After using vicious racism to steal the Florida electoral vote -- a racism which the Gore Democrats refused to challenge -- the Bush gang took over the White House as though they had won by a landslide. They began promising all sorts of goodies to domestic oil, gas, and arms interests that had helped Bush's electoral campaign. This didn't sit too well with the liberal rulers, who, for reasons related to their own class interests, don't like Bush's plans for tax cuts, Alaskan oil and missile defense, much of which aids Bush's backers. The liberals also worry that Bush & Co.'s open pandering to giant energy companies like Enron and Halliburton will alienate the majority of U.S. workers. The liberals want to win workers to their own agenda for war and fascism.
To force Bush to recognize his true masters, along comes "white knight" Jeffords -- whose move out of the Republican Party gives the Democrats control of the Senate. He's followed closely by Republican McCain, in open conflict with Bush while meeting with Democratic leaders, and then by the Democrat Daschle, the new Senate majority leader, being lauded as "the people's leader." A closer look at these characters should reinforce our conviction that the liberals are by far the greatest danger to our political development as a class. This is, once again, the story of the wolf in sheep's clothing.
John McCain, the so-called "war hero," is really a war criminal. McCain, as a Navy pilot, committed his own share of mass murders in Vietnam from the air. (His liberal colleague, former Senator Kerrey, massacred Vietnamese peasants on the ground.) CHALLENGE readers may remember McCain's angry demand that Clinton send ground troops to Kosovo in 1999, when U.S. and NATO rulers were dropping "humanitarian" bombs to ensure access to energy pipelines. McCain has since learned his lesson -- U.S. imperialism will indeed need ground troops for oil, but for Exxon in the Persian Gulf rather than for Halliburton and BP Amoco in the Balkans. Unlike Bush, McCain isn't a slow learner. He now understands whom to salute.
Daschle, now the Democratic majority leader, has also spilled plenty of blood to serve the liberal rulers. After graduating college in 1969, he joined the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command, one of the military's most openly fascistic branches, as an intelligence officer. He voted with Jeffords in 1991 to authorize oil genocide in Iraq. More recently, in the final days of the Clinton administration, he argued for continuing to bomb Iraqi kids, "despite domestic political differences in the United States...in defense of our nation's vital interests" (Associated Press). Liberal Missouri Democrat Gephardt joined Daschle in this call. Daschle also voted for Clinton's racist welfare "reform," known as "Workfare," forcing masses of workers into a form of slave labor. And Daschle fully backs the liberals' "community policing" strategy, which is implementing police terror with a smiling face. Daschle's own public relations releases boast of putting "300 new cops on the beat since 1994 [in South Dakota]...and of plac[ing]...officers in our schools."
Of all Bush's proposals, the tax cut has drawn the most fire from the liberals. They state the obvious in order to cover their true purpose. Sure, Bush's plan represents a huge gift to certain corporations. The liberals object, because they want to use that money to carry out U.S. imperialism's long-range plans for war with its emerging Chinese and Russian rivals: "Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut...is...one of the largest obstacles to his military agenda. The fiscal plan has drastically reduced the amount of surplus dollars available to develop the kind of advanced weaponry the administration desires, not only for its missile shield but also for modernizing conventional forces" (NY Times, 6/3; emphasis ours--Ed.). Conventional forces are vital to the success of the liberals' war against rising capitalist rivals. Just to make sure the point is clear, West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who knows a thing or two about what makes his family's Exxon Mobil happy, says the Bush tax plan "saves too little and it invests far too little in America's long-term needs" (MSNBC).
The liberals' counter-coup is an attempt to forge the class unity the big bosses will require to meet these "long-term needs." But their needs and ours have nothing in common. They require class unity to continue ruling the world and oppressing us. They also require workers' political allegiance and obedience, including the mass sacrifice of our lives. We must not give it to them! We must recognize the traps set for us by these liberal imperialists and keep our heads clear. We have to forge our own working-class unity, against them and for communist revolution. Its most important expression, now and in the future, is the Progressive Labor Party
The AFL-CIO has always peddled crass individualism -- think only about yourself, or your trade, or your own job. Even when pushed to unite workers and students, these misleaders have sought to limit the struggle to a 1% pay raise here or defeating a $10 deductible there. When more advanced graduate students wanted to talk about the class content of university courses, the union leaders shelved that demand for "later" (meaning never). When students asked the sweatshop groups to build political support for campus workers, the sweatshop group leaders said they hadn't received a "formal invitation" from the AFL-CIO.
The AFL-CIO's petty reformism builds cynicism. Sure we fight against the bosses' economic attacks, but focusing solely on your job or a better contract for your union doesn't build the class-consciousness that can inspire masses of workers and students.
For instance, on May 30 Seattle cops (SPD) gunned down Aaron Roberts, a 36-year-old black father of three in the nearby Central District (C.D.) where many campus workers live. An SEIU member at the UW lost her son at the hands of the SPD recently. The UW has the largest law enforcement school in the Northwest. It is not only a strikebreaker but a promoter of racist terror as well.
Communists must lead workers away from the poison of individualism and trade union reformism. Fighting racist terror is a class question. The same capitalist system that attacks campus staff and Teaching Assistants murders black workers.
This type of class-consciousness has suffered from the lack of impact of a strong communist party and the demise of the old communist movement. Reversing that is difficult but not impossible. Our Party is organizing to win UW pickets to demonstrate against racist terror in the nearby C.D. We're bringing the issue of racist terror as a class question to all the unions and student groups in which we participate. We will make a special effort, in the classrooms and the lecture halls, to confront racist and anti-working class ideology that attempts to justify these racist murders.
Our class-conscious approach to racist terror stands in stark contrast to the debilitating economism of the trade unions. The think-of-yourself-or-your-own-little-group mentality often leads to a "my-city, my-state, my-country" nationalism. It's also a backhanded defense of "exploit-someone-else" imperialism. On the other hand, putting your class first can lead to revolutionary understanding in the heat of class struggle.
A huge rebellion exploded in response to this racist police terror. The bosses, politicians and cops used even more terror and violence to suppress it, arresting over 600 people and imposing martial law. Many are still in jail facing federal charges.
However, today there were no cops in riot gear. During a two-hour rally, speakers called for "peace," from Rev. Damon Lynch of the "Black United Front" to former Ohio Governor John Gilligan. A black cop from "Black Cops Against Police Brutality" said he represented the "good cops," working hard to fight against the "bad cops."
PLP participated in the march. A high school student we met during the rebellion marched with us. Our flyer, "Wanted for Racist Murder -- Cop Stephen Roach," cautioned workers not to act alone, but to organize millions for communist revolution. We sold 150 CHALLENGES and distributed hundreds of the Cincinnati CHALLENGE special edition.
We marched to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, site of the racist murder and rebellion, and led many anti-racist and communist chants. A young student chanted "Over the Rhine to Palestine, Fight Back!" Many joined us. A young woman asked to help pass out our literature. The march ended at a park in West-End, another poor black neighborhood being heavily gentrified.
These "peace makers" have no plan to fight for the jailed workers. A 15-year-old black youth is being tried as an adult, charged with a "federal hate" crime for attacking a white truck driver. He faces 25 years. Racist killer cop Roach, who murdered Timothy in cold blood, is charged with two misdemeanors and faces less than nine months (if convicted). There's no justice for the working class under capitalism, and therefore there can be no peace. We are planning a speaking tour for some friends we made during the rebellion, to raise money for those still locked up.
Over 30 supporters packed the courtroom yesterday to show solidarity. As the first "defendant" was arraigned, the judge read off the indictment and asked if we would accept a plea offer. The defendant's attorney said "we wouldn't accept any offer for fighting racism." The crowd in the courthouse applauded, annoying the judge who then threatened to kick everyone out if the "disruption" continued.
Last July 4th, Morristown authorities made clear which side they're on. They employed more than 20 state, local and federal police agencies to guard the openly-fascist white supremacist Richard Barrett and his Nationalist Movement. They coordinated an assault on anyone who protested Barrett's racist filth. Ten protesters were arrested on various trumped-up charges.
Barrett was in town to support racial profiling and to demand the rehiring of former NJ State Police Chief Carl Williams, an architect of that racist policy. Barrett was opposed by ministers and their congregations, members of groups like Food Not Bombs, National Organization for Women, People's Organization for Progress, the Progressive Labor Party, as well as many local residents. Barrett plans to demonstrate again this July 4th to celebrate "Independence from Crime Day." He has invited murdering KKKops like Steven Roach, who killed Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, as well as other gestapos-in-blue.
Morristown has become a base for racist attacks and terror. Over a year ago the church across the street from the Morris County Courthouse was suspiciously burnt down. The church is known for providing help to the homeless. Then, resembling the attacks against immigrant day-workers in Farmingville, NY, Morristown officials wanted to implement an "anti-loitering" law that would fine immigrant workers $500 for waiting for work on street corners. In Farmingville, two of these day-workers were viciously attacked and beaten by racists. Immigrant workers couldn't even play soccer in Morristown public parks! The recent murder of a Latino child, Walter Contreras Valenzuela, has united Morristown residents against racism even more so. Now the racist Nationalists are coming back to divide this community once again, protected by the cops.
The recent police killings in Cincinnati demonstrate that police terror and racism are intensifying. As conditions worsen for us workers, these arrests and terror campaigns become part of the bosses' fascist plan to subdue working-class anger against capitalism. After all, it's this profit system that exploits these immigrant workers, spreads racism to divide and weaken workers' fight-back against this exploitation and then -- under the guise of "free speech" -- protects Nazis like Barrett who serve the bosses by spreading capitalism's racist ideology.
The Progressive Labor Party opposes the rise of fascism by (1) actively leading campaigns in some of these cases to fight the arrests and court cases, fighting all criminal charges as they arise; and (2) fighting for a society run by the working class that outlaws bosses and their profits, eliminating racism, police terror and exploitation of workers. That's communism!
Many workers understand that neither the Democratic Party nor the Legislature has workers' best interests at heart. However, that doesn't mean that they understand that capitalism is the their enemy.
Some are cynical about what workers are willing to do. This only benefits the ruling class -- it keeps workers from being willing to unite and fight.
A lack of class-consciousness weakens workers' ability to struggle. One co-worker, exemplifying the feelings of many others, said, "We need to not get rough or angry, because we need to have the public on our side." This concept of a classless "public" is a losing one for government employees. Strike issues are class issues. We need to fight for what's good for the whole working class, not for some faceless "public" which mixes the bosses' interests with workers' interests.
The night before the strike some union members went to the SEIU office to make picket signs. When one member made a sign saying, "On Strike for Decent Healthcare," he was told not to use the word "strike," only "job action," as agreed to by the union coalition. Such ideas hold workers back from really fighting in their own interests. Ironically, the day of the strike hundreds of WFSE members -- SEIU's "coalition partners" -- were carrying pre-printed pickets signs with "On Strike" in big red letters.
We distributed about 150 PLP flyers calling for a general strike and explaining whom the law really serves. Too few CHALLENGES were sold, considering the size and nature of the crowd. We underestimated the potential to make contacts and get information to more people.
Class Struggle Cancels Classes
As we go to press, the graduate teaching assistants are on strike, fighting for their right to bargain with the University with a binding, enforceable union contract. We plan to raise our ideas among these workers and among students. The strike may go on for more than a few days. These struggles can become a training ground for revolution if we use the tools of dialectical materialism and spread CHALLENGE with that information. Building hand-to-hand CHALLENGE networks is job # 1 in the coming period.
Metro's wage system has created many contradictions for the union and the bosses. Young bus drivers make $11.31 per hour, while senior operators make $22.66 doing the same work. The last contract drove down starting wages so low, the bosses are having a tough time hiring and retaining drivers. Thousands of young, mainly black men and women drivers are looking for a raise to feed their families.
Meanwhile, the mostly white skilled workers want to widen the "skill" differential between themselves and the mostly black operators. Management will use this racism within the union to divide and weaken all Metro workers.
The underlying problem is the capitalist system of wage slavery. Even if we win a few demands, it will not significantly alter our lives. To keep moving forward, the Party and its revolutionary ideas must grow. One of our main goals is to expand the number of workers reading, distributing and writing for CHALLENGE.
A group of workers has been meeting informally to focus the struggle on wage progression, because it raises the issue of class solidarity and our concern for the next generation of workers and the future of our class.
Metro transit workers have a long and militant history. They have won some battles and lost others. As this struggle unfolds, many ideas about how to fight will emerge. There are thousands of young militant workers who are tired of being attacked by management. PLP will fight against racist wage progression and link this fight to the racist terror faced in every facet of life here in the capital of the U.S. imperialist butchers. But primarily in such struggles we can win many more to see the need to abolish wage slavery and fight for communism.
RCC is the State's only college serving an explicitly black, Latino and immigrant population. The State has allowed the Brown Administration's corrupt mismanagement to run RCC into the ground, including worn, ill-kept school buildings with no cafeteria, no librarians, poor quality tutorial programs and computer labs and under-funded academic programs. Because of inadequate training, RCC students don't get admissions priority into state-certified nursing programs. President Grace Brown and her administration have wasted millions of our tax dollars giving themselves big raises and perks and dealing out high-priced consulting contracts to their cronies instead of beefing up student services and academic programs.
Unrest against the RCC administration is exploding. Law suits and union grievances are being filed against Brown and her managers for using vindictiveness, threats and intimidation. Two weeks ago 100 students demonstrated against Brown and Provost Jones. Two days later an historic meeting of all three RCC unions discussed the racist education foisted on students and the need to dump the Brown administration. The following day at graduation almost the entire faculty wore stickers saying, "Tenure for Quality Faculty" and gave out fliers to students and their families explaining the reasons for the protest.
The State aims to reduce and privatize public education at every level. Ten years ago it cut the community college budget by one-third. It also let each of the 15 colleges negotiate individually with the State Legislature for funds. In 1997, they required each college to assess its own "effectiveness," preparing for the elimination of "failing" schools. Now it will compare and assess the community colleges according to "measurable outcomes" and then deal with "failing" community colleges the way it's dealt with 12 "failing" elementary schools: eliminate some outright and "restructure" others into training academies for low-level workers.
Although these may be politically risky racist attacks on the Northeast's only historically black college, the ruling class is clearly determined to "solve" its economic crisis by cutting back public education as it did the welfare system. They will step up attempts to intimidate, terrorize and divide us with every kind of racism and sharpening fascism. Students, campus workers and faculty are beginning to understand these developments and to respond militantly; they're increasingly open to class struggle.
PLP is right in the middle of this struggle to beat back the bosses' attacks on RCC. Through CHALLENGE, PLP leaflets and our direct participation, we will fight to win RCC'ers to see we're not just confronting a collection of corrupt and racist stooges, but also a concerted attack on the working class by the capitalist class. In this battle students, workers and faculty can become involved with PLP and together we can learn how to fight capitalism and be won to comunist revolution.
Under capitalism unions negotiate the terms and conditions under which workers are exploited. Class struggle reflects the need for workers to fight back against their exploitation. Union reformers say with honest leaders we could live well under capitalism. On the other hand, communists have long understood that unions can be schools for communism. Involvement in the class struggle enables communists to unmask the capitalist system and its henchmen.
The audit reveals that AFSCME's DC 37 is a corrupt business union. It exists mainly as a cash cow to be milked by the bureaucrats who run it. It offers little pretense of organizing workers to fight the bosses. Because workers do want to fight back, the bosses need to create a facade of "honest reformers." They want workers to rely on the federal government apparatus (as the national Teamsters union has done), or on the international union leaders (as is happening in the NYC Transport Workers Union Local 100) or on the local District Attorney's office as in the DC 37 investigation.
A facade, however, is all they want. As the recently ratified DC 37 contract shows, a trustee installed to replace corrupt officials can sell out workers more effectively than can the overt thieves. Indeed, Mark Rosenthal, one of the leaders of the reform movement in DC 37, praised the negotiating process as being "open."
The audit details how: (1) in a four-year period starting in 1995, $18 million in assets were stolen and squandered; (2) a five-year contract providing for a two-year wage freeze and allowing slave labor Workfare was passed via massive vote fraud; and (3) the leadership of DC 37 used corrupt practices to keep themselves in power.
Since 1998, AFSCME's national leadership put DC 37 and two of its biggest locals (1549 and 372) in receivership. The presidents of these two locals, Diop and Hughes, have each been convicted of stealing over $2 million. Half of the Council leadership has either pleaded guilty, been convicted or is under indictment. At the June 2000 AFSCME convention, President Gerald McEntee declared that "DC 37 is back." This was widely understood to be a threat against anyone who would fight against the pro-McEntee old guard rather than indicating DC 37 would fight for the working class. The fact is, the International commissioned the audit to convince workers that the union no longer has any corrupt officials. However, McEntee's "DC-37-is-back" catchword revealed its true meaning when one of McEntee's International Vice-Presidents and Secretary of DC 37 Helen Green, Local 758's President, was indicted just last month.
PE is trying to cut labor costs by changing work rules and increasing workers' health cost payments. They want to eliminate two-man crews to one, attack seniority and contract out more work.
The bosses made their "final offer" and broke off contract talks. On May 31, about 500 workers picketed PE headquarters in a show of unity. The morale of the strikers is good and their willingness to fight is strong. But the SEIU and AFL-CIO leadership does not seem to share their enthusiasm.
One of the statewide AFL-CIO leaders said, "You are not alone. One million union members are behind you." But if she collected one dollar from each of its one million members, the strikers' health insurance would be paid for the duration of the strike. Another fat cat talked about "unity," meaning strikers should shut up and stop complaining about being kept in the dark.
Even Jesse Jackson has gotten into the act, hosting strike-support "rallies" and showing up on the picket line. But give the Devil his due. Jackson has organized the only protest movement against utility shutoffs. If a ban on shutoffs became a workers' demand, it would greatly strengthen the strike.
We plan to get Party members and friends out to the picket lines to introduce more strikers to CHALLENGE, and to raise money from our local unions to send to the strikers.
During the past "Holy Week," eight women and children died crossing the freezing mountains of California. More than 1,600 have died since 1995, when Clinton's Operation Gatekeeper began using an unscalable fence with increased military control at the U.S.-Mexican border, forcing workers to seek death-risking alternatives.
There is sharpening imperialist competition between the U.S., Europe and Asia for markets, resources and cheap labor. As this rivalry sharpens, and the crisis of overproduction deepens, more workers are forced to immigrate anywhere they can to sell their labor. While Operation Gatekeeper is the immediate cause of these deaths, the underlying killer is capitalist exploitation. These same U.S. bosses are responsible for killing hundreds of thousands in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and millions throughout Latin America.
The bosses are fighting over immigration policy. President Bush sent condolences to Mexico's President Fox over the 14 deaths. The U.S. State Department and the Mexican Foreign Minister issued a joint communiqué about, "...the urgent need...[for] a new agreement on immigration and security at the border." (LA Times, 5/25) Bush and others want to re-establish the bracero ("guest worker") program, where Mexican workers would temporarily work in the fields in the U.S. They would be rented slaves at the mercy of the bosses, not allowed to bring their families or fight for their rights.
The New York Times (5/29) ran a front-page article praising immigrant workers as beneficial to the U.S. economy and their families in Mexico. The liberal New York Times first praised, but now criticizes Operation Gatekeeper. The Democratic Party and AFL-CIO call for legalizing more immigrants and modifying Operation Gatekeeper. They want to fill the depleted ranks of the Army with immigrant workers to defend the Exxon-Mobil empire. This is the "best" capitalism can do.
Hundreds of garment workers, janitors and others here are angry over these border deaths. Workers shouldn't have illusions. Politicians like LA mayoral candidate Villaraigosa, are the most dangerous because they pose as friends of the workers. In fact, the bosses cannot rule without Latino and black politicians!
We need to build a new communist society, where there are no borders and we produce for the benefit of our class. The best way to avenge the deaths of millions is to build PLP in the factories, schools and unions. Smash All Borders! Workers of the World, Unite!
The Mexican consul in Toronto, Manuel Uribe, defended the bosses, saying the "guest worker" program had many advantages. After the bosses fired 19 strikers, the consul -- who intervened to break the strike -- said the firings were "a misunderstanding...questions of language." These workers were then flown back to Mexico, with the cost of the tickets deducted from their pay.
The bracero program between Canada and Mexico goes back 27 years and employs some 10,000 workers. "They promise us $7.10 per hour, but with deductions, including the unemployment insurance which doesn't cover us, they pay us only $4.20 per hour," charged Juan López. Another worker declared that, "Fox [president of Mexico] only came to Quebec to sell more slaves to Canada."
Workers' struggles have no borders, one more reason to fight for a communist society without bosses.
David Horowitz, the fascist author on a speaking tour to promote his racist ad, was invited to the University of California-Santa Barbara by the Future Fascists of America (aka, the Young Republicans). After reading about him being run off the Berkley campus, I decided to help protest his speaking engagement. To my dismay only a brave few showed up. Our group rallied together and entered the hall with the hope that our jeering alone might be able to throw Horowitz off guard.
We attacked him after comments like "Blacks in America should never be paid reparations" and "Black problems are not America's problems." We yelled at him with great energy amidst threats from the crowd full of the bosses' minions. One comment in particular by Horowitz really set our group on fire. Horowitz, apparently taking liberties because of the number of fascists like himself in the crowd, voiced support for the mass murder Bob Kerry had committed in Vietnam. We quickly fashioned a KKKlan hat out of paper and attempted to place it on Horowitz's head. After a struggle we were kicked out.
We didn't give up, however, and decided to call some friends including a couple of local black fraternities to help stop this racist piece of dung from talking on campus. Within 20 minutes we had about 30 protestors, including many African-American students. We marched back into the lecture hall and stood in the aisle to the dismay of the fascist. This apparently made Horowitz very nervous because he started to stutter and sweat and drink lots of water. Making more noise now, we were eventually driven out by the university cops but with our heads high. I invite every student to battle this fascist if and when he comes to your school!
Between organizing for May Day and the above action, CHALLENGE sales are moving ahead. Some people are stopping by my house every issue to pick them up. I will be starting a reader-discussion group in the fall.
The economic growth of the late '80s and early 1990s was based on the super-exploitation and extreme oppression of the working class which accelerated after the bloody 1973 Nixon-Kissinger-AT&T-organized coup by General Pinochet. Within three years of the coup workers' real wages fell 35% below the 1970 level. By 1983 they had dropped 86.7% below the 1970 level.
When the leftist Allende became President in 1970, Chile's poor numbered one million. By 1992 seven million were living below the poverty level (today's population is about 15 million). By 1987, Chile's ruling class junked the Pinochet regime, not because of its attacks on workers, but rather because its policies were harming the entire capitalist class, while benefiting only his family and a few of his allies.
The return of bourgeois democracy in the second half of the 1980s didn't change much for most workers. Now, under socialist President Lagos, the extreme exploitation imposed by capitalist wage slavery has accelerated. Unemployment has reached double digits (the official figure is 9%).
But where there is oppression inevitably there is rebellion. Lately we have seen:
* Mass protests by the Mapuche indigenous people against the racist discrimination they have long suffered, worsening in the last few years.
* Two weeks of protests by high school students last month, fighting street battles with the cops in Santiago and other cities, demanding reduction of the cost of a school transportation pass and rescinding of massive school cutbacks.
* College students demonstrating against government "reforms" which will increase the cost of entering college.
* Rebellions by inmates against rotten prison conditions (30 prisoners have died in these rebellions).
* A larger-than-usual turnout by workers and others to the May Day marches throughout the country. This is a response to the intensifying exploitation of the working class imposed by the bosses and their "socialist" government.
Unfortunately, all these protests have resulted only in "dialogues" with the authorities, solving nothing. The reformist leadership of these struggles uses them to gain advantages in the coming elections. Whether workers and their allies follow the official slogan of "Growth with Equality and Social Justice" or the right-wing opposition call for "changes" or the reformist/left call for "growth for all," it leads to the same dead end road of preserving capitalist exploitation.
The government is trying to change its image. Under the new slogan of "Think Positive," it is trying to make us believe that all its reforms in health care, education, work, etc. will make the system work for us. But capitalism can never be reformed permanently -- the socialist rulers know that very well. They just approved $2.3 billion for Pinochet's Armed Forces. Their idea of fighting poverty is to fight poor people. Indeed, social-democrats (reformists) are the best friends fascists have.
As the bosses prepare a circus in December to elect new hacks to Congress here, PLP will again issue its leaflet "Voting: the Big Con," calling on workers not to vote or vote blank, and to join us in building a revolutionary communist movement as the only way out of the constant exploitation capitalism requires.
Ollman's main goal is to convince the reader that capitalism has long outlived whatever usefulness it once had, and that Marxism is necessary for both understanding capitalism and replacing it with a social system run by working people. In easy-to-read and lively language he explains how capitalism--with its bottom-line concern for maximizing profits--produces poverty, miserable jobs for some and none for others, wars, alienation and environmental destruction. Cartoons, photos, poems and songs all illuminate the excellent points of the text.
The author does a great job of introducing and explaining key Marxist concepts, such as class struggle, the labor theory of value, surplus value, alienation, how nationalist (patriotic) ideas help capitalism, the features of imperialism (what is popularly called globalization), how and why the government serves the interests of capitalism and the differences between socialism and communism. This makes it a valuable resource to use in PLP study groups with students and teachers.
But how does the book's test advice fit in? While giving students helpful tips on how to prepare for and take tests, Ollman also explains how exams are used to place students into slots A, B, C or F, and how they are used to prepare students to take their place within the capitalist order and to accept those places. His criticism of exams under capitalism is connected to his criticism of capitalist society itself.
This is a very enjoyable and insightful book but also has its weaknesses. It doesn't say enough about racism and sexism, and in spots puts forth liberalism, such as the possibility to vote out capitalism in a few countries.
Almost 100 years ago, Jack London wrote a book called The Iron Heel, explaining how the capitalists would resort to fascism rather than give up their wealth and power. History has proven London right.
Recently, Ollman gave a well-received talk at our school to about 20 students and four teachers. Now a half-dozen students and teachers are reading his book and we hope to have many more discussions of revolutionary Marxism and the need to overthrow capitalism.
Reviewed by NYC teacher
The last meeting covered the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The discussion posed the questions of whether free trade is good or bad and what are the effects on poorer countries vs. rich countries. Students' opinions teetered between Free Trade helping to lower wages and cut jobs to Free Trade mutually benefiting all participating countries. I said the FTAA is a form through which the U.S. imperialists try to keep other imperialist rivals out of the Americas.
A lot is at stake here for the bosses. "The planned Free Trade Area of the Americas could also turn the region into a powerful force in international economic diplomacy. With 800 million people, a third of the global economic output and more than a quarter of the total exports, it would be the world's largest trade grouping." (London Financial Times, 4/20) U.S. bosses want to reassert their dominance in the region over the European bosses' increasing influence (CHALLENGE, 4/25).
But Brazilian and Venezuelan rulers have both made it clear they will no longer crack to the U.S. whip. Peter Hokin, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, fears, "The country [Brazil] seems bent on establishing a second pole of power in the western hemisphere....Brazil's independence policy has put it at odds with the United States....Venezuela has refused U.S. planes permission to fly over its territory for counter-narcotics activities.
Among OPEC members, it has most strongly resisted U.S. appeals to increase oil production to ease pressure on prices. In August, Chavez [President of Venezuela] became the first head of state since the Persian Gulf War to disregard UN sanctions by visiting Saddam Hussein. And Chavez has consistently flaunted his friendship with Fidel Castro, recently agreeing to subsidize petroleum exports to Cuba. A direct clash with the U.S. may be brewing, particularly if the Venezuelan leader suffers political reversals at home and starts looking for scapegoats." (Foreign Affairs, March-April 2000 issue)
Essentially "Free Trade" determines which bosses get to control lush markets and cheap labor. The imperialists' profits do not wind up in the pockets of workers of any countries. Under NAFTA, "40% of so called U.S. exports are parts for assembly at low-wage, U.S.-owned plants which quickly return finished products to the United States for sale." (HoustonChronicle.com, 1/1/99) NAFTA cut jobs in the U.S. and lowered wages for Mexico's workers (which in turn lowered wages for US and all workers), all amid a bosses' economic boom. The U.S. bosses' pretense of making concessions to labor and environmental rights in the FTAA agreements always proves to be a mirage. Our class in every country can only answer the Free Trade attack by uniting to fight for communist revolution, not by allying with bosses in any nation.
Although ties between the youth group and the think-tank are strong, the latter has not won students or even some of the staff politically. The group develops leadership skills and multi-racial unity, giving students a feeling of activism, awareness, friendship and some academic guidance, but it fails to really analyze social, political and economic relations. Instead it delivers a misleading goal of liberal reform through vague ideas, games and role-playing.
However, one student raised the danger of trade wars leading to shooting wars. Other students took up that point. The youth group president tried to "clear it up" by falsely stating there was no war in Latin America! I later pointed out that the war in Colombia is very much linked to trade. The U.S. Plan Colombia, a $1.6 billion "aid" package, mainly purchases military hardware to reassert U.S. dominance in the Americas.
This contradiction between the liberal imperialist line and a communist analysis -- through the Party and Challenge -- provides an opportunity to introduce youth to PLP. These liberals actively recruit those students most interested in understanding how to change the world. It then offers them a ruling-class point of view, a little bit here, a little bit there but always under capitalism. Our Party strives for the revolutionary understanding and practice to change the world for the betterment of workers. I am trying to bring some young people around to PLP, to participate in that revolutionary change.
It is interesting how fast these defendants were tried and sentenced. Berrios and Sharpton got the heavier penalties, supposedly for prior convictions for political protests.
These verdicts must be seen as part of the growing fascism of the U.S. judicial system. On May 22, the Vieques Four were told their case would be tried the next day by a federal judge in Puerto Rico and were denied any delay. Then they were convicted in a one-day trial and jailed immediately for civil disobedience against the Navy's use of Vieques island as a bombing range.
This is a message to anyone involved in anti-imperialist political activities -- even if they are liberal politicians -- that protests against the bosses' plans for war and fascism won't be tolerated.
This shouldn't surprise workers and students. After all, the U.S. already has more people in prison than any other country in the world --two million. Seventy percent are black and Latin workers and youth, most jailed for non-violent offenses, and many framed. We shouldn't fear these attacks but should organize to continue the struggle against capitalism and for a society without bosses -- communism.
I've been involved in the Police Committee of PUEBLO (People United for a Better Oakland) where the question of reform, revolution and capitalism has become much sharper.
On May 22, we had a march of about 200 people from the main police station in downtown Oakland to City Hall, to protest the racist murder of a young black man, Jamil Muuwakil, by the cops. For several years, Oakland has had a Civilian Police Review Board which channels the anger of workers away from the ruling class. At most, guilty cops receive a "slap on the hands." This board was set up largely in response to the militancy of the Black Panthers and Oakland's working class.
I agree with CHALLENGE that the police were established to protect the interests of capitalism's ruling class, and operates in a racist, fascist manner. But I have also seen a few "good cops," those willing to stand up for principle. What about police reform? Is it possible to organize within the police? What did the Bolsheviks do? What should be our strategy in mass organizations like PUEBLO?
Keep up the good work in CHALLENGE.
CHALLENGE comment: Your question is a common one. Some say there are just a few rotten apples in the barrel, others that the few rotten apples make all cops look bad. But that's really not the point. There may be a few cops who really believe their job is to fight crime, like Serpico (a NYPD cop shot at by fellow cops because he refused to go along with taking bribes from criminals). But the fact is the primary function of all police departments is to protect the bosses' criminal attacks on the working class, not to fight "crime." It's almost like saying there were a few decent Gestapo cops; it didn't really matter.
Then someone involved with the Connecticut nursing home strike pointed out that those workers were in the same union and fighting the same kind of battles as were the Philadelphia hospital workers. This led to several of the latter detailing the many horrible aspects of their jobs. One young woman said she and her co-workers were very likely exposed to an agent causing Parkinson's Disease! Not only is the hospital denying everything but the workers are being harassed daily for revealing what happened.
After this, someone suggested it would be a good idea for the Philadelphia hospital workers to write a letter of support to Connecticut strikers. Again some reluctance, but someone started writing some things down and asked the Philly workers to help. Very soon, several people were busily engaged in composing a letter. Following this, two people who had felt that they couldn't speak at the march, said they would. Both overcame any remaining fears and spoke.
When the Connecticut marcher delivered the letter to the striking nursing home workers, it was a huge success. The workers were elated to learn that other workers were supporting them.
So what seemed to be a "dead end" at one point in our bus ride quickly mushroomed into a significant event. People discovered they really could do things they initially thought they couldn't. Out of this the fight against both bosses in Philadelphia and those in Connecticut was greatly advanced. Workers have taught themselves some very good lessons in how to do it.
A Pennsylvania May Day Marcher
At one time in the nineteenth century, virtually all union constitutions and by-laws contained an explicit call for eventual socialism as a goal. This was true whether for a trade or craft union, whether run by militants or moderates.
Eventually, though, because of corrupt sweetheart deals and sellouts, the principle of socialism was abandoned.
Practically, what this meant was that, without socialism as a goal, capitalism was implicitly accepted as the permanent reality. So the logic of the workers' need for a strike was always tempered by a simple argument by business: "We're broke. If we give you more money, we can't survive"--and survival of business, with no alternative presented by union leadership, was primary. That is, there's a limit to what a union can ask for and still maintain capitalism.
We've all seen in recent years that business and the rich are doing great--at the cost of wages, here and abroad. Autoworkers and others gave back benefits in order to keep their jobs in this country. But those jobs are almost all gone and former autoworkers now have to compete with their children for McDonalds wages.
To fault only the SAG and the Writers Guild is to ignore the true enemy, capitalism itself. With the exception of militant locals, all unions enter bargaining crippled by the assumption that the rich and the poor have common goals. They don't and never did.
Graduation. It's supposed to be a time of celebration. For me it is a time to tell the truth and anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist history. Eighth grade graduation is a time to go on to high school. As we were getting ready for our end of the year field trip, everyone had noticed my shirt except the teachers. I had gone to Cincinnati for the police brutality march. I purchased the "Danger - Police In Area" T-shirt. My friends and other students liked this shirt.
As the school day ended around 2:00 p.m., the eighth grade class went to graduation practice. Finally a teacher noticed my shirt, but did not do anything until after practice. My homeroom teacher asked to see the front of my shirt. Then she asked to see the back of it. She said, "Don't wear your political ideas, which are mixed up anyway." Then I said, "No, my political ideas are not mixed up." When we get in the hallway she tells the class to go ahead and for me to wait. Then she starts telling me, "Why are you wearing something that is not true?" Then I said, "Oh. So ten innocent black men who are shot just because they are black is not true?" Then she says, "Oh that stuff just happens." Then, when I am going up the stairs I say, "No, that's called racism."
An ailing comrade needs a kidney transplant. Anyone interested in being a possible donor, please contact PLP at