Brooklyn, NY: Prospect Park Entrance at Parkside and Ocean
Q Circle Train to Parkside
Los Angeles: 8th and Broadway
This is the first May Day since September 11, which ushered in a new stage in developing war and fascism. The racist "War on Terror" and fascist Homeland Security has made the world a more dangerous place. The future of the revolutionary movement and the international working class will depend on how we meet the challenges ahead.
PLP stands for armed struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Communist revolution is our goal. Our strategy for the seizure of power rests on building a mass international PLP among workers, soldiers, and youth. The bosses' "democracy" is actually a class dictatorship, a terror enforced through control of state power -- their cops, courts, prisons, laws and armed forces. This will be especially true in the coming period of growing war and fascism. Building a mass PLP that can withstand the blows of the ruling class and eventually lead the working class to power is at the very core of our revolutionary strategy.
Bush & Co. are being drawn into an ever-widening war against Muslim fundamentalists who want to challenge U.S. imperialism for control of Persian Gulf oil profits. The Israeli-Palestinian bloodbath has exploded and threatens the stability of the entire region and beyond. It has postponed Bush's plans for a second invasion of Iraq, sharpened the contradictions between U.S. and European bosses, and could have global consequences. A top Middle East specialist at Rockefeller's Council of Foreign Relations said, "The situation is totally, completely out of control, in a way it has never quite been before." (New York Times, 4/14)
In the U.S., thousands of Arab and Muslim citizens and immigrants have been rounded up. Many are being held indefinitely, not charged with any crime. The use of these fascist methods now is just the appetizer. The main course will soon be served to all workers. The list of "terrorist organizations" is growing and local and federal police have unlimited use of all forms of surveillance. Last December, striking teachers were arrested in New Jersey. Today in New York City, teachers have been banned from using the "S" word -- strike.
The racist rulers used 9/11 to rapidly put in place all the necessary tools for a fascist police state that will surpass apartheid-South Africa or Nazi Germany. The police torturers of Abner Louima have been granted new trials in NYC. Racist police terror, the highest prison population in the world, and prison-like schools that don't teach prepare black and Latin youth for a future of war and low-wage jobs.
Workers are being told to sacrifice for the bosses' oil wars while the rulers fight to exploit our class worldwide. From Enron to LTV Steel, hundreds of thousands of workers are being tossed in the streets, over 35,000 from Ford alone. The bosses and union leaders sing, "United We Stand." But between bosses and workers, there is no "we."
Wars and civil wars, famines and disease, mass poverty and racist "ethnic cleansings" are the bitter fruits of the supremacy of U.S. imperialism and the "free market." More than two billion people "live" on less than $2.00 a day. Workers and our children are dying in unprecedented numbers, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The defeat of the old communist movement has led us to where we are today. The bosses appear to be all-powerful and the working class appears to be at their mercy. To be sure, we are in a difficult time. The road to revolution will be long and hard. Keeping the revolutionary communist movement alive and functioning under any and all conditions is the most vital job in the world today. This May Day we march for communist revolution and life itself, for the future of the international working class. "Workers of the World, Unite!"
May Day has become the day when workers worldwide march for their demands, led by communists, advancing revolutionary goals.
Among the Israelis, Sharon and the "loyal opposition" Labor Party agree on making Israel the dominant local force for exploiting Arab workers in the Middle East. They differ only on tactics.
The Arafat and Hamas cliques are no better. They each have plans to gain power and maximum profit for themselves. The young Arab workers and students being used as foot soldiers in this terrible war are making a grave mistake. So are the millions of workers, Arab and others, supporting Palestinian nationalism.
Israeli rulers, with U.S. backing, are fascist murderers, responsible for the horrible oppression of the Palestinian people. But Arafat & Co. is no better. The CIA and other U.S. agencies trained the Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank.
Bosses on all sides are using nationalism and religion to cover the capitalist cause of the ongoing bloodshed. The enemy of our enemy isn't necessarily our friend. What's really at stake here is the direction of Israel's economy and more importantly, the U.S. rulers' need to control the flow of Persian Gulf oil to the rest of the world. We don't know all the ins and outs of the Israeli-Palestinian death match, but a look at conflicting profit interests is revealing.
Rockefeller oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron Texaco and their British allies (as far as the Mideast is concerned) BP and Shell command 59% of petroleum-related exports to countries other than the U.S. Continuing that dominance means eliminating any threat from Iraq, which is working with French and Russian oil bosses to double or triple its production.
But to launch their sorely-needed second invasion of Iraq, U.S. rulers must have stability in Israel-Palestine. They cannot afford losing Israel as a pro-U.S. cop in the region any more than they can brook an international Arab or Muslim rebellion against the U.S. Such an uprising would strip Saudi Arabia's unmatched oil reserves from the ExxonMobil Empire. Colin Powell's recent Mideast "peace" mission aimed at repeating Desert Storm, which killed half a million people in 1991 and even more through subsequent U.S.-led embargoes and bombings. Noting Exxon & Co.'s world dominance, the Boston Globe editorialized (4/17), "If Powell can't stop the region's accelerating descent, the world order over which the United States presides may be threatened." Powell presented himself as a missionary for peace. Such liberalism has already killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi workers and is preparing to slaughter many more. There are no "nice cops" here.
Sharon, on the other hand, opposes both Arafat and the U.S. liberals. He is replacing Arafat's maquiladoras with brutal apartheid. In April, his troops massacred Palestinians in Jenin, site of an "industrial estate." Sharon wants Palestinians shut out from Israel's $100 billion economy, except as menial laborers. His faction's grandest project is turning the Negev Desert into a Silicon Valley staffed by skilled Jewish immigrants. His Likud party encourages Jewish immigrants to fill the better high-tech jobs, which account for 25% of Israel's output. More than a million highly trained Russian Jews have moved to Israel. These tech professionals are part of an anti-Arab labor aristocracy that has become even more virulent since the Nasdaq/dot.com crash of 2001. More people are fighting for fewer jobs.
In contrast, terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to destroy Israel and replace it with a Moslem fundamentalist state, giving them the lion's share of the profits from economic development. It's no accident their suicide bombers often target Sharon's base, killing many Russian immigrants.
Under capitalism, workers are forced to choose between suicide bombings or an oil war; between maquiladora-style sweatshops or apartheid. This is the price we pay worldwide for the collapse of the old communist movement. This May Day, PLP re-dedicates itself to building the revolutionary movement to end capitalism and replace it with a communist society run by and for the working class. For the workers of the world, it is the only way out.
We shouldn't make too much of Sharon's differences with U.S. bosses. He and his Labor Party rivals agree on maintaining Israel's dominance through terror. Both agree strategically on the need to unite with U.S. imperialism and to back its oil wars. Once again, tactical splits between competing capitalists should never fool us into marching for any of them. Our goal and fight are for communism.
After weeks of horrific images on TV of death, suffering, and misery, it was inspiring to see tens of thousands of Arab, Jewish, white, black, Latino and Asian workers gathered together to oppose war and racism. A highlight was a bullhorn speech by a PLP comrade at Dolores Park, declaring that workers worldwide have more in common with each other than with any boss or "national leader." He explained that only by uniting workers everywhere and fighting for communism, for the end of capitalist exploitation, will we be able to live in a world without imperialist war and fascism. Many students and workers stopped to listen to this impassioned call for international workers' solidarity and communist revolution.
When a well-meaning but confused Israeli supporter argued that Israelis should not be asked to give up their state for internationalism, several comrades explained that a worker cannot give up something he or she does not own. Likewise, Palestinians should be urged not to fight for a state that they will never own. As long as the bosses hold state power, workers will always be exploited. The bosses will continually use state power to increase their profits through racism, sexism and imperialist war. Sharon is fighting to hold state power to keep exploiting workers, and Arafat is fighting to gain state power to exploit even more workers. Both have repeatedly demonstrated they're not concerned with defending workers' interests. Both shed workers' blood to protect capitalist profit.
Many of the chants, posters and banners enabled us to challenge nationalism and opportunism. It was encouraging to see many signs comparing Sharon to Hitler, but many of these signs wrongly argued that Sharon and Bush are the only problems. Many thought once they go, everything will be peaceful. But it's the system of capitalism -- not the evil intentions of certain individuals -- that produces fascism and imperialist war. History has shown that even if we eliminate Bush and Sharon, the bosses will only put other capitalist murderers into power. While the March leadership and many opportunist groups led marchers to chant the ambiguous, "Free . . . Free Palestine," we encouraged workers to militantly shout, "Arab, Jewish, black, and white; workers and soldiers of the world unite!" Soon other marchers were shouting along will us.
Our participation was successful because we became closer with our friends, made contacts and invited people to May Day. We distributed 2,000 May Day leaflets, at least 300 CHALLENGES and many pamphlets describing the connection between war and capitalism. We stood up to opportunism and nationalism and kept pushing for an internationalist communist solution. These lessons must be taken back to our shops, schools, classrooms and organizations in which we participate.
On the one hand it showed that many workers and students are not swallowing the patriotic fervor being whipped up by the ruling class since 9/11 nor intimidated by the repressive Patriot Act. On the other hand, the potential strength of the tens of thousands of protesters was undermined by a bosses' nationalist ideology. Calls for a separate capitalist Palestinian state would lead Palestinian workers into the arms of Palestinian exploiters (see pages 1, 2), foreign bankers, landowners and capitalists. This would exchange the terror of Israeli occupation for sweatshops run by Middle Eastern Arab, U.S. and European bosses.
Our group participated in the anti-occupation demonstration, the majority of whom were Palestinians, including many women and families, who had come from all over the East Coast and Mid-West. We distributed a PLP leaflet that saluted the resistance of the Palestinian masses in the current struggle. It indicted Israeli rulers for its genocidal war to expand its territory via the Jewish settlements in the West Bank through the killing, expulsion and enslavement of Palestinians. But it also warned against relying on nationalist ideology, on protecting Arab rulers' exploitation of Palestinian workers. We also stressed the necessity for unity of Arab and Jewish workers against all bosses - Arab, Israeli and U.S. imperialists.
Many marchers carried CHALLENGE and other Party literature. One comrade, though separated from her group, continued to lead militant chants on her bullhorn. We, along with other marchers, joined in for some of the more politically advanced chants, such as "Bush, Sharon you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" and "No war for oil, No imperialist war."
Although there were calls for Jewish and Arab unity, nationalist ideas predominated.
Some demonstrators, angry against the Israeli rulers, crossed the line from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism with signs equating the Star of David with the swastika. But Judaism is not Zionism and all Jews are not anti-Palestinian. In fact, anti-racist, anti-occupation sentiment and actions are growing inside Israel. Dozens of regular soldiers and 417 reservists have refused to serve in the occupied territories and many have been jailed. Since the latest Israeli attack began, tens of thousands of Jews have demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the occupation. Thousands of Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs have gone together into the West Bank to provide aid and stand up to the brutalities of the Israeli army. Actions like these are a positive step towards the communist idea of Arab and Jewish workers uniting as a single entity and sharing the value they produce.
Although there was plenty of criticism of U.S. Mid-East policy, only PLP's leaflet exposed the motivating force behind U.S. policy in the region - maintaining control over Persian Gulf oil. U.S. rulers view Israel as a strategic asset in that policy, helping to guarantee U.S. world dominance.
One glaring absence among the protestors was black and Latin and unionized workers in general. Only one labor union endorsed the march, AFSCME Local 1707, and then in small numbers. Nationalism and pro-war patriotism hurts all workers; they isolate the Muslim workers in the U.S. from the rest of the working class and don't defeat the pro-war feelings spread by the bosses' agents inside the working class. A mass movement against imperialist war must reach out into working-class communities and to workers through their unions and workplaces and point out how war and fascism only benefit the bosses, and hurt the entire working class.
The discussions with our friends at this event helped raise the political consciousness of us all. It was a small step in our on-going work of building a mass base for communist revolution.
Recently the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz quoted an Israeli army officer talking of the need to "study how the German Army operated in the Warsaw Ghetto." That "operation" slaughtered 30,000 Jewish men, women and children after the left-led Ghetto insurrection.
Fascist murder is not unique to the Nazis. The U.S. ruling class has murdered millions, from Vietnam to Iraq to Serbia and now Afghanistan. The Iraqi and Iranian bosses waged war against each other in the 1980s, murdering over 1.5 million people on each side. In 1982, Sharon organized fascist Lebanese militias to massacre 15,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra/Chatila camps in Southern Lebanon. Now he has ordered the massacre in the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp by Israeli "Defense" Forces. Fascist brutality is part and parcel of every capitalist, no matter his or her religion or nationality.
The Arab bosses in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and throughout the Mid-East -- who hypocritically "defend" the Palestinians' plight at the hands of the Israeli bosses -- are the very ones who unmercifully exploited Palestinian workers and then expelled them into the Israeli-created refugee camps after Desert Storm I. All bosses are responsible for the mass murder of Palestinian workers, Arab and Israeli, as well as the U.S. rulers who supply the Israelis with their weapons of mass destruction.
This first report is excerpted from the British Independent (4/16):
A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed.... A residential area roughly 160,000 square yards about a third of a mile wide has been reduced to dust. Rubble has been shoveled by bulldozers into 30-foot piles. The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people, who spent days hiding in basements crowded into single rooms as the rockets pounded in, say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust, under a field of debris, criss-crossed with tank and bulldozer tread marks.
A quiet sad-looking young man called Kamal Anis led us across the wasteland.... Here, he said, he saw the Israeli soldiers pile 30 bodies beneath a half-wrecked house.... [and] bulldozed the building, bringing its ruins down on the corpses. Then they flattened the area with a tank. We could not see the bodies. But we could smell them....
Every wall is speckled and torn with bullet holes and shrapnel, testimony of the awesome, random firepower of [U.S.] Cobra and Apache helicopters that hovered over the camp.... Every other building bears the giant, charred, impact mark of a helicopter missile.... There were still many families and weeping children living amid the ruins, cut off from...aid....
[Others] have spent the bombardment in basements, enduring day after day of terror. Some were forced into rooms by the soldiers, who smashed their way into houses through the walls. The UN says half of the camp's 15,000 residents were under 18....
The following excerpts are from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz (4/17):
The hospital, located at the camp's entrance, is also difficult to reach because an IDF [Israeli Army] tank is stationed there, which...opens fire at anyone who approaches the hospital. It is also impossible to bring medication or blood units from the hospital to treat the injured....
The IDF refused a request from UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) to transfer water and food to the refugees Monday. UNWRA director Richard Cook told Ha'aretz that...the organization has been unable to deliver medical or food supplies to the camp's inhabitants due to the army's refusal.
An April 15 dispatch from the AFP news agency at the Jenin Refugee Camp reported that Red Cross delegates at the scene "likened [the]...camp after the Israeli assault to an earthquake zone...."
"Jamal Zubaidi, 16, said Israeli troops ordered all men...to come out on the street with their hands up.... The men were then driven to a nearby yard, ordered to strip naked, and made to lie face down in the dirt, Zubaidi said. `While my neighbor Jamal Sabar was taking off his pants, they shot him dead.'
"`I am no longer under arrest. I am free, but I fear going back,' said Abderaman Subeide, 27. `My family is broken. My mother and brother were killed in the fighting, my two brothers were arrested, and I don't know what happened to my wife. I have to find her first....'"
The federal indictment of lawyer Lynne Stewart and three others for helping the Islamic fundamentalist Sheik Rahman may have surprised some, but something like it was bound to happen. Why? U.S. rulers see a chance to use the "anti-terror" laws which are behind the charges in order to terrorize workers and others. So it's important to look at the source of these and other related laws.
U.S. immigration law has a long history of racist, repressive and anti-communist provisions. The courts have specifically upheld many of these more overtly fascist laws when they're challenged. U.S. rulers also spread anti-immigrant ideas among workers. This enables the bosses to legally and politically get away with extra repression when attacking immigrant workers.
After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, new immigration laws allowed the government to establish lists of "foreign terrorist organizations" (FTOs). Once an FTO is put on the list, it's very difficult to legally get it off. Although many listed now are Islamic fundamentalist groups, others are also listed -- Shining Path, a Peruvian Maoist group; and the anti-U.S. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
If you're on the list, (1) any member of the group is unable to enter the U.S.; (2) any non-citizen who gives "material support" to, raises funds for, or tries to recruit people to a group on the list can be arrested, detained and brought before a special deportation court. These courts are allowed to receive secret evidence as long as the government claims -- and the judge agrees -- that releasing such information could harm "national security." (3) A person being tried in this court cannot ask the judge to throw out illegally-obtained evidence.
These laws also allow the government to charge any person, citizen or not, who gives "material support" to an FTO, including money, housing, use of communication equipment or transportation. This is the law that Lynn Stewart, et al., are being tried under. Stewart faces up to 50 years in jail. Supposedly, Stewart used her fax to send messages from the Sheik to some of his followers. The government claims that she violated her agreement not to speak to Rahman about legal matters while visiting him in prison. But the most important issue here was the fact that Stewart is being charged with passing along or concealing what are in essence anti-U.S. political instructions.
Think about this scenario: What if PLP had a chapter in some other country which grew significantly and began challenging the pro-U.S. government there? That government launches a fascist attack on the Party, and PLP organizes the workers to fight back. The U.S. government then designates the PLP chapter there a "foreign terrorist organization." Now sending money, food, cell phones or people (among other "material support") becomes a criminal act which allows U.S. bosses to attack PLP or other supporters of the international working class right here. (To be continued.)
The administration has lied to students about why they were asking questions, about what could happen to the teachers and about the teachers' response to the letter. They have asked the questioned students not to tell the teachers about the investigation. They presented the teachers with only a very general accusation and then assumed guilt because we asked for written allegations.
But five years of PLP organizing in this school has given us teachers a stronger position. The student government immediately wrote a petition in an emergency meeting calling on the principal to drop his "investigations" of dedicated teachers and instead pay attention to the school's real problems: fascistic security, abusive teachers and the lack of decent elective classes. Within a week 300 of the 800 students and many teachers had signed the petition. Teachers have expressed additional support, including one who wrote a detailed letter to the principal condemning the investigation and supporting the accused teachers.
The union has filed a standard grievance against the letter in our file. But as communists we understand that true victory in this battle will be students and teachers understanding the ruling class more clearly, joining the class struggle with us and marching on May Day in working-class solidarity.
When dozens of cops in full riot gear arrived at the ABLA Homes on West 13th Street, they were greeted with a salvo of rocks and bottles. Two cops were injured when a brick was thrown into a squad car, striking one of them in the face. The two young black men were charged with aggravated battery to a police officer. There were no drug charges.
This standoff took place just one week after police attacked 49-year old Alton George in the Robert Taylor Homes after they "suspected" he was selling drugs. He was beaten and pistol-whipped before being arrested. He died in police custody.
Those who knew him, described George as a "hard-working married man," who "never did drugs." "If a resident had problems with their refrigerator or stove or anything, he would fix it. That's they type of man he was." (Chicago Defender, 4/20)
You won't find a lot of American flags or "United We Stand" posters in Chicago's public housing projects, just racist unemployment and police terror. "We're afraid it's going to get worse," said one resident. "We want the [police] brutality to stop."
Lest CHALLENGE readers think we're making a mountain out of a molehill, last meeting the chief negotiator made a rambling speech ending with the supposedly stinging condemnation that "the company has no loyalty to the flag." When members pressed him about supporting the IAM Lockheed workers striking for job security, he blew smoke in our face. "We'll do whatever they [the Lockheed union] ask us to do," he answered. As suspected, that meant doing nothing.
Meanwhile, Airbus bosses fired a worker accused of leading a March wildcat of 2,000 at the Broughton (North Wales, England) wing plant over pay bonuses for managers and cuts for workers. The BBC reported "many of the 5,000 at the plant were...unhappy with the flexibility agreement reached after [9/11]." In December, the workers were forced to accept "a package of cuts in hours and overtime...and voluntary redundancy [layoffs]" for 200 workers. (BBC News, 4/11)
When fascism grew in the 1930s and the world hurtled toward World War II, a pivotal debate raged within the communist movement over whether to emphasize "united front from above" (with bosses) or "united fronts from below" (with workers). As the present crisis intensifies, the question emerges again-- though with different particulars based on present circumstances. Do we unite with the bosses of "our" nation or with the workers of the world?
The union leaders have chosen their side. Their phony militancy hides a nationalist poison. That's why they don't willingly support wildcatting Canadian workers or fired Airbus workers, let alone forge international working-class solidarity.
In the 1930's many reformist union leaders became "social-fascists," advancing the bosses' agenda of war and fascism. That role is fast characterizing the present period.
During the current contract struggle, aerospace workers' organizational and political efforts must build the forces dedicated to advancing the interests of the world's workers. It will be a long, difficult struggle with many tactical twists and turns. Nevertheless, the times demand we take aim at the bosses' agents within the labor movement.
Many workers are disenchanted because of the problems caused by the world crisis of capitalism. Workers and voters in general were looking for solutions outside the traditional capitalist parties. But now all the main parties opposing Chirac, including the discredited "Communist" Party (which supported Jospin and was also a big loser), are uniting to support Chirac in order to block Le Pen's rise. Jack Lang, the Socialist Education Minister, said: "We will make sure that fascism does not win."
That's the most dangerous part of this election. Workers and others, who want real change, will be told to choose between two forms of fascism. After all, the Chirac government is blatantly anti-working class and racist, particularly against North African immigrants. It's like choosing between Hitler and Mussolini.
Workers won't find any solutions to the crisis of world capitalism, its wars and recessions, by voting for any one of these politicians. As far as workers' class interests are concerned, they are all fascist.
Then, the 1986 legislative elections, when Mitterand's Socialist Party (SP) was a clear underdog to Chirac's right-wing Gaullist Party, Mitterrand "reformed" the electoral system, enabling Le Pen's Nazis to win 35 seats in the National Assembly. This divided the right-wing vote (previously solidly Gaullist), helping Mitterand's SP. That was the real birth of Le Pen.
The SP Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his allies in the French "Communist" Party ("C"P), who've ruled France since 1997, also helped open the doors to the current Le Pen upsurge. Their government's privatization program slashed tens of thousands of workers' jobs from Danone, Air France, Moulinex, Bata, Péchiney and AOM-Air Liberté. When Michelin workers appealed to the SP-"C"P government for help against massive job losses, nothing was done. Even the 35-hour work-week, considered by the PS-"C"P as crucial to their 1997 electoral victory, today only benefits one in three workers. The shorter work-week legislation has so many loopholes, workers believe it has actually worsened wages and working conditions. In France, like in most capitalist countries, the gap between rich and poor has widened, and younger workers have gotten the worst of it. No wonder the "C"P recorded its lowest vote ever (just 3.4%) in the first round of the current elections.
The "C"P has a long history of betrayals which has demoralized workers (10% of those who voted for Le Pen used to vote for the "C"P). In 1968, it sabotaged the massive worker-student general strike that almost overthrew the French government of General DeGaulle. In the 1980s, the "C"P Mayor of a town near Paris used a bulldozer to demolish apartments of African immigrant workers. Like Mitterrand's SP, the "C"P has supported French imperialist military adventures, like the bloody attempt to keep Algeria a French colony in the late 1950s early '60s.
Phony "left" organizations' opportunist, right-wing, pro-capitalist policies open the doors to Nazis like Le Pen.
Meanwhile, some groups with a rhetoric to the left of the "C"P gained more votes than in the past, combining to come in fourth after Jospin. Though such organizations (Trotskyites) claim to be revolutionaries, they are basically electoral parties, helping to build illusions among millions of left-leaning workers angry with the status quo that capitalism can be reformed peacefully through elections.
"What began so simply on Sept. 11 has become extraordinarily complex," reports Stratfor.com (4/22), "On Sept. 11, the U.S. announced a single...goal: the utter destruction of al Qaeda....Only seven months into the war...the effort is increasingly murky....The U.S. is being buffeted by events that have little to do with al Qaeda but certainly cut into Washington's ability to focus on the core issue. The recent coup in Venezuela is a case in point....Venezuela is a huge problem for the U.S. It produces about 4% of the world's crude oil and provides 16% of all oil consumed by the U.S." (Stratfor.com, April 22).
The failure of the coup in Venezuela -- organized by a combination of the Chamber of Commerce; the mass media; the head of Venoco petrochemical (one of South America's richest bosses); right-wing union hacks trained by the AFL-CIO; generals trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas; and the Opus Dei fascist sect of the Catholic Church -- was a big setback for the Bush administration. Apparently, in the 24 hours of holding power these different factions fought each other over who would take what, contributing to the coup's collapse. So as Stratfor says: "If Chavez, a relatively minor figure, can survive the wrath of Washington, how seriously should the rest of the world take the Bush administration's `with-us-or-against-us' rhetoric?"
Venezuela, after all, is in the U.S. "backyard," where the Monroe Doctrine is supposed to apply, and the failed coup has given ideas to others (especially the European imperialists) that Washington's bark is louder than its bite. For sure, there will be another coup attempt. For example, the first coup against Allende in Chile occurred in June 1973, led by the army's Tacna's tank brigade. It failed. In a compromise with fascist pro-U.S. forces, the socialist Allende named General Pinochet as Army chief. Three months later, on Sept. 11, a coup organized by Pinochet, Kissinger and AT&T succeeded. Thousands of workers and youth were killed by the fascist Pinochet regime.
Today, 80% of all Venezuelans still live below the poverty line.
As most reformists and populists, Chavez is now trying to reconcile with the coup organizers (hated by most workers since they are the same racist corrupt gang which stole the oil wealth of Venezuela and sent the army to murder 1,000 people during the 1989 El Caracazo mass uprising). But Washington and their local agents plan to prove that what no one can challenge them in the U.S. "backyard."
Workers must organize for the coming battles. The fight to build a communist movement is now a matter of life and death for the working class of Venezuela.
The coup mirrors a fight over control of PVDSA (the state-owned oil company), one of the world's largest. Venezuela has an estimated 221 billion barrels of oil reserves of which 78 billion barrels are proven. This represents approximately half the reserves in the Western Hemisphere, placing Venezuela in fifth place worldwide in available proven reserves. If the Orinoco Strip reserves are added, it has the largest reserves on the planet, 300 billion barrels. Additionally, it has approximately 30% of the Hemisphere's reserves, sixth largest in the world. It also has four coal mines with reserves of 1 billion metric tons.
PVDSA is the biggest oil exporter to the U.S., providing 16% of U.S. daily needs. Tulsa, Oklahoma-based CITGO was bought by PDVSA in the 1990s, and its CEO is a Venezuelan military officer appointed by Chavez. CITGO owns 18.6% of U.S. refining capacity, distributing over 140 million barrels of gasoline a year through its own gas stations. It also produces over 30 million barrels of jet fuel per year and operates one of the largest asphalt refineries on the East Coast. Obviously PDVSA is a big prize. It was founded in 1976 when the Venezuelan oil industry was nationalized but in the last several years it has opened up to foreign investors, seeking the capital to increase daily oil production to 5.8 million barrels and to more than double its daily natural gas production by 2009. The biggest projects, requiring heavy foreign investments, have been awarded to Conoco, Exxon Mobil, Veba Oel, Total (the giant French oil company), Statoil, and Phillips and Texaco.
The fight to control PDVSA is central to the dogfight in Venezuela. Billions are at stake. Falling into the "wrong" hands -- Chavez's friends among European imperialists, Iraq and Cuba -- would be a big blow to U.S. imperialist oil war plans, particularly to attack Iraq.
I work with people mostly from lower working-class families. I had thought they saw the world as I did. With the rest of my work center I remember watching the events of September 11 unfold on CNN with thoughts of war in my head. Only after the destruction did I hear one of my black co-workers say, "We need to just get rid of all the Arabs in our country. Go over and kill them all!" [Ed.: This discussion occurred among a large group of black soldiers.] Then it hit me; my co-workers view the world the way our backward and corrupt country encourages us to. We've been taught to celebrate all the differences we encounter in life but never to realize we're all part of the whole.
As the government's war for oil profits continued, I struggled with my co-workers. "What would you say if a black person had done this [Ed.: crashed into the WTC]?" I asked. "Would you then agree to round up thousands of black men just because they were black?"
"That's different," someone said.
"No, it's not," I replied. "It's racism!"
I must win my fellow soldiers to see we're all part of the same working class. When the bosses attack one section of our class, they prepare the way to attack all workers. As long as we think only about "our" group, then they can turn one group of workers against another in the service of everlasting profits.
Not Fooled by Bosses' Racist War Lies
There's been a good response by many to the idea of Arab-Jewish unity against the occupation. But that's not the only response.
At one march, I carried a sign saying, "Arabs and Jews unite against all imperialist warmongers," and passed out a leaflet headlined, "Arabs and Jews -- Unite Against All Bosses." I gave one to a man carrying a Palestinian flag. He asked, "What is your political position?" I said, "I'm a communist." He said,"Oh. Then you're neutral in this struggle." I was taken aback. "Neutral?" I said, "I most certainly am NOT neutral! I'm on the side of the international working class. We're fighting to destroy all these imperialists who are murdering workers for their own oil profits."
The Israeli government slaughter of Palestinians is an attack on all workers, like the U.S. bosses' attack on Iraqi and Afghani workers. The random killing of Jews in pizza parlors is also such an attack.
This man's remark was telling. A nationalist perspective puts one either on the side of the Palestinians or on the side of the Jews. This is an anti-worker outlook. It plays right into the hands of the different bosses who manipulate each side for their own imperialist aims. The U.S. and Israeli bosses are justifiably hated by many worldwide. But we also must expose the cynical game being played by the bosses of the European Union (EU), Iran, and Arafat and Hamas who are fomenting Palestinian nationalism and suicide bombings which kill Palestinian and Jewish workers. The EU wants to become the "honest broker" in the Middle East. They and other imperialists want access to oil independent from the U.S. bosses. Arafat and Hamas want to be bosses over Palestinian workers, with the support of the EU and other imperialists.
We must unite with workers of the world, not with any boss. There is no lesser evil capitalist or imperialist. The working class has paid dearly for uniting with "lesser evil imperialists." We have an uphill fight, but only communism can end wars for oil profits and meet the needs of the world's workers. Communists need to be bold and principled in this fight.
During the march most chants were initially pro-peace/anti-Bush. About 15 mostly black students joined my chanting of, "Cheney you liar, we'll set your ass on fire!" It startled many people in my group. Some felt it was too militant. My chant of "Arab, Latin, black and white, Workers of the World Unite!" was not taken up. The Coalition group "ANSWER," including many Arab families, chanted, "Free, Free Palestine! Die! Die! Israel!" Several hundred chanted, "1,2,3,4, We don't want your racist war! 5,6,7,8, Stop the violence, Stop the Hate!"
This contrast between the pro-peace, anti-violence chants and the militant, nationalist and occasionally racist chants permeated much of the March. Anti-Jewish chants and signs equating the Star of David with the Nazi Swastika disgusted many in my group and in the March. All the BU students in my group agreed with me that we needed Jewish-Arab unity against Israel's war and racism to end the war in Israel/Palestine. When we neared the Capitol building we pointed towards it and chanted, "This is what Democracy looks like! That is what Fascism looks like!"
I strengthened my ties with those in the group and struggled with them over advancing multi-racial unity to oppose war and racism; over the mistaken goal of self-determination and the need to destroy nationalism, imperialism and capitalism with communism and revolution; and over the difference between militant, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist chants versus pacifist chants that only called for "peace" and for the U.S. to "stop" oppressing and exploiting all workers.
This is a long-standing policy, established (before I got there) because some teachers were not actually covering all the course material. In a few cases, their students were being cheated because their teachers were lazy and/or racist and didn't bother to teach. The purpose of the test was to maintain academic standards by pressuring these teachers to do their job.
But to many students, the tests were an obstacle preventing them from graduating. Actually, since I've been at this school, very few -- if any -- students have failed these exams after earning a "C" average or better all year. Still, some students considered the tests racist, like IQ tests and other exams that are really racist. Quite a few postponed taking science classes as long as possible, and took as few as they could get away with. Of course, this is not what most of the science teachers want.
So the students, encouraged by some counselors and other school staff, protested the "science exit exams." They circulated petitions and organized people to attend a school board meeting to complain. There was talk of a walkout.
Well, I generally encourage students to fight racism. But I wasn't convinced these final exams were racist. However, comments being made by some paternalistic adults seemed a lot more racist. They implied strongly that "these students" couldn't really learn science, that science was "too hard for them," and that "very few people really need to know science anyway." But all working-class youth, and workers of any age, can and must learn science -- and math, history, philosophy, language skills, the nature of capitalism and the history of revolution as well.
Fortunately, we were able to organize dialogue between anti-racist teachers and a few of the student organizers. After a few very tense weeks, most of the science teachers admitted a minimum "make-it-or-break-it" cut-off score on the test was unnecessary. Now the test grades will be averaged in with the rest of the course work, producing almost the exact same effect, but without making the students so anxious.
The student leaders, pleased with this victory, were open to the idea that fighting racism in science education means finding ways to help more students take, and succeed at, science classes. A new science club is forming to work on this.
The Party's politics of "fight to teach, fight to learn" really helped me to sort out -- and give leadership to -- a situation that initially seemed pretty awful. It created much discussion, in the lunchroom with other teachers and also in my classrooms, and has led to some new friendships based on anti-racist struggle.