February 14, 2001

    `Boom' Boots 26,000 Jobs at Chrysler
  2. `Vietnam Syndrome' Haunts Oil Bosses
  3. U.S. Gestapo Sets Sights On Worker Rebellion
  4. Bosses' Heats Up Over Arctic Oil
  5. :Colombia Strikers Confront Bosses' Fascism
  6. GM Workers in Europe Protest Massive Job Cuts
  7. Slower U.S. demand To Idle Two GM plants in Mexico
  8. Fight Bosses' Drugging of Children
  9. LA Dinner Jump-Starts May Day, Linked to CHALLENGE Expansion
  10. City Workers Take Up the CHALLENGE
  11. Profit System Squeezes Steel;
    LTV Workers Must Choke Bosses' System
  12. Postal Workers Plan to Stamp Out Speed Up
  13. India Earthquake--Capitalism Is A Deadly Mass Murderer
  14. Anarchy of `Free Market' Blows Fuse In California
    1. `Competition' Leads to Cartel Leads to Crisis
    1. India Earthquake: Rulers Fight
      While Workers Die
    2. Indigenous Oaxaca Youth Respond to PLP
    3. Mexico U.S.-Euro Rivalry Behind Peru's
      Electoral Circus
    4. Thou Shall March on May Day
    5. Biological Determinism: Workers' Enemy

`Boom' Boots 26,000 Jobs at Chrysler

DETROIT, MI, January 29 -- DaimlerChrysler will cut 26,000 jobs, about 20% of its North American workforce. Overall production capacity will be reduced by 15%. Three-quarters of the jobs will be eliminated by the end of the year. Six plants will close. Shifts will be eliminated at another six plants and two others will slow their lines to reduce production. Chrysler group president and chief executive Dieter Zetsche said, "These decisions are absolutely necessary to keep competitive and, in fact, to survive."

Less than two years ago, DaimlerChrysler and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) signed a contract that "banned" plant closings and "guaranteed" employment levels. The "plant-closing moratorium" says the company "will not close...sell, spin off...or otherwise dispose of ... any plant..." Unless of course, there are conditions "beyond the control of the corporation," such as, "act of God, catastrophic circumstances or significant economic decline."

This was considered a historic victory for the union. Chrysler was the only automaker to hire significant numbers of new workers in the 1990s, and is the single biggest private employer in Detroit. Sales of minivans, Ram pickups and Jeep sport-utility vehicles were surging. By signing a no-spinoff clause in the union contract and forcing this industry-wide pattern onto GM and Ford, Chrysler figured it could hurt the two bigger automakers, who were intending to spin off their Delphi and Visteon parts makers.

But the plan seems to have backfired (GM and Ford spun them off anyway). Daimler executives have replaced all the signers of that Chrysler contract. The company lost nearly $2 billion in the last six months of 2000. When Daimler-Benz "merged" with Chrysler in 1998, the latter had about 16% of the North American market. That has dropped to around 14% amid a declining U.S. auto market.

While union leaders denounce the cutbacks publicly, they have been discussing them with the bosses behind the scenes for weeks. According to the DETROIT FREE PRESS (1/29), "Privately they...understand." UAW President Steve Yokich is also a member of DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board. Less than a year after the hottest sales year in U.S. automotive history, UAW leaders will help Chrysler out of its current predicament. And GM and Ford will demand similar concessions, especially the plant-closing moratorium.

The bosses' "guarantees" aren't worth the paper they are written on. Despite their "booming" economy, the "world's only super-power" couldn't guarantee jobs for two years! About 20 years ago, Chrysler bought American Motors. They kept the profitable Jeep, and destroyed the rest. The same fate may await them at the hands of Daimler. The UAW and the media are trying to put the blame on "the Germans." If we fall for this, we'll soon be marching off to war for the rulers' profits. DaimlerChrysler workers from Cordoba, Argentina to Belvedere, Illinois, and from Stuttgard, Germany to Toluca Mexico, should strike across all borders against plant closings and layoffs. But more than that, we must build an international PLP, and fight for communism, where production will be based solely on the needs of the international working class.

`Vietnam Syndrome' Haunts Oil Bosses

Ten years after U.S. imperialism's murderous oil war against Iraqi workers, Saddam Hussein is starting to look like the real winner. He still holds power. Exxon rivals from Russia, France, and China are defying U.S. policy by flying regularly to Baghdad and discussing billion-dollar energy deals with him. Even Venezuela, a formerly secure U.S. vassal, is flirting with Iraqi oil executives.

The U.S. sanctions policy is a shambles. Iraqi oil is back on the market. Ironically, Exxon Mobil is its biggest customer. Hussein demanded and got authorization to be paid in euros rather than dollars, potentially threatening the dollar's supremacy as the currency of business in the Persian Gulf. A decade after Bush, Sr. launched the so-called "new world order" in torrents of Iraqi blood, his son has stolen the White House only to confront the "serious...crisis in the making" of Hussein's "burst out of isolation" (NEW YORK TIMES, 1/28).

U.S. imperialism, not the Iraqi ruler, is isolated. French, British, and Russian rulers openly defy its sanctions. Even the British bosses are sick of straining their military in daily air raids with the U.S. over Iraq. They are beginning to distance themselves from the mad bombers in Washington. The raids kill civilians and accomplish nothing else. In fact, U.S. imperialism's only real "achievement" in Iraq since 1991 has been the mounting death toll of workers and children. U.S. rulers continue to distinguish themselves in the art of mass butchery. But they know that their policy has failed and that they need a different strategy for controlling cheap Iraqi oil.

Their critical problem, according to a former CIA big-shot, is that "it is probably too late for the [new Bush] administration to effect genuine change at a price the United States is willing to pay" (NYT, 1/28). In other words, U.S. rulers know they can't install a pro-Exxon regime in Iraq without a large-scale ground invasion.

However, neither the workers in the U.S. military nor the U.S. working class as a whole want to die for Exxon's profits. The nightmare of "Vietnam Syndrome"--an army that won't fight--continues to haunt the imperialists. They face a basic contradiction. They can't win workers to pay the price for conquering Iraqi oil, and they can't allow anyone else to control it. At the moment, the Bush White House appears to want to punt. After an initial round of bluster and threats, Colin Powell, who helped Bush, Sr. kill 500,000 Iraqis in 1991, is now talking only about narrower sanctions restricted to military equipment. But this is a weak gimmick to buy time.

Sooner or later, U.S. rulers will have to launch another Middle Eastern oil war. Powell's tactic of targeting Iraqi military equipment appears to be a crude maneuver to set up a justification for it. We should anticipate a lot of hot air to come out of Washington in the coming period about Saddam Hussein's developing "weapons of mass destruction" as a threat to every country in the world and possibly even to life in outer space.

None of this lying by Powell, Bush or Cheney will improve the political morale of the U.S. military. This is a crucial weakness of which our Party can take growing advantage as conditions eventually sharpen. Whenever the next ground war for Persian Gulf starts, many U.S. soldiers and sailors will be more open to our Party's communist analysis and winnable to carry out its revolutionary tactics.

U.S. Gestapo Sets Sights On Worker Rebellion

A ruling class plan is on tap to deal with resistance from workers when the rulers step up their exploitation of the working class, intensify racism and launch wars to protect their profits, especially over oil. They also want more efficient means to discipline their own class when sections of it "get out of line."

The main contradiction in the world remains the inter-imperialist rivalry. Capitalists around the world are growing increasingly hostile to U.S. imperialism. The European Union is creating a joint military force separate from NATO and the US. Russia is no longer cooperating as it did under Yeltsin, and China is slowly but surely building a deepwater Navy to challenge the U.S. For the moment, no major imperialist poses an immediate direct threat to US imperialism, but the world has become much more unstable. The bombings of the World Trade Center and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City have prompted the bosses to look at the threats posed by what they call "rogue states" like Iraq, and "non-state players" (Osama bin Laden, drug cartels, etc.).

Over the past year, the CIA and the Hart-Rudman Commission have issued detailed reports calling for increasing the military/police repressive apparatus, and a "homeland defense": "While the likelihood of major conflict between powerful states will decrease [over the next 25 years], conflict itself will increase." (Hart-Rudman, "New World Coming," p.15).

According to the DEFENSE NEWS (1/15), the third Hart-Rudman report proposes a National Homeland Security Agency (NHSA). The report, due to be released soon, follows the "Gilmore Commission" (Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction), and the Center for Strategic and International Studies 2000 report on homeland defense.

This extraordinarily dangerous proposal reflects the rulers' determination to both repress any working-class rebellion and discipline sections of their own class who put their own interests ahead of the dominant wing's long-range interests. It is a recipe for full-blown fascism. NHSA would combine the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Customs, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with parts of the FBI and Commerce Department. It would place 75,000 men and women in uniform, under military discipline, with the power to arrest.

NHSA would be seven times the size of the FBI, and five times larger than the Migra (Immigration Service). It would be a police force--with a full military arsenal--larger than the NYC, LA, Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco police forces combined. They would be responsible for "protecting" critical infrastructure like the phone system and the Internet. This would allow them full access to both and the ability to use it. The NHSA would erase the distinction between the military and the police. Other military units could be assigned to work under it as needed. While the Coast Guard is already a military branch with arrest powers, it is assigned to highly specialized areas.

NHSA would be located in every major city to "respond to emergencies," like breaking strikes and putting down urban rebellions. Tens of thousands of these military police could be used in any city to enforce martial law. The NHSA proposal is unlikely to be accepted as is, partly because it may be "too much fascism too soon." But it would also dismantle many lucrative corruption and bureaucratic empires in existing agencies (the Migra and Customs are among the most corrupt).

Still, this kind of proposal from such a high-powered group shows the direction in which the main wing of the ruling class is headed.

Bosses' Heats Up Over Arctic Oil

The NEW YORK TIMES (1/30)--predictably--reports that Bush is using the California energy mess to promote his oil and gas agenda, particularly the commercial exploration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The opposing bosses--led by the Rockefeller-owned Exxon Mobil, which wants to keep Alaskan oil ready to be primed but still in the ground in the event of "national emergency" (an oil war)--will surely fight back. Of course, new drilling there won't solve the problem of high electricity bills in California, but it could mean big profits for Halliburton, the world's largest oil services outfit--and V-P Cheney, that company's recent CEO, just happens to be the head of the new Bush energy task force.

So the vicious political infighting out of which Bush stole Florida makes sense here. This is one concrete demonstration of the way in which the presidency--control of the executive branch of state power--benefits the faction in charge. But when the bosses battle, it is never for the working class. Whoever wins this battle for energy billions, workers have no stake in backing either gang.

:Colombia Strikers Confront Bosses' Fascism

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, January 30 -- The strike against Bavaria Brewery is now in its seventh week, affecting 18 plants nationally. It has become the country's most important recent labor struggle. When the company refused even to discuss the workers' demands, the 6,500 strikers were forced to walk out to protect the few gains they still have. The Santo Domingo family owns Bavaria. It is one of Colombia's biggest conglomerates, controlling over 150 businesses, from the brewery to TV, telecommunications, finances to one of the country's largest cellular phone services. It also owns businesses in Spain, Ecuador and Central America.

The workers rejected Bavaria's "offer" attacking working conditions and job security. The bosses want short-term renewable contracts for certain workers, which would virtually destroy job security. They are trying to bust the union, founded in 1927 and led by communists who, during the 1930s and '40s, organized militant sit-down strikes. But in the 1950s, as Bavaria grew and was bought by the Santo Domingo family, the union became more right-wing, rejecting communist ideas.

As Bavaria became the Santo Domingo family's leading company, it used the union to control the workers, and helped it -become a national force. For half a century the union was led by open company agents. But workers never stopped fighting the company and the union hacks.

As conditions get more fascistic in Colombia, as part of the current civil war, the attacks against the entire working class have increased. Many militant trade unionists have been murdered by death squads. The Santo Domingo family is a big supporter of these paramilitary forces. Now the bosses want to eliminate the union altogether, since it no longer can control the workers.

So this is more than a strike for higher wages and job security. It's a political struggle against one of Colombia's most powerful capitalists and possibly represents a revival of militant working-class struggles. A Solidarity Support Commitee was formed when the strike began, winning the backing of many other workers nationally and internationally. Strikers and their supporters have broken the news blackout by the mass media, on whom the Santo Domingo capitalists also has much influence. This strike differs somewhat from the last one in 1993, which lasted 32 days.

Today, the major capitalist groups have united to attack the workers, imposing the union busting Law 50. The strike has been a good political school for workers. They have shown great militancy against a fascist capitalist system. After a 50-year absence communist ideas are appearing again.

The workers are learning the relationship between their strike and Plan Colombia (the U.S. imperialist billionaire "aid" plan to help the army/paramilitary groups to wage war against the guerrillas and workers here) and the need for international solidarity. The workers' anthem, The Internationale, is being sung at the strike camps outside the Bavaria plants. The strikers are discussing many different political ideas, including PLP's. Many are reading DESAFIO and considering the concept that strikes ultimately won't defeat the bosses' attacks, particularly a vicious fascist monopoly like the Bavaria owners. They have threatened the strikers and are trying to create a provocation to give the police an excuse to attack the strikers' tents outside the plants.

The strikers take these threats very seriously--in Colombia workers' lives are worth very little to the bosses and their death squads. International support for these strikers is important, particularly to show the company that these workers are not alone in the struggle against these murderous bosses.

GM Workers in Europe Protest Massive Job Cuts

FRANKFURT, GERMANY, January 26 -- Over 30,000 GM workers, more than a third of GM's 90,000-strong European workforce, protested company plans to cut 5,000 jobs in a major "restructuring" project. More protests could follow. The walkouts cut GM's daily European output of 8,500 vehicles by 12%.

More than 15,000 workers rallied outside four Opel factories. About 8,500 stayed away from four British Vauxhall Motors plants to protest the closing of Vauxhall's Luton plant and the elimination of 2,000 jobs. Several dozen GM workers staged a sympathy strike at company offices in Zaragoza, Spain. Another 6,000 protested outside a plant in Antwerp, Belgium.

The job cuts are aimed at cutting excess production capacity in Europe. Aside from the 2,000 jobs at Luton, GM expects to eliminate another 3,000 jobs, including about 1,700 at Opel, within the next 17 months. Ford is shutting its assembly plant in Dagenham, East London. Meanwhile, the anarchy of capitalist production has Honda building sports utility vehicles for export to the U.S. The international solidarity expressed in the above protests shows that workers' struggles have no borders. We should do all we can to spread news of these actions to auto plants across North America.

But as long as the bosses hold power and workers produce for their profits, we will always be wage slaves with an uncertain future. Relying on spontaneity or the pro-capitalist union leaders will get us nowhere. While protesting plant closings and job cuts worldwide, we must fight for the political leadership of the workers by building a mass PLP and a communist-led workers' movement based on the slogan, "Workers of the World, Unite!"

Slower U.S. demand To Idle Two GM plants in Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- General Motors plans to shut two plants in northern Mexico in the face of a weakening U.S. economy. An engine plant and the Aztek assembly plant, both located in Ramos Arizpe, will close for 22 days and 18 days respectively. GM is the most recent to announce production cutbacks here. Ford closed one of its three plants in Hermosillo for a week in early January.

The plant makes Escort and Focus models. DaimlerChrysler AG is also slowing production at one of its three Mexican plants because of falling U.S. demand for pick-up trucks and auto parts.

Fight Bosses' Drugging of Children

NEW YORK CITY, January 28 -- The movement against the over-drugging of children gained steam today as picketers gathered outside Columbia/Presbyterian Medical Center, distributing 1,500 leaflets.

They were warning the predominantly Latino community about two new drug studies just starting in Manhattan. One concerns the effects of Ritalin in 3-5 year olds. When a medical journal published a paper last year revealing that 1.4% of toddlers in the U.S. are on psychotropic medications, the drug companies began frantically funding "research" in this age group, hoping to create a vast new market for their wares.

The National Institute of Mental Health then jumped in, giving millions for four national research centers. The second study, at New York University and Columbia, involves using multiple medications in 6-17 year olds, specifically Ritalin plus anti-depressants. It's becoming increasingly common to prescribe multiple medications, even to children. The leaflets warned parents not to participate in these studies, exposing the gross overdiagnosis and treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) with Ritalin.

These "researchers" say children "need" Ritalin because of "brain defects," a totally unproven idea. While not condemning all psychiatric diagnosis and medication, the leaflet pointed out that when 10-20% of children are said to be "mentally ill," it's to sell more drugs and make children easier to control.

A local group is having increasing success reaching parents, teachers and other concerned health providers with its message. Members have spoken to, and been well-received by, the welfare workers union. They've been invited to the teachers union delegate assembly and to the school board near the hospital. In April this group will sponsor a half-day conference at a local church, hopefully with well-known speakers to educate the community about the issue and undertake further actions. However, several friendly scientists have declined invitations because they fear that doctors known to oppose the Ritalin trend stand to lose their funding.

Activists have also been involved in the defense of a woman being threatened with losing her children because she objected to giving her son prescribed medications, an increasingly common racist attack against black and Latino families.

The task of PLP members in this movement is to connect the Ritalin question to the general upsurge of biodeterminism. Children who fail to "align" themselves to current educational standards and testing will easily be found to be "biologically deficient." The capitalist system that can't serve the needs of our children doesn't deserve to exist.

LA Dinner Jump-Starts May Day, Linked to CHALLENGE Expansion

LOS ANGELES, January 28 -- PLP's May Day organizing got off to a good start here last night when about 85 workers and students attended a CHALLENGE/ May Day dinner as part of the struggle to make the newspaper central to our organizing for the March. A great skit performed by a teacher, young worker and students effectively showed how the bosses use racism to divide, exploit and super-exploit workers.

The play depicted the important role of CHALLENGE, portraying workers as all part of the same class. It concluded with black, white and Latino workers united in fighting the racist boss. One speaker eloquently described the history and significance of May Day, emphasizing that this year's March in downtown LA is most important in the long-term fight to build a revolutionary communist movement.

We will march through part of the city's garment center as well as past Parker Center, the LAPD headquarters. Another speaker detailed how the mounting layoffs in auto and many other industries as well as the California energy crisis all stem from the bosses fight for maximum profits.

A third speaker emphasized the necessity and importance of CHALLENGE. He highlighted the crucial role played by the Bolshevik paper Iskra in advancing the revolutionary practice and communist ideas so vital to one of the greatest victories in the history of the international working class--the Russian Revolution. CHALLENGE has the same historical role today, used by workers in the Harlem Rebellion and the LA transit strike and by students in their walkouts against California's bosses racist propositions.

CHALLENGE must lead us in the struggles in the schools, in mass organizations, and in the fight for a communist world. Our paper not only offers an analysis of the actual economic and political situation but explains how to destroy dog-eat-dog capitalist system. It reports on workers and students fighting back around the world and building a communist revolutionary movement.

Thirty people either bought CHALLENGE subscriptions or said they wanted to receive it. Several wanted more copies to sell to friends and many agreed to help build for the May Day March.

Another workers' May Day dinner also pledged to increase CHALLENGE sales. Here also workers agreed to distribute more papers and help build the March among their co-workers and families. At that dinner, a worker recited a poem he wrote about farmworkers who harvest the food for our tables as being the very ones the bosses attack the hardest. The future of the world's workers depends on them and their fellow workers being won to fight for a communist future for all workers.

City Workers Take Up the CHALLENGE

NEW YORK CITY -- Our city workers PLP club has been discussing the need to increase our CHALLENGE sales. Now we distribute 100-150 per issue. We expressed our ideas about the paper, its strengths and weaknesses. how we could use it in class struggle, in strengthening our political base and in the recruitment of new members.

Those selling a very modest number made plans to approach additional co-workers and friends. Two members who have wider sales planned to ask readers to take additional copies. In addition, we want to win more workers who buy the paper occasionally at meetings to become regular readers. To start, one member approached two readers who each agreed to take additional papers to distribute.

In addition, this member approached four more co-workers about taking CHALLENGE. These plans created a modest increase in sales. In the next few months, we will be linking CHALLENGE sales to building a mass May Day march.

We agreed that convincing our co-workers and friends to become CHALLENGE sellers and organizers for May Day is crucial to building the PLP.

Profit System Squeezes Steel;
LTV Workers Must Choke Bosses' System

EAST CHICAGO, IN, January 29 -- A few weeks before declaring bankruptcy, the LTV Steel Board of Directors kicked out CEO Peter Kelley. Despite leading the company into bankruptcy for the second time in ten years, he was given a multi-million dollar pension. New CEO Thomas Bricker has threatened to cut insurance benefits for active workers and retirees. LTV and Chase Manhattan (which holds close to a billion dollars of LTV debt) will try to squeeze concessions from both active and retired steelworkers. This is another example of capitalist hypocrisy. Kelley gets millions a year for "destroying LTV."

Workers who put in 25 or 30 years and made billions for their bosses may well see pensions halved and insurance plans wiped out. Many workers think the problem is bad management. "If we got rid of these bums, and got people who knew how to run a steel mill, we wouldn't be in this mess."

But what does it mean to "run a steel mill" when competing capitalists are in a life-and-death fight for cheap labor, resources and markets? In this general crisis of overproduction, steel bosses have created the capacity to make more steel than they can sell at a profit.

From the bosses' point of view, excess capacity must be cut. The industry must consolidate and jobs must be slashed. The strong survive. The weak go under. Charles Bradford, president of Bradford Research, Inc. in New York, told the HAMMOND TIMES that closing LTV would be better for the industry than selling it, because reducing capacity could mean higher domestic prices. "I would like to see that happen," he said.

Workers are angry, in no mood to accept concessions. But there are serious obstacles to fighting back. First, Local 1011 and LTV/Chase have set up a Crisis Reaction Task Force, which is "committed to working together" to "stabilize the workforce," and improve productivity and quality.

Steel union staff rep Tim Conway said that by not protecting the industry from imports, Washington may be "starving the industry into consolidation." Paul Gibson, president of USWA Local 6787 at Bethlehem Steel's Burns Harbor said the bosses will have to make "unpopular decisions," and consolidation may be the key to survival.

He said LTV and Wheeling-Pittsburgh could be out of business in six months. Conway added, "Hopefully it's not that fast, but it's not unrealistic." So it's not "bad management" or imported steel. It's the laws of capitalism! The fight for markets, which today destroys the mills and jobs will eventually lead to war that destroys the workers. The union leaders can't fight all-out against these attacks because they're loyal to the profit system. The only answer to this endless cycle of crises, layoffs, job- and pension-cuts is to build the revolutionary communist movement that can turn a fight-back into a fight for workers' power. We don't need "good" bosses. We don't need any bosses, period!

Postal Workers Plan to Stamp Out Speed Up

CHICAGO, January 29 -- A group of postal workers met today to organize a fight against the latest round of attacks. Bosses are on a rampage--"DO MORE WITH LESS" is their battle cry. Many workers are angry but the union and management have worked hard and long to convince us there's nothing we can do. We made plans to bring our fight to the union hall and the shop floor.

Flat Sort machines are understaffed every day, and the Bar Code Sorting machines are often short one or two workers. But the bosses want production no matter what. In order to compete with UPS, FedEx, etc., they must force us to toe the line. A whole new set of rules to enforce their "attendance policy" amounts to gutting the old contract and past practice, to fire scores of workers and terrorize the rest.

Changes include: (1) Instead of being allowed three call-in absences every 90 days, we'll now be allowed only three per year; (2) Workers must call in every day during a sickness, instead of once for the entire time; (3) Three latenesses used to count as one absence. Now each lateness becomes an absence; (4) Computers will automatically generate discipline, instead of the supervisor. These changes mean many workers will be suspended and fired. So far, the union hasn't uttered a peep in opposition.

We're building a bigger network of CHALLENGE readers and sellers to give political leadership to this fight, and to link it to the overall fight for communist revolution. We are also building a postal May Day Committee to win our co-workers, friends and family to march on the White House.

India Earthquake--Capitalism Is A Deadly Mass Murderer

Officials are predicting that the death toll from the earthquake that devastated the state of Gujarat in western India will climb past 100,000. The deaths are mainly due to the crushing poverty and greed of capitalism. India's strict building codes for earthquake safety, in houses, apartments, hospitals, factories and schools were flaunted. Urgently needed water, medicine and equipment to find and free victims arrived days after the quake.

Gujarat is India's most industrialized state, producing steel, petrochemicals and autos. Foreign investment has streamed in over the last 20 years. GM and Mitsubishi have factories in the area near the quake. It's also the site of BP and Euron refineries as well as The Lions Refinery, owned by India's richest rising capitalists, who have designs on Middle Eastern oil. None of these large industries lost a single brick! Clearly these bosses know how to build for earthquake safety to guarantee their profits.

"Government officials have admitted they were slow to react to the quake when it struck just as the Republic Day ceremonies were beginning across the country." "Quite frankly, there is no plan and that is why the delay," said Poonam Mendiratta, a spokeswoman for the Priya volunteer agency (Reuters, New Delhi, 1/30).

In Ahmedabad, an important diamond polishing center in the commercial center of Gujarat, 55 workers died after being crushed in stampedes because the gates to the units were locked. Scores of diamond polishers are routinely locked in their workplaces "to prevent them from stealing." Sunil Patni, an 18-year-old diamond-polisher said, "When the lights went off after the tremors began, there was a mad stampede for the stairs and I tripped and fell." Between 40 and 50 people collapsed on top of him. "If the gate had not been locked, we would not have met this fate. Nobody would have died. None of the buildings were harmed," he said. (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 1/30)

Mahatma Ghandi Hospital had to be closed because of fear of imminent collapse. "During the earthquake, chunks of slabs began to fall all over the hospital," said a rescue worker. "Within minutes, the entire hospital was evacuated and no one dared to enter this two-story, 120-bed hospital." Patients and others injured in the earthquake had to be treated in tents or in the open. One floor collapsed at another hospital. A doctor blamed years of neglect and the refusal to build safe hospitals. (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 1/28)

Parents of 400 children who died trapped in a collapsed school building denounced the authorities. They said that this building and many others which tumbled were built mainly of sand, with little or no steel to fortify them in the face of an earthquake.

The town of Bhuj, 12 miles from the quake's epicenter, once a city of 200,000, is mainly rubble. Some residents said they heard faint cries of help from crumbled buildings on Saturday, but nothing on Sunday, with no government rescue effort. One man said, "Had the government been prompt and brought in equipment like cranes immediately, my nephew and nieces could have been saved." An official conceded, "We had no cranes, no excavators, no bulldozers. But they have now started to arrive. So we hope to clear up the debris in a few days."

This terrible disaster shows that capitalism brings death and destruction--whether in war or the deadly oppression and poverty that led to this disaster. The competing imperialists will certainly use aid efforts to push for advantage here. But they all share responsibility for the deaths! We urge our readers to raise money to help the survivors. Send it to PLP and we will make sure it goes to the workers in India, not to the fascist government. Capitalism cannot meet the needs of workers. It must be smashed so the working class can build a communist world where the lives of workers come first.

Anarchy of `Free Market' Blows Fuse In California

As the current California power crisis starkly shows, the profit system's "free" market creates anarchy, not order. Four years ago, the state's leading capitalists united to deregulate the energy industry. They saw an opportunity for a windfall. They promised pie in the sky. Utility companies would no longer hold a monopoly on electricity production. They would sell off or close many of their power plants and buy power instead from a host of competing suppliers.

The open market set-up would shower everyone with untold bounty, the bosses vowed. Competition would make the suppliers super-efficient. Freed from the expense of keeping up old plants, utilities would get power at a lower cost. Consumers would pay lower rates. California's lawmakers passed the deregulation bill unanimously.

`Competition' Leads to Cartel Leads to Crisis

But capitalism's inexorable drive for maximum profits short-circuited this fairy tale. A handful of suppliers quickly dominated the market. Led by energy generators like Texas-based Enron and energy speculators like Wall Street's Goldman Sachs, an informal cartel of suppliers jacked up the WHOLESALE price of megawatt-hours almost ten-fold.

For these companies, boosting the bottom line overrode any concern for California's economy and the fate of its workers. On the other hand, fearing for the profits of California's industries, the state's government prevented the utilities from raising their RETAIL rates accordingly. When the biggest utilities--SoCal Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)--could no longer pay the profiteering suppliers' bills, the suppliers pulled the plug. The utilities then resorted to rolling blackouts that have wrought economic havoc in the state.

Workers have been laid off by the thousands. With losses amounting to $12 billion, SoCal Edison and PG&E face possible bankruptcy. The power struggle in California has nationwide significance. The major U.S. bosses are using deregulation to consolidate industries of all kinds. They need "leaner and meaner," more tightly-controlled operations across the board for two reasons: to compete more effectively with their foreign economic rivals and, ultimately, to prepare for war.

CHALLENGE (see article page 2) has reported on the government's high-level Hart-Rudman commission, which is developing plans for a fascistic "integration" of the nation's infrastructure. The critical question for the ruling class becomes: "Who's in charge?" Until now, Enron has sat in the driver's seat in California. And it's no accident that Enron really began to flex its muscles there late last fall, when George Bush finally managed to steal the presidency. Enron's chairman, Kenneth Lay, was the largest single donor to Bush's campaign.


But the other major U.S. capitalists cannot afford to let the boss with the biggest checkbook in a given situation dictate economic policy. The various "solutions" being proposed in California reflect an attempt to unite the bosses in their common interest, but "under whom?" remains in dispute. State legislators presented a plan written by Crédit Suisse, a European financial house, for the state to float bonds to buy electricity.

However, European investors aren't likely to call the shots here. Governor Davis, advised by Goldman Sachs, wants the suppliers to offer long-term contracts directly to the state. A third proposal just coming to light would rescue the utilities by having the state acquire equity in them and by allowing them to raise rates.

This plan would safeguard the dominant Eastern Establishment's investment in the utilities. The largest shareholders in PG&E are banks in Boston and New York. Not surprisingly, the third plan is receiving favorable coverage in the Establishment press. The NEW YORK TIMES (1/27) just ran a glowing profile of S. David Freeman, one of this plan's main architects. A veteran of the Johnson and Carter administrations, he has headed the New York Power Authority and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Rockefeller-funded groups like the Urban League and National Wildlife Foundation have heaped awards on him.

Whoever wins this faction fight over the reorganization of California energy, workers will pay for the "solution." Any bailout of SoCal Edison and/or PG&E will involve a combination of bond issues and higher energy rates. And it will be the working class who will bear the brunt of these costs.


But Enron's not about to go under. From the main wing's point of view, that company needs to be reined in, not rubbed out. Enron serves U.S. imperialism well on one front by competing with German and Russian gas barons in Europe. Enron's profiteering may have made things go haywire in California, but the anarchy resulting from its push for deregulation aids the big bosses' argument for streamlining and strengthening the nation's power grid. Until this process advances, Enron will obey the capitalist law of amassing maximum profit regardless of the consequences.

Ultimately, however, the Texas gas billionaires won't try to kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. They too are beginning to look kindly on a plan to give "the federal government more control over transmission lines" (NEW YORK TIMES, 6/30/00).

The current situation in California reflects the constant process of unity and conflict within the ruling class that CHALLENGE has described many times. We must never choose sides in these tactical fights among the rulers. They all oppress workers. Our job remains the same, regardless of the winner here. We must build our Party, sharpen the class struggle and keep our eye on the goal of communist revolution.

Picture Caption

Turmoil in Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador--Union and indigenous leaders are arrested over mass protests against government austerity squeeze. Mass communist PLP is crucial to turning these sparks into fire that would destroy capitalism.


India Earthquake: Rulers Fight
While Workers Die

Members of the RSS, an extremist Hindu theocratic outfit that spearheads India's fascist ruling party, and is hostile to other religions, has been trying to bar Christians from eaarthquake relief work in Ahmedabad, India. (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/29) Incidentally, the Red Cross and all Western aid agencies happen to be Christian. But the Hindu fundamentalists want to hog the tragedy for electoral purposes.

Prime Minister Vajpeyi's visit aggravated the situation. The Bhuj District Administration got busy welcoming him, neglecting relief operations. World-wide aid is pouring in, but there's no coordinating mechanism yet in place. Defense Minister George Fernandes estimates the death toll at 100,000 (ITN/London, Jan. 30) but the Prime Minister cynically calls it Fernandes "personal view."

While the politicians jockey for position to make themselves look good, workers have taken the opposite stance. One hundred young Muslims in Ahmedabad donated blood repeatedly over three days to save the injured, mostly Hindu.

An Indian Immigrant

Indigenous Oaxaca Youth Respond to PLP

Racism against indigenous people in Mexico is widespread, causing incredible poverty. The caciques (landlords) and bosses use fascist groups to impose that racism. Therefore, a revolutionary communist movement must be based on fighting racism and building unity of all workers and peasants.

Towards that goal, PLP members organized a meeting on January 6 in the Mixe Sierra (Mountains) of Oaxaca. The young people who participated showed much interest in our communist politics. These youth, having formed an Indigenous group in Oaxaca, have heard about PLP and wanted to hear more. They thought their group needed a political focus. At the meeting we discussed the destructive role nationalism and regionalism plays under capitalism. We explained how these ideologies are used to divide us along national and cultural lines.

We also discussed many aspects of life among the different "etnias" (indigenous groups in the Oaxaca countryside) which are very positive, like "mano vuelta,"--a peasant grows or builds something for other people in the community with the understanding that the same favor will be returned. Another form is "tequio"--everyone contributes to building a school, health center, etc. However, while it is good to learn from these positive things, we shouldn't idealize them since there are also many social practices based on inequalities among men, women and children.

Also, many are so proud of being an indigenous person that it tends to limit how they look at the rest of the world. Many feel as a Mixe person they are superior to others. Our meeting helped clear up many doubts these young people had, although there is still much more to do to win them to PLP.

However, we've taken the first step. At the next meeting we hope to have more people. We are also planning a regular PLP study-action group to organize participation in the region's mass struggles.

Communists in the Mixe Mountains of Oaxaca,

Mexico U.S.-Euro Rivalry Behind Peru's
Electoral Circus

Now that ex-president/dictator Fujimori and his partner-in-crime, Vladimir Montesinos (long-time CIA operative here and drug-runner) have fled Peru, the interim ruler, Valentin Paniagua, is supposed to prepare an electoral spectacle to choose the new ruling capitalist lackey. To hide the fact that capitalism caused the corruption, repression and mass poverty suffered under ten years of Fujimori-Montensinos, the current rulers are putting on a big show "exposing" some very crooked politicians and generals from the old regime.

The U.S. State Department must be carefully organizing this sham, particularly since one of the leading candidates for President, Alejandro Toledo, is their man. First, it's no secret that Montesinos and Fujimori were dumped because they had outlived their usefulness to U.S. imperialism. Peru and Ecuador are key countries related to Plan Colombia, the war waged by the Colombia bosses and the U.S. against the Colombian guerrillas. The U.S. already has a huge air base in Manta, Ecuador to attack guerrillas in Colombia.

The U.S. also wants another base, in Peru's jungles, for that purpose. It is rumored that to justify U.S. intervention in the region, the CIA let Montesinos sell thousands of weapons (via Jordan) to the FARC (the main Colombian guerrilla group). Then they set up Montesinos, "exposing" his role in this sale. Why? Because the U.S. needed an excuse to expand its military operations in South America to counter plans by its European rivals to take over what the U.S. has always considered its "backyard."

But Montesinos and Fujimori were dumped also because Peru's bosses feared workers and others weren't about to take the misery imposed by these two much longer. Workers and students were becoming angrier, engaging in massive protests demanding the end of the Fujimori regime.

The union hacks and other sellouts are helping to cool these actions, hoping to get some posts in Congress. A leader of the labor federation (CGTP), who is also a leader of the fake leftist "Communist" Party, is actually one of the candidates for Vice-president (Peru has two VPs) for the National Unity Alliance, a right-wing party.

The two leading Presidential candidates are: * Former President Alan Garcia, another crook and murderer. As President in the 1980s, he ordered the massacre of 300 political prisoners, many from the Shining Path group, and the murder of peasants in the mountains. He's a social-democrat, linked mostly to German imperialism and to the national bourgesoisie which is losing out to competition from the big bosses and their multi-national corporate allies. * Alejandro Toledo, a former official of the World Bank, who returned from his job in Washington, D.C. to run. He is apparently the U.S. rulers' choice.

Meanwhile, the current crisis of world capitalism is hitting workers here. Many smaller bosses are going bankrupt because of the "unfair" competition from the big bosses and their import companies. This leaves thousands of workers jobless. The number of street vendors has risen sharply since it's the only job available for many. Some class-conscious workers are beginning to see that the April 8 elections won't solve their problems.

Our PLP group here is calling on workers to boycott the electoral farce and instead help us spread our communist politics, to raise the class consciousness of workers. Our aim is not to reform this rotten system but to destroy it and build a communist society where workers rule and produce for the needs of our class, not for a few parasites.

A comrade, Lima, Peru

Thou Shall March on May Day

The Sunday night before Martin Luther King Day I entertained our church soup kitchen volunteers at my family's annual hamburger soup-cheese grits feast (a tradition my mother and aunt started for winter Sundays decades ago back in Virginia). In addition to the volunteers, most of them black, unemployed and/or Workfare victims, I invited several white liberal anti-racists from a religious humanist congregation I used to lead.

As before, most of the "middle" class people congregated in the living room and most of the working-class people, in the dining room. Bad. But this time I was prepared! The "Village Voice," of all newspapers, had just published an article on the "leading struggles of 2000." I cut out the picture and descriptions of each struggle, taped each to a separate index card and numbered them so that different people could match the text and the picture, and then discuss how that class battle might inspire them to fight racism and imperialism in the coming year.

Most people participated and got into good, if brief discussions. Once we had become more of a community, we gathered around the piano and sang Civil Rights protest songs from the '50s and '60s. Most of these friends get CHALLENGE, at least occasionally. Many have marched at least once on May Day. A few don't know about the Party yet.

This evening set a good tone toward making May Day 2001 bigger and more spirited, and most of all provided a closer personal and political bonding experience among myself and some more friends. So the Party can grow! Loving those cheese grits,

Red Churchmouse

Biological Determinism: Workers' Enemy

A review of the movie "Billy Elliot" (CHALLENGE, 1/10) quoted uncritically one character's saying, "Well, how many potential Einsteins, in every kind of field, are never even discovered because they're living in the slums and never will get the opportunity to shine? There'll be a hundred, a million geniuses discovered after the revolution!--Jonas Salks, Charlie Chaplins, Orson Welleses, etc."

The reviewer makes a point here that's only partly correct. It's true that capitalism prevents people from developing their intellectual abilities. But it's false that "potential Einsteins" number only in the millions. In fact, ironically, the previous week CHALLENGE contained an article on math education directly contradicting that incorrect notion: "... math education in Japan assumes that ALL children can learn..." (Emphasis added)

There is a powerful need for us to purge all biological determinist notions from our thinking, such as limits on each individual's intellectual development. To suggest that only some, but not all, people--even if it's millions--are "potential Einsteins," is to advance the myth that Einsteins are "born" and not made, and that they achieve what they do as isolated individuals, rather than as part of a collective. This biological determinist notion misunderstands both what Einstein was and was not, which is equally true of all people.

To put it another way, Einstein was no "Einstein"--in the sense that "Einstein" embodies a far-reaching myth, one of superhuman heroes designed by the ruling class to convince the vast majority of the working class that they are in their current exploited condition because of some "lack of ability." Einstein achieved what he did in the field of physics because of, (1) early development of particular INTERESTS and the ongoing spread of those interests; (2) a lifetime of very HARD WORK AND STRUGGLE to understand physical aspects of the universe around us; (3) WORKING WITH hundreds of other physicists to develop these understandings; and (4) a time in history when CAPITALISM NEEDED development of this particular branch of science.

In the absence of this combination of elements, Einstein might have remained a postal clerk in Germany--at least until the Nazis would have murdered him. Consider that Einstein did not develop outstanding abilities in any other field--including, incidentally, math. The reason? This work takes time and focus. The biological structure of all human brains limits our ability to concentrate on several things at once, and, given a finite lifetime, this prevented him--as it would anyone--from excelling in more than a few areas.

Einstein's theoretical achievements stemmed not from what he was, but rather from what he did, and when and with whom he did it. There were hundreds of other major figures in the development of this area of science, but their names have not become household words, because if everyone is a hero, then no one is, and the bosses' myth falls apart. With the possible exception of a tiny percentage of people who have brain disorders, everyone, given the proper combination of circumstances, is capable of learning and working to develop theory, in any field, every bit as complex as Einstein's and then some.

In a communist society, it will be up to the former working class (i.e., the human race) to determine how many people are needed at any particular time to take part in the development of advancing science in any particular direction.

Of course, the ones to do that would rationally be collectively decided in part based on their interests, as they may have developed to that point. But we should never fall for or advance the bosses' myth that only some, and not all, people are capable of what is now considered to be extraordinary intellectual development. To do so is to prevent our liberating ourselves from the agonies of capitalism.

Red Doctor


I never disagreed that the theory of biological determinism is an invalid one and one that should be fought, but I don't think the review suggested that. However, the above letter refers to a previous article on the importance of math to revolutionary youth. I agree, based on my own experience concerning education without politics.

When I was a kid, I was terrible at math--until the seventh and eighth grades. My teacher was Miss McCann, a rigid, almost humorless person, but with one very special trait: she assumed we could and would all do our best. In those years my grades went from C's and D's to strong A's. Suddenly I was the best student in the class. Apart from Miss McCann's expectations, I had no idea why the transformation--until I read the recent article on the importance of math. (After those two years, I was never good at math again.)

The CHALLENGE article stated that young people with a communist ideology must understand that knowledge of math and science are necessary to the success of the revolution. As a kid in the 1950s, I had no Left-wing inclinations. I was more interested in fooling around, right to the point of being a delinquent. In fact I eventually was sent to a reform school. During the pre-Vietnam, Truman-McCarthy-Eisenhower era, we were encouraged to conform--until the Soviet Union sent "Sputnik," the first rocket, into orbit. Suddenly mathematicians and scientists were in demand. Had there been a communist understanding, as suggested in the recent mathematics article, and had I been influenced in the '50s as we all later were during the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war era, math and science would more clearly have been important to myself and others.

Many young people, then and now, drift into gangs and pointless rebellions (as in the '50s movie "Rebel Without a Cause") because they see no alternative to the phony grasping world of capitalism. In fact, they don't understand the class meaning of the system that oppresses them and the whole working class. It's up to us to teach the importance of intellectual growth, not for the benefit of the rich but for the working class.