Editorial: Bush Cabinet Mirrors Rulers Tug-of-War
Straight From The Horses Mouth: Bush Cabinet Sings Oil War Chorus
Anti-Racists Stomp Fascist Klan
Yelling Wont Stop KKK, Only Direct Action Will
Huge Strike In Colombia Becoming School For Communism
Seattle News Strikers Must Think Class First
Bosses Favor Freedom Of The PressUntil You Need It!
Bus Mechanics Hammer Red-Baiter, Re-Elect Pro-Communist
NYC Technical Workers Shouldnt Wait For Axe To Fall
Billy Elliot Dances Around Greatness
Race Card Makes Election A Stacked Deck
Play It Again, Uncle Sam
Dinner Inspires Sub Drive(r)
Rap Prison Labor In Bush Backyard
Nightsticks Vs. Snowballs
Really Learning Math Helps Us Learn About Life
Students Getting (R)education
Dollarization Sharpens Imperialist Dogfight, Attacks Against Workers
As the Bush gang prepares to enjoy the spoils of power, workers can learn some important lessons from the profit systems recent electoral free-for-all.
First, although the rulers remain seriously divided on several fronts, they are seeking unity, both against workers and against their own major imperialist rivals.
Second, these rivals are engaged in a long-term strategic process of challenging U.S. domination, particularly Exxon Mobils grip on world oil. This challenge is sharpening and will lead to a series of ever-bloodier wars.
Third, the working class will pay a doubly heavy price for the current economic downturn. They will suffer in one way or another; black and Latin workers will, as usual, be hardest hit. An economic slowdown will further deepen the conflict between U.S. capitalism and its competitors and increase the danger of war. Communist revolution remains the only way out of the profit systems murderous traps.
Bushs cabinet nominees reflect both the partisan election brawl and the rulers urgent need to unite despite their differences. Unity is a growing aspect, at least on a number of important fronts.
In 1996, Republican Bob Doles biggest donors were the Koch Oil Patch billionaires, who called for U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. But currently the Kochs spend less on politicians than on their private mansions and Dole is peddling Viagra. The key players on Bushs foreign policy teamCondoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeldall agree that the U.S. ruling class must find a way to oust Saddam Hussein by military force (see box on page 2).
Control of Iraqi oil remains crucial to U.S. imperialisms future as top dog. Iraq may have the worlds largest reserves, even larger than Saudi Arabias, and the cheapest; U.S. rulers cant accept losing Iraq to Russian, Chinese or European interests. An Iraqi propaganda officer left little doubt about this in an interview with the NEW YORKER magazine: "If America can control Iraq, it will indeed be an American millennium. But if the other countries can prevent the U.S. from controlling Iraq, they will prevent the U.S. from becoming the sole power the future of the world is being decided here" (12/11/00). The Bush White House knows it must try to finish the job Colin Powell botched in 1991, despite murdering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis while head of Poppa Bushs Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. rulers relative unity on Iraq doesnt yet extend to other major areas of foreign policy. They dont quite agree about Russia and China. Some bosses think many bucks can safely be made from deals with these two countries. Others want to treat them as strategic enemies. Bushs cabinet choices reflect the conflict.
Vice-President Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, the biggest oil services outfit in Russia. They would want to maintain stable relations with Russia. On the other hand, Cheyney favors war to control Iraq, a policy which conflicts with Russian interests there.
Rice sits on the board of Chevron, which trails only Exxon Mobil as a user of Saudi Arabian crude. Chevron usually follows the Exxon line. But its growing operations in the Caspian region have led it to strike deals with the Russians rather than treat them as a strategic enemy.
Events often overcome wishful thinking. A new German-Russian axis is emerging as a strategic challenge to U.S. imperialism. The Bush White House includes forces that understand the ruthlessness necessary to counter the growth of this alliance or of one with China. In late December, Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Henry Shelton lectured U.S. businessmen and politicians about Chinas potential to emerge as the next superpower threat to the U.S. "Even those who argue for continued economic engagement with China, such as Rice, have also argued for a more balanced view of China as an emerging competitor." (Stratfor.com, 12/29/00) A Christmas Eve NEW YORK TIMES editorial warns about Chinas rise as a rival for Persian Gulf oil.
Another difference between some Bushites and the main wing of U.S. rulers (represented by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Brookings Institution and the NEW YORK TIMES) involves a missile defense system. Rumsfeld is known as a big booster of "Star Wars" investment. The main wing worries that such a costly move would detract from more pressing military needs a ground invasion of Persian Gulf oilfields, among others. But the Rockefeller interests have little to fear from Rumsfeld. Despite his ties to the aerospace industry, hes loyal to the main wing. He served the Ford-Rockefeller administration as defense secretary when the Pentagon was wriggling out of the Vietnam disaster and aiming to become top gun in the Middle East.
The two biggest partisan issues dividing the bosses are Bush cabinet choices for Interior and Attorney-General. By naming Gale Norton for Interior, he seems to be paying off a debt to the domestic Oil Patch crew that helped elect him. Their profit needs impel opening up Alaska National Wildlife Reserve oil for commercial exploration. The Exxon MobilNEW YORK TIMES faction want this oil kept in the ground as a strategic hedge against a disruption of Middle Eastern oil supplies during a war which theyre going to provoke.
Whether Bush can pay off the domestic energy barons remains to be seen. Even if Norton is approved by the Senate, shell have to butt heads every day with New Jersey Governor Christy Whitman, a classic Rockefeller Republican and Bushs choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The choice of Spencer Abraham to head Energy shows that the Oil Patch still wields considerable influence in the Bush camp. Like Norton, Abraham wants to bring Alaskan crude onto the market.
Missouri Senator Ashcroft, Bushs Attorney-General, is another IOU payoff to the open cultural fascists, who oppose abortion and other aspects of the liberal rulers agenda for their own base and brand of fascism. As CHALLENGE pointed out during the election squabble, the "culture wars" continue to reflect deeply felt tactical splits among the rulers.
Nonetheless, despite these ongoing rifts, a quest for some kind of unity marks Bushs cabinet-building in general. With the exception of Norton, the NEW YORK TIMES and WASHINGTON POST hail the nominees as "pragmatists" who will salute the Exxon Mobil flag when the chips are down.
Neither of these trends favors the working class. When bosses fight, they do so over workers dead bodies. When they unite, they do so in order to make warwith workers as cannon fodder. Either way, the working class loses. Voting for a Democrat is not the answer. The Clinton-Gore White House has brought an unbroken succession of racist, anti-worker, pro-police and warmaking policies. A Gore presidency would have been no different. Forget "lesser evil" dreams about capitalists and their politicians who control elections and the government. Our hopeour only hope as a classlies in the patient, determined, life-long struggle to make communist revolution and win a communist world.
Appearances are deceiving. Our class will eventually win. Lets resolve in 2001 and beyond to stay the course, build the PLP and fight for the workers side. Organizing a successful May Day is a good way to begin.
Condoleezza Rice: "If Saddam gives you a reason to use force against him, then use decisive force, not just a pinprick. And in the long run, you should succeed in creating a Saddam-free Iraq." (WASHINGTON POST, 8/9/00).
Dick Cheney: "If in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction youd have to give very serious consideration to military action to stop that activity." (REUTERS, 10/5/00)
Donald Rumsfeld: "We should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the [Persian Gulf] and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulfand, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power" (co-signed letter to U.S. Congressional leaders, May 29, 1998
SKOKIE, IL, December 19 Last Saturday more than 500 workers and students showed up to stomp the Ku Klux Klan. The militant anti-racists far outnumbered the liberal "socialists" and Jewish Defense League fascists who tried to sabotage the action. Anti-racist anger fueled mass violence. Many racists and their cop protectors were beaten down and defeated.
The Jewish mayor of Skokie and the black Cook County Commissioner did their best to help the Klan. They suggested the use of the Cook County
Courthouse for the rally and mobilized hundreds of cops to defend these racist terrorists. Thats how the bosses keep them alive. Without the bosses and cops, the working class would destroy them in five minutes!
The cops used the public works building as a pick-up point for the Klan, allowing them to change into their hoods in the locker rooms used by the mostly black sanitation workers. From there, the cops escorted them to the rally site. The following Monday, sanitation workers staged a four-hour work stoppage protesting the use of their locker rooms by the Klan. They refused to go back to work until city bosses apologized.
The politicians, press and religious leaders tried to keep people away, but hundreds filled the streets anyway. Klan supporters were prevented from getting to the main rally and those who tried to hide in the crowd were exposed and violently attacked. The cops didnt fare much better. Several police cars were trashed and anti-racists were rescued from the cops time and time again.
Self-critically, we need to do a much better job of building anti-Klan (or anti-imperialist war or anti-cop terror) contingents in our mass organizations at work, at school or in the community. We brought 18 people, black and white, from one group. Our committee mobilized people, helped spread the word, worked on the leaflet and took part in discussions. We had this modest success because we have participated vigorously in the life of the group and use CHALLENGE to advance struggles over the ideas.
Significantly, there was no argument in favor of "free speech" for the Klan. The main disagreement was over the use of violence against the KKK and the KKKops. This type of political development does not come spontaneously. It requires hard work over a period of time. It must become more the rule and less the exception.
One of the biggest victories was that young comrades gave leadership to all aspects of the days events. Young workers gained new confidence in the Party as they took part in planning and executing our activities. Their leadership will strengthen the Party in quantity and quality! One youth joined the Party, and others are closer, inspired by the unity and militancy of the day. They more clearly see the need for mass violence against fascism. Training new leaders will better prepare us to confront the bosses on the job, at school or in the community.
We must win the masses to hate the capitalist system of wage slavery the way they hate the Klan. Clinton and Gore put two million workers in prison, killed 1,500 at the U.S.-Mexico border, killed 500,000 Iraqis with bombs and economic sanctions, and replaced welfare with a nation-wide network of slave wage jobs. Bush will try to outdo these "achievements." Winning many new CHALLENGE readers and distributors is the first way we can consolidate this victory and advance this outlook.µ
Several Party members were arrested, and several members of the anarchist ARA, a militant anti-racist group, face felony charges. Raising money for all these courageous fighters is a high priority! Donations should be sent to PLP, Box A3156, Chicago, IL 60690.
I recently attended a Klan rally in Skokie, IL with PLP. The moment foremost in my mind is of NAACP members standing at the police "tape" line wearing yellow armbands. Their purpose? Keep the working class behind the police line, away from the KKK. This is a wake-up call for the Party. We can never be too serious or careful about how much fascism the working class lives with daily.
As in every other process, there is uneven development within the working class concerning its recognition of the current degree of fascism in the U.S. Some of us dont live "in the trenches, on the front lines" while some of us live under the full effects of fascism and oppression 24-7. We should listen and learn from the day-to-day experiences of those who never get a "vacation" from fascism.
The cops were there to protect the Klan in the interests of the bosses. I had a confrontation with the cops that day. I was down on the ground with a comrade and a cop was telling me to "get up and go" because he was about to beat the shit out of my comrade and arrest her. She happens to be a member of one of the bosses target "races" and I am not. My point is not that this cop happened to be a racist, (though he was). The fact is he and another cop dragged me across the street, handcuffed me and took me to jail because I refused to move. This shows us that ALL the cops are on the bosses side and are outraged when workers refuse to follow their orders. It also shows us that one faces violence from the cops when she/he acts in the best interests of the working class.
The people who attended the rally to "yell" at the KKK, but not act to stop their rally dont understand that their actions will never eliminate nor protect their communities from the Klan. As PLP members our job is to demonstrate that we attend a Klan rally to PREVENT that rally from occurringby any means necessary. We did this effectively when we tried to break through the line of cops protecting the Klan. PLPs long-run goal is to eliminate capitalism, which spawns organizations like the Klan out of its oppressive social institutions. The KKK is unacceptable in any community. This is the "lesson" that the working class needs to practice, or apply, in the objective world in order to realize our goal.
We could have been more effective and stopped the rally at the beginning if there were more PLP members in that spot and acting collectively to break the police line. Members of the other working class organizations tried to drag me back when I began to push through the police line with my comrades. PLP members must educate the working class about fascism and organizations such as the KKK because many workers do not recognize fascism for what it is or how it affects them and the people in their immediate social circles, not just "somebody else".
Midwest Anti-Racist Red Fighter
BOGOTA, COLOMBIAOver 6,500 workers have been striking the Bavaria Conglomerate since mid-December. The action has shut the companys 18 breweries and all soda and juice production. Rank and filers, not relying on the union leadership, have attacked scabs and forced supervisors and government officials to run for their lives. A PLP banner calling for communism hangs in a strike headquarters tent erected by workers across from the main plant.
Last October, a mass meeting of workers voted to strike after receiving the company contract "offer" cutting our pensions and medical insurance. It is a significant strike, affecting five million people who make part of their living selling various Bavaria products. It occurs amid fascist war conditions in Colombia, where all contract fights end up in arbitration where workers always lose. Teachers, health workers and civil service workers are owed 10 months back wages.
Under "Plan Colombia"Clintons billion-dollar package for the Colombian army to fight the guerrillasrepression of all workers has intensified. Last year more than 90 union activists were murdered by the death squads, armed and organized by the army.
Bavaria is owned by one of Colombias wealthiest capitalist groups, the Santodomingo family. They own 50 different enterprises and are one of the big funders of the death squads. The Minister of Labor has done everything to help Bavaria. The company openly uses engineers, supervisors and strike-breakers to try to continue production. Pickets are videotaped to intimidate us. The mass media has imposed a blackout of our struggle. Despite these attacks, workers remain firm.
We in PLP are participating in the strike, explaining that its not enough to break the 9% wage hike ceiling imposed by the company. Were making the strike a "school for communism." And a school it has been. There are daily political discussions among the strikers and relatives. Strikers children join the chants, particularly those initiated by the Party. Workers and their families man the headquarters 24 hours a day.
CHALLENGE has helped us greatly during the strike. Weve held discussions about articles in the paper, linking world events with our struggle here. Weve distributed copies of different articles among workers. As one striker said, "We are part of the guarantee that the seeds we plant today wont be wasted and will flourish."
SEATTLE, WA., Jan. 1Striking SEATTLE TIMES workers rejected the bosses contract offer Saturday sending the strike here into its sixth week. Led by lower-paid workers in the advertising and circulation departments, Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild members, including additional reporters, voted 387-87 against. Workers in the composing room, where advertisements are assembled, voted it down 51-6. Approximately 870 Guild members work for the TIMES.
One hundred and thirty SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER (P-I) reporters approved a similar economic package Dec. 28 and will have returned to work by January 2. The P-I and the TIMES work under a joint operating agreement where the two papers maintain separate newsrooms, but all business, production and circulation functions are run by the TIMES. The main difference between the two packages was the TIMES return-to-work conditions, allowing 68 permanent scabs to hold their positions while strikers in circulation and composing are forced to wait as long as a year to get their jobs back.
College students in the Progressive Labor Party brought CHALLENGE to the picket lines over the holiday recess. They were well-received. One worker contributed $5.00 so every picket could get a copy of our paper.
The strikers resolveparticularly of the lower-paid production workers who have been the backbone of this strikeis admirable. Nevertheless, the strikers position is being undermined by the treachery of the Teamsters leadership.
The TIMES second largest bargaining unit contains mailers, key production workers who assemble and insert advertisements in the paper, members of Teamsters Local 763. They rejected their contract three days before the Guild contract vote. Local President Jon Rabine immediately set out to sabotage their decision.
Besides controlling the 4,500-member Local with contracts at the TIMES and elsewhere, Rabine is president of the 60,000-member Teamsters Joint Council 28. He is a staunch ally of Teamsters international president James Hoffa Jr. His additional post as international vice president and various pensions nets him more than $235,000 annually.
Having to face re-election soon and wanting to tout a settlement, Rabine was desperate for a deal. He called on his buddy, TIMES boss James Schafer to work out a sweetheart contract. After obtaining upgrades for 10 members, Rabine had the Locals business agent and the mailers foreman circulate a "Petition to Settle the Contract." Securing 106 signatures on this petition, Rabine called off the strike, ignoring the requirement of the Teamsters constitution for a secret-ballot vote of the Locals members.
"As far as Im concerned, I dont recognize it [the strike cancellation]," said mailer James Dahlbeck, a 22-year employee of the TIMES. Many mailers thought they were just asking for another meeting and a second vote.
This is not the first time our Party and friends have encountered Rabine. He refused to allow a comrades workplace to strike even though over 90% voted to hit the bricks and he undermined a strike by Laidlaw school bus drivers with much the same back-room deals.
Over the weekend of Nov. 17, confused workers began assembling the huge volume of ads aimed for the Thanksgiving holiday papers. Getting those ads into the paper Monday, just hours before the Guilds strike deadline, was a direct hit at the strategy of striking the paper during the most revenue-rich holiday advertising season.
Rabine tried to use this deal to boost his crucial re-election campaign. He would lose his other positions if he lost the Local presidency. He immediately issued a re-election flyer entitled, "Those That Can, Do!" He bragged how he could get "good deals" because of those he knew in power and how he didnt allow his mailers to "get swallowed up in somebody elses fight." Think of yourself, not your class was the message of this snake-oil salesman. In the end, he lost the election anyway.
Dave Reynolds, a member to the Teamsters for a Democratic union (TDU), defeated Rabine. Despite waxing poetic about the labor movement, Reynolds still focuses on "getting the most for my members." Rabine and Reynolds disagree over how to get the best deal. Rabine relies on connections in high places. The TDU follows its standard position, claiming honest trade union reformers as officers will "scare" the bosses into making good deals. But the bosses hold state power. They dont "scare" easily, especially when profits are at stake. Neither strategy prepares workers for the bosses violent attacks. Of course, neither one poses the ideas advanced by Party members and friends in the Teamsters that our class comes first and that building the movement for workers power is primary.
Striking Guild members will be facing escalating pressure to settle over the next week. Sen. Patty Murray has called top company and union officials to Washington, D. C., for a January 3rd mediation session, effectively taking the struggle out of rank-and-file hands.
We must emphasize developing class consciousness, not a trade unionist philosophy of working out deals or electing "honest reformers." Then whatever deal is forced on the workers, a lasting victory can be built on a growing movement for workers power.
Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen sent the following pointed e-mail to Eastside Journal publisher Peter Horvitz. It said, in full:
F*** you to Death.
Your ex-friend Frank.
Horvitz got on Blethens bad side by printing the first edition of the Newspaper Guilds strike paper, SEATTLE UNION RECORD. Horvitz quickly had a change of heart as fellow publishers from around the state condemned his involvement. He promptly refused to print any more editions of the UNION RECORD and wrote Blethen an apology. After receiving this request for forgiveness, Blethen wrote back with "more of the same [coarse language], and that was the end of the communication." So much for the great defenders of freedom of the press!
LOS ANGELES, CA January 2"Hey man," a worker warned our friend, a mechanic running for re-election as shop steward, "You better go down and see the flyer Gabby put out against you." He was talking about his opponents campaign leaflet for the run-off election.
The other candidates leaflet looked like something out of the bosses latest push to overcome the Vietnam Syndrome. In color, it featured a GI helmet with a green camouflage cover, listing his qualifications as four years in the Marines, a member of the American Legion and "still fighting communists." Rambos back!
Everyone in the shop knew this guy had help producing this leaflet, perhaps with the blessing of the union leadership.
After talking with several workers, including at other divisions, our friend attacked his opponents anti-communism. He listed his activities against prison slave labor, racist cop murders, organizing mechanics not to scab on the drivers strike, encouraging janitors and others to picket with the drivers, and other campaigns to unite, not divide, the working class. The leaflet concluded with, "if these actions are communist, then we need more communists in the union."
This response caused quite a stir. Answering this anti-communist attack brought communist ideas into the open on the shop floor. About 150 workers had the "we-need-more communists" flyer. They were posted in several places as well as reaching other divisions.
One worker asked the shop steward during the run off election, " I dont really understand what this is between you two. I mean, what, exactly is communism?"
This presented the opportunity to explain that, as long as the bosses control the government, they will use their power to exploit and divide workers; to send our children to fight wars to defend their profits; and to terrorize and oppress workers. Thats why PLPs long-term goal is workers power through revolution to get rid of the profit system. Then the working class will organize production and transportation for the needs of workers, not for the bosses profits. Thats communism.
The result of all this political debate? The pro-communist candidate won the run-off for shop steward 40 to 24, with 20 workers not voting. It also gave us a chance to distribute flyers summarizing the Partys history, showing that, in the year 2001, PLP is still fighting for communism!
CHALLENGE is our Partys main weapon against the capitalists ideas spread among workers. These bosses ideas, coming from the union leaders as well, tell us to think about ourselves instead of our class. They urge us to think only about getting something in our paycheck now instead of fighting for a future for our class, and to vote for "lesser evil" politicians instead of organizing the tremendous potential power of the working class.
While we fight every attack on our class today, as long as the bosses hold power, theyll attack and wipe out whatever immediate gain we achieve, especially as they prepare for a war for control of oil profits. So thinking "me first" instead of our class first is actually self-defeating.
CHALLENGE is the workers tool to help free us from these chains. The workers produce everything of value and have the potential to unite as a class to get rid of the bosses and their dog-eat-dog profit system once and for all. PLP fights unconditionally for workers power.
While this struggle is occurring, the union leadership has been secretly negotiating a new contract for mechanics. Workers are demanding the details. A group of rank-and-filers have distributed a leaflet calling on workers to reject the contract, which:
Forces us to pay for a wage "increase" by taking money from our pensions;
Continues the use of prison labor;
Probably includes wage progression, attacking the newer hires;
The workers must prepare to strike, knowing the drivers will support us because we honored their picket lines during their recent walkout, despite our union leaders refusal to back us if we did. As this struggle continues, the main victories will be the growing unity and class-consciousness of workers and their increasing use of CHALLENGE and its communist ideas.
NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 19 Its a standing joke at the NYC Housing Authority that your union dues are for monthly lunch meetings where you get cold pizza and hot soda. District Council 37s 7,000-member Local 375 Technical Workers Guild of AFSCME just held elections for leadership. The interests of the workers were represented about as well here as they were during the pathetic presidential race. Issues affecting the membership and the working class in general were conspicuously avoided and replaced with petty negative attacks on other candidates. The union leaderships real job is to convince workers to accept what capitalism offers and keep things quiet. True to form, the endless name-calling just diverted workers away from fighting the City bosses. If workers are to defend themselves against cutbacks, especially as capitalism heads towards recession and war, we need real militance, not mud-slinging.
The Local represents some of the only organized technical service workers in the city. In private industry, despite a relative shortage of trained workers, many architects and engineers put in 60- or 70-hour weeks as a matter of course; job security is a contradiction in terms. The City Housing Authority (like all public agencies) is heading in the same direction. People are continually forced to do more than their job description requires (work "out-of-title"), services are privatized and growing numbers of employees are provisional.
Its hard to see anyone looking to the union for defense. Even now, with a City budget surplus, theyre only asking for raises that amount to a cost-of-living allowance. The current leadership (the "Truth Team") is corrupt and ineffectual, spending dues on junkets, holding secret elections in violation of union by-laws and focusing on "victories" like subway discounts. People are informed about contract negotiations only after the fact. Theyve done nothing against on-going privatization and out-sourcing.
But the reform ticket (so-called "Unity Team") offered no alternatives except to harp on the obvious corruption of the Local and trumpet their own "honesty." They even indulged in some old-fashioned McCarthyite red-baiting, attacking the current head of the Local for publicly denouncing the U.S. and NATOs role in Yugoslavia. Literature from both slates numbed people with constant attacks against the other side. One looked in vain for more than a passing mention of the fact that the contract ran out six months ago, or of fascist Mayor Rudy Giulianis anti-worker tactics; for any mention of fighting against Workfare or for any workplace issue like day care. Both sides just hope the next mayor will cut a better deal and will sit on negotiations till then.
Militant communist leadership recognizes that workers need to take the fight to the ruling class, instead of waiting for the axe to fall. That kind of leadership can never come from the current slate of local officers or any of the higher-ups in AFSCME or the AFL-CIA. As it turns out (shades of Florida) most of the slots contested in the Local election will require a run-off, but as with the Florida fiasco, no matter who wins, the workers lose and we still have a struggle against the bosses on our hands.
O.K. Everyone agrees. "Billy Elliot" is a terrific movie, charming, even inspirationaland not cheesy and hokey as it would have been if made in Hollywood. There were no angel choruses, and every little point wasnt driven into our heads with a mallet and weepy violins.
But its only a fine moviewhere, with one tiny bit of editing, it would have been a great one. Its easy to sense that a choice was made to not opt for greatness.
The title character is a young working-class boy who rejects pursuing the "manly" art of boxing, being attracted to dancing instead. Billy begins to study dance from an instructor (Julie Walters). The lessons are secret, because Billy knows his widower father and macho brother would be antagonistic to this "unmanly" choice. This might have led to the predictable money-version: playing on the lessons of feminism and gender, and pitting the "violent male gene" against the craving for art.
But what raises this film above the predictable is whats happening in the background. The strong sub-plot being put aside is where the moviemakers sold out.
A major strike is raging against the brutal and dangerous conditions in the coalmines. Billys father and brother are strongly, heroically involved.
But its not just a strike. Its the 1980s, during the regime of fascist Margaret Thatcher, Britains Ronald Reagan.
We watch a brutal, repressive regime, vividly symbolized in the rows of riot cops protecting scab labor and attacking the workers to their very homes. These scenes are realisticbut not depressingly terrifying because of inspiring details. There are shots of neighbors protecting and harboring strikers on the run from the cops, and the strikers fighting back valiantly throughout.
Billy, aware and a good working-class kid, is angry at whats being done to his familyand more importantly, to his class.
The conflict? What will his father do when he learns his son is passionately involved in what the father would think is the sexually dubious pursuit of ballet? Well, we want the father to be understanding and supportive, but he wasnt raised that way, and he is angry instead.
We dont want to tell much more of the plotyou really should see it. Watch for the most important scene: the father chooses to become a scab to help Billy out, leading to a major lesson of the movie.
The movie ends with Billys success, giving us "hope and happiness," but not dealing with the real issue.
One of the movies last scenes is Billys father and brother riding the elevator back down to the mine. If that had been the final scene, the movie would have been able to tell essentially the same story, but we would have learned a great lesson. As it stands, the movie is just another triumph-of-the-individual story, and the significance of working class versus the rich and their government (the State) just fades away amid Tchaikovskys soaring music.
Back in the seventies, riding down to May Day in Washington, a young guy on the bus expressed some honest misgivings: he wasnt completely sold on the idea that communism really held the answers to the many deadly problems we all face.
"If you really had a communist state," he argued, "how would someone like Albert Einstein ever come to be? Would someone like that have to sweep floors?"
One replied, "You picked the wrong example, because Einstein considered himself a socialist."
"The point," someone else said, "isnt that Einstein would have to sweep floorsand whats so terrible about intellectuals getting a little working-class dirt on their hands? They should want the revolution to succeed. But more important, there would be more Einsteins under communism than there can ever be under capitalism."
"How do you figure that?" he asked.
"Well, how many potential Einsteins, in every kind of field, are never even discovered because theyre living in the slums and never will get the opportunity to shine? Therell be a hundred, a million geniuses discovered after the revolution!Jonas Salks, Charlie Chaplins, Orson Welleses, etc."
But theyll never see the light of day under the profit system, under the brutality and exclusiveness of capitalism. Thats the lesson thats not told in "Billy Elliot," "Good Will Hunting," and many otherwise finepossibly censoredmovies.
Rarely will a Billy Elliot actually get his dream, but thousands more Billy Elliots and billions of others under capitalism have essentially no hope of even achieving a decent life, much less a good one. Thats the ultimate argument against this violent, brutal and cruel system.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallop poll describes the immense gap in how whites and blacks view the election. While over half of blacks think Bush stole the election, and only 7% think he won "fair and square," 54% of whites think he won fair and square. While 76% of blacks think the U.S. voting system discriminates against them, only 39% of whites think the system discriminates against blacks.
This large gap demonstrates the central place of racism in the election and in U.S. society. Amidst all the political hypocrisy and legalistic doubletalk, the main argument the Republicans and their supporters proclaimed repeatedly was that blacks wanted their ballots to be counted in a "special" way, and that this would "discriminate" against white voters. This again is the myth of "reverse discrimination."
The Republicans used the mass racist opposition to "special treatment" or "special preference" that theyve built up in their crusade against affirmative action during the past three decades to attack all Democratic efforts to get recounts.
While the Supreme Court majority flip-flopped on "states rights" and "judicial activism" in order to hand Bush the presidency, the five justices remained perfectly consistent in their racist strategy of declaring any remedy for racism to be "racist" and "unconstitutional."
Shamelessly, they even used the "equal protection" argumenthistorically used to combat racist disenfranchisement of blacksto uphold the massive disenfranchisement of blacks in Florida in the 2000 election.
Meanwhile, the Democrats ran away from exposing this Republican racism as fast as they could. They let Jesse Jackson and the NAACP organize rallies and gather evidence, but no white leader of the Democratic Party made any visible statement to any significant audience condemning the pervasive and decisive racism of the entire election. The silence of white Democrats enabled the Republicans and the media to treat black protest as just the usual whining and complaining of minorities and sore losers. And the four outvoted justices of the Supreme Court certainly werent about to denounce the racism of their fellow justices.
The Republicans played "the racist card" for all it was worth, and the Democrats ensured that it would win the decisive trick. The two-party system worked in the classic way it has served the capitalist class. Most working-class white voters supported the Republicans, especially in the states that have the largest black population. Most working-class blacks supported the Democrats.
White and black workers were convinced that there were highly significant differences between the two parties, when, in fact, the differences were very minor. The Republican Party worked hard to build and mobilize racist sentiment among white workers. The Democratic Party worked hard to mislead black workers into thinking that Democrats would protect and represent their interests against the racist Republicans.
Of course, this is the same Democratic Party that joined with Republicans in criminalizing and disenfranchising millions of black workers, and that joined with Republicans in refusing to appropriate funds to upgrade election machinery.
The ruling class needs both parties to divide the working class and to build popular support for oppression of black workers upon which maximizing capitalist profits depend.
The main lessons of this election are:
First, fighting racism must be our political priority, now more than ever.
Second, in all our anti-racist struggles we must show people that racism is endemic and critical to the political power and wealth of the capitalist ruling class. That is why both major political parties contribute mightily to the perpetuation of racism.
Third, while participating in any mass campaign to reform the electoral system, we must show that it is impossible to uproot its racism, to get capitalist money out of politics, and to get the system to serve the working class. Therefore, we must build a revolutionary movement to smash the entire system.
This fraudulent, hypocritical, racist election demonstrates that the U.S. ruling class may be strong, but it is also vulnerable. It is not true that "the emperor has no clothes." But the emperor has a blatantly corrupt and racist wardrobe, which many people have begun to see through. It is currently the worlds dominant imperialist superpower, unchallenged by any effective imperialist rival, controlling a working class divided by racism. But its corruption, arrogance and racism are evident to millions of people here and abroad.
The U.S. imperialists who financed and engineered the defeat of Milosevic in Serbia, who staged "demonstration" elections in South Vietnam, who installed and removed governments worldwide, now reveals more clearly than ever that "bourgeois democracy" is a disgusting spectacle from the local precincts all the way up to the Supremely Racist Court.
A red professor
"Estrada Resign," the signs read. Thousands demonstrate as the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada continues. Hes charged with taking millions in gambling kick-backs. Estrada brought back many of Marcos cronies and is challenged by past presidents Ramos and Aquino to resign. Meanwhile, there is an insurrection by Moslem nationalists in Jolo in the South.
In a recent WALL STREET JOURNAL article, "Estrada Resign" was the bottom line. Even though U.S. bosses vacated large naval port facilities in Subic Bay several years ago, they still own large corporate investments. To the South sits the chaotic Indonesian situation and to the northeast China. Today the U.S. and Chinas bosses trade and compete. Imperialist competition could eventually lead to war.
At the height of the Marcos regime, the New Peoples Army (NPA)military arm of the Communist Party (CP)had 25,000 soldiers fighting government forces. By 1986, "Marcos Must Go!"; "Power to the NPAs!" was written on walls throughout the country. So where was the revolution I was dreaming about? Even my wifes family, who we visit yearly, were talking politics.
In the past, every time I raised a question someone would smile and politely ignore it by asking, "Some more food?" At the least, I thought, there would be civil warlike Nicaraguahopefully with better results. Oh, how wrong I was!
Lesson #1 came home: if your politics are off the mark, it doesnt matter how many forces you have. I met several NPAs and they were very dedicated and great base-builders. But without the ingredients, you cant bake the cake.
Anyway, after the illusion of "Peoples Power," with millions in the streets, as Marcos fled, Aquino became president.
Many in the CP were won to the illusion of "democracy." Many thought they could now operate openly and freely in elections, unions, student and other groups. It was like all the lessons of the past were thrown to the winds.
According to a recent article in the "Manila Mail," hundreds of youth and students have sworn to join the armed revolution waged by the NPA in the countryside. Unfortunately, dedication to the wrong line wont cut it.
The December 9th cultural event emphasizing the importance of CHALLENGE was a great spur. Within nine days Ive gotten nine new subscriptions. Before the event, I wasnt focused on it. But getting there, seeing people I had known for years and new ones who were so enthusiastic about what we needed to do to rid the world of this rotten capitalismit was like a flash of light. Seeking CHALLENGE subscriptions, no matter what else is happening, is always more than merely important.
There are countless ways to distribute CHALLENGE. The "Red Youths" letter about the dinner in the last issue was very clear that, without knowing the specifics of the Partys future, we still know that future begins now. Hearing the raps, poems, songs and essays were quite impressive, especially since the event was created by our youth. In fact they led me to see I should not stop with these nine subs. They are, I hope, just a beginning. There are literally millions of workers and youth out there who would read CHALLENGE if it were presented to them. I know a good number of them. The thing I and all of us need is the will to go out and find them.
A New Yorker Who Remembers CHALLENGE for 33 Years
On November 30th, the anti prison labor group TTU Activists showed the video "Prison Labor, Prison Blues" to 80 students and faculty here at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Over 30 people signed our petition opposing the University buying Dell computers and other prison-made products.
Forty people stayed afterwards to discuss and analyze prison labor. Our aim was to raise the issues of racism and fascism in the U.S. prison system. Although many were shocked to learn about the prison labor industry, some felt there was nothing wrong with exploiting minorities while the bosses reap increasing profits from these workers.
TTU showed how the prison industry finds its fodder in the racist "war on drugs" and uses fascism and racist policing of students and minorities to fill the prisons. While decent jobs are eliminated, hundreds of thousands of prisoners are forced to work for nothing. The audience asked what actions could be taken to stop the endless imprisonment of minority youth and change the prison system. TTU Activists fielded questions to the best of its ability, though the PLP explanation that capitalism causes the problem was not fully integrated. This reflected an ongoing internal struggle with TTU Activists about acceptance of revolutionary communist ideology.
The important lesson learned here is that leadership is crucial, leadership to stand up for revolutionary ideas. Without anyone taking initiative to explain the importance of PLP, it allows the center to move to the right instead of the left, and may alienate those who are open to revolutionary ideas but do not hear them.
Three members of Students Together Against Racism (STAR) at Evanston Township High School went to the KKK rally in Skokie. We were among hundreds of protesters from a wide variety of groups united to tell the Klan they werent welcome in our state, much less our world.
On the drive there, we worked on signs we planned to wield as weapons alongside our voices. One sign displayed our groups name. The other said, "You Lost, Deal With It," with a Confederate flag between the letters.
At the demonstration I realized this rally was different from any I had been to before. Many protestors were families that came together. To our surprise, there was an older man in front of us wielding a shiny new aluminum baseball bat. We reached the police checkpoint and I realized weapons were not uncommon. Near the police was a trashcan full of confiscated sticks, bats and two-by-fours. There were people here with more ferocious intent than us. We expected as much, but to see it made it real.
We made it to the courthouse and caught our first glimpse of Klansmen wearing their white sheets. I must say it was quite a scary sight, but that didnt change anything.
A mother with her children walked toward the police line saying, " Do you want to see a monster up close?" The rally livened up when a group of Nazis showed up and a large group of protesters charged them. The police formed a line to stop them. One cop pushed our STAR member backwards and he instinctively pushed back. The cops arrested him and the crowd grew angry. "Let him go!" people chanted throwing snowballs at the police. He was swiftly taken off to jail.
A minute later a line of cops formed with riot shields. Our last two STAR members along with the other demonstrators lined up in front of the police chanting, "The cops and the Klan go hand in hand."
Meanwhile back at the courthouse our teacher, a PLP member, was arrested for charging through the police line that was protecting the KKK, leaving my friend and myself the only STAR members not in handcuffs. This was quite ironic, because we are the groups chairs, and we had none of our members behind us.
I feel we won that Saturday. Many say that all the Klan wanted was our attention, but they wanted us to listen. We drowned them out and kicked them out. Thats not what they wanted. Therefore, we were victorious. We can learn a lot from this event. The Klan and other racist groups are not welcome around here, and they will be strongly opposed if they appear.
Students Together Against Racism
Editors Note: The first article in this two-part series on teaching math from a communist perspective exposed the racist bias of liberal math reform schemes. It challenged PLP math teachers to fight for the slogan, "Algebra for the working class." The series concludes with some practical suggestions for carrying out this struggle in the classroom. The author is a college professor of mathematics. As he pointed out in the first article, fewer than ten percent of his calculus students enter with adequate preparation for the course.
In Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, children need to become arithmetic experts. They must:
Memorize the addition and multiplication tables as well as learn to explain things such as why 2 + 3 = 3 + 2 and 2X3 = 3X2.
Know how to carry in addition and borrow in subtraction. The "whys" of these operations should also be explained, but some children may not automatically understand "why." Nonetheless, the procedures must still be mastered.
Know how to do long division. Multiplication tables are important in long division because the students need to be able to try things out quickly, in their heads or on scratch paper, when doing division.
Gain facility with adding, multiplying, subtracting and dividing fractions. This is extremely important for algebra. A child who cant add fractions will have no chance of dealing with a typical algebra problem such as: simplify the following expression: (x/y + y/x). A student who can manipulate fractions will immediately know that you need to get a common denominator. One way to get a common denominator is to just take the product. The simple arithmetic procedure is then applied and: (x/y + y/x) = (x^2 + y^2)/xy.
This kind of problem is beyond the grasp of students who dont know the basics of arithmetic. Furthermore, most "real life" problems often reduce to solving simple algebra problems.
Gain facility with decimals and percents. Just a few weeks ago I asked my college math classthe one for prospective K-8 teacherswhat is 20% of $155,000? It came from the "real life" problem of calculating the down payment on a house. Not one person in the class could solve it. Students should be able to do such a problem in their heads. It involves several important arithmetic notions.
Avoid calculators and computers. These are the worst "tools" for learning basic math and have no value. Algebra is arithmetic with letters in place of numbers and students who have "learned" arithmetic on a calculator will have not gained the necessary skill to learn algebra. As I said before, studying is not fun; it should be hard work. Also students should be able to see if an answer makes sense just by reasoning. There have been no studies demonstrating that machines have any values in math education. On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence of great harm done by machines.
Gain good study habits. This will serve them well in all future endeavors, including becoming hard-working communist organizers.
Success in the above points will give young people the necessary tools to succeed in high school algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Furthermore, when students are well-grounded in the fundamentals, they have more time to develop deeper conceptual understanding. There is no better application of quantity into quality than math education.
The large-scale failure of the U.S. educational system to teach millions of children reading and math needs to be exposed. But it should not be used as an excuse not to teach properly. Neither should low pay or poor working conditions or the students poverty. To be sure, these things dont help and the Party does an excellent job fighting for improvements and organizing along these lines. But there is only one proper way to learn any skillpractice in the fundamentals. Furthermore, children are resilient and capable of extraordinary achievements if the adults can keep their own bias out of the learning equation.
I would urge all K-8 teachers to review or master (as the case may be) all basic arithmetic procedures as well as to become fluent in high school algebra. Even though I have a doctorate in Math, I have to review the basics before teaching them to future teachers. Weakness in a subject is no shame. The real shame is using our own weakness to find rationalizations for not teaching properly.
Students at our high school have been shredding the myth that teenagers are politically apathetic. The past month was a particularly active one.
In early December, three progressive student clubs conducted an assembly program about prisons. Running for three periods, it was seen by over 500 students. One period covered prison labor. It was led by four students who did extensive research on the topic, using the PLP Prison Labor pamphlet as one of their main sources. Another period had a speaker from the Prison Moratorium Project, who explained how the skyrocketing number of prisoners was being fueled by the racist war against drugs, which targets people in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
The following week students showed the video, "Global Village or Global Pillage?" revealing how corporations are incessantly searching for cheaper and cheaper labor and are destroying the local environments by dumping toxic wastes. It also shows people fighting back against this hideous "race to the bottom." Unfortunately, the films politics, via producer Jeremy Brecher, insists that these local anti-corporate struggles can lead to a "decent world order." After the film, we briefly discussed whether anti-corporatism was a substitute for anti-capitalism and revolution. This discussion will no doubt continue.
The same week we had a standing-room-only audience to hear Professor Norman Finkelstein speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He provided a valuable history of the Zionist project, the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, and the current policy of encirclement and brutality toward Arab residents of the occupied territories. Professor Finkelstein showed how official Israeli policy toward the Palestinians was remarkably similar to U.S. government policy toward Native Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Many students are interested in opposing sweatshops. On December 6, a number of us participated in the rally and march against sweatshops that began at Niketown. Then on December 19, we heard a speaker describe conditions in the 3,500 Mexican border factories (maquiladores), which exploit over a million workers for low pay and few benefits.
Because some students are interested in developing a radical theory of why so many people in the world are hungry, exploited and abused, we started a radical reading group. Recently we discussed Rosa Luxemburgs essay, "Reform and Revolution," which argues persuasively that capitalism cannot be reformed and will not evolve towards an egalitarian society. To have a "decent world order" we need to destroy capitalism. Thats the message of CHALLENGE, which more students are now reading.
Right before vacation, we began watching the German film, "Rosa Luxemburg," which begins with her in prison for opposing German participation in World War I. Her principled stand against imperialist war helps inspire our own opposition to U.S. oil wars, from the sanctions and bombings that have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, to the coming war to topple Hussein and install an Exxon-Mobil puppet.
San Salvador"Theres no doubt that U.S. and local capital made an agreement. The minute the FMLN [the former guerrilla group turned electoral party] wins the election, thepro-U.S.,anti-FMLNcapital will flee. Theyre going to dollarize the economy so they can close the door to the Euro," explained local CHALLENGE readers, a couple who studied in the former Soviet Union.
The dollarization of the economy is a reflection of the dogfight among different bosses and imperialists over control of Latin America. (Ecuador and Panama also use the dollar as their local currency.) It also will see all bosses, big and small, make workers lives still more miserable
But the FMLN is not the answer. Its leadership is trying to win people to see them as the best choice to expose the symptoms of capitalism, using its brand of nationalism. "Using the dollar, well lose or national identity," say FMLN leaders like Ileana Rogel, a member of the political commission.
Workers here and worldwide must not fall into this trap of seeing nationalism as the last hope to salvage the corporate and electoral system.
In the discussion with the CHALLENGE readers,we all agreed about the effects of worldwide capitalism on the working class. "At no time has the world been at peace," insisted our friends. "Wars will continue as long as the capitalists are fighting for markets, resources and cheap labor."
All currencies are monetary instruments of exchange in a system of wage slavery for the working class. Neither the Euro, the Dollar or the Colon will change that.The only solution is fighting for communism, led by an international party which wont defend and maintain a wage system only benefiting the capitalist parasites.