In the first place, holding one's own in the present period is no small accomplishment for our Party. We live in a time when every major process that would favor revolutionary growth has been significantly retarded. These are the lingering negative effects of the collapse of the old communist movement. We're fighting a long uphill battle.
The old movement's demise generated new contradictions and continued the relative supremacy of U.S. imperialism. At present, U.S. imperialists remain in the driver's seat. While they face serious internal problems and challenges on every front, we must understand their present strength, in order to evaluate our efforts and make proper estimates.
The U.S. economy remains dominant despite the "business cycle" and the ongoing problems of overproduction. Even though the long boom has ended and a recession may well be under way, this doesn't necessarily mean imminent economic crisis for U.S. capitalists. The bosses have the potential to recover from a recession, even a severe one. As long as they hold state power, their system will continue, no matter how severe their economic downturns. Only communist revolution can topple capitalism.
The supremacy of U.S. information technology has brought about a number of significant changes in the economy, which for the time being, are not in our favor. One is the rise of a new "aristocracy of labor," to use a term coined by the great revolutionary communist, Vladimir Lenin.
As Lenin pointed out, "Certain strata of the working class (the bureaucracy of the labor movement and the labor aristocracy)" get "a fraction of the profits from the exploitation of the colonies and from the privileged position of their `fatherlands' in the world market." The imperialists' ability to throw some crumbs to these workers spreads tremendous illusions, not only among those who get the crumbs but among the rest of the working class as well.
In the period following World War II, the U.S. "labor aristocracy" consisted, among others, of building trades and aerospace workers, tool and dye makers, printers, railroad operating crafts, etc. Their position of relative privilege made them a convenient buffer protecting the big bosses from the more viciously exploited sections of workers. Many bought into racism and backed the war of genocide in Vietnam.
The face of this "labor aristocracy" is now changing, as an economic result of the boom in information technology (see box). The rulers enjoy a free hand to create this new division in the working class largely thanks to the complete capitulation of the union leaders who, over the past 25 years, have dropped all pretense of leading class struggle and now openly back a capitalist/fascist agenda.
Business spending for information technology now accounts for 7% of the entire U.S. economy (New York Times, 4/28). This translates into hundreds of billions of dollars. To cushion themselves against the potential militancy of other workers, the rulers bribe this new "aristocracy." For example, in greater New York City, which leads the U.S. in the creation of these jobs, the average salary for new media positions is $80,010, more than double the citywide average for all industries excluding the securities sector.
An economy that can continue to create hundreds of thousands of jobs such as these isn't likely to collapse any time soon. U.S. world domination may continue for a good number of years. However, an economy heavily influenced by war production and by the need to protect U.S. imperialism's worldwide supremacy confronts the rulers with additional contradictions, which will sharpen over time.
Our job remains the same regardless of the difficult objective conditions we face. Even under the toughest of circumstances, we can grow. We can steel ourselves both ideologically and in practice. Our recent experiences in Washington, D.C. Metro, in the fight against fascism and state terror in Morristown, N.J., in the Cincinnati anti-racist rebellion, the Harvard sit-in, and elsewhere prove that we can play an important role under any and all conditions. Workers, soldiers, students and others will seriously consider a communist analysis and respect the efforts of dedicated communists.
The current relative privilege of the new "labor aristocracy" will not last forever. The low level of class struggle will turn into its opposite. The work we do now will enable us to grow more dramatically when the system inevitably enters a crisis. Even some of the "labor aristocracy" will eventually become open to our ideas.
If, for the foreseeable future, hard work yields modest results, so be it. We have a crucial role to play, on every front and among every section of the workers. A lifetime commitment to serve the working class and fighting for communist revolution remains the best choice anyone can make.
Machine operators, on the other hand, fell from 7,744,000 to 7,386,000.
From 1980 to 1999, jobs in manufacturing as a whole dropped from 21,942,000 to 20,070,000, while employment in services jumped from 28,752,000 to 48,687,000.
Most of these service jobs pay poorly. And production workers are suffering both pay cuts through tiered wage systems and elimination. But among an important sector of skilled workers, the rulers are fostering a false identity of "professional" or "manager." Now everybody's a manager or professional. The glorified clerk who denies people services at an HMO is now a "health services manager.
The Abstract foresees the largest job growth in computer systems analysts, which it predicts will double by 2008. Systems analysts today earn more than $100,000 a year.
Naturally there's a racist aspect to the transformation of the labor aristocracy. Black workers hold 15.5% of the jobs in the declining machine operator sector but only 7.4% in the growing systems analyst category. Black workers constitute 11.3% of the workforce.
* Out of work but not looking in previous four weeks -- 5.2 million.
* Holding part-time jobs because cannot find full-time work -- 3.4 million (the government counts workers "employed" if they work one hour a week)
* Officially unemployed -- 6.2 million
* Total -- 14.8 million (or 10%, more than double the "official" rate).
However, that's not the whole story. There are 2 million in federal, state or local jails. Of those approximately two-thirds are non-violent offenders (mostly drug possession) who in most countries would not be in prison at all (rehab, community service, fines). At least another 1.2 million of those in prison would most likely be jobless or, if hired, replace someone else who's working. (The French media says the U.S. "jails its unemployment problem.") Add that 1.2 million to the above 14.8 million, and the total jobless figure rises to 16 million. or 11.3%.
And how does one figure in the jobless who've joined the military because they can't find work (but are no longer counted as unemployed)? And what about the millions still on welfare who would be working if decent jobs and daycare were available (also not counted as unemployed)?
So the real unemployment total is nearly triple the 6.2 million reported. Figures don't lie but liars do figure....
At the same time, we should understand that unemployment is an integral part of the capitalist system. The bosses need a "reserve army of unemployed" to drive wages down. They try to hide this by not publicizing the true extent of joblessness. Meanwhile, they force hundreds of thousands of prisoners to work as slave laborers at a few cents an hour, creating another thriving profitable business from building more prisons to "house" them. Many sections of the capitalist cash in from this racket.
But so far U.S. capitalism has been able to handle the current number of unemployed, even creating new, still-lower-wage jobs. Their ability to continue to handle it depends partly on how much worse their crisis gets and partly on how fiercely the working class fights back. Communists in PLP can give leadership to that struggle, and more importantly, turn it into a "school for communism."
Politicians and church leaders were urging the anti-racist population of Morristown to stay home during a fascist rally July 4 honoring four racist killer cops. It's up to the working class of this whole area to not repeat the mistake made in Germany. PLP has confidence that workers, if not betrayed again, will make the right decision.
Hogan, Kenna, Roach, and Robertson are all guilty of shooting unarmed black people. If there were any justice in this racist system, these cops would have been executed or jailed long ago. The "Grand Marshal" for the Nationalists' Nazi rally is Steve Ucci. Ucci puts out flyers congratulating the cops for their murderous racism. Ucci used to work security at the Morris County Courthouse. This is the same courthouse where six anti-racists will be standing trial for fighting back against racism at last year's fascist rally.
Racism is rearing its ugly head here. There is frequent police harassment of immigrant day laborers. The same politicians telling people to stay away from the fascist rally were considering passing an ordinance to prevent day laborers from standing on the street! If the fascists' base of support grows in this city, we can expect stepped-up anti-immigrant, anti-black and anti-Latin racism.
Liberal politicians and clergy deplore the Nationalists' racism, but tell us that: (1) if we ignore the racists, they'll go away; and (2) the racists must be allowed to "speak their mind." Bot are deadly errors. Racism has a bloody 350-year history in the U.S.. It is deeply entrenched and has caused millions of deaths. These gutter racists are part of capitalism. The capitalist system needs racism to divide the working class, which helps bosses more easily make super-profits off the labor of immigrant, black and other more exploited workers.
Racism is on the rise nationally. It is the cutting edge of a developing U.S. police state. Rampant police terror is rarely, if ever, punished by the legal system. The U.S. has jailed 2,000,000, the largest prison population in the world, 70% black and Latin. Workfare, sanctions and time limits for welfare are ravaging countless households. A score of racist immigration laws is on the books and is being used to terrorize the immigrant population. In this political climate, open fascist scum like Ucci and Richard Barrett -- head of the fascist Nationalist scum -- feel safe to crawl out from under their rocks.
The majority of Morristown residents are against racism. But staying at home or going to the "other side of town" on the 4th will not make the fascists disappear. History's lesson is clear: whether it be the struggle against slavery, or the fight against fascism, racism must be confronted, fought and ultimately defeated. PLP will be in Morristown on July 4 again this year. The communist movement, and PLP in particular, has a long and proud history of anti-fascist struggle. Communist revolution will put an end to the bosses' racist system. Join us on July 4!
Black and Latin workers proudly raised clenched fists as we passed by chanting in English and Spanish, "The workers, united, will never be defeated!" Local politicians and clergy are attempting to intimidate and divert many residents into staying home on the Fourth.
We were asking all to demonstrate against these fascists. During the march many came out and said they would join the counter-demonstration against Richard Barrett's racist Nationalist Movement.
After we strode through the working-class Manahan Apartment Complex, we stepped out onto Speedwell Avenue to be greeted by many workers and honking car horns. Just as it began raining, our bus arrived to pick us up. The cops, who we had caught by surprise and hadn't arrived till the very end, were confused. They threatened to ticket our bus driver if he didn't leave and then threatened to arrest us because we had no permit. We chanted even louder. Workers and youth came to their windows and stepped out of nearby convenience stores to grab our leaflets.
We were scheduling many activities in the days before and on the Fourth to insure that our working-class brothers and sisters demonstrate against this racist filth. ALL OUT AGAINST THE FASCIST NATIONALIST MOVEMENT!
While he read a 3-hour speech, the anti-racists shouted him down. Nobody heard his racist filth. Earlier, two young anti-racists infiltrated the heavy police protection that Barrett received (350 cops from 36 municipalities) and tore down the flag of the racists and threw the flags into the street. They cut off the switches of his sound system, which never worked again, and kicked the speakers onto the floor, before they were arrested by the cops.
Barrett's rally was a total flop. Last year, he drew six racists, this year there was only him and two other fascists. The "march" around Morris County courthouse was just Barrett alone after his two supporters chickened out.
PLP is proud of playing a leading role in mobilizing workers and youth to show fascist scum like Barrett and his cop friends that it is not safe to be a gutter racist. More next time in CHALLENGE!
V&V Supremo makes cheese and sour cream for restaurants and supermarkets. They netted $71 million last year, stolen from the workers who earn as little as $5.65/hour. One worker with over 20 years seniority is making $8.00/hour. Workers pay for their own health insurance which doesn't cover their families. Many put in 50-70 hour weeks, and aren't paid the overtime.
The Villasenor brothers have hired professional strikebreakers to videotape every move the strikers make. But these cowards always remain safely out of reach. For what they're spending on strike-breaking, they could have signed a contract.
This strike exposes nationalism as a false allegiance. The Villasenor family (from Mexico) has grown rich off the super-exploitation of Mexican immigrant workers. A boss is a boss. PLP says that working people have no nation, that we should smash all borders! "Workers of the World, Unite!"
The Teamsters have not contributed one dollar to help sustain the striking workers. With tens of thousands of members in the Chicago area, and hundreds of millions of dollars, the Teamster leadership has left the strikers high and dry. In contrast, we are organizing strike support among postal and Cook County Hospital workers and will participate in a fund-raising dinner.
All workers should support the Supremo strike! Walk the picket lines. Donate money and food. But even a successful strike will not solve our problems. Just ask 1.5 million other Teamsters, steel workers and others threatened with plant closings.
As long as the bosses hold power, we will always be wage slaves fighting for p[ennies, facing racist police terror, anti-immigrant attacks, unemployment and endless wars. Whatever we win will always be taken back. That's why hundreds of electrical workers are on strike against ComEd and thousands of bus drivers are threatening to walk out. Capitalism is an endless struggle just to survive.
Only communist revolution will put our class in power and abolish wage slavery. We will produce what we need, not what makes the Supremo bosses rich. The striker is right; we must "take what is ours." This strike can help us learn how.
Here's the situation four years later (as reported in the NY Daily News, 7/1):
* The News tracked down nearly two dozen former Swingline workers and found no one who obtained a job through the city's assistance or knew of anyone who did;
* Those lucky enough to find jobs work for a lot less pay and get fewer benefit (no "better career and future" for them);
* Betty Garham, 55, at Swingline for 20 years at $13.50 an hour, survives on disability benefits from ailments contracted at Swingline;
* Laurine Gibbons, 61, got her G.E.D. but hasn't found work since;
* Julie Edge, 55, earned $14 an hour after 33 years at Swingline, saw her unemployment checks end in April and is still hunting for work ("I'm trying to find a job before I spend all my savings");
* Many Swingline workers "called their two years of federally-funded classes or job training [remember NAFTA's big promise?] a waste, saying it did little to help them compete for new jobs."
When the bosses, under Clinton, instituted NAFTA, Swingline was the first outfit here to shut down under that pact. Its purpose was to make it "easier for companies to move even further away in their quest to cut costs." In Nogales, Mexico, Swingline pays workers a dollar an hour.
Republican Giuliani, Democrat Clinton & Co. all serve capitalism. Capitalists will grind down workers as low as they can in their drive for maximum profits. Contrary to most union leaders who blame workers in other countries for exploitation here, communists fight for the slogan "Workers of the World, Unite" to abolish wage slavery with communist revolution.
While there is a building boom of dozens of luxury high rises in the capital city of Santo Domingo, for most of the people capitalism's economic crisis is making life even more miserable. The rulers are incapable of providing electricity and other basic services to most of the population. This is leading workers and their allies to mass protests, which can be turned into a school for communism. The system doesn't serve the working class. It must be smashed. Production must be organized for the needs of workers instead of the profits of local and imperialist bosses.
The rulers are privatizing public enterprises. The previous government of President Leonel Fernández and the Liberation Party (PLD) gave the electric company to Union Fenosa of Spain, saying the government could no longer afford to "subsidize" public utilities due to rising oil prices.
Last year, social-democratic landlord Hipolito Mejia (PRD party) became the new President. He promised to "revise" the deal with Union Fenosa. He increased its subsidy while they blacked out working-class neighborhoods up to 14 hours a day.
We must convert the growing anger and militancy into winning many workers and others to our Party. We must participate in all the struggles to show that the system cannot be reformed and must be smashed with communist revolution.
We discussed factory conditions, how to build the Party and how to use CHALLENGE as an organizer against the bosses. A group of Haitian comrades also participated. Local bosses are planning to set up free trade shops in Haiti and at the border (Haiti and Dominican Rep. share the same island). Plans were made to coordinate our organizing efforts,
and create a Workers' Forum to unite free trade zone workers and win them to PLP. We're planning a PLP meeting in Haiti with workers from both sides of the border. Since May Day, several workers have joined the Party. This is the best way to take the offensive against our exploiters.
Mass anger was fueled by these cuts occurring simultaneously with billions being spent on Plan Colombia (the U.S. scheme to finance the government's war against the guerrillas). The cops brutally attacked protestors, armed with sticks, trying to storm the Parliament building, injuring many, including school children. The protestors fought back against the rulers' fascist goons.
Unfortunately, these militant workers and youth were misled by hacks from the unions of teachers and of health care workers. These traitors try to channel the anger of the masses into the dead-end electoral circus, pushing their respective candidates.
The PLP group here participated in all these protests, distributing our literature and agitating with our revolutionary chants and speeches. A comrade gave several talks in schools, exposing to parents, teachers and students the capitalist essence of the little learning they do receive. This education emphasizes the system's class divisions needed to keep reaping profits from workers' labor and building illusions in their system. The comrade said that under communism, education will serve workers' needs and the understanding of society will be based on dialectical and historical materialism. Communism will use the experiences of the history of humanity to build a new society without wage slavery, imperialist war or death squads.
"I can't guarantee the minimum," said the boss. "If in a week you make $100, even though you work 40 hours, I can't just give you $150 to make the minimum wage."
"Well, you'll have to or we're all leaving because the prices are too low to make even the pitiful minimum wage," declared another worker.
Finally the boss reluctantly agreed to guarantee the minimum wage every week.
Since this new factory opened, the bosses said they wouldn't guarantee the minimum. No matter how many hours we worked, they'd only pay us what we made by the piece. They gave one operator $50 for 2_ days. The boss is robbing virtually everything we workers produce -- that's his profit.
The competition among garment bosses for maximum profits drives them to pay the lowest possible wage, lowering the prices paid per piece. It's so low that even workers with 15 or 20 years experience who put in 40 hours don't make the minimum wage. Workers feel pressure to speed up, and even feel guilty for not producing enough to feed their families. Then the bosses say they're "victimized" by these workers, as if they're "giving away" money!
Three partners own this factory, one white, one Arab and a Latino, all focused on reaping maximum profits. We exposed their lie of "not making enough to pay the minimum wage." We declared that our labor produces the value the boss gets from selling the clothes. That's why many workers were ready to strike.
This small victory excited many of our fellow workers. But some workers are worried. This factory is expanding and some workers fear that as more workers are hired, we'll lose the unity we gained in this struggle. But we've said we can take advantage of this, making friends with the new workers and winning them to unite and fight the bosses.
One striker said she's ready to help organize a union. We're fighting to organize a factory struggle committee. We'll combine plans to fight back with plans to expose the bosses' drive for maximum profits as being the source of our problems. We will also increase CHALLENGE circulation.
This is a good beginning on a long road of struggles, getting to know each other better and distributing CHALLENGE, our crucial weapon against the profit-driven bosses.
Conditions in capitalist schools and neighborhoods teach working-class students that society doesn't value them or their parents. It tells them the only way to have a decent life is to escape the working class. The curriculum justifies the capitalist system. ROTC openly recruits students to be cannon fodder in imperialist wars. No wonder students don't trust the schools that claim to be helping them.
When the working class holds state power, students will be liberated to learn without the alienation so prevalent in capitalism's schools. Students and their families will know that there are no bosses to exploit their labor, that the fruits of their labor go to the working class and that the more they learn the better they can help the whole society. Evidence? Successful literacy campaigns in the Soviet Union and China when they had workers' rule contrasted with the failure of UNESCO campaigns to replicate these results in poor countries which suffer capitalist oppression.
This implies that the politics of education are crucial. When teachers join with their students to change society while educating them, students see their education differently. They see that they can and must learn everything they need to understand the world and how to change it. In this struggle, the relationship between teacher and student becomes one of comrades, each learning from the other.
PLP teachers at the NEA convention have fought for a resolution declaring that all students can learn. The resolution emphasizes the role of racist ideology in justifying class oppression and winning teachers to the racist and anti-working class notion that our students "can't learn." We're also fighting for a resolution defending Joan Heymont, a NYC PLP member given an unsatisfactory rating for putting this into practice.
Our kids -- the children of wage slaves and the wage slaves of the future -- can and must learn all they need to know to liberate our class. Communist teachers are allying with our friends, like the ones in the Bilingual Education committee, to fight to teach, and to teach our children to fight for a communist future.
For example, in a recent ugly racial incident, a black transportation aide (escort) said a white nurse had called her a "black b----." The aide, a temporary worker, has no rights under the union contract, cannot be represented by the union and can be fired at any time. But our Party has been active here for many years, especially in anti-racist fights. The hospital bosses, well aware of what would happen if they denied the aide representation, gave in and allowed union representation for the aide.
However, the bosses refused to allow one of the more "political" union delegates to represent the aide because he's considered a "rabble-rouser." This "rabble-rouser" is the designated union delegate for the Transportation workers, but the hospital bosses demanded a union delegate from a completely different branch of the hospital.
Secret meetings were arranged with the aide to avoid involving the "political" delegate. No matter. The Party's years of activity and-building relationships with workers guaranteed we'd know everything that happened.
The nurse then claimed she didn't use the epithet towards the aide. Yet the nurse admitted she "might have said something," she just "couldn't remember" what. Had the nurse then told the aide, "If I said anything to offend you, I apologize," it would have cooled things and satisfied the aide who only wanted an apology. But no. The nurse refused to apologize. And to her credit, the aide -- who could have been fired at any time with no legal recourse -- refused to accept the situation. She, the escort workers and the "political rabble-rouser" continued a campaign for an apology, simply demanding that the bosses let the nurse and the aide meet themselves and talk it out. Plans were made with the escorts to respond if the aide was fired. Hospital bosses at the highest levels took over the case to cover it up. They even issued their own "apology" for the nurse!
"Why won't the nurse just apologize?" asked two transportation workers, one a regular CHALLENGE reader. "Why are the Nursing and Human Resources (HRD) bosses trying to keep this thing going?"
"To me it comes from the class system we live under," said the "rabble-rouser." "The capitalist class wants workers to accept the class system as some kind of "natural law" so we don't overthrow them. They impose their class system and racism on everything, even among the workers. We're supposed to believe that nurses are `better' than transportation aides, that white workers are `better' than black workers," he continued. "Fights between workers of different colors only benefit the bosses because it keeps us divided. The only hope I know of for a classless society without racism is communism."
So far there's still no apology. Last week an anonymous newsletter appeared in the locker rooms, with one article about the racial incident. Someone had written:
"Apparently the Nursing and HRD bosses are determined to keep these racial divisions going. Problems like this keep nurses and other workers divided when we need to unite to fight for more workers to provide for better patient care.
"We encourage the nurse and the transportation aide to sit down together and put this matter behind them. Keep the Nursing and HRD bosses out of it. Obviously they're only interested in making things worse.
But if the nurse is so racist that she won't apologize, we don't need her taking care of patients of any color or `race'!"
Our visit and many others helps both the Cuban government and U.S. imperialists. Recently David Rockefeller met with Fidel Castro in Havana, indicating the desire by the Eastern Establishment to invest in Cuba and exploit its workers and markets. This section of the U.S. bosses wants to compete with its European imperialist rivals who are far ahead of them, especially in the tourism industry. At our licensed bed and breakfast my hostess said her husband works for a joint oil-drilling venture between the Cuban government and the France's Total. "Esso is there, too," she added.
For some time the Cuban government has courted U.S. groups, and European groups, as one community leader said, "... to relate to black churches and civil rights groups, particularly in the southern U.S., and to attract solidarity [money and materials] from abroad." Trips like ours, and those sponsored by the "Pastors for Peace" movement -- to "know Cuba and show solidarity with the Cuban people" (thereby politically isolating the Miami exile Cubans) -- have been increasing since the Elián case.
Despite the managed, staged aspects of the trip, we learned a lot. The U.S. travelers had various anti-communist concepts, but also sincerely wanted to learn about socialism. In touring, light conversation -- tropical scenery, weather, the warmth of the Cuban people and the lure of the sun and salsa -- turned to deep political discussion.
"How do your teams work in developing young people with Downs syndrome?" asked a visitor to the Cuban director of the school. "Our teams include doctors, psychologists, social and physical therapists, teachers," he replied, "but also the families and the young people themselves. We nourish each other." "What's the relationship between the number of staff to Downs young people?" "Each team works with about 10. Here they're testing organic fertilizers and pest control."
I asked some taxi drivers about wages. "We are simple workers and receive 160 pesos a month," one replied. The top work category of professionals, engineers, doctors, etc., receive 800 pesos a month."
"What about factory workers?" "They work eight hours with a morning, afternoon and lunch break. They work hard, are simple workers, like us." (But with no dollar tips.)
"What do you think about a society without a money and wage system in which one can be both a factory worker and a doctor?" I asked. "Do you mean like in the U.S. where workers can work two jobs to earn more money? Here we can work only one job." "No," I said, "I mean a communist society where work would not be measured by wages and workers can do different kinds of work." "We never heard about that, but we'll think about it," one driver answered. "Are workers here politically conscious?" I continued. "Have you studied dialectical materialism?" "Well, we use to, but not now. We have a class society. It's gotten worse since the `special period' [the collapse of the Soviet Union] because the government is accommodating the imperialists." "So, you're politically conscious, " I replied.
"What's the difference between socialism and communism?" a U.S. traveler asked a Central Committee member. "Well, socialism is what we're after. It's real. Marxism-Leninism is a theory, a guide, how we study history." "Why are there only 500,000 members of the Communist Party in a country of 11 million?" asked another traveler. "We're a vanguard party..." Not very satisfying answers, leading to interesting discussion later.
"This experience is changing me deeply," a friend told me as we drank beer at a tourist marina in Havana, a marina illegally frequented by travelers in fancy yachts with both Cuban and U.S. flags (just 90 miles from Florida). Abundant contradictions, open and hidden.
The collapse of the socialist bloc has led to cynicism and discouraged workers and their allies. But far from being dead, the "socialist experience" is also leading to questions that can help rebuild a communist international movement: What will a communist system without wages look like? How will production and distribution for need work? How will the working class hold power under the dictatorship of the proletariat? How will a mass communist party function? How and why is politics primary over production? How will internationalist working-class solidarity function? How can the communist Party fight for political education of masses of workers?
The world's working class must face these questions. Now PLP's young workers and students in must take leadership in this ideological struggle.
Biologists have long known that all life resides in the cell. Each cell has the potential to react to changes in the environment and to reproduce. In fact they must change their functioning to survive ever-changing environments. The trillion cells that make up the human body rely on the contribution of each cell to maintain the life process in the face of changing environments.
In the human body, liver cells process foodstuffs, the cardiac cells pump blood, the red blood cells take oxygen to the other tissues. Each cell type contributes to the well being of the organism. So what do genes do?
In each cell there is a repository of information to make chains of amino acids, which are later processed into proteins by the cellular machinery. A good analogy of the gene is the cookbook. Say you want to make sweet potato pie. First you take the cookbook off the shelf and open it. Then you read off the ingredients. Then you measure out (process) the ingredients, mix the ingredients and then bake your pie. The cookbook would be the genes. The baker is the cell. Did the cookbook make the pie? Did it even know that you wanted a sweet potato pie? Does it know what happens to the pie once the ingredients are read off? No, and neither do genes.
In order for the code of the gene to be read, certain molecules must act on the DNA. Transcription factors (protein) must first bind to the DNA so that another molecule, RNA polymerase, can read off the code. Does the gene decide to make a certain protein? No, the cellular machinery sensing a changing environment needed a molecule to help the life process adjust to the changing environment. The cell produced or imported transcription factors that go to a specific portion of the DNA and read off the ingredients for making the protein the cell needs. The code is locked up until the cellular machinery decides to "look something up." Then and only then is the DNA molecule unwrapped (opened) to read off the code.
The bosses' scientists want to convince us that genes have a mind of their own. They tell us that genes determine the ultimate outcome of our lives. But the cell is the functional unit of life, using all of its components to maintain the life process. DNA is just one component necessary to carry out the life process.
Genes do not control the events of the cell. Cellular machinery positioned between the DNA and the environment controls the genes' output. When a certain gene needs to be expressed, the cellular machinery activates that portion of the DNA containing the gene. The genes themselves don't decide to express themselves. "Nature vs. nurture," is a false argument. The environment, inside and outside the organism interacts with the environment of the cell. The life process adjusts itself by adjusting the production of cellular components. Sometimes these adjustments require the readout of the genes and sometimes not. The collective activities of trillions of cells in our body determine which strategies allow survival. Much of this is recorded in the genes and replayed when the cells require it.
But what about "I look just like my Dad?" The result of processing the genetic information results in similar organisms. If you follow the recipe for sweet potato pie, you get a similar, but not exactly the same pie every time. If you bake the pie at different temperatures, the results will vary. The cookbook has no control over what happens after you read off the ingredients. The cookbook doesn't decide whether to make sweet potato pie or chop suey.
Even if human cloning was successful, the outcome could not be the exact copy. "Cellular noise" causes the gene readout to vary each time. Each individual has its own microenvironment that influences every aspect of our existence. Even identical twins have noticeable physical differences when their genetic material is identical. No two fingerprints are the same.
The human collective can move mountains and drain seas. Genes control none of these behaviors, whether basketball or math skills. The environment created by humans can produce wars or plenty. Under capitalism wars are inevitable. Under worldwide communism the potential of humankind can be realized.
2. Men frozen in ice and then allowed to thaw among naked warm bodies of women to discover the best way to re-warm frozen pilots.
3. Human beings, without their knowledge, inoculated with anthrax, plague, cholera and scores of other diseases, and then killed by injections of poison.
4. Hundreds of thousands of human beings vaporized by nuclear weapons.
5. Hundreds of thousands of human beings incinerated by fire bombs.
6. Thousands of human beings set afire by jellied gasoline.
7. Hundreds of thousands of children's legs blown off by hidden explosives.
8. Human beings subjected to radioactive gases released into the atmosphere to determine how well they survive and how far away the radiation will drift.
9. Human beings injected with radioactive substances to observe body responses.
10. Miners secretly exposed to radioactive radon to test their survival.
11. Bacteria released into subway vents to discover how many people get sick.
12. LSD secretly given to people, causing mental illness to see if it's possible to control people's minds.
13. Hundreds of black men deliberately untreated for syphilis to identify the effects on them.
All this occurred within the last 75 years. Which were acts of war against soldiers and which against civilians? Which were experiments? Which countries committed which acts of war, and in which countries were each of the experiments performed?
None were acts of war against soldiers. Numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 were acts of war against civilians. All the others were experiments.
The first two were committed by Nazi Germany, the third by Imperial Japan during World War II. The U.S. government committed numbers 4 through 13. Only the last, the so-called Tuskegee experiment, is common knowledge; the rest have been closely guarded military secrets until recently.
Jonathan Moreno, the author of Undue Risk, published last year, was a member of former President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, organized in 1995. He had official access to tremendous amounts of recently declassified information about experiments performed over the last 75 years on human subjects. He views the U.S. Government's need to protect its military troops and citizens from foreign attack as overriding the need to protect human subjects. Such "reasoning" justifies virtually any experimentation.
Moreno completely ignores why the U.S. enters these wars. Using circular reasoning, based on the U.S. government's supposed superior morality, he presents all U.S. wars as "defensive." But, U.S. capitalism's imperialist needs drive the U.S. into all its wars. Working-class soldiers re used as the battering ram. There is no "informed consent" by working-class U.S. soldiers for being used in imperialist war to secure the profits of U.S. corporations.
The same U.S. Atomic Energy Commission responsible for the secret radiation experiments on U.S. citizens listed above sponsored the genocidal experiments against the Yanomami Indians of Brazil and Venezuela. (See CHALLENGE, April 11.)
Despite Moreno's unquestioning defense of the U.S. government and military, this book is still useful as an antidote to a common and dangerous illusion: many think there are limits to the horrors the U.S. government and military will inflict on workers in the U.S., let alone on workers abroad. This book demonstrates there is no experiment too horrendous for U.S. rulers to carry out -- as long as they can keep it secret.
These experiments show that capitalism is itself a weapon of mass destruction and murder, constantly warring on the working class. This list of horrors once again confirms why the working class desperately needs communism, under which these war criminals will be executed.
I also wore the sign when I received my degree at my dorm. None of the administrative types said anything, except for the Housemaster who congratulated me. After the ceremony, a Harvard graduate (who was there to see his sister graduate) thanked me for what I did.
The Red Graduate
Trotskyite groups are always portraying themselves as "the real left." They attack groups like PLP as "Stalinist," implying they're not really revolutionary. Well, the worldwide history of Trotskyism has always reflected anti-communism and a willingness to serve a particular group of capitalists. The Jospin situation just confirms this.
Apparently Pierre Lambert (the top OCI leader) trained young Jospin to be a "mole" (secreting one's self in a mass reformist party like the Socialist Party of France - PSF). Jospin was a student in an elite French college and had leftist ideas. Lambert prepared him for his job in the Socialist Party. PSF's deceased leader, Francois Mitterrand, took Jospin under his wing (along with some other Trotskyite moles) and trained them to lead the PSF and the French government.
Mitterrand, in his youth, collaborated for a while with the Nazis occupying France. Then as Interior Minister of France - controlling all police and internal security forces - he oversaw French Army terrorism during Algeria's war of independence and helped prepare the way for the massacre of hundreds of North African immigrants during a Paris protest in October 1961. This is the same Mitterrand who believed Trotskyites could become worthy cadres for French imperialism, the same Mitterand who, as a presidential candidate, offered a full pardon to the fascist Secret Army Organization general Salan in exchange for Salan's political support. Now most of the leadership of the Socialist Party and the French government are probably moles. But political observers have often noted the obvious, stating, "What's the difference; they're all right-wing social-democrats."
The lesson for workers and students fighting for revolutionary politics: groups who serve imperialism cannot, by definition, be revolutionaries.
Hopefully, this qualitative step will shortly lead to a quantitative and qualitative step. Because my comrades have energized Party activity in the soup kitchen so well, other church members, including the pastor, are more open to participating in Party-led mass work -- particularly in organizing for one of our more significant anti-fascist activities in years.
The comrades, two black working-class women, fully understand the danger posed every day by inner-city police and the fascist forces. Based on the support these comrades have built within the church, I was able to get the church board to unanimously pass a resolution supporting the comrades and friends facing felony charges. They also voted to fund a bus to take protestors to this summer's militant event. The church's 300-person mailing list was made available to build the struggle.
The new quality that may well develop now is, of course, more Party recruits and more struggle. The church leaders and the City's politicians are becoming aware of all this activity. Attacks on us will follow, sooner or later. But with tighter ties of political friendship and sharper ideological struggle (and teaching dialectics) the Party will continue to grow!
Two, Three, Many Red Churchmice
What I liked most about May Day: Well, when I first heard about the bus rides I really wasn't interested. I was just going for the ride. But continuing to go, I started paying attention to what was going on. I liked how every one joined together to try to put an end to violence, police brutality, poisoning kids and this really must stop. But we need more people to get together as one.
I also liked the chants. My favorite one was, "Bush, Bush you dirty liar; we'll set your ass on fire!" I also liked how a lot of young ones attended the last May Day. I'm looking forward to many more May Day marches. Communists, PLP, keep up the good work. Continue going to the march!
A new PLP member
The film, Dr. Bethune, is a dramatized biography of Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor who became famous during the late 1930's for serving as a surgeon for the 8th Route Army of the Chinese Communist Party, which was then fighting the Japanese fascist occupiers. His story is fascinating and has many lessons for students and others.
Bethune came from a wealthy family and became a prominent surgeon during the 1920's. He could have made lots of money treating rich patients. Instead, he chose to work in clinics for the poor and advocate socialized medicine. Although concerned for working people, Bethune was then a liberal reformer, unwilling to challenge the capitalist society that created rich and poor in the first place.
In the 1930's Bethune was radicalized by the Great Depression, rising fascism, the growth of the communist movement and a 1935 trip to the Soviet Union, whose health care system greatly impressed him. He was very interested in curing tuberculosis caused by the government-perpetrated foul environment in poor working-class areas. The Soviets had reduced the incidence of TB more than 50%. All these factors convinced Bethune to become a communist and use his medical knowledge in the battle against fascism. He went to Spain and treated soldiers wounded in the battles against Franco's fascist troops. His innovation of bringing blood transfusions to the fighting area saved thousands then and eventually millions.
Though he had advanced politically, Bethune continued to display serious personal weaknesses. He was a womanizer, often drank heavily and was sometimes arrogant and impatient. His experiences in China would change him. After his service in Spain, Bethune went to China where he revolutionized combat surgery by developing a mobile, battlefield hospital for treating wounded Red Army soldiers at the front, greatly improving their survival rate. While Chinese doctors learned from Bethune, he in turn began to learn from the Chinese communists' commitment to serving the people. He became less arrogant, less moody and more supportive of those he worked with. Even after contracting a disease that would kill him, he described his time in China as the happiest moments of his life.
Afterwards, students and teachers discussed whether it's possible for people to change, to become committed to fighting for communism and to become less selfish. Some agreed; others were doubtful. We hope to have more such discussions and to work together in the future.
Transit service that allows urban minority communities to go about their daily lives is under attack as commute and rush-hour services take up scarce resources. This compounds the economic attack on entry-level jobs available to younger workers. Capitalism constantly pushes down the standard of living of minority workers in order to lower the living standards of all workers.
We fought against wage progression in our contract last year, reducing the progression to 18 months by June, 2003. Of far greater significance, transit workers in Washington, D.C. Metro read about our struggle in CHALLENGE. PLP members at Metro then organized to make this demand real. One union negotiator told management that workers would not accept anything less than the 18-month wage progression won in San Francisco.
Our contract gave the youngest workers approximately a 10.6% raise and offered full-time jobs to those who wanted it. Other drivers received 5.6%. Young and old at MUNI saw this contract as a fight for the future, for new workers and for the children of the working class. Fighting for equality is a powerful force. CHALLENGE is full of examples of how workers worldwide are motivated by this ideology of fighting for the future and for equality of their class. Even with all of this, we recognize the limits of unions under capitalism. Contract improvements do little more than spell out the terms of our exploitation or modify the constant use of racist wage differentials. CHALLENGE and PLP put us on the offensive. We fight the problems of capitalism and its institutional racism. But we understand the need for a mass communist party to lead the revolutionary movement to remove capitalism if working people are to have real equality.
Bay Area MUNI Transit Workers