Enron executives falsely inflated the company's stock price, used accounting gimmicks to show phantom profits, and stole $1.1 billion at the expense of Enron workers' pensions -- and hundreds of thousands of others' -- when the whole scheme unraveled. By helping Bush steal the 2000 presidential election, they expected to wield partisan influence over the government's energy policy.
Still, most companies cook their books, particularly in a period of intense speculation like the 1990s. Most also juggle their tax rates to "produce the kind of earnings they desire" (John Crudele, New York Post, 1/22). And many cheat on their earnings per share (EPS) figures. If the numbers aren't right, then a big corporation can simply buy back its shares to reduce the outstanding amount of stock in private investors' portfolios and artificially drive up the EPS. IBM "has been buying back so many shares in recent years that some people joke that the company will soon have no shares in public hands" (Post article).
But IBM isn't being slammed in the press and the halls of Congress. IBM is an Eastern Establishment company in sync with the big bosses' strategy for oil wars abroad and a police state at home. Enron had a program that put its own corporate interest ahead of the capitalist class as a whole. They earned the Establishment's wrath when it overstepped its bounds by moving from the energy supply business into speculative commodities trading. It further embedded itself on the liberals' hit list with its attempt to corner the California electricity market. This behavior is typical of a newer capitalist trying to catch up to the big boys. Enron's problem was that the big boys didn't want a new domestic competitor. And the big boys happen to hold state power.
The Enron collapse proves the ruthlessness and resourcefulness with which the main wing is moving to rein in companies that diverge from its agenda. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) started the panic on Enron shares by alerting big investors to the stock price and accounting shenanigans. But this was just the start. The head of the U.S. Senate's Enron panel is Joe Lieberman, the cheerleader for the "whack Iraq soon" faction of the Eastern Establishment. Lieberman is also one of the loudest critics of Bush's tax cuts. Beneath a self-righteous smokescreen of complaints about "corporate greed," he reveals his true oil war motive: if the tax cuts aren't reduced, "...in no way will we have the money we need to invest in strengthening our military to keep our nation secure over the next decade." (Lieberman press release, 2/8/01)
The general character of this process is the consolidation of capital and political power in the hands of the most ruthless murderers the world has ever seen. But hatred for the greedy profiteers of Enron and Halliburton shouldn't drive us into the even more dangerous clutches of the Exxon Mobil liberals and generations of oil wars and home-front terror. Our agenda, as always, must be to build the PLP and organize for communist revolution.
The rulers' "war on terrorism" is actually one for control of world oil supplies, one in which U.S. bosses seem to enjoy a free hand. No other imperialist power can yet challenge them militarily. They prevented Pakistani rulers from opposing the move into Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is now the dominant force. They have succeeded in opening several new fronts, with no significant opposition. U.S. imperialism would appear to have a long, vigorous life ahead of it.
Workers must never underestimate the class enemy's strength. Just as dangerous, however, would be a one-sided refusal to see the rulers' weaknesses and our side's potential to take advantage of them. The bosses are very powerful, but they're not all-powerful
* The war in Afghanistan may not be over yet. Defeating the Taliban and routing Al Qaeda's standing army are one thing. Pacifying the country and guaranteeing the unchallenged flow of oil through a new pipeline between Afghanistan and Pakistan is quite another. Al Qaeda may well have the capability of waging a long guerrilla war in Afghanistan, tying up a large number of U.S. troops acting as a pipeline police force likely to suffer significant casualties. The latter may also face the instability caused by warlords fighting each other.
* As Eastern Establishment loyalist and former Iraq weapons inspector Richard Butler points out: "...the war has led many Americans to believe that Saudi Arabia is not the best of allies" (New York Times, 1/18). The forces that back bin Laden and Al Qaeda represent a significant element of the Saudi capitalist class. They want to end their junior partnership with Exxon & Co. and gain primary control of the oil. Their cynical but clever strategy calls for sucking U.S. imperialism into a multiple-front war that would involve the mass murder of workers in many Muslim countries. This could provoke an outburst of nationalist-religious outrage, to be used to drive the U.S. out of the oil-producing countries. It's far too early to predict that this strategy is doomed to fail.
* Among other things, the sharp tactical debate over Iraq among Eastern Establishment billionaires reflects their fear of the potential for an alliance between Iraqi and Saudi and/or other Mid-East rulers. Such alliances might become possible with the victory of Saudi bosses favorable to Al Qaeda. This could force a U.S. military response throughout the Persian Gulf. One way or another, the U.S. oil war is headed towards Iraq, with many unintended consequences, not all of which will favor the U.S.
* The sharpening armed struggle between Israeli rulers and Palestinian nationalists further exposes the limits of U.S. power. Drafting and signing a "peace" agreement isn't the same as enforcing it. U.S. imperialism can neither control its own Israeli vassals nor impose its will on Arafat's political base or his chief Palestinian rivals. The Camp David and Oslo "peace" accords between Israel and Arafat are dead. Every new suicide bombing and murderous response by the Israeli military further jeopardizes U.S. oil interests throughout the region.
* Other imperialists cannot yet threaten U.S. supremacy, but they are developing long-range strategic plans to do so. Despite temporary appearances, the Putin gang in Russia is no friend of Exxon, leader of the main U.S. rulers. The temporary tactical alliance will not last. Russia is a major oil producer. Its rulers have no intention of playing second-fiddle to the U.S. China's rulers have a long-range need to replace the U.S. as the world's chief imperialist power. An important aspect of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan ("Phase I") and "Phase II" is Exxon & Co.'s drive to dominate East Asia's anticipated petroleum supply boom over the next couple of decades. This is unacceptable to Chinese rulers, and hardly a scenario for harmony and stability.
* On the home front, the war still appears popular. But oil can't be pumped, shipped or defended from the air. U.S. rulers' plans, as well as the contingencies described above, will necessitate growing numbers of ground troops spread all over the world -- and growing numbers of casualties. Today, the U.S. military depends for its front-line troops on a racist economic draft of the most oppressed workers. Despite all their patriotic flag-waving, recruitment of fresh "volunteers" is nowhere near meeting the rulers' coming war needs. A military draft will eventually become the order of the day. Already a conscription bill to draft all 18-22-year-old males has been submitted to Congress by two highly-placed Republicans. Placing guns in the hands of the most oppressed black, Latin, and white workers is a dangerous game. Even the most ruthless police state can't forever contain the growing class hatred of a working class that doesn't want to be policed nor content fighting a long war.
* Finally, the bosses' polls show that the economy has passed the "war on terrorism" as the number one concern of the population. With at least 14 million workers jobless or underemployed, with hundreds of thousands being screwed out of pension benefits by the Enron swindle, capitalism's contradictions are asserting themselves on the backs of the working class. Increasingly workers will ask how the government has tens of billions for war and "homeland defense," and nothing for the unemployed.
The unfolding situation is complicated. The rulers are strong but not without weaknesses. Our side is small and tactically weak, but we have the potential to skillfully fight for our ideas in the mass movement, and earn the trust and confidence of workers, students and soldiers. Conflicts will sharpen. Larger opportunities will arise. We are in this for the long haul. Communism's day will come. The slow, hard, patient work we do now to prepare for it is vital.
Every day almost all of the world's exported oil, 30 million barrels of it, must go through one or more of seven passages identified as "chokepoints" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even relatively minor military action could shut off the flow of oil at these points. Four just happen to border countries targeted by the planned deployments.
* First is the Strait of Hormuz, at the head of the Persian Gulf between Iran and Iraq.
* Next comes the Strait of Malacca, separating Malaysia and Indonesia. This narrow body of water carries Japan's vast crude imports from the Middle East, as well as China's rapidly growing purchases of Persian Gulf oil. For a century, U.S. bosses kept huge naval and air bases in the Philippines in order to control shipping in this region.
* The third chokepoint, the narrows between Somalia and Yemen, funnels oil traffic into the Red Sea, past Sudan's shores and through the Suez Canal.
* The fourth hotspot is the Suez Canal itself, which funnels Middle Eastern crude towards Western European markets.
Terrorists murdering workers on behalf of one capitalist faction or another operate from Northern Ireland to southern Africa. But, when it comes to singling out enemies, petroleum dictates Washington's priorities. The Pentagon's hit list includes Iraq and Iran, two of the world's three greatest oil producers that are not currently under U.S. domination. The third, Russia, is playing ball with the U.S. on oil policy, for now, but will eventually turn hostile. Syria, lying between Iraq and the Mediterranean, could play a key role when U.S. rulers decide it's time to move to what now seems to be Phase III, ousting Saddam Hussein.
Over the past several weeks, the government shut down a Mosque, and an Arab community center was burned down. The University of Illinois-Chicago campus is cooperating with the Justice Department and the immigration service (INS) to keep tabs on Arabs and Muslims on student visas.
Today, black Marine Sergeant Jeannette Winters was buried in Gary, Indiana. Her body was returned after her military refueling plane crashed into a mountain in Pakistan. Her coffin was wrapped in the bosses' flag.
Several miles away, LTV Steel has closed its doors, putting 3,000 black, Latin and white steel workers on the street and threatening the pensions and health care of 70,000 more. American Steel closed last year and Bethlehem is in intensive care. Last year black men accounted for 42% of Indiana's prisoners while only 7.9% of the state's population is black.
The stench of war, fascism, racist terror and economic crisis surround us. The strip search and funeral, the closing of the Mosque and the steel mill, are not isolated incidents; and they are only the tip of the iceberg. The racist terror being unleashed against Arabs and Muslims is an attack on all workers. Black and Latin workers especially will find themselves even more terrorized as a result. Of 5.7 million Muslims in the U.S., 2.3 million are black. And every Latin worker, student and youth will find him- or herself under the INS magnifying glass as the government begins mass round-ups of "illegal" immigrants in the name of "security."
A terrible storm is coming. Only the deepest ties between the PLP and the masses of workers, soldiers, students and youth will see us through to the other side.
On Jan. 22, a one-day teachers' strike shut 80% of all schools here. Despite the bosses' and their media lies and attacks (even announcing "cancellation" of the march), that day 15,000 teachers, chanting "Enough promises, teachers of the country, unite," marched to the Islamic Majlis (Assembly) to present their demands for higher wages, housing subsidies, national insurance and the right to form an independent teachers' association. When some Majlis politicians addressed the teachers, the angry crowd shouted them down. Teachers knew these politicians were not their allies. (A politician's monthly salary equals a teacher's yearly wage.) Similar marches occurred throughout Iran.
This teachers' fight again shows that class struggle will continue under all circumstances. Many workers and youth now see that despite the mantle of religion, Iranian rulers are just another bunch of capitalist exploiters. Indeed, these teachers are teaching their students, and fellow teachers all worldwide, that the best education is to fight the bosses. An even better education is to learn from these struggles that the only way out of the hellish existence created by all bosses (under the name of any god) is to fight for a society without bosses -- communism.
Recently 2,000 workers occupied the Shuangfeng Textile factory
"On the fourth night of the strike, management cut off the heat," reported the International Herald Tribune (1/22). But the workers stuck it out, huddling together and wrapping themselves in thick blankets and surplus military coats. Even as the temperature went down, they refused to leave.
"Not too long ago, banners on the factory walls reminded workers that they were `masters' pf the communist state....Mostly women and mostly old, they quickly spoke of pay cuts and worthless stock shares, of corrupt officials and missing pension funds [shades of Enron!], of being cheated in China's rough-and-tumble transition from socialism to capitalism. They also spoke of the risks they were taking by fighting back."
Beginning on Dec. 16, the police attacked three times to try to oust workers from the factory, dragging women out by the hair, jabbing others with electric riots sticks. But the workers held on.
They returned to work with the promise that the company eventually would return their $14 million lost savings and pensions. The company then declared "bankruptcy" and emerged with the managers as the "new owners"(fake bankruptcy as it is called), The pay cuts remain.
This is just one of many battles occurring throughout China. "As thousands of factories are closed or sold, workers who once [had] lifetime job security now face mass layoffs and, sometimes, the loss of their savings to corrupt managers. "(IHT).
Although there are no official figures, a recent government report acknowledged that China a "high tide" of labor unrest exists. The number of workers involved in strikes more than doubled in the first half of the 1990s alone. Another report said than in the year 2000 there were 30,000 protests of significant size, more than 80 a day.
So while many see Deng's capitalist reforms as the road to modernization, the future is bleak for hundreds of millions. Cities in China resemble their capitalist counterparts in the U.S., Japan or Europe, with McDonald's, Pizza Huts and youth with red-tinted hair. Only a few million have benefited from Deng's "to-get-rich-is-glorious" capitalist maxim. For over a billion Chinese life has worsened. Over 100 million peasants roam China's main cities, dressed in rags and carrying their belongings on their backs, looking for work each day.
China's "market socialism" is becoming increasingly capitalistic. Workers' and peasants' dreams of a land where they ruled and built a society to satisfy their needs have been transformed into a yuppie haven for a small minority.
But as the world crisis of capitalism deepens, even the good life for most of these new yuppies will begin to disappear. China's main export markets -- in the U.S. and Europe -- are experiencing economic crisis. The conflicts within China are sharpening, as well as its rulers' competition with the U.S., Japan and India (its main competitors in Asia). Deng's reforms are leading to a future of war and more economic deprivation. The dreams of Chinese workers and peasant to become "masters of their lives" can only be accomplished by learning from the mistakes of the old communist movement and fighting for a society where production is not for the profit of a few bosses but is to produce for the needs of the masses of workers.
In 1998 German-based Continental Tire bought Euzkadi and proposed a "flexible" contract to boost productivity and destroy the gains won by the workers over the past 67 years. These include the five-day workweek and wages well above the national average.
Many see this strike as a test of the "new culture of labor" promised by Labor Secretary Carlos Abascal. (THENEWSMexico.com) The corrupt union confederations were allied with the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 60 years. Vicente Fox and his National Action Party won the presidency two years ago. Under the guise of curbing corrupt unions, the government is attacking all workers.
The Mexican economy, especially the auto industry, is being hit hard by the U.S. recession and the global crisis of overcapacity. Last year 382,000 jobs were lost in all kinds of industries in Mexico (Notimex, Jan. 24). The 3,000 GM assembly workers at the Guanajuato plant, plus the 2,000 working in auto subcontractors in the area, also fear for their jobs. The profit system can only solve the current crisis by cutting workers' jobs, wages and benefits. Even if workers win a few struggles, the bosses will eventually return with more attacks. The meager wage hikes workers have won this year have already been eroded by inflation.
The Euzkadi tire workers, as well as Ford and steel workers, are fighting back. Basic industrial workers fighting the bosses and their government can lead the whole working class. In these struggles, we can learn valuable lessons in how to challenge the ruling class for power. But this can only happen to the degree that we build a mass, international PLP in basic industry. This can raise the specter of, and advance the fight for, communist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. This vision can light the way through the dense fog of economic recession and imperialist wars.
The 2,700 Ford workers here will get 75% of their pay for the two weeks but "there is a lot of uncertainty even though these technical stoppages" are not unusual, according to one local union official. He said the "world economic situation makes this closing different than others, plus...production is being ended for a model built here [the 4-door Ford Escort]." (El Universal, 1/26).
These cuts are part of Ford's worldwide plans to eliminate 35,000 workers and shut five plants in North America. In 2001, Ford plants in Mexico produced 14.6% less units (239,690) than in 2000. Eighty percent of all local production is exported to the U.S.
A system that cannot provide jobs for workers must be smashed and replaced with one in which production serves the needs of all workers -- communism. The unity of autoworkers, from Hermosillo to Detroit, from Sao Paulo to Chicago, to wage a unified struggle against these job cuts is a good step towards that goal. Joining the PLP is the way to carry on this fight.
CHALLENGE readers will remember Buffenbarger was the "patriot" who called for support for Bush after 9/11. He even added his own jingoistic pearl, "We don't want justice; we want revenge." Well, he has no worries about getting any justice -- especially for aerospace workers! "The chickens have come home to roost," observed a shop floor mechanic.
These questions of legality are a continent-wide issue. Strikes are becoming increasingly illegal, either formally or de facto. Hundreds of striking Middletown, N.J. teachers were jailed last month. Railroad and airline workers' strikes have recently been declared illegal. Reinforcing these strike-busting edicts, all emergency loan guarantees to the airlines in the wake of 9/11 stipulate "that the carriers must keep labor costs in line." (USA Today, 1/15)
In one of the more bizarre efforts to outlaw strikes, a provincial board in British Columbia, Canada must now certify that a teacher does not constitute an essential service before he or she can strike! Teachers have been waiting weeks to hear who's considered essential and who isn't. Questions like, "Are seventh-grade math teachers more essential than eighth-grade language teachers?" now have great legal bearing. What next? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
In contrast, our Party puts the interests of the working class first. We know
class struggle will teach our class how to win. We know better than to put our
faith in the bosses' laws or government. When the bosses talk about
"democracy," they really mean the dictatorship of their class. We fight for the
dictatorship of the working class.
"Homeland Security" means fascism. A trade union philosophy is helpless before this fascist onslaught. A solely legal strategy insures co-operation or co-option by the "legal" fascist forces. As contract struggles intensify this fall, one of our key objectives is to win many more workers to understand the current period and the strategies we need to follow. We must learn to preserve our revolutionary forces and persevere in class struggle. We can then look forward to the day when we issue our own "call to action" -- a call to revolution.
The rally, held on the Martin Luther King holiday, had an explicitly anti-racist theme. Speakers included students from the Black Students Association, La Raza (Latin student group) and the Living Wage campaign. The La Raza speaker exposed Harvard's institutional racism, saying most of the workers paid below the "Living Wage" figure of $10.68/hr are black and Latin (as are 90% of the janitors). A rank-and-file leader from the janitors' local, SEIU 254, led the rally. A custodian and a dining worker also spoke.
Unfortunately politicians dominated the event, as they do the living wage movement. This reflects the sponsoring groups' lack the confidence that workers can confront Harvard without the help of union misleaders and politicians. Two of the latter, Boston city councilman Chuck Turner and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich (running for governor of Massachusetts) spoke for over an hour and a half. The workers spoke for five minutes combined.
The politicians pushed nationalism, saying it would be a "patriotic act" for Harvard to pay a living wage. The priest who spoke wants us to pray for Harvard's bosses! No one explicitly endorsed the war in Afghanistan, but patriotism inevitably builds support for U.S. imperialism.
We distributed 40 CHALLENGES and 350 leaflets. We explained how Harvard serves the main wing of the ruling class and is behind racist policies such as Workfare and mass incarceration.
Harvard's new president Lawrence Summers served in the Clinton administration that implemented slave labor workfare. As head of the World Bank, he called for dumping toxic waste in Africa because it is "economically efficient." Harvard professor Richard Herrnstein has written many racist tracts including The Bell Curve, which argue that black people are "genetically less intelligent" than whites. This provided ideological justification for abolishing welfare. We also exposed Summers' recent racism towards Harvard black professors such as Cornel West, but pointed out that the latter say nothing about Harvard's role in promoting racist and pro-U.S. imperialist policies.
PLP members in the Living Wage campaign will continue to advance the idea that workers and students have the power to confront Harvard and build support for a janitors' strike. We will condemn Harvard as a warmaker and strike-breaker, win workers and students to build the movement for communist revolution.
This contract is all about politics. Republican Governor George Pataki and State Senate leader Joseph Bruno backed state funding for the healthcare workers' contract in return for having their re-elections endorsed by union boss Dennis Rivera. Local 1199 has more than 200,000 members in New York State, mostly black and Latin, and until last week, Rivera served on the Democratic National Committee. Several years ago, 1199 launched a campaign against Pataki to stop Medicaid cuts. Now he's their man.
This is a page from the SEIU book in California, where Governor Gray Davis supported the "unionization" of 75,000 home healthcare workers, in return for union money and foot soldiers in his election campaign. The healthcare workers make minimum wage and don't qualify for unemployment compensation. Few if any have health insurance. And Davis is a Democrat!
In the last contract, the hospital bosses saved at least a quarter of a billion dollars. They will save millions more during the 42-month life of this agreement. Thanks to their politicians, they will contribute barely 20% towards the contract, while the state and union contribute the rest. A $1 billion payment from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and a 6% tax on nursing home bills will help finance the contract, while workers pay higher insurance rates across the board.
The union says it won the best wages in a decade. But the average 3.2 % over the 42 months is similar to the past several contracts, and won't cover the rise in union dues or the cost of living. The union claims it won the right for laid-off workers to fill the first job openings they qualify for in other institutions covered under this contract. But if the bosses lay off 25% of the workforce during this period, there will be no job openings. There's no increase in the bosses' payments to the pension fund because the union tells us any addition would be taxed. Of course, they didn't demand such potential pension contributions become part of the workers' paychecks instead.
The bosses are in the health care industry to make a profit. Their profits come at the patients' expense. As bosses here compete fiercely with bosses abroad, they must attack healthcare workers at home. Reduced patient care and squeezed workers are built-in features of a profit system.
Rivera wants workers to rely on the bosses' politicians to solve our problems. But union contracts, as important as they are under capitalism, only spell out the terms of our exploitation. We negotiate with the bosses over the price they will pay us to sell our labor power (wages). In return, contracts discipline the workers, banning work stoppages that interfere with the bosses' profits.
Only when wages are abolished and workers receive the total value we create, can health care be delivered in a humane fashion. In a communist society, workers -- not bosses, bankers or HMO's -- will make the decisions. The health of the working class will get top priority.
While two workers died from anthrax, many more have died from occupational and job-related injury and illness. For example, 169 postal workers died between 1980-89 (the latest figures we could find), an average of 17 annually. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says this is an under-count due to reporting limitations in occupational death statistics. Also, these figures don't include the early deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, cancer and other conditions caused by capitalism nor deaths and illness to postal workers and their children caused by imperialist wars. Bosses, not bugs, are the main danger to postal workers.
Bio-terrorism is another horrific creation of imperialism, a real threat to the working class. The U.S. government engaged in offensive biological warfare research for many years. There is evidence that the U.S. military used biological warfare during the Korean War (1950-1953). It seems increasingly likely that the anthrax used in these recent attacks was developed in U.S. labs, the source of many other countries' bio-warfare programs.
If the bosses are the main danger to the health and safety of postal workers, then eliminating the bosses is the best medicine. The union leaders blew a lot of hot air about the unacceptable double standard between Congressional offices and postal facilities. But postal workers have the ability to shut these facilities and force the bosses to thoroughly test them immediately. However, the union leaders did not and would not go that far to protect the workers. For them, the profits of the companies using the post office come first.
There are still many unknowns about anthrax and bio-terrorism. An even bigger problem is how the government and public health agencies handle these unknowns. Many public officials were more concerned with protecting their turf than devising effective, coordinated responses. They kept the workers in the dark.
Communist public health workers would not be stepping all over each other trying to protect their professional turf. We would fully inform all workers and enlist them in the fight to eliminate the biological threat. There would be no rich, privileged parasites hoarding antibiotics for themselves and their pets.
The medical understanding of anthrax infections is incomplete. Anthrax has rarely been observed as a mass disease resulting from laboratory-designed spores. It's unclear if spores remaining in the body are still dangerous after treatment with antibiotics.
The safety and effectiveness of the anthrax vaccine is not entirely understood, so the bosses came up with alternative treatment strategies for those potentially exposed: take more antibiotics or take vaccine or take both. Then the "experts" told the workers to decide for themselves, shifting responsibility from the provider to the victim!
Communists would research and decide the best proven treatment and the whole society would be mobilized to take responsibility. The workers would be fully informed. Building PLP, providing communist leadership at every turn and overthrowing the racist warmakers and strike-breakers, is the way to end bio-terrorism.
Most working people know their children's schools are not working. Despite all the hype about school "reform," most working-class students, especially black and Latin students, go to schools which are falling apart, dangerous and under-funded. All schools teach ruling class ideology which tells even the most committed teachers that "only some kids can learn," and the rest aren't worth the struggle.
Teachers must choose. We can either be part of the solution by respecting our students and knowing and expecting every student can and wants to learn. Or, which happens too often, we can buy into capitalist ideology and believe that students are "not worth our respect." This is a ticket to anti-social behavior that contributes to the problem.
The schools tell students they're stupid if they can't pass tests, that they're proto-criminals who must pass through a metal detector to enter school. Outside school these students are presented with endless images of glorified violence and no other options. Not only is their school experience prison-like but capitalism offers a future of joblessness, prison or military service to those students who do not "make it."
All workers want safe schools for their children. We all expect our children to learn to read, to do math, and to become productive members of our class, whether they go to college or not. However, in our schools students are treated like the criminals -- handcuffs, arrests for petty incidents, being hustled through hallways -- that racist educational ideology says many of them will become. Their educational problems are usually ignored. The students become angrier and increasingly alienated.
Violence and guns are promoted through the culture and politics of capitalist society. What does it teach you when the bosses are so proud of their "accurate bombings" in Afghanistan and consider the killing of innocent Afghan men, women and children as "collateral damage." Given all this, it's no surprise when students lash out violently, whether gang-related or not. We're saddened to see our brothers and sisters attacking each other rather than the ruling class. Teachers often hear students threatening to "snuff" another student. Some students flock to gangs to find unity and support.
The activity of PLP members and friends is crucial to building pro-student struggles in the schools. Young people are vital to building a revolutionary, anti-fascist anti-imperialist war movement. Unlike the ruling class, we know that all students can learn. Without respect for students, fascism can triumph.
Black Hawk Down is designed to incite viewers to support U.S. imperialist invasions and murder in general -- and in Somalia in particular -- and to want to "Kill Arabs," especially black Arabs," who are "damned ungrateful foreigners." It is jingoism of the highest order, and all based on lies. What else is new?
The Somalia invasion, begun by Bush, Sr., approved by his Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and continued by Clinton, was billed as a "humanitarian" operation to "feed the poor people" of that country. They were fed, all right; fed a steady diet of bullets. According to Noam Chomsky's book, The New Military Humanism:
"The official estimate was 6-10,000 Somalia casualties in the summer of 1993 alone, two-thirds women and children. Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni [the current `peacemaker' in the Middle East -- Ed.], who commanded the operation, informed the press that `I'm not counting bodies.... I'm not interested.' Specific war crimes of US forces included direct military attacks on a hospital and on civilian gatherings....Serious crimes...were revealed at an official Canadian inquiry..."
The invasion had nothing to do with Bush/Clinton "humanitarianism." It had everything to do with the fact that several U.S. oil companies, including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips, had secured billion-dollar concessions to explore and exploit Somalia's rich oil reserves during the reign of pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre. (In fact, Conoco's Mogadishu office housed the U.S. embassy and military headquarters.) A "secure" Somalia also provided the U.S. with a strategic base on the coast of the Arabian Sea. U.S. military intervention became necessary when Barre was overthrown by warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid. Suddenly Somalia was "insecure" for U.S. oil companies.
Although the Bush/Clinton pretext was to "safeguard food shipments" and stop the "evil Aidid" from stealing the food, the actual goal was to destroy Aidid's forces and form a pro-U.S. government to make Somalia secure for the oil companies. However, the invasion was met with "surprisingly fierce resistance," surprising to U.S. officials who underestimated Somalian resolve, and even more surprising to U.S. troops who were victims and pawns of the U.S. bosses.
The movie is based on a series (and a later book) written by Mark Bowden of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Bowden says: "Task Force Ranger was not in Mogadishu to feed the hungry....It conducted six missions, raiding locations where either Aidid or his lieutenants were believed to be meeting. The mission that resulted in the Battle of Mogadishu came less than three months after a surprise missile attack by U.S. helicopters...on a meeting of Aidid clansmen....The...attack killed 50 to 70 clan elders and intellectuals, many of them moderates seeking to reach a peaceful settlement with the United Nations. After that July 12 helicopter attack, Aidid's clan was officially at war with America--a fact many Americans never realized."
The attack on Mogadishu was particularly vicious. Says Bowden: "The Task Force Ranger commander, Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison, testifying before the Senate, said that if his men had put any more ammunition into the city `we would have sunk it.' Most soldiers interviewed said that through most of the fight they fired on crowds and eventually at anyone and anything they saw."
After 18 U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed in the final Mogadishu firefight, which included the downing of a U.S. helicopter ("Black Hawk Down"), television screens were filled with scenes of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets by jubilant Somalians. No wonder they were jubilant. These invaders had slaughtered or wounded thousands of their fellow Somalians. Clinton immediately called off the operation and U.S. forces left Somalia in disgrace.
Now along comes Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott to turn the truth upside down. Even CNN's film reviewer labels them as "two of the most pandering, tactless filmmakers in Hollywood history," describing the movie as "pound for pound, one of the most violent films ever released by a major studio." It portrays "brave and innocent young American boys" getting shot at and killed "for no reason" by "crazy black Islamists" that the soldiers are "just trying to help." Racism and lies of the highest order.
If and when the U.S. invades Somalia -- on the pretext of attacking Al Qaida "training camps" -- it will be for the same strategic reasons the rulers invaded Afghanistan: OIL and military bases. These are the "guiding lights" of U.S. imperialism for which they are ready to kill any workers in their way. When GI's begin to understand that they are being used against their own class interests and decide to rebel -- as so many thousands did in Vietnam -- then U.S. rulers will lose their main tool to carry out their plans for world domination.
The two men who drafted the petition said they were "asked...to shoot people, to stop ambulances, to destroy houses...and open fire on Palestinian children." (Washington Post, 1/29)
Since the current Intifada began in September 2000, "more than 500 Israelis have refused to serve in the Israeli occupied territories....Forty have been sentenced to prison terms." (Post)
Thus, despite the Israeli state terror against Palestinians and the fundamentalists' suicide terror, there is still grounds for unity among workers and soldiers on both sides. This kind of unity -- accompanied by communist politics attacking all bosses and imperialists -- is the only ray of hope for the exploited masses of the Middle East.
Along with other comrades, we dedicate ourselves to founding this communist movement here on Argentine soil. We will begin by spreading PLP's ideas, articles and documents and carrying out several activities as well as setting up an internet page. Eventually we will also develop our own writings.
When our movement grows sufficiently and gets the needed support, we will found a Progressive Labor Party in Argentina. We can then turn the dream of a mass communist party into a reality, one that can sweep away the bosses, no matter what their nationality. (We would like the opinion of others about our plans.)
We hope that workers and youth worldwide will follow our example and that of other PLP comrades in other regions. Let's build the fight for communism.
A comrade from Argentina
P.S. -- We just carried out one of our first activities. When the government and the media were saying the protests were dying down, on Jan. 25 a group of friends and comrades led a "cacerolazo" (empty pots protest). Ten of us began it and soon there were 200. We marched through the streets chanting, "All of them [politicians] should go, none of them should stay"; and, "Whoever doesn't jump is bourgeois." (Of course, we were half-joking but many people took it seriously, showing how much people hate the bosses and their system. It's reached a point where the press has reported that all politicians are afraid to appear in public). Our's was the most important protest in our city which is next to the capital, Buenos Aires.
There were similar protests nationwide. But the biggest was in Buenos Aires, where tens of thousands gathered. The cops viciously attacked them, with many arrests.
Then on Jan. 28, 20,000 unemployed workers marched to the Presidential palace demanding the million jobs promised by the first Peronist President who ran the country for a few days after the Dec. 19 ousted President de la Rua.
The struggle goes on, and so does the need to build a mass revolutionary communist leadership to smash the bosses once and for all.
There is no doubt that PLP's political line is the only answer to this anti-life world we live in, caused by many years of capitalist domination and the deadly and inept reformist outlook of the old communist movement.
Those of us who are part of the PLP feel deeply moved to know that our struggle is not in vain. Your decision to build PLP shows that our line of action is the correct one.
Argentina and Chile (in this southern cone of the world) have suffered a common "rope" which tries to suffocate our cries for justice and equality. Our conscious work will generate a new system which includes refuting any idea that capitalism can be reformed; there must be a total change from what we have now.
The only solution is communist revolution. For a world without borders and for one unified struggle: one world, one class and one Party, the PLP.
Greetings from the other side of the Andes,
One speaker asked the students, "Who is willing to go fight for the government in Afghanistan?" No one raised a hand. One student said the war is about oil. Another wondered why "they" hate "us" so much, leading to a discussion about class-consciousness as opposed to nationalism. One teacher reminded the students that the U.S. flag is the flag of the KKK.
A Palestinian Muslim woman generated the most controversy. Students in my 99% African-American school have had little contact with Arabs, other than storeowners. The speaker asked them to write down questions and exposed many racist lies, such as "Muslims are all terrorists."
Twelve students who helped organize the forum had attended a previous forum with me at Chicago State University in November. We met several times to discuss our plans and the politics of September 11 and read some of the PLP Oil Pamphlet. I wasn't able to convince any of the students to prepare a presentation, however. Maybe next time.
Afterwards, some students said they had changed their minds about how they thought about Arabs, patriotism and the war in Afghanistan. We would like to do this again, and involve more students in debating these ideas.
This story is familiar to many Arabs, Muslims and South Asians. The Pakistani community has been especially targeted. It comprises at least half of those detained since 9/11.
Are these South Asians being singled out because of Pakistan's critical role in the U.S. government's plan to transport Central Asia's gas and oil deposits in proposed pipelines to Asian markets through Afghanistan and western Pakistan? The U. S. military is already planning an expanded permanent base in Pakistan.
Pakistan's rulers have long been allied to the U.S. ruling class, training Pakistanis at U.S.- sponsored institutions and running governments on behalf of U.S. bosses' interests. A succession of mostly military dictatorships have bowed to International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies, enriching Pakistani and U.S. bosses while impoverishing an already desperate working class. Pakistani rulers helped the U.S. fight the USSR, promoting religious fundamentalism and supporting the war against it in Afghanistan, while suspending workers' rights in Pakistan.
The Pakistani working class is the wild card in the U.S.'s grand design to dominate Central Asian oil and gas. Many workers have been won to the fascism of the fundamentalist movement, some joining the Taliban and fighting the U.S. But little attention has been paid to Pakistani workers opposed to both U.S. imperialism and the fundamentalists. Their struggles for decent conditions have been brutally repressed, with the fundamentalists acting as an arm of the state -- in much the same way as death squads in Latin America -- breaking up demonstrations and targeting and silencing leaders.
Many Pakistanis came to the U.S. to escape poverty and repression, seeking economic prosperity. But like the rest of the working class here they see their incomes shrinking and now, since 9/11 they're suffering the same persecution they experienced in Pakistan.
It's a bitter lesson but workers can't escape capitalism's oppression. We can only organize to smash it.
A Pakistani Reader
In the 1950s and '60s, New York City had dumping grounds called "600 schools," designed to eliminate largely black and Latin students who could not fit into a system designed for an elite few. They were called "behavior problems" and dumped. From this grew the system of special education.
In 1981, I was working in an elementary school where an inexperienced teacher, without help to improve her classroom skills, followed SE guidelines and had half her "unruly" class placed in SE classes.
The teacher, the administration and the school-based support team that placed the students were all white. All the students were black and Latin. Some of the students had better reading and math skills when the school year began than after they were placed in special classes. Money was pouring into the SE bureaucracy to provide places for millions of students, but just 3% of SE students gained high school diplomas.
The system plays the blame game. Teachers blame the home environment; parents blame the teachers; and both blame students who are attacked with racist stereotypes -- "lazy, unmotivated, stupid, and worthless." The profit system created these stereotypes. The bosses need a reserve of unemployed to hold down wages. They jail millions, making prisons the largest growth industry in the U.S. Such a system, with a huge investment in the military, needs massive educational failure to supply it, and they've got it.
All students can learn, and teachers, given the right education and tools, want to teach all students. But a true community of teachers, students and parents to guide education, cannot occur under capitalism.
Thousands of hours of paperwork are heaped on overworked teachers to make their life miserable and stifle any desire to improve their students' abilities. Meanwhile, supervisors are mastering the massive technicalities of this paperwork, on their way to higher-paying administrative positions.
If Karl Marx were to walk into an SE classroom today, he would exclaim, "Students and workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your paperwork and the shame that has been heaped upon you as members of the working class."
A Special Ed Teacher Ready for Change