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"Fight for Communism! Power to the Workers!" "Asian, Latin, Black and White, Workers of the World, Unite!"
These and many other chants rang out at the spirited PLP May Day Marches in downtown Los Angeles and Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY, on May 4. The marches were organized by black, Latin, Asian and white youth who took responsibility and initiative in bringing their friends and leading the marches. They carried a powerful message of internationalism and communist revolution to counter the bosses terror, racism, nationalism, fascism and war and were well-received. Workers joined in the street. In L.A., over 700 bought CHALLENGE and thousands took PLP leaflets. A thousand CHALLENGES were also distributed in Flatbush.
The first May Day marches since 9/11 were organized under conditions of increasing fascist attacks: Migra raids, increasing police terror, the mass arrests of Arab immigrants, huge cuts in health care, nationalist propaganda and war. Although ten years ago in LA we marched here under marshal law (following the 1992 rebellion), the situation today is much more serious. The march organizers are learning to do so under the new conditions and to begin to rely on more of our fellow workers and students to help organize the communist movement.
Wonderful May Day dinners with songs, a skit and inspiring talks were also organized in LA, New York, Chicago and other cities. In one dinner, a speaker explained that even though we are still a small organization, politically our Party is stronger because were learning to guarantee leadership to the working class under any and all conditions. He stressed the need to organize in the classrooms, mass organizations and churches. "Our Party is on the right path. The rivalry among the imperialists and the building of fascism is pushing our Party to make the changes necessary to lead the working class on the road to revolution. This is our historic responsibility just as it was for the Red Army that crushed the Nazis and just as it was for the communist partisans in Italy who defeated fascism."
One comrade reported that workers on the street were eager to pay for CHALLENGE and were inspired by our march. Youth spoke about organizing for the Party in their schools. A marcher told of the need to organize against racist policies where she works, policies that would keep black students out of the school. A comrade who has been active on his campus and made many friends vowed to be bolder in the fight against all forms of nationalism. A young comrade invited her friends to join the Party to fight for the interests of the whole working class, for a society where our class produces to meet our own needs. A veteran comrade said that youth must organize to lead our class to revolution in the midst of the wars looming in our future.
A participant said our march represented our classs interests, unlike some of the more mass demonstrations occurring recently. The million people marching in France against Le Pen on May Day embraced the right-wing Presidential candidate as the "lesser evil" to Le Pen. But there is no lesser evil capitalist. This dangerous illusion sets our class up to be victims of the bosses fascism and wars. Only communists in PLP in these movements point out that the only way to end fascism and wars for profit is with communist revolution.
Our place now and always, under fascist conditions and even during the most deadly of imperialist wars remains with the working class. We will not allow ourselves to be torn from them. This May Day we fight for our Party to preserve and promote revolutionary communist leadership for the working class. Workers of the World, Unite! Fight for Communism!
BROOKLYN, NY, May 4PLP celebrated May Day with a militant march through the Flatbush neighborhood, under sunny skies with red flags swirling in the spring wind amid communist chants like, "The only solution is communist revolution." Thousands of residents in this mostly black immigrant neighborhood warmly greeted the march, some joining, and a thousand CHALLENGES were distributed.
Several dinners in various parts of the city followed the march. One involved students, soldiers and others. Participants heard talks about the history of May Day, the world situation and the development of PLP.
A presentation on the birth of May Day linked us with the struggles of past revolutionary movements to advance the fight for communism. The speaker reviewed the lessons from the successes and failures of the Russian and Chinese communist movements, especially the importance of a revolutionary party and the involvement of as many people as possible in the ideological struggle to advance communism.
A soldier reported on world events, the war in the Mid-East, and the fascist nature of pop culture. She stressed the need for young people to study politics to understand world events and combat ruling-class ideas.
A final speaker detailed the global growth of war and fascism and the failure of capitalism to provide a life for workers with a decent future, saying our efforts bit by bit can re-build the communist movement, leading to victory for the working class.
For many at the dinner it was their first May Day celebration. The entire day was very spirited, generating a positive attitude about the movement.
(The following letter was read at the various PLP May Day celebrations in the U.S.)
One of my most memorable May Days occurred in 1986 when I was a student activist imprisoned by the military dictatorship where I lived. We always celebrated May Day with public gatherings and readings about its history, starting with the Haymarket martyrs.
A few days before May 1st, my fellow political prisoners decided we must celebrate this year, even inside prison. But the jail administration refused permission for us to hold a rally in the central courtyard.
We kept on pressing him, saying he allowed religious ceremonies, so why not our holiday. He still refused and then the guards began terrorizing prisoners, trying to "convince" us to drop the idea. But many of us still wanted it.
Our supporters outside the jail were preparing for a rally. As May 1st neared and tension mounted, we sent a delegation of our allies and friends on the outside to the wardens house and threatened that if he didnt give in, he and his family would face the consequences. He then agreed to the rally but warned us to keep it small. (We had already announced to our fellow prisoners that we would gather no matter what the wardens decision.)
May Day arrived and the jail was ringed for a two-mile radius by an army battalion and anti-aircraft guns stationed in the watchtowers surrounding the central courtyard. Despite all this intimidation and other threats, almost 500 inmates joined us. We made speeches celebrating the international working class. Because of so many workers killed in our police state, we had a slogan that Asia is red because of the blood of workers here and those in Chicago.
An International Worker
U.S. bosses ruthless drive to rule the world for the next several decades is entering a new stage. Control of international oil supplies remains crucial to their grand strategy. Their "war against terror" must be viewed in this context. The next major move theyre contemplating is an invasion of Iraq, to replace the Saddam Hussein clique with a government ready to do the bidding of Rockefellers Exxon Mobil, the worlds largest oil company.
A new war for Iraqi oil has stood high on their agenda ever since they failed to oust Hussein & Co. during their murderous Desert Storm of 1991. The Rockefeller/Democratic forces made sure the Bush, Jr. gang took office with this intention. However, not even a super-power can totally control the force of events. Renewed fighting in the Middle East has temporarily thrown a monkey wrench into U.S. imperialisms military plans for the Persian Gulf. But not for long. The rulers in Washington are working overtime to bribe and/or threaten into line all the participants in this conflict. Their latest gimmick is a Middle East "peace" conference next summer, which wont solve any of the basic conflicts in the Middle East. Its only purpose is to allow the Iraq invasion to go forward.
The U.S. Liberal Establishment originated this scheme with that aim. Its leading mouthpiece, the New York Times, described the key requirements and timetable for launching the new oil war: "The Bush administration is concentrating its attention on a major air campaign and ground invasion, with initial estimates contemplating the use of 70,000 to 250,000 ground troops But any offensive would probably be delayed until early next year, allowing time to create the right military, economic, and diplomatic conditions These include waiting until there is progress toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian military conflict." (4/28; our emphasis Ed.)
The U.S. imperialists will probably get their way, but at the cost of sharpening the political gap that divides them from every other force in the world, big and small. Theyre likely to bully Arafat & Co. into accepting a U.S.-enforced no-mans land that may temporarily cool down the fighting in the Occupied Territories and West Bank. The tactics will involve even greater terror and atrocities against Palestinian workers. And the U.S. can certainly find ways to rein in its currently reluctant Israeli vassals, who, despite occasional appearances, are basically doing U.S. imperialisms dirty work in the region, by acting as a police force against Arab workers and Arab bosses. Israel is the only nuclear power in the region.
Most importantly, although Arab rulers from Saudi Arabia to Oman will squawk at U.S. support for Israel and U.S. plans to invade Iraq, they cant do too much about it. Monopolizing Iraqi oil and eliminating Saddam Hussein and his opposition to U.S. oil control is important enough for the U.S. ruling class to stop at nothing to get its way. If necessary, the big bosses are prepared to go it alone. Thats why their military options include launching attacks on the Persian Gulf from as far away as the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean.
Millions of workers have already died for U.S. imperialisms ferocious need to rule the world by dominating international oil supplies and pipeline routes. Millions more will die in its next oil war. But unquestionably conditions will emerge that will allow our Party to grow amid this mayhem. Our goal is clear communism! Nothing less will do.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide, especially outside the U.S. and Israel, condemn and oppose the atrocities committed by U.S. and Israeli rulers in the Middle East. Every worker should. The slaughter of Palestinian workers, particularly the massacre in the Jenin refugee camp, adds to a long list of brutalities by the racist Israeli rulers that would make Hitler proud.
However, in some ways far more dangerous, is the deadly temptation to support Arafat, Hamas, al Qaeda, and other forces leading the movements against U.S. and Israeli aggression. They are all bosses. None of them has anything to offer the Arab and Muslim masses except the same capitalist wage slavery under different leadership. They want to be players with the imperialists, not smash them.
Arafat represents capitalists who want a Palestinian state that gets money from both U.S. and European rulers. Hamas has the same ambition but tilts more toward the Europeans. Al Qaeda wants to channel the anger of Arab and Muslim masses into taking over the drivers seat from U.S. oil firms in the Persian Gulf.
Millions of people internationally have been misled into actively or passively supporting these leeches. The motive is understandable. But solidarity with Palestinian and Arab workers and youth will never realize its revolutionary potential by supporting Arafat, Hamas, and al Qaeda. They are bosses with essentially the same outlook as the U.S. and Israeli ruling classes. This is a dogfight among gangsters. Backing the little ones against the big ones merely helps the little ones get bigger. Workers spill blood and sweat and remain under wage slavery no matter who wins.
The international working class, including in the Middle East, is paying a heavy price for the political failures of the old communist movement that led it to believe in "lesser evil" capitalists and "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Our Party learned this lesson the hard way during its early years, when U.S. imperialism was committing genocide in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese workers put up a heroic fight, defeating the seemingly invincible U.S. military machine.
But if mass heroism were all that were required, racist oppression, imperialist war, and fascist terror would have been defeated a long time ago. The international working class has always shown an unending supply of courage.
The leaders of that great struggle took aid from anyone who would give it to them, especially the bosses of the former Soviet Union who by then had become full-blown imperialists. When you depend on your class enemy for help, you end up following his orders and become just like him. Millions of Vietnamese died thinking they had sacrificed their lives to build a decent society. What their descendants got was the same old rotten profit system with all its horrors. Ask the workers in Ford and Nike factories in Vietnam.
While it ended badly, the struggle in Vietnam had elements of communist aims, at least at the beginning. Millions were mobilized to wage "peoples war," which still inspires all workers who hope to rid the world of capitalism. Arafat, Hamas and al Qaeda have no such elements. In fact, they are all flagrant anti-communists and pro-capitalism. Al Qaeda was created by the U.S. and Saudi bosses to wage an anti-communist "holy war" against the Russians in Afghanistan. Fundamentalist Hamas was basically built up by the Israeli spy agencies to sabotage the first Intifada in the 1980s led by secular nationalist Palestinians. And after the Oslo "peace deal" of the early 1990s, Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were trained and financed by the CIA and the Saudis.
The job of communists is to tell the truth, no matter how unpopular it may seem at the time. We do not echo the slogans of nationalist misleaders. We are not in a popularity contest. We fight for communism and we are headed uphill against what most workers have been led to believe.
Millions of workers can grasp and fight for internationalism and communist revolution as they have in the past. We have entered the capitalist and nationalist-led mass movements, including the movement against U.S.-Israeli aggression, to challenge the misleaders for the political leadership of the workers. Were committed to help workers recognize friends from enemies. That is a vital step toward liberation.
During the Vietnam period, we fought nationalists and opportunists of all stripes. Today the road is harder and the stakes are higher. We will not waver. We will learn to put forward our ideas with skill and thoughtfulness. The worst prison is the one you dont know youre in. Marching for Arafat, Sharon or Bush wont free any workers from the living hell of capitalism and imperialism.
May 1 is International Workers Day, when millions of workers around the world march against the bosses and the terrible conditions caused by capitalism. "Today were celebrating with this meal and with marches " said a garment worker to more than 100 co-workers during lunch inside the factory.
For several days before May 1, a group of these workers launched a campaign to celebrate May Day. They talked to workers about it one by one and asked for donations for the food, encouraging them to participate. Although older and younger workers dont know each other that well, this campaign helped overcome that obstacle. Unity grew. Many workers were surprised at the success of this activity. In a pre-dinner meeting, one worker very encouraged by the plans, described the events by saying, "If the mountain wont come to me, Ill go to the mountain."
In another garment factory, other workers did the same thing. Both Latin and Asian workers came to their May Day meal. The effort to move these workers with revolutionary ideas is encouraging us to be bolder and more political in our struggles.
Some of these workers participated in an "Immigrants Rights March" on May 1 and some came to PLPs May Day.
Garment Workers in Struggle
MEXICO CITY, May 1 May Day here and in Cuba was enveloped by the fight between President Fox and Fidel Castro. Mexicos Fox has become the latest U.S. government battering ram against Cubas Fidel Castro. Shortly after May Day, the Bush administration accused Cuba of supplying Libya and Syria with the know-how to build "weapons of mass destruction." (WMD) Meanwhile, some Latin American leaders, with U.S. support, charged Cuba with human rights violations.
This fight has nothing to do with human rights and there is virtually nothing to link Cuba to WMD. Rather it is a cynical ploy by U.S. bosses and their lackeys in Latin America to bolster the failing U.S. foreign policy in the region, particularly in Colombia and oil-rich Venezuela, "while simultaneously boosting support at home for the war against terrorism." (Stratfor.com, 5/7). As U.S. bosses expand their "war against terror" (mainly over oil supplies) in the Middle East and Central-South Asia, they need to guarantee that their "backyard" doesnt fall to European and Asian imperialists. They understand that Castro, Venezuelas Chavez and others represent forces favoring U.S. rivals. [The next CHALLENGE will analyze that dogfight.].
A defender of human rights was murdered here. The rulers say she "committed suicide," but theres evidence linking her murder to military leaders. More than 400 women have been raped and murdered in Juarez. The authorities say "the size of their skirts" caused the murders. Misogyny isnt the only ingredient in these horrendous crimes. These are workers from the maquillas (sweatshops) many indigenous who have emigrated from southern Mexico seeking work.
Racism is another ingredient in these murders. Ten million indigenous people live a marginal existence here. Fox and the Congress passed a law condemning the indigenous people to 4th class citizenship. The bosses also enacted a new fascist labor law which indiscriminately fires workers and restricts their right to strike.
Fox drips with the blood of his victims when he talks about "human rights." He completely ignores the deaths of undocumented workers at the U.S. border and fails to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court when it condemns immigrants to slavery, all because he doesnt want to disrupt trade relations.
PLP forces marched on May Day in Mexico City to expose U.S. bosses as the worlds number one terrorists and violators of workers rights. Mexicos ruling class is in no position to preach to anyone on that score. We also linked the sharpening imperialist rivalry to the oil wars and to the fascist terror and to massive job losses suffered by the international working class. The only solution is to destroy capitalism and fight for communism.
CHICAGO, IL April 30 Hundreds of students walked out of their classes and demonstrated their anger and frustration after the City College Board of Trustees fired the coordinators (those responsible for registration and administrative problems). Two thousand students signed petitions against the cuts and a contingent delivered them to the Mayors office. Union reps and students pointed out the need for the coordinators, warning that firing them will force extra duties on the teachers. The Trustees "listened" and then fired them.
Last month, scores of students came to the Trustees meeting to defend the college districts counselors (who handle students personal problems). Many told of counselors who had literally saved their lives, helping them through family crises, domestic abuse or drug problems. Chancellor Wayne Watson said some of the testimony nearly brought him to tears. Then without any hesitation, they fired all the counselors.
Before that, they fired the Information Technology workers, maintenance workers and accountants, in order to privatize and cut their costs. The plan to outsource and privatize the districts services has been in the works for some time. Unfortunately this is just an appetizer. The main cuts have yet to be served.
The coordinators, like the counselors, are part of the faculty union. At a recent union meeting, teachers were keenly aware that all of these cuts are preparing the groundwork for our contract negotiations. Our contract expires June 30. They attack and threaten us because they have less money and less of a need to educate all of our students.
At one meeting Chancellor Watson claimed, "We serve too many students." This is ludicrous since thousands are turned away at each registration. Watson is following the capitalist logic of not educating immigrant and working-class students when their chances of reaching a four-year university are continually undercut by the higher cost and elitism of those institutions.
In one study, the median family income for students at one state university was $82,000. The figures are obviously higher at the private elite institutions. And why educate immigrant students when the bosses have just empowered the police to deport them as part of their "Homeland Defense"? As fascism intensifies, immigrant and working-class students are being tracked into the army or low-paying jobs for the global economy.
Today millions of workers cannot add to the bosses war cry, "United We Stand." Theyre on the unemployment lines. The latest Labor Department jobless report says the unemployment rate jumped to 6% in April, during "recovery," higher than it was in the depth of the recession! The "recovery" pundits are predicting it will continue to rise in coming months.
Only 38% of the total unemployed are eligible for unemployment insurance (UI). Nearly four million workers were receiving benefits in mid-April, a 19-year-high and a million more than April 2001. If that four million represents only the 38% of the unemployed, that means another six million are officially out of work. This may not even include 1.3 million whove given up looking (and therefore not counted as unemployed). It does not include millions still on welfare who cant find jobs, the two million in prison (two-thirds of whom are jailed for non-violent, mostly minor drug possession offenses) nor all those who joined the military because they couldnt find jobs. All told, the real figure is at least somewhere between 15 and 18 million.
"Recovery" is out of sight for these workers. The number of workers unemployed for more than six months the maximum time for most workers to collect benefits is almost double from a year ago. Nearly two million workers exhausted their UI since Sept. 11.
Capitalists are hailing the supposed 5.8% rate of growth in the economy in the first quarter of 2002. According to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (4/30), thats probably more than double the true growth rate. The jobless are spending whatever savings they might have, and many have none. Since Clintons "Welfare Reform," those either exhausting or ineligible for UI now find it harder than ever to collect welfare.
Capitalism offers workers a constantly expanding oil-war, a "recovery" that slashes jobs and a growing fascist police state for those who resist such death and destruction.
War and fascism are their tools for super-exploiting workers in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America, while driving down wages and living conditions in the US. The bosses call it "democracy." We call it wage slavery. All the flag-waving patriotic mumbo-jumbo will never bury the fact that between bosses and workers, there is no "we."
NEW YORK CITY, May2 What role can unions play during economic downturns? Many were built during such crises, often led by communists, in order to survive and intensify struggle against their bosses. Today, the opposite is true: without communist leadership, union "leaders" can hold back workers anger.
With contracts of over 120,000 city workers expiring by next month and a $5 billion city budget deficit looming, you might think (or hope) that city worker unions were preparing to strike against layoffs, give-backs, budget cuts, pension reductions, etc.
Although PLers and others urge such preparations, the union leadership mainly pushes workers into the "lesser evil" arms of the Democratic Party hacks, calling for "progressively" raising taxes to fill the budget gap. They say "we wont let the city balance the budget on your backs." But where "No contract, no work!" once defined unions bargaining strategy, now contract extensions of a year or longer are increasingly the rule. Given the fact that the bosses get away with not paying any increases during these lengthy contract extensions, they are actually getting interest-free loans to balance their budgets, precisely on the workers backs (even if the workers later receive retroactive pay).
Under the fascist State Taylor law, public employee strikes are illegal. Recently, NYC transit workers were threatened with jail and fines if they merely uttered the word "strike."
Since the 1970s, the States Financial Control Board (FCB) has required cities and counties to have "balanced budgets." In the mid-1970s, the FCB "imposed massive cuts, including the elimination of nearly 64,000 city jobs..." (The Chief, 4/26) The FCB could void any city union contract. The courts nullified sanitation workers "iron clad" no-layoff clause due to "fiscal necessity." (Not surprisingly, they didnt void the billions in interest the bankers collect from the City treasury.)
Meanwhile, AFSCMEs District Council 37 leaders cut deals that invariably sold out workers "to save our city." More recently, 35,000 workers in the slave labor Workfare program sought court protection under existing labor laws. They lost when a judge ruled that Workfare jobs are "training," not employment. Then and now workers cant rely on the bosses institutions or pro-boss labor leaders.
As in the 1970s, current service cuts in Mayor Bloombergs contingency plan for saving $500 million would hit black and Latin working-class communities the hardest. They include the cleaning budget for the Department of Homeless Services shelters, Health Department reductions in tuberculosis control and services for pregnant women, a 10% slash in the Parks Department workforce and cutting sanitation pick-ups and highway and bridge cleaning. If firefighters thought that the patriotic frenzy after 9/11 would save them, think again. They face 200 job cuts and the closing of eight engine companies. When the bosses preach "United We Stand," its likely theyre standing on workers backs.
We dont have to take these attacks passively. Workers in NYC unions are longing for leadership. Communists can offer class consciousness and solidarity to counter the bosses patriotism, nationalism, racism and sexism. We can champion the need to bust anti-worker laws with mass militant action. The trust, friendships and understanding forged in such class struggle can indeed turn unions into schools for communism.
Back in 1999, when the Clinton administration claimed its "humanitarian" war on Yugoslavia would save the Kosovo-Albanians from genocidal "ethnic cleansing" by the Milosevic regime in Serbia, CHALLENGE was one of the few voices in the world to expose it as basically a war to control oil routes and pipelines from the Caspian Sea to the Balkans. Today, it is clear that U.S. rulers used its intervention specifically to establish Camp Bondsteel, an enormous, self-sufficient, high-tech base for 7,000 troops, 55 Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, with "downtown," "midtown" and "uptown" districts, and the best-equipped hospital in Europe.
Colonel Robert McClure wrote in the engineers professional Bulletin, "Engineer planning for operations in Kosovo began months before the first bomb was dropped Planners wanted to reach base-camp as quickly as possible." Before the bombing started, the Washington Post confessed, "With the Middle East increasingly fragile, we will need bases and fly-over rights in the Balkans to protect Caspian Sea oil."
Bondsteel is smack in the middle of this energy corridor, close to the U.S.-sponsored $1.3 billion Trans-Balkan AMBO pipeline project (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria Oil). Reuters reports that Exxon Mobil and Chevron are financing AMBO, which will pump oil from tankers docking in Bulgaria, through Macedonia to the Albanian port of Vlore. From there it will be pumped onto tankers bound for Europe and the U.S.
Bondsteel is the lynchpin in the control of this oil route. A senior British military officer told the Washington Post, " the Americans are making a major commitment to the Balkan region and plan to stay." And this base will be large enough "to accommodate future military plans."
The base is so huge that joking troops ask, "What are the two things that can be seen from space? One is the Great Wall of China; the other is Camp Bondsteel!"
Bondsteel was built on contract to Brown & Root Services, a subsidiary of Haliburton Oil, as part of a long-range plan to privatize the building and servicing of military bases. Before becoming Bushs vice-president, Dick Cheney was Haliburtons CEO. More than 7,000 Albanian workers built Bondsteel, working around the clock, seven days a week, for $1-$3 an hour, in an area with 80% unemployment. A Brown & Root manager said they "cant inflate wages" because they didnt "want to over-inflate the local economy." They are now Kosovos largest employer.
Brown & Roots profits surged with U.S. military expansion. They got their first contract to support U.S. Army global operations when Cheney was Bush, Sr.s Secretary of War. In 1992, it grabbed $62 million in Somalia. In 1994, it doubled its earnings to $133 million in Haiti. In 1999, when Cheney was CEO of its parent company Haliburton, it received a 5-year contract worth nearly $1 billion to build bases in Hungary, Croatia and Bosnia. But Bondsteel became "the mother of all contracts." The nearly 10,000 soldiers in the area joke that, "Theyre missing a patch on their camouflage fatigues . one that says Sponsored by Brown & Root." (Government Executive Magazine, Feb. 2002)
Other bases are being planned in Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia to control future oil pipelines and energy corridors linking the Caspian region with Europe and beyond. U.S. bosses are prepared to spill the last drop of workers blood to achieve their goal of world domination through this control of oil supplies while reaping billions in profits. The communist leadership of PLP is crucial to winning workers and soldiers of all countries to organize a revolution against U.S. bosses genocidal war plans.
The AFL-CIO support of the pro-war patriotic hysteria and police state measures like the Patriot Act continues its decades-long support for fascism worldwide.
An agency directed by the AFL-CIO played a key role in the April 19 military coup attempt in Venezuela. While overseeing mass concessions and layoffs of unionized workers at home, these bosses labor lieutenants conspire against the international working class.
Through the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), an AFL-CIO-run agency largely funded by the U.S. government, the AFL-CIO provided aid and "technical advisors" to the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV). CTV President Carlos Ortega was one of the main participants in the attempted coup. He joined with Pedro Carmona, the head of the main big business association, the fascist Opus Dei Catholic group and others in organizing a "general strike," an anti-government march on the presidential palace and a cut in production at PDVSA, the state-owned oil company. (Carmona was Ortegas boss in the Venoco petrochemical plant, which helped coordinate the local aspect of the coup. For an analysis of how the failed coup was part of the fight among local and international bosses over oil, see CHALLENGE, 5/8.)
The coup was prepared over months. On February 12, ACILS and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) sponsored a trip for CTV representatives. They met with AFL-CIO leaders to discuss coup possibilities.
The Reagan administration created the NED in 1983. Among the founding directors were Henry Kissinger, Nixons Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker.
Over the past two years, the NED quadrupled its funding for Venezuelan operations to nearly $1 million. Out of this, $154,377 was given to ACILS for its activities with the CTV. While ACILS was expanding its operations, CIA director William Tenet told Congress that the volatile situation in Venezuela was one of the main concerns for U.S. foreign policy.
The ACILS executive director is former State Department operative Harry Kamberis. A veteran of the Asian American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI), his chief "labor" experience was propping up the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), to defend Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. Between 1983 and 1989, the AAFLI gave the TUCP nearly $6 million to work with the dictatorship, the employers, police and fascist death squads.
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney gave the American Institute for Free Labor Development (see box) a face-lift by creating ACILS, while maintaining the network of international offices and personnel. It continues as an arm of U.S. imperialism, under the cover of "fighting sweatshops" and "international labor organizing." European and Asian imperialists are trying to make inroads into Latin America. ACILS plays a vital role in building pro-U.S. labor movements while taking on European and Asian factory owners.
ACILS receives roughly $15 million a year from the government. This includes a $45 million, five-year grant from the Agency for International Development, $4 million from the NED, $1 million over two years from the State Department and $300,000 from the Labor Department. The AFL-CIO kicks in another $1 million a year.
Since the end of World War II, the AFL-CIO has funded and trained fascist unions to support the demands of U.S. imperialism and steer workers away from communist revolution. They are responsible for the deaths of millions of workers. In the final analysis, they will share the same fate as the union leaders who marched for Hitler.
For decades, the AFL-CIO served U.S. imperialism in Latin America through the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), which became internationally known as the CIAs "labor front."
In Guatemala, AIFLD organized a United Fruit Company-backed company union to enforce labor peace on the banana plantations. In Guyana in the early 1960s, AIFLD organized a series of strikes and racist attacks between East Indian and Afro-Caribbean workers to destabilize and overthrow the nationalist regime of Cheddi Jagan. In Brazil in 1964, AIFLD-trained union leaders backed the military seizure of power. In Chile, AIFLD distributed CIA funds to professional and managerial employees, as well as backed truck owners strikes, to cripple the economy and set the stage for the militarys seizure of power in September 1973. AIFLD advisors flooded El Salvador during the civil war, building a pro-military peasants association.
BROOKLYN, NY, May 1 Up to 12,000 teachers and others demonstrated today at Board of Education offices to protest 17 months without a contract. The usual union signs read, "Enough is Enough," and "I dont want to strike, dont force me." The usual politicians said they were "100% for us," and union president Randi Weingarten gave her usual weak speech about how "weve had enough." As usual, the existence of racism, lousy education, our students problems and the destructive effect of war on their future and our contract were omitted (except in PLPs literature).
Though chants were mild, occasionally there were calls for a strike. But the demonstration had another character to it, a May Day character. In addition to the distribution of PLP May Day literature and CHALLENGE, the political discussions raised by PLP members and friends were part of a culmination of an 8-year struggle calling for union endorsement of a May Day march.
In 1994 on the floor of the UFT delegate assembly(DA), PLP raised the call for a May Day march. That first vote won maybe 20 delegates out of nearly 700 to vote for a May Day demonstration. The number grew until last year when about 150 people voted to support PLPs May Day. Many who were not involved with PL shouted from the floor, "Why dont you let them have their march?" After each motion, many delegates (even many who wouldnt vote for it) would say the union should have it. PL members were also involved in many other motions for working-class demands as well as in struggles in their schools.
Recently, the unions inability to negotiate a contract, the growing dissatisfaction with the leaderships Unity Caucus, the growth of the Progressive Action Caucus (the main opposition), and a new grouping of independent delegates angered by the unions lack of militancy all have combined to open more teachers to PLPs ideas. PLPs activity at the DA and in their schools has played a role in galvanizing people around militant, working-class ideas. The leaderships Unity caucus has recently swallowed New Action, an older more militant group and has tried to attract the independents.
At the March DA, a PLers May Day motion won quite a few delegates votes. During a discussion of how to save our pension fund from "Enronitis," he suggested that the May 1 demonstration could march to City Hall with flags and banners condemning Enron and capitalism, a "May Day" march. Though it didnt pass, it drew widespread interest.
At the April DA the union suddenly announced todays May 1 demonstration "to further negotiations." Then, in front of 1,400 delegates, union president Weingarten directly addressed one PLer: "Well, PLP has finally got its May Day." Shortly afterwards the secretary of the union, second in command, said wed have red shirts, but we "wouldnt have any pictures of PLP members on them."
Though the union leadership was clearly trying to co-opt the communists and placate the militants, this represented some recognition of the support that our 8-year struggle has won among scores if not hundreds of delegates. When communists raise May Day, it enables us to advance the whole struggle against capitalism and for communism amongst masses of workers. It now behooves PLers and their friends in the union to build on this modest spreading of communist ideas to build the Party and move the fight for revolution forward.
Workers of the World, Write!
[We recently received the following report about conditions in Argentina before and since the mass rebellion of Dec. 20.]
The streets are deserted since people basically have no money to do anything. Businesses are a shadow of their former selves. Movies, bingo parlors, shopping centers, bars and particularly photo studios are suffering. Nobodys celebrating anything worth taking pictures of nor wants to keep images of the rapid fall in their lives. Public hospitals, the last resort in the past for patients without any resources, are now full because its the only medical service available to millions of newly jobless left without any social safety net. Businesses selling home appliances are like a museum of life in this 21st century: TV sets, refrigerators, VCRs, microwaves are all "on exhibition" nobody is buying them. Auto traffic is also way down; gasoline is a luxury very few can afford. Those who can "gas up" buy just enough for their next immediate trip.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund squeezes workers even more. The crooked politicians sell their souls to the multi-national corporations. Workers poverty grows and grows, denying us our dignity as human beings since we cannot afford the basic necessities of life. Those who can try to leave the country to find a better life.
There are enough things wrong here to fill a very thick book. The latest reports say that a million people fell under the poverty line in the first three months of 2002; 30% of the workforce is unemployed. But things are bad worldwide, not just here. There is much wealth in each country, but workers remain impoverished by the bosses pillaging of oil and everything else, our land and even water.
A Comrade in Argentina
All nationalism must be rejected. The argument that indigenous Palestinians can use any or all tactics against all European Israeli usurpers is factually incorrect and reactionary because it endorses terrorist tactics against civilians. Anyone who advocates the death of a people based on "race," ethnicity, religion or nationality is reactionary, even if they are non-combatants, play no decision-making role in their government and are mostly from the working class.
Following this to its logical conclusion, Native Americans should start suicide bomb attacks against European interlopers and their numerous descendants who currently occupy their land and whose ancestors murdered about 95% of North Americas pre-Colombian population.
In the Russian Far East there is now a movement to stop "illegal" Chinese immigrants moving into historically Russian areas. Should Russians initiate terrorist bomb attacks against Chinese immigrants? This is the same logic that justifies attacks on Israeli civilians.
The Israeli right-wing argues that the Jews who moved to Israel were the descendents of Jews who originated in pre-Islamic Palestine. They say that the Palestinians are there "at the expense of the areas true indigenous people." They use this to justify the Israeli settlers violent actions. This is the absurd foolishness of trying to understand and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a nationalist prism.
Of course, some Palestinians argue that the Canaanites were there before the Hebrews came from Egypt in Biblical antiquity, and they are the ancestors of the modern Palestinians. And on and on and on
Nationalist claims all lead to racist ideologies and fascist practices. They also lead to reliance on outside imperialists and to the creation of oppressive class societies.
Two-thirds of the Israeli Jewish population are from Islamic countries, not Europe. But even if they were all from Europe, terrorist attacks on working-class people are fascist tactics. This applies to the Sharon-Peres attacks on the West Bank as well as the Likud and Labor Parties settlement activity, home demolitions, collective punishment and deportations. It also applies to suicide bombers attacking Israeli civilians who play no role among that countrys political or military rulers.
We need a class approach that unites the Israeli and Palestinian working class. Israeli workers must fight racism against Palestinians to build this unity. In the long run, only communist revolution can rid the Middle East of capitalism, the source of racism, nationalism and imperialism.
Two of us of Jewish background had a very inspiring experience in Washington, D.C., on April 19-20. We participated in a teach-in and workshops and marched with the Palestine Solidarity "feeder" march, the largest of the day, to the rally of 75,000 (Washington Post estimate) at the National Mall.
At the teach-in a young Jewish woman just back from the West Bank described Palestinian life under the reign of terror imposed by the invading Israeli Army. A young Palestinian woman, whose family survived the 1982 refugee camp massacre in Lebanon, also spoke. And a black minister gave a rousing speech linking anti-racism and anti-imperialism.
We participated in workshops on Palestinian history, eyewitness accounts from the West Bank, the SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Taxpayer Aid to Israel Now) campaign and U.S. war crimes against Iraq. The workshops were filled with energetic, open-minded young people. We made new friends and our comments were well received. Afterwards we shared experiences at dinner with some progressive Muslim friends.
We were inspired by the spirit and size of the Palestine Solidarity march. The Muslim participants spanned from Taliban to secular Marxism. We talked with a variety of Muslim, Jewish and other groups. Some of the better chants were, "Sharon, Bush, you cant hide! We charge you with genocide!" "Not a nickel, not a dime! The occupation is a crime!" "No more murder in our name! The occupation is a shame!" Young women led many of the chants. Jews Against the Occupation, Not In My Name, Jewish Mobilization for a Just Peace and other Jewish and Jewish/Palestinian groups marched.
The only anti-Jewish racism we saw came from about two dozen members of the New Black Panther Party. They charged into the march with signs featuring swastikas, denouncing Jews and Judaism, and championing Saddam Hussein. These fascist provocateurs were not welcomed; the hundreds of African-American marchers shunned them. There may well have been more anti-Jewish racism we were not aware of.
A few days later we attended a Muslim Students Association forum with about 50 people. An anti-Zionist Jew spoke. Several local Jewish community leaders aggressively put forward a Zionist line. The mainly Arab audience united with the speaker to refute the Zionist lies.
Many people at the April 20 march really impressed us with their pro-communist political views, their commitment, enthusiasm and anger against imperialism. We should be fully involved in the Palestine solidarity movement, Muslim student organizations and the anti-Zionist Jewish organizations which contain people nothing like the rulers racist stereotypes. Theyre as open to our ideas as black organizations and church groups. If we ignore these movements because we think Muslims are less open than Christians, or because Palestinians and Arabs are "more nationalist" than blacks and Latinos, were buying some of the rulers propaganda and making a profound mistake. Going to these mass mobilizations only as agitators, we will probably be turned off by the pacifist, reformist, nationalist speeches, which will prevent us from developing meaningful ties with thousands of honest people.
Standing outside this movement, merely denouncing Israeli and Palestinian nationalism in our literature, and just calling upon Jewish and Palestinian workers to unite, we will only make ourselves irrelevant. Palestinians are the Mid-Easts super-exploited workers. Theyre currently at ground zero of the U.S. "war against terrorism." We must support their struggle and fight to win others to support them. There are tens of thousands of Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian students on U.S. campuses. We must join their struggle against Zionism and imperialism if were going to win them to our Party.
(CHALLENGE comment: Indeed, we must be among the masses to win them. But, we also must point out the real nature of what they are following. See editorial on page 2 for what communists should be doing in this and other nationalist-reformist capitalist-led mass movements.)
Dialectical materialism says that matter has always existed and will exist forever, constantly changing. Therefore, the Universe is infinite. It wasnt created out of nothing as religion teaches, and as many Big Bang theorists like Stephen Hawkings tend to imply. The universe did not begin 14 or 15 billions years ago, the time the latest pictures from the Hubble space telescope says the Big Bang occurred.
Recent findings prove there was something before the Big Bang. Science magazines web page posted (on April 25) a report by Paul J. Steinhardt of Princeton Univ. and his colleague Turok of Cambridge Univ. (UK) A new model of the Universe, saying it had no beginning and will have no ending. They propose that the universe goes through an endless cycle of Big Bangs, expansion and stagnation driven by something they call "dark energy." They base their model on the recent proven findings that the universe is moving apart at an accelerating rate, something the old model of the Universe didnt take into account. Therefore, the Big Bang was not the beginning, but a transition between two cycles in a continuous process of cosmological rebirth.
BBC World News (4/25) reported that the new model accounts for several important features we see in the Universe, such as why everything looks the same in all directions and the fact that the cosmos appears "flat" (parallel lines will never meet, however long).
The two proponents of the new model agree there are still many unanswered questions, like what happened before the Big Bang. The Big Bang idea implies something was suddenly created out of nothing, that the Big Bang was actually the beginning of time and space.
Cosmology is one of the most difficult sciences. "We sit in this tiny planet in the middle of this vast Universe all we can do is pick up the light that happens to fall on us and deduce some things about the Universe," said a cosmologist to the BBC. But one thing is certain. If the universe is infinite, it has existed forever and will never cease to exist.
NYC teachers have been working without a contract for over 18 months. We make tens of thousands of dollars a year less than nearby suburban teachers. The union leaders, whove done little to fight this, have recently been talking strike. But since they havent called a strike in 27 years, almost nobody including the Mayor and most teachers takes this threat seriously.
The union leaders dont believe in strikes and fear losing the automatic dues check-off, a Taylor Law penalty for a walkout. They want us to accept the modest salary increase and longer school day recommended by a state fact-finding committee.
The Progressive Action Caucus (PAC) is a pro-student, multi-racial teachers group willing to confront the leaderships passivity over threatened large-scale school budget cuts. A recent PAC flyer, entitled "Dont Vote for Half a Contract," urged teachers to oppose the fact-finding proposal because it doesnt offer NYC teachers salary parity with the suburbs.
But the main reason teachers should oppose the proposed contract is that it will maintain an apartheid education system. Over a million mostly black and Latin working-class students receive a vastly inferior education compared to students in wealthy private schools and the affluent suburbs.
NYC students have the largest class size in the state, the most dilapidated school buildings and the least services. Many drop out and many more learn very little. Only 12% of black students in the 8th grade meet the States basic math standards.
NYC government is controlled by huge international banks, Wall Street investment firms, insurance and real estate businesses and other Fortune 500 corporations. They want the public schools to produce a future working class with proper skills and an acceptable work ethic, while keeping education costs down to maintain low corporate taxes. Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg says hell give teachers a raise while cutting hundreds of millions from the school budget, worsening an already terrible educational system.
Teachers must defend our working-class students. Not only should we refuse a deal with deep budget cuts, but we should also demand an education for our students equal to that of students from wealthy families. We need no more than 10 in a class, extra help for those who fall behind and new buildings to relieve overcrowding.
Bloomberg and his class maintain theres no money for such things. Yet their government finds hundreds of billions to pay for its oil wars.
The top 5% of NYC taxpayers make over $200,000 a year. Their average income is 21 times greater than the bottom 20 percent, indicating the vast wealth expropriated from the international working class. A tiny stock transfer tax, and a very small increase in the citys tax on this top 5%, would net an extra $1.8 billion a year for the schools. Of course, the rich will not tax themselves to help working-class students.
PAC can galvanize these students and their parents by exposing the apartheid school system, and demanding that the capitalists pay for educational equality out of the surplus value that workers have created. PAC could explain that our lower salaries stem from a racist school system that cares little about retaining experienced teachers since it has so little regard for their students. We should view the current battle as part of a class struggle where we dont just win a few more dollars, but learn how to create a sharing, communist society that respects and educates its youth.
A NYC Teacher