But now, more than nine months later, the same liberals are raking him over the coals for acting too slowly and ineptly. They're aiming to take over the "war against terror." None of this infighting among the bosses bodes well for the working class. For sure, Bush is a racist killer. But the liberals most probably will get their way, and their ruthlessness against our class will make him look like an amateur.
As usual, the New York Times supplies the loudest voice in the liberal chorus. For weeks the Times has been berating Bush, his "Homeland Security" czar Ridge, the FBI and the CIA. Now this main liberal mouthpiece has become even more aggressive. A June 13 op-ed piece by Former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman demand the immediate creation of a Homeland Security Agency. "Not since 1947 [i.e. the start of the Cold War -- Ed.] has a new agency been so needed."
Hart and Rudman don't speak purely for themselves. They have behind them the weight of the Liberal Establishment's key think-tank, the Brookings Institution. A new Brookings' book, Protecting the American Homeland: A Preliminary Analysis, was written by seven leading Brookings experts, including two -- Michael O'Hanlon and Ivo Daalder -- who've helped champion the drive to launch a new war for the conquest of Iraqi oil fields. The book lambastes the Bush administration's "homeland security" shortfalls and leaves no doubt about the liberals' goal of a police state. The main recommendations include:
*Increasing defenses along U.S. borders and in U.S. airspace (Brookings calls this "perimeter security);
*Tightening surveillance, information gathering and visa and immigration procedures;
*Adding 1,000 new FBI agents for "counter-terrorism" a year for five years;
*Securing U.S. nuclear power plants and toxic chemical plants.
Hart and Rudman aren't just two retired senators with nothing better to do. As CHALLENGE readers may remember, they chaired the Clinton-appointed Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, which predicted as early as 1999 that a 9/11-type event or worse was in the works. They scold Bush: "Creating a Department of Homeland Security is...a...step...that should have been taken well before Sept. 11."
For sure, the big bosses don't want a repeat of 9/11. On the other hand, they have to milk the terrorist threat for all it's worth in order to drum up popular support for their police state and war plans. But the Brookings Institution doesn't really expect that nuclear or biological terrorist attacks on a grand scale will materialize. A chart in their new book rates the probability of biological attack with a million casualties as "extremely low"; of an atomic bomb detonated in a major U.S. city as "very low"; and of a successful attack on a nuclear or toxic chemical plant also as "very low." It calls "modest" the estimated likelihood of a "suicide attack with explosives or firearms in a mall or crowded street." (Full text of the book is available at www.brook.edu.)
So even the rulers' main think tank believes that the most probable terror attacks in the future will resemble the tactics of suicide murder-bombings in the current Middle East fighting rather than the doomsday scenario of nuclear mayhem in big cities. The 5,000 additional FBI agents called for by Brookings aren't likely to be of much use against a teenaged suicide bomber. But these agents can certainly join a growing apparatus of political repression.
Just as they used 9/11 to drum up patriotic hysteria for their oil war, the big bosses are now trying to use Bush & Co.'s bungling as a pretext to create a groundswell of demand for more cops, FBI agents and surveillance, i.e., fascism with a liberal face. The scapegoat of the moment is Arab workers and students, but the real target is the working class as a whole, along with soldiers, students and anyone else who doesn't fall for the rulers' agenda and who may organize to do something about it.
That eventually means, above all, our Party. It's no accident that Hart and Rudman compare the rulers' present challenges to the Cold War. The Cold War was an all-out crusade against communism, the deadliest threat the international profit system can contemplate or face. The rulers see a different immediate threat today. The old communist movement is dead. Capitalism didn't defeat it; it died from self-inflicted opportunist political weaknesses. Rival imperialists in China, Russia and Europe have a long-range need to knock the U.S. off its perch as Number One. U.S. bosses, on the other hand, intend to rule the world for the foreseeable future.
Inter-imperialist rivalry and warfare will cause the working class to pay an increasingly heavy price in blood and sweat. A revolutionary Party can grow, at first slowly, and then dramatically, in the crucible of this turmoil. The rulers know this. The "specter of communism" continues to haunt them. Their plans for a police state aim more than anything else to quench the fire of working class militancy once it starts to blaze and to prevent it from becoming red, under PLP's leadership.
The liberals will win out, in the short run. But their police state, and their ceaseless wars (Iraq and its energy wealth seem certain to be the next target, will open the eyes of tens of millions of workers worldwide to see that there must be an alternative to capitalism. It is up to communist revolutionaries to show that such an alternative won't fall from the sky. It can only be achieved by organizing a mass, red-led working-class movement.
Nothing can kill the hope of communism, and nothing can stop the great forward march of human society. Even though this capitalist nightmare seems infinite, every night must have its end. The answer to fascist terror and bosses' war remains: build a mass PLP.
Sharon's murderous invasion, while drawing support from the U.S., creates problems for Bush's planned proposal for an "interim Palestinian state." This already has been criticized by government ministers in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon who declared there is no such thing as an "interim state." MSNBC News (6/19) reported that, "The support of Jordan and Egypt, which shares borders with Israel and a future Palestinian state, would be crucial to any White House proposal." Without that support, Bush's "plan" is doomed.
Complete seizure of the West Bank could spark widespread uprisings across the Middle East -- not to mention in Palestine itself -- causing big problems for the Pro-U.S. repressive governments throughout the region, playing right into the hands of those anti-U.S. capitalist forces represented by al Qaeda . It also could create more problems for the planned U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The solution for Palestinian and Jewish workers lies not in allegiance to "their own" sets of bosses, whether Sharon or Arafat, but in uniting to fight all bosses and their profit system that exploits all workers. The only way out of this endless butchery is for workers throughout the Middle East to organize to smash all the local and imperialist warmakers.
"I think it is an appropriate action to take," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) on ABC's "This Week" (6/16).
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) told "Fox News Sunday" (6/16), "We want to work with the administration and try to find the best way and the best time to do this,"
And Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, a member of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN's "Late Edition" (6/16), "If the President were to authorize that kind of action, I would endorse it wholeheartedly. I don't think it's a question of whether we're going to have to deal with Saddam Hussein," continued Bayh, "I think it's a question of when. We need to get on with the planning, using military, economic, diplomatic -- every arrow in our quiver to deal with this man."
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the only problem he has with the plan is "if it doesn't work. If Saddam Hussein's around five years from now, we've failed," Biden said on CBS's "Face the Nation" (6/16).
"Never believe a politician's promise" is something workers worldwide understand only too well. Alejandro Toledo, President of Perú and former World Bank official, promised the people of Arequipa that once elected he would maintain state ownership of these utility companies. Soon afterwards Toledo sold Egasa y Egesur, the region's two electric companies, to European multi-nationals.
The working class of Arequipa responded to these broken promises by taking to the streets and confronting the cops. After four days of rebellion, Toledo declared a state of emergency and sent in the Army. They killed two demonstrators. Then thousands rebelled in the city of Tacna, near the border with Chile, in solidarity with the workers of Arequipa. The protestors threw rocks at the cops and government offices and blocked roads. Now, "fearing the spread of protests, the government ordered tanks and troops into the streets of Lima," the country's capital. (New York Times, 6/18)
Workers have seen how privatization of state-owned companies has only eliminated jobs while making a few local and foreign bosses and crooked politicians even richer. Private utility companies will raise electric rates sky-high.
General strikes, rebellions, angry marches and other actions by urban and rural workers and their allies have erupted throughout the Southern Cone -- Perú, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia. They are fed up with the bosses' growing attacks to make workers pay even more for their capitalist crisis. These actions are good. Still better would be a fight for a society free of all capitalism -- private or state-owned, where production serves the needs of the workers and their allies: communism.
* Stopping the detentions and deportations;
* An end to U.S military support for Israel, Israeli occupation of Palestine and U.S.-provoked wars in Kashmir, the Philippines and Afghanistan; and,
* Allocating money for education and social services, not for the Pentagon.
These demands reflected the demonstrators' anger at the increasing repression and worsening conditions in the U.S. and wars abroad where thousands are being killed and millions are forced into living as refugees. This range of protest stemmed from the broad coalition of 50 groups that organized the event, including a large number of South Asian, Palestinian, Jewish, Labor, church and community organizations.
Despite the multi-racial diversity, there were few black and Latin protestors, reflecting the nationalism of some of the groups, content to organize among "their own people" and around a single issue. Many of the organizations sent only one or two representatives instead of organizing masses of their members.
Multi-racial unity and class solidarity signs were evident, like "An Injury to One is an Injury to All." Marchers enthusiastically chanted "Jews, Muslims, Black and White, Workers of the World Unite" when such chants were initiated. But nationalist/classless slogans like "Free, Free Palestine" and "Free, Free Kashmir" were chanted with as much gusto.
Speakers eloquently and passionately described the effects of the current crisis but without a class analysis to trace its causes. But a few speakers did identify capitalism as the root of the problem and U. S. imperialism's relentless need to control the world's economy as the cause of the escalating wars.
Generally the demonstration was a step forward for the anti-war movement, occurring as it did in a working-class neighborhood and joined by members of the community. Many youth marched, including a group from local high schools. It showed people are angry, will fight back and are receptive to multi-racial and class unity.
But such coalitions cannot build a movement to wipe out the problems of capitalism once and for all. That can only be done by uniting all workers internationally into a communist-led fight to destroy the profit system.
Jesse Jackson led the march and thought what we were saying was "dangerous." But the workers at the march and in the neighborhood disagreed with him. At first some of us were a little apprehensive about leading chants because of past negative experiences with Jackson's PUSH. But after some struggle, we decided we had to do something. We began by leading bold, militant chants expressing the workers' anger towards the cops and the system. As support grew we initiated more leftist political chants.
Jackson thought it was "safer" to simply shut down the march so he led everyone in a prayer and his famous "I Am Somebody" litany. Most of the protestors approached us requesting more chants, saying, "Keep it up." This was not the reaction most of us expected, but it was surely welcomed. We distributed 25 CHALLENGES and made some contacts.
We have tried working in and around this organization without always getting the best response. But we got a great response today. Now we'll focus on doing more with the group while bringing our communist politics to the workers in it. Many of us learned it's possible to do this and we're gaining more experience in doing it. We must expose Jackson and the other misleaders and organize our working-class sisters and brothers for communist revolution. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
The energy of the protesters, especially the youth, was electrifying. After a rally at the Statehouse, where many youth spoke, we marched to the Supreme Court. The liberal Education Law Center, which was supposed to represent the best interests of urban children, approved McGreevey's cuts. Then the Supreme Court rubber-stamped the whole lousy deal. But working-class youth, many black and Latino, weren't buying it, As the marchers got louder, many youth took the bullhorn and began leading chants: "They say cut back, we say fight back"; "Ain't no love, for government thugs"; and "They cut our schools and build more jails, we'll fight back `til we prevail."
One speaker pointed out how the rulers' racist cuts and other policies are forcing more youth into prison and into the military to fight and die in a bosses' war for oil. Another said that, contrary to the government's lies, the biggest terrorists of all are those inside the U.S. who use their government positions to cut back education and health care for the working class. Several other speakers said this rally was only the beginning, and that we need to organize a bigger action here in the fall.
Progressive Labor Party (PLP) members were very active in organizing the rally, representing a significant collective effort. Masses of students and some parents both responded to our leadership and took the lead themselves. One hundred and forty-five CHALLENGES were distributed, along with 350 PLP flyers about the cuts. This openness to PLP's analysis shows that the working class is not exactly convinced by the U.S. rulers' patriotic, pro-fascist campaign waged since September 11.
Parents, teachers and students will unite and fight back against budget cuts. We shouldn't rely on the bosses' legal system or their press. (The state-wide newspaper and other N.J. media completely ignored us, while giving front-page coverage to a doctors' rally protesting huge malpractice insurance increases, held the same day and place.) Whatever concessions we may get from McGreevey and the people he fronts for will only be won through sharp struggle.
Ultimately capitalism can never satisfy the aspirations of youth and others for equality and productive, meaningful lives. The bosses proclaim their belief in the growth of the individual and "opportunity for all." But in reality, their class system "tracks" many workers' children onto the unemployment line or into the hands of prison guards or military recruiters. PLP's growth and influence in the mass movement is the only alternative that can and will meet the needs of our class.
The London Financial Times' Tom Wolf, commenting (6/12) on the U.S. supposedly leading the capitalist world from recession into recovery, puts it even more bluntly: "This may turn out to be no more than a fairy story for frightened children. Recent falls in the stock market and the U.S. dollar suggest the children are unconvinced." Wolf suggests some hard changes in the U.S. economy, including what he calls the new economic bubble -- letting the dollar fall. But if the dollar falls (some estimate it to be overvalued by 15 to 30%), a worst-case scenario might mean oversea investors would pull out from U.S. stock markets and from investments in Treasury and corporate bonds. The consequent loss of trillions of dollars would really burst the U.S. bubble.
The problems of consumer confidence (worsened by the Enron/ImClone/Tyco-type thievery) and the fall of the dollar are aggravated by an even bigger headache: PROFITS! Capitalism is a profit system. Profits are crucial to its functioning. By the second quarter of 2000, U.S. corporate profits had peaked at $518 billion. By the fourth quarter of 2001, profits had sunk 44.4%. During the dream days of the dot.com "new economy," profitability was hidden by accounting tricks (a la Enron and its Andersen bookkeepers), which netted these CEOs a bundle.
Kevin Phillips' book, Wealth and Democracy, indicates that in 1981 the yearly income of the top ten U.S. CEOs averaged $3.5 million. But those greedy bosses were not happy with such a fortune. By 2000, the top 10 CEOs were averaging $154 million annually, 43 times what was "earned" in 1981! Meanwhile, most workers faced job- and pay-cuts. The "trickle-down" economy praised by the politicians and the bosses' pundits was a mirage. In fact, if the average worker earned, say, $25,000 a year, these 10 CEOs were raking in over 6,000 times that of the average worker! And considering that possibly one-fifth of the workers are below the poverty line ($15,000 for a family of three, $18,000 for a family of four), it's even worse than that. This inequality is growing by leaps and bounds.
Some U.S. rulers and their apologists realize this disparity could weaken workers' support for the system. Thus, a leading liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman denounced this inequality (6/14). Some CEOs are being used as scapegoats for this problem. Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau is investigating Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, accusing him of stealing Tyco's money to buy artwork worth millions as well as an $18 million apartment.
Capitalism is based on inequality, so the main way the bosses try to get out of their crisis is through more exploitation, war and fascism. The U.S. ruling class needs to be the top dog in the imperialist world to keep its system afloat. That means war, war and more war (Iraq is the next target). It also means using the fascist laws under Homeland Security to terrorize workers here and abroad to accept this growing inequality of capitalism.
But capitalism will survive all its crises, until workers and students organize to fight for a society without profits and bosses. Join the PLP to accelerate the final bursting of the capitalist bubble.
Employer contributions to workers' health care benefits appear to be the main issue. Strikers say city officials promised them the same formula as city workers, increased contributions of 19.8% over two years, but reneged on that, now offering only a measly 3.5%. One striker, John Schmahl, 35, said his 6-year-old son has Crohn's disease. "I need medicine and medical attention for him for the rest of his life. Without medical benefits I'm gonna go bankrupt trying to help my son. That's the whole reason we're out here." (Newsday, 6/18).
Many riders voiced support for the strikers, reported Newsday. "I feel sorry for the bus drivers," said one commuter. They should get "everything they ask for."
"Oh, it's quiet. I guess the girl is getting old."
"We may be getting old, but the quiet is bigger than both of us."
That's how two old friends got reacquainted at the UAW Constitutional Convention. This led to a brief discussion on how the working class is defenseless without a mass communist movement, in the face of growing fascism and war. Twenty years ago we had fought against the use of asbestos on the brake line at a Detroit-area auto plant. Addresses, phone numbers and CHALLENGE were exchanged, along with promises to stay in touch.
Other old friends greeted me with shock and surprise. "You're a delegate? How did that happen? Boy, have you changed!" With most of them I was able to discuss the dialectical category of Appearance and Essence. I explained how we were "marching into the enemy's camp" in order to build a mass communist movement. Again, addresses, phone numbers and CHALLENGE were exchanged.
For the most part, the Constitutional and Special Convention was one large perk, aimed at rewarding the loyal and corrupting new forces. The theme was, "America is a Union," and every session began with the national anthems of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Huge breakfasts, dinners and open bars were all part of the coronation of president Ron Gettelfinger and the new International Executive Board.
At the same time, many black, Latin and women delegates were in various leadership positions. Resolutions were unanimously passed against racial profiling, for affirmative action, for universal health care, against the racist round-up of Arab and Muslim citizens and immigrants, and more.
The president of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard, addressed the convention. This is the same guy who led the pro-boss Stand Up for Steel campaign and draped himself in the American flag (even though he is Canadian!). He gave a moving talk describing the conditions of steelworkers in other countries. Then he talked about the attacks on the health care and pensions of U.S. steelworkers. "The workers in other countries are not our enemy," he said. "The system that pits us against each other is our enemy!" Standing ovation.
After he finished, a black woman delegate from Detroit spoke from the floor. "I'm so proud of our union. I never thought I would see the day when we would bring to life the slogan, `Workers of the World, Unite!'" More applause.
But tucked away in the resolution on International Affairs and Labor Solidarity was the sentence, "The international consensus in the fight to eliminate terrorism must be maintained in addressing the dangers posed by Iraq." And there is the fingerprint of U.S. imperialism that they can't hide.
A pretty smart guy once asked, "What would you say about a union that was on strike for ten good demands on wages and health care, but demanded Hitler's birthday as a paid holiday?" That one demand would expose the essence of the strike and make the other demands meaningless. In the same sense, the union's support for an expanding oil war for U.S. imperialism shows what this is really all about.
Before the First World War, there was a socialist movement that also gave lip service to the international working class. But when the war broke out, Lenin described how they all "ran to the tents of their masters." The UAW leadership and the "left" of the labor movement is a poor imitation of that old movement. They are wedded to the ruling class and the profit system, and leading us to war.
On the other hand, there are many people we can win and influence, some at this convention and many more on the shop floor. But we've got to be in it to win it. It's a very complicated process that demands our full attention. The stakes are too high for anything less.
The next round of talks is sure to be a series of concessions demanded by the auto bosses. The "Big Three" are losing market share to their European and Asian rivals, even as the U.S. market remains relatively strong. When this contract expires, there will be a rash of plant closings as the shrinking "Big Three" cut capacity to match this smaller market share. As head of the union's Ford department, Gettelfinger sat by as the company announced plans to eliminate 35,000 jobs, or 10% of the workforce, and shut down at least five plants. Meanwhile, the union has been unable to organize even one European or Japanese assembly plant in the U.S., and new plants are being built from Tennessee to Alabama to Mississippi.
The bosses intend to demand health care cuts. Gettelfinger's response is to ask the bosses to push for national health care. "The current crisis cannot be solved at the bargaining table," he said.
And he's right. The current crisis facing autoworkers is a result of the sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry. This rivalry, and the bosses' goal of world domination, is leading to more wars and increased fascist terror. The growing war in the Middle East and Central Asia, including plans to invade and occupy the oil fields of Iraq with 200,000 troops, is about controlling the flow of cheap oil. No one, not even Exxon Mobil, needs cheap oil more than the auto bosses.
The answer to this crisis is building a mass, international communist movement from deep inside the factories and the boss-led UAW. The fact is things will get much worse before we are strong enough to make them better. But in this period of war and fascism, there is plenty of room to grow and influence thousands of autoworkers. Building unbreakable ties, based on class struggle and an expanding base for CHALLENGE, will lay the basis for bigger revolutionary victories in the future. This happened to a small degree at the convention. It can grow in the months ahead.
On February 1, 1999, six workers were killed and 14 were injured when gas inside one of the boilers at Ford's River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan, ignited, causing a massive explosion and fireball. Donald Harper was killed instantly. Warren Blow, Ron Moritz, Ken Anderson, Cody Boatwright and John Arseneau died from burns and other injuries over the next three weeks.
With emergency vehicles at the scene and bodies still being removed, Gettelfinger told a news conference, "It was a safe facility, there's no question about that." The following day, when asked if Ford's cost-cutting had led to unsafe conditions in the plant he said, "I don't think there has been an erosion of safety...When there is cost-cutting, Ford's concern has always been with the people impacted."
The blast was the direct result of Ford's cost-cutting, including the elimination of 9,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in spending the previous year alone. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health administration found that Ford was aware of the potential for disaster, but decided not to spend money on the 78-year-old power plant. The union ignored the safety grievances of powerhouse workers -- including three of the men killed in the explosion -- about the very boiler that exploded.
UN chief Koffi Annan and FAO head Jacques Diouf blamed it all on the lack of aid from the "industrialized" (imperialist) countries. Many NGOs (Non Government Organizations), which held their own separate summit, agreed. They complained that only Berlusconi (Italy) and Aznar (Spain) attended, representing these imperialists who are the main cause of the problem, along with the local rulers and exploiters of the poorer countries.
The UN is asking $24 billion more in aid annually from the imperialist countries to fight world hunger. But between 1990 and 2000 just the opposite occurred -- the aid from the imperialists and international agricultural loans to poorer countries was cut in half.
Anti-hunger activists say hunger would diminish if the U.S. contributed a fraction of what it spends for its "war on terror." But that's exactly the cause of world hunger: the capitalists' "war on terror" is another drive for maximum profits by making war to control the world's cheap labor and resources (especially oil).
Since Central America's civil wars ended over the last decade, of the region's 28 million people the number of hungry people has risen from 5 million to 6.4 million (UN figures). That's why CHALLENGE called the "peace" deals between the U.S.-supported death-squad governments and various nationalist guerrilla groups the "peace of the cemetery."
Bono stood next to Bush at the UN Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico a few months ago. There Bush announced that the U.S. would help "eliminate world poverty" with a few crumbs in aid.
The main way U.S. bosses eliminate poverty is by killing millions of poor people with their oil wars (their "war on terror"). Iraq -- where the U.S. embargo has caused malnutrition and hunger, killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, particularly children -- now faces Bush's "solution" to the problem: a massive invasion to seize the huge Iraqi oil fields for the benefit of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Shell and other U.S. and British oil companies.
Can hunger be eliminated? Yes. The world produces enough to feed everyone. But production and distribution are not based on need but on gaining maximum profits for a few. Under communism, production will correspond to need, not profits. Everyone will be guaranteed their share of as much food that's produced by the worker-run revolutionary society. For the sake of our class's starving children, let's fight for communism.
This largest mobilization ever in Cuba was followed by the collection of over 8,000,000 signatures backing the constitutional reform. Unfortunately, the desires of millions of Cubans for a society without the gross inequalities and suffering so common in the capitalist world are already being sabotaged by capitalism's presence in the Cuban economy.
Cuba, like the rest of the world, has been hard-hit by the worldwide economic recession and by 9/11. It's Cuba's worst situation since the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the consequent loss of trade and subsidies, leaving Cuba without 85% of its markets and supplies. Its Gross Domestic Product dropped 31%. But prior to 9/11, the Cuban economy was slowly recovering, becoming one of the fastest growing in the hemisphere (7% a year). Then, by the end of 2001 its growth rate sank to 1% and now is down even more.
Sept. 11 has hit the Cuban tourist industry, and raised oil import costs. Venezuela used to ship oil to Cuba at a special reduced price. In exchange, Cuba provided Venezuela with doctors and other skilled labor. But since the attempted coup in Venezuela against Chavez, and because of the problems facing the mostly government-owned oil company, Venezuela doesn't ship any more oil to Cuba. Now it must pay $1 billion a year for oil (1/3 of the amount spent for all imports).
Sept. 11 has also reduced funds sent by Cubans in the U.S. and other countries to their relatives on the island. And the world economic recession has lowered the price of Cuban exports, mainly sugar and nickel. In May 2001 sugar sold for $200 a ton. Now it brings only $155. For the first time in modern Cuban history, the government has closed 71 of the country's 156 sugar mills, laying off 100,000 workers -- 2.5% of the labor force. Worse still, the government has had to raise prices of basic goods.
Essentially the problem facing Cuba is capitalism. Though the Cuban government claims "capitalism will never return" and has organized the masses for socialism, the fact is the profit system has already returned, and in force.
A significant question facing revolutionaries is: can a small country or region, particularly an island like Cuba, easily blockaded by the big imperialists, build a communist society? It's not an easy question, and is related to internationalism, building a worldwide revolutionary movement to fight capitalism on many fronts. But in Cuba's case, the Castro regime did not try to build that kind of society from the beginning. First, it attached itself economically and politically to the Soviet Union, which (by the 1960s) had abandoned workers' power and was already on the road to state capitalism. Socialism in Cuba was state capitalism from the beginning. Then, when the revolutionary Red Guard forces in China tried to build a communist society (the first mass attempt in modern history to move from socialism to communism), Castro shunned that possible momentous leap by allying with the Soviets who had completely broken with China.
As PLP's Communist magazine article "Cuba Smoke (Spring 1991), pointed out: "One thing is certain: complete free market capitalism is eventually bound to come to Cuba, as it did to the other Socialist countries....Even if the Cuban workers wish no more than to keep the radical reforms brought them by the revolution, even if they wish no more than to avoid the East German-type catastrophe of massive unemployment and destruction of the health care, housing, education and welfare programs they worked so hard to create, they have only one option: organize their own revolutionary communist Party...." Then, workers and their allies can fight for a self-sufficient communist Cuba, where production serves both its own workers and that of revolutionaries fighting worldwide for the same goals.
Some think the students participated only because a number of hip-hop and rap stars were appearing to support the union. But the students' support for the teachers was strong and touching, and it transformed the rally from another "stand-around-and-listen" one into a lesson in what we can do when we don't buy the bosses' "good behavior" line.
The NYPD had set up "cattle pens" on nearly every block of Broadway near City Hall, and forced people to walk as much as half a mile out of the way to get into one. They blocked off streets between the pens and wouldn't let anyone move from one to the next.
But when the pens became very tightly packed, the students demanded to be let through. The crowd of teachers, parents and students in my pen alternated contract chants with demands of "Let us through!" and kept moving slowly forward until the front of the pen was so crowded that it seemed about to burst.
Cops ran back and forth. Cops on horseback were called in. Soon block after block, they were forced to open the pens and let the crowd move. Many of the cops were clearly scared -- they are used to pushing docile crowds around for the bosses. Eventually, we were able to move all the way to the front of the rally at City Hall.
Does this sound like disorderly conduct? Not at all! Throughout the whole process, the crowd moved together--no one was shoved aside or trampled. Teenagers helped older people over obstacles, made sure that no one, young or old, fell or was pushed into danger. It was a moment when it was clear that we were there as workers and workers-to-be, brothers and sisters--not a collection of groups, but one class.
If we can preserve that kind of spirit in all our schools and neighborhoods, we can win much more than a strike or a contract -- we can win the world for our class.
A not-too-old guy in Brooklyn
But I don't agree that all these liberals want to "criminalize any political activity that opposes the system, from the mildest protest to more militant, revolutionary organizing." Some of them expect a mass anti-war movement to develop, for example around Iraq, and are already preparing to take it over and limit its goals.
In California, Senate Bill 1680 would limit penalties for misdemeanors related to political demonstrations to a fine of no more than $100 and/or two days in jail. The Senate passed it 27-9. Liberal darling Jackie Goldberg introduced it in the Assembly, which approved it in committee. The full Assembly will vote on it soon.
This bill says, "Political free speech...makes the United States of America and California truly great." Paying homage to Thoreau, Margaret Sanger, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, it encourages "peaceful non-violent civil disobedience" for the "worthy purposes of exposing injustice and seeking to improve society."
This bill aims to encourage mild (though seemingly militant) protest in order to prevent revolutionary organizing. It correctly identifies these as polar opposites. It warns that harsh sentences for peaceful protests "are counter-productive, and may create a dangerous apathy which could manifest itself in violence."
The bill specifically excludes any protest that "threatens to cause physical harm to property or bodily harm to persons" as well as any protest that actually causes harm. The judge will decide on any particular case. What will judges say about "Death to the fascists" or "Turn the guns around...shoot the bosses down"?
As the Neville Brothers put it in a song, "There's freedom of speech....as long as you don't say too much." SB 1680 is a fascist law disguised as "progressive."
While some backers of SB 1680 undoubtedly mean well, the effect of encouraging civil disobedience builds the idea that the bosses have the "right" to state power. They get to make and enforce laws and policies while we get to suffer the consequences of breaking them.
We need to join liberal groups and movements in order to struggle and win the good people in them -- and they are mostly good people! -- to see through this subterfuge. Workers and youth must smash the rulers' fascist strangle-hold and end their devastating wars by taking power into our own hands, not by peacefully submitting to the bosses' laws.
Haven had been caring for her aged parents. Her father died from cancer and her mother was suffering from a stroke.
Haven was principled, caring and inspired. She battled capitalism and believed workers could build a better society based on communist ideas.
We worked together at the phone company where Haven was an active union steward who always put the workers first. Recently, she was an active member of PUEBLO (People United for a Better Oakland), and very much respected.
I'll always remember the message on her telephone answering machine:. "The revolution's not here yet and neither am I. Please leave a message."
The few who've benefited from capitalism are those now considered the middle class throughout Eastern Europe. But this comes at the expense of millions of workers. They are now super-exploited. They no longer have subsidies for housing, education, health care, vacations, unemployment insurance and retraining, family allowances, youth programs and other gains from the socialist past. All this means massively higher profits for the bosses. Some profits trickle down to the managerial class, and to those who provide services for the wealthy and the managers.
A friend related experiences with some of his college students from Eastern Europe. A Slovakian student said straight out that things were much better under "communism." A Polish student had the same impression. A Serbian student was horrified by the bombing of Yugoslavia, and knows things were much better before the break-up, in fact before the war.
I'm in regular contact with some Russians and read quite a bit of Russian stuff. There is tremendous anger at the catastrophic decline in living standards and life expectancy. There's also a great sense of defeatism, cynicism, nationalism and anti-communism, as well as turning towards religion -- and a rosy view of the Brezhnev years (far too rosy!).
The cynicism is hard to overcome, but it can and must be. Workers worldwide, not only in the former socialist countries, have suffered greatly because the bosses and their agents inside the working-class movement have been able to combine anti-communism and passivity to turn the clock back on the progress of humanity towards a society without capitalism. Those of us who fight for a communist future -- learning from the many errors and strengths of the old movement -- must do even more to fight to win workers and youth to see that the only answer to the hell of capitalism is to fight for communism.
I joined a labor action organization that draws its members primarily from the labor school at the university and especially future AFL-CIO union organizers. At one meeting I proposed that the theme for our May Day celebration be against the war on terrorism. At this point I got a negative response. Preferably the slogan should be for communist revolution, after all this is May Day. However, the club members prefer a vague and opportunist slogan for peace and freedom. I felt that I had compromised my position by just calling for an anti-war position, and even that wasn't conservative enough for them.
My proposal to hold a real position was not lost on the club members however. I argued against the war on terrorism further with a few members I knew well and sent them articles I found online about US military presence abroad. Furthermore I set the stage for a more advanced May Day slogan next year. Even within this struggle I won some ground, with the leader changing his position from, "why should we call for peace if these people [Hamas in Iran, Iraq and Syria] want to kill us" to acknowledging Bush's insidious plans for world domination.
This organization opposes revolutionary politics. However, I continue to have a long-term perspective and I plan to keep heightening the contradictions between their reformist goals and capitalism. Next year I will continue to expose US imperialism during the meetings and one on one with members of the group. I will recruit to PL those members who see the futility in this world system.
The bosses' press here tried to insult the marchers, saying they were all "agitators." Yes, workers and students are agitated -- because of the failures of capitalism, and the lies of its media. But they are more than that. Many are organizing to change the situation.
We in PLP have the potential to grow even more, showing workers and youth that capitalism is a dead-end hell, from Afghanistan to San Salvador to Los Angeles, and that the only solution is to fight for a society without hunger (killing many in Central America), wars, fascist repression and unemployment. That society is communism.
El Salvador comrade