Challenge, December 17, 2003

Medicare Ripoff Is Windfall For Drug And Insurance Bosses

Liberal Rulers’ Reform Plan: Education For War

‘The Story Behind the Story’

Mexico: Angry Workers Must Fight All Bosses

Grocery Strike: It’s Not Just Wal-Mart — It’s Capitalism!

Free Trade Meeting Flops; Cops Riot

Cincinnati’s Killer Kops Kill Again

Hawk Hillary Criticizes ‘Bushites’: Not Enough Troops

New Communist International Movement Must Bury Dark Ages

California Fire Destruction One More Cost of Bosses’ War

Chicago Dinner Marks CHALLENGE Role in Building PLP

Reform over Revolution Alive and Well in the Matrix Trilogy


‘Nickled and Dimed’ Bets on Legislation, Not Workers’ Power

Fare Hike, Pay Cut Gives CEO Bonus

‘Over-consumption’ vs. ‘More Consumption’?

Interfaith Meeting Discusses War, Racism

Winning $upport For CHALLENGE

Look Forward to CHALLENGE

Communist Ideas Answer Fascism

Church Group Hears Need To Win GI’s

Red Eye On The News

Medicare Ripoff Is Windfall For Drug And Insurance Bosses

The battle over Medicare reflects an age-old conflict in capitalism. Individual companies seek short-term profits higher than their rivals’. International competition, however, drives the ruling classes of different nations to fight for long-term survival. Short- and long-term outlooks clashed in Congress last week when the U.S. Senate passed the Medicare prescription drug "benefit," and handed drug and insurance companies a windfall by creating a new, largely privatized Medicare prescription plan. While it won’t meet the needs of most workers, it will add an estimated $13 billion to the drug companies’ current $192 billion yearly sales. Insurance companies will manage much of the program.

But as Merck’s and Aetna’s bosses rejoiced that their industries’ record $139-million lobbying had paid off, liberals like Teddy Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller bitterly denounced the vote. For the drug and insurance companies, the U.S. health care system is an inexhaustible profit source, replenished with $1.7 trillion in expenditures every year. But Kennedy and Rockefeller serve capitalists who look beyond individual industries’ bottom line toward maintaining U.S. worldwide dominance by armed force. To the imperialists, health care is first and foremost an instrument of social control, one that is becoming more important as their war-making intensifies.

Also, they see that medical costs for current workers and millions of retired and soon-to-be retiring workers are a tremendous drain on profits, especially in basic industry. They favor a more "universal" health care plan that will shift the burden from private employers to the government, paid for by workers’ taxes, and make the auto, steel and aerospace bosses more competitive with their European and Asian rivals. Their opposition to Bush has much more to do with strengthening U.S. imperialism than offering some crumbs to the working class.

The Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), a government agency charged with planning the wartime mobilization of U.S. industry, says health care profoundly affects workers in the kinds of work they can do, in their fitness for military service, and in their general quality of life. But it warns, "…the U.S. does not presently have a carefully formulated and executable national health care strategy. Ensuring national security requires devising and implementing such a strategy.... Since the federal government is the single largest payer in the industry, the Department of Health & Human Services is the appropriate executive agent..." (ICAF Industry Survey, 2002). So the liberal war makers basically want two things: a health system more directly run by the federal government and, consequently, a working class more directly dependent on the feds for its health care.

The liberals’ chief complaint about the Medicare scheme is that much of it will be out of government hands. That’s what Rockefeller and Kennedy mean when they criticize the drug and insurance profiteers. "The AARP [a big backer of the bill] is a business," said Rockefeller, "they have a product to sell." Kennedy shed crocodile tears for the elderly, "Let us not turn our backs on our senior citizens so insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies can charge senior citizens even higher prices."

The Hart-Rudman Commission, which outlined the present agenda of increasing fascism and war, raised the same objection in its January 2001 report (eight months before 9-11). "The medical community has critical roles to play in homeland security. Catastrophic acts of terrorism or violence could cause casualties far beyond any imagined heretofore. Most of the American medical system is privately owned and now operates at close to capacity. An incident involving WMD will quickly overwhelm the capacities of local hospitals and emergency management professionals."

The Medicare vote is a temporary setback for the liberal imperialists. In response they will only increase their efforts to control society. However, workers shouldn’t be fooled by their call for "universal care." This is not "socialized medicine," it is a fascist plan to increase proftis for basic industries and make workers more able to fight the bosses’ wars. The fight for communism to abolish the profit system and wage slavery will create the conditions to make the health of workers — who produce all value in society — a priority. Then preventive care will help alleviate and eventually end many of the diseases caused by capitalism — AIDS, malnutrition, stress — not to mention the myriad of illnesses spread by imperialism: Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, the malnutrition and consequent death of half a million Iraqi children, cancer-causing depleted uranium and all the mental illnesses visited on soldiers on all sides of the bosses’ wars.

The Fine Print: How the Drug Benefit Works

Until 2006, seniors just get a discount card that might save them 15% on drugs. Then, when the "real" benefit kicks in, it works like this for each year:

First $250: you pay 100%;

Next $2,000: you pay 25%, Medicare pays 75%;

Next $2,850: you pay 100%;

After that (above total yearly drug costs of $5,100) you pay 5%, Medicare pays 95%.

A Communist Alternative Plan

Since workers make, package, transport, maintain and distribute all the medicines, how about this benefit plan:

• We all get 100% of what we need and it’s all free.

Liberal Rulers’ Reform Plan: Education For War

The dominant liberal wing of U.S. rulers has a serious labor dilemma. On one hand, U.S. companies are laying off millions of workers in the current economic downturn while relocating millions of jobs overseas. On the other, the major capitalists will — eventually and inevitably — require millions of highly-skilled, loyal workers to man their war machine against an enemy the size of China, Europe or Russia. The Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), a secretive branch of the Defense Department responsible for planning the wartime mobilization of U.S. industry, warns of massive shortfalls in skilled labor over the next two decades resulting from downsizing in fields ranging from biotechnology to shipbuilding. Thus, even as they destroy vast numbers of jobs, the rulers’ war needs are driving them to create a large workforce well-trained in math and science. The ICAF identifies improving "math and science curricula for grades K-12" as a top priority.

School systems nationwide are aiding the liberal imperialists by "raising standards" in these areas, though the effort and results are very uneven. Because racism infects everything the capitalists do, many urban schools today, with mostly black and Latin students, barely see a dime’s worth of improvement in math and science training. At the same time, suburban schools are implementing a flood of curriculum initiatives funded by the feds and establishment corporations and foundations. But at the time when the rulers need to mobilize for world war, they will undertake advanced technical training for many in the working class. Make no mistake. The math and science reform movement is fascism in sheep’s clothing. It serves the capitalists’ interests, not the students’.

The math-science push forms an important part of the Hart-Rudman Commission reports, which stand as the clearest public expression of the rulers’ 25-year strategy for worldwide dominance. Hart-Rudman’s goal is to put the nation on a war footing for regional conflicts in the near term and world war down the road. Along with using terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to stir up patriotism, the Commission’s plans extend to refocusing schools and universities. Referring to math and science, Hart-Rudman’s 2000 report reads, "the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine. American national leadership must understand these deficiencies as threats to national security. If we do not invest heavily and wisely in rebuilding these two core strengths, America will be incapable of maintaining its global position."

As an example, the ICAF, in its latest industry survey, cites semiconductors, which are essential to modern manufacturing and weapons: "U.S. chipmakers will require over 15,000 new electrical engineers (EE) in the early years of this century, yet EE graduates declined by 49% from 1988 to 1998, along with decreases in other important disciplines such as math and physics." In 2002, the ICAF visited Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Intel and other heavyweights in the military-industrial sphere. It found the woeful state of education in the U.S. hampering the merchants of death. "Given the recession, none noted any shortage of applicants. However, almost without exception they were frustrated by applicants’ lack of specific skills required for their industry. Most stated that applicants lacked the mechanical aptitude, knowledge, and technical background in basic math and sciences to propel their company in this highly competitive globalized economy."

Liberal representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) is spearheading the Committee for Economic Development’s (CED) new campaign, Learning for the Future: Changing the Culture of Math and Science Education to Ensure a Competitive Workforce. It calls for the creation of business-school partnerships to make math and science more attractive to students. Executives from Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco sit on the CED’s board.

A California-based organization called the Math-Science Network (MSN) advertises a seemingly praiseworthy aim, "to nurture girls’ interest in science and math courses and to encourage them to consider science and math-based career options." But MSN’s sponsors include such pillars of U.S. imperialism as JP Morgan Chase and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, which helps develop the bosses’ murderous nuclear arsenal. The National Security Agency, which furnishes military intelligence to the Pentagon, runs summer programs in the mathematical sciences for high school and middle school teachers and students.

Mathematical and scientific knowledge has a class character. Capitalists use it to exploit and make war on workers. Workers, on the other hand, must understand math and science in order to serve their own class. A working-class party cannot hope to grow or seize power without offering workable, technical solutions to a host of miseries caused or worsened by capitalism. The Soviet and Chinese Red Armies were able to make revolution and transform society in large measure because they educated the masses and themselves politically and technically to a degree unimagined by the capitalists. No one should confuse the kind of training the rulers want with the knowledge workers need.

‘The Story Behind the Story’

We are fond of saying "you got to be in it, to win it," in relation to the bosses’ mass organizations. An incident at work reminded me that "being in it" could also apply to mass sales of CHALLENGE.

A friend I hadn’t seen for nearly 20 years recently transferred into my shop. I honestly couldn’t remember what kind of political relationship we had had. He was friendly now so I hesitantly gave him copies of our paper. He’s been a "casual" reader for the last few months.

Last week, he buttonholed me as I was arriving at work. "What’s this all about," he asked, pointing to the headlines about the firing of Boeing’s CFO and a vice-president of the missile program. He was clear; he wanted to know the "story behind the story."

I gave him a quick explanation about the bosses’ need to win us to sacrifice "blood and treasure" to support their continuous wars for imperialist dominance. I referred him to an article in a prior CHALLENGE that went into more detail. He went back to his machine and read (or re-read) it. He made a point of telling me it was "a really good article." He had gotten his "story behind the story."

My friend hasn’t been in the shop long enough to be involved in any sharp class struggle with us. I sell a good number of papers, so I can’t have long, in-depth discussions with every reader, all the time. My friend was one of those co-workers with whom I’ve had only limited political discussions — and limited social relations to boot. Of course, I want to correct this over time.

Given all these weaknesses, why would my friend seek me out to find the meaning of these headlines? After all, he had other friends—even closer friends — in the shop. I can only conclude that even his "casual" reading of our paper sent him in our direction.

When we keep our eye on the ball, we are able to increase CHALLENGE circulation during sharp struggle, like contract negotiations, strikes and demonstrations. Unfortunately, we sometimes let our CHALLENGE networks wither when things quiet down. (I’m as guilty as anybody.) We mistakenly doubt the value of such "casual" readers.

This little incident is a reminder that numbers—of readers—may not be everything, but they do count. CHALLENGE must be in the hands of large numbers of our co-workers if we want the working class to look to communist analysis to explain the increasing attacks on us. You got to circulate it (CHALLENGE), to win it — a significant base for revolutionary ideas.

A Shop Comrade

Mexico: Angry Workers Must Fight All Bosses

MEXICO CITY, Nov. 27 — Over 150,000 workers, students and others — 100,000 in Mexico City and the rest in other cities — participated in a "megamarch" against the government’s plan to raise taxes on food and medicine. The protests also attacked the closing of government institutions and privatization of the energy industry, which will eliminate thousands of jobs. Politicians like M. Bartlet and C. Cárdenas, who represent the bosses who want to maintain state ownership of the energy industry, are using this mass anger for electoral purposes.

In this era of growing imperialist rivalry over markets, capitalist crisis and war, the Mexican ruling class hasn’t done so well. Mexico has dropped to 30th place among the world’s exporters. China has replaced it as the leading provider of manufactured goods to the U.S. market. In 1997, China had 7.5% of the U.S. domestic market; Mexico had 10%. Today, these figures are reversed. Mexico has also lost foreign investments. China is now receiving $56 billion a year in direct investments, equal to all of Latin America.

President Fox and COPARMEX (the bosses’ association) want to get out of this hole by taxing poor people even more, opening the energy industry to investors, slashing labor rights to increase productivity (á la the USA) and increasing exploitation.

Slim, the richest boss in Mexico, CANACINTRA (another bosses’ association), Mexico City’s municipal bosses, some opposition politicians and union hacks from the Electrical Workers’ Union and National Workers’ Union (UNT) want to keep control of the energy industry and use it as the basis to reactivate the domestic market. Neither side is interested in the well-being of the working class. They all want to control the lion’s share of the wealth produced by workers, the fees paid by utility customers, etc. The nature of all bosses is to make profits exploiting workers.

During the march, Rosendo Flores, head of the electrical workers’ union, and H. Juarez, of the telephone workers’ union, called for a nation-wide general strike if the Fox government doesn’t back down from the tax hikes and privatization plan. These union hacks want to become the "workers’ voice," replacing the old CTM labor federation hacks.

PLP members have been organizing in neighborhoods and factories to give communist leadership to the growing anger of workers and youth. We’re supporting the struggles against layoffs and fascist working conditions, and to maintain basic services while exposing the union hacks and politicians as enemies of the workers.

The distribution of CHALLENGE has grown. Many in the communities have sought our political guidance. Our political slogans in these struggles against the growing bosses’ attacks have been, "Abolish wage slavery" and "Fight local and foreign capitalists." This is a modest example of using our communist politics to build a mass base. Some of us participated in the Nov. 27 mega march, but we must increase our political work, strengthen our base-building and increase CHALLENGE distribution. This can puncture the political hold the fascist and liberal bosses and union sellouts have on the masses.

Grocery Strike: It’s Not Just Wal-Mart — It’s Capitalism!

Los Angeles, Dec. 2 — The strike of 70,000 grocery workers in Southern California is entering its 8th week. The strikers face a 50% increase in healthcare costs, a two-tier wage system and an hourly wage-cap for new employees of $14.90 (after six years). Most are part-time and currently earn an average of $1,300 monthly. Many strikers are young black, Latin and Asian workers.

On Oct. 11th, workers struck Vons and Pavilions. The owners of Ralph’s and Albertson’s immediately locked out their workers, swelling the total out to 70,000. Then, about two weeks into the strike, the unions announced it was alright to shop at Ralph’s, even though Ralph’s workers were locked out and the store was being run with scabs! (Pickets at other stores even carried signs saying "Shop at Ralph’s.") The strike was mainly run as a secondary boycott, asking customers not to shop at the markets.

Many other workers, students and teachers have joined the picket lines and organized rallies supporting the strikers. Many shoppers have refused to cross the lines. Then on Nov. 25, the strike’s seventh week, Teamster truck drivers began refusing to carry goods from warehouses to the stores.

The supermarket owners claim they must lower workers’ wages and heath care because Wal-Mart is coming to California with "Superstores" which will sell groceries and most everything else. Wal-Mart is non union and pays workers about $9 an hour with no health benefits. The New York Times has editorialized (11/15) in favor of the union and against Wal-Mart. They state grocery workers earn roughly $18,000 a year and lament that Wal-Mart workers earn only $14,000, "below the $15,060 poverty line for a family of three." They call for unionizing Wal-Mart and support the princely sum of $18,000 annually.

The LA Times has run a three-part exposé of Wal-Mart for paying low wages not only to its own employees but also some of the lowest wages in the world to workers in Bangladesh, China and Honduras who make the low-cost products Wal-Mart sells. Many U.S. bosses view China as a serious long-term threat to U.S. imperialist world domination. An increasing amount of Wal-Mart’s products comes from China.

Why all this concern about workers’ wages and health benefits from the bosses’ mouthpieces? One essay in the book "United We Serve" worried that immigrant workers need to be brought into the social fabric of this country, and that the unions are the best vehicle to win immigrants to trusting the system. The New York Times is not advocating decent wages and health care for all, only that workers receive the bare minimum needed to live, rather than under the minimum, and that this be sanctified by a union.

The fact is U.S. imperialism is spending half a trillion dollars a year on wars and paying for them with workers’ taxes, forcing states like California into multi-billion dollar deficits. Then Schwarzenegger follows suit by cutting social services to reduce the deficit. All this leaves nothing to cover workers’ health care, and the profit-driven bosses certainly don’t want to pay for it.

For their own reasons, the rulers are attacking Wal-Mart as the source of low wages and benefits. But the source is not just Wal-Mart. It’s capitalism that forces workers worldwide into poverty and war in its constant competition for maximum profit. It’s capitalism that must be destroyed to secure a decent future for workers’ families.

PLP members and friends have taken CHALLENGE and leaflets to the picket lines. We need to consistently go to the pickets at our local stores, developing ties with these workers that can continue long after the strike is over. Strikes usually represent more intense class struggle and offer opportunities to win workers to more advanced, communist ideas which explain the problems caused by capitalism. While calling for support for the strikers, we’ve also pointed out that a system based on competition for maximum profits is less and less able to provide the basic necessities for workers. That’s why the long-term solution to low wages, lack of health care and a war economy is to fight for a communist society based not on profits but on meeting workers’ needs.

Free Trade Meeting Flops; Cops Riot

MIAMI, Nov. 21 — The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting here was a flop for Bush’s administration plans to expand a U.S.-controlled NAFTA to the entire continent. The growing capitalist-imperialist rivalry over markets and low-paid workers caused it to fail before it even began. The biggest bosses of South American (Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina) want a bigger share of the exploitation, while the Bush gang basically wants it all. The former are working with U.S. imperialist rivals in Europe who oppose the U.S. excluding them from a free trade agreement. (Germany is the main investor in Brazil.)

Miami cops rioted against demonstrators who were protesting the FTAA meeting. The protesters were mainly from peace groups, student and anti-war organizations, as well as unions like the United Steelworkers Union. They were ordered to disperse and then surrounded, beaten, shot with rubber bullets, arrested, and held on phony charges of "assaulting" the cops.

The police riot was planned and financed with $8,000,000 according to the new rules of the fascist Homeland Security. Specific features of this cop attack include:

• "Embedding" the media (as in Iraq) — placing them under direct control of the cops and military;

• Some "embedded" reporters attacked the demonstrators alongside the cops. Independent reporters, not "embedded," were attacked as though they were demonstrators.

• Plainclothes cops dressed in black, like the anarchist "black bloc," to infiltrate and attack groups of demonstrators.

Part of the explanation for this cop violence is no doubt due to conditions specific to Florida. Jeb Bush, the President’s brother, is governor and fascist Cuban exile groups are very strong in Miami. The gusano leaders don’t allow any "freedom of speech" or unionizing activity in order to keep Miami a low-wage haven and one of the poorest urban areas in the U.S.

Cops are parasites, not workers. Their job is to protect the bosses’ profits. But on the whole, police repression is a sign of weakness, not strength. The ruling class is less tolerant of dissent, and more open to brute force, an aspect of fascism. The fact that union officials were present, protested and attacked is a sign of the polarization within the ruling class over the war, as well as over NAFTA/FTAA.

Sweeney and the AFL-CIO made a deal with the cops to protect themselves from police attack. They’re agents of that section of the ruling class that wants to use the unions to build deadly nationalism in gaining U.S. domination of Latin America. Sweeney and the AFL-CIO may oppose NAFTA/FTAA, but they support U.S. domination of Latin America.

The function of liberal candidates like Kucinich and Dean is to suck dissent back into the Democratic Party and the electoral process, like McCarthy and McGovern did in ’68 and ’72 during the Vietnam War.

When mainstream Democrats like the Al Gores and Jimmy Carters attack Homeland Security for "violating human rights," they’re really attacking the Bush gang for acting in a way that doesn’t win the masses to collaborate in their own repression. After all, the Democratic Party voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act.

PLP has dealt with fascist-like police in the past, from fighting the armed attack by racist ROAR in Boston in 1975, to May Day demonstrations in L.A. and New York in the ’90s, when demonstrations were banned and we had to rely on special tactics, secure planning, and discipline among demonstrators. Undisciplined, mass groups of demonstrators, no matter how well-intentioned, are sitting ducks for police and provocateur attacks like those in Miami or Milan.

The mis-leadership of the Miami demonstrations is responsible for many of the casualties. Most of the liberals, anarchists and fake leftists who oppose the war or FTAA also actively oppose discipline. They spread the anti-communist lie that proletarian discipline — acting in unity — "stifles the individual."

Casualties are never completely avoidable. But they’re maximized by encouraging large groups of demonstrators to mass and protest as a leaderless crowd, and minimized by a planned, disciplined response. Masses of people can be won to the latter.

The positive aspect of such demonstrations is that more and more people — including workers — see the need to protest. An example: when police were harassing young protestors in Guzman Park, a group of steel workers surrounded the cops and stopped their attack. With PLP’s active participation, police violence, however effective in the short run, can help people shed their illusions, and their anti-communism too. We should be working with these honest forces, to win them to revolutionary communist conclusions.

Cincinnati’s Killer Kops Kill Again

CINCINNATI, OH, Dec. 1 — Cincinnati’s killer cops have struck again. Last night cops Baron Osterman and James Pike beat 41-year old Nathaniel Jones to death. After clubbing him unconscious with their night sticks, they and four other cops stood around and watched him die while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. The beating was videotaped by a camera running in their police car. Racist Mayor Luken and police chief Streicher are defending their paid assassins. Although the coroner has since ruled it a homicide, don’t hold your breath waiting for any racist cop to be convicted.

Early Sunday morning, prior to the cop beating, a worker at a fast food restaurant had called for emergency medical help after seeing Jones passed out on the grass outside. By the time the EMT’s first arrived, Jones was awake, and they reported that he was "becoming a nuisance," so they left and the police were called. By the time the cops were done with him, he was finally in an ambulance, and died upon arriving at the hospital.

The Cincinnati cops are a band of racist terrorists with a history. After a string of racist killings, a rebellion erupted in April 2001. PLP made several trips there, and CHALLENGE and our comrades were warmly received by the rebels. As we go to press, we’re contacting our friends and planning to show the red flag there again.

Imperialist war and fascist Homeland Security, mass poverty, unemployment and racist police terror is how the "world’s only superpower" has ushered in the 21st century. The sooner we destroy them, the more lives we’ll save.

Hawk Hillary Criticizes ‘Bushites’: Not Enough Troops

Bush’s Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad airport has backfired, as has much of what his government has done in Iraq. Most Iraqis — and millions worldwide — saw it as a cheap stunt like his Top Gun landing on an aircraft carrier back in May, declaring the war over. No sooner had Bush left the airport, Spanish intelligence agents, Japanese diplomats and Korean contract workers were killed by Iraqi insurgents. Then came the Nov. 30 all-day Samarra battle which U.S. forces claim killed 54 insurgents, but Iraqis said was basically a massacre of civilians. U.S. troops have orders to shoot anything that moves if they’re attacked. So now 80% of the Iraqi population — which Bush said he would "free" from Saddam Hussein — want U.S. troops out.

Bush’s Iraqi visit was followed by Hillary Clinton’s, who wanted to prove she’s as much of a Hawk (warmaker) as the Bushites. Hillary had come from Afghanistan where the Taliban and its allies have taken the offensive, and the U.S. puppet Karzai government only controls its heavily defended Kabul compound. Hillary stayed longer than Bush in Iraq, although spending the night safely in Kuwait. She "criticized" the Bushites for not dispatching more troops to assure U.S. control of Iraqi oil.

The liberal Hawks, like the N.Y. Times, are very worried about the Bush gang’s screw-up in Iraq. The paper proposes to divide Iraq into three regions: Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni. Only the Kurds and Shiites have oil fields, which, of course, the U.S. will control. This "divide and conquer" strategy will be accompanied by ethnic cleansing, similar to the former Yugoslavia after the collapse of the old Soviet Union when Germany and the U.S. carved it up into several smaller countries run by their local lackeys.

The Iraqi working class has a long history of supporting communist politics. The old Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) was the leading political force there, with a leadership and membership reflecting Iraq’s different ethnic groups of Iraq — Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians and Jews. On May 1, 1959, over one million workers and others marched with Red Flags under communist leadership. But following the old communist movement, the ICP pursued the line of national liberation, uniting with "lesser evil" bosses. Instead of leading workers and their allies to power, the old ICP allied itself with nationalist politicians and generals (even with Hussein for a while), before these "progressive" bosses murdered tens of thousands of communists and others. Today, the old ICP even supports the pro-U.S. Governing Council of Iraq.

But there are still many workers and their allies who oppose the U.S.-UK occupation forces, and understand that the old Baath loyalists and Jihad (fundamentalist) fighters are not the answer. The need to build a new revolutionary communist movement is the key task facing workers in Iraq, the entire Middle East and the world. That’s what we in PLP fight for.

New Communist International Movement Must Bury Dark Ages

Our last issue explained how the 1917 communist-led Russian Revolution, which freed 1/6 of the world’s surface from capitalism, was the single most important event of the 20th Century. It was followed by the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazi war machine, freeing humanity from becoming one huge concentration camp. However, the third most important event of the 20th century for the world’s working class was the collapse of the old communist movement, marked by the rise of state capitalism and later free market capitalism in the former Soviet Union and in China.

Stalin said the destruction of the USSR and the International Communist Movement (ICM) would bring humanity back to the dark ages. History has proven him right:

The former Soviet republics and socialist camp have been turned into a hell for workers. While a few became multi-millionaires, stealing the wealth built by workers in the former socialist bloc, the norm for the majority of people is mass unemployment, gut-wrenching poverty, war, prostitution, drug trafficking and chaos. The latest example is the power struggle over the billions to be reaped from pipelines in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

While during the Cultural Revolution, left-wing forces in China tried to prevent the return to capitalism, this gigantic fight against revisionism (capitalist forces masquerading as communists) was defeated by the vacillations of the pro-Mao forces. Now China has become the world’s largest manufacturing center, based on tens of millions of workers being paid dirt wages. The return of capitalism has left hundreds of millions unemployed, with no social safety net.

The few countries that still consider themselves socialist, like Vietnam and Cuba, are basically building capitalism. To top it off, a U.S. navy frigate visited Vietnam last month for the first time since U.S. imperialist forces were kicked out of that country after murdering over three million Vietnamese.

The defeat of the old ICM also has affected workers in the rest of the capitalist world. In Western Europe and the U.S., workers have suffered wage-cuts, union-busting and a decline in their standard of living as a direct consequence of the lack of an ICM strong enough to fight capitalism. The union hacks in these countries have sold out even more to capitalism since the defeat of the ICM.

Now unions represent less than 10% of the workforce in France and figures in the U.S. and other countries are approaching that. Germany’s powerful IG Metall Union’s strikes ended earlier this year without winning even small crumbs, something not seen in many decades. Workers have paid for the anti-communism of the union leaders — or reformism of the so-called "leftist" union leaders in Italy and France — in massive job losses and wage-cuts. The racism of many union leaders, especially in the U.S., has been deadly for workers.

Emerging from the Dark Ages

While this era of wars, fascist terror, mass joblessness, diseases like AIDS killing millions in Africa and other areas, is upon us, every dark night has its end. PLP is a product of both the old ICM and the struggle against its revisionism. We are daily fighting to learn from its great battles and achievements and also from the deadly errors that led to its collapse, mainly that reformism, racism and all forms of concessions to capitalism only lead workers to defeat. Give a boss one centimeter and he/she will grab a mile.

CHALLENGE reflects that struggle, which must go on constantly since we live in a capitalist society which bribes a few to help oppress billions. Our job as communists is to bring our revolutionary politics to workers, not to create illusions that capitalism can be reformed. A mass base of readers and sellers of CHALLENGE can be the ideological tool to help turn workers’ struggles into schools for communism. But we cannot do this from the outside. We must be involved in every class struggle workers are waging, from the LA transit and Southern California grocery strikes to the recent violent mass strikes in the Dominican Republic and Bolivia; from the international anti-war movement to the fight against globalization (imperialism); from the fight against racist police brutality to the struggles against sexist exploitation of women workers in the world’s maquiladoras — but always with the outlook that the only way out of the Dark Ages is to rebuild the ICM and fight for a society without bosses: communism.

California Fire Destruction One More Cost of Bosses’ War

The fires are out in Southern California, but the damage is enormous: 16 dead, 3,400 homes destroyed and hundreds of thousands of acres burned. Smoke and ash covered most of the county. School was canceled for a week because it was dangerous to breathe outdoors. One of the fires in San Diego County was the biggest in California history, destroying whole communities.

Given the severe drought and high winds, brush fires were inevitable. But the fires’ size and the damage done was not inevitable and would have been far less if San Diego County actually had a fire department. The city of San Diego has, but with far less equipment than needed, and what it has is ancient. In the County’s eastern part, where the fires started and most of the deaths occurred, many areas have no fire coverage at all. Local fire districts have so little taxing authority (since Proposition 13 passed) that they must run bake sales and raffles to buy equipment.

The devastation was no surprise. In a report drafted in 2002 but made public only now, San Diego officials predicted a fire of "biblical" proportions exactly where the Cedar fire actually occurred, and a probability of successful containment of under 10%.

Experienced firefighters claim they could have saved many more structures if they had had enough equipment. They also assert that projects to clear brush and provide safety zones around houses have been grossly under-funded and delayed for years — in some cases for decades — by red tape.

Preventing fire deaths and loss of homes isn’t rocket science; it’s simply way down the priority list for U. S. bosses, who are spending our taxes to grab Iraqi oil, trying to maintain their "top dog" status among imperialists. The U.S. empire’s growing crisis has led to increasingly fascist policies that reach down to the local level, resulting in deep financial crisis for state and local governments nation-wide., slashing basic services and infrastructure. Bush, Governor Davis and Governor-elect Schwarzenegger briefly visited the fire zone and cynically praised the heroism of the firefighters (one of whom died), but do nothing to change the basic situation.

The firefighters were denied the tools for this fire, and won’t get them for next fire, given California’s projected $10 billion deficit next year. The devastation of these fires is one more item on the bill U.S. bosses are making us pay to cover the cost of their drive for world domination.

San Diego Red

Chicago Dinner Marks CHALLENGE Role in Building PLP

CHICAGO, IL Nov. 22— Tonight more than 50 workers and young people participated in our CHALLENGE dinner, raising over $500 for our paper. The evening was hosted by a black woman Cook County Hospital worker who recently joined PLP. The previous night, about three dozen college and high school students and teachers held a similar event.

The black, Latin and white workers were treated to good food, entertainment from a PLP high school student rapper and a wonderful singing group of students and teachers. Another County worker, a black woman whose son is stationed in Iraq, read two revolutionary poems.

A Latin comrade who recently participated in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride explained how the liberal politicians and union hacks staged the event to build support among immigrants for U.S. imperialism and fascist Homeland Security, even as they face increased fascist attacks. She said there was no "freedom" in this ride, but there were plenty of opportunities to build a mass base for PLP and communist revolution. She was speaking from experience. Just two days earlier, a dozen young riders and their friends had attended a PLP study group.

The PLP keynote speaker described the crisis facing US imperialism in Iraq, and how it faces a possible strategic defeat in the Middle East that would dwarf the one in Vietnam. He pointed out how the liberal media and Democratic presidential candidates were even more committed than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to staying in Iraq for the long haul, and that the liberal union leaders, clergy and all the mass organizations would pull out all the stops in the coming year to get these killers elected.

Mainly he stressed that the two most important ingredients in building PLP is confidence in the Party and confidence in the workers; they can be won and will come through. The principal aspect is having confidence that workers can and will be won to communist ideas if we struggle with them. He gave examples from 30 years of personal experience how CHALLENGE played a role in winning workers to support, defend and join PLP. He asked those at the dinner to drop their "bosses’ flags" — dollars — into the bucket so we can turn them into more red flags — CHALLENGE. They gave generously.

This talk was followed by a skit written and performed by Cook County Hospital workers about winning their co-workers to read and distribute CHALLENGE. After more songs and a "Fight-Back" rap, the evening concluded with everyone singing the Internationale.

Reform over Revolution Alive and Well in the Matrix Trilogy

"The Matrix," the first of the movie trilogy, depicted a science fiction allegory of class antagonisms in society. On the one hand was the energy-exploiting class of machines; on the other hand, the humans who are used for their energy to produce the machines’ power. The Matrix represented the illusionary world that humans believed they lived in (representing false consciousness) to mask the horrific existence of the world. The main characters Morpheus, Neo and Trinity are the leaders of the humans in Zion, the underground world where humans are living independently from the machines and preparing for a revolt against them.

The main protagonist is a messiah-type named "Neo," slated to lead the machine-enslaved people to "freedom." He uses his special forces to disable the machines. This has always been a significant weakness of the Matrix movies — they rely on the miracle savior, not the masses, to save humanity.

The machines enslave people’s minds and suck their energy in order to build their war machines, and live like parasites (an allegorical reference to the capitalist bosses) off the entire mass of humanity. Throughout these movies, Neo is pursued by Agent Smith who was sent to destroy the rebellion. In this final installment of the trilogy, Agent Smith has broken through the boundaries of the Matrix and infinitely duplicates himself to become a loose cannon force that the machines can no longer control.

"Revolutions" — the last of the trilogy — betrays the idea that the humans must defeat their greatest enemy, the machines, and sinks into petty reformism. Since the Agent Smiths have broken into the world of Zion, Neo believes he is a greater threat than the machines. The reactionary messiah Neo uses his "spiritual" sense to negotiate a deal with the machines to destroy Agent Smith.

The entire battle strength of the human revolution was wasted defending Zion, instead of attacking the machines in their own yard where the human forces would have certainly won. The combined might of the humans and Neo could have overwhelmed and destroyed the parasitic machines. Instead, we have an uneasy truce negotiated by the sellout Neo.

The movie ends with the "Architect" saying every human trapped in the Matrix would have a "choice" of whether or not to leave the Matrix. Freedom for the human race would have required the people of Zion to destroy the Architect, since he created that world.

Many left-wing people were drawn into some "progressive" elements of the Matrix movies — the multi-racial character of the people of Zion, men and women fighting together against the machines, and special effects (technology) never depicted before.

In this movie, communists can see the dangers of allying with "lesser-evil" bosses against "greater-evil" bosses. All bosses are part of the parasitic machine of capitalism — the machine that is fueled by the blood and sweat of the workers and serves the bosses’ class interests. The communist PLP leading the working class aims to destroy the machine of capitalism. We won’t ally with "lesser-evil bosses," nor follow ideologically reactionary leaders, nor lying religious and union leaders, because we want to smash the Machine, not reform or "balance" it.


‘Nickled and Dimed’ Bets on Legislation, Not Workers’ Power

I was just "Nickled and Dimed" out of $22 and I’m not happy about it. "Nickled and Dimed" is a new play costing $22 admission. I saw it with a great group of people, many of whom, unfortunately, thought well of it.

It’s based on Barbara Ehrenreich’s book of the same name and shines a light on some of the difficulties that confront workers in poverty-wage jobs. Ehrenreich investigated by going "underground" and waitressing in a Denny’s, cleaning rooms in a motel and as a Wal-Mart sales clerk.

A nationally-published writer herself, she comes somewhere from the upper middle of the middle class and discovers during the course of the play the social distance between herself and her new-found co-workers.

Yet despite all her traveling, she goes nowhere. In key ways she merely reproduces the same assumptions about class that she thinks she is critiquing.

Lenin saw intellectuals as the social force that introduced communist ideas to a working class capable of organizing a revolution for workers’ power. Ehrenreich, the intellectual, surveys a working class that panics at the thought of militancy, remains ignorant or dis-believing of its own exploitation and lacks any class consciousness as it greedily shops at Wal-Mart.

The intellectual is stripped of any revolutionary role among workers because workers themselves are nothing but passive consumers of their own exploitation. That is a world view hardly differing from any other capitalist ideologue.

In short, "Nickled and Dimed" is anti-communist, presenting a world view where revolution is completely impractical. Unspoken in the play is the need for Uncle Sam to wrap his protective arm around the working class with liberal legislation. Legislation, not revolution — that’s the theme of her play.

A Comrade

Fare Hike, Pay Cut Gives CEO Bonus

San Francisco’s Director of Transportation Michael Burns received a 28% pay increase to $280,000 (up from $220,000). Drivers were upset because their pay was CUT 7.5% while bus fares were increased, all in the name of balancing the city’s budget.

The bosses rewarded Burns for overseeing the fare hike and pay cut without any fight-back.

Corporations frequently give their CEO’s big raises after saving millions of dollars — and increasing profits — by laying off workers. Burns’ $60,000 salary increase is small potatoes compared to what the bosses netted from the 7.5% wage-cut and fare hike.

It’s our responsibility to expose how, under capitalism, "you get what you pay for" — the bosses reward their henchmen well. When workers run the state, there will be no bosses and everyone will be provided with a quality standard of living.

Red Bus Rider

‘Over-consumption’ vs. ‘More Consumption’?

Concerning the letter (CHALLENGE, 11/19) criticizing the article, "Enviromentalism: A Communist Perspective, A Capitalist Nightmare." The reader’s main criticisms were : (1) The article’s sources are "mainstream" bourgeois sources and are therefore bad; (2) The article says the problem is "over-consumption," a typical bourgeois Green argument that blames consumers for environmental damage and suggests individual, voluntary strategies for change. I disagree.

(1) Communists often mine bourgeois sources for vital facts with which to build their own arguments. This has been true from Marx to Lenin to PLP. The fact is that research on environmental issues is done overwhelmingly by bourgeois intellectuals. Criticizing the article merely for using bourgeois sources is just unreasonable.

(2) Nowhere does the article blame individual consumers as the source of environmental damage or suggest that individual choice is the basis for change. In fact, the first part of this series criticizes Green groups for doing just these things. Yes, the article does stress the existence of relatively high consumption rates among the imperialist nations, but mainly to show that consumption patterns are racist. It also stresses that capitalist production and "consumerism" create much unnecessary waste due to packaging brand competition, built-in premature product obsolescence, advertising costs and a lack of concern for recycling and waste management.

Because of greater efficiency and less waste in a planned communist economy, individual consumption levels will increase for all workers, while the volume of material and labor that goes into each product or service will decrease, just as it did in the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Though misleadingly worded and inadequately explained, I think this is what is meant by the phrase, "As goods and services are socialized, individual consumption levels will decrease."

For instance, socialized housing, entertainment and transportation will simultaneously meet more needs for more people while decreasing the amount of raw material and labor needed to service each person. This material and labor then can be freed up for building recycling plants and many other necessary components of a sustainable communist economy. This isn’t "barracks room communism." It’s just plain communist sense.

A Red-thumbed comrade

Interfaith Meeting Discusses War, Racism

Recently our interfaith Justice & Peace Coalition held its third annual weekend conference. There were many strengths: (1) It was planned and attended by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish people who understand the need to link the struggle against racist oppression of working people directly to the bosses’ imperialist wars and fascist repression; (2) there was significant participation by black working and professional people and a few Hispanic workers; (3) more comrades boldly attempted to raise and explain important aspects of the Party’s line, such as U.S. conquests are not due to an "ultra right" political element bent on "Empire" but derive from the imperialism which both liberal and right-wing politicians must serve to stay in the game as ruling class back-up; (4) Although there were fewer people than last year (having had the illusion we could have prevented the invasion of Iraq, given the nature of the current anti-war movement), the discussions were even more serious and focused on actions. We will have two community-based demonstrations — "JOBS, NOT OCCUPATIONS" — and concerts, vigils and seminars on justice and peace themes. Most important, 20 people signed up for committees to expand this work.

A student reporter from a university near our churches attended and shared the positive assessment but suggested there were not enough young people involved (we agreed and suggested he help to organize youth!). He also said one comrade who spoke against nationalism and for equality had equated the regimes of Mandela and DeKlerk in South Africa. With discussion, he better understood our criticisms of national liberation vs. communist revolution. He and the two chief comrade/organizers also agreed we had not focused enough on building a movement against the racist expansion of the university into our community.

We will have ample opportunity to correct this failing and will meet many new people to share experiences with and struggle to recruit in the coming months.

Gnawing At Imperialism,

Red Churchmouse

Winning $upport For CHALLENGE

I distribute over 200 copies of CHALLENGE each issue by staying in touch with people who like the paper. Each year I start the school term discussing the future. I observe who speaks up and give them CHALLENGE. Towards the end of the school year, I ask them if they would like to continue getting the paper in the summer.

I also offer the paper to adults at the school who express leftist ideas and to people I’ve known a long time. I’ve also been active in the teachers union and distribute it there as well.

Periodically I check if the regular readers want to start distributing it to others. Thirteen regular readers now take extra papers.

I leave 70 copies at various cafes and neighborhood centers where other groups leave their literature. Sometimes the people working there are also interested in the paper.

I feel it’s better to distribute the paper to many people than to sell it to a few. However, I try to have serious discussions with the regular readers about their thoughts on CHALLENGE and revolution, and ask them to support the paper financially. Presently eight people contribute. I’m sure others would donate if I made the time for such discussions.

Red Teacher

CHALLENGE COMMENT: It’s good "Red Teacher" spreads the paper so widely. However, perhaps he/she should ask for a donation after someone has received a few issues, rather than waiting an entire school year, and suggest this idea to those 13 now taking extra papers. Paying for the paper does indicate a certain level of commitment, a realization that CHALLENGE has no big boss advertisers but is dependent on the working class for its ability to publish. Circulation of CHALLENGE should not depend on pitting some limited free distribution against asking for regular donations. And we heartily agree that the writer should make time for more "serious discussions with regular readers" to win them to support the paper financially.

Look Forward to CHALLENGE

The recent article on the history of CHALLENGE-DESAFIO (CD) was important. I remember a movie depicting Russian soldiers at the front during World War I. They were eagerly grabbing "Iskra" or some other communist newspaper. They craved communist analyses of the war and other social events.

I can recall, along with friends and comrades, eagerly awaiting the next issue of C-D. What was Watergate all about? What were the strengths and weakness of the recent mass march? What about that movie everyone’s been seeing? And currently, what’s really happening in Iraq and the Middle East?

We may not be in the same pressure-packed, pre-revolutionary situation as Russian soldiers in 1917, but a lot is going on in the world. I feel today, there’s not the same craving for C-D’s information and perspectives, not the same looking forward to the next issue. Some of our friends just don’t see the paper as providing information and insights that are vital to their lives.

Is this impression correct? Is it true for many members and friends or just some? Is it a problem just for younger people? If there’s some truth to this, then we have a problem. If Party members and friends don’t look forward to the paper and see it as an important part of their lives, they are unlikely to be go-getters in distributing the paper.

I suggest Party leaders, members and readers of the paper weigh in on this issue. Is it that people just don’t read any papers these days? Should we consider other media and forms of communication? I doubt that’s all there is to it, but it’s worth considering. Do we need a greater variety of articles so the paper touches more aspects of people’s lives? Do articles need to be shorter, clearer?

What can we do to ensure that in this period, Party members, friends and co-workers really look forward to the next issue of C-D?

Mid West Comrade

Communist Ideas Answer Fascism

In early November, I attended a conference in the Chicago area on the war and healthcare. I was invited by a friend who reads and subscribes to the ideas in CHALLENGE. He helped organize the conference.

I was delighted to see a multi-racial audience that was heavily working-class. It was so crowded I had to stand.

When the first speaker denounced the war on Iraq, I got carried away but then asked myself why he didn't mention the working class taking state power.

There was a speaker explaining the horrific effects of depleted uranium ammunition the capitalist bosses used in Iraq (including the first Persian Gulf War). A Michigan war vet also gave a great talk on a soldier's view of the war and there was a discussion of the pros and cons of using electoral tactics to oppose the war. I also saw a leaflet from PLP.

Later in the evening, my friend hosted a delicious spaghetti dinner attended by many from the conference. In this relaxed atmosphere, communist ideas were more forcefully discussed.

The last two years some of us have become pessimistic because fascism has become more oppressive, but CHALLENGE has persistently opposed this. There seems to be a small break in the support for fascism.

This event should encourage us to emulate it in advancing the cause of communism.

A red pharmacist

Church Group Hears Need To Win GI’s

I'm a member of a church group involved in many struggles. Recently they've launched a campaign against ROTC and military recruiters on school campuses. Unfortunately the group sees our working-class brothers and sisters in the military as enemies. But the vast majority of youth join the military because of economic, occupational or educational necessity, not because they want to sacrifice their lives to defend U.S. imperialism.

U.S. rulers are impelled to launch their wars to guarantee their control of oil profits. As long as they hold power, they'll find a way to fill their armies with working-class youth and spill barrels of blood to ensure they control the oil.

The U.S. war against Vietnam showed there's always a debate and struggle within the military. Some GI's were won to a racist outlook and participated in massacres of civilians. But others saw the officers as their real class enemy and participated in rebellions and fraggings [killing officers with fragmentary grenades]. This struggle occurs in the military now. Soldiers are asking themselves who is the real enemy, Iraqi workers or the capitalist bosses? We must put forward our answer to that question.

Many young people in the church can understand the role soldiers have played in revolutionary movements. Both in Russia and China, soldiers were crucial to the triumph of the revolutions. Will our working-class youth in the military be won to a fascist outlook in which they murder other workers for bosses' profits or will they be won to an internationalist, communist outlook to join the long-term struggle to liberate the working class from capitalist domination? Dealing with these questions with our friends forms the basis for bigger struggles.

Being involved in a church group is difficult but important. Without us, the bosses' ideas have more chance of taking hold of our working-class youth and repressing a revolutionary outlook. Reformism and an anti-working class outlook prepare the groundwork for fascism. We must see these church groups as "schools for communism" and confront the bosses' ideas and fascist plans. The role of soldiers in imperialist wars and in communist revolutionary movements is crucial. We need to be in that struggle to win it.

A Red in the mass movement

Red Eye On The News


Capitalists murder the most

Most credible estimates confirm that, in the aggregate, white collar and corporate crimes cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars annually — far more than conventional categories of crime such as burglary and robbery….

But corporate crime isn’t just about the money. It’s also about people’s lives. The national murder rate has hovered around 16,000 a year in recent years…. But a respected group of occupational health and safety investigations, led by J. Paul Leigh, a University of California Davis School of Medicine professor, has estimated that in 1992 alone there were 66,971 deaths resulted from job-related injuries and occupational diseases. These numbers do not include the thousands of annual deaths caused by cancers linked to corporate pollution, deaths from defective products, tainted foods and other corporate-related causes. Los Angeles Times, 11/5)

Dems would keep Iraq grab

Invading Iraq…cost so far…400 American lives and (one study suggests) at least 11,000 Iraqi lives….

Democrats are having a field day pointing out the problems, but their suggestions for what to do next are pretty unhelpful….

I’ve asked two Democratic presidential candidates, Richard Gephardt and another who spoke off the record, if it’s really credible to offer the UN and NATO as a solution to Iraq. They harrumph a bit in a way that I interpret to mean: "Maybe not, but it works in front of the cameras." (NYT, 11/19)

Afghan botch, omen for Iraq

The talk of what to do next is sounding rather like Afghanistan. And that’s alarming, because we have flubbed the peace in Afghanistan even more egregiously than in Iraq….

In at least three districts in the southeast, there is no central government representation, and the Taliban had de facto control. In Paktika and Zabul, not only have most schools closed, but the conservative madrasas are regaining strength.

"We’ve operated in Afghanistan for about 15 years," said Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps, the American aid group, "and we’ve never had the insecurity that we have now." (NYT, 11/15)

Afghan women still suffer

I have just read the 47-page Amnesty International report on the status of Afghan women, issued in October. And I still wouldn’t want to be a woman in Afghanistan.

Amnesty found physical violence against women in the home. Underage and forced marriage. Trading of women and girls to pay off debts, Rape and abduction by armed groups. Fear and shame hindering access to desperately needed medical, legal and social assistance. Courts colluding with families to imprison rebellious teenagers.

In parts of Afghanistan, Amnesty reported, women claim that the insecurity and the risk of sexual violence they face make their lives worse than before.

One woman said, "During the Taliban era if a woman sent to market and showed off an inch of flesh, she would have been flogged, now she’s raped." (San Antonio Express-News)

Regime-change goal: help biz

Dwight D. Eisenhower became president in 1953.

On Aug. 19, 1953, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran became the first victim of a C.I.A. coup. Ten months later, on June 27, 1954, President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala became the second….

Several dozen scholars, including leading experts on Iran and Guatemala, gathered in Chicago this month….All agreed that both coups the first that the C.I.A. carried out — had terrible long-term effects,

"It’s quite clear that the 1953 coup cut short a move toward democracy in Iran."

…."The C.I.A. intervention began a ghastly cycle of violence, assassination and torture in Guatemala….It really set the precedent for later intervention in Cuba, British Guiana, Brazil and Chile. (NYT, 11/30)

$ystem = hunger amid food

According to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization….Between 1999 and 2001,…more than 840 million people, or one in seven, went hungry [worldwide]….The number of malnourished people …grew by an average of 4.5 million a year….

The rise in hunger came even though the world produced ample food…. (NYT, 11/26)

Blue collars hung out to dry

Almost one in six manufacturing jobs has disappeared. The number of industrial workers in America has fallen from 17.3 million to 14.6 million. Unlike previous recessions, when factories downsized and then rehired, many now are closing their doors for good, either going bust or moving production to the developing world where costs are far lower. Economists agree it will be difficult to slow the decline, let alone reverse it.

The social costs are enormous. Unemployment in Buffalo, a once proud steelmaking city and trading post with Canada, is 10.2%, well above the national average. The city is bankrupt and in the hands of a control board. Schools are closing and Main Street is a forlorn picture of boarded up shops….

Ford is in the process of cutting 12,000 jobs in North America….Levi’s, an American icon, will no longer produce clothing in the U.S. Motorola…has already cut thousands of jobs. ( British Guardian Weekly, 12/3)

Brass: Smash Iraq to save it

American efforts to prevent attacks continued Tuesday, when American fighter jets bombed suspected guerilla positions near Tikrit, in central Iraq. Commanders called in AC-130 gunships, A-10 attack planes and Apache helicopter gunships, as well as Air Force F-16 and F-15E fighter-bombers with 500-pound bombs, the military said, in the largest bombardment in the area since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1….

General Swannack said…we are not going to fight this one with one hand tied behind our backs." Echoing a historical quote from the British military, the general said the Army was going to "use a sledgehammer to smash a walnut." (NYT, 11/19)