Editorial: Can't Fight Racism Supporting Imperialist Oil Wars
Jackson, Sharpton Want Velvet Glove on Harvards Iron Fist
Living Wage Campaign Must Also Opposes Harvards Racism and Imperialism
Enrongate -- Bosses Dogfight
Fords Better Idea: Make Workers Pay for Bosses Losses
Mexico Ford Workers Fight Layoffs
Steel Workers Take Over Plant, Go on Offensive
Homeland Insecurity: LTV Bosses Unleash Terrorist War Against Workers
Crisis In Steel
Anti-Nazis Beat Racist Frame Up
Fighting Welfare Oppression Is a Class Fight
9/11 Is Toxic for Exploited Immigrant Workers
Unemployment Is Part and Parcel of Capitalism
Big Brother is Watching: Show Your I.D.
Liberals Support Bushs Scapegoating of Muslim Immigrants
Robeson, Davis and DuBois Knew: Fighting Racism Means Fighting Capitalism
Middle Cass Cries in Argentina
U.S., Iraqi Soldiers Need Unity
U.S. rulers have at least temporarily succeeded in building popular support for their racist "War on Terror" and fascist "Homeland Defense" policies. Although some of the flag-waving hysteria has receded, the Bush White House still enjoys 90% approval ratings, according to their polls.
The rulers are also enjoying success among black and Latin workers. A December 25 New York Times article cites an October poll that revealed Bushs approval rating among black people above 80%. Just one year ago, Bush stole Floridas electoral votes because his brother the governor used the state police to prevent black workers from voting (and the Democrats kept their mouths shut).The polls before September 11 gave Bush less than 10% approval among black people.
The Times says the turnaround is a demonstration of "black support for the country more than for Mr. Bush himself" and a result of "the influence of a foreign conflict on public opinion." Whatever the explanation, black and Latin workers have at least passively backed the Bush-Ashcroft racist roundup of Arab and Muslim workers. The New York Times (12/25/01) quotes a black pastor as saying, "If it involves the civil liberties of African-Americans, we get involved If it involves the civil liberties of anybody else, we tend to sit on the sidelines."
"Sitting on the sidelines" when the bosses are committing genocide and imposing fascism is not only criminal, its suicidal. The round-up of Arab workers is not "someone elses problem." Whatever the racist rulers can do to Arab immigrants today will be used against all workers tomorrow. Communists believe working people have no nation. "Workers of the World, Unite!" is our slogan. But communist ideas dont enter workers consciousness automatically. Only the organized efforts of our revolutionary communist party can accomplish that job. Its a long and difficult task, and we are committed to carrying it out.
The rulers use their control of state power and the media to mislead the workers. The nationalist/patriotic filth they are spreading has had a negative effect on the political outlook of the working class. To understand how to conduct the life-and-death struggle for the allegiance of the working class, we must also appreciate the obstacles the class enemy has thrown in our way.
Prominent among them is nationalism. The most obvious is the red-white-and-blue flag-waving. The idea is simple: forget about our class; were all Americans; we should rally around "our" president and accept any and all sacrifices in order to "fight terror." The bosses efforts to control oil supplies and rule the world are hidden behind the "national interest" slogan.
Another nationalist lie, just as deadly, says the most oppressed workers in this case, black and Latin workers have more in common with black and Latin capitalists, politicians, entertainers, athletes and intellectuals loyal to the rulers than they do with Arab or white workers. The big bosses have been working overtime to promote this brand of nationalism. It not only divides workers but also denies the leadership that black and Latin workers can give to the entire working class.
This is underlined by Bushs appointment of Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice as National Security Director. A generation ago, this would have appeared inconceivable. Hitler used the "Jewish Councils" to help herd the Jewish masses into concentration camps. Powell, Rice, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and others play that role among black workers today.
Working the other side of the street, liberal Democrats have been promoting a mafia of nationalist misleaders since the urban rebellions of the 1960s. Chief among them are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They praised Clintons bombings of Iraq and Yugoslavia, and have stood silent as Bush & Co. destroy Afghanistan. Behind Jackson and Sharpton stand a small army of black elected officials, union honchos, cops and military brass. " (Bush has) done a tremendous job in managing the war on terrorism I dont have any beef with him," coos Donna Brazile, a "leading black Democratic strategist and the manager of Al Gores presidential campaign in 2000." (New York Times, 12/25/01)
Thirty-five years ago, boxer Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to fight in the imperialist war in Vietnam. Today, he has made his peace with imperialism, waving the flag and carrying the torch. Everyone from Ali to Ray Charles and a small army of black and Latin entertainment and athlete icons have been trotted out to get black and Latin workers and youth to sing "America the Beautiful" and support the racist murderers in Washington, DC.
Clinton enjoyed overwhelming support among black workers and still does. Labeled "Americas first black president," he helped set the stage for todays crackdown by hiring 100,000 racist cops and destroying welfare and most social services.
Our efforts to expose the imperialist nature of the war and the growing police state have received a good response, especially from black and Latin workers and youth. The more vigorously we fight for these ideas, the more we learn that workers, students and soldiers are open to them.
Still, were small and the rulers can influence more people than we can. As conditions sharpen, the war casualties will mount. Police terror and the permanent war economy will strike more workers, grinding down growing sections of the working class. Our potential for emerging as the political leadership of growing sections of the mass movements will increase. This process will take years to mature. This difficult task must not be underestimated and must be faced squarely.The following statement was made by the German pastor, Rev. Martin Niemoller in 1945
First they came for the Communists,
And I didnt speak up,
because I wasnt a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didnt speak up,
because I wasnt a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didnt speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
Clintons former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers bungled his debut as the new president of Harvard University. Summers recently called black studies professor Cornel West on the carpet for giving soft grades, advising Al Sharptons political campaigns and making rap music recordings. West and another Harvard African-American studies star, Henry Louis Gates, threatened to jump to Princeton.
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton criticized Summers openly racist treatment of West, demanding he endorse affirmative action. Jackson, Sharpton, West and Gates mislead students and workers by maintaining the illusion that the racist profit system can be reformed to meet the needs of black workers. The big capitalists need Jackson and Sharpton to disguise their brutal crackdown on the working class behind a liberal front.
Students and workers should expose Summers and Harvard for their role in formulating and implementing U.S. imperialisms new reign of terror at home and abroad. Summers came directly from Clintons White House, on a ruling-class mission to discipline Harvard. Under Clinton, he led the massive shift of funds from social services to the police and military that enabled the rulers to mobilize so quickly after Sept. 11. At Treasury, he helped slash Medicare and turned Welfare into slave-labor Workfare. He aproved financial mega-mergers, like the one that created the Citigroup colossus, run by Robert Rubin, his mentor and predecessor as Clintons Treasury Secretary. All this dovetailed with the Hart-Rudman Commissions and Harvards recommendations for preparing for a Pearl Harbor-style terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Since his inauguration at Harvard, Summers has tried to put the nations flagship university on a war footing. "Harvard has a responsibility as a citizen to support all public servants, especially those who fight and are prepared to die," (Harvard Crimson, 11/16/01) He is also cooperating with the INS and Justice Departments racist round-up of Arab students. "The University has an obligation to comply with the law." (Crimson, same issue)
Summers appointed Steven Hyman as provost with "responsibility for academic planning and policy." Hyman is a biologist/psychiatrist specializing in genetics and "youth violence." He headed the National Institute for Mental Health in the late 1990s, another Clinton fascist in liberals clothing. He encourages the long discredited Nazi theory that genes cause crime. He wants to spread racist biological determinism by linking Harvards multi-billion-dollar genome project to many college courses.
Jackson, Sharpton, West and Gates ask only that Harvard put a velvet glove on its iron fist. They and Summers all support the "War on Terror" in Afghanistan. They have no intention of seriously criticizing Harvards complicity in U.S. rulers racism, fascism and war.
CAMBRIDGE, MA, January 14 As the Living Wage campaign at Harvard heats up, PLP members and friends have helped sharpen the struggle to view the University as not just a "bad" employer but as an enemy of the international working class and an important servant of U.S. capitalism.
Since the end of last Mays sit-in for a $10.25 minimum wage for Harvard workers, several rallies have been held, coinciding with the inauguration of Larry Summers as Harvards president, and the Katz committee report on Harvards wages. The committee four students, three workers, two administrators and 10 faculty members hand-picked by the President made non-binding recommendations on Harvard wages, (see Challenges, 5/23/01, 6/6/01). At the last major rally, on Nov. 30, 200 students and 150 Harvard custodial workers marched through Harvard Square denouncing the universitys wage policies. On Dec. 19, the committee recommended a one-time hourly wage hike to between $10.83 and $11.30 for all Harvard workers, and for parity between Harvard and outsourced (sub-contracted) workers.
The campaign is planning a struggle around the re-opened janitors contract while fighting to raise Harvard workers wages and end outsourcing altogether. The Living Wage campaign will march for racial and social justice on Martin Luther King Day to support the janitors contract struggle.
Throughout this period, PLP members have been trying to make the campaign more explicitly anti-racist and anti-imperialist, to win those involved to target Harvard as the main intellectual bastion of racism and U.S. imperialism, and to raise the need for communist revolution to end racism and exploitation. We were able to get the Living Wage campaign to identify Harvards wage policies as racist (which they hadnt done before). About 75% of Harvard workers making less than $10.25 (inflation-adjusted to $10.68) are black or Latin. In addition to confronting Harvards racism, weve opposed the campaigns associating with pro-war union misleaders and politicians and called for the Progressive Student Labor Movement (the umbrella organization of the Living Wage campaign) to oppose the war in Afghanistan and Harvards connection with it. In participating in an action to expose Harvard corporation member Herbert (Pug) Whitaker, an Enron director, we linked it to rejection of all Harvard corporation members they all serve U.S. imperialism (six of seven are on Rockefellers Council on Foreign Relations).
Weve also spread communist ideas in the campaign, having discussed with several participants what it would take to achieve communism, and have been defended against political attacks. Weve distributed CHALLENGES at every meeting and passed out hundreds of PLP leaflets at rallies, about Harvards promotion of racist and pro-U.S. imperialist policies. Weve also given PLP pamphlets about this to campaign members. The struggle continues .
And now its "Enrongate." The Enron scandal may equal or surpass Watergate in relation to the fight within the U.S. ruling class. The Eastern Establishment used Watergate to bring down the Nixon administration, appoint Rockefeller vice-President and change the direction of national policy.
They main wing must again discipline the ruling class to insure expanded oil wars on behalf of Rockefellers Exxon Mobil. They may use "Enrongate" the Enron/Bush/Cheney connection as a club over Bushs head, especially to reverse the tax cuts that endanger the military and other programs they need.
Enron sinned when it moved from its original focus as an energy supplier into speculative commodities trading that often harms the capitalist class as a whole. It further outraged the big bosses when it crippled Californias power generating firms by cornering the electricity market.
Enron bankrupted the retirement funds of thousands of its employees, robbing them of $1.2 billion in life savings (not to mention their jobs), while causing losses of hundreds of millions from union pension funds. Enron misled investors by withholding and falsifying information about its financial problems, allowing its stocks to remain at artificially high levels.
While Wall Street was praising Enron, and its stock "soared" to over $70 per share, 29 executives began selling their shares in huge lots. This netted them $1.1 billion, including $101 million to CEO Lay and $353 million to Lou Pai, former chairman of an Enron subsidiary. Meanwhile, Enron barred its own employees from selling their stock, which began to fall until it reached bottom at a few cents a share.
Enron has close ties to the Bush family. After Bush Sr.s defeat in 1992, Lay hired former cabinet members James Baker and Robert Mosbacher as "consultants." As governor of Texas, Bush Jr. chose Lay to head his business council. Lay and Enron became Bushs biggest campaign contributors.
Enron helped formulate Californias disastrous energy deregulation plan and netted billions in overpriced electricity rates. The states largest utility filed for bankruptcy as the state suffered from roving blackouts. Lay flew to Washington to meet with Vice-President Cheney about "energy policy matters including the California situation." (London Financial Times, 1/11/02) The very next day Cheney told the Los Angeles Times, "the administration would not support price caps on electricity" (Financial Times), which would have drastically affected Enron profits.
Wendy Gramm, wife of Texas Senator Phil Gramm, served as chairperson of the Commodities Future Trading Corporation (CFTC), and "kick-started regulations that exempted some energy trading from government oversight, a move backed by Enron." (Financial Times) After leaving CFTC, she joined Enrons board of directors. On Nov. 1, 1998 she sold all of her 10,256 shares of Enron stock receiving $276,912.
Maybe now the empire has struck back. Enron is in shambles and their CEO may be on his way to billionaire jail. But workers have no stake in backing Wall St. against Houston. All the politicians and media hounds who are now burying Enron are the same ones who are rounding up Arab and Muslim "suspects," destroyed welfare, put two million in prison, launched a series of wars, and are building a fascist "Homeland Defense." A boss is a boss is a boss.
"The great success that we enjoyed may have caused us to underestimate the growing strength of our competitors [and] the effect of the economic downturn." (Ford Chairman and CEO William Clay Ford, Jr.) With Wall Street demanding job and production cuts, Ford is eliminating 35,000 jobs, roughly 10 percent of its workforce. About 22,000 jobs will be lost in North America, creating hardships for these workers and their families, and for tens of thousands others in parts plants who supply Ford. About 12,000 of these jobs, with 6,800 in North America, are already gone.
Ford has 49 plants in North America, with the capacity to build 5.7 million cars and trucks. But they have never sold more than 4.8 million. In 2001, Ford sold 4.1 million cars and trucks, while factories took turns sitting idle and line speed slowed. Ford will post a $5.4 billion loss in 2001. In 1999 they posted the best profits ever for the industry, $7 billion.
Production will be cut from 5.7 million to 4.8 million units. Eleven plants will eliminate shifts. The United Auto Workers (UAW) contract expiring in 2003 prohibits plant closings, as does the contract with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), which expires this September. But five plants will close by the middle of the decade. These include Edison, N.J. (1420 workers), Oakville, Ontario (1303 workers), the Aluminum Casting plant in Brook Park, Ohio (100 workers), the St. Louis Hazelwood Assembly plant (2,377 workers), and the Vulcan Forge plant in Dearborn, Michigan (80 workers). No new products will go to the Avon Lake, Ohio plant, and the Cuautitlán assembly plant in Mexico, which has already fired about 1,000 workers. Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele said, "When we see nothing new coming for plants, the inevitable will likely happen " (Detroit Free Press 1/14)
In 2001, total auto sales stayed at near record levels, largely because Ford and GM offered interest-free financing. U.S. automakers have lived off of big rebates, low interest loans and cheap leases to boost sales, something avoided by their European and Asian competitors. Despite these incentives, "Ford and GM are likely to see their market share shrink again this year, when overall sales are expected to fall sharply " (New York Times, 1/6)
Meanwhile, CAW head Buzz Hargrove has threatened to strike Ford for sacrificing "Canadian jobs." But this is mostly nationalist hot air. When push comes to shove, the CAW is as much a loyal partner of the auto bosses as the UAW.
The UAW and CAW "no-plant-closing" agreements will do no more to stop plant closings than SUB pay (Supplemental Unemployment Benefits) did to "stop layoffs" over 500,000 jobs ago. You cant negotiate anything permanent with the bosses. Just ask the 70,000 retired LTV workers who are watching their "lifetime" pensions and medical coverage follow the company down the drain. The only permanent thing is the never-ending struggle between bosses and workers. The depression sweeping the steel industry may be headed for Detroit. The only hope for the future is building an international PLP among industrial workers.
Fords job cuts have already hit hard at the Cuautitlan Izcalli assembly plant in Mexico. The regular bus trips from the town of Zempoala to work at the Ford plant have all but disappeared. The economies of Hidalgo Silao and Guanajuato have also been heavily affected by Fords job cuts.
Ford and the National Union of Ford Workers are responding to the current crisis of overproduction and the recession in the U.S. and Mexico by getting rid of the most militant workers in the plant. According to El Universal (Jan. 13), " a rank-and-file workers newsletter wrote that the dirty war waged by Ford and the hacks go on with more firings to push the use of subcontractors, lowering wages .Now Ford is not only firing militant workers, but any worker who is not submissive to the companys whims."
For many years, Ford and the union have resorted to all forms of repression. El Universal reported that on Jan. 8, workers held a mass to mark the twelfth anniversary of the murder of Cleto Nigmo, who was shot by union goons while striking to demand payments of Xmas bonuses. Three of the killers were grabbed by workers and handed over to the cops, who soon released them on bail.
Three-term head of the National Union of Ford Workers, Juan José Sosa Arreola, has ousted three local leaderships at Ford Cuautitlán, including the elected executive board last February. The unions only plan to fight the current round of attacks is to ask workers for voluntary retirements.
Meanwhile, fired workers continue to fight for their jobs. Laid-off autoworkers who have been reading CHALLENGE for several years, are beginning to realize this is a life-and-death struggle. The crisis of capitalism is driving millions of workers onto the unemployment lines and into dire poverty. The only solution is to join the revolutionary PLP and fight for a communist society where workers produce for our needs. From Ontario to Dearborn to Cuautitlan, "Autoworkers of the World, Unite!"
MICHOACAN, MEXICO, Jan. 12 On Dec. 20, 2,000 workers seized the Sicartsa steel companys four mills. Today over 10,000 steel workers and supporters marched in Lazaro Cardenas-Las Truchas to back them. They are fighting for the recognition of the leadership they elected to Section 271 of the National Metal and Mining Workers Union of Mexico. The national union has called for a nation-wide strike by its 250,000 members on Jan. 31 to shut all of Mexicos steel and mining companies.
Several months ago, workers voted to strike in a mass assembly, despite 500 riot cops sent by Michoacans governor to intimidate them. The sellout union leaders rejected their decision, so the workers voted to kick them out. But the Arbitration and Conciliation Board refused to recognize the new leadership.
On Oct. 14, the sellouts called a mass meeting to form an "independent" union, claiming the company would never grant a wage hike as long as they were part of the national union. Three days later workers ousted the sellouts from the union hall and called for elections to choose a new leadership. On Oct. 23, 1,823 of the 2,600 workers selected the new Executive Board. But the company refuses to recognize them and continues to deal with the ousted hacks.
The company fired 70 workers and took 12 members of the new Executive Board to court. Thats when workers blocked the four plants and stopped all operations.
On Dec. 19, 300 riot cops attacked the workers, injuring several. One, Ivan Valdovinos, was shot twice. But the workers were not intimidated. On Dec. 20, workers and supporters took over the plants, continuing to run the ovens but barring any production. The next day, 3,000 workers and supporters marched, demanding a wage hike, recognition of their union leadership, the dropping of all charges, and rehiring of all those fired. They have not had a wage increase for a year and a half.
On January 2 they marched again, backed by teachers and other unions and mass organizations. On Jan. 6, the Labor Dept. refused to recognize the new leadership. On January 8, 1,956 workers again voted for the new leadership in another election held before Labor Department officials. The bosses are not recognizing the results of this vote either.
This struggle occurs during mass layoffs in the auto industry and the downsizing of the steel industry across North America, all due to capitalisms crisis of overproduction. Its good that these militant workers are fighting back. However, even with the new union leadership, these attacks will continue.
The profit system cannot satisfy our needs. A year and a half ago, right-winger Vicente Fox was elected as the first President not affiliated with the PRI (the party ruling Mexico since the 1930s). He promised "jobs and everything for the masses." Today, jobs are being lost throughout Mexico and worldwide. The only leadership capable of defeating capitalism will come when workers join PLP and build a mass, international, revolutionary communist movement.
EAST CHICAGO, IN., January 12 "We dont need to fight for money for LTV or about tariffs. We need to fight for jobs!" declared a militant LTV worker. "The president of the USWA says we should take over the mills. Well, were gonna take him up on that!"
The audience of over 2,000 black, Latin and white working and retired steel workers and their families burst into thunderous applause. They were attending an informational meeting, only to hear a union lawyer and a benefits rep tell them what they werent going to get (in pensions and health benefits). PLP members ran out of literature, distributing 500 fliers and 100 CHALLENGES.
Last month, hundreds of us from LTV, Inland, Acme Steel and others camped out in Washington, D.C. to rally and lobby senators and congressmen. As LTV shut its doors, eliminating thousands of jobs, the unions battle cry was, "Lets Make Steel." They say, "We are the real patriots! We want to save the AMERICAN steel industry for national defense!" yea, so the bosses can fight their next oil war. All the big shots, from AFL-CIO President Sweeney on down, "demanded" loan guarantees for LTV, increased tariffs on imported steel and government help for pension and health benefit "legacy costs."
Steelworkers didnt get a dime. But the congressmen gave themselves big raises in the closing moments of the session, as well as billions for the war in Afghanistan.
A retiree in his 80s said, "Were caught between right-wing extremists in D.C. and right-wing extremists in Afghanistan. I think our right wingers are worse." He also said that after sixty years, "Nothing much has changed. The working class has to fight for everything. The system gives us nothing." A regular CHALLENGE reader observed that the attack on the World Trade Center gave the bosses the excuse they needed to bomb Afghanistan and screw LTV workers. Another worker said he was sick of the bosses wrapping themselves in their flag to justify their cuts.
A friend said, "Maybe [the PLP member] is right about revolution. These bloodsuckers have got to go! Weve got to face reality." Another said, "When we come back in January, weve got to raise more hell. Kick some ass."
There is a worldwide crisis in the steel industry, with over 200 million tons of "excess capacity." U.S. steel bosses are out to destroy 17 million tons of capacity. This doesnt mean that there isnt a need for steel for housing, hospitals, schools and public transportation. But under capitalism, if the bosses cant sell it at a high enough profit, they wont make it. When we replace this rotten system with communism, the working class will decide what needs to be produced.
A deal in bankruptcy court cut health care and 50% of SUB pay (Supplemental Unemployment Benefits). Both are extended until the end of February. After that, health benefits will probably be gone. In return, the union gave up the successorship clause in the contract. This means that LTV can be bought and reopen as non-union at reduced wages. Hundreds of workers will get early retirement, but pensions will be sharply reduced.
The workers want more than a few crumbs. Some talked about occupying the plants. Some want to storm the Capitol. The union wants to play the workers anger like a fiddle, to prod a few reforms from the politicians. Only communist revolution, no matter how long and hard that road may seem, can end a system that rewards 30 years of work in the mill with a pink slip, half a pension and a couple months of health benefits.
MORRISTOWN, NJ., Jan. 11 The six adult defendants arrested on July 4, 2000 and indicted on felony charges for protesting a fascist Nationalist Movement rally walked away from court today with a big victory a $100 fine for "Obstructing a Public Highway," a minor violation similar to a traffic ticket. In the past 18 months the bosses in Morristown, from the District Attorney to the local cops, pressed hard to convict the anti-racists. But the political will of the defendants, who refused to back down from the struggle, won the day.
The heart of this victory was confidence in the working class. The defendants, and their many supporters, held rallies in the community, visited and spoke to many workers and became involved in the fight to stop racist police attacks against local people. They also reached out to their own families, co-workers and friends for support. This confidence in the workers reached its highest point this past July 4th when many of the defendants were among the hundreds who returned to shout down the second Nationalist Movement rally. The cringing two fascists had to be escorted away.
The anti-racists also built up support in the legal community. Ten attorneys were active in the case; many others assisted. The case went from misdemeanor to felony charges, as the bosses threw the book at the defendants. In the face of this attack, the attorneys led a legal offensive to match the efforts in the community. The combination was a winner.
Today, the unity of the six defendants and their attorneys, a multi-racial group, standing firm before the judge and surrounded by a courtroom packed with supporters was a sight to see. One white couple approached a defendant afterwards to thank her for what she did, and to tell her how much they were impressed by what they had just seen in court.
This shows we can lead struggles in many different situations. We can grow through the struggle, as we did in this case. We can convince workers that its always necessary to fight back and our class is stronger for doing it.
NEWARK, NJ, Jan. 8 As the five-year time limit on welfare benefits approached in this state, about 80 people, including clients, welfare workers and advocates attended a forum on welfare reform here last month. It was organized by the Essex County chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). PLP members present sharpened the discussion at the event.
In 1996, liberal Bill Clinton signed into law the racist Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, justified by the lies that clients "dont want to work" and are "irresponsible." This law established the five-year time limit for benefits and institutionalized slave labor Workfare programs. Under Workfare, clients work up to 35 hours and receive only their benefits in return.
Even before the time limits, N.J. welfare rolls had already been slashed 60% through various punitive actions, mainly sanctions cutting off benefits to those who dont "cooperate" with Workfare and other dead-end "work activities." Now, as the bosses economy sinks further into recession, fewer jobs are available. Meanwhile, many of those off the rolls holding low-wage, no benefit jobs are facing layoffs.
The main issue speakers debated was the possibility and desirability of clients and others "making it" under capitalism. Several of the introductory speakers faced oppression when younger but now are successful bureaucrats. They said each person must take charge of his/her own life in order to overcome adversity.
While there was an element of truth in this, these speakers ignored the inability of capitalism to function without racism and oppression. The system is set up to allow only a select few to "succeed." The rulers 0promoted black politicians in the 1970s to persuade black workers to think the system could work for them. Some, like Wayne Bryant of Camden, are now taking the lead in attacking unemployed workers. (Bryant sponsored the NJ law that excludes children from welfare payments if they are born to a mother already collecting welfare for herself and previous children.)
Several panelists placed welfare time limits in the broader picture of prison labor, the mass interrogations and detentions of thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants, and the jailing of striking Middletown teachers, breaking their strike. Two speakers said the root cause of imperialist war, fascism and recession is a capitalist system in crisis. They rejected the idea that clients should view the world in terms of individual struggles to fight oppression. Rather, one said, clients can and must fight back as part of the larger struggle for the needs of our class.
Following the introductory speakers, too little time was left for audience participation and to plan actions against the time limits. Still many who attended wanted to fight back. PLP will continue bringing our communist ideas to mass organizations, to growing numbers of workers struggling against capitalism and all of its ills.
NEW YORK CITY, Jan. 11 Bushs "war on terror" seems to have been extended to about 600 undocumented immigrant workers who were victimized by bosses looking to make a fast buck cleaning up lower Manhattan soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. These exploited workers enabled many bombed-out businessmen to return to their profit-making outfits.
"Contractors plucked immigrant workers off street corners to scrub potentially toxic dust our of [nearby] buildings without giving the workers safety training or protective equipment," reported the NY Daily News, 1/11). The dust likely contained concentrations of toxic asbestos, fiberglass and lead, an industrial hygienist told the News. The "mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants said sleazy hiring practices and hazardous working conditions were rampant in the days immediately following Sept. 11.
"These workers literally put their lives on the line," declared Luna Yasui, a lawyer for a labor group. "Not one was told that the work could be dangerous to their health." They were "the workers who enabled lower Manhattan to go back to work."
"I had fevers and I have a lot of coughing and nosebleeds," one undocumented worker who cleaned apartments on Chambers and Fulton Streets told the News.
Most were not given respirators or other safety equipment. Some who bought their own said the bosses snatched them away to use themselves. The workers were offered $7.50 an hour, barely one-third of the normal wage paid to regular asbestos workers. Many said they were stiffed out of even that paltry amount after being sent on wild goose chases to Queens storefronts where anonymous individuals who were supposed to pay them never appeared.
If theres a new way to suck the blood and sweat out of exploited workers, capitalism will surely find it.
Theres an old saying, "If your friends out of work, its a recession; if youre out of work, its a depression!" Well, its a depression for at least 14 million workers and the families who depend on them. Its even worse for black and Latin workers because of racist unemployment, suffering double the jobless rate of white workers.
According to the December Labor Department report, the "official" unemployment rate is 5.8% meaning 8.3 million are jobless. This does not include 4.3 million part-time workers who want full-time jobs but cannot find them. (They count anyone who works one hour a week as "employed!") The government also doesnt include as unemployed 1.3 million workers whove given up looking for non-existent jobs.
That along would add up to an "official" figure of 13.9 million jobless or underemployed. It does not include workers on welfare, like the 3,500 just taken off Workfare in New York City, who want jobs but cant get them. Nor does it include two million in prisons, two-thirds of whom are there because of non-violent offenses. Most are unskilled workers and would most likely be on the unemployment lines if not in jail. (As the Europeans, who dont sentence non-violent drug offenders to prison say, "The U.S. jails its unemployment problem.") It also does not include the two million in the armed forces, a good percentage of whom enlisted because they couldnt find jobs, especially black and Latin youth.
Ford just announced a total of 35,000 layoffs between last year and this year; GM and At&T are wiping out another 5,000 each. About 230 public companies with $182 billion in assets filed for bankruptcy in 2001, not counting Enron, the 7th largest corporation in the U.S. Wall Street pundits are predicting a "turnaround." However, business writer John Crudele says, "The financial markets are improving because they perceive an improvement in the economy, and the economy is mostly only reflecting the gains in the financial markets. Its like believing that you are pretty because you are telling yourself you are pretty." (New York Post, 1/8)
Capitalism is a roller coaster ride of boom and bust. Because of the drive for maximum profits, each boss overproduces, trying to outdo his competitor. This leads to closing factories and businesses and mass layoffs to cut losses on the backs of the working class. Capitalism "solves" its unemployment problem only during world wars when it drafts millions into the military. The profit system requires a permanent army of unemployed, and uses it to depress wages of those still working.
While the economists babble about the twists and turns in the economy, and the New York Times says an upturn "is just around the corner," millions suffer the ravages of capitalism whether its boom or bust. In New York City today, over one million people depend on soup kitchens for food. Thats one-eighth the population of the largest city in the U.S.!
We can never recover the losses imposed on us by capitalism. But with communist revolution, we can eliminate the profit system that causes them.
The "war against terrorism" has provided the ruling class with a convenient excuse to turn the screws on workers. One of the most dangerous plans, using the worst aspects of computer technology, will let your boss keep track of you every minute and know every intimate detail about your life. From store clerks to cops, your identity will be verified. The pitiful excuse for such a system is to "detect terrorists." But thats only a small part of what it will do. It will also make life a living hell for undocumented workers.
The first people lucky enough to get the new high-tech, tamper-proof ID cards will be four million members of the military (including selected reserve/guard), Defense Department civilians and military contractors. Already, 120,000 of the new IDs have been issued. Each plastic ID card has two photos, two bar codes, a magnetic strip (like a credit card), and a computer chip. As the Washington Post (12/17/01) wrote, "The cards will enable Defense Department officials to look into their databases and know the doorways [the cardholder] passes through, the computer he accesses [and] the doctor he sees."
The Post says, "The high-tech ID cards are the models for something that was unthinkable before Sept. 11: national identification cards for all U.S. citizens." They report that the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (state government agencies issuing drivers licenses) "is devising a plan to create a national identification system that would link all driver databases to high-tech drivers licenses with computer chips, bar codes and biometric identifiers." (A "biometric identifier" is a fancy term for fingerprints, a computer image of your face or a scan of your eyes.) This would allow instant verification of the ID card. A hand-held machine could verify whether your body is the one registered in the "biometric identifier" and whether the number is genuine.
The theory is that these ID cards could be used by cops, bouncers at bars and airport check-in clerks. But there are already proposals to require presenting the card when traveling by bus (even if you pay cash) or buying fertilizer (which can be used to make a bomb). The cards could be checked every time you make a credit card purchase or use an ATM.
There are also plans for a more intrusive "voluntary" system. The airlines, through their Air Transport Association, want a card with a biometric identifier linked to "government databases that would include criminal, intelligence, and financial records," says the Post. The card would be "voluntary" you would only need it if you wanted to fly! The Post assures us the card would "make life more convenient for travelers, airlines and others" because it would "improve the ability of clerks to ask travelers personal questions about their lives that would help verify who they are." Feel better?
But the "voluntary" aspect is only for citizens. Immigrants wont have a choice. The House has approved a bill requiring all immigrants to carry visa cards containing biometric information by October 2003. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are pushing the Visa Entry Reform Act in the Senate, which would apply to all foreigners, even short-term tourists.
Feinstein, the darling of the liberals, is the most dedicated proponent of ID for immigrants and shes not alone. Another famous liberal, Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz who approves torturing "suspected terrorists" has praised national ID cards for everyone, citizen or immigrant. He wants to "protect our privacy" by limiting the information on the cards to name, Social Security number and picture, so the cops would have to punch in the number instead of swiping the card through a machine.
Millions who might oppose such nakedly fascist measures, and especially revolutionary communists are directly threatened by these schemes. We should take the fight against national ID cards into our unions and other mass organizations. We can expose the liberals as no "lesser evil" than Bush, Rumsfeld & Co.; show how every worker is hurt when the bosses go after the most vulnerable workers, like undocumented immigrants; and how the bosses are the biggest terrorists of all.
The "war against terrorism" now includes terrorizing Muslim immigrants. The vicious repression directed at these workers is creating a precedent that will be used first against all immigrants, and then against all workers. All of us will soon face the same terror! Ways in which immigrants, especially Muslims, are being targeted include:
Bush authorized military tribunals for non-citizens. While the sweeping order is now directed at Al Qaeda, it covers all 18 million non-citizens. According to former Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann, "Whenever the president suspects that one of them may have been a terrorist in the past or has aided a terrorist" even decades ago, that person can be sent before a "court" of three colonels (Washington Post, 12/3/01). The suspect can be held in jail indefinitely before "trial" which can be closed to the public, use hearsay evidence and the verdict cannot be appealed.
On September 21, Attorney General Ashcroft ordered immigration judges to close hearings to the public in "certain cases." That means "no visitors, no family and no press" plus an order "not to discuss the case with anyone." (Post, 11/29/01) "This restriction includes confirming or denying whether such a case" even exists! (National Law Guild website)
On October 26, the Justice Department issued an order allowing immigrants to be held in jail indefinitely, even if an immigration judge has ordered them released. (New York Times, 11/28/01) Already the names of 314,000 immigrants who have avoided deportation orders or proceedings are being entered into the FBI data bank for "investigation," starting with Middle Eastern men. (Times, 1/9/02)
The Justice Department has asked an appeals court to approve deporting people on the basis of secret evidence, shown only to the judge, not to the immigrant or his lawyer. (NY Times, 12/9/01)
On November 9, Ashcroft directed the FBI to "interview" at least 5,000 men aged 18 to 33 from countries where (read Arab) terrorists are active. The guidelines for these interviews include looking for any violations of the complicated immigration laws, no matter how minor, to throw people in jail (see the ACLU website).
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will closely track all 600,000 foreign students (Los Angeles Times, 12/4/01). Students failing to report a change in subject major or a dropped class or who fall below INS-set requirements for being "full-time" will have violated their student visa and be deported. In early December, the INS announced it was arresting 50 students in San Diego for violating their visas. (Associated Press, 12/12/01)
Liberal California Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed stopping all student visas, which generated a storm of protest. A "compromise" would ban students from "terror states" (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba and North Korea) unless the student is certified through a complicated process not to pose a threat. This now affects 3,370 students, more if the list is expanded.
To see how the bosses use "anti-terrorism" to attack all workers, consider how the USA PATRIOT Act changes the wiretap rules. The law expands the powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, a shadowy body that acts in total secrecy. FISA wiretaps are allowed even when there is no evidence of a crime. All that is required is that the wiretap target be "reasonably suspected" of being connected to a foreign terrorist. That covers just about any foreigner in the U.S. Now Bush is asking Congress to eliminate the requirement of a foreign connection, so that anyone can be a wiretap target if there is a "reasonable suspicion" of a "connection" to a terrorist. (Post, 12/2/01) That includes untold thousands just living near a "suspected terrorist."
Isnt all this "unconstitutional"? Fat chance. The Constitution protects "rights" as long as the bosses dont feel threatened. Article 1, Sec IX, 2 reads, "The privilege [!] of the writ of habeus corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." This means is that whoever controls "public safety" can hold you in prison indefinitely, without charges or a trial.
The liberals are not going to defend the rights of immigrants. Liberal Senator Feinstein is leading the charge to change the laws. The liberal Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz supports using torture on suspected terrorists, but only as "a last resort!" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/4/01)
Passivity in the face of this fascist terror puts our own heads in the noose. We must expose and attack the anti-immigrant terror, building an international PLP in the process. We should act quickly and boldly, before too many people become accustomed to the vicious repression.
On every college campus we should expose and fight against university complicity in war and fascist terror. Demand that university administrators not cooperate with the INS/FBI tracking of foreign students, or provide them with addresses of students for "voluntarily interviews." On the job we should demand that unions provide legal aid for any worker being tried on secret evidence or in a secret trial. We should organize strikes and job actions against firings or harassment of immigrant workers. We should raise resolutions condemning the oil war in Afghanistan and the terror at home.
Finally, we should make it clear that the working class is international. "Foreign" is a status created by bosses who establish national borders by force of arms to increase their profits. PLP says smash all borders!
The abject servility of a Jesse Jackson and ex FBI informer Al Sharpton in their support of, or silence about, U.S. imperialisms war for oil in Asia (see page 2) stands in sharp contrast to the principled stands taken by three of the greatest black communist leaders of the 20th century Paul Robeson, Benjamin Davis and William E. B. Dubois. They understood that racism was created by capitalism to both divide and weaken the working class as well as to net the bosses hundreds of billions in super-profits from the lower incomes forced on black and Latin workers. You cant fight racism by spreading the illusion as the Jacksons and Sharptons do that capitalism can be reformed. The latter try to feed the Democratic Party to black workers in exchange for a few crumbs, most of which dont even reach most workers and youth.
Robeson, Davis and Dubois never kowtowed to the big bosses like Jackson and others like Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, etc. On the contrary, they fought the racist rulers throughout their entire lives.
Robeson stood up for the communist-led Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War anti-communist frenzy. U.S. rulers seized Robesons passport, fearing his revolutionary influence around the world; hauled him before HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), cajoled black "leaders" and the popular major league baseball player Jackie Robinson to condemn him (although Robinson later said he had made a mistake) and took away Robesons internationally acclaimed acting and singing career.
Throughout all these attacks Robeson never once flinched. He was maligned for vowing that black people in the U.S. would never fight an imperialist war against the socialist Soviet Union, declaring that the USSR was the first place he had ever felt free of racism. Robeson was awarded and accepted the Stalin Peace Prize. Now, when he is long dead, the rulers and their lackeys like Jackson and Sharpton try to "honor" him in order to allow some of his greatness to rub off on them, conveniently "forgetting" on whose side Robeson stood.
Then there was communist leader Benjamin Davis, beloved by black and white workers alike in the 1930s and 1940s, elected to the New York City Council from Harlem on the Communist Party ticket, garnering more votes than any other Councilman of his day. He was a leading fighter to end Metropolitan Lifes ban on black tenants in their huge tax-supported housing development, Stuyvesant Town. He was indicted and jailed by the Cold War government of Harry Truman for his communist beliefs and support of the worldwide fight against U.S. imperialism. He continued the fight against the racist U.S. rulers to his dying day.
Finally there was the great, world-respected William E. B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP a century ago, who, after 50 hears of fighting racism, joined the Communist Party in 1945, declaring that becoming a communist was "the logic of my life." And what did this true hero, beloved by the working class, black and white, say about the world leader of socialism on the occasion of his death?
"Josef Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous .He was the son of a serf .and the highest proof of his greatness [was] he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.
"Stalin .was attacked and slandered as few men have been, yet [did not] let [this] attack drive him from his convictions nor induce him to surrender positions which he knew were correct .He first set Russia on the road to conquer race prejudice and make one nation out of its 140 nationalities .
"He early saw through the .insulting attitude of liberals in the U.S. [and their] naïve acceptance of Trotskys lying propaganda .Against it Stalin stood like a rock as he continued to advance toward a real socialism instead of the sham Trotsky offered.
"Three great decisions faced Stalin and he met them magnificently; first the problem of the peasants, then the West European attack, and last the Second World War .
"Stalin risked a second revolution and drove out the rural bloodsuckers [the "kulaks"].
"Then came the continuing threat of attack by all nations .It was Stalin who steered the Soviet Union [when] Western Europe and the U.S. were willing to betray her to fascism, and then had to beg her aid in the Second World War .
"He risked the utter ruin of socialism in order to smash the dictatorship of Hitler and Mussolini. After Stalingrad the Western World did not know whether to weep or applaud. The cost of the victory to the Soviet Union was frightful. To this day the outside world has no dream of the hurt, the loss and the sacrifices. For his calm, stern leadership here arises the deep worship of Stalin by the people of all the Russias .
"Stalin neither cringed nor strutted he never surrendered .
"Such was the man who lies dead, still the butt of noisy jackals and the ill-bred men of the distempered West. In life he suffered under continuous and studied insult; he was forced to make bitter decisions .His reward comes as the common man stands in solemn acclaim." W.E.B. Dubois, March 16, 1953
The article in CHALLENGE (Jan. 16) about last months mass rebellion in Argentina was right on the mark about the missing ingredient the lack of a mass communist leadership. The rebellion ousted the hated administration of President de la Rúa (the first time an elected President has been forced to quit by mass protests in front of the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace). But instead of a revolutionary government, another set of bosses, led by Peronista President Duhalde, is now in power.
For several years tens of thousands of workers, with and without jobs, have been involved in many militant actions against the ravages of capitalism in Argentina. But a relatively new element appeared in a mass way in the latest uprising, the so-called middle class.
For some time, particularly since the early 1990s when free market capitalism became the vogue, the "middle class" enjoyed relative prosperity compared to workers who lost their jobs to privatization and downsizing. The "middle class" supported the hard line of previous governments against militant workers and youth. When they werent buying imported goods on Florida Street in Buenos Aires, they were vacationing and shopping overseas.
They welcomed free market capitalism as the "best of all times." But as the world crisis of capitalism hit increasingly harder in the late 1990s, things changed. It wasnt just workers losing jobs; now the so-called middle class became victims. Then they began to see the corruption of the politicians they had voted for; how the International Monetary Funds austerity was hitting the "middle class" as well as the working class. The politicians they had believed in turned increasingly against them. When the now deposed de la Rúa government limited their bank withdrawals, the "good times" were gone. Finally, they had it.
On December 19, tens of thousands from the "middle class" took to the streets in "empty pots" protests, demanding food. A state of siege and vicious attacks by the cops inspired even more militant protests. On December 20, hundreds of thousands of workers and youth, joined by thousands of "middle class" people, surrounded the Casa Rosada and Congress and forced President de la Rua to quit and flee in a chopper.
The middle class is not really a stable social class. Its a social strata, many trying not to be workers, tending to swing towards the capitalist class. But in times of crisis it may join working-class protests, as it has in Argentina. However, if the working class doesnt organize itself into a mass revolutionary communist party, the middle class could again be won over by the bosses with a few crumbs and support all the bosses attacks against workers.
Meanwhile, the various reformist (fake left) groups like the Communist Party, various Trotskyite organizations (relatively large here) and the Peronista union hacks were basically absent from the massive militant protests, particularly during the most bitter fights with the cops. Instead theyve been busy trying to misguide the anger of the working class and its allies through different electoral or reformist schemes. What else is new?
I inadvertently omitted something from the letter I wrote you last issue about the Gulf War vet who told subway passengers that, having fought in Desert Storm, he experienced first hand "why the U.S. was fighting in Iraq and Kuwait it was all about the oil fields." He also said that he felt the Iraqi soldiers "really didnt want to fight. If they did," he said, "a lot of American soldiers would have been killed." Something to remember when the U.S. launches its next invasion after all the destruction and death from U.S. bombers, they may feel differently this time.
New York Reader