A front-page New York Times article (10/25) quotes a "senior American official" in a rare moment of honesty: "Oil runs the world, and the Saudis are the linchpin of oil production." As CHALLENGE has frequently reported, Saudi oil and gas reserves are the world's largest and cheapest. Losing them would severely threaten U.S. imperialism's top-dog status. The forces that support bin Laden include a broad spectrum of powerful capitalists inside Saudi Arabia who intend to challenge Exxon Mobil's dictatorship there. The war in Afghanistan is, among other things, the first stage of an attempt to ensure, at gunpoint, that Saudi oil and gas doesn't fall into the hands of U.S. enemies.
But if Saudi Arabia remains the grand prize, it doesn't tell the whole story. The law of maximum profit requires the U.S. ruling class to control all important existing and future sources of energy. The Persian Gulf is the biggest. However, the huge potential of the Caspian region forces U.S. imperialism to command that energy source as well. A stable, pro-U.S. Afghanistan is central to that goal. "Afghanistan is as crucial to the regional control and transport of oil in central Asia as Egypt was in the Middle East," writes London Guardian columnist George Monbiot ("War and Oil: America's Pipe Dream." (10/23)
Barely two years ago, U.S. rulers under Clinton bombed the former Yugoslavia to bits. CHALLENGE readers will remember that the big lie justifying this atrocity was the "humanitarian" protection of Kosovar refugees. The truth, as we wrote at the time, was that that war was fought for the consolidation of U.S.- and British-run energy routes. Monbiot confirms this estimate, describing the rulers' "critical...concern" as "the development of `Corridor 8,' an economic zone carrying oil and gas from the Caspian to Europe."
Crucial to U.S. and British oil bosses' plans is the need to build Balkan pipelines under their own control. The war in Yugoslavia was fought largely to prevent Russian energy companies from horning in on the business. The imperialists in Washington and London share the same purpose in Afghanistan. That country holds a pivotal position as a possible transport route for energy exports from central Asia to the Arabian Sea.
"U.S. influence and military presence in Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, not unlike that over the oil-rich Gulf states, would be a major strategic gain," according to a former general in the Indian army ("The Oil Behind Bush and Son's Campaigns," Ranjit Devraj, Inter Press services, 10/5). But the oil and gas have no value until they can be brought to market. A route through Russia or Azerbaijan would defeat U.S. rulers' goal of cutting their potential Russian rivals out of the action. A route through Iran would give the anti-U.S. Iranian bosses a big boost toward their own aim of becoming the dominant regional energy force in the Persian Gulf. A route through China would cost too much to be profitable, aside from the strategic advantage it would hand to Chinese rulers, who represent a major long-range threat to U.S. imperialism.
However, a conduit through Afghanistan would give U.S. bosses two treasure troves. It would serve their need to diversify energy supplies as a hedge against trouble in their Persian Gulf paradise. It would also put them in the driver's seat in the scramble for energy riches to be plundered over the next 20 years by marketing oil and gas to India, Pakistan, and China. South and East Asia are areas in which energy demand "is booming and competitors are scarce. Pumping oil south and selling it in Pakistan and India...is far more profitable than pumping it west and selling it in Europe." (Monbiot ).
U.S. rulers are murdering Afghan workers and asking U.S. soldiers to die in growing numbers to corner an energy market with a potential value in the trillions of dollars. Imperialism always hides its greed in the rhetoric of high mission. It always pretends to defend "civilization" against "barbarism" and "evil." But facts are stubborn things. Bush and the Democrats who back him almost unanimously are spilling one oily lie after another.
Despite the rulers' strict media control, which prevents graphic coverage of the action, stories appear every day about "accidental" bombings of civilian targets, including a Red Cross facility hit twice, as well as homes for elderly people and other non-military sites. U.S. imperialism needs to minimize publicity about civilian casualties in order to avoid rebellions that are sure to erupt against it in the Moslem world. However, the nature of imperialist war makes the slaughter of civilians inevitable.
As horrific as the bombings may be, their deadly effect pales before the mass starvation U.S. imperialism is inflicting on the working class of Afghanistan. Before September 11, between seven and eight million people were already on the brink of death from hunger. This atrocity is the direct consequence of the murderous new "Great Game" played over the last generation by U.S. and former Soviet bosses to win Afghanistan as a strategic prize. Various international agencies, sponsored by different capitalists for their own political purposes, had been maintaining some of these people on a survival diet.
Access to that food is no longer available, however, thanks to the U.S. military. According to the New York Times (9/16), the U.S. demanded that Pakistan halt the truck convoys transporting food and other necessities to Afghan civilians. The UN's World Food Program didn't resume shipments until three weeks later, at a greatly reduced rate. The ongoing air war further reduces the delivery rate of supplies the U.S. military is allowing, which were inadequate in the first place.
To carry out his lofty ethical purpose of making Afghanistan safe for Exxon Mobil, Bush and the Democrats who also back this filthy war are therefore calmly contemplating the starvation death of between three and four million people in Afghanistan alone over the next few months. And this is only a fraction of the price imperialism expects the world's working class to pay for the bosses' oil profits. This is the true meaning of Bush's repulsive, hypocritical press conferences about punishing "evil" and "defending human life."
Like the September 11 assaults against innocent workers, the ongoing anthrax attacks against postal workers and others play directly into the rulers' hands. Regardless of the anthrax poisoners' identity, the attacks help the big bosses disguise the true nature of their oil war and justify their rapid domestic move toward a police state. The bosses may not be directly instigating the anthrax panic but with the help of their media they are attempting to take advantage of it as they plan for a future of mass terror against workers at home and around the world. For the moment, however, their "Big Brother" posturing hasn't exactly covered them with glory. The Bush White House has done more to reassure the pharmaceutical companies about future profit bonanzas than to convince millions of people that the U.S. government can protect them from bioterrorism.
Evil for evil, U.S. imperialism is unmatched in world history. Its aggression in Afghanistan is adding to that record, creating hundreds of thousands of new refugees, bombing civilians, and threatening to starve millions over the winter.
For all its apparent strength and despite its ability to inflict mass suffering and death, U.S. imperialism's war in Afghanistan isn't going well. The bosses have already murdered a lot of people. They will murder many more. So far, this is their only "success." The Taliban appear skillful and determined. They still have a political base. Bush's attempts to concoct an anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan are stumbling badly.
The war can't be won from the air. A ground invasion promises to be long and deadly for many U.S. troops. It could spread in ways the bosses don't intend, as alliances shift. Millions who now support the U.S. government may soon have second thoughts once the casualties begin to mount.
Despite Bush and Co.'s prattling about their "allies" and the "coalition against terrorism," U.S. imperialism is basically on its own in this war. Its only real ally is Britain, and even Britain has underlying contradictions with the U.S., based on different profit interests between U.S. and British oil companies. The rulers of other countries, big and small, have made at best minor tactical compromises with U.S. imperialism for the sake of later strategic gains against it. Even the Russians, who only appear to have handed the U.S. a peace pipe, are playing a cynical chess game in their own quest to control the Central Asian and eventually the Middle Eastern energy prize. The same is true of Chinese imperialists. Even the U.S.'s closest buddies in the Moslem countries are either keeping their distance or openly defying U.S. wishes. Despite appearances, the main aspect of this war is rapidly sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry.
If the U.S. loses this round, it won't be able to accept defeat and will become even more desperate elsewhere. If it wins, it will continue to expand its empire at gunpoint and its rivals will need to make plans to undermine and defeat it. Either way, the character of the present period remains unchanged, an age of inter-imperialist rivalry. Competition among bosses always leads to war. The profit system and peace are mutually exclusive.
History shows that imperialist war contains the seed of its opposite: communist revolution. The old communist movement of Lenin, Stalin and Mao proved that workers' power could be won from the mayhem of fascism and bosses' bloodlettings. But the first great revolutions reverted to capitalism. They made concessions to bourgeois forces and ideas. We can build on the accomplishments of these giants that preceded us and, learning from their errors, try to avoid their deadly mistakes. So a bright and qualitatively better future can emerge from the dark days that lie around us.
The imperialists are not omnipotent. They have many internal weaknesses. They can be defeated. They rely on terror, bribery, lies and the illusion that things can't change. Communists rely on the deep aspirations of our class worldwide -- abolishing poverty and imperialist wars -- on the truth, and on the as yet untapped fighting potential of hundreds of millions of workers everywhere, who can eventually do whatever is necessary to change the world. Our Party's great task as the storm clouds gather is to learn from workers, soldiers and others how to bring them the unbeatable weapon of communist ideology. The PLP has made some modest progress since September 11. We can make more. History and the survival of our class demand that we measure up to the task.
For one thing, neither Russia nor China, which loom as eventual threats to U.S. world domination, can yet challenge the U.S. military frontally. Both need time and room to maneuver. Both the Chinese and the Russians have problems of their own with potentially destabilizing Islamic fundamentalist movements. The Chinese created their own monster in Xinjiang, on the Afghanistan border, when they backed Uighur Muslim separatists to help U.S. imperialism in its 1979-89 proxy war in Afghanistan against the crumbling Soviet Union. Today, the Uighur movement has turned into a threat to the internal rule of Chinese bosses. The U.S. is therefore doing China's own dirty work by intervening against the Taliban, who are politically allied with the Uighur separatists.
The same is true of the Russian ruling class, which has been fighting its own war with Islamic separatists in oil-rich Chechnya. Putin & Co. seem to have given Bush a long list of concessions. However, they are purely tactical, and they can be easily retracted. They also come with a price. It includes western credits and technology and, more than anything, a U.S. guarantee that Russian imperialism will no longer face CIA interference in Chechnya. Of course, guarantees between imperialists are good only until they're broken, but that's exactly the point. All this love-making is basically just a series of cautious maneuvers between deadly rivals. The U.S. goal of controlling international military, political and economic affairs conflicts with the aims and interests of Chinese and Russian rulers. Well before Bush's oil war had begun in Afghanistan, the Chinese military was arguing for the "establishment and maintenance of a new regional security order." Last June, China and Russia, which had already demilitarized their 4,000-mile common border, pulled four Central Asian Republics into a "Shanghai co-operation organization." Chinese leader Jiang Zemin identified its purpose as "fostering world multi-polarization," a fancy phrase for challenging U.S. super-power status (see George Monbiot, Guardian, 10/23).
Both the Chinese and the Russians have an enormous stake in the future exploitation and transport of Persian Gulf and Caspian energy. China, as an expanding imperialist power, needs a dramatic increase in its oil and gas supply over the next generation. It is building a deep-water navy. Russia has no intention of handing over its Caspian prize to Exxon Mobil, et al. U.S.-Russian unity against Islamic fundamentalism is cautious and unstable. If the present fighting in Afghanistan overflows into Tajikstan and Uzbekistan, "Russia will feel bound to intervene" (Financial Times, 10/23). The U.S. already has troops stationed in Uzbekistan. For the time being, however, Putin and his cronies are only too happy to let the U.S. play the heavy for inflicting massive civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The Russian bosses can keep slaughtering tens of thousands in Chechnya and use U.S. atrocities as a convenient cover.
Then there's the matter of Russian interests in Iran and Iraq, the U.S. imperialists' two biggest headaches in the Persian Gulf. Russian companies have weapons contracts for $1.5 billion with Iran over the next five years, as well as plans to build an $850 million nuclear reactor there. Russian oil firms, along with the French and Chinese, have multi-billion dollar contracts pending for Iraqi oil. If the U.S. imperialists feel compelled to expand the present war to Iraq, the Russians, French and Chinese won't sit still. The Financial Times (10/23) quotes Putin's closest aide as saying, "We do not intend to lose [markets] because the U.S. does not like some country."
Added to this murderous mix comes the Indian ruling class, which has a long-standing rivalry with Pakistan (a U.S. collaborator of convenience, which could easily turn into an enemy in a big hurry). Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons as well as key designs on Central Asian oil and gas. Saudi Arabian oil and gas remain the biggest prizes of all, and U.S. rulers will go to any length to keep them. Yet the Saudi royal family, which the U.S. military keeps in power, isn't playing ball with its big uncle. The U.S. hasn't managed to arm-twist the Saudis into blocking the financial assets of anti-U.S. terror groups, and the Saudis have also refused to give U.S. intelligence services police records of the 14 September 11 highjackers who were Saudi citizens. So even the U.S.'s closest pals are playing a double game, for the sake of their own survival and selfish class interests.
As Thomas Friedman, a key mouthpiece for the interests of the liberal U.S. ruling class whines, "except for the...Brits, we're all alone." (10/26) This war for oil in Afghanistan has several potential immediate outcomes. Every one of them will lead to a drastic sharpening of inter-imperialist rivalry. Every time the conflicts sharpen between the major imperialists, the threat of world war increases. It may still take some years to develop, but the direction is clear and irreversible. Capitalism offers only darkness and death at the end of the tunnel. Communist revolution is the only light. The PLP pledges to keep it alive today so that it can engulf the world tomorrow.
Making plans to corner oil and gas supplies and delivery routes from Kosovo through the Middle East and Afghanistan is one thing. Executing those plans is another, especially when it requires conquering and holding territory. It can't be done from the air.
Compared to the millions of Vietnamese workers and farmers who ground the U.S. military into the dust 30 years ago in People's War, the Taliban aren't much. Compared to the tens of millions of Soviet workers who heroically smashed Hitler's Nazi barbarians in World War II, or to the many millions of Chinese workers and farmers who crushed Japanese imperialism and then drove out Chiang Kai-shek's pro-U.S. capitalist thugs in 1949, the Taliban are even less impressive. Yet, for the moment at least, the Taliban, an under-equipped motley force of national-capitalist holy rollers, are giving U.S. imperialism all it can handle.
We must never fall into the trap of choosing sides when capitalists fight. The brutality of the big capitalist should never delude us into uniting with the smaller one. A boss is a boss is a boss -- they're all rotten. We should view U.S. imperialism's predicament in Afghanistan as proof that although they can inflict deadly damage, they aren't omnipotent. Each of their adventures creates problems they can't solve. The bosses' dilemmas in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf provide our class and our Party with a window of opportunity to organize and grow.
Bush and the media blamed bin Laden (and Iraq) to generate popular support for imperialist wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, and to pass the "anti-terrorist" law (similar to the laws passed in Hitler Germany), to build a fascist police state. After the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, Clinton and the media directed suspicions at, and rounded up Arabs, before it turned out that all-American Timothy McVeigh was the culprit.
Last May, former FBI director Louis Freeh testified to a Congressional committee that domestic terrorists had planned "potentially large-scale, high-casualty attacks" including blowing up a large propane storage facility in Elk Grove, Calif., raiding National Guard armories and right-wing militia attacks on electric power lines in several Southern states.
Anthrax and vials of bacteria causing bubonic plague were recovered from Larry Wayne Harris, a U.S. microbiologist and member of the fascist Aryan Nation. He had participated with the racist Christian Identity Church and wrote a book on Germ Warfare whose "scope and depth of information...make it an effective do-it-yourself manual for mass destruction through biological terrorism" (Intelligence Report).
From January 1998 to April 2001, there were 172 false anthrax reports in the U.S., one-third against abortion clinics. Some of the current anthrax threats sent to abortion clinics, "contained references to the Army of God, a militant anti-abortion group that had endorsed violence against clinics and doctors." (William Lutz, N.Y. Daily News, 10/18)
The Washington Post (10/24) reported that investigators "say privately that the mailings do not have the earmarks of an al Qaeda terrorist operation and seem more likely to have come from a domestic source." The N.Y. Post (10/26) reported that federal agencies believe that "members of several [U.S.] anti-government hate groups...have obtained anthrax...from several U.S.-based laboratories before it surfaced in Florida, Washington and New York." The Post also said that the FBI was analyzing a dozen letters, "including several that pre-date the World Trade Center attacks and the anthrax scare that were sent to various media outlets [which]....had similar messages and handwriting as the [current] germ-tainted notes."
Many of the targets of the present anthrax letters -- Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and "liberal media" spokesmen like Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather -- are the kinds of people the neo-Nazis have hated for years.
The Washington Post (10/26) ran a front-page article reporting that, "A government official with direct knowledge of the investigation said...the totality of the evidence...suggests it is unlikely that the spores were originally produced in the former Soviet Union or Iraq." It is far more likely that the anthrax was either stolen from the U.S. military or supplied by neo-Nazis within the military. Many of the religious fundamentalist groups linked to the neo-Nazis were also heavily involved in electing President Bush.
As these links of anthrax to the neo-Nazis spread, the FBI might, just might, arrest some of them in order to calm the panic and use it to claim that the people can look to the rulers for "protection." But meanwhile the government will use the anthrax attacks that are infecting and killing postal workers to enforce the new "anti-terrorist" laws, tighten the screws on U.S. workers and crush any mass opposition to their imperialist wars.
"According to the UN, 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, have died from disease and malnutrition caused by U.S. sanctions. Thousands more Iraqis have died from cancers linked to U.S. depleted uranium munitions." (Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, 10/24)
Mark Jones, a member of Britain's joint helicopter force, said his family was worried he could go to Afghanistan. "I have to reassure them I am just here to carry on with" the exercise in Oman.
Only some officers said they were "keen to swap the rigors of [the] Exercise...for [a] full-blown war in Afghanistan."
After they were escorted from the auditorium, UFT president Randi Weingarten gave the assembled delegates an angry lecture, saying that in a "democratic assembly" acts of "physical harassment" used instead of "words" were the equivalent of "terrorism." As she spoke, boos erupted from around the room. DA members were so outraged that a protest letter is now circulating demanding that Weingarten apologize for her repression of dissent.
The UFT leadership is busily exposing itself as the class enemy of the workers it supposedly serves. At this same meeting the leadership presented a resolution supporting the U.S. war in Afghanistan. It called on teachers to train their students to be patriotic citizens. Many delegates vehemently opposed this resolution. Finally a PLP comrade gave an impassioned speech linking the history of U.S. imperialism with the current war and called on teachers to protest this war as they did Vietnam. Although the pro-war resolution finally passed, afterwards many delegates approached the comrade with hugs and handshakes to thank her for her speech.
The UFT rank and file can and must be won to see the truth about its leadership. Weingarten & Co. do not serve the interests of teachers or students. No matter which mayoral candidate they decide might give teachers a fraction more wage increase, the UFT leadership supports the war machine that will send our students to die while killing other youth and workers. These union leaders are part and parcel of the capitalist system which needs them to help keep the working class miseducated. It's the job of communist teachers and students to see through the illusions in the system and recognize the need for revolution.
The struggle over war and biological weapons dominated the meeting. Members and friends of the Progressive Labor Party concentrated on building the struggle against imperialism and war. They distributed thousands of leaflets entitled, "Terror or Territory? Why the US Makes War" and many CHALLENGES with a special anti-imperialist supplement. Representatives on the policy-making Governing Council introduced a resolution calling on APHA to oppose "wars motivated by economic objectives, such as dominance over regions rich in petroleum reserves (which) are not in the interests of ordinary civilians or the soldiers of the countries concerned."
We had attended numerous meetings to argue against the war and leafleted and lobbied the 200 members of the Governing Council. With some friendly modifications, the resolution passed the Governing Council and will serve as interim policy for the coming year (and permanent policy if ratified next year), a significant step forward.
People attending the hearing applauded the resolution and thanked the presenter for raising it. However, the real test will be winning the thousands of public health workers and others to understand how the war serves the interests of the oil companies and the needs of capitalism to secure resources and markets. One question asked was, "So then, what do we replace this system with?" This can lead to discussions rejecting a system based on profiteers' control of oil and help workers take power to organize a society based on sharing according to need.
While the struggle against war dominated our work, it is not the only issue demanding attention. Due to many years of government cutbacks from the Carter to the Clinton administrations, public health departments are seriously under-funded and insufficiently trained to protect the public against emergency situations. Now with the anthrax deaths, the federal government is appropriating millions for vaccine development and drug stockpiling (with a sweet deal for Bayer, the manufacturers of Cipro). Yet little is available for tens of thousands of young people infected with HIV, for children unvaccinated for measles, and for seniors unable to afford prescription medications. U.S. capitalism pumps billions into its wars for oil and markets and a minimum to keep the working class barely healthy enough to work.
Another issue involved members and friends of the Coalition Against CRACK (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity). We won a battle against this private organization that pays $200 to women who use drugs if they agree to sterilization or long-term birth control use, typically targeting poor black women. Last year, the Governing Council passed interim policy rejecting CRACK's strategy, and APHA members and leaders publicly condemned their coercive and racist methods.
CRACK threatened to sue APHA for libel. When APHA's policy committee tried to withdraw the resolution from consideration this year, activists mobilized support to retain it among grass roots organizations, epidemiologists, students and physicians. The decision to withdraw was overturned and the resolution became permanent policy. Supporters will use this victory to develop wider opposition to CRACK and to launch a campaign for much-needed drug treatment programs for women.
We also campaigned against the over-medication of young children with Ritalin and other psychological drugs, pointing out that social problems contribute to children's behaviors more than biology. Plans are under way to sponsor a session on this next year.
Our efforts here taught us that many professionals will organize against racism and imperialism, and fight to ensure the health of the public. Many were outraged that APHA took pharmaceutical donations from, and named an award after, GlaxoSmithKline, a leading HIV drug manufacturer that refused to lower prices in Africa.
As one Party member said to a room of anti-war activists, "It's time we raise our ideas about communism and taking state power with our friends and colleagues. It's not enough to oppose another war without building support for revolution." She spoke for all of us.
Most committee members, feeling this would make the resolution less likely to pass, were unwilling to criticize Feldman and didn't think the war was for oil or oil profits. Others arguing that it was a war for oil, convinced some and interested others.
On the floor of the union's House of Representatives, there was a sharp fight about the resolution. It nearly passed, losing by only 70 to 79. It was clear, however, from the sharp disagreement, that there was a lot of patriotism and support for the bombing, and that any resolution condemning the bombing would have been defeated, whether or not it included oil or Feldman.
More teachers are reading CHALLENGE, which makes sense out of the current situation. In one local area meeting, a motion passed to support the coalition anti-war demonstration this weekend. At the demonstration, high school students played an enthusiastic role, carrying signs saying, "End terror for oil profit" and "No war for oil" and in leading chants against war for oil.
At ensuing meetings we tried to clarify the events and discuss how to build a long-term movement against the war. One person had been wearing a black armband. A former student and campus worker said she was denied a candle at a university vigil and made to feel unwelcome because she was a "lowly" campus worker, not a student. Others related attacks on immigrants, including Moslems, Arabs and even Mexicans.
We analyzed how the U.S. bosses are using this attack as an excuse to send ground troops to seize control of Middle East oil reserves and institute more fascism here against workers and youth in the U.S. who will oppose the bosses. We showed "The Three Kings" at a high school movie night, a film that admitted the Gulf War was a fight for oil, but said the U.S. should have taken out Saddam Hussein.
We shared our analysis with our friends but began feeling overwhelmed by the American flags around us and the reaction of many teachers and students. We decided we had to take the initiative, to build a broad movement opposing the war and struggle sharply with our friends and within this movement for people to understand this war was not against terrorism but for control of oil.
Teachers at one school received permission from the Social Studies department to invite speakers to discuss U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, what's happening in Afghanistan, Hart-Rudman and the growth of fascism and anti-immigrant racism here in the U.S. We also planned T-shirts showing U.S. soldiers propping up a gasoline pump, and to distribute stickers saying "No War for Oil!"
When the bombing of Afghanistan began we were having a picnic and were able to ensure that students at three different high schools had the stickers. The next Monday 400 students wore those stickers, with a big black oil drop, overlaid with the words in red NO WAR FOR OIL. On the Friday morning before the Social Studies assembly, we distributed CHALLENGES and 300 leaflets with the same oil drops and headline.
We have really emphasized the oil question, using articles in the bosses' press and cartoons from the Internet, and shared them with our friends. We've overheard other teachers trying to figure out if oil is somehow involved.
In the Social Studies class discussion, after a speaker discussed oil, one student member spoke eloquently about how working-class students, especially black and Latin, have no stake in this system. Since we don't own oil wells or stock in oil companies, we should definitely not go to kill and die for them in the Middle East.
Several left-wing panelists reportedly resigned in disgust when they saw the above list. One panelist was conveniently omitted initially, Joe Morton, professor of Peace Studies at Goucher College He was the only one without pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist leanings.
The initial statements from all panelists combined lasted at least an hour. All except Morton refused to delve into the question of U.S. terrorism in the Middle East. Instead they concentrated totally on the "essentials" of "homeland security" and a superficial "analysis" of the Taliban.
Their prevalent right-wing agenda hindered Morton when his turn came because he had to go "against the grain" after all previous panelists had established an ultra-nationalist mood. But when the floor was opened, things changed.
The first speaker, immediately identifying himself as a communist and Party member, dove headlong into explaining the dark past of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, starting as early as the mid-1950s and the rule of Iran's Shah. He brought that "three-letter word" nobody mentioned, oil, to the forefront. Most of the audience applauded thunderously at various points. Finally the panel moderator cut him off and he sat down to more modest applause. This forced the entire panel to deal with issues it had ignored; the debate shifted sharply to the left.
The next speaker drew on these same themes, including control of resources, U.S. support of fascistic and dictatorial governments in the Middle East -- including Israel -- for decades, and the gradual but steady extermination of over a million children in Iraq from U.S. economic sanctions and bombings since Desert Storm. Both continue in full force today. This speaker was also cut off before he could finish.
The third speaker was less vocal, but by then it didn't matter. The panel was clearly incompetent to address such issues, skirting around them and emphasizing "the present, not the past." The audience laughed uproariously and clicked their teeth at such an obvious display of fancy verbal footwork and attempts to justify the unjustifiable. When the moderator asked the VOA's Pashto Service representative (an Afghan immigrant) if all these claims about the U.S. committing international atrocities and building up Osama Bin Laden were correct, she replied coolly, "I think it is." Many questioners following this were seeking the real issues behind September 11th.
The pro-capitalist, ultra-nationalist, skirt-around-root-causes theme never fully re-emerged once audience members stepped forward. As the crowd filed out, we distributed a Party flyer. Most took it and a few gave their names. Others congratulated the PLP comrade for his courage, and for sparking views that otherwise probably would have been completely ignored. Out of these efforts, we will work to expand our club in Baltimore.
A Student Comrade
At our worksites the struggle is taking other forms. At one office the aim is to have workers put up a poster reading, "END ALL Government, Police, Religious, Ethnic TERROR. UNITE ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD! The text is written over a world map. This poster is being posed as an alternative to flying the bosses' flag. At another job site, the city bosses have attacked a delegate for circulating a PLP anti-imperialist flyer. We're planning to fight this attempt to silence us.
Some co-workers have argued that terrorism must be fought and that therefore Bush's war must be supported. The Local 371 leadership argues that anti-war resolutions are "premature."
We've said that we're caught in the middle of a battle between two sets of bosses who are fighting for control of the world's wealth, and in particular its oil. We shouldn't take sides with either but rather fight in the interests of our class worldwide!
A Party speaker labeled the bombing of Afghanistan not as a "war against terrorism" but as phase one of the first oil war of the 21st century.
A second speaker related this to the growth of fascist laws in the U.S., among them the "New Jersey Domestic Security Preparedness Act." It establishes a nine-member task force:including the State Police Superintendent, the Attorney General and three appointed members, at least one a "bio-terrorism" expert. This will be the state connection to the federal Homeland Security Council. It will have the power to make regulations with no public input, to issue subpoenas and to go to court to force "anyone who doesn't furnish information required by the law to do so." Other new laws broaden the definition of terrorism and increase the mandatory penalties to 30 years in jail. This could include militant anti-racist action against the KKK/Nazis.
A lively discussion covered everything from the possibility of World War III to whether the U.S. government had something to do with the WTC attacks. When the question arose about what we could do, one worker pointed out the critical importance of getting CHALLENGE to more people. Others raised the need to make more friends in our neighborhoods, interact with people in a more communal way and raise issues with our co-workers.
The forum ended with a call to join PLP. Many stayed to eat the delicious food prepared by our host and continue the discussions. This forum showed a good response from PLP's friends in New Jersey in fighting the growth of war and fascism following the WTC attack.
A discussion among a group of teachers in the lounge led to the "culture of Arabs." One teacher, an African immigrant, said "only Arabs highjack planes; it's part of their culture." (!) I asked if he meant all Arabs worldwide. He replied, "You know what I mean."
Another teacher, a Christian minister, said terrorism is an underlying root linking all followers of Islam. I asked him if racism is an underlying root of all Christians because many Christians believe in racism. He had no answer.
Then another teacher said Arabs just "hate freedom." I asked her, do you mean all people fleeing economic and physical repression hate freedom? Unbelievably she said "yes." We have our work cut out for us.
I reminded my colleagues we teachers have a responsibility to counter the racism U.S. leaders are passing off as patriotism, that our students will be on the front lines fighting students from Afghanistan or some other poor oppressed country. We must talk to our students about the racism many of our working-class Arab brothers and sisters are facing.
Another teacher said that much of the discussion reminded him of when he was living in Georgia. He said some teachers were expressing a lynch-mob mentality. Again, there was no response.
In class, my students told me how some kids on their block were planning to attack Arab workers at a neighborhood store. When I asked them how they felt about that, they honestly said they didn't know. I told them they must be careful not to get caught up in the hype being drummed into all of us. Most of all, we must resist becoming racist thugs for the bosses. I reminded them how Japanese-Americans were put into concentration camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that we must fight against racism in all its forms.
One student asked how old you must be before being drafted. I said eighteen. I asked him how old he was. He quietly responded, "eighteen but I'm not going in the army." That sentiment was echoed around the classroom.
Since these initial discussions, a few weeks had passed and things are getting clearer. I've raised the idea in my classes that the U.S. is waging war not necessarily to fight terrorism but to control the world's oil. In one class I took down a globe and the students and I mapped out the areas where the current battles are occurring, and their relationship to the oil fields. They immediately saw how the countries were connected and that this indeed may be a war for oil. Not one student completely disagreed with the idea.
Most of my students are at or near 18. I reminded them they would be asked to fight this war for the bosses. I asked if they were willing to fight for the oil companies. One student responded, "If you put it that way Mister, hell no!" Again most students seemed to nod their heads in agreement.
A NYC Teacher
Thank you once more for showing us your city and for explaining the situation for the U.S. working class. It was really good to get a deeper view of what's going on. Your Chicago friends' description of their political organizing was very important to us.
You can imagine how shocked we were hearing about and seeing the terrorist murders in New York and Washington. In our newspaper we published your editorial in which you explain that, "These bombardments are not part of the international class struggle of the working class against capitalism. They damage the class struggle...."
The U.S. and NATO are already threatening to bomb other countries, as they have done in the Balkans. We're participating in demonstrations against a possible new war. Lots of people are in the streets saying Schröder (the Chancellor) does not speak in the name of the people when he backs U.S. policy. In the factories there is a very politicized situation, a lot of discussions.
We heard that there are demonstrations in the U.S. too, especially at the universities. Could you send us some information as soon as possible?
Thanks and greetings,
Comrades from Germany
People expressed their fear of a vast unleashing of racism nationwide and of its affect on black and Latino workers, as well as the ruling class's attempt to win them to racism against Arabs or Muslims. One person asked about the history the government doesn't teach us, which could help explain why the world hates the U.S. so much. Another was suspicious about the government spending so much on security ($30 billion for the CIA and FBI and $300 billion on the armed forces) but not to have anticipated these attacks. He insinuated that the government knew about it but allowed it because they want people to support their wars.
Everybody commented and no one supported the war against Afghanistan or against terrorism. Near the end I presented the Party position, including that this was a war for oil profits. Everybody listened. Some exclaimed, "That's exactly what I thought!" Any doubts they had about the imperialist motives behind this bosses' war were being dissipated. One woman who has considerable confidence in the electoral process, and to whom I had previously explained that racism was caused by the profit system, told me afterwards, "It seems to me the problem is capitalism, the search for profits."
The next morning I received a note thanking me, indicating agreement with most of the flyer. Later that day I had a heated discussion about the U.S. world role. Was the U.S. an imperialist country that savaged most of the world for profit or was it a great democracy? Was it the best country in the world, that had made a few mistakes (killing millions in Vietnam) and compromises (arming Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran) along the way? Somehow Hitler and the Nazis came up in the conversation. I was somewhat agitated and said U.S. rulers were worse than Hitler. Well, my friend flipped out. "How could I say such a thing?" My friend left, outraged at me. Then several people joined me. They explained I was correct, citing genocide against the Native Americans, slavery and the Vietnam War as three examples of U.S. government atrocities. I mentioned the million Iraqis killed since the Persian Gulf War, including 500,000 children.
The next day several others told me how glad they were I had distributed the flyer. One very shy fellow pulled me aside, saying how nice I had said what people were afraid to say. Many people were grateful for an opposition voice. I tried to explain I had a communist perspective but this was very difficult in short conversations. I offered CHALLENGE to everyone for a fuller analysis. Six people took it. One said she had always liked communism but just wasn't sure it could work.
Several students were upset about my flyer and wanted to see it. I obliged. One student saw a cartoon about oil pipelines through Afghanistan. She suggested I distribute it as a follow-up to the flyer.
There's a lot to do. The working class is wonderful. People really want to understand what's going on. One teacher who supported the war was still very interested in receiving anti-war information from a communist perspective. He wants to read CHALLENGE and talk about it.
Every day comes with a little struggle, a little excitement, as we inch ever closer to a decent world, communism. Between the working class and communism, life is really worth living.
Comrades distributed hundreds of CHALLENGES and other PL literature and made numerous contacts. The large police presence was very intimidating. Firemen also joined the threat. The herding of all demonstrators into metal pens, surrounded by cops, made it very difficult to get in and out, an example of growing fascism.
One political drawback was the revisionist ideas of the March leaders. At the workshop I attended on the politics of the Middle East, Palestinian nationalism was presented as "good," while others, such as the Jewish/Israeli one, were presented as "bad." They're doing the bosses' work by dividing the working class according to ethnicity. Nationalism is designed to lead workers to support "their" bosses' wars. Never has the PLP's idea of opposing all nationalism been more necessary. A united working class can truly never be defeated. It's unfortunate that honest people who are anti-imperialist can be confused by this, but the correctness of our ideas will prevail.
It turns out that MCU was located on Church St. across from the World Trade Center. Its main records were destroyed. In fact checks and deposits with the MCU are still running a few days late. I overhear that Con Edison cut off the lights of one city worker because an MCU check bounced. I wonder how many flags Con Ed is flying...
Thousands of city employees bank with the MCU. Their accounts were totally inaccessible for two days after September 11th. So the MCU decided to just credit balances to its depositors and do the bookkeeping later. As the representative notes, "people need to eat." Not bad.
It didn't take city workers long to notice the change. All accounts were replenished at $500 every day for thirteen days straight. Then many depositors began withdrawing cash from ATMs, exceeding their original balances. Now many face charges as District Attorneys try to help the MCU catch up with the missing money.
I ask the MCU man whether any particular branch of city employees behaved the worst in this little episode. His response is immediate and unequivocal: the cops.
Try reading this story in your local newspaper. Long live CHALLENGE!
A New York Reader
In these times more than ever we need to give our friends a communist gift
The anti-racist reaction to these events are part of the history of our class. The personal struggle to improve our lives now is drawn in these pages.
Nine stories about people in ordinary circumstances developing communist values.
All three books for only US$20, send check or money order in name of Challenge Periodicals, to PLP GPO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202, USA