases because of sheer incompetence or because of their racist attitude that "it doesn't matter" if a killer of a black person is caught or stopped from killing another black person. The main point is that, despite the big lie that the "main function" of the police is to "protect" the citizens, in particular the working class, cops in fact do not do this, let alone catch the murderers of workers even after the fact.

Rather, as CHALLENGE always says, the cops' real role is strictly to protect the capitalist ruling class from the working class, generally by terrorizing and killing workers by the scores. Every claim to the contrary--by the cops, by the government, by the media and by the bosses--is designed only to disarm the workers. D.C. Reader

Raising Red Ideas In the Classroom

On Dec. 2, eleven students and workers attended a Boston PLP student club discussion on U.S. bosses' use of prison labor. We showed the film "Prison Labor, Prison Blues," a flawed but still useful look at the effects of prison labor growth on U.S. workers. Since the bosses can pay workers as little as 20cents/hr or 75cents/day, they have increasingly used prisoners as a source of cheap labor. The film noted that the bosses are replacing living-wage unionized jobs with prison slave labor. Afterwards, we discussed the reasons for the bosses' use of prison slave labor, and why it is a clear sign of developing fascism. We mentioned the Nazis use of prison labor during World War II. We noted capitalism's growing crisis and U.S. bosses' need to drive down workers' wages and living standards as far as possible. We then discussed the racist nature of prison labor and mass incarceration, (more than two-thirds of prisoners are black or Latin), a point the film didn't mention. We then pointed out how and why only communist revolution could eliminate the bosses and their fascist attacks against workers.

Among those who attended was one of our comrade's classmates. Not having attended any of our actions, she had come after hearing one of our comrades raising communist ideas in class. This demonstrates the importance of discussing these ideas in the classroom. If we continue to build our ties with her, and the others who attended, this study group will mark a small step on the road to communist revolution.

After the video we began planning a campaign against the use of prison labor--either directly or in the goods they buy--by schools we attend or companies we work for.

Red Student

`Us together' vs. `Me first'

As a communist teacher I've tried to win my students away from the individualism capitalism teaches, which makes them self-centered and anti-collective.

The new school standards require students to be able to work in groups. I simply use what the ruling class gives me and have them work in groups. In explaining this, I use the example of workers on the job, how workers who work together have a better chance of surviving on a job, how it helps them fight back against oppressive working conditions. I show them how bosses want workers to compete and fight one another so they can keep us weak and divided and easier to control and exploit. For the "capitalist die-hards" among the students, I add that the school board requires group work.

I assign each student to a group. Since I teach a shop class, the groups work on their projects together. Each student is given an individual grade and a group grade. I explain that the idea of assisting in your group is not to do the work of a lazy student but to help a student who may not understand the procedure or may need help to complete a project. Within the group, different students are assigned different tasks to help their classmates complete their project or assignment. Students are required to stay with the group until the task is done.

Sometimes I ask a student to help with a different group when that group may be short a student because of an absence or because the group is falling behind. This last strategy really excites some students who enjoy the class and it gets others interested as well. I also find that some students use it as an escape from doing written and reading assignments.

At first most students found the group activity difficult. They complained about one student being "too slow" or another "not helping" the group. I explained how seriously I took this part of their work and how they might be surprised with their grade if their attitude didn't change. After some students saw their first-marking-period grades, they knew I meant business. The class's group work has improved in the second marking period.

I'm trying to win my students to practice this strategy of working together in their other classes, studying together, doing reading assignments in groups, etc. So far I've had some modest success with most of the class. I'm still struggling with the fact that I teach a first period, beginning at 7:30 A.M., a difficult time for any teenager--not to mention the half-hour of metal-detector scanning search the students must endure before they enter my class. The struggle continues.

Red Teacher

`Drunk' on Spirits of Camaraderie

We organized a cultural event on December 9th to emphasize the importance of CHALLENGE and encourage sales. The 80 who attended applauded the youth groups performing skits on distributing CHALLENGE in schools. They each made a point and were also humorous (I should know; I wrote one).

Performers entertained us with raps, poems, songs and essays dealing with joining the Party, the ugliness of nationalism and need for internationalism, especially confronting imperialist war, and the need for communist revolution. Sounds of the PLP singers filled the room as fresh recruits learned and sang a song at the same time. Speakers also shared their thoughts and stories of CHALLENGE and the role of our Party. Especially poignant was the one about the critical role CHALLENGE played in organizing the PLP in another country. It didn't all flow smoothly but we felt drunk with a spirit of camaraderie. All this made me think of the movie, "The Cradle Will Rock." With all our endearing faults I was still tempted to ask, is this the rebirth of a communist cultural movement like the one displayed in the movie? Will the next Rivera, Brecht, or Steinbeck emerge from the influences of our struggles? (Will I direct the next Salt of the Earth?) Groups like Rage Against the Machine and Dead Prez have clasped the minds of millions, with their pseudo anti-capitalist, but actually counter-revolutionary ideas and, in the case of Dead Prez, ultra-nationalist politics. Can we reach the same people but go further in blending the engrossing and influential sounds of rap rock and other music with true ideas of revolutionary change?I think what we were trying to do is a glimpse of what's to come. But I know it won't simply "come." As with everything we do it will grow out of struggle--struggle within ourselves, amongst friends, comrades and with the world around us, to foster a new passion for that very goal of a dictatorship of the proletariat. As we sow our communist revolution, let us also sow our revolutionary art for they are one and the same.

Red Youth

Feasting on Anti-racism

For the past 15 years, we have held a Thanks-For-Fighting-Racism Feast in the Washington, D.C. area. Originally organized by the Committee Against Racism, now my husband--who loves food and loves to share food with friends--and I host the event. He wanted an alternative to the genocidal notion of Thanksgiving. After the "first" dinner, called the "first welfare line" by Native Americans, the latter were systematically killed off.

We have a feast each year the Saturday before Thanksgiving. We do a 50-50 raffle with the proceeds going to an anti-racist campaign and charge $5 a person for all of the food you can eat. This year over 60 people came and ate two turkeys, a roast, a ham and all the trimmings. We raised over $300 to help fight the fascist C.R.A.C.K. campaign (the forced sterilization of drug-addicted women).

People related struggles occurring in the public health field with folks recently returned from the American Public Health Association meetings in Boston. There resolutions had been raised against the C.R.A.C.K organization and against the violence initiative. (see recent issues of CHALLENGE). A neighbor sang a song, "Graffiti Limbo," by Michelle Shocked describing the murder of Michael Stewart, a graffiti artist who died "in the custody of" New York City transit cops. The coroner's office conveniently "lost" the autopsy evidence. No cops were convicted. A Howard University student reviewed the demonstrations and rallies against police brutality protesting the cop's murder of fellow student Prince Jones (see recent issues of CHALLENGE). A comrade running for Financial Secretary-Treasurer of his transit union linked these struggles with the necessity of fighting for communism to achieve any lasting change. [He was elected; see page 1]. Many friends in the public health field, neighbors and co-workers attended. Sharing food, political ideas and songs is a winning combination. Our next big social event is a New Year's Day brunch.

DC Red

Class Struggle in Academia

From December 27-30, thousands of college and university teachers of literature and language will meet in Washington, D.C. for the annual convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA). While actively fighting for various reforms, members and supporters of PLP who belong to the MLA will attempt to influence these struggles with a communist analysis of the role of higher education under capitalism--particularly courses in literature and composition.

In the fight for job security, the MLA Radical Caucus (RC)--building upon a campaign of several years and supported by the Graduate Student Caucus--is sponsoring a motion for the MLA to back unionization. The number of tenure-track positions in the humanities has shrunk drastically for ten years, with no end to this trend in sight. Therefore, many adjunct faculty and graduate student teaching assistants--who teach up to 65% of all classes at some four-year and community colleges--have been attempting to unionize. These teachers average around $2,000 per semester course, without benefits. This mild initiative has the MLA Executive Council (EC) in a tailspin. It has hired a new and slicker parliamentarian who is changing the rules so as to close political debate over motions and resolutions. The EC is also trying to scare the Delegate Assembly (DA) into rejecting the RC initiatives "because" they would make the MLA a "political" organization, imperil its 501 C-3 tax status and put it out of business.

Another struggle involves EC's continuing resistance to keep its promise to establish an MLA unit empowered to react to campus bigotry--racist, sexist and homophobic. First proposed four years ago, this committee has been passed around like a hot potato, now landing in the lap of the Professional Committee. The latter has done nothing to fulfill a DA instruction (from an RC initiative) to produce materials analyzing the systemic roots of racism. RC pressure will be more intense this year.

PLP applauds RC efforts to combat the shameful super-exploitation of academic labor and to support anti-bigotry organizing. Given recent attacks on affirmative action and on public higher education--for example, cuts at the City University of New York--the RC's anti-racist activity is crucial.

A narrow reformist approach to these issues will lead activists to a dead end, perhaps even strengthening the system to which they are opposed. Why?* Even where unionization has succeeded, salaries are still low (perhaps $3,000 per course) and benefits sparse. What's being negotiated are the terms of wage slavery.

* The struggle against oppressive and bigoted college employers hides the college/university system's fundamental function as gatekeepers for an inherently unequal social order, rationalized by the false notion of "meritocracy." Tracking different groups into community colleges, four-year state colleges, and elite colleges and universities perpetuate class and racial inequality. The dream that a college degree is a passport to that largely mythical middle class turns to ashes for most working-class students. The few individuals who achieve "higher" status does not abolish this hierarchy. Rather, a limited social mobility actually sustains inequality.

* The fight to "reform" higher education to presumably serve the working class fails to account for its role as an ideology factory. College graduates are usually more brainwashed than when they entered. The majestic "free" market, the selfish gene, the relativity of truth, the irreducibility of human "difference"--such are the ruling class doctrines that are staples of today's college education. They want these students to believe in a market in which profits are supreme; selfishness is "in the genes," an unchangeable characteristic; that one cannot arrive at any objective truth; and that differences are so ingrained as to make unity impossible.

This MLA meeting occurs within a general crisis in capitalism. The electoral situation is a circus, but no farce; it reflects serious tactical disagreements within the ruling class about how best to exploit and oppress the world's workers and how best to prepare for war in the Mideast against Iraq. Whether we win reforms or not, our main goal remains the same: to build a mass base for communism among MLA members, and to win all potential communists to support, join and help build PLP.

Film Hides SDS' Worker-Student Alliance

The documentary "Rebels with a Cause" claims to tell the story of the student movement of the 1960's, focusing on Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). While it relates some anti-racist and anti-war struggles of that era, it also promotes racism, nationalism and anti-communism.

The film opens with action clips from the '60s and quotes former SDS leaders. It presents some interesting and useful information about the history of SDS, but glosses over the key questions faced by the movement. Foremost among these was racism. Like the anti-globalization movement today, SDS was mostly white. The film supports the expulsion of whites from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1966, and the racist idea that each ethnic group should organize their "own communities." This nationalist crap not only accepts the capitalist idea of "race," but also says that workers and bosses in one "race" have more in common with each other than the workers of the world. Workers and students, no matter their skin color or nationality, have a common interest in destroying capitalism and bosses of all colors. If we buy the racist ideas pushed by this film, we will remain divided and unable to unite as a class to destroy the bosses. The film discusses SDS, but pays almost no attention to the climactic 1969 convention. For several years, PLP organized students in SDS to fight racism, imperialism and to unite with the working class, the only class capable of destroying capitalism. To the degree SDS was integrated, it was almost exclusively due to the efforts of the PLP-led Worker-Student Alliance (WSA) caucus. Fighting for our ideas in the heat of countless struggles against racism, the war and the police, the WSA became the leading force in SDS. Tens of thousands of students followed communist leadership. SDS' right-wing leadership made several unsuccessful attempts to expel PLP. At the 1969 Convention they organized to split the organization, backed by the most reactionary elements of the Black Panther Party (and every federal and local police agency). They argued that workers were either reactionary, irrelevant or both. As PLP and the WSA grew, the right-wing changed their tune and tried to appear as Marxist-Leninists. Some left SDS to become the pathetic Weatherman terrorists. Those who didn't blow themselves up have since made peace with imperialism. Others found new forums to organize for their reactionary ideas. They helped further the bosses' lie that the anti-war movement was "a bunch of spoiled rich kids." The overwhelming majority of the convention stayed with a PLP-led SDS. Though this is one of the defining moments in SDS' history, none of it is discussed in the film. PLP is never mentioned, only a reference to "infiltration by Marxist-Leninist sects." The lack of discussion reflects the filmmaker's sympathy with the right-wing leadership. As a final twist, California State Senator Tom Hayden says the students in SDS were "the truest patriots," because they stood up for what they believed. This patriotic theme runs throughout the movie. Ultimately this film builds multi-culturalism, nationalism and worst of all, racism. The liberal anti-communists will never get the story straight. Red Student

Palestine--Case Study of Imperialist Oil Greed

Several hundred have been killed in the last few months of the "New Intifada," mostly Palestinian workers and youth murdered by the Israeli army. The bosses' media tries to make us believe this is merely a "religious war." The following article explains how religion is not the main aspect of this struggle, that modern capitalism and imperialism are behind the violence in Israel/Palestine.

Both the Jewish and Arab people have a long and varied history (the subject of a future article). As Karl Marx wrote, capitalism in its search for profits revolutionized the means of production. Mainly born in Western Europe, this new system moved from there and many countries felt the imperial boot of one Western nation or another. Capitalism created constant booms and busts with its recurring problems of mass unemployment, starvation and working-class degradation. Workers fought back, formed unions and joined socialist and communist parties. This was also true in the Arab countries. With the breakdown of the old feudal systems the nature of the state altered and the old ways of business interaction were torn asunder, leaving neighbor fighting neighbor.

British, French and German imperialism fought over the dying Ottoman Empire, centered in Turkey. When World War I (WWI) ended in 1918, Britain controlled Egypt, the Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, most of Iran and many of the small island kingdoms around Saudi Arabia. France controlled Syria, Lebanon, part of Iraq and part of Iran. Germany had controlled parts of Turkey, but losing WWI, lost that too.

The battle among these capitalist/imperialist states was violent and protracted. But the rising powerful USA became a potent player in this inter-imperialist rivalry. The discovery of oil in Iraq in the 1880's and, later, in the rest of the Middle East led to massive jockeying for control by oil companies. Using the imperialist power of their national armies (Shell and BP in Britain, Elf in France, and Rockefeller's Standard Oil in the U.S.), they made this region a battleground, which has lasted until the present.

The British capitalists had learned the best way for an imperialist power to control huge nations was to divide one against another. They first did this in Ireland between Catholic and Protestant. They did the same in the Indian subcontinent. Now enters Palestine. When U.S. power forced the British to withdraw from Palestine in 1948, the British had ensured the country would be divided between Palestinians and Jews so that, much as they did in the rest of the world, British imperialists would control their market places. They created entire aristocracies within the various groupings and tribes with ties to them to ensure division rather than unity. Other European imperialists--learning from the British--did the same. Capitalism and modern nationalism were forged in the same foundry.

Capitalism used nationalism throughout the world. Rising middle classes all over Europe sought to create or re-create nation states along ethnic or religious lines among peoples who had lived under other government forms for centuries. The western Jews who lived in many of the European (Christian) capitalist countries also sought to bring together Jews from different lands, Jews who had lived in different nations for hundreds of years and spoken different languages.

Judaism's Gandhi was Theodore Herzl who formed the Jewish National Assembly and tried to bargain with a number of the Western empires for a piece of territory for Jews. In 1917 Lord Balfour, Britian's Foreign Secretary, joined with Herzl to declare Palestine as that Jewish state--The Balfour Declaration. Britain had seized Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, to be used as one of many coaling stations for the imperial British fleet in "safe" countries. After the Balfour Declaration, many European Jews entered Palestine and began to change the relationship between the Jews, who had always lived there, and their Arab neighbors as they brought in the new capitalist system.

A similar situation occurred after World War II and the holocaust. Zionists, communists--who felt there could be a progressive aspect to nationalism for oppressed peoples--and other Jews went to Israel to form a Jewish national state. Communists and socialists formed communes (kibbutzim) in which the Jewish people would work together without classes. The commune movement, however, was splintered by the practice of many kibbutzim hiring Arab laborers rather than uniting Arab and Jew as equals within the community. The demise of this commune movement proved "islands of communism" cannot be built within capitalist states.

The state of Israel was formalized by the United Nations in 1948. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to other Arab countries. Those that remained in areas of the newly-created Israel were controlled and oppressed by Israel's rulers.

The British had played the major role in increasing the division between Jew and Arab. Today that role is played by the various contending imperialist powers of the European Union and the United States.

A child lying in his father's arms dying from a bullet, a teenager throwing a stone torn in half by a hail of bullets, a rabbi beaten to death out of anger--all these atrocities are due to the avaricious designs of capitalism to maintain control of marketplaces and of oil.

Nationalism has been, and will continue to be used to kill workers and their children to maintain wealth in a few pockets. Only the working class led by a serious revolutionary communist party, the Progressive Labor Party, can give imperialists their just rewards, a quick and vicious death. Then they can build a communist society dedicated to the needs of the world's working classes.

Bibliography:"Atlas of Jewish History," by Martin Gilbert; "Jews, God and History", by Max I. Dimont; "The Jewish War," by Josephus; "A Study of History Part 2- The Genesis of Civilizations, " by Arnold J. Toynbe; "Atlas of the Jewish World," Nicholas DeLange; "The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World," G.E.M. de Ste. Croix; "The Columbia History of the World," edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay; "The Arabs," by Anthony Nutting; "The Adventures of Ibn Battuta," Ross E. Dunn; "Oil and World Power," by Peter R. Odell; "Genesis of Capital," by Karl Marx.


When Paul Vallas, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, visited an Algebra classroom last year, a student was at the board explaining how she'd figured out a problem. Commented Vallas: "Oh, I probably wouldn't understand this, I'm not good at math."

As this example illustrates, in the U.S. "innumeracy" (mathematical illiteracy) is pervasive and easily shrugged off. Imagine how embarrassed Vallas would be if he had to admit he couldn't read. Yet math skills are just as important as reading skills. U.S. capitalists have begun to worry about widespread deficiencies in math education.

The National Science Foundation and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are spearheading a drive to reform math education, with the full support of the main wing of the ruling class. Many parents and teachers angrily oppose the reforms, charging them with "dumbing down" the curriculum. Not only are the rulers stymied by contradictory demands within their system, capitalism is inherently unable to provide all students with the education they need.

U.S. innumeracy is worse than that in other industrialized countries, notably Japan. The reason? Greater social inequality within the U.S. For decades math has been used as a "gatekeeper" subject. An elite few students are encouraged to pursue math and science, while most are never taught properly and are made to think they can't learn. U.S. rulers promote the ideology that math competency requires unusual inborn ability because that idea helps them maintain the gross inequities of the capitalist system. In contrast, math education in Japan assumes that all children can learn, and that the determining factor is hard work. Calculus, an elite subject in U.S. high schools, is standard fare in Japanese high schools.

The "gatekeeper" ideology is based in racism and sexism. Traditionally, white males make up large percentages of college calculus classes. Black and Hispanic students are regularly deprived of serious math and science education. Less than 1% of math PhDs are awarded to African-Americans! Some racists promote bullshit genetic theories to cover up the serious disparities that exist in most inner-city schools, particularly in math and science education.

U.S. capitalists are now reaping what they've sown. The 1984 report "A Nation at Risk," and many subsequent reports, document the failure of U.S. math education. This is a problem for the bosses for several reasons. The "new economy" and global competition require a larger pool of technically trained workers. Long-term plans for war mean they cannot leave war research to students from other countries who often represent 50% of graduate school admissions in math and science. They want to broaden the pipeline of U.S. students who learn math and science. This crisis is similar to that faced by the rulers in 1959 when the Soviets launched Sputnik (the first rocket-propelled launching into outer space). At that time they directed much money and energy, including new math teaching programs, toward ensuring that the Russians didn't beat the U.S. again.

They are making a similar effort today, but with much less success. Why? The culture of fascism, alienation and anti-intellectualism pervades our society, interfering with math learning among working class and even affluent students. Educational reform will not solve this problem.

But even if curricular reform manages to broaden the pipeline, it will not improve math education for working-class students. Although the new curricula has been described by its detractors as "fuzzy" or "dumbed down" math, there are positive things to be said for it. Math reform usually emphasizes problem solving, working on complex problems in groups, oral presentations, written explanations and use of modern technology.

When implemented by well-trained and enthusiastic teachers, building on strong arithmetic skills, these methods work well. When enforced mechanically by demoralized, overworked and under-trained teachers, as often in inner-city and rural schools, these methods aren't even expected to work. Instead they deprive students of the basic computational skills they need to survive, substituting the use of calculators for learning arithmetic. Working-class parents rightly see their children as being shafted. While the ruling class wants to expand the pool of students educated in math and science, they regard most students as dispensable. The capitalist approach to education, in the U.S. or in Japan, has never been egalitarian, or based on teaching students to think for themselves.

Communists should get involved in debates about teaching methods. But curriculum, while not unimportant, is secondary. Before "the system" gets to them, young children are naturally creative and eager to learn. By adolescence, they require outside motivation. As communists we reject the motivation supplied by capitalism (get an MBA and make money/ graduate from high school or starve). Communists know that the working class can and will run the world. We want to motivate students to learn so they can lead the transformation of society. Math is an essential tool for understanding and changing the world, and all students can and need to learn mathematics. Spreading the word will go a long way to changing our relationships with other teachers, students and parents. As we say, "fight to learn, learn to fight!"

Bosses' `Math Reform' Doesn't Add Up

Editor's note: The following article (Part One; concluding article next issue), is a response to the article above entitled "Capitalism Can't Solve Math Problems." CHALLENGE is publishing this exchange of views because we believe a frank, comradely debate about education will help our Party in its pursuit of the knowledge the working class needs to make revolution and guide a new society. We hope to deepen the discussion about mathematics and extend it to other subjects as well. We invite our readers to participate.

The author of this article has been a mathematics professor for 17 years in the California State University system. For the last decade, he has taught a math course for prospective Kindergarten-to-8th grade teachers.

The condemnation of the capitalist system in the article above is valid but misses the point. The basic principle to focus on is the correct way of teaching mathematics to children. The articles states that some positive things can be said for current math reform--for example, its focus on problem solving, working on complex problems in groups, written explanations and use of technology.

This is false. There is absolutely no evidence that these things help. The article correctly begins by describing the abysmal state of math education in the U.S. But the math education in this country has been controlled for decades by the extremely reform-influenced National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), which has embraced every one of these notions.

The article asserts that these methods can work when implemented by well-trained, enthusiastic teachers but can't be expected to succeed when the teachers must confront the bad conditions prevalent in poor rural or inner-city schools.

This is a straw man. How are teachers going to get strong arithmetic skills if they haven't learned them as children? It's circular reasoning, since the colleges of education are teaching reform ideas, which downplay basic arithmetic competence and which advocate the very ideas the article applauds.

On the other hand, there are numerous examples of elementary schools in low-income areas, where black and Latin students have excelled with traditional instruction. The principals at two of these schools in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles spent years working with teachers to find good traditional math and phonics-based reading programs. They got rid of teachers who held the racist idea that the black and Latin students couldn't learn traditional math and reading. They use Open Court in reading and Saxon in math. They didn't make excuses and have made tremendous gains.

The entire math reform movement is based on the racist, anti-working-class ideology that says working class children are too dumb to learn properly. Jack Price, a former NCTM president and math reform spokesman, said during a radio debate with Mathematically Correct (the organization to which I belong): "It is well known that minorities and women don't learn like white males."The underpinning of reform is the anti-Marxist theory of constructivism, which states that students must build their own knowledge. The schools have followed this idea and as a result essential elements of arithmetic, such as memorization of addition and multiplication tables and the traditional method of long division have been ignored. Millions of students have been turned into mathematical cripples.

California has always embraced the latest wacky educational fads. A decade ago the California Mathematics Framework was written in conformity with NCTM standards. The Framework advocated giving all kindergartners calculators. It fell head over heels for the same aspects of math reform the article endorses.

After almost ten years of this, nearly 70 percent of students in the 20-campus California State University system require remedial math. A related problem is that reform-trained students never learn to study properly. These "fun" methods shy away from hard work. Consequently, the students enter college with two major problems. They don't know anything, and they haven't learned how to learn. Hence the well-intentioned remedial programs are doomed to failure. The teachers in them include students who have also had their education destroyed, so you have the blind leading the blind. At my college, the remedial programs heavily use the "group work" idea. It's a complete failure.

In my college, we run about 30 sections of calculus per semester for about 1,000 students, who major in a variety of fields. Fewer than 10% of these students are prepared for the course. Students in the "hard" calculus courses are just as poorly trained as students in the "softer" courses. This is a relatively new phenomenon.

The main tool of calculus is algebra. The reform-educated students are extremely weak in high school algebra. Trying to teach them calculus is demoralizing and frustrating. My colleagues deal with the problem by drastically lowering standards.

Another reaction has been the creation of reformed calculus, which eliminates all theory and minimizes reliance on algebraic skills. It replaces a beautiful structure, based on practice and theory, with a useless mishmash of deceptive nonsense. In the late '80s and early '90s, the National Science Foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars on such reform projects. Of course, there was no scientific theory employed to examine the validity of reform and there has been no follow-up evaluation. Too many people are getting rich off reform--from textbook companies to computer and calculator companies to fat-cat administrators and sellout academics, who, because of large educational grants, do very little teaching.

The reform in math and reading that occurred in the '80s was a reaction to U.S. students' declining skills. The backlash against this reform hit in the early '90s, when people in the white middle and upper-middle class realized their kids couldn't read and do basic math.

I have been quite surprised that some people writing for PLP have avoided doing research and careful analysis of these issues. However, the CHALLENGE articles on math education were well written. They carefully analyzed the issues. I urge Party members to reread these articles. Communists should be able to analyze this problem objectively.

We all know that capitalism is a filthy, rotten system that will never provide excellent education. But this is no excuse for not learning how to teach. Furthermore, education is of dire importance to black, Latin and working-class white parents. They know their kids are not learning in school. They won't buy the racist horseshit that their kids can't learn, just like kids from affluent families. They want their kids drilled on the basics, just like the upper-income kids.

If the Party is to have a positive impact on such people through educational struggles, it must recognize that all children learn best through hard drilling of basics, in conjunction with understanding ideas. I've taught my own second-grade daughter addition and multiplication tables at home, because her teacher told the parents there's no time for this in class--the teachers are too busy teaching "concepts." In school, "concepts" often mean total nonsense. Most of the math educators have no idea what constitutes a math concept. The parents in my neighborhood are spending a fortune on tutoring. The little kid across the street has a math tutor three times a week.

The working-class kids aren't so lucky. Their parents aren't math professors and don't have the money to hire tutors. The working-class kids' only chance is to learn in class.

PLP should adopt the slogan "Algebra for the Working Class"--and fight for it.

Next Issue: How to help children from Kindergarten to 8th grade become arithmetic experts.

Who's `Madder'? Cows or Capitalists?

So is it just coincidence,Or are these deaths the first of many? Will BSE, slow death, advance,In humans and their progeny? One thing is sure; our precious State,Won't tell us till it's much too late! (from "Mad Cows and Englishmen" by C.J. Marsden)As we go to press, the European Union (EU) is in an uproar over the news that two French people have died of Variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (vCJD), the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Over 80 people in England and 89 in the whole EU have died of vCJD. Years after the slaughter of millions of British cows, BSE-infected cows have turned up in France, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

The horrible symptoms of vCJD have played dramatically on French TV: dementia, loss of motor control, and death, all within six months of the first signs of illness. French beef sales have dropped 40%, beef is banned from school lunches and the government is promising $400 million in aid to cattle farmers. In emergency session, the European Commission (EC) has proposed a ban on animal by-products in livestock feed, the presumed source of BSE.

The mad cow crisis reveals the tensions underlying the fragile unity among Euro-capitalists. The bosses' BSE concern has always been more about dueling nationalisms than public health. During Britain's BSE crisis, France led the drive to ban imports of British beef. The consequent economic downturn, along with evidence of a cover-up of human risk, helped bring down John Major's government. While French capitalists are trying to blame Britain for the spread of BSE, the story is one of greed and lies on all sides.

Long after the import ban, France continued to import veal calves from "BSE-free" British herds. They were meant to be slaughtered within six months. In a major scam, at least 70,000 of these disappeared into French herds, where they matured and were sold Europe-wide as "safe" French beef. Ironically, the EC's ban on animal products in feed is likely to force the EU to buy alternative feed from a politically embarrassing source-- genetically-modified U.S. soybeans.

What causes BSE, and how scared should we be? BSE and vCJD are caused by an amazing agent which is neither virus nor bacterium, and which contains no genetic material. "Prions,"(pronounced pree-ons) are a form of protein, and can't replicate like viruses or cells can. All mammals, humans included, have a gene for prion protein, which is normally made in the brain and serves some unknown function. Prions can fold up in more than one three-dimensional shape, a harmless shape and a bad one. If something causes a prion protein to fold up in the wrong shape, it sticks to other prion proteins and makes them misfold, forming a large, insoluble sheet like a sort of crystal. Prion deposits in the brain drive neighboring nerve cells to suicide, turning the brain into sponge.

When a human eats infected beef, cow prions coax the eater's prions into misfolding, increasing the risk of disease. The prions which make holes in human brains are human prions, turned bad by cow prions. Cow prions don't lock into human prions perfectly, so there is a "species barrier," but given enough exposure, misfolding happens. vcJD has appeared in humans before, when human prions misfold for a variety of reasons. The new form of vcJD is different from these older forms and is unmistakably linked to mad cows. It's still very rare, but given a decades-long incubation period and the lack of a pre-diagnostic test, it may eventually kill tens of thousands. As scary as prion disease appears, it was made much worse by the British rulers, whose first priority was to shore up profits and retain economic power within the EU. They installed do-nothing officials whose job was to reassure the public. Their Ministry remained in denial while BSE spread to cats and zoo animals, and young people began to show signs of the disease. U.S. bosses would respond with the same denial, given a similar threat-- when Oprah aired a show about the dangers of feeding bone meal to cattle, she was sued (unsuccessfully) by Texas cattle barons.

On a scale of preventable health worries, beef consumption and vCJD are way down there, miles below tobacco, highway deaths and dietary fats. The media typically stir up fears of the novel and mysterious (like genetically-modified foods), while the system kills us in other ways.

A much bigger threat to the working class in Europe and throughout the world is increasing inter-imperialist rivalry. Beef trade wars, like oil, steel and auto wars, will eventually become shooting wars.