The GI Rights Hotline, a national soldiers' support service, reports a 75% increase in calls over the last three months, from 2,000 to 3,500, over 100 from soldiers or their families asking about penalties for going AWOL. Many come from those on 15-day leaves, some saying they won't return. "Some...are so desperate that they have called directly from the war zone...when they can get satellite-phone access or after waiting in line for hours in the desert for a military phone." (NYP) They complain about the length of the campaign, the rough desert conditions and the rising death toll.
The brass is so worried about desertions that they're encouraging soldiers to take their R&R leaves in Germany, "to avoid temptation stateside." Says Hotline coordinator Teresa Panepinto, "They're concerned these people are going to come home and not go back."
Lt. General James Helmly, commander of the 205,000-member Army Reserve, warned about an exodus of active and reserve forces if the U.S. fails to get other countries to supply troops in Iraq. Corporal José Alvarez, now on duty in Iraq, told his wife he will not re-enlist. "I'm definitely getting out," he wrote her. "To heck with the Army." "He hates it," says his wife Wendy from her home on the base at Fort Hood. "He basically has given up."
During the Vietnam War, over 500,000 GI's deserted and open rebellion erupted among thousands of soldiers and sailors, "fragging" (shooting) their officers and sabotaging aircraft carriers, putting them out of action. This was the last straw leading to the U.S. defeat, with its overwhelming hi-tech advantage no match for an intensely committed Vietnamese guerilla army.
Vietnam showed that soldiers' commitment to a cause, especially the troops on the ground, is crucial in achieving military victory. All the "smart bombs" in the world are no substitute for a committed infantry.
One reason for the initial Nazi sweep through Europe in World War II was their highly committed army. But it was the still higher commitment of the communist-led Soviet Red Army that eventually overwhelmed and smashed Hitler's legions.
All the "shock and awe," "hi-tech" warfare, and "pinpoint bombing" are no match for sinking morale among an increasingly uncommitted ground army. How widespread troop dissatisfaction will become remains to be seen. But the Vietnam Syndrome is alive and well in Iraq.
To my Mother, Brother and family:
I love you all and miss you all very much. I cannot express the remorse I am having and also the clarity I am experiencing. I will make it home, sound mind, sound body. I am keeping the faith and I have also witnessed the darkness come to light. You read this and be the judge.
We received a letter informing us that we have been extended. These people are full of shit. We have pulled duty without our ballistic [bullet-proof] vests. Active duty infantry [has] tanks all over the place. We only have humvees, duces and five-tons. The weapons we have are M16A2 rifles, SAWS and one .50-caliber. They have also taken away our atropine injections [emergency antidote for poison gas].
In short, we don't even have enough force to protect ourselves, (let alone our assigned objective). We're not protected or supported here by our government or the officials appointed over us.
We are being extended so that we'll be staying longer than the active duty units. On top of this, they are not paying us the right amount of money. Most of the soldiers here are missing out on one or two semesters of school. Jobs will be lost because of this extension. We are here longer because of the election year. They don't want to upset the voters, and can't get the support of other countries to send troops here. We were to go stateside and do one year (there). But our commander...pushed for us to come up here. We believe it's so he can make colonel -- being in war for six months is one of the qualifications he needs for promotion.
Family, please write and pray for me and the people here. We're getting fucked over. Mom, write to Congress addressing the problems I have listed. Also write to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (even though we know they have no power), just to get the word out.
This mother's plan "to get the word out" was to bring her son's letter to CHALLENGE. Growing "clarity" like this soldier is experiencing, spells danger for the oil-hungry U.S. capitalists and the military brass that do their bidding. The bosses' worst nightmare is young soldiers like this with guns in their hands and rebellion in their heads.
The rulers need a healthy working class for two basic purposes: profits in their industries and fighting their wars. The latter is becoming increasingly critical for U.S. bosses. Military analysts at Stratfor.com (Internet intelligence service) note that the U.S. faces a severe troop shortfall in its open-ended conflict with Al Qaeda and other Islamic militants: "The United States is engaged in a global war, but its personnel policies have not adjusted to that reality." What's needed in the short term, says Stratfor, is "a large expansion of the armed forces" (9/29/03). Even now to cover 100 U.S. bases worldwide and especially down the road, confronting China, Russia or Europe will require millions of additional troops.
The rulers fear, however, that workers' worsening fitness may limit the deadliness of the U.S. war machine. A little-publicized branch of the Defense Department called the Industrial College of the Armed Forces is responsible for planning the wartime mobilization of U.S. industry. In its most recent report on the health care sector, the ICAF warned, "militarily, the failure to mobilize and field a healthy workforce could negatively impact our ability to project force and form alliances, hence compromising national security. Furthermore, a strong military force requires a healthy population from which to draw potential recruits." But, said the colonels and captains at the ICAF, "about 16% of Americans...are without health care coverage." The warmakers' conclusion might as well have come from a Kennedy, or a Clinton or one of the Democrats running for president: "The U.S. does not presently have a carefully formulated and executable national health care strategy. In our opinion, ensuring national security requires devising and implementing such a strategy."
The ICAF report called for "universal access to medically necessary care." It also launched a National Focus on Wellness and Prevention -- Healthy Lifestyles, with an emphasis on childhood obesity. This effort has actually brought about minor reforms in the food served at McDonald's and in schools. Keeping children healthy seems a noble goal. But the capitalists are interested only in producing cannon fodder. Their real motive here emerges in a Pentagon-backed study dubbed "Too Fat to Fight" published in the American Journal of Medicine (10/15/02). It found that "if the U.S. military needed to recruit substantial numbers of young men and women into their forces quickly...at least 13 percent of young men and 17 percent of young women of prime recruitment age would fail the weight requirements of all four services." Carlos Crespo, a co-author of the study, patriotically declared, "Obesity is not just a public health issue, it's a national security concern."
The Times expects health care to "become a significant issue in the presidential campaign." But don't be taken in by the candidates' liberal promises. The capitalists' concern for workers' well-being leads to the battlefield and the grave.
Communists want good health for the working class. But that means decent living conditions, job security and a medical policy of disease prevention. The profit system can never achieve these goals. It creates the opposite. The best way to guarantee a healthy future for our class and our descendants is to join the Progressive Labor Party and the fight for communism.
(Next article in this series on the state of the working class: Why and how the rulers plan to "educate" the working class for war and fascism.)
Parents Defeat School
Bosses' Frame-up of PL Teacher
BRONX, NY, Oct. 7 -- Approximately 50 parents at an elementary school here rose up to defend a PL teacher from a vicious attack by the school administration and scored a great victory. The parents' actions were part of a continuing fight with the same fascist administration and their many attempts to force students and teachers to recite the bosses' pledge of allegiance. (See CHALLENGE, 3/19/03) That battle -- which the administration lost -- resulted in two new recruits to the Party and solidified the multi-racial unity of parents and teachers.
In early September the principal broke up all the school's teaching teams, leaving many in an unfamiliar environment, including the PL teacher's classroom in which the pledge fight occurred. The principal deliberately disrupted these productive, and very successful, teaching partnerships to divide the instructional staff, a move which hurt the students the most.
Following this attack, on a recent Friday, the PL teacher received an answering machine message charging him with "corporal punishment"-- hitting a child. The family filing the complaint has a history of creating problems with other teachers. The administration knew this family would do something to make the PL'er's job difficult, setting up a volatile situation.
That weekend, eight parents met as a "defense" committee to take the offensive against the manufactured charges. They agreed to issue a leaflet first thing Monday morning exposing this attack and calling on the community to defend this hard-working, respected teacher. They vowed to picket outside the school and escort him to his classroom, never leaving him alone. The committee called other parents that weekend, aiming to build a mass presence outside the school.
On Monday morning, parents and members of PLP were ready to fight! An initial group of eight more than doubled after 20 minutes of leafleting. Parents dropping their children off to school were angry, asking how something like this could happen to such a good teacher. Many volunteered to help defend him. Six joined the defense committee.
The principal and union representative tried to dissuade the demonstrators from leafleting. When the principal approached some demonstrators, they demanded, "What are you doing to our teacher?" The principal said she knew nothing about the situation, being "out of town." Then one parent confronted her, declaring, "We know you're lying! We've got a copy of the answering machine tape....You know what's going on." The principal, frustrated, then left. Later the parents heard she had called the cops.
Then the union rep tried to trick the demonstrators into leaving the premises and return at 9:20 a.m. (when the streets would be empty). They ignored her, continued to hold their signs, distributing approximately 300 leaflets and dozens of CHALLENGES. One parent took a stack of leaflets and distributed them to another school down the block. Those parents and teachers were outraged at the attack and told the parent they supported the PL teacher 100 percent. (See adjoining letter.)
When the PL teacher arrived, the parents hugged him. One PLP leafleteer told him, "These parents are pissed off!" Ten parents escorted him into the building, one parent saying, "We're not leaving until we know you're alright."
When he entered his classroom the union rep tried to convince him to stop the demonstration (as if he was controlling the parents). She said no phone call was placed charging him with corporal punishment, that he was "blowing things out of proportion," hiding the fact that an investigation was underway. When the union rep was questioned about the cops coming, she replied they were called to protect him from the child's father, but it was learned later they were most likely looking to arrest him. When three cops arrived they actually asked, "Do you know where this teacher is? We were told to come and get him." However, they didn't arrest him because the school administration, seeing the parents guarding the PL'er's classroom, feared a massive protest inside the school.
There were now 20 parents outside his door, where one parent gave an impassioned speech expressing outrage against the administration's attack on this teacher. She called on the parents to unite and fight. Then the parents began to chant, "Let us in! We want to see our teacher! We want our teacher!" The door opened and the parents of his current class greeted him with hugs of support. Seeing he would be allowed to teach his class, they left the hallway, moving to the front of the school.
The union rep returned, "assuring" them that nothing would happen to him. While the union rep acted all along "within the limits of the union rules," the comrades and parents didn't trust her, refusing to leave until the three cops outside his door also dispersed. The cops took off at 10:00 a.m. so the parents left at 10:30.
The victory was clear. Nobody was taking the PL teacher out of the school that day. The administration was forced to speed a quick in-house investigation as opposed to a dragged-out trial. A 30-minute investigation revealed that the incident never occurred.
The next morning the mother arrived with her child and confessed to the PL teacher that the child had made up the whole story. The mother wrote a letter confessing the lie and declaring the PL teacher innocent.
While the administration has the power of the capitalist state behind it, the Progressive Labor Party has something more powerful, the power of its base in the working class! Experiences like this remind us that relying on our class can keep us on the road to building a communist society, where education serves the interests of working class children and their families.
There were lots of parents outside the school to support Mr. S. I myself was at another school in the community giving out flyers defending him. I stood in shock when parents and teachers read the flyer and said, "NO WAY...MR. S.; I DON'T BELIEVE IT!" This assured me that Mr. S. is somebody well-known and respected in the community. I myself have never given out flyers before. At first my fears got hold of me, but when you believe in something, you know you can do it. When a friend becomes family, you will do anything to help them out.
A Bronx Parent
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Convinced the bosses are trying to win workers to fascist patriotism and their imperialist wars, I returned the following week determined to win workers to a communist outlook and advance the struggle to the next level.
The discussion began on Monday at 7 a.m. A Russian immigrant worker greeted me in Russian, calling me "comrade." Both of us were whistling the Internationale when my Russian friend said to a Central American worker in Spanish, "Revolution!" and he answered, "Until death!" Then I told another worker that some Chicago workers who, fed up with waiting for a new contract, are organizing to disqualify the old sellout union and join Jesse Jackson's "Rainbow Coalition." "Really?" he replied. "They're going from bad to worse. I hate that guy because when I was a driver and we fought for a better contract, he arrived and then left us in even more hot water. What he's looking for is money." There were comments about the bosses using Jackson to repress future rebellions.
Currently our union is negotiating a new contract. Everything indicates we're stuck in quicksand. The bosses want mechanics and maintenance workers to pay $200 a month for health insurance (we currently pay $6) and retirees to pay $375 a month, and want us to "accept" a wage "increase" of 1% the first and second years. The bosses and the union advocate "United We Stand" -- united in attacking the working class.
Then the conversation shifted to the role of the Democrats and the Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some said he's anti-worker and if elected will develop fascism. But under Democrat Davis, we workers are also facing huge cuts. By now six workers were in the discussion.
Someone said at least Schwarzenegger wouldn't be corrupted. Others answered "not true," that some bosses backed him because he represented their interests; he openly said he was anti-union and would give concessions to bosses moving to California.
Another worker declared, "I'm against this bastard but still think too many workers abuse workers' compensation." Others labeled this a bosses' lie to justify cuts in our benefits, that it's the bosses who are robbing us. For example, how much does a worker at Level 2 get compared to a worker at Level One, doing the same work? How much money do the bosses pocket in two years of "progressive wages" (paying different levels different wages)?
Still another worker warned we're being attacked "because the Board of Directors is half Democrats and do nothing for us, despite all the money we give to their campaigns. We workers must defend ourselves. Our strike should be militant." Some recalled the armed strikes of the coal miners. A worker said, "We can't retreat. We have to defend ourselves."
Then an Asian worker commented, "A lot of the newer workers aren't even interested in what's happening in the union." "That's not their fault," replied another worker, "it's our fault. We workers with more understanding must teach the rest that it's the workers who have the power to move this society. The current crisis is a crisis of the system and we must participate in the workers' movement to strengthen the working class."
We discussed the maquilladoras in Mexico and China, the war in Iraq and the coming of World War III. But the most important thing growing out of all this was five workers agreeing to join a study group about communist ideas.
An immigrant worker
From the beginning, the ride was filled with speeches from union sellouts and politicians. They had prior warning that a group of racist Nazi thugs would hold a counter-rally, and they worked with the police to ensure the dozen fascists were well protected. Despite this, one Nazi was beaten to a pulp on the train ride home. The conductor held the door open as the Nazi was thrown off.
The politicians and union hacks pushed patriotism to try to win us to support fascist Homeland Security and imperialist war. The bus captains made sure that every time we stopped everyone carried a small American flag amid patriotic rhetoric. Many people asked me why I refused to carry a flag. I explained that the flag represents murder, racism and exploitation. They praised my conviction but they all carried a flag.
The most powerful speeches came from the riders themselves, mostly undocumented workers and students. There were fourteen nationalities, mostly young students trying to get the Student Adjustment Act/Dream Act passed. Most came from community organizations, churches and unions. The discussions focused on the issues at hand and what we were going to do along the way: a rally here and there, lunch with community or church organizations.
On the last two days, we talked with Congressmen about legalization, the Student Adjustment Act and the Clear Act (a law making any local government organization act as the federal Immigration Service), becoming very knowledgeable about these points. Most people were hopeful about winning our demands but knew it would be difficult. Even if we "won," we couldn't change much. Most realized that even if all undocumented workers were "legalized, the problem will persist because there will always be workers looking for a better life.
Our time together made us feel like a family, sharing thoughts never shared before. Myself and my co-worker who traveled with me discussed imperialism, PLP, and how this event was pushing patriotism to sucker us into supporting imperialist wars and fascist Homeland Security. The politicians and union leaders want us to think voting will solve the problems, yet we all know this isn't true.
This was a "base building" ride. I met all these wonderful people who want to change the system. Even though they think we can do it through elections, they all want to fight. Many were undocumented and were demanding their status be changed.
If we work correctly, these are future communists. Our unity, based in struggle against capitalism, enables us to wage the sharp, long-term ideological struggle necessary to build a mass PLP. I could have been more aggressive with CHALLENGE, but I'm confident I can sharpen the struggle, win new readers and, sooner rather than later, new members of PLP. We have a long road ahead, but the future looks bright for communism.
The current struggle began with protests against the selling of Bolivian gas deposits, the second largest in Latin America, to an international consortium called Pacific LNG, formed by BP, Repsol-YPF and British Gas. The gas will go through a pipeline to the Chilean port of Iquique (Bolivia lost its seashore in a war with Chile in the 1870s).
There the gas will be liquefied and shipped to Mexico, where it will again be turned into gas and exported to the U.S. The Bolivian government's "share" of this $1.3 billion-a-year deal will be only $40 to $70 million.
On Sept. 20, army troops shot at farmworkers, students and teachers blocking roads in the Andean region of Warisata, killing five (including an 8-year-old girl). This sparked a mass movement.
On Sept. 29, rank-and-file pressure forced the COB (Labor Federation) to call an indefinite general strike, which has been a partial success in its first week. One of the main demands is nationalization of the gas industry. Another is the resignation of President "Goni" Lozada, a U.S.-educated multi-millionaire, hated by the masses.
But the movement has many weaknesses. First, nationalization has never worked here. In 1952, the mining industry was nationalized and land reform imposed. But this "nationalist revolution" turned into its opposite, and the mining industry was privatized again. Miners and all workers are now more exploited and poorer than ever.
Second, the movement is weak in fighting the racism suffered by the majority indigenous population, super-exploited for 500 years. Many want to return to the old, pre-capitalist communal ways, but this is impossible. Society moves forward. Only communist revolution can liberate indigenous and all workers, not replacing President Lozada with some "lesser evil" capitalist politician, while capitalism remains intact.
This requires building a revolutionary communist party. In the February rebellion, the system could have been taken. But the union leaders and other anti-Goni politicians like Evo Morales did their best to prevent this outcome. The same thing will happen now. Revolutionary leadership can unite workers and their allies to defeat these traitors.
The young workers drafted into the army could be a big factor in this struggle. The National Association of Parents of Conscripts demanded the government pull the troops out of the Andean region after the shooting on Sept. 20. Most of these soldiers are poorly fed and mistreated by their officers. Revolutionary leadership could win soldiers to support the general strike and refuse to fire on strikers, as well as build unity with workers in Chile.
Workers and soldiers, united under revolutionary leadership, can destroy the system that has oppressed us for so many centuries.
The SME represents nationalist feelings among workers and a group of bosses. The "opposition" Revolutionary Democratic Party leader and former presidential candidate, Cuauhémoc Cárdenas, was one of the few speakers at the protest, saying that state capitalism is "better" than the free market variety. The bosses and their union hack allies fighting for "state capitalism" don't do it to protect workers, but to control the exploitation of the rich state-owned monopolies like PEMEX (the oil giant) for their own private profit and benefit. Workers will be exploited no matter which group of local bosses or imperialist vultures controls the means of production.
Contrary to fake leftists and union hacks, we in PLP call on workers to fight to abolish wage slavery -- capitalism in all its forms -- and fight for a society where workers produce to satisfy their needs.
The slowdown in the maquiladoras began with the U.S. recession and an overvalued peso, but now another capitalist country where labor is even more exploited than Mexico has worsened the situation. Since workers are paid even less in China, it is cheaper to produce there even with the lengthy transportation to the U.S. market. And just as CHALLENGE has reported the misery brought by the maquiladoras to young women workers in northern Mexico -- including hundreds of women from the maquiladoras murdered in Ciudad Juarez -- the same is happening in China.
The N.Y. Times (10/2) reported on young girls being super-exploited and cheated of their pitiful wages in a maquiladora-type cosmetic factory in northern China. "These girls' ill-fated foray to work at Daxu Cosmetics and their attempt to flee one moonless night in May illustrate how even rudimentary workers' rights lag far behind job creation and profits in China's surging economy."
The defeat of communism in China has been a nightmare for tens of millions workers like these young women.
Over the next year, the number of people of working age will grow by 2.75 million, 61% of whom will need jobs. So closing the job gap involves not only creating jobs for those already unemployed but also creating another 150,000 per month for these new workers entering the job market.
The Bush administration and especially some textile manufacturers blame China for the job losses. They are demanding China adjust its currency to make Chinese goods more expensive, slowing Chinese exports to the U.S. market and therefore reduce the transfer of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China where workers are more super-exploited.
But Marx explained the real problem over 150 years ago: in the quest for maximum profits, each company tries to capture as much market share as possible. They build new factories which in turn leads to overproduction of the means of production. Since more is produced than the market can bear, the excess factories are closed and mass layoffs ensue, as the bosses shift their losses onto the backs of the workers. Then they use this army of unemployed as a club to drive down the wages and increase the productivity of those still working.
Capitalism will never create jobs for everyone (except during World War II when 14 million workers were drafted into the military). Even in the "boom years" of the '90s, joblessness was higher than reported because "discouraged" workers, those on welfare and those imprisoned (more than two million, mostly black and Latino men) aren't counted as unemployed.
In the past, workers laid off in recessions were re-hired when the recession ended. But today's "recovery" is mainly based on increased productivity, meaning fewer workers are producing more while wages drop and many laid off workers are not re-hired. Ford recently celebrated their new four-year contract with the UAW by announcing 3,000 job cuts on the day the deal was ratified.
The Bush administration also claims tax cuts have helped the recovery. While some workers who received a few hundred dollars may have used them to buy school supplies for their kids, the major cuts were in capital gains taxes. These are designed to raise savings and lower the cost of capital, not to increase consumption. As the cost of capital falls, companies invest more in automation, which "drives output per worker sharply upwards. Over the past two years labor productivity has gone up by more than 4% a year, roughly twice the average of the previous five years." (FT)
The Bush administration hoped seizing Iraqi oil would boost the recovery. The war is helping some companies make big profits (particularly those associated with Bush, Cheney & Co.), but the war has created other problems. Iraqi oil production is well below expectations, partly because of continuous sabotage of oil pipelines. U.S. bosses may have to share the Iraqi oil bonanza with France's Totalfina, Russia's Lukoil and other imperialist oil companies as the price for getting international aid in rebuilding Iraq.
The Democrats are using unemployment as an election issue. But the Clinton boom of the '90s was based on the speculation of the "new economy." This "dot.com" bubble burst before 9/11, and contributed to the current problem. The real Clinton "boom" was the rapid expansion of slave labor Workfare and prison labor, and the creation of low-wage jobs. Currently over 30% of all U.S. jobs pay wages below the poverty line.
Capitalism and unemployment go hand in hand. This system offers workers and youth a future of endless wars, jobless recoveries, racist and fascist terror. Such a system must be smashed. Workers produce all value. We don't need bosses. We need a communist society where production is based on workers' needs.
Freedom of speech has always been a sham under capitalism because the bosses use their media to control which "speech" is heard. And the courts have always sided with the police. But now, since passage of the Patriot Act, District Attorneys and judges are increasingly refusing to use their discretion to dismiss cases involving protests against racism and fascism. This has motivated Van Der Meer to use his case as " a vehicle to inform people about how our so-called constitutional rights are being violated" as well as build the movement against the war in Iraq. He wants people to understand that this attack "is really happening to them, too." The government is "chiseling away our rights," and the attack against him could become a "precedent to deny others their rights."
Professor Van Der Meer uses his classroom to "try to help working-class students empower themselves." He sees education as a "process of social transformation rather than a way for students to better commodify themselves". He views his role as a professor at a working-class university as helping to "make new human beings in this society".
The D.A.'s office has offered to dismiss his case if Van Der Meer doesn't press charges against the UMass police and the National Guard's recruiter. Van Der Meer courageously refuses to make this deal. Once the criminal case has been resolved, he wants to take the offense and expose the "injustice system" for squashing dissent, which "has become a criminal act in this post 9/11 society."
PLP applauds Van Der Meer for his willingness to oppose growing fascism. We're mobilizing to support him, just as everyone around the country should actively defend those being victimized by the Patriot Act -- Muslims, South Asians, Arabs and political activists. In these struggles, communists must win others to a mass approach rather than relying on liberal politicians, who try to keep us passive until it's too late to fight back. We must not compromise our commitment to sharpen the class struggle. If politicians, loyal to the capitalist system, legitimize us, we're selling out the working class.
The Chancellor, Trustees and State Legislature are servants of corporate profit. Eleven of the twenty Trustees are CEO's of corporations, including Robert Foster, CEO of Southern California Edison. The others are lawyers and real estate developers. Only one is a CSU professor.
Next year looks even worse. All state agencies must cut 20% from the 2004 budget. Recently the Board of Trustees said this cut would mean one of four options: 1) turn away 100,000 students; 2) cut 54,000 courses; 3) raise student fees by 90%; or 4) lay off nearly 7,000 faculty.
But students and faculty are fighting back. At one campus, students and faculty organized a large demonstration against the budget cuts and fee increases. In the face of continual threats by the administration, the demonstration linked the budget cuts to the "war on terrorism" and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the day, over 2,000 students heard speakers, watched guerilla theater, music and poetry. We marched through the campus chanting, "Money for books and education, not for war and occupation," and "Fee increases and layoffs mean you got to fight back." We distributed over 200 CHALLENGES.
The overall campaign includes classroom presentations about the budget cuts, fee increases, war and occupation. This is helping build the anti-budget cut, anti-war coalition. Over 50 students have joined the campaign in the past two weeks, with more contacting the organizing group every day. The next step is to intensify day-to-day political struggle for a revolutionary position. Most importantly, CHALLENGE distribution helps PL members advance a sharp communist analysis within this struggle.
The CSU crisis reflects the deepening crisis of capitalism, whether run by Democrats or Republicans. The ruling class cuts healthcare and education while pumping billions into an occupation that will never "liberate" anyone. They create the crisis, and then balance it on the backs of the working class.
A system causing endless wars for profits, racist cutbacks and crooked politicians must be replaced by one serving the needs of workers and their families: communism. Join PLP!
Many people are angry about this increase in police presence. They're beginning to organize against it, both in school and in the union. Some parents are wondering why they've not been told that their children's belongings are being searched. Teachers are angry that students would be used as informers on city workers -- such as if trash collectors are doing their job. Students are angry about being searched and treated like criminals.
The "Weed and Seed" program -- created after the LA rebellion protesting the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King -- targets young black and Latino males, calling them "weeds," and jails them. This program, started by George Bush Sr., was fought in Seattle. The lessons of that fight are being studied here. It was supposed to create urban enterprise zones to "gentrify" the inner city. The only "seeding" in our neighborhood is a tiny amount to pay for a new football scoreboard at the school and for some of the tutoring already going on. Like "community policing," Weed and Seed's real goal is to win one section of the community to trust the police and other city officials rather than our class, and to pit older residents against the youth, who are all seen as "weeds" -- or criminals.
Last year Bratton declared war on the gangs, and in one weekend the cops killed six civilians. Two victims were students at this school -- passengers in a car the police shot at when the driver didn't stop fast enough. Many students were angry; they protested, but community agencies strove to deflect the anger into prayer vigils.
This year, two students were killed near the school in a drive-by shooting. Quickly Bratton was on TV, announcing the arrest of gang member "suspects." The following week, the city attorney was at the school rolling out the LAPD/City Attorney/Weed&Seed block project. The ruling class takes our pain and our fear, a fear caused by their system, and uses it to build a fascist police state. After all, the gangs became a serious problem after drugs like crack cocaine were made available in huge amounts by the same rulers who then use the turf war over drug "territory" to terrorize all the youth in these neighborhoods.
While the big gangsters in the White House and Congress recruit young people to fight their class brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and Iraq, the little gangsters in the neighborhood recruit young people to fight their class brothers and sisters in the next street for control of drug trade and turf. Young people must be won to fight for our own class -- the working class -- against those who would win us to risk our lives and to kill our class brothers, in the Middle East or on the next block. The solution to imperialist war, unemployment and racist police terror is a working class movement uniting us against these fascist attacks and against the whole capitalist system that needs fascism when it's in crisis.
More people are open to reading CHALLENGE, to see how this attack fits into the rulers' plans to win youth and their parents to look to them for protection, to militarize the neighborhoods and all of society in preparation for more war. Growing awareness of their plans can lead to a fight against them and to many seeing that the long-term solution to this crisis is communist revolution.
Environmentalism: A Communist Perspective
A Capitalist Nightmare
This is part two.
Since 1940, North Americans have consumed a larger share of mineral resources than the combined total of all human beings who previously lived on the planet. At present rates, many scientists predict that most natural resources will be depleted by the end of the century.
The "Consumer Societies" of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan produced a tremendous rise in consumption and living standards after World War II. However, because of increasing international competition and continued economic crises, workers today are forced to rely increasingly on credit and loans to maintain consumption. Today, the average U.S. household debt makes up 95% of disposable income (the amount remaining after paying for all neccessities).
The U.S. population consumes an average of over 124 lbs. of material per person per day, excluding water. The U.S. population tripled since 1900, while consumption of raw materials rose 17-fold. With less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. consumes 33% of the world's paper, 22% of its oil, 23% of its coal, 27% of its aluminum, 19% of its copper, and accounts for 24% of carbon dioxide emissions. Even so, 30 million U.S. workers, including 12 million children under the age of 12, go hungry each day.
By comparison, the poorest fifth of the world population -- over 1 billion workers -- live on less than a dollar a day. Under this racist, imperialist system, the richest one-fifth of world population accounts for 86% of private consumption, while the poorest fifth only accounts for 1.3%.
In the past 50 years, suburban sprawl has led to even more racist segregation of housing, polluted vital watersheds and destroyed valuable farmland. Urban congestion has also worsened. There are currently 24 cities worldwide with a population exceeding 10 million. This vast and concentrated population is producing mountains of garbage and oceans of sewage.
The typical person in the U.S. discards nearly a ton of trash per year, consisting of 39% paper, 13% yard trimmings, and 10% plastics and food waste. Industrial waste is even worse. The production of one laptop computer generates 4,000 times its weight in waste. Because recycling is unprofitable, much of this waste ends up in landfills near low-income neighborhoods. Built-in product obsolescence, sales packaging, and overproduction have added to the heap. U.S. bosses have been among the worst offenders, cutting corners on fuel emissions, waste reduction and recycling programs to maintain profits.
Trees, crops, soil and water are being consumed faster than they can be replenished. Since 1970, pollution and intensive production techniques have led to a 50% decline in freshwater ecosystems, a 30% decline in marine ecosystems, and a 10% decline in forests, resulting in soil erosion, plummeting fish stocks and an extinction rate nearly 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than normal. Drinkable water is disappearing so rapidly that many speculate it will soon replace oil as the most sought-after commodity.
Consumerism is a product of capitalism's need to create reliable markets for its immense overproduction of goods and services. It builds bourgeois individualism. With the elimination of capitalist competition, production will be centralized and rationally planned. As goods and services are socialized, individual consumption levels will decrease. With centralized housing communities, all major services (food, health, entertainment, etc.) will be centralized and made more efficient, reducing individual consumption.
Parasitic industries like advertising and packaging will disappear. Labor will shift to developing recycling programs to clean up the environment and provide reusable resources for future generations. Eventually, the automobile industry will be replaced by a cheap, efficient and clean public transportation system to serve centralized housing and production.
As the need for large pools of cheap labor is eliminated, industry will spread out more evenly near housing communities connected by a web of public transportation. All workers will enjoy healthy, un-congested, stress-free environments close to nature. Above all, in this classless society, workers will collectively determine what goods and services we need, how they will be made, and how they will be distributed.
However, such achievements will have to first overcome the huge havoc and destruction wrought by imperialist world war. Communist revolutionaries will have the monumental task of re-building huge chunks of the world's production, but in ways that create the kind of changes described above.
2. Tilford, David. "Why Consumption Matters?." Sierra Club. 2000
3 "World Population, Development, and ResourceConsumption."http://classes.maxwell.syr.edu/geo315/Students/web%20page/02500.htm.
We now see girls, ages 10 to 17, crowd into a small room, at the top of a mud-walled house, in a dusty village outside Kabul. A teacher writes basic sentences on a blackboard. They read from their only text book. Across Afghanistan, women of all ages, forbidden education during the Taliban years (1995-2001), are eagerly studying, often in primitive schools set up by non-governmental organizations, staffed by dedicated poorly-paid women. "We're here to learn so we can be independent," said one eager 13-year-old.
But going to school can still be risky; almost two years since the fall of the Taliban, schools have been fire-bombed and students and teachers threatened. Women face similar difficulties working outside the home. Many need the permission of husbands and fathers in all decisions, sometimes even to leave the house. In a women's prison a 16-year-old told of her "crime": running away from home to escape an abusive uncle. Imprisonment of girls and women attempting to escape forced marriages and abusive husbands and other extreme forms of oppression like kidnaps, attacks and rapes are ongoing.
Fascism takes different forms around the world and in Afghanistan it operates under the guise of religion, with women as its major target. The country's history over the past 25 years is one of terror, death and destruction, with women's fate tied to the political climate. In personal stories over and over again women told of the brutality of the Mujahedeen (trained by the CIA to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan) who equated communism with women learning to read and write and other basic rights. The CIA and their Pakistani and Saudi buddies used Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviets in the 1980s.
Over one million Afghans were killed in this imperialist war. When the holy warriors took over, the bloodletting continued. The Taliban religious fanatics were created by the Pakistani army to oust the mujahedeen gang of religious fascists who took over after the Soviets left.
The post-Taliban government headed by U.S. puppet President Harmid Karzai is a façade and only rules in Kabul. (Karzai is a former executive of Unocal oil which wanted to construct a pipeline through Afghanistan.) Power in much of the country is in the hands of the fundamentalists, the familiar old warlords to whom the Bush administration gave cash and weapons in return for helping oust the Taliban in 2001.
The country is still reeling from the war years. The only social movement is that of the women. Kabul, like the rest of the country, has no electricity during the day, no street lights, no traffic lights. Mountains of rubble, and uncollected garbage, picked over by the desperately poor, are everywhere. Buildings are covered with bullet and rocket holes. People make homes on the ground floors of bombed buildings, collapsed floors precariously hanging over their heads. Jobs are scarce. Iraqis can learn from events in Afghanistan what U.S. "democracy" has in store for them.
The government has no money, supposedly getting less than 20% of the international aid. Much of it goes into the pockets of the warlords. There are some very large mansions being built for a wealthy few but there is very little reconstruction going on. There are still hundreds of thousands of internal refugees living in very primitive conditions. Many people are traumatized by the atrocities they lived through in the past two decades. That was what was so extraordinary about these women. They told the most horrific stories of unspeakable violence but still had the courage to stand up and make demands.
Today women are mobilizing despite the current dominance of the fundamentalists and with the Taliban staging a comeback in the south and east. Recently women from around the country came up with demands to be included in a new constitution. Priorities were education, health care and equal pay. They called for criminal charges to be brought against men for domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Their demands may seem mild and some of the women understand that change takes more than having demands made into law, but after living through two decades of inhuman abuse and in a current atmosphere of continuing violence, these small steps take on heroic proportions.
Ironically, the "holy warriors" had it right. Only communism can free women from capitalist-religious oppression.
Many try to distinguish between different forms of fascism. Some say Mussolini's in Italy was "soft" compared to Nazi Germany. Last August 27, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's right-wing Prime Minister, said Il Duce (Mussolini), "never killed anyone. The most he did was send people to a long vacation in confinement." In the U.S., we hear similar lies from the Neo-Nazi "historic revisionists" who claim Auschwitz and the holocaust is a "Jewish invention."
Mussolini was only "softer" than the Führer (Hitler) because capitalism in Italy was much weaker. In some ways, Italian fascism was as much a warmaker and killer as the Nazis. Mussolini arrested all his opponents and killed many. He was part of the fascist Axis (with Germany and Japan) during World War II (WWII). He also launched his own criminal wars. Heinz Dieterich, a Latin-American political analyst, wrote in Rebelion.org (Sept. 27) that Il Duce would say, "In order to stay healthy," a country must wage war every 25 years or so.
Mussolini's wars in Africa killed over one million. In October 1935, with no provocation, and violating all international treaties (a la Bush in Iraq), Il Duce sent 650,000 troops to attack Ethiopia, a very poor country run by feudal Emperor Haile Selassie. France and Britain, particularly the latter's Winston Churchill (strongly sympathetic to Il Duce), tolerated this invasion. The fascist pilots used toxic mustard gas to kill civilians, bombing hospitals and other civilian targets (as Clinton and Gen. Clark did in Belgrade in 1999 and Bush did to Baghdad). They burned hundreds of villages and shot the residents, even those who surrendered after being promised amnesty. Many prisoners were saturated with oil and burned alive. The racist invaders had explicit orders to murder 10 Africans for every Italian soldier killed. Anyone considered an intellectual was systematically slain, including elementary school teachers. Three hundred monks and 1,000 deacons were murdered when weapons were found in Ethiopia's most famous monastery. The Vatican kept totally silent, as it did during the holocaust several years later, claiming it "wasn't strong enough" to denounce these atrocities.
One difference between fascism in Italy and Germany was the development of the Italian Communist Party. While the KPD (the German CP) was crushed by the Nazis, the Italian CP grew under fascism. It used to say, "Mussolini killed us and killed us until there were two million of us." One of PLP's founders who served in the U.S. Army in Italy at the end of WWII tells how the red flag, hammer and sickle and "Viva Stalin" were painted on every wall left standing in Italy's cities, towns and villages. The communist guerrillas captured, executed and hung Il Duce and his mistress.
But after the war, the Italian CP made the fatal error of not taking power when it could have tried. Instead it entered the capitalist electoral circus and went the way of all parties that abandon the goal of workers' power. This tragic error, which prolonged capitalism, is a mistake we in PLP will avoid as we fight against the fascism and wars of world capitalism today.
Many teachers and ESP's (Educational Support Personnel) are ready to walk out. Some want to strike to gain respect. Others believe teachers and ESP's will get a better deal by striking. PLP distributed fliers saying, "During a strike, we get a taste of power. We get an opportunity to bring together the strength of our membership."
The union leadership argues that this is the best we can do, that striking will hurt our cause. The deal includes a 4% raise for 5 years, or 20%, although at least half the raise is offset by increased health insurance costs and a longer school day. The other half will be eaten up by inflation, so actually it's no raise at all. The leadership says these are hard times economically, that parents won't support the union if members reject this contract. But parents want their children to get a good education and would support a strike for smaller classes.
Teachers, ESP's, parents and students are all angry at the hundreds of billions the government spends on war, on raises for themselves, on fancy sports stadiums and on tax cuts to the rich, while never having enough for the schools. But the servants of the racist capitalists spend tax money to guarantee profits. They set up schools to brainwash students into believing that capitalism is great, educate some for their own purposes, and prepare most for the army, low-wage jobs, prison or unemployment. They want to achieve this at the least possible cost.
Teachers are the country's biggest group of voters. The union leaders are pushing for legislation to win smaller classes and urging more members to contribute to the political action fund. Instead of pinning their hopes on the capitalist electoral system, teachers need to join the fight for a society where education serves the needs of students, teachers and all workers instead of a few racist bosses and bureaucrats. That is the goal of the communist PLP.
A strike is an opportunity for teachers and ESP's to challenge the capitalists' control of education and consider what it would take to give students the schools they deserve. PLP members will be there to give leadership to a strike while struggling with strikers, students and parents to read and distribute CHALLENGE, the voice of communism.
The hyenas who run the company tried to blind us with all kinds of capitalist lies, like "United, We Are More," and "Good Ideas Will Be Rewarded." But the workers were not swallowing this crap, so the bosses bought off the weakest link: the union's executive committee. The hacks signed a contract behind our backs which divides the workers and supports the bosses' fascist attacks.
Boss Ricardo Obregón took advantage of this sellout and began firing workers while sanctioning, pressuring and slandering those who remained on the job. Only 90 are left of the 550 that worked here. Now the union leaders are busy running for office in the local city government, telling workers to vote for them as the "answer" to their problems.
There are still some rank-and-file workers trying to resist the attacks, without any support from the union hacks. PLP members are using CHALLENGE to show how the attacks of the bosses and the union leaders' betrayals are part and parcel of capitalism worldwide. Workers needs to understand that we belong to an international working class which needs to rebuild the communist movement and fight for a society without bosses and their lackeys.
The U.S., Mexico (a member of the Organization for the Economic Development and Cooperation, which groups the 30 top economies of the world) and Portugal lead the pack. The infant mortality rates of these three countries are 10 to 15 times higher than the other developed countries. France and Belgium follow.
Eighty percent of child murders occur at home. The biological parents (fathers and mothers equally) are the culprits. Stress because of poverty, work problems, drugs, alcohol and other social diseases caused by capitalism are the main causes. Thirty to forty percent of fathers who treat their children violently also beat their spouses.
UNICEF correctly calls this a failure of society and calls on governments to do something to reduce and eliminate these murders. But how can societies based on wars and racist and sexist super-exploitation eradicate this? We have all seen horrific news stories of children beaten or starved by their parents, while the social services that are supposed to protect children are cut back in this age of endless wars and capitalist crisis.
For the sake of the children, we've got to destroy capitalism, the cause of this violence, and fight for a communism.
A Concerned Parent
A few days later, during her lunch break, a comrade went to the new factory to visit the worker who had been robbed of her wages. Other co-workers joined the discussion and decided to go to the other factory to demand the approximately $100 that the boss owed the worker.
This same day a group of six workers confronted the boss to demand the pay. At first, the boss denied owing the worker money and started yelling and blaming the supervisor for the problem. But when she saw the workers' anger and determination, the frightened boss paid the $100.
The worker and her supporters left elated at being able to achieve a small victory, and mainly at seeing the strength workers have when they unite. "When the workers unite, the bosses tremble," said one worker. Garment workers are the most super-exploited, but have a long tradition of struggle. These small battles help us build revolutionary spirit to organize our fellow workers. They make us feel stronger as a class and as communists. Let's go forward, comrades. Let's continue organizing more massively, not only for wages that have been stolen from us but to end wage slavery and profits, for communism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
A garment worker comrade
It would allow a handful of foreign banks to take over the domestic banking system. . . . Moreover, the radical laws have been adopted without a democratic Iraqi government to discuss or approve them.
One would have thought that the failures of swift and sudden free market changes in Russia in the 1990's would have made even extremist economists cautious. . . .
[A]s has been characteristic of such shock therapy in the past, the new economic planners have not included provisions for social programs. . . .
Its consequences, as in Russia, could be widespread cruelty. (NYT, 10/2)
The law allows students at schools labeled failing to transfer out. . . . Everyone knows 40 in a class is not sound educationally.
And yet, that is precisely what has happened in New York City. The mayor and the chancellor -- who have been quite restrained in their comments about the law -- said yes to all 8,000 federal transfer requests, contributing to the worst overcrowding of city schools in years.
Now it turns out that about a third of the 8,000 transfers -- children often traveling over an hour to attend crowded schools -- have been moved from one school labeled failing under the law to another failing school.
But principals of small high schools, like Louis Delgado of Vanguard in Manhattan, say transfers have devastated them this year. Vanguard went to 440 students from 330. . . . Until this year, he had 22 to a class; now it is 30. "We've had more fighting in one month than we did all last year," he said. (NYT, 10/1)
This is a dangerous argument. On a numerical basis alone, it does not stand up. In Argentina leftist guerillas in a 20-year period were responsible for an estimated 600 deaths, compared with the state's 15,000 killings and disappearances. In Chile the military was responsible for an estimated 3,000 deaths while around 150 members of the security forces were killed. In the Peru the Shining Path is blamed for a larger proportion of deaths, but the state is held responsible for around 20,000.
. . . .Murders and torture were carried out under the authority of the state. . . . Once a state suspends its laws and excuses its actions on a threat of terrorism, the slope is a slippery one . . . . (GW, 9/17)
"Essentially this is the most massive case of ethnic profiling since the internment of Japanese Americans during the second world war," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. (GW, 9/17)