CHALLENGE, September 5, 2001

To Our Readers: This issue of CHALLENGE skips a week. Our next issue will go to press Sept. 5

Editorial: Capitalism + Layoffs: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Workers Drown in Bosses’ Profits Bloodbath

Clinton Moves to Harlem…There Goes the Neighborhood

Building PLP Crucial in D.C. Metro Contract Fight

Drunken Killer Cop Wields Car As Assassin’s Bullet

When it comes to death squads, Coke Is the Real Thing

PLP’ers Are Anti-Racist Force At ‘No-Sweats’ Conference

The ‘Amnesty’ of the Cemetery

Bush’s Bracero Plan

Communist Teachers Challenge ‘Culture Of Poverty’ Racism

Newark ‘Zero Tolerance’ Fraud Is Violent Attack on Students

U.S. Iraqi Policy Flops, So It’s Bomb, Bomb Bomb . . .

New World (Dis)Order Hits Israel-Palestine

‘Peace’ in Ireland Tied to U.S. War Plans

Hospital Workers Nix Bosses’ Patient (No)Care Policy

Serve The People To Break The Chains


Garment Workers Figure it Out

Capitalism ‘Steels’ Jobs

Circuses Without Bread . . .

Thoughts on PLP’s Racism Pamphlet

OOPS! – Editorial correction

Capitalism + Layoffs: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Is this the best or worst of times? There appears to be a contradiction. On the one hand, millions of workers are living from paycheck to paycheck. Millions more are jobless, with dim prospects of getting another job. Over 43 million are without any health insurance.

At the same time, amid mass layoffs 442,000 new jobs were created in July. Many of these new jobs pay far less than the old ones. Job reduction and job creation are taking place side by side.

The ruling class uses the "up" side of this contradiction to push the illusion that "anyone can make it," especially in the high-tech sector. The existence of a relatively small but highly skilled, higher paid (but still exploited) labor aristocracy helps them maintain this fiction. This small higher-paid section also serves as a buffer between the rulers and the rest of the working class.

In a world of economic crises, U.S. bosses dominate their imperialist rivals. This gives them maneuverability and maintains the illusion of the "American Dream." The reality is poverty, mass unemployment, racism and imperialist wars. By patiently spreading communist ideas and action among workers and youth, in the shops, communities, military and schools, we can begin to tear down the illusions spread by the bosses. Red leadership can build workers’ unity and class-consciousness. Patient work and a long-term outlook must be linked to a sense of urgency.

Unemployment Outpaces Government Figures

Over 1.1 million workers were laid off by mid-July, double the job cuts for ALL of last year. These layoffs include the service sector, which accounts for four of every five jobs. Temporary jobholders, formerly the fastest growing section of the labor force, are now the fastest growing section of the unemployed. Job placement agencies report the biggest decline in ten years, with "the worst yet to come." (Reuters, 7/29) Many are accepting jobs at lower wages with little or no benefits. The burden of this downturn falls most heavily on black and Latin workers, victims of centuries of racism and capitalist oppression.

However, the government’s statistics lie about the extent of this job downturn. With a 42% increase in workers collecting jobless benefits, "unemployment is rising much more rapidly than…shown in…federal surveys and estimates." (N.Y. Post, 7/31) One economist told the Post that the unemployment figure of 4.5% should really be 5.2%. And if "discouraged" workers who have given up looking for jobs were counted, unemployment would more than double to nearly 10%.

These figures don’t include those working part-time, who want full-time jobs but can’t find them (According to the government, those who work one hour a week are counted as "employed"). They also don’t include those in the military because they can’t find jobs, those in prison for non-violent offenses who in virtually any other country would not be jailed, and those on welfare who would seek jobs if they had daycare for their children. That’s at least 16 million unemployed, not the six million reported by the government.

A ‘Flexible’ Capitalism Means Profits Galore

"Wall Street loves layoffs that promise to raise profits by reducing labor costs." (NY Times, 8/5) Through the increased use of temporary and contract workers, and the cooperation of the AFL-CIO union leaders, the bosses developed a "just-in-time" workforce. Hire when needed, fire when not. This accounts for between 12% and 20% of the manpower needs of corporate America and allows the bosses to lay off in one area while hiring in another. This has given U.S. bosses a temporary edge on their competitors.

The ability of the working class to organize against rising unemployment is hampered by the new labor aristocracy. Flush with company stocks and filled with illusions of becoming millionaires, these high-tech workers "understand" the bosses’ need to lay them off because of declining profits (which also makes their stocks worthless). Blinded by extreme individualism, they do not look to a collective organization at the workplace.

These new features in the U.S. economy, the demise of the Soviet Union and U.S. imperialism’s dominant position in the world, give the rulers a cushion. So do the nationalist union leaders. Devoted to US imperialism and the Democratic Party (see Clinton editorial), they put the brakes on any serious fight back.

But every capitalist "solution" brings them more problems. Capitalism cannot provide a decent life for billions of workers. Inevitably, imperialist crises will lead to sending working class youth to kill and die in wars to make Iraq, Colombia, the Balkans, etc. safe for U.S. bosses.

We are on a long march to take power away from our exploiters. Objective conditions will change. Capitalism will not fall by itself. The experiences reported in CHALLENGE prove that we can win workers to fight to overthrow the inequality and exploitation of wage slavery. What we do now will lay the basis for the communist future so desperately needed by the workers of the world.

Workers Drown in Bosses’ Profits Bloodbath

Today, the bosses moan about "overcapacity" in virtually every industry. The auto bosses, already facing declining profits and market share, are worried about a flood of returned leased cars adding their unsold inventory.

Overcapacity comes alongside lower profit rates. Business Week (BW) called 2nd quarter U.S. corporate earnings a "bloodbath," as 900 companies on their corporate scorecard suffered a 52% drop in profits compared to a year ago. Profit margins fell from 7.2% last year to 3.2%, the largest quarterly decline ever.

The bosses try to "solve" their problems by attacking workers even more. They wiped out 350,000 jobs in the 2nd quarter, and increased the productivity of those still working, producing more with fewer workers.

By exposing such contradictions we can win workers to understand why capitalism inevitably must enrich the bosses at the expense of the world’s workers.

Clinton Moves to Harlem…There Goes the Neighborhood

Bill Clinton opened his Harlem offices and received a warm welcome from the media, bosses, preachers and politicians. He got an especially warm welcome from local real estate moguls who want to usher in gentrification and run working-class families out of Harlem. Unfortunately, he was also welcomed by thousands of black and Latin workers and youth. Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and Harlem communist leader Ben Davis must be spinning in their graves.

This is a reflection of the deadly illusions that characterize this difficult period and undermine the fight to smash racism with communist revolution. These illusions were fostered in part by the "booming" economy. The rise of a highly-paid layer of telecom and computer tech workers fed the illusion that the profit system can work for everyone. With the collapse of the old communist movement and no current mortal threat to the rulers, millions are at the mercy of the snake oil salesmen like Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and AFL-CIO honcho John Sweeney.

The Clinton Years

Clinton arrived in NYC after he and Senator Hillary tried to stuff everything that wasn’t nailed down into the White House moving van. Then he tried to move high above Carnegie Hall for about $800,000 a month. He figured he deserved it after "ending welfare as we know it" and saving the government billions off the backs of black, Latin and white working class women and children. But the Clinton-bashers would have none of it. So the ultimate politician made the ultimate political move.

Remarkably, Clinton has maintained a very high level of popularity despite one of the most racist, murderous reigns of terror. On his watch, U.S. sanctions on Iraq, and hundreds of bombing missions killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, mainly the elderly and the young. He added 100,000 racist killer cops while Abner Louima was being tortured in a Brooklyn station house and Bronx undercover cops fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo. Scores of black and Latin workers and youth were killed by racist cops, thousands were victimized by racial profiling and the prison population doubled to over two million (two-thirds black and Latin), the highest prison population in the world!

He ended welfare, forcing millions into low-paying jobs with no health insurance, and thousands more into slave labor "Workfare" jobs. Operation Gatekeeper at the U.S./Mexico border more than doubled the racist border patrol. More than 1,500 died and more than one million were arrested trying to cross the border on Clinton’s watch. So how does he maintain his popularity?

Billionaire’s Dogfight

During the Clinton regime, the ruling class was locked in a fierce internal struggle. More openly racist upstart billionaires, centered on the domestic oil industry, launched a struggle for control of the Republican Party and the Congress. Openly racist and pro-fascist politicians like Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich led them. The battle flag of the 1994 "Republican Revolution" was the "Contract On America."

They unleashed a ruthless attack on Clinton (who was an easy target) that ultimately led to his impeachment. When Hillary announced "a vast rightwing conspiracy," the union and civil rights leaders fell in line. Sweeney, Jackson and others rallied to his defense and used their influence to line up workers and youth behind him. He became the most popular "lesser evil" since mass murderer Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in 1964 (a forerunner of the current dogfight).

Black columnist Les Payne wrote in New York Newsday (8/5), "What separates Clinton from his predecessor presidents and the one who has followed is that…he connects with African Americans…Despite his resulting inability to do them much good, African Americans appreciate him all the more for his willingness to try."

That is the deadly illusion. And because workers were suckered into believing he was "willing to try," he was able to get away with murder. This makes him more dangerous than Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes. The liberals are the most dangerous. Clinton implemented the most right-wing social policies of anyone in recent history. Just beneath his charm and grin are bulging pockets and bloody hands.

To defeat these illusions and expose the liberals will take a combination of sharper class struggle, fighting for PLP’s outlook, deeper involvement in the mass movement and stronger personal/political ties. There are no shortcuts. Using CHALLENGE, and making it the property of many more, is vital to this process.

Building PLP Crucial in D.C. Metro Contract Fight

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 10 — Anger is growing among members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 as DC Metro management continues to drag its feet on contract negotiations. At the August union meeting several workers spoke about the need for greater militancy, and for striking, to win the union’s demands.

Ridership had increased dramatically over the last year, generating more than $28 million in additional revenue. This windfall comes from drivers carrying more people per trip. The union is insisting this money be used to end the wage progression system, which has created a large inequality in wages resulting in divisions within the union.

Management’s response is to warn workers strikes are illegal and to probe the leadership for weakness. Despite all their posturing, management fears a walkout. Defeating a strike of 6,500 workers is no easy task.

Preparing for a strike means: (1) Struggling by all Metro CHALLENGE readers with our co-workers about the need for a strike. No one should take it for granted that workers have a clear understanding of this; (2) Turning out thousands for the next union meeting, so the whole union can express opinions on the issue and unite around a plan of action; (3) Increasing the CHALLENGE readership, the only way for Metro workers to understand the racist nature of the bosses’ attack and the need for communist revolution to solve the long term needs of the working class.

If we don’t fight back the bosses will attack us even harder. But we must also understand that any short-term advance that might be achieved will eventually be taken back. This is the reality of living under the bosses’ class dictatorship and will be true as long as they hold political power. The 1978 strike achieved full escalation of wages in the face of brutal inflation. But the rank-and-file strike leaders were unable to consolidate their position. The old leadership, working with management, soon regained control of the union and the concessions began. The one victory they can’t take back is workers joining the PLP and the long march for communist revolution.

The growth of PLP is the key, not just for the long haul, but also for fighting for what we need today. We should see these struggles as a school where we learn to fight united and learn from our mistakes and achievements to fight for a society where workers’ needs are the only ones which matter: that is communism.

Drunken Killer Cop Wields Car As Assassin’s Bullet

BROOKLYN, NY, August 7—An angry crowd of over 2,000 people marched last night to the 72nd precinct here demanding jail for cop Joseph Gray, who ran over and killed an entire family of four. Gray had left work the night before but never went home, spending most of the next 12 hours drinking, starting in the precinct’s parking lot with other cops. He ended up in the Wild, Wild West strip joint (supposedly "off-limits" for cops). Sleepless and in a virtual drunken stupor, Gray then used his car as a weapon, driving through a red light and running over a 24-year old pregnant Dominican woman, her sister and her 4-year-old son, killing them all, including the unborn baby.

Instead of keeping him in jail, a judge set the killer cop free without any bail. According to the judge, being a cop is a "guarantee" he won’t run away — a privilege workers don’t have.

The demonstrators gathered at the scene of the crash at 46th St. and 3rd Ave. and then marched to Gray’s 72nd precinct chanting, "We Want justice." The march became a vigil but there were some scuffles. A cop and a photographer were hit by bottles.

"This community is fed up with the culture of the NYPD," declared one demonstrator. "Is it fair that he killed four Dominicans like garbage and they let him go the next day like he did nothing?" said a cousin of Maria Herrera, the dead pregnant woman.

Recently the cops and the pro-police daily newspapers have been complaining that they’re quitting the NYPD in droves because of "low pay" and because they’re disliked, particularly by black and Latin workers. The cops want more money to protect and serve the bosses. Yet even though they’re as brutal and racist as the bosses want them to be, the rulers need some kind of "community support" for their fascist goons, and drunken killers like Gray don’t help that cause. Even racist Mayor Giuliani, one of the most pro-cop mayors in recent history, said the judge shouldn’t have freed the murdering cop without bail. To appease popular anger, another judge set bail at $250,000.

PLP members participating in the march sold 110 CHALLENGES. We now must bring the family’s demand that cop Gray be tried for murder to unions, churches and other mass organizations, while organizing around the idea that no amount of reform or trials for the cops will change their role as goons of a racist system.

When it comes to death squads,

Coke Is the Real Thing

Clinton is not the only rotten boss to come to Harlem to try to clean his image. Recently Coca Cola became one of the biggest commercial sponsors of the Apollo Theater, a cultural icon in Harlem. Since Coca Cola just settled a multi-million dollar suit, growing out of blatant discrimination against black employees, its bosses need to clean up their racist act.

Coke is more than racist; it murders union organizers. Last month, Coke and its Colombian subsidiary, Pan American Beverages, Inc. (its main bottler in Latin America), were cited in Miami for supporting death squads to murder trade union organizers. In the last 10 years, 4,500 trade unionists have been killed by fascist paramilitary groups in Colombia.

The government always says these groups are independent. Just the opposite — they work hand-in-glove with the bosses and their government.

In Carepa, Antioquia, Coca Cola boss Richard Kirby threatened to murder workers trying to organize a union in the local bottling plant. A few days later, union organizer Isidoro S. Gil was murdered, followed by three more organizers.

Coca Cola bosses did the same in Guatemala. In 1996, Coca Cola workers there organized work stoppages against company attacks. Coke sued to collect $214,000 from the union for production losses. The union countersued. A judge ordered both parties to settle out of court and warned them to behave. Coke "behaved" in typical boss fashion: firing and suspending pro-union workers, while pushing a right-wing company union ("Solidarity"). Finally, in 1999 Coke was forced to sign a contract with the real union.

Before the ink dried, Coke was attacking again. It fired 10 unionized workers and stopped pro-union workers from entering the plant, while favoring those who joined "Solidarity."

Coke is indeed the "real thing" when it comes to murdering workers and busting unions.

PLP’ers Are Anti-Racist Force At ‘No-Sweats’ Conference

CHICAGO, IL, AUGUST 9 — Over 300 students attended the USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops) National Convention at Loyola University this past weekend. A dozen PLP members, black, Latin and white, participated. Most are already involved in "no-sweats," living-wage and anti-globalization groups at their colleges. Our goal was to fight racism within USAS, develop class-consciousness among students and build a base for communist revolution.

USAS gets money from the AFL-CIO and has strong links to the steelworker (USWA) and garment worker (UNITE!) unions.

USAS members campaign for better conditions in sweatshops and link anti-prison labor, living-wage and no-sweats groups. They help union organizing campaigns and struggle to get their universities to cancel contracts with garment sweatshops. For example, they sent students to Mexico to help an "independent" union (SITEKIM) organize workers at the Kukdong factory (the "independent" unions in Mexico are also funded by the pro-imperialist AFL-CIA).

The convention opened with a "Challenging White Supremacy" workshop. It set the tone for the rest of the conference. USAS pushes the "White Skin Privilege" theory, which says white workers benefit from racism, capitalism is a system of white supremacy and that white people must sacrifice their privilege to "support" people of color in "their" struggle. This racist theory led to having segregated workshops at the mainly white conference, and USAS has virtually no base at black and Latin working-class schools.

We attacked this theory, pointing out that racism is an attack on all workers, created and perpetuated by capitalism, and that fighting racism is everyone’s responsibility. As Karl Marx said, "The workers in the white skin will never be free as long as the ones in the black skin are in chains." For the next three days, we carried the fight against racism to workshops, meals and social activities and made many friends.

For example, at the "Setting Priorities for USAS" workshop, a PLP member noticed that not only was fighting racism not a priority, it wasn’t even mentioned. This sparked a discussion between him and several USAS members that continued and grew over dinner. The group found this discussion more important than the scheduled panel of speakers and moved to the lobby, where more than 30 students talked about fighting racism.

Consequently, an Anti-Racist Caucus was formed and made a 3-point proposal to the USAS Coordinating Committee: (1) Make anti-racism a central struggle in USAS; (2) Recognize the fundamental relationship between racism and capitalism; and (3) Eliminate segregated "identity caucuses."

The next day we planned to finalize the proposal and go to the segregated caucuses as an integrated group. However, the USAS leadership was set on silencing us and changed the agenda. They used anti-communism to keep the proposal off the floor.

We struggled in our collective for the best way to get the proposal heard. We decided to break into two integrated groups and go to each caucus. The leadership of the "people of color" caucus didn’t welcome our integrated group. We were asked to leave because white people had entered their "safe space." One PL member stayed while the rest left, along with two black students who hadn’t come with us.

Despite mixed results in the "people of color" caucus, and despite some students being unsure we’d done the right thing, many responded well to our bold leadership on fighting racism. The USAS leadership was forced to concede and have an integrated "unity" caucus for all students after the segregated race caucuses. This was not in their original plan. Finally, at the conference’s closing session, we were allowed to read our anti-racist proposal.

We distributed nearly 100 CHALLENGES and made 50 contacts. We passed out several hundred leaflets on fighting racism, imperialism and the USWA’s nationalist "Stand Up for Steel" campaign. When the conference leaders changed the agenda, we were unable to have our scheduled steelworkers forum. We could have done better at linking the fight against racism with the fight against imperialism, and exposing the role of the universities.

This was a very valuable experience. Since then, we’ve been attacked constantly on the USAS web site. Even the fake-leftist Nation magazine saw a need to attack PLP. We take their racist lies and anti-communist attacks as a compliment. The fight for the political leadership of the emerging student movement is on.

The ‘Amnesty’ of the Cemetery

LOS ANGELES, CA. — "Who agrees to give up his children in exchange for amnesty?" asked a comrade in a garment workers’ study group. Though seemingly an unreal question, it sparked a very real discussion about the relation between the bosses’ plans for war and fascism and the amnesty debate. The bosses would allow some undocumented workers to gain amnesty (see box on Bush’s plan) to be able to draft their children into U.S. imperialist oil wars abroad.

U.S. bosses face a dilemma: what to do with the millions of undocumented workers who work here, the majority Mexican. These workers are a huge source of cheap labor and of cannon fodder for oil wars. The bosses want their loyalty. Meanwhile, they also need political stability in Mexico to safeguard their enormous investments there and to better answer the challenge from the European Union (EU) and other imperialist rivals to U.S. interests in Latin America. Being seen as openly racist toward Mexican workers allows their rivals to become "lesser evil" imperialists and gain "sympathy" among some workers there. This program might also serve as a safety valve for the powder keg created by the declining Mexican economy.

That’s why liberal U.S. bosses, represented by the Democratic Party, some Republicans, the AFL-CIO and the churches, are advocating amnesty for some immigrant workers. They also want the AFL-CIO to win Latin American workers to view the U.S. as "humanitarian." The AFL-CIO, which for decades accused immigrant workers of "stealing jobs" and lowering wages of citizens, now unites with the Mexican government to pressure Bush for an amnesty plan. That’s why Bush’s Attorney-General John Ashcroft and Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Canstaņeda.

"Immigrant workers are in every kind of job in the U.S. and they won’t leave," declared John Wilhelm, President of the Hotel Workers’ Union. (New York Times, 7/18) "We have to make immigrants see that we’re on their side." He said, "The AFL-CIO’s new position on immigration…[can] mak[e] workers think that fundamental reforms can be possible." Ironically last month, 550 janitors here in SEIU Local 1877 were fired for not having legal documentation. The leadership of this "militant" union refused to organize protests or denounce this as an attack on these and all workers.

When Jorge Castaņeda told the Hotel and Restaurant Workers international convention that immigrant workers’ "lack of legal status makes them vulnerable to the exploitation by employers who damage healthy competition," 400 union delegates gave him a standing ovation.

In January, Mexican President Fox met with AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, Teamster Union President James Hoffa and auto union President Stephen Yokich to discuss their support for the legalization plan. Fox and Castaņeda both represent an exploiting, murderous ruling class sending Mexican workers into deepening poverty. This forces them to leave Mexico to find a way to survive. Now the rulers portray themselves as "defenders" of immigrants! Neither these capitalists nor the liberals in the AFL-CIO are the workers’ friends.

But other bosses, who see immigrants exclusively as cheap labor, advocate only a "bracero" program, not amnesty. They’re not concerned with filling the army with immigrants’ children to defend U.S. interests overseas, nor with competing with the EU for the loyalty of Latin-American workers. But the Mexican government has insisted on a bracero/amnesty package deal.

While such plans may aggravate rising U.S. unemployment, the top bosses’ main interest is loyalty to U.S. imperialism by workers and soldiers and the illusion that the U.S. is "humanitarian." Communists must oppose these bosses’ "solutions" and show that immigrants and citizens are all workers with the same class interests fighting capitalist exploitation.

The bosses’ liberal lackeys will use this amnesty campaign to win the workers to nationalism and U.S. patriotism. But PLP can expose the real plan — the "amnesty of the cemetery" — the bosses are preparing. This lays the basis for winning workers to see the need to destroy capitalism and build a world without borders or exploitation and bosses’ wars.

As one garment workers told a comrade during a PLP Summer Project visit, "Even though I haven’t seen you for a while, and I don’t live in the same place, every week I go back there to collect the CHALLENGE you send me." This kind of loyalty to the Party and its ideas must be multiplied a thousand-fold.

Bush’s Bracero Plan

Enlarge the current small "bracero program" which provides temporary visas to farmworkers, to include "an expanded pool of new immigrants employed in service jobs like hotels and restaurants [who] could apply for temporary work permits with the possibility of earning permanent residency over time. [Secy. of State Powell] made it clear that some Mexicans living in this country illegally — those who have jobs, pay taxes and rear children who are American-born US citizens — would be included in an expanded temporary worker program." (New York Times, 8/10) These latter could also possibly qualify for legal residency over time.

Communist Teachers Challenge ‘Culture Of Poverty’ Racism

LOS ANGELES, August 14 — Ever since our struggle against racist ideology at the NEA convention, teachers in PLP have sharpened the fight against racism, taking it inside the anti-testing movement. Many in this movement see working-class students merely as victims. We see them as a potential revolutionary force. At the NEA convention here, we fought for a resolution opposing racist theories such as biologically-determined IQ and "culture of poverty" that justify the mis-education of the working-class. It says ALL working-class students can learn at a high level. This resolution was part of the fight against portraying students as victims, actually a form of liberal racism.

Many people in the anti-testing movement see themselves as advocates for black, Latino and working-class students. They would agree with Gary Orfield, co-director of Harvard’s Civil Rights Project, who found that U.S. schools grew more segregated in the 1990s: "These poorer schools…have more transient student bodies, fewer teachers qualified in their subject areas, parents lacking political power, more frequent health problems among students and lower test scores.…[E]fforts by the White House and Congress to toughen school accountability through annual testing [will] probably backfire, driving minority children in failing schools to repeat grades and eventually drop out." (NY Times, 7/20)

The movement we’re involved in fights for "Tests NO! Money for improved schools, Yes!" A dangerous, prevalent trend within this movement says that until the schools are improved, it isn’t possible to teach working-class students at a high level. This ideology not only infects the relatively few racist teachers who’ve given up on teaching altogether, but also liberal and militant reformers. But many working-class parents aren’t buying it. They expect their children to learn, and are unwilling to take excuses. Neither should we.

The following e-mail debate reflects the struggle within the anti-testing movement. One teacher, for example, said "None who consider themselves progressive would argue that African-American or Latino or Asian students are incapable of learning at a high level, given schools that meet the needs of kids coming from impoverished families. We do not have those schools… The tests are racist in intent because they do not take into account the inequality of the schools, or the fact that many kids speak English as a second language…We need the money to repair our schools, not tests to tell us what we already know, that our public school system has failed our kids. "

A PLP teacher responded, saying, "too many of us have allowed… institutional inequities to allow our expectations of student achievement to drift downward as we concentrate on fighting for (or despair of ever getting) the resources available to more affluent schools and students. That’s why the resolution on opposing racist theories was so important: because of the way a ‘culture of impoverished schools’ outlook leads us to think of our students as ‘victims’ instead of as achievers and fighters. I… believe that unequal education is a fundamental part of unequal (racist, exploitative) society and that a fully equal educational system will require …social revolution. A crucial part of making that revolution is to educate students as well, and on as high a level, as we possibly can, right now."

Another comrade added, "We can’t wait until we have proper conditions in the school because many working class students will never get them. Instead, we should learn the lessons of the literacy campaigns in Cuba, Russia, and China after their revolutions. They sent people out to teach reading to millions of others and they were successful." The young people there saw that what they were learning was crucial to building a new society. Ideology and motivation are more important than the material conditions of the schools.

We’re struggling within the anti-testing movement and the union to demand that racist ideology be fought. We must also teach the true history of racism, imperialism and class oppression. Racism is a deliberate mechanism to keep working people down and divided. Differences in achievement reflect systematic and deliberate racism and not innate biological inferiority, a "culture of poverty," or other racist lies invented to justify racist oppression and class rule.

When teachers, parents and students unite to fight against racism, imperialism and class oppression, students see their education as part of the fight to transform society. CHALLENGE is crucial in this process. As we use it to expose the racist lies claiming working-class students "can’t learn," then working-class youth — no longer victims — can become capitalism’s gravediggers.

Newark ‘Zero Tolerance’ Fraud Is Violent Attack on Students

NEWARK, NJ — "You’re criminalizing our students. Carrying a Swiss army knife is not a crime, but you’ve made it a crime," declared an angry parent to Newark’s school administrators at a June 19 meeting of the Newark School District Advisory Board. Parents from University High School (UHS) were challenging the effects of the Board’s "zero tolerance for violence" policy on students.

Several years ago Newark’s state-operated school district installed metal detectors in all high schools. Then Newark’s Board implemented a "zero tolerance" policy for drugs, weapons and violence. The policy sounded great to many parents, teachers and students who believed the media-created myth that our schools have become dangerous places to be. Who would argue that we should "tolerate" drugs, weapons and violence? But its implications are dangerous for the working class.

This past spring a UHS student came to school with a Swiss army knife in her pocket. She had put it there the night before when out with some friends after her father told her to carry something with her in case of trouble. The next day when she went through the metal detector, it went off. She immediately handed the knife to the security guard, explaining that she had simply forgotten to take it out of her pocket before coming to school. The security guard said she’d keep the knife until the end of the day and sent the student to class.

Later the student was called to the principal’s office. Knowing the student had accidentally brought the knife to school, the principal still called the cops. They handcuffed her and charged her with "possession of a dangerous weapon." The student was taken to juvenile detention and given a pregnancy/drug/STD test without her guardian’s permission. When her family called to bring her home, they were told she’d have to stay overnight because all the judges were away at a conference. She was then suspended from school for two weeks!

Shortly before this incident the Newark School District announced plans to install surveillance cameras in every Newark high school, claiming they would "prevent violence." There was lots of support for the idea, especially among teachers. But some UHS parents saw these cameras as part of a larger plan to criminalize the student population and get them to accept a more fascist atmosphere in their schools. They discussed it with other parents, students and teachers. A position paper opposing the cameras was distributed in the UHS Parent Teacher Student Organization.

Earlier in the spring, two eight-year old black students in Irvington, NJ, had been arrested and charged with "making terrorist threats" because they folded pieces of paper into the shape of guns and pointed them at each other in their classroom. Then one was arrested. Some parents who had been on the fence on the issue decided to voice their concerns at the Newark Board meeting. Now the struggle against "zero tolerance" will continue this fall.

The liberal section of the ruling class is pushing "zero tolerance" big time. They have lots of school psychologists, administrators, teachers and others convinced it’s needed.

Although "zero tolerance" exists in school districts throughout the country, its enforcement is racist to the core. With metal detectors, cameras and cops in the schools, working-class students are learning how it feels to be in prison.

Under capitalism, violence is a class question. Workers must never fall for the lie that the bosses, their police and their courts will "protect" us. The bottom line is that the rulers hold power at the point of a gun. Their system does violence to workers constantly through racism, sexism, mass layoffs, drug addiction, etc.

"Zero tolerance" and other liberal-backed policies are thinly-veiled building blocks for fascism in the schools. Communists must organize parents, teachers and students to resist this fascist menace, to see who’s really behind violence in this society and to fight for a system that does not turn its children into criminals.

U.S. Iraqi Policy Flops, So It’s Bomb, Bomb Bomb . . .

The week of August 6, U.S. and British warplanes conducted their heaviest bombing raids in six months over Iraq. The lame excuse for this stepped-up terror was Iraqi anti-aircraft’s near success in shooting down a U.S. spy plane. The real reason lies in an attempt by the Bush White House to continue its sabre-rattling against Saddam Hussein while at the same time scrambling to change its failed sanctions policy.

As CHALLENGE has reported, the sanctions have been a dismal flop. Iraqi oil is back on the market, with Exxon Mobil its biggest customer. Saddam Hussein still wields power. Exxon Mobil’s Russian and French energy rivals have managed to isolate the U.S. politically over Iraq policy.

The current fighting between Israelis and Palestinians further limits U.S. rulers’ maneuverability against Iraq because any increase in U.S. terror against an Arab country risks provoking mass outrage against U.S. imperialism throughout the Arab world. So the Bush White House is falling back on a tactic tried many times during the Clinton years: when in doubt, bomb. When in bigger doubt, bomb more.

Not really knowing what they can get away with, the Bush gang seems to be keeping open the two options the big bosses have been debating for some time. Forces around Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz appear to be arguing for a combination of heavier bombing and expanded support for a U.S. puppet government in Iraq that would somehow overthrow Saddam. Liberals in the Brookings Institution recognize the futility of trying to settle strategic issues from the air and also know that the so-called Iraqi "opposition" has no political or mass base and therefore no chance of success. The liberals, whose lead spokesman is the former chief of the UN weapons inspection team, Scott Ritter, want to build support for a ground invasion using "human rights" as a pretext. The liberals know this requires time to prepare. If the Arab-Israeli fighting ties the U.S.’s hands too much, both factions of the imperialists may be forced to back off temporarily. The recent bombing buys time, but it also tests the firmness of the U.S.’s Gulf allies.

Thomas Ricks, a military journalist with high-level Pentagon ties, sees the latest bombing as part of a plan to launch a series of deadlier bombing raids: "Some Pentagon officials contend that relatively limited strikes such as [those on August 7, —Ed.] are necessary … to make it easier to conduct larger bombing campaigns…. They contend that it is necessary every two years or so to bomb factories at which Hussein is suspected of building long-range missiles and developing chemical and biological weapons. The periodic raids against Iraqi air defenses keep the door open so the larger raids can attack weapons facilities directly, rather than first going after antiaircraft sites, which could give the Iraqi military time to move key gear from the weapons factories, the officials say." (Washington Post, 8/8)

Regardless of who wins in the present tactical squabble among U.S. rulers, the result will be a widening of the oil wars U.S. imperialism must continue to fight in order to stay on top. Workers must be organized to oppose everything the bosses do in this regard. It is particularly important to expose and smash the liberals’ plans to commit mass murder for Exxon Mobil et al., under a "humanitarian" cover.

New World (Dis)Order Hits Israel-Palestine

It was the beginning of the 1990s, the old Soviet Union was imploding and the U.S.-led imperialist alliance was "defeating" Saddam Hussein’s army in Desert Storm. Bush Sr. proclaimed his New World Order, based on "Pax Americana," to guarantee the U.S. control of Middle East oil wealth. Arafat, who sided with Saddam Hussein, was forced to sign the Oslo "peace" deal with Israel. Well, as the old saying goes, when the bosses talk peace, better get your helmet.

The Oslo accord led to the assassination of Israel’s leader Rabin, just as the Camp David accord many years before led to the assassination of Egypt’s ruler Anwar Sadat by Islamic fundamentalists.

Today, Israel’s Sharon has basically declared war on Arafat’s Palestinian Authority because Arafat cannot control the Hamas fundamentalist forces. If the Israeli army invades Palestinian territory, thousands more will be killed and all the contradictions will sharpen, with no end in sight to the conflict.

This doesn’t bode well for U.S. bosses’ interests in the region. Apparently Bush Jr.’s government cannot impose its political will on its most important client in the region, Israel. The latter could conceivably launch a pre-emptive attack against Iraq to force the U.S. to back the Israeli side even more forcefully in its fight with the Palestinians. But this would in the long run just further isolate the U.S. and could lead to the overthrow of its main ally in the Arab world, the Saudi ruling family.

All this fighting reveals capitalism’s basic nature: competition and the rivalry for maximum profit always leading to war.

‘Peace’ in Ireland Tied to U.S. War Plans

Thirty-six hundred people, mostly working-class, have died in three decades of fighting between Irish nationalists and their pro-British foes. Now troubled "peace" talks, stemming from a U.S.-brokered accord, are taking place in Belfast. Both sides hesitate to fulfill their promises: the Irish Republican Army to lay down its arms, the unionists to give Catholics greater representation in Northern Ireland’s government. But the conflict has global dimensions, rooted in the U.S. rulers’ strategic requirements, going far beyond the local turf war between Catholics and Protestants. No matter how negotiations turn out, Ireland’s conflict will remain.

Geography makes Ireland crucial to the U.S. rulers’ long-term survival as imperialists. The island flanks Britain, which Washington needs to project military force onto the European continent. The Pentagon’s governing strategy, outlined in the early 1990’s by Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary, gives highest priority to countering the rise of a rival superpower in Europe or Asia. The potential threat in Europe would come from a coalition of Russia with Germany or France or both. The U.S. cannot afford to have Britain hemmed in by a pro-European Ireland to the west and a hostile France to the south. U.S. policy, therefore, calls for continued British control of Northern Ireland. A Boston Globe editorial (8/4) proclaimed, "The IRA cannot...force the British Army or the Unionist people out of Northern Ireland."

Gerry Adams leads Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political arm. After a series of meetings with Clinton and Ted Kennedy throughout the 1990s, Adams announced that his party no longer sought an immediate end to British rule in Ulster. Clinton sent George Mitchell to Belfast to help hammer out the Good Friday agreement, which guarantees British rule of the North. Under it the British will leave only by a vote of the majority, highly unlikely in the heavily Protestant province. The Associated Press reported that Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the leading U.S. imperialist think-tank, credited Mitchell for "using the power of the United States" to broker the deal.

But a paramilitary faction called the "Real IRA" hopes to force the British out with terrorism. Washington’s tactic here is to manipulate the terrorists, covertly supporting their atrocities, which are then used against them. A recent bombing in London by the IRA sparked calls for more British police and soldiers in Northern Ireland. Last May, David Rupert, a top Real IRA leader in charge of acquiring arms, was exposed as an FBI informant from Chicago. In the 1980s, Whitey Bulger, a Massachusetts gangster collaborating with the FBI, arranged a gun shipment from Boston to Ireland that was seized by Irish authorities. The U.S. is not alone. The Real IRA is becoming the pawn of both imperialist camps. The Guardian (4/5) reports the family of Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Serb leader and Russian ally, has been shipping arms to the Real IRA through Croatia and Germany.

The U.S. also wields tremendous influence in the independent Republic of Ireland, where it accounts for 70% of foreign investment. And Washington has made great efforts lately to improve its strategic position there. In 1999, under U.S. pressure, Ireland became a "Partner for Peace" with NATO, virtually a junior member. Ireland now provides troops to the U.S.-led NATO mission in the Balkans and will conduct joint war games. Another victory for U.S. grand strategy came in June when Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice, which provided for enlarging the European Union and building a European "Rapid Reaction Force" entirely free of NATO control.

In Dublin, U.S. rulers claim to be enhancing the nation’s "security." In Belfast, they’re fostering "peace." But to capitalists, these words mean consolidating one’s position and preparing for the next war.

Hospital Workers Nix Bosses’ Patient (No)Care Policy

SEATTLE—"I don’t care if they keep that letter in my file forever: I will never agree to that!" retorted a University of Washington (UW) worker with 19 years seniority. Human Resources had offered to remove a letter of discipline from her file if she would agree never again to strike, support a work stoppage or slowdown, etc.

As CHALLENGE reported previously, the UW administration gave letters of discipline to about 70 workers in the Medical Center who participated in a one-day strike. Although the Strike Committee was ready to respond quickly, the union leadership dragged its feet, finally agreeing to ask rank-and-filers to distribute petitions of support.

In little more than two weeks, over 1,000 staff, faculty and students signed them.

About 35 of us surprised the Medical Center CEO at her office with the petitions. She was frightened, totally taken aback, responding to us by saying not to take it "personally," that it’s only about a job. One union member asked, "Who does she think fills that position? Platonian essence [not a flesh and blood person]?" While most of us had to wait outside her office, four grievants went in with their stories.

At the grievance hearing later that week, workers described how carefully they had planned coverage for emergencies involving patient care. It was clear these rank-and-filers had their patients uppermost in their minds. "We [struck] for our patients and our fellow workers. We need enough staff and for staff to stay and be well-trained," said one grievant.

The UW reps said the Human Resource sleazes made it clear they wanted "uninterrupted work flow" and were unconcerned about patient care. In fact, the workers had arranged for patient care coverage for the one-day strike. The University wouldn’t discuss that, saying it’s not something the union should have input on.

The bosses’ drive for "uninterrupted work flow" runs counter to patient care and adequate staffing and doesn’t address the generally poor and racist nature of medicine under capitalism.

Serve The People To Break The Chains

These workers’ concern for patients is actually fundamental to the communist idea of "serving the people." Our job is to build on this "kernel of class-consciousness," to draw out the communist lessons.

Yet, the grievance process dramatized the limits of trade union struggle — we are wage slaves, negotiating the length of our chains.

To help break those chains, we’ve started selling CHALLENGE weekly on the UW campus. These mass sales will help increase hand-to-hand sales. Struggling over Challenge with our co-workers every issue will help draw out the revolutionary implications of "serving the people."

These CHALLENGE networks, along with our increased union activity and the forging of tight personal friendships, will help recruit to the Party. Then we’ll be moving towards breaking those chains once and for all so we can provide truly excellent heath care for our class under communism. ĩOne in Ten Black Men 20-29 In State Prison

Racism’s running rampant in the U.S. prison system, largest on earth. With 50% of the prisoners black (and another 20% Latino), the "Justice" Department reports that one of every ten black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in state prisons, compared to only one of 100 white men in that age group. While the states’ prison population supposedly declined in 2000 for the first time in 30 years, the overall total — federal, state, local jails, juvenile and immigration facilities — continued to rise, reaching 2,071,686 by the end of 2000. U.S. "human rights" marches on!

For more information on prison labor as a source of superprofits see the PLP pamphlet Prison Labor: Fascism U.S. Style

Workers of the World, Write!


Garment Workers Figure it Out

After four hours of hard work, several of us garment workers on lunch break were discussing the hunger and drought whipping across Central America.

"The poor workers and their families. Some weeks they’ve only eaten bananas and roots. And others not even that," said one worker.

"The problem is that sometimes they don’t think and don’t save," said another.

"If we make $5.75 an hour, and we can’t save a penny," remarked a comrade from PLP, "how can these mostly farm workers, when there is work, only make an average of $2 a day? The problem isn’t lack of saving. It’s capitalism with its wage slavery. The bosses grow or produce what makes them profits, not what the workers need to survive. If we lived under communism, growing basic products in the San Joaquin Valley in California would be sufficient to feed a huge part of the population."

The bosses’ press talks daily about the poverty and hunger in Central America. They blame the low price of coffee — due to overproduction of coffee worldwide — on droughts, earthquakes and hurricanes. They blame all of nature, but not capitalism and imperialism, based on the profit system.

Though hunger and poverty are nothing new for the international working class, this avalanche of unemployment and poverty from the coffee plantations of Managua, Nicaragua to the garment factories of Los Angeles is much more serious than it looks. U.S. workers, especially garment workers, aren’t excluded from this famine. In the last few months, unemployment has grown in the garment industry to a point where many workers don’t have money to pay the rent, let alone for a healthy diet.

These kinds of discussions among workers are very important because they can become a beacon to show the need to destroy the capitalist system and build a communist one where workers’ lives will be society’s main concern.

Garment Worker Comrade

Capitalism ‘Steels’ Jobs

In a recent matter-of-fact article, London’s Sunday Independent reported that, "Corus, Britain’s largest steel company, is to warn that five steelworks and up to 18,000 jobs are under threat from tough new proposals being drawn up by the US President, George W. Bush."

The article projected world steel production at 828 million tons and consumption at 763 million. It used these statistics to show that U.S. steel bosses — acting irresponsibly — had increased their production (by 19 million tons) in the last seven years while Europe, acting like a "model world citizen," had reduced theirs (by 3 million). Corus itself had laid off 12,000 workers in the last two years.

Such well timed news releases (issued the same week as the anti-G8 demonstrations in Italy) influence the demonstrators in Genoa to feel a greater European consciousness. It’s not capitalism, the article says, with its inevitable crises of overproduction that’s threatening British steel jobs, but George Bush and U.S. imperialism.

The U.S. Steelworkers Union plays a similar role on this side of the Atlantic. It’s not capitalism and its crisis, they say, but "foreign" workers and foreign steel companies that are causing the lay-offs.

It’s easy to see how a fight for steel jobs in Gary, Indiana, or in Llanwern, Wales, can develop into a nationalist crusade, pitting worker against worker. On the other hand, it’s not hard to see what a vital role communist internationalism — the call for workers of the world to unite — can play in these struggles. Applying those insights is one of the great challenges we face.

Bay Area Comrade

Circuses Without Bread . . .

Before the Pan American soccer championship (Copa America) in Colombia, a friend told me the rulers would guarantee that the host team would win the cup. He said the situation there was very hot and the bosses needed to distract the workers’ anger. They hoped Copa America and "national pride" would make workers forget the death squads, high unemployment and the local war.

He was right. On July 29, Colombia beat Mexico "and won the championship. As a matter of fact, Copa America almost did not take place. When a guerrilla group kidnapped a local soccer official, the international soccer federation cancelled the games saying Colombia was not safe. But pressure from Coca Cola and other local and international companies sponsoring the games, and begging by Colombia President Pastrana led to the release of the soccer official and the games continued.

This was not just a question of soccer and money. The bosses know well the old Roman emperors’ practice: circuses to distract the masses. For a few weeks, the mass media (including Univision TV which transmitted the games to the U.S.) pushed the "games-of-peace" theme. Supposedly Colombia would change because of soccer. Well, I don’t know whether the games were fixed as my friend implied. They were exciting, but things are now "normal." The death squads are back at work, and workers and others are again protesting. Just a week later taxi and bus drivers shut down Bogota, a city of five million, protesting the mayor’s restrictions on mass transportation. Also masses of peasants protested the U.S.-financed Plan Colombia’s use of poisonous pesticides to allegedly eradicate the source of cocaine and heroine.

So circuses without bread did not work too well for the bosses this time.

A comrade, NYC

Thoughts on PLP’s Racism Pamphlet

I recently read the PLP pamphlet Smash Racism with Communist Revolution for the first time. While it is well written and of excellent quality, it contains two serious scientific errors and an important political one. They should be corrected.

Firstly, on page 19, the pamphlet states, "If even something as simple as skin pigment cannot be genetically determined..." But skin pigment establishing skin color is mainly genetically determined. There is also, of course, some environmental influence such as exposure to the sun’s rays, but differences in skin color between large groups of people are inherited, dependent on gene make-up.

Secondly, on page 20, the pamphlet says, "There is no such thing as a race of humans." Try telling this to a black or even a Jewish person denied a job because of ethnicity or "race." True, there is no such biological category as separate races of human beings. Research has demonstrated much bigger proteinaceous and genetic differences between individuals within the same so-called races than exist between the averages for different "races." It’s impossible to even define a race on biological grounds.

Furthermore, "There is no gene known that is 100% of one form in one race and 100% of a different form in some other race. Reciprocally, some genes that are very variable from individual to individual show no average difference at all between major races." (Lewontin, Rose and Kamin: Not in Our Genes, p.122). But despite the absence of a legitimate category in biology that one could call race, there is a very real social construct called race which is specifically designed to divide the working class. So race does exist as a social concept with very real, material effects, despite it being only a concept.

Finally, PLP published a pamphlet on racism without even mentioning the Committee Against Racism (CAR) and its successor, the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR), and its contributions to the construction and day-to-day work of these organizations. This discards an important aspect of almost 20 years of our Party’s work. PLP played a crucial role in the fight against racism through its work in CAR and InCAR. CAR first identified the organized racist attack by Shockley, Herrnstein, Jensen and their various cronies within academia. It was through CAR that thousands of academics, students and workers were mobilized to mount a counterattack thoroughly exposing the racist and unscientific content of the ideology being advanced by these pigs. CAR made it impossible for the racists to speak unchallenged on any campus in the country.

InCAR involved masses of students, faculty and workers in a huge national struggle that led tens of thousands in militant battles to block the ruling class’s attempt to reconstitute the KKK as a mass open organization. It’s no accident that the KKK in Connecticut complained bitterly to the Hartford Courant that, "It’s because of those Commies in InCar and PLP that Klansmen are afraid to come out in public, wearing their hoods."

Furthermore, it was through InCAR that we fought and won the battle of the Boston Summer project against that city’s racists organized in ROAR ("Restore Our Alienated Rights"). Our impact was brought home to me when a prospective new faculty member from the Boston area was being interviewed for a position at the University of Connecticut, at that time. Someone asked her, "What’s new in Boston?" She replied, "InCAR is what’s new in Boston."

CAR/InCAR was — both in its leadership and membership — a coalition of communist and non-communist anti-racists committed to a joint struggle against racism in all its forms, organized on PLP’s initiative. Many InCAR members were won to join PLP.

An old-time InCAR organizer


The word "not" was inadvertently missing from the letter in our last issue entitled "Crisis of Overproduction." The omission tended to contradict the writer’s main point. In the part that said, "Crises are caused by overproduction which leads to decreased profits," the next sentence should have read, "They [crises] are NOT caused by underconsumption." We apologize!