For the first time in 31 consecutive May Day marches, we were barred from picketing the White House. It was off limits in fear of protests against the Finance Ministers of the Group of 7 (the top imperialist countries) who were meeting in Washington that weekend. But that
didn't dampen the revolutionary spirit of the marchers. At the end of the march, when the Bush chopper was landing in the White House backyard. the marchers let loose with a chorus of boos at the current bosses' henchman residing in that rat's hole.
The marchers were emboldened by the recent struggles our Party has been involved in:
* Mid-West comrades who had gone to Cincinnati to support the anti-racist rebels there and helped lead a march at the funeral of Timothy Davis, the youth killed by the cops;
* Young comrades fresh from the militant anti-globalization protests in Quebec;
* Participants in the Living Wage sit-in at Harvard;
* Youth who organized protests against racist journalist David Horowitz;
* Philadelphia hospital workers who expressed their solidarity with striking nursing home workers in Connecticut;
* Youth from a Brooklyn high school who marched, despite being threatened by their principal and his suspension of their teacher, Joan Heymont, the day before the march.
The speeches and songs at the beginning and end of the march showed the growing anger of workers and youth against the attacks of capitalism. Workers are fed up with:
* Growing police terror -- the day before the march, the NYPD declared that the cops who shot African immigrant Amadou Diallo 41 times did nothing wrong.
* Layoffs -- in April, 223,000 jobs were lost in the U.S., the highest monthly total since 1991.
* Becoming cannon fodder in another imperialist butchery -- the Bush administration has been beating the war drums against China louder and louder.
Over 2,000 CHALLENGES were distributed among the marchers and during the march. Indeed, May Day 2001 was an important step towards fighting for a society without racist terror and imperialist bosses. Join the communist PLP!
LOS ANGELES, April 28--Shouting "Fight for Communism, Power to the workers!" four hundred workers and youth marched downtown today for an end to racist terror and imperialist war with communist revolution. When the marchers stopped at Parker Center, headquarters of the LAPD death squad, the mothers of Michael Fitzsimmons and Michael Ealy spoke. Their sons were killed by the racist police -- the first in LA, the second in Seattle. Mrs. Ealy called the hundreds of riot-clad LAPD present, "Murderers! Murderers!"
Every marcher was furious. Then she challenged the crowd to continue the fight against racist police terror and asked, "What are you going to do about it?" The marchers chanted back, "Seattle cops, you can't hide! We charge you with genocide" , "LA cops, you can't hide..." and "The only solution is a communist revolution!"
High school and college students marched side by side with garment workers, janitors, Boeing workers, bus drivers, mechanics, teachers and others. One teacher marched for his friend who was recovering from surgery. He said her commitment to her students, to PLP and May Day was an inspiration to him. A Bay Area bus driver called on the marchers to fight for revolution. A striking garment worker from Hollander Home Fashions told of scabs breaking their strike, thanked the PLP for our support and asked for more workers and students to join the picket lines. A comrade waved the very first issue of CHALLENGE with the headline, "Police Terror in Harlem" and called on one and all to read, subscribe and sell our communist newspaper.
Over 1,000 CHALLENGES and 1,500 leaflets were distributed as thousands viewed the march, many walking on the sidewalk along with us. Despite a huge police presence, some spectators did join the march.
A student PLP'er described fights against racist Horowitz (see centerspread) and for communism at the Democratic Convention and at school. He emphasized the importance of youth leading the revolutionary movement and building PLP, urging all marchers to join the Party and deepen our fight for communism in the classroom and the mass movement. Another PLP'er said that the bosses and their agents in the unions and mass organizations are incapable of changing to serve the interests of the workers. But PLP is learning daily how to fight every attack, to build the fight for communism -- on the shop floor, in the classroom, the barracks and the mass movement. Several people joined the PLP at the march and others have asked to be in Party study groups.
While the march was smaller than last year, the struggle to build it and the leadership given by youth and young workers to all aspects, represents the huge potential for our Party to grow as we fight the bosses' increased racist terror, unemployment and wars. Let the bosses and their agents push racism, nationalism, reformism -- all in the service of imperialism. We have the answer -- fight for communism!
The indigenous youth who joined the PLP May Day contingent was the best response to the "new indigenous law," approved by the Mexican Congress, which only perpetuates racism against 10 million indigenous people, divides the working class and strengthens the property rights of the racist landlords. This law smashes the illusion built by the Zapatistas, who last month implored the same racist Congress to protect the rights of the indigenous people. The new law will only make it easier for imperialist bosses to control the oil in Southern Mexico, particularly under NAFTA and the coming Free Trade Zones of the Americas negotiated in Quebec. But the imperialists will be fighting each other for this control over the workers' dead bodies. Today more than ever the indigenous people need to unite with the working class against local bosses and various imperialists trying to enslave them.
Industrial workers chanting "We Are One Working Class, Under One Party; Workers of the World, Unite!" marched with PLP protesting still another fascist law approved by the Supreme Court. This law, supposedly meant to break the monopoly of the CTM (the old union federation) and allow other unions to organize, in reality gives bosses more flexibility to impose fascist working conditions and smash any union organizing. This is one campaign promise President Fox has kept.
In the last 10 years, the minimum wage has been devalued by 43%, while the military budget has doubled in five years. The Army grew from 175,000 to 250,000. Meanwhile the crisis of capitalism forces 35 million people to survive on less than $2 a day.
UNAM students in the PLP contingent chanted "Fox, fascist, imperialist butcher," rejecting his new budget cuts under the guise of "finance reform." This will impoverish workers even more, forcing them pay for capitalism's crisis.
A few days after May Day, the government blamed the loss of 96,000 private-sector jobs on the economic slowdown in the U.S. Delphi Automotive Systems slashed 7,600 jobs; DaimlerChrysler shut down its engine and transmission plant in Toluca, cutting 2,600 jobs; Goodyear is closing its 50-year-old plant near Mexico City; Motorola is cutting 1,000 jobs, etc.
"The coming war is for markets," cynically announced Carlos Slim, Mexico's richest boss and owner of Telmex. Fascism and war are the bosses' answer to their crisis of overproduction. That's why our communist march grew in importance. We spread the message of the need for communist revolution to thousands of workers. We reaffirmed our commitment to build a mass party of millions to take on the capitalists and destroy them.
Hundreds of DESAFIOS and PLP May Day stickers, and thousands of leaflets were distributed to the masses of workers, who await us anxiously year after year. "Give me the paper; don't you have any more?" was heard on all sides. "Damn, I'm a Party member, and I don't have a single sticker left; you have to get me one, at least," said one Party member.
Many workers flooded the streets with graffiti like: "Long Live May Day"; "Long Live the Working Class"; "Long Live Communism."
It wasn't easy to get to the march, but police barricades on all the highways couldn't stop the working class from coming and celebrating this powerful historical event. " Every bus must have farmworkers, students, teachers and workers combined so the cops can't suspect we're going to the march," suggested a PLP member. "The experience of the guerrilla war taught us how to evade these police barriers; we mustn't let ourselves be stopped. We have to get to the march on time for the beginning," said a PLP member to the leaders of the teachers and students.
El Diario de Hoy, the country's most fascist daily newspaper, ran a picture on the front page of a worker painting one of those famous graffiti slogans. The impact of communist ideas terrorized the bosses, who for days spewed forth hatred and poison about our class, calling the working class "delinquents" because they respond with revolutionary violence to the capitalist system.
The day before the march, the editorial of this fascist rag begged, "We hope that the Salvadoran workers don't fall into the trap of subversion and class struggle." This call by the enemies of the working class defies history -- the class struggle is in every work place where there is a single worker oppressed by the capitalist system.
Participating in this historical working class event is an opportunity to grow quantitatively and qualitatively in the struggle for the system of the working class: communism.
* The recent murders of dozens of union activists by the military-supported death squads;
* The anti-working class economic policies of President Pastrana, following the austerity measures imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund;
* Plan Colombia, the war program of the U.S. government and the Pastrana regime oppressing the working class.
A PLP contingent distributed 3,000 communist flyers and sold 300 DESAFIO-CHALLENGES. Our communist literature and banners were like a beacon dispelling the confusion reformism, class collaboration and "peace"-with-our-murderers line of the union leaders. We called for workers to organize and build a movement to replace this living hell of capitalism with a society where workers rule -- communism. Many chanted our slogans, asked us to stay in contact with them and want to continue reading our communist paper.
Bush's policy looks like the "brinkmanship" game U.S. and Soviet bosses used to play during the Cold War: push the other side to the edge and then pull back. So on April 30, U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announced that Washington would stop all military contacts with the Chinese. Then the Defense Department retracted the decision.
This maneuver followed Bush's promise to do whatever necessary, including using armed force, to defend Taiwan. Many liberal media pundits called Bush to task for his stupidity in revoking 30 years of U.S. foreign policy. But although Bush is certainly no mental giant, his policy advisors put those words in his mouth as part of a calculated plan.
Taiwan is strategically crucial. The map shows it commands the oil shipping routes from the Middle East to China and Japan. Exxon Mobil and its Saudi oil billionaire pals are building a big refinery in China's Fujian province, which sits on the Taiwan Strait--a great excuse to keep the U.S. Seventh Fleet patrolling the area.
For the past 30 years, U.S. presidents haven't threatened to defend Taiwan militarily, based on the estimate that the mainland Chinese rulers were too weak to invade it. However, things are changing. The Chinese bosses were already beginning to make noise under Clinton. They have embarked on a significant military build-up across from Taiwan, deploying an average of 50 surface-to-air missiles per year, in addition to the 300 they had before starting the build-up. China's overall defense budget for 2001 is up nearly 18%, the largest hike in 20 years. As CHALLENGE has frequently mentioned, the Chinese rulers have also developed a strategic plan to build a deepwater navy, which can eventually challenge U.S. imperialism's supremacy on the high seas.
So Bush's threat must be viewed in the context of Chinese imperialism's attempt to become a key U.S. rival. The Chinese are still not strong enough to meet the U.S. head on. The Bush gang's approach seems to be to force them into an arms race their economy can't afford. So, for example, Bush recently approved a large arms package for Taiwan, although the headlines emphasized that the U.S. had decided not to sell the Taiwanese the Aegis radar-equipped destroyers they'd been demanding. But this decision will not slow down the arms race. Just the opposite: "Focusing on the Aegis destroyers...misses the unfolding reality. Taiwan will get key capabilities...that would degrade China's military capabilities in a battle for Taiwan...[and China] will respond accordingly" (Stratfor, 5/4).
U.S. rulers are therefore making a cynical gamble in their drive to keep China in the second rank of imperialist powers. They know that Chinese capitalism, whose energy consumption is rising by 4.3% a year, needs "a peaceful domestic and regional environment conducive to its sorely needed social and political development"(Brookings fellow Bates Gill in Foreign Affairs, July/August 1999). But for now, Washington holds a big trump card. "The United States can influence [China's] Persian Gulf oil supply," warned Gill.
Forcing the Chinese rulers to allocate a growing amount of production to their military--and then threatening to deny them Persian Gulf oil--is an attempt to weaken this economic development. Many U.S. businesses have significant investments in China. The U.S. is China's largest export market, and the U.S. balance of trade deficit with China is second only to the one with Japan. But investments and trade deficits are one thing. Dealing with China as a potential economic superpower capable of challenging U.S. domination of world markets and energy supplies is another. The Bush arms race with China could be viewed as a tactic for bankrupting the Chinese rulers before they reach this stage.
Bush & Co. may reason that the same approach more or less worked under Reagan in the last days of the Soviet Union, when the cost of the arms race administered a final blow to a socialist economy that had long since become corrupted by the profit motive. Rumsfeld's push for a strategic missile defense--even one that doesn't work--may be a ploy to sucker the Chinese into committing large amounts of money for a similar program to keep pace with the U.S. military.
All these calculations by U.S. rulers are based on the assumption that things will stay the same and that the U.S. will continue to dictate the course of events to a perpetually weak Chinese ruling class. But things change. Forces are growing within China that "increasingly view the United States as a threat to the structure and stability of the Chinese state" (Stratfor). The logic of this situation shows a future of increasing, and increasingly sharp, confrontation between U.S. and Chinese imperialists.
We are in a new period. The U.S. "new world order" is rapidly turning into a struggle in which the self-styled "super-power" must face a variety of long-range challenges to its domination. The arms race over Taiwan is just one of several. All of them will lead to shooting wars, although we can't predict the exact timetable. In the crucible of these inter-imperialist slaughters, our Party can and must grow. This is the challenge we and our class must meet and conquer.
This was just a one-day strike, one of a series of rolling strikes AFSCME's Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) was conducting across the state. To support the UW picket line, some Contract Staff Association (CSA) employees refused to go to work on April 20. Both WFSE and CSA workers were protesting the legislature's "offer": a 2.2% cost-of-living "raise" (the Consumer Price Index rose 3.7%, making this "raise" a pay cut), as well as a huge cutback in our medical benefits.
Some CSA Local 925 members had fought within the union's strike committee to support the WFSE strikers. The CSA leadership had the usual sellout arguments: "Not enough time to contact the members; illegal for state workers to strike; won't get enough support; and it will make us look worse." But we pushed the strike committee hard enough to put it before the Organizing Council. Although this proposal was defeated, the fight for it helped us win CSA members to honor the picket line.
Since then WFSE is re-starting its rolling strike. The teachers in many Western Washington counties had a one-day strike. In a straw poll, more than 50% of the members favored a strike authorization vote, which will happen next week.
While this show of solidarity which overrode the leadership is excellent, one-day strikes are a loser. They are designed to influence the legislature and elect Democrats to Congress, as "the way to win." We've seen what the Democrats give us -- wars and Workfare. PLP members and friends have a different job.
We must build unity with students, other State employees and workers in other job classifications. We need to fight racism and sexism by struggling arm-in-arm with immigrant workers and workers from lower-paid jobs. Because of these bosses' ideas, UW workers in the lowest-paid jobs at the University tend to be black and Latin women. We must fight for leadership from these workers to expose racism and nationalism as losing strategies for the working class. By doing this, we will learn how to fight harder and better, how to win some small battles and prepare for class war.
To arm workers with the ideas to conduct class struggle and relate them to the need for revolution, we must sell CHALLENGE. We want workers' worldwide struggles to be common knowledge among our class and win more of our friends to become sellers, not just readers.
It is important to bring workers today the history of the massive class struggles waged by U.S. workers against brutal working conditions: the Seattle General Strike, the Everett Massacre, teachers' strikes in other states, the fight for the 8-hour day and many more. What if all State employees struck simultaneously? Think of the class understanding to be gained by seeing who is protected by state power, what role solidarity can play, how racism and sexism destroy our ability to fight.
All this would help fight the cynicism built by the union leadership. They demean the membership as being "uninterested," and then use this as an excuse to limit communication and meetings and lead us straight into the arms of the legislature. When workers honor the picket line in large numbers, it fights cynicism.
Out of all this we must recruit to and build the Party Ultimately, it is the Progressive Labor Party that will lead the workers worldwide in the only fight from which the working class can truly emerge the winner -- a communist revolution. Every worker, student and soldier we recruit to the Party brings us one step closer to that goal.
The CCL immediately organized several mass meetings and militant attendance of hundreds at Board assemblies, school boycotts and demonstrations at Board members' homes. Once local bosses nervously ordered police to drag a black minister from the podium and into the parking lot. The entire audience cheered his return. Politicians and police have tried to stop questions from CCL and others.
Recently the group joined the Black History Day Parade, with banners proclaiming "Fight Racist School Closings --Our History is One of Struggle -- Unite to Fight Racism." The CCL has emphasized multi-racial unity, inviting participation of Texas Tech University students who had organized workers and students here to support the struggle against the racist arrests of young black workers in Tulia, Texas.
So far CCL's mass actions have halted the closing of one junior high, but several schools are still slated to get the axe. This will aggravate other problems -- excessive discipline against black and Latin students, overcrowding and inferior education in remaining schools, physical segregation inside magnet schools, 2nd class education caused by over-concentration on state test preparation and the channeling of these youth into ROTC programs for war preparations.
The racist School Board claims declines in poor neighborhood school populations caused funding shortfalls, but white flight to neighboring districts was the real cause. While white schools enrollment declined, only minority schools were closed. In fact, school officials were awarded big raises while major new construction was under way at white schools.
The local developers who dictate school policy are using school funds stolen from working-class families' education to gentrify neighborhoods near Texas Tech University, building new homes for new faculty. The latter will teach Tech's new E.O.Wilson/Stephen Rockefeller "business-friendly" genetic superiority curriculum and will do research in Texas Tech's new germ warfare laboratory. These events, all in this small city, show that U.S. rulers have a plan, based on racism and war, to profit from exploitation of workers everywhere, to maintain U.S. world domination.
School closings throughout the U.S. are part of a larger plan to destroy or re-segregate working-class neighborhoods, forcing all workers' children into jail-like schools and bootcamps, with no books, no homework, and no future, except to become the first to die as U.S. rulers prepare for oil wars in the Mid-East. As the bosses' economy declines, education cuts will worsen.
School closings and re-segregation reveal once again that racism is always the cutting edge of the capitalists' efforts to survive and grow. Many become cynical and hesitate to join the struggle because they see each battle for reform, each battle to save a school, as temporary and will quickly be reversed if they win at all. It is here that the ideas of PLP, especially as expressed in the increased circulation of CHALLENGE, and the Party's immersion in the class struggle, become crucial. This makes being won to revolution all the more possible, especially to those in the most exploited communities.
Hoping endlessly to reform capitalism and allowing revolution to "wait for later," or never, leaves the bosses in power. When workers rely on themselves and use multi-racial unity to organize as a class against the bosses' racism, they pose a great danger to billionaire capitalists. The only greater danger for the bosses is workers fighting to take it all, for a true communist society that destroys capitalism and racism altogether.
Teachers, parents and students have been outraged and dismayed. How can inviting students to join this march on a non-school day be wrong? Joan is a committed and excellent teacher whose students will be taking end-of-the-year Regents exams in just a few weeks. Obviously the school doesn't care at all about the students!
We're contacting dozens of parents, students and teachers, asking parents to call and visit the school to protest. Students and staff are circulating a petition which already has several hundred signatures. We've leafleted the school and rallied on May 5, drawing a great response. We also distributed stickers demanding Joan's return. We will rally outside the monthly teachers' union Delegate Assembly meeting and at the Board of Education.
There is tremendous intimidation and harassment of both students and staff at the school. They've threatened to suspend students or to change their transcripts so they can't graduate, or even to report immigrant students active in the campaign to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Despite all this, many people have come forward to help and to organize the fight to return Joan to her school.
Four years ago, Mildon got away with murdering another black man, Keion Williams while he was also in a car. He was vilified by the cops and bosses' press as a drug dealer who tried to run Mildon over.
The Colbert family called for a 9 A.M. protest march to the Irvington police station. PLP members helped lead a rally and then a march from the intersection where Colbert was killed. We chanted, "Racist Cops You Can't Hide, We Charge You With Genocide!"; "The Cops, the Courts, the Ku Klux Klan, All a Part of the Bosses' Plan"; and "Racism means...Fight Back." Workers and youth grabbed our leaflets and CHALLENGES. Many people on the street joined our chants or raised their fists in support.
When we reached the police station by 11:30, our numbers had grown to about 60. The New Jersey NAACP and the People's Organization for Progress (POP) had called for a noon rally. A young woman yelled disgustedly at the racist cops because they tried to cover up the killing by accusing Bill of being a drug dealer. Others spoke angrily about the racist harassment and terror that is a daily occurrence in their neighborhood. After the head of the New Jersey NAACP spoke, Fred Bost, a councilmen for the ward where the shooting occurred and the husband of Irvington's mayor, said he was a law-abiding citizen and expected everyone to act similarly. He then had the audacity to say he would push for "sensitivity" training for the cops. This hack was booed and heckled off the bullhorn.
Because we had not built enough of a base in the mass organization in which we are active, we were unable to mobilize scores of people in these groups to march. Therefore, when Bost was attacked, we couldn't take the offensive to explain the role of police in a capitalist society as protectors of private property and servants of the ruling class. We needed to do a better job connecting the shooting of Bilal to the mass jailing of black and Latin youth, "community policing" and the growth of fascism in general.
POP's Larry Hamm said they were calling in the U.S. Justice Department, never mentioning the latter's exoneration of the cops in the Amadou Diallo murder.
By this time, POP and the NAACP's supporters had arrived, and the crowd had swelled to about 300. Hamm then led a demonstration around the block, changing our militant chants to "Stop Police Brutality" and simply calling out Bilal and Keion's names. Later, Hamm was joined by Delacey Davis, head of Black Cops Against Police Brutality (BCAPB). Hamm hugged Davis and told the crowd, "See, we're not against all cops. We're for law and order. We're only against the bad cops."
But the reality is that racist cop terror is a necessary part of capitalist rule. Ultimately, the bosses hold power at the point of a gun. They know militant black workers present the gravest potential threat to their continued domination. POP's program calls for civilian complaint review boards, the hiring of black and Latin cops and federal investigations in the grossest cases of police murder. Al Sharpton, who arrived later, implied that police terror and racist attacks can only be fought through reforming the system. The leaders of the NAACP, POP and BCAPB reinforce the idea that capitalism can be fixed to serve the interests of the workers. But it never can be.
As police killings in Cincinnati show, police terror and racism are increasing, part of the bosses' fascist plan to prepare for war and squelch any fight-back against capitalism's crisis by an angry working class.
We sold over 75 CHALLENGES and distributed over 200 leaflets. People were open to our ideas. Scores of drivers honked their horns in support of the fight against police terror. Our main goal must be building the Party's base in mass organizations. Then we can fight Hamm, Sharpton & Co. for the leadership of this movement. Carrying out this plan is the key to our advance in the near term and crucial to smashing the class rule behind the racist cops who are murdering our brothers and sisters.
Many of our riders came to May Day through our long-time political activity at a local housing complex near an elementary school where one comrade works. Many of them are black and Latin, men and women, young and old, who in their daily lives experience all the ills of capitalism. They have seen homelessness, AIDS, drug dealing, murder, the ravages of unemployment, police terror, lousy schools and mass incarceration of local youth. The racist nature of capitalism is a very real element in their lives. These families, and quite a few other people on our bus, are loyal supporters of PLP and have marched on May Day many times in the past.
On May Day morning, not everyone from the complex showed up at the bus on time. We were short of transportation to the buses and one of the adults who came was sick, and had to take time to get her medication. Though we knew the bus drivers would be reluctant, we asked them to make a special trip to the complex. These families have shown their commitment to the Party over the years; we decided to respond in kind.
On the way back, we asked all marchers to take the bus microphone and say what they thought about the march. Initially most people were hesitant, possibly out of fear or shyness. Slowly but surely, a trickle of speakers turned into a stream. One after another of the young people came up to relate how much they had enjoyed the march, and that they would be returning next year. A few began to ask questions about communism.
At this point, an experienced comrade began to break down in systematic fashion what communism is and how it relates to the lives and experiences of the relatively newer marchers. It was clear that many of the young people were listening intently as the comrade described the "beautiful new world" we are trying to build. Other experienced comrades added short comments as well.
Even though we could have done a better job on the bus ride down explaining what PLP stands for, the march itself helped us and our friends change that on the way back. Seven of the young people agreed to join a study group, and four of those expressed interest in joining the Party. We're determined to "hang" with these friends through the ups and downs of all our lives, and win them to the cause of communism. The feeling of collectivity on our May Day bus was electric. We have a great future!
Strikers have blocked vans and buses carrying scabs into the homes, howling at them and poking at the vehicles with their bright yellow flags. But state troopers, the National Guard and local cops are escorting the scabs past the picket lines.
The state government has been bankrolling the bosses' strike-breaking efforts by paying for the scabs' hotel rooms, supplying transportation to the homes and by helping to foot the bill for the $280 per day each scab gets for crossing the line. That would add up to an annual salary of $70,000, more than double what most workers are paid. Strikers say if this money was used to increase staff (their major demand) and raise wages, instead of trying to break the union -- District 1199, New England Health Care Employees, SEIU -- and destroy the workers' living and working conditions, the strike could be settled immediately. But that's not the way things work under capitalism.
One striker at the Salmon Brook home said the bosses threatened the workers just prior to the walkout. "We work hard," she declared. "We suffer in there. Our residents suffer because we don't have adequate staffing." Another striker at the Connecticut Institute for the Blind/Oak Hill asked, "If they've got the money for scabs, why don't they put that money in the budget" for us?
Progressive Labor Party has played a modest role in the strike. In last month's strike/lockout, workers were cheered by PLP support leaflets and CHALLENGES they received. Then, on the bus ride home from the April 28 Washington May Day March, Philadelphia hospital workers involved in sharp struggles at their own Jefferson Hospital drafted a support letter for the Connecticut workers -- not on strike at the time. Comrades in Connecticut brought the support letter to the picket lines, along with copies of CHALLENGE and bagels, and received a rousing response from the people on the line. After reading the letter, one woman exclaimed, "We want to be on that march next year!" A similar support greeting came from workers at a Brooklyn, NY hospital.
The strikers are generally in good spirits and are determined to prevail. There is great potential for supporting the strike. Many people honk their horns in support driving past the lines. However, years of give-backs and sellouts by the AFL-CIO leadership has weakened the union movement to such an extent that little union support has been organized for these workers on the front lines.
For many strikers, the CHALLENGE they received was probably their first contact with communist ideas. One comrade said as he distributed papers on the picket lines, "We want communism. We want the workers to run society. We want the workers to run the nursing homes for the benefit of the residents and dump the owners who run them for their own profits." We urge all workers to take these ideas seriously and join the PLP.
BULLETIN: As we go to press, it was reported that one nursing home operator has signed an agreement that adds staff and increases wages at seven of its homes. However, workers at these locations said that after their shifts they intend to join the other 4,000 striking workers on the picket lines.
The strike is expected to spread to 2,000 other workers who care for mentally ill patients at private agencies. They are paid far less than their counterparts at state agencies doing similar jobs.
We just attended a May Day March in Washington, D.C. and are writing this letter to you on the bus back to Philadelphia. We came to the march to find out different ways to unite people. We need to fight back as a stronger movement. We need to make our workplace better. We need to get the bosses off our backs!
We work at a hospital in Philadelphia where they use part-timers and temporary workers instead of hiring full-timers. Part-timers work full-time schedules, but don't get health care benefits. Some part-timers go 13 years before they get a full-time job.
Last April we started to organize for full-time jobs. We had meetings and passed out flyers. We started "solidarity lunches" in the cafeteria. By the third one, two hundred workers showed up. The bosses tried to stop the rallies, but they couldn't. The workers kept coming and signed petitions (which were illegal).
We did it without the union, but after 200 showed up, even the president of 1199 jumped on the bandwagon. At a city-wide union rep meeting, he said that the solidarity lunches forced the hospital to schedule a special negotiations meeting for full-time jobs for part-timers. We won 50 new full-time jobs!
ONWARD WITH THE STRUGGLE!
Yours in solidarity,
We support your demands for higher wages, staffing levels and other working conditions.
The workers on strike have taken a strong stand to insure better staffing for the future.
The nursing home bosses are only interested in making profits from the patients and are NOT interested in patient care.
We are also aware that our brothers and sisters from 1199 SEIU are joining the picket line.
At our hospital, workers toil every day to take care of the wards, crowded with patients and to keep a safe and clean environment.
We have fought very hard in the past against sub-contracting and layoffs. Our contract expires on October 31 and everything we've fought for is up for grabs: our wages, job security, benefits, pensions, staffing levels and other working conditions.
However, workers are always waging battles with the hospital and nursing home bosses to keep whatever little benefits we have and for better patient care.
We must fight the bosses' system by uniting workers across all borders to wage war against capitalist exploitation.
The New York Times editorializes (April 26): "The nation...must stick with the ongoing task of remembering the horrible lesson of the physical and psychological damage to people on both sides when a great power undertakes a war without a rationale." (How neatly the Times equates "people on both sides": three million Vietnamese dead and 58,000 U.S. deaths.) Now, implies the Times, there must be careful justification of any future war by this "great [imperialist] power" so that what happened in Vietnam doesn't happen in Iraq. Of course, the Times conveniently forgets they did present a rationale to the world at that time -- "saving Vietnam from communism." However, while U.S. rulers were driven from Vietnam militarily, U.S. imperialism won out because the Vietnamese leadership had a nationalist (essentially capitalist) outlook, not a communist one. So Ford, Nike & Co. are now in Vietnam paying workers $2 a day and Vietnam is a capitalist country.
Kerrey told ROTC cadets at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that his massacre of the Vietnamese "could be justified militarily": "the people we killed were probably enemy sympathizers." No kidding! The "enemy" was the entire population of Vietnam, fighting a people's war, defending themselves against a Nazi-like invasion by the world's most powerful imperialist power, bent on making Vietnam a source of U.S. corporate exploitation and low-wage labor. (Unfortunately, the latter is the current result.) Since the Vietnamese were (Kerrey's) "enemy," and in his mind "sub-human" anyway, it's O.K. to slaughter them. But there were hundreds of thousands of GI's who were not "confused" and did not view the Vietnamese as the enemy. In fact, they saw the Kerreys as their enemy, and killed hundreds of such officers (see below).
In his VMI speech, Kerrey quotes a career Army officer friend defending the drafting of 18 to 25-year-olds: "Give me power over when and how much a young man can eat and sleep and I believe I can get him to do anything I want. After 25, they start to ask questions. And...[then] they're no good to me anymore." Then the liberal Kerrey shows his true colors, saying, "My friend was right."
Not so fast. Opposed to Kerrey's (ruling class) "morality" were plenty of those 18 to 25-year-olds who not only refused to fight the "enemy" -- over half a million deserted -- but who turned the guns around:
* GI's hurled fragmentation grenades at officers ("fragging"), killing at least 551 by mid-1972 according to the Pentagon, not including killing countless others by rifle fire in combat. In the Americal division alone, fraggings were running at one a week in 1971. According to Marine Colonel Robert Heinl, bounties were raised by GI's chipping in "anywhere from $50 to $1,000...put on the heads of leaders whom the privates...wanted to rub out." Says Heinl, "Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs at certain units."
* The U.S. War Department reported 503,926 "incidents of desertion" from July 1966 to December 1973. Instead of following orders of "search and destroy," said Heinl in a 1971 article entitled, "The Collapse of the Armed Forces," the watchword had become, "Search and evade (meaning tactical avoidance of combat by units in the field)...now virtually a principle of war."
* With the "near mutinous" resistance so widespread that U.S. commanders hardly had any reliable ground armies to send into battle, the brass chose massive air power to "bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age." But sailors on the Navy's seven largest aircraft carriers put a huge dent in the carpet bombing of north Vietnam by disabling the USS Constellation, Coral Sea, Kitty Hawk, Ranger, Midway, Forrestal and Ticonderoga operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. At one point, five of them were tied up all at once in San Diego for repairs due to sabotage by rank-and-file sailors.
* In Oct. 1972 black sailors on the carrier Kitty Hawk led a major rebellion, including hand-to-hand battle with Marines sent to break up a meeting on board. Four days later the fighting spread to the ship's oiler, forcing the carrier back to San Diego and its removal from the war altogether.
* Reconnaissance crews of the 6990th Air Force Security Service in Okinawa staged a work stoppage bordering on open mutiny, refusing to warn bombers about Vietnamese air defense communications. During this stoppage they cheered whenever a B-52 bomber was shot down. Some were later court-martialed. (from Seymour Hersh's 1973 book, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the White House)
No wonder Marine Colonel Heinl wrote that "morale, discipline and battle-worthiness" were "worse than at any time...possibly in the history of the United States." Interestingly, he could only compare it to "the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917," which led to the Bolshevik Revolution.
This "collapse of the U.S. Armed Forces" was a major factor -- other than the biggest one, the heroism of the Vietnamese themselves -- in forcing U.S. bosses out of Vietnam: increasingly, U.S. soldiers and sailors wouldn't fight.
U.S. rulers, now planning how to fight the wars that will secure their profits worldwide, want youth to follow the liberal Kerreys, not the rebellious GI's who turned the guns around. Without a reliable military, U.S. bosses would be hard put to carry out any of their imperialist wars. That's their biggest worry. It's up to us to win the youth to understand who the real enemy is -- not our brother and sister workers abroad, but the ruling class on Wall Street who exploit all of us.
(For more information on the GI rebellions against the Vietnam war see the Challenge Military Supplement of Jan. 2001--to be reprinted in the new Communist magazine, coming in June)
In the 1960s, the Kennedy-Johnson administration was launching a massive, genocidal war in Vietnam and escalating the Cold War against the Soviet Union and China. To free up resources for operations overseas, the Pentagon shut down hundreds of military installations in the U.S., including a big shipyard and army base in South Boston. Workers there suffered a body blow to their living standards. As the better paying jobs evaporated, so did working class support for the liberal politicians. South Boston had solidly backed Roosevelt and Kennedy. Now it voiced hatred for the Kennedy clan. Boston's bosses, needing to re-gain control of these workers but no longer having the old liberal diet of trade unionism and imperialism, began feeding them gutter racism, crime and drugs.
Whitey and his brother Billy, a conservative politician, led the transition. While Whitey supplied the drugs and violence, Billy tried to attract workers to overt racism by opposing busing for school integration. From this newly impoverished section of Boston, racist leaders like Louise Day Hicks and Jimmy Kelley sprang up to join Bulger. These open fascists got indispensable help from the media, which covered their every word, and from the Kennedy-run Democratic Party, which never censured them. In the mid-1970s, PLP battled these racist forces in the streets, exposed their connection to the main rulers and brought down their chief organization, ROAR. We won many white workers away from the racists.
The Bulgers and the rest have always served the interests of the biggest capitalists. Whitey remains free because of his role as a high-level "protected informant" for the FBI. He has done some of the rulers' dirtiest work. In 1981, the main wing of the ruling class was trying to rob the Soviet Union of revenue by keeping oil prices at rock bottom. But the move punished domestic U.S. oil producers, too, and they were near rebellion. To send a clear message about state power, Bulger orchestrated the murder of Roger Wheeler, a Tulsa oil man whose business partners included executives at major domestic Oil Patch firms like Phillips and Williams. Bulger's FBI ties exempted him from prosecution.
Brother Billy serves the same masters. In 1997, as a reward for misleading Southie's workers, the Kennedy clan had him appointed president of the University of Massachusetts, which houses the JFK Library. At Bulger's installation, the chairmen of both General Motors and General Electric paid homage to a man whose followers had thrown stones at black schoolchildren.
But elevating Billy knocked him off his politician's soapbox. And the liberal press now makes Whitey Public Enemy Number One. It once used to say things like, "You needed shoes for your kid? Whitey took care of it" (LA Times, 9/23/99). Today's U.S. ruling class has marginalized the Bulgers because, as it builds for war, it requires allegiance to a nation, not a neighborhood. One purpose of the assault on Whitey is to discredit the mayoral candidacy of Peggy Davis-Mullen, an avowed fan of both Bulgers, who is campaigning for "neighborhood," that is, segregated schools. Such two-bit racism is not enough for U.S. rulers who plan to retake Iraq's oilfields by force and some day confront China's growing military might. They need soldiers ready to commit imperialist genocide. Under capitalism, cracking down on corruption often means disciplining
society for war.
Ricky Bodden was shot in the back of the neck as he was running from the police. Witnesses say he was unarmed, but the police "found" a gun. Carlos Garcia, unarmed, was shot in his car seven times after the police finally trapped the car, and Carlos couldn't get out because of a jammed door. They called it a "suicide," citing as "evidence" despairing lyrics they found in his wallet!
Another speaker exposed the true role of the police as the "security guards of the rich" and the ruling class's first line of defense against the working class. She gave overwhelming evidence that the police cannot be reformed because the courts and the government systematically protect their crimes. Discussion followed on what can be done to stop police terror. Students were invited to join Progressive Labor Party's May Day March.
Today, a follow-up meeting planned a fund-raising event to raise money for a headstone for Carlos Garcia. We also aim to publicize the Grand Jury's decision to charge the Cincinnati killer cop who murdered Timothy Thomas with a misdemeanor!
But we should make no mistake about it--all that Harvard bosses "agreed" to was a committee of 19 (including only three workers) to make "non-binding recommendations" on wages and benefits. In other words they agreed to exactly nothing. Harvard's workers are still making poverty wages. "Non-binding committee studies" are nothing new. They've been screwing workers for centuries. Only a general strike by all Harvard workers and supported by thousands of Harvard students can force these liberal fascist bosses to give up even a tiny part of their billions.
Beware of any "settlement" worked out by Harvard bosses and AFL-CIO lawyers and supported by liberal ruler Kennedy and John "massacre man" Kerrey. The AFL-CIO has been selling out workers for 46 years and they're not about to change. And Kennedy, Kerry & Kompany, like Harvard, are servants of the dominant Eastern Establishment wing of the U.S. ruling class. They oppress billions of workers throughout the world. They preach "support" for workers' rights -- they "backed" the sit-in -- in order to win students and workers to support U.S. imperialism and its prospective oil wars in the Mid-East. They're not about to offer a living wage to any workers, much less those at Harvard. Their job is to make profits, not give them away.
During this period, workers and students have fought much more militantly, which is why this "agreement" has been worked out, to sap that militancy. On May 3, dining workers took a unanimous strike authorization vote. They've held two rallies where over 250 workers and hundreds of students picketed Mass Hall and stopped traffic. One banner read, "Workers and Students Unite to Shut Down Harvard." These dining workers, in particular, are fed up with Harvard's terrible treatment of them. If encouraged and supported, they could force a call for a campus-wide strike.
But they're up against a local union leadership that, following the antics of the national AFL-CIO, allowed the bosses to divide the workers into a patchwork of various separate unions, enabling them to pick off groups of workers one at time. The previous dining workers' union leadership accepted a two-tier wage system, denying most workers wages and even unemployment insurance during the summer; accepted a 5-year contract with a no-strike clause; allowed the bosses to force workers to take vacation time during school vacations and pay the workers for eight months instead of nine.
The growing specter of worker-student unity forced Harvard to move to break it up. They handed out a 3-day suspension without pay to a custodian who was very outspoken in his support of the sit-in. He has addressed many rallies and been very open to PLP.
Throughout the sit-in, we boldly and repeatedly indicted Harvard as a long-time bastion of racism, capitalism and imperialism. We put forward the need to smash capitalism and replace it with communism. We have continued to work with friendly students and workers, though too sporadically. They have been open to PLP's analysis. We have distributed thousands of PLP leaflets and more than 100 CHALLENGES (which could be a lot better).
Students have defended us against red-baiting attacks. The response to our communist analysis from workers has been very positive. No rank-and-file worker has attacked our communist line in this struggle. We were able to win six workers to attend our last worker-student unity meeting. Most importantly, one Harvard dining worker marched on May Day. He liked it and said he wanted to return next year and bring his friends. Strengthening our ties with this worker and the other workers and students will mark a small but important step on the road to communist revolution which would eliminate the elitist, racist, pro-imperialist Harvard.
Horowitz was sponsored by the College Republicans. His topic was "freedom of speech" because some campus newspapers chose not to print a racist ad he submitted. (See previous CHALLENGES for a description of Horowitz's racism.) We wanted to oppose him.
Beforehand, a group of black, Latin and white students discussed our strategy. The group's leaders advocated "letting him speak" and simply carrying protest signs. A few of us thought this was wrong. A comrade emphasized that racist speech led to racist actions and that "free speech" is determined by those who hold power. People understood this and were angry at being silent while Horowitz would be spewing his racist garbage. One protester even wrote "No Free Speech For Racists!" on her sign.
Some discussion about communism and reparations (for slavery) caused much debate, but as we walked into the hall, we were silent. We simply sat down in front with our signs and were quiet.
Armed police and security guards were present. Soon it became obvious who they were protecting. As soon as we sat down, a cop told us we couldn't sit there. We moved to the back. Once these cops made it quite clear which side they were on, it encouraged the pro-Horowitz people in the audience to ridicule us. They yelled at us to "sit down" or laughed at us. This angered the protesters, which increased when the question-and-answer part of the program was explained: Horowitz would not give up the mike to allow debate on his answers! People discovered that "free speech" was the last thing Horowitz wanted.
Almost all of his talk was distortion at best and racist lies at worst: "no one in America is oppressed today"; "if it wasn't for the White Christians in the North, there would never have been an anti-slavery movement," etc. We were mad, interrupting him however we could. Every time he'd say something stupid, we would laugh. Cell phones began playing "Yankee Doodle" and "The National Anthem." We shouted to expose his lies.
Horowitz had trouble spreading his garbage so he started insulting us, saying we "needed to learn some manners" and implied we couldn't count. He called us "campus fascists" and said we all got into college "through Affirmative Action." We stood up to debate him while he was talking, despite being "barred." When cops tried to kick out those of us standing, they realized there would always be someone else popping up. They couldn't stop us. Horowitz had no answers for us.
Ignorance is hard to fight, but the response of the militant anti-racists who came to protest him was encouraging. Every one read PLP's leaflet or CHALLENGE. That affected the outcome of this event, even though there was only one comrade there. Others asked to learn more about the Party. Fifteen papers were sold.
We must continue to try to stop racists like Horowitz and work with those people who want to get rid of racism wherever it exists.
Past conferences have defined Working Class Studies as one of recovering and preserving working-class history and culture but missed the purpose of such study of the working class: the abolition of the social relations of capitalism, and the institution of communist-led workers power. While we recognize the importance of preserving and recapturing working-class history, the former is more crucial to workers worldwide.
The conference site is less than 300 miles from the fascist shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed 19 year-old Cincinnati black youth. This is the 15th shooting of a black person there since 1995. Anti-racist rebellions followed the latest shooting (see Challenge April 28). It was the first major race rebellion in Cincinnati since Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968. Black workers and youth in Cincinnati appeared willing to resist capitalist violence with working-class violence.
The rebellion was a cumulative protest against racist discrimination by Cincinnati's bosses who had systematically stolen work from the city's black workers. This shooting follows a whole spate of killings in major cities throughout the U.S. It continues a history of attacks on black workers from the slave trade to lynchings and "criminal justice" frame-ups. They are often carried out by cops who represent the bosses' strategy of a divided working class which maximizes profits while minimizing the chance of working-class unity.
Like Cincinnati, Youngstown's working-class is under attack. Republic Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube shut their doors and threw tens of thousands of workers into the streets. Capitalist overproduction and rivalry with Japanese steel bosses caused this crisis. Many fled Youngstown looking for jobs. Today, Youngstown's unemployment rate is about twice the rest of the state and the nation. Youngstown's working class has nowhere to turn.
Youngstown's biggest industry today is prisons. The nation's largest private prison company opened one several years ago. Prisoners essentially are sold into long-term bondage. Meanwhile, thousands of unemployed black and white workers laid off when the steel mills closed down live in dire poverty in Youngstown, right between the burned out mills and the new private prisons.
Friends of PLP who live near Youngstown should come to the conference to win participants to a pro-working-class understanding and support the struggle to build communism.
Importantly, there was some class struggle occurring simultaneously. Our church has been pressing for a boycott of Spanish tourism because of a union leader there who was fired for exposing brutal intimidation of immigrant women workers in Granada. (One marcher carried a poster: "Rehire Miguel, Fascists go to hell!") We've also taken a leadership role in fighting racist police brutality and discussed linking up with an anti-racist church in Cincinnati for joint communication and action. Most important, though, are the friendships that have grown in supporting each other in joyful and difficult times and in carrying out the mission of the kitchen.
By 6:30 on May Day morning, 25 marchers had shown up at the church! The day was glorious. One worker proudly carried a poster from our learning center: "Workers are smart, Workers are capable, And when we read and think, Our power is inescapable!"
Feedback from the marchers was very positive. The great spirit of a militant, multi-racial presence in a working-class neighborhood, the active participation of youth and children, the quality of the speeches -- all were applauded.
On the real May Day ("St. Joseph the Worker") Tuesday, we had an ecumenical prayer service to share experiences of exploitation and oppression and to unite the neighborhood to fight racist unemployment. Alliance with religious people is not only possible, it is essential. Four more people want to join PLP or be in a study group.
In struggle (For Jeez and Cheese),
The Red Churchmouse
Considering that he was comparing this May Day to the militant, heroic marches in South Africa of the 1980s and '90s , that's a mighty strong compliment! When the experience and knowledge of the past is taken up by militant young workers, there is no stopping the revolutionary movement!
On our return, our bus co-captain, a new marcher and new member of PLP, suggested we ask everybody on the bus to pose a question (to encourage people to talk). Brilliant idea! Almost everybody participated in a lively exchange.
Some examples of questions we posed were: Why were there no other political groups on the march? Why couldn't we march in front of the White House? What were the bystanders thinking? Although we march every year, why don't things change? Why weren't there more people? What does the red flag symbolize?
Some interesting answers and comments included: one comrade said our May Day march is the only one explicitly for communist revolution. Our Party -- in contrast to the old communist movement -- believes the working class is capable of fighting directly for a communist society. We openly connect struggles for reforms in the system to the necessity of revolution. Other so-called revolutionary groups put communist politics in the distant future, if they talk about them at all.
Someone else noted that the red flag traces back to 1871 and the Paris Commune, where tens of thousands of communists were lined up in the cemetery and shot. The red in the communist flag came to symbolize the blood shed in the fight for communism. Although one comrade said he loved the sea of red flags, another marcher suggested next time we make more signs explaining to bystanders exactly what our movement represents and fights for.
Several marchers commented on the generally warm welcome we received on the streets of Washington, with bystanders chanting with us, pumping their fists, and even joining the march. We also discussed how the goal of our march is not to "change" Bush or any other capitalist politician's mind but rather to mobilize our forces and strengthen ourselves for the fight ahead.
The overall mood of our marchers was enthusiastic. We realized there are many more people we could draw to our movement. Although some people we invited at the last minute could not attend, others did come, and we realized we need to start planning earlier. We estimate we could double our turnout next year.
The answer to the question of why there were not more people? It's up to us!
High School Reds
I spoke briefly about the need to organize ourselves as a class to confront the bosses and their system of exploitation. People came to the mike and agreed with those sentiments. On the return trip, I again asked people to take the microphone to share their impressions of the march. I felt great when these workers said they want to be part of this movement to fight back against this system of misery and exploitation. I think workers are becoming fed up with the ruling class's attacks. They're realizing their only alternative is to join with us to get rid of capitalism once and for all with a communist revolution.
New York Taxi Driver
However, I feel the reviewer erred in claiming the CP made a "mistake" by hiring a "famous trial lawyer," Sam Leibowitz, for the re-trial because "he was anti-communist and close to the Democratic Party, the party of Southern segregationists." This decision must be objectively evaluated in the context of the times in which it was made.
Given the defenselessness of the Scottsboro boys, being framed in a deeply racist South where black people were tortured and killed, could the CP have told these nine young men that although it had halted the death sentence...for the moment, and could obtain an excellent, nationally famous trial lawyer for their re-trial, that they wouldn't hire him because, (1) he is an anti-communist and "we are communists," and (2) because he is close to the Democratic Party that is supported by a majority of the voters but not by us (the CP)?
Could the CP have refused to hire Leibowitz despite the difficulty of finding someone as able and as willing as he? I think not and the CP correctly did not take that approach, and did hire Leibowitz.
Leibowitz, an "anti-communist," agreed to unite with the CP under the national glare of general anti-communist and racist attitudes. Such a public decision certainly had a positive influence on many sections of the population and added to the CP's courageous efforts.
Finally, some people who become involved in fighting racism can definitely move to the Left, especially if communists are present and influencing the situation, as happened here. True, Leibowitz did not move in that direction, but one of the two women who falsely accused the Scottsboro Boys of rape did! Ruby Bates "became a defense witness, admitting she (and other witnesses) lied," and then became pro-communist in her activity and politics, if not an actual member.
PLP's movement into mass organizations, unions, etc., is based on this factor -- people can be won over in groups filled with anti-communism and whose members belong to the Democratic or Republican parties.
People who commit their time and efforts to the fight against racism and ally with communists are worthwhile having anytime.
A New York reader
These arrests occurred just a few weeks after the U.S. spy plane landed in Hainan Island, China. It's still there. The arrests followed a couple of days after Bush announced his Star Wars Lite plan to build a limited missile defense system against "rogue" states (China, North Korea, etc.).
All this has spawned a rash of racist anti-Chinese incidents. Last month, the national syndicated cartoonist Oliphant filled a drawing with racist Chinese stereotypes. A radio talk show on WQLZ in Springfield, Ill., called for the U.S. government to intern Chinese-Americans in concentration camps as it did with Japanese-Americans during World War II. The hacks from the United Association of Union Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sprinkler Fitters spent $500,000 in radio ads during baseball games urging a boycott of Chinese products. This type of racism, making China the focus of all that is wrong with globalization (imperialism), sucks in many in the anti-globalization movement. Racism has always been part of the bosses' war plans. Workers and students must fight them both.
A NYC Anti-Racist