January 7, 2004

This is a three-week issue of CHALLENGE. We will resume a bi-weekly schedule in 2004. We hope all our readers, friends and comrades have a revolutionary NEW YEAR!

The CIA Got Their Former Agent, But War Rages On

The capture of Saddam Hussein is being touted as a “major victory” for the Bush-Blair-Rumsfeld gang. But, like previous “victories” in Iraq, it could easily turn into its opposite. Right after the murder of Saddam’s two sons, we heard the same “victory” song from the White House. The British daily The Guardian (12/15), says this won’t end the attacks on the U.S. forces, quoting Toby Dodge, an Iraqi specialist at Warwick Univ. and the International Institute of Strategic Studies: “I think [the capture] will mean increases in attacks of U.S. forces over the next few weeks to show they are independent of Saddam.”
The fighting will continue because Saddam’s capture can’t resolve the growing contradictions sharpened by the U.S-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq.
While Bush and the liberals continue to wrangle over the tactics of extending the U.S. empire there, the U.S. military is conducting a vicious reign of anti-civilian violence. Unable to stop the expanding guerrilla attacks against its soldiers, the military has resorted to a version of a plan that already backfired in Vietnam and is now backfiring in Gaza and the West Bank.
The plan consists of “wrapping entire villages in barbed wire,” “imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas” and “destroying buildings where suspected guerrillas are suspected of planning or mounting attacks” (New York Times, 12/7).
This “plan,” which amounts to nothing less than terrorism against whole populations, has been used for years against Palestinian workers by the fascist Israeli army. The Israelis in turn got it from the U.S. “Strategic Hamlet” scheme in Vietnam, which herded entire villages into concentration-camp conditions.
Empire-building has always contained a large element of indiscriminate violence against civilians. Two thousand years ago, one historian wrote of the Romans in Britain: “They create a wasteland and call it peace.”
However, neither the U.S. nor the Israeli military is bringing peace to the areas they terrorize. Both groups of bosses are creating the conditions for anti-imperialist “people’s war” against them. The key missing ingredient is a revolutionary communist party in Iraq and the Middle East capable of directing mass hatred of the imperialists into a long-range struggle for state power. The political disarray of Palestinian and Iraqi workers is due in large measure to the collapse of the old communist movement and the rise of dead-end religious fervor and nationalism as organizing strategies.
But slowly and, perhaps, more quickly as time goes by, the imperialists’ atrocities are paving the way for the rise of a new communist movement. The U.S. military’s racist contempt for Iraqi workers is as disgusting as it is blatant. The New York Times (12/7) quotes a U.S. company commander as saying: “You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force — force, pride, and saving face.” This fascist oaf obviously doesn’t know enough history to realize that 1,000 years ago, some Arab countries had public lighting and sewage infrastructure while European countries were still in the Dark Ages.
For all their firepower, economic clout and political influence, U.S. rulers seem to have learned nothing. One of the more grotesque events during the Vietnam War was a comment made by a U.S. officer after his company had devastated a village and massacred most of its inhabitants: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Now we get the 2003 version of this cynical absurdity, from the brilliant mind of U.S. Colonel Nathan Sassaman: “With a heavy dose of fear and violence and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince [the Iraqis] that we are here to help them” (NYT, Dec. 7).
Terror and bribery remain the imperialists’ only two methods of relating to the populations over whom they would rule. They don’t have enough money to bribe everybody, and the more people they kill, the more they will have to keep on killing. The number of U.S. soldiers now in Iraq is a drop in the bucket compared to the number the bosses will eventually send to conquer and hold Persian Gulf oil, not only in Iraq but also in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. One hundred thirty thousand U.S. military personnel are now in Iraq, but only 56,000 of them are combat troops. As Le Monde Diplomatique points out (Dec. 2003), New York City alone has 39,000 cops. The present ratio of U.S. troops to Iraqi workers doesn’t exactly favor the U.S. Therein lies the “dirty little” secret explaining why liberals like Hillary Clinton and the New York Times now clamor for a deal with French, German, and Russian bosses that will spread the occupation burden around.
In the last analysis, the U.S. will keep sending troops to Iraq and other Persian Gulf countries. The U.S. no longer has real allies, only rivals with whom it can strike occasional tactical deals. The main outlook is for war, war and more war, regardless of the party in the White House.
Imperialism breeds war and terror. A new communist movement must be built so that our class can take the offensive in the face of mounting imperialist terror and eventually launch a peoples’ war for state power. The imperialists are sure to do their job by continuing to spread mayhem. We must do ours by helping the PLP grow wherever it can.

Saddam Was a Paid Agent of the U.S. Intelligence Services

The U.S. government began building up Saddam 44 years ago, trained him, helped install him in power, armed him, supplied him with the ingredients for bio-terror weapons and gave him military assistance during the Iran-Iraq war. From 1959, when Saddam was 22, until 1963 when he was part of a CIA-inspired coup approved by President John F. Kennedy, Saddam was a paid CIA agent in Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo and then back in Baghdad where he “presided over mass killings” of communists and became “head of...the secret intelligence apparatus of the Baath Party.” (UPI, 4/11/03)
• 1979: “Saddam seizes power with U.S. approval, moves allegiance from Soviets to USA in Cold War.” (; Palast is author of N. Y. Times bestseller, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”)
• 1980: Saddam “invades Iran [now ruled by anti-U.S. Ayatollah Khomeini] with U.S. encouragement and arms.” (Palast)
• 1980’s: President Reagan removes Saddam’s regime from official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, establishes full diplomatic relations with Iraq and sends Donald Rumsfeld twice as special envoy to Saddam to negotiate for U.S. corporate suppliers.
• 1984: U.S. Commerce Dept. issues export licenses for chemical and biological agents that can be used as weapons of mass destruction. Firms doing business with Saddam include AT&T, Bechtel, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, IBM. (1994 report by Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs)
• During Iran-Iraq war, “CIA regularly sent a team to Saddam to deliver battlefield aid...Iraq’s armed forces.” (UPI)
• 1987-1988: “U.S. warships destroy Iranian oil platforms in Gulf and break Iranian blockade of Iraq shipping lanes.” (Palast)
• 1988: “The CIA...provided military assistance to Saddam’s ferocious February...assault on Iranian blinding Iranian radar for three days.” (UPI)
• “Nearly 15 years ago [was]...a period in which American presidents...treated him [Saddam] as a valuable ally.” (N. Y. Times editorial, 12/16)
Without the U.S. butchers — every U.S. president from Kennedy to Reagan to Bush, Sr. — Saddam Hussein could never have been transformed into the mass murderer he became.
For more info on Saddam/U.S. connection visit our website at

Communist Wins Big Political Victory in D.C. Metro Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 4 — In the shadow of the White House, in the midst of imperialist war and the fascist build-up of Homeland Security, PLP member Mike Golash received 1,200 votes for president of 4,100 cast in the 7,500-member Amalgamated Transportation Workers Union (ATU) Local 689. This may have been the most union votes for a real, OPEN communist in 50 years, in the heart of the capital of the imperialist world, in the face of heavy red-baiting.
His campaign linked the economic crisis at home to the imperialist war in Iraq, and advanced the long-term communist objective of workers’ revolution against the entire system of bosses. The campaign encouraged workers to read and distribute CHALLENGE and get involved in the PLP’s revolutionary activities.
The campaign’s main victory saw several workers become more involved with PLP, and a solid group of mainly black workers understand the severity of the crisis of capitalism and prepared to defend and give communist leadership. Mike received the votes of probably a thousand black workers in this 80% black local, showing that workers will reject nationalism when they see a revolutionary alternative that represents their class interests. In fact, it was the unity of black and white workers in the 1966 NYC transit strike that helped change PLP from a party supporting “progressive nationalism” to one opposing all nationalism as a bosses’ ideology.
Mike has been a bus operator and union activist for 28 years. He served as shop steward and executive board member for many years and three years ago was elected Financial Secretary of 689, the Local’s #2 position. He organized a core of five other workers to conduct a campaign for the union presidency involving over 50 drivers, station attendants, cleaners and mechanics in the city’s Metro bus and rail system. They focused on the need to fight the bosses on several fronts: maintain health insurance and pension viability; reduce racist pay differentials between older and younger union members; and resist the increased harassment, contracting out and other management attacks.
Mike won 28% of the vote, demonstrating mass confidence in militant, communist and anti-racist leadership that workers have come to know and trust over decades of struggle, day in and day out.
Those Metro workers who do not yet fully appreciate the gravity of the current economic and political crises may find out soon. Many have been lulled by receiving a 4% raise while keeping their health insurance and pension benefits largely intact over the last three years. However, the coming contract negotiations threaten more serious consequences.
Metro is already crying about operating deficits. The last contract cost Metro $40 million in increased labor costs; increased pension contributions over the next three years may exceed $100 million, with 12% increases in health costs as well. While some smoke-and-mirrors accounting tricks may reduce the pension liability, it will be virtually impossible for the union to improve, or even maintain the current contract without a major battle.
These immediate economic concerns reflect endless imperialist war, worldwide economic crises, and intensifying fascist repression at home. They show that capitalism cannot meet the needs of our class and point to the inevitable failure of reform movements.
Our coming task is to consolidate the key members of the campaign committee into a committed party organization that raises the consciousness of the workers through the circulation and discussion of CHALLENGE. This will lead more workers to understand the critical need to apply our revolutionary strategy to this spring’s contract negotiations, and provide a militant alternative to the sellout union leadership.
We can bring a bold line to all Metro workers by recruiting a number of workers in this vital basic industry, increasing the circulation of CHALLENGE and building deeper ties with key workers. More could have been accomplished had the local Party organization taken a more aggressive and collective approach to the campaign, assisting the Metro workers. While we have weaknesses to overcome, the future is bright for the communist movement at Metro!

Nationalism Another Bosses’ Tool
Used vs. Workers

The first article in CHALLENGE’s series on the general line of the PLP dealt with the need for a revolutionary communist party to lead the international working class in the historic struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The next two exposed racist super-exploitation and racist ideology as key components of bosses’ state power. Now we turn to racism’s deadly twin, nationalism.
Ideological and practical concessions to capitalism eventually killed the old communist movement, not superior economies or imperialist armies. Nationalism was a cancer lying at the root of all the right opportunist concessions that doomed the old movement.
Like racism, nationalism was born with capitalism. This completely bourgeois concept offers nothing positive to workers and oppressed people. It has no place in a revolutionary communist movement. Smashing it will require a long and difficult uphill battle but is necessary and can be won.
Nationalism means unity with the bosses. Capitalists, workers, farmers, students and intellectuals are urged to unite around the “national interest,” which usually means securing the bosses’ profits. In the U.S. today, workers are bombarded with the lie that “foreign workers are stealing our jobs,” like the nationalist “Stand Up for [U.S.] Steel” campaign pushed by the United Steel Workers union, or “Buy American.” These nationalist ideas pit workers of different nations against each other, which ultimately lead to more fascism and war. Nationalism ties workers to their exploiters and is the essence of the capitalist value system and the opposite of an internationalist working-class outlook.
Take the U.S. After 9/11, Bush & Co. tried to drown us in an orgy of flag-waving nationalism. They invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq. But as CHALLENGE constantly shows, the rulers’ “national interest” in Iraq is the control of Persian Gulf oil, to use as a political and economic weapon to dominate the world for the foreseeable future.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide may see that the nationalism of U.S. rulers, the world’s biggest oppressors, is bad. However, many still cling to the illusion that the nationalism of oppressed people can be “progressive” and lead to liberation. History exposes this as a terrible mistake.

Fight Racism and

Consider the fight against racism in the U.S. The old communist movement believed that nationalism had two aspects. The “bad” nationalists, for example, were racist fascists in the KKK and the bosses who backed them. The “good” nationalists supported carving out a “Black Nation” in five southern states, the so-called Black Belt.
The Communist Party USA led the fight against racism and segregation, organized integrated unions and generally followed Marx’s dictum that white workers could never be free as long as black workers were in chains. At the same time, it was weak on nationalism, claimed to be the “real” U.S. patriots, and supported the “Black Belt Nation.” Had this republic ever been born, its class structure would have mirrored the boss-worker model of existing U.S. society.
The old communist movement didn’t believe that workers could be won to fight for communism, so they had to settle for less. They viewed racism as “the Black question” rather than an attack on all workers. By embracing “good” nationalism, they fostered the illusion that black workers had something to gain by changing a white boss for a black one.
The black republic never emerged, but the rulers found ways to exploit this opening the old movement had given them. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, tremendous class battles rocked the U.S. — sit-ins for civil rights, strikes, ghetto rebellions and increasingly violent protests against U.S. imperialism’s Vietnam genocide. The militancy of black workers was the key and most dangerous from the bosses’ point of view.
Nationalism rode to the rulers’ rescue. Workers’ anger and revolutionary aspirations were misled into demands for more black cops, black politicians, black corporate executives, and black voter registration. The CPUSA and other fake leftists in the mass movements sang “Amen.”

How PLP Broke with All Forms of Nationalism

In this period, our Party made a number of ideological breakthroughs, including that all forms of nationalism had to go. We attempted to sharpen the struggle against racism from a revolutionary communist perspective. We later concluded that socialism, in which we had believed until 1982, was another opportunist error, which inevitably reversed the titanic accomplishments of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions. We made many mistakes, but we fought hard for our new line and achieved some success.
Every nationalist “demand” mentioned above has been achieved. All major U.S. police forces are now integrated. As PLP predicted at the time, black cops now have a blank check to terrorize and murder black, Hispanic, Asian and white workers and youth. Black politicians are mayors, governors, in Congress and hold cabinet posts. They helped the liberal Clinton implement “Workfare,” the most racist economic attack against workers in years. Giant corporations from Maytag to Time-Warner/AOL and American Express have had black CEOs in recent years. Colin Powell and Condi Rice serve as key lieutenants for Bush’s murderous foreign policy. Black people on the whole can vote almost anywhere in the U.S. (except Florida, where Bush’s brother Jeb helped the Republicans steal the 2000 presidential election by using the racist state police to prevent black workers from voting for Gore).
With all these nationalist “reforms,” racist unemployment remains double for blacks what it is for whites, and the wage gap between black and white workers continues to grow. Over two million are in prison, about two-thirds of them young black and Latin men. Forty-five million Americans have no health insurance, public education is a farce and nearly 90% of U.S. workers have no union benefits. And Afghanistan and Iraq are just the opening shots in a series of wars the rulers are planning over coming decades. Black and Latin workers will suffer very high casualty rates in these imperialist adventures.

Nationalism Helped Destroy Old Communist Movement

In 1969, PLP published an article entitled “Revolutionaries Must Fight Nationalism.” At the time, we severely underestimated the consequences of the old Communist movement’s defeat. We have only recently come to see the magnitude of this historic setback. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others achieved many heroic feats paving the road to communism. Yet none of them ever made the decisive break from nationalism.
Socialism in the Soviet Union maintained the wage system. New Democracy, as Mao called it in China, promoted an alliance among workers, peasants, and the “progressive” section of Chinese bosses. The communist movement supported “workers’ control” of capitalist factories in the former Yugoslavia and any number of land reform schemes in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Nationalism contributed mightily to this defeat and still misleads billions in the U.S. and around the world. We shouldn’t wring our hands in despair any more than we should deny reality. Revolutionary communists must still fight nationalism. This fight will be long and very hard, but we can win.μ
(In future articles: How nationalism destroys workers’ lives today from Baghdad to Beijing and how the world’s workers and communists must dig in to fight it over the long haul struggling against all forms of bourgeois ideologies, including the so-called “left-wing” nationalism.)

Boeing’s New Jet A Trojan Horse To Screw Workers

Workers have no horse to back in the battle over “corporate governance” being waged in the Boeing boardroom. But you can bet your bottom dollar the ruling class is disciplining its rogue elements as a prelude to coming after us. Boeing’s new CEO Harry Stonecipher and commercial chief Mulally are recommending Everett, Wash. as the site for Boeing’s new 7E7 assembly plant. But there are strings attached. According to the Seattle Times (12/7), “Worker support for a new production strategy is a key factor.”

A Boss Is a Boss
Is a Boss

The press seemed surprised by Stonecipher’s commitment to the 7E7 commercial jet. He was supposed to be a ruthless cost cutter, interested only in war production, unlike the ousted and “more congenial” Phil Condit. “I’m [described as] more aggressive,” Stonecipher said. “I’ll shoot you and ask your name later. Phil will ask your name and then shoot you.”
Having a viable commercial industry is vital to maintaining military aerospace supremacy. This year, for the first time, European Airbus will deliver more planes than Boeing, and could continue to dominate for years. Since January, Airbus orders represent $29.5 billion in revenues, more than double Boeing’s $13.5 billion. Airbus’ backlog of civil orders worth $142 billion handily beats Boeing’s $90 billion. Boeing, with only two competitive jet lines remaining, must launch the new plane if it wants to stay in the commercial business.
Recommending the Everett assembly site “is linked to a broader transformation of Puget Sound production lines for at least two other planes, the 777 and the 767.” (Seattle Times, 12/7) The 767 line will soon end its commercial life and be used solely for Air Force aerial tankers. This “transformation” mirrors the strategy advocated by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, a government agency charged with planning the wartime mobilization of U.S. industry.

No Secret Negotiations, Just ‘Informal Discussions’

This same article reports Boeing has been in secret “talks with [its] union for the past few months.” The company wants all workforce changes — including more “flexible” work rules and a “super-efficient, just-in-time parts supply system” (read: outsourcing) — in place by 2007. Stonecipher and Mulally are afraid that the union, let alone a furious rank-and-file, won’t buy into these changes if they locate the plant out of state. The 7E7 masks the company’s plan for transformation into what it calls a “global lean enterprise.”
Boeing workers who questioned Machinist’s union District President Mark Blondin about these talks were told they were only “informal discussions.” The last “informal discussions” ended up with our union campaigning for taxpayer bribes to get the new assembly plant, including a $3.2 billion Boeing tax break for the new assembly plant, workers’ compensation curtailments and huge, racist cuts in unemployment insurance. Blondin’s call for a “new partnership” with Stonecipher didn’t do anything to calm our fears.

Only Revolutionary Politics Will Do

The unions, with their trade union politics of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” are not up to the task of defending our class in the face of “war transformation.” As we intensify our struggle within the union, we must keep our eye on the ball.
Corporate scandals, war profiteering and workforce transformation to better suit the bosses’ imperialist ambitions are hitting home for many industrial workers. There’s a widespread feeling that something is fundamentally wrong, not only with our jobs, but with the whole society.
“For the first time, I’m really afraid,” said a friend who’s not particularly close politically. “I just don’t see how we can survive as a society.” Workers can’t, if we allow capitalism to hold sway. Our most important job remains to expand our base of revolutionary-minded workers and the readership of our revolutionary communist press in the plants.
Preparing for Constant War:
‘Coporate Governance’ = Disciplining the Ruling Class
The U.S. ruling class can no longer afford to allow each company to go for the fast buck at the expense of imperialism’s long-range interests. This helps to explain the big shake-up in U.S. corporate leadership.
In early December, 14 U.S. chief executives lost their jobs, says the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. Thirty-nine percent of CEOs leaving their positions last year were fired or forced to retire, up from 25% in 2001, according to the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. This year’s number will be higher. The sudden changes at Delta Airlines, the top-level tussle at Disney over the future of CEO Michael Eisner and the forced retirement of Boeing CEO Phil Condit are three recent examples.
Has U.S. capitalism suddenly developed a conscience regarding “corporate governance.” Do pigs fly? Although each case has its particular scandal, the general thrust is the ruling class’ need to discipline loose cannons. Conditions demand it.
The laws of capitalism force each company to maximize its rate of return — grab the biggest profit possible. But maintaining U.S. imperialism’s worldwide dominance requires looking beyond an individual company’s bottom line. The Iraq war shows that the armed force necessary to control strategic Mid-East oil requires huge expenditures of economic and political capital. Meanwhile, competing imperialists are not standing still, requiring even more outlays. The current hoopla over “corporate governance” reflects this struggle between short and long-range interests — a contradiction permeating every pore of society.

Boeing’s CEO Crashes;
Pentagon Reined In

The clash between short-term profits and U.S. imperialism’s strategic interests is particularly sharp among war producers. Boeing’s ouster of CEO Condit on December 1, on the heels of the Air Force tanker-lease scandal, is a particularly clear example. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lewis Platt will replace him as chairperson. Boeing’s Harry Stonecipher was brought out of retirement to fill in as CEO after first choice 3M CEO W. James McNerney, Jr. declined — for now.
The tanker scandal also claimed the jobs of Boeing’s CFO Michael Sears and the head of the company’s missile program, Darleen Druyun. Ironically, Condit had fired them both the week before because Sears had offered Druyun a job while she was in charge of the tanker deal at the Pentagon.
The failed tanker deal sealed Condit’s fate, even more than his womanizing and extravagant tastes. And the Pentagon couldn’t sign the deal because the foreign policy establishment, centered in the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), disapproved. The Washington Post and the New York Times, two key mouthpieces of that establishment, killed the deal with constant exposés revealing every sordid detail of this shady deal. The Los Angeles Times called for “a bipartisan coalition in Congress to hold real hearings — with subpoena power — on how to re-institute accountability at the Pentagon.” Senator and CFR member John McCain (R-Ariz.) led the charge in Congress.
Condit, under pressure from Europe’s Airbus and a general crisis of overproduction in aerospace, had opted for the fast buck with this “Enronesque” leasing deal. The CFR feared that the sight of greedy corporate pigs at the public trough would only further undermine support for the bosses’ already expensive imperialist plans. The Pentagon and their corporate partners had to be reined in.
The Boeing board got the message. Boeing Board members Rozanne Ridgeway, Kenneth Duberstein and Senior Boeing V.P. Thomas R. Pickering are all CFR members. Duberstein and Pickering sit on its Board of Directors. The Boeing board commissioned another CFR director, former Sen. Warren Rudman, to investigate the tanker affair.
The CFR, which mainly emerged after World War II with grants from the Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller foundations, continues to guide U.S. imperialism in the interests of the country’s biggest bosses — Chase, Citigroup, ExxonMobil, etc. Platt and Stonecipher are connected to this group through interlocking directorates and ruling class foundations. Workers aren’t in this mix; it’s just about discipline amongst our enemies.
“Oh, what a wicked web they weave,” said an inspector when presented with these facts. “We need a radical change in direction.” He’s not the only one beginning to question the assumptions of capitalism.

Fight Militarization of Health Care At
APHA Convention

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. November 20 — About 10,000 delegates attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. They met against a backdrop of war, a growing crisis of healthcare cutbacks, 43 million uninsured, and attempts to re-tool public health into an arm of the military focused on bio-terrorism.
The “liberal” APHA leadership wants to collaborate with U.S. imperialism, trading traditional public health work, like childhood immunizations, for military work, like smallpox vaccinations. In contrast, people cheered wildly when a South African AIDS activist said the greatest threat to world health was the Bush administration.
PLP delegates sold CHALLENGE and distributed a leaflet opposing the imperialist war in Iraq, the fascist Homeland Security police-state, racist health cuts and exposed how electing Democrats is jumping from the frying pan into the fire. We participated in building a demonstration against the new Medicare prescription/privatization law, sponsored by local groups we work in, and were warmly received for distributing a leaflet protesting the appearance of Tommy Thompson, notorious for kicking millions off welfare as Wisconsin Governor.
We helped pass a resolution opposing subordinating public health to Homeland Security, and we’re starting to push specific implementations, including actions at next year’s meeting in Washington, D.C. We are also becoming more active in APHA Sections.
A core issue in APHA, as well as in groups representing patients, health workers and unions, is the demand for universal, single-payer healthcare. Our challenge is to expose how the liberal politicians’ healthcare “reforms” are mainly meant to serve U.S. imperialism.
Insurance companies want a “universal” healthcare system of government vouchers and stripped-down benefits for the uninsured, which would later become the norm for employer-paid health benefits. Private employers want to shed the costs of workers’ healthcare, to cut wages and benefits and increase profits, allowing them to keep pace with their imperialist rivals worldwide.
In this period of open-ended war and worldwide productive over-capacity, the capitalists will use their government to severely ration health care. They only want us healthy enough to work long hours for low pay, and to fight their wars.
Our challenge in the fight for equal and quality healthcare is to expose the role of the ruling class, build a mass base for PLP and fight for political leadership of the masses.

Teaching Anti-racism and Class Consciousness

I use M&M candies with my high school students to show that racism is the cutting edge of the attack on all workers and that in discussing “race” we must discuss class, and vice versa.
We start by quoting George Bush, Sr. who, like all U.S. Presidents, refused to collect class-based government statistics. “We will not,” he declared, “be divided by class!”
Then I hand out cards. Green ones are marked “79%,” blue ones “73%” and red ones “38%.” The students sign each card and then put them in a bag. A drawing determines a winner for each color and each winner gets their percentage points of M&M’s.
For the green card winner, I pull out a clear plastic bottle measuring 1 cup that is 79% full of M&M’s. It’s almost three handfuls. The blue one (with 73%) is only a shade smaller. But with the red ones, the class goes wild.
It’s 38% full of M&M’s alright, but it’s a half-gallon-size bottle! There are more M&M’s in this bottle than the other two put together, leading to my first point: when comparing percentages, we always must ask, “a percentage of what — what quantity or volume?” If we don’t ask that question, we can get manipulated.
Then I show a bar-graph from a textbook called “Teaching Economics as if People Mattered,” published by a pro-union group, United for a Fair Economy. The graph shows the “Percentage of Families whose savings would run out in three months or less” — 79% of African-American families find themselves living on the edge, 73% of Latinos and 38% of white families are in the same situation.
I ask the students to reproduce the graph and answer questions about it. Which race has the most poverty-threatened families? Which has the fewest? How does this make you feel? Can you tell how many families are threatened? Can you think of a strategy to change the situation?
Next I display a bar-graph using the same design as the union one. It shows, “Families whose savings would run out in three months or less.” It deals in actual numbers. There are 30 million white (38% of the total white family population), 9 million African-American (79% of the total black population), and 6.5 million Latino families (73% of total Latinos) living in or near poverty.
Again I ask the students to reproduce the graph and answer the same questions. Almost always a few students have difficulty with this. It seems to contradict everything they’ve been told about “race” and poverty. It seems to contradict the first bar-graph.
In fact, both graphs are accurate and both are needed to show the complete picture. Showing one without the other distorts the picture. Whites are encouraged to think that poverty is not a major issue for them, while black and Latino families wonder what hope there is in a situation so overwhelmingly an issue of “race.” Unwittingly, the liberal “Teaching Economics as if People Mattered” reproduces Bush’s dictum — “We will not be divided by class.”
At this point, I can introduce the category of class in our analysis of racism and society. Other lessons build up a clearer picture of class but in this one I demonstrate how powerful we feel when we begin to see our size, and picture our potential unity.
In fact, including the 4 million Asian, Pacific Ocean and Native American families living in or near poverty, the total becomes some 50 million families. That’s a massive chunk of humanity. And with size comes the possibility of power — a possibility that the liberal view hides by exclusively emphasizing the difference between blacks and whites. A class analysis showing the effects of racism on all workers at the same time, puts the size and potential strength of our class fair and square in front of our nose.

California Grocery Strike: Class Struggle Sharpens Political Debate

My church’s Peace and Justice Committee visited a nearby supermarket picket line. Several dozen of us brought refreshments for the 50 strikers and held a short rally. Contradictions soon emerged.
The minister gave a mini-sermon about the strikers being the “salt of the earth.” He passed a microphone around for church people to tell why they had come. People said things like, “I support your struggle for health care,” and, “I want you to know that other people care.” Then someone said, “I’m here because when workers like you organize as a class, you’re the only ones with the power to bring peace and justice to the world.” Immediately the minister took the microphone back to say that “the real power is God.”
That’s how liberal religious leaders sabotage class struggle while pretending to support it. Instead of strikers and supporters learning lessons about workers’ power, they are led to seek peace and reconciliation with the bosses in the name of “God.”
Only a couple of us were discussing how the war economy relates to unionized workers’ struggle to retain health benefits. Our church group marched all last winter against the Iraq war, often with signs saying “Health Care Not Warfare.” Self-critically, I underestimated the depths of liberal opportunism, and assumed that the committee leaders would raise anti-war politics on a picket line.
On the positive side, some of my church friends were joining workers for the first time. One guy brought his guitar to lead social-justice hymns. He responded to requests from Latino/a strikers and sang Spanish-language songs of struggle, including one with the chorus, “No basta rezar” (“Praying isn’t enough”). A woman from our group was inspired to start singing the Internationale. Very few people (strikers or church people) knew this communist anthem, but our guitarist now wants to learn it.
Class struggle can truly be a school for communism. The liberal clergy are building support for “low-wage” workers (janitors, farmworkers, hotel employees). They didn’t support the transit mechanics strike because the workers “made too much”! Their goal of a so-called “living wage” is really supporting a subsistence wage, capitalism’s hallmark.
The main goal of these clergy is to convince the most exploited to trust capitalism and liberal reform, and support this racist warmaking system. My pacifist minister didn’t utter a peep against the war at the picket line. We need to be active in this movement to advance the opposite ideas among people in our churches and to the workers we are mobilized to support.

California Comrade

Immigrants’ Anti-Racist March Challenges Nationalists’ ‘Patriotic’ Strategy

LOS ANGELES, CA., Dec. 12 — About 500 workers from the garment, construction, and other industries joined with black, white and Latino high school and college students in a militant march in downtown LA, protesting racism and exploitation.
They were answering the racism of California’s Democratic and Republican politicians’ revoking SB60, the law giving drivers’ licenses to undocumented workers. The march went further than the nationalist organizations’ call for a one-day “Latino boycott”, publicized by some Spanish-language TV and radio stations.
The majority of immigrant rights organizations, unions, TV stations and churches opposed the work-stoppage/boycott, and especially a march. But thousands of workers didn’t go to work. Hundreds participated in the march, organized by garment workers. Many high school students also organized walkouts and marches at their schools. PLP participated in these activities, distributing thousands of leaflets and hundreds of CHALLENGES, linking racist attacks on all workers to the war in Iraq.
Last week, thousands of workers confronted garment bosses, demanding the day off for the stoppage/boycott. They organized committees and lists of potential backers of the stoppage while bosses called shop meetings to block support for it. Some bosses threatened to fire those not coming to work. Some small garment shops closed for the day.
As the day approached, dozens of workers, mostly women, took leaflets written by co-workers to their factories. Others requested leaflet distributions at their shops. Some workers boldly reproduced leaflets right inside their bosses’ offices. In the fever of class struggle, workers develop many forms of struggle.
These days reflected the potential to create many new CHALLENGE networks to build a mass base with deep ties and communist ideas, and to convert these battles into sharper political confrontations between workers and bosses. This can produce the strength that will eventually eliminate the bosses and their fascist system. Although many of the factory fights were for immediate reforms, they also reflected hatred of exploitation and racism in general. The struggle within the Party was sharpened, aimed at advancing our communist ideas amid the mass push for these reforms.
Meanwhile, the bosses are debating what to do about the country’s 7 to 11 million undocumented workers. One section — which profits directly from this exploitation and don’t have interests abroad — wants to keep undocumented immigrants legally marginalized, super-exploited and deportable. Other bosses, state-wide and nationally, advocate a long-range policy legalizing the majority. This section is concerned with maintaining the entire U.S. imperialist system, not just with immediate profits. These liberal bosses are the most dangerous because they pose as “friends and defenders” of the workers. They’re also racist super-exploiters, but with a twist.
Since 9/11, U.S. rulers are conducting permanent war. For them a stable, passive and loyal workforce is crucial. Immigrants are vital to many industries in California and elsewhere.
Permanent war also means maintaining an enormous military force worldwide. U.S. bosses see the 11 million undocumented workers, plus their millions of children and legalized relatives, as a huge source of military recruitment and exploitation. They need these workers and their children to defend imperialism, such as the current war to control Iraq’s oil.
To achieve these goals, the bosses use their politicians like Gil Cedillo and the other Democrats, as well as organizations like Hermandad Mexicana Nacional and broadcast announcers, to pressure the politicians for small changes helping the exploited masses, but “within the limits of the system.” For example, Cedillo and the Democrats agreed with Schwarzenegger to vote against SB60 if he would accept a new law granting licenses to immigrants with certain Republican changes (full police background checks). Passage of such legislation is probable.
The bosses’ plans mean destruction and death for millions of our class worldwide. But last week’s activities demonstrate great potential to change this. Our unity, organization and determination are indispensable to organizing a communist revolution that will destroy this murderous, racist system with its exploitation and wars. Our fight is for a new communist world without racism, borders, passports, money and a privileged few bosses, one that produces to meet the needs of our working class.

Workers Fight Layoffs, Take Over Baltimore School Board

BALTIMORE, Dec. 10 — “Lay off the Board! Lay off the Board!” chanted clapping, stomping protestors as they took over the nine seats reserved for Baltimore City School Board members and filled the large room where the Board had scheduled its public meeting. Facing 700 announced layoffs — and more to come —hundreds of angry teachers, other school workers, students and community activists were blocked by aggressive police from entering the supposedly “public” session. Cops violently grabbed some of those already inside, shoving them out of the building. Many protestors picketed and chanted outside, banging on the Board room windows.
Board members were prevented for an hour from starting their public hearing. Protest sponsors included the Baltimore Teachers Union, AFSCME Local 44 (custodians and cafeteria workers), the City Union of Baltimore (secretaries) and the community-based organization ACORN.
The layoffs are being blamed on “mismanagement, ” causing a $70 million “deficit.” But under capitalism, the bosses control every aspect of society, including education. The entire genocidal decline of the city’s school system, now overwhelmingly black, was planned by Baltimore’s ruling class. The City Schools CEO is Bonnie Copeland, formerly the education director for the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), composed of the area’s 100 largest businesses, the elite of finance and industry. The other powerful force is Johns Hopkins, the local health industry giant and Baltimore’s largest employer. CEO Copeland hired an outside financial “expert” from Hopkins, Robert Neall, who was given leave by Hopkins to come in and orchestrate the layoffs.
School employees are angry that it’s our heads rolling, not those of Board members and officials who mismanaged school system funds, causing the deficit. But the ruling class itself is responsible for this, not merely these officials, the same way they were responsible years back for gutting our retirement system.
That earlier cutback can be traced to a think tank — the Metropolitan Center for Planning and Research — jointly sponsored by the GBC and Johns Hopkins.The Metro Center Task Force at that time “recommended” three goals for Maryland: (1) lowering wages; (2) lowering pollution standards for industry; and (3) lowering the state’s budget for public services.
The bosses then backed Democrat Harry Hughes for Governor who pledged to implement these “proposals.” Hughes was elected and his first act was to slash teachers’ pensions. The bosses say jump; their politicians ask how high?.
The educational genocide in Baltimore’s schools began over 30 years ago, and fits neatly into the bosses’ need for a large pool of semi-skilled and unskilled workers competing for low-wage jobs. In 1968, the majority of the city’s students were white. Its schools were the fourth highest of Maryland’s 24 districts in money per student. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King and ensuing rebellions that year, Baltimore’s real estate moguls scared white families into selling their homes at rock-bottom prices and leaving town.
By 1974 the majority of students were African American and the city was now fourth from the bottom in per-pupil spending for education. This racism hurt the 10% remaining white students as well — the highest dropout rates have been in poor white neighborhoods. Overall, 9th-graders in the zone schools in recent years have had average reading skills at the 5th-grade level, meaning half the students read below that!
This, of course, supplies Baltimore’s bosses with workers for the 65% of area jobs that are unskilled. Their plan is working. They’re ensuring today’s class structure for the next generation. The rulers’ schools help control the working class, especially African American families through this institutional racism.
Similar plans exist in other major cities, St. Louis for one, where a private educational company has been given the school system, to run it for the bosses.
Maryland’s Thornton Commission has said that Baltimore City schools need $250 million more annually to begin helping students achieve on state tests a level equivalent to those in richer counties. Just four years of such racist short-changing adds up to robbery of a billion dollars. Despite legislation and court orders to add $2,600 per student, little has happened.
Meanwhile, these racist layoffs ravage the lives of school workers as well. At a “job fair” for the laid-off workers, “not many positions are available for longtime educators who have dedicated much of their lives to the Baltimore public schools.” (Baltimore Sun, 12/10) This is capitalism’s “reward” for lifetime service.
The previous school CEO, Carmen Russo, said that last year she had wanted to eliminate many more people than she actually did, but stopped — after laying off about 300 low-paid custodians — because of widespread outrage.
Although we must keep fighting, reform struggle cannot solve our problems. We must turn such struggles into schools for communsm Then we can understand that a system which spends tens of billions on imperialist wars and ravages our children’s education must be destroyed and replaced by a society that meets the needs of workers and their families — communism.
Capitalist elections, lobbying and reform struggles won’t cut it. They can’t remove the Greater Baltimore Committee and Hopkins from power. Out of the continuing fight against today’s layoffs, we must join and build the Progressive Labor Party.

Will Bring Anti-Imperialist Stand to MLA Convention

The Modern Language Association — the professional organization of college and university-level teachers and scholars of literature and writing — will hold its annual convention from December 27 to 30 in San Diego. This year the MLA confronts various crises stemming from the war-mongering capitalist class’s increasing attacks on the working class in the sphere of higher education. The Radical Caucus (RC) in the MLA aims to provide leadership to anti-racist, internationalist and left-leaning academics who want to oppose the rulers’ drive to make universities centers of reaction, elitism and support for U.S. imperialism.
The RC will raise four resolutions and one motion before the Delegate Assembly:
• One addresses the government’s jingoistic use of “war talk” — especially the term “terrorism” — to rationalize its attacks on any people or nation whom it wishes to portray as “enemies.”
•Another calls for the repeal of the Patriot Act, which enables the government to harass and spy on teachers and students, particularly those of foreign birth, dark skin and/or Islamic faith, as well as those who protest repressive and militaristic government policies.
•A third links massive cutbacks in funding for public higher education with the $87 billion (and counting) war budget — and immense tax cuts for the wealthy — recently passed by Congress. It also calls for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
•An emergency resolution opposing Congressional efforts to create an International Education Advisory Board that would oversee Area Studies — especially Middle East Studies — to guarantee that curriculum conforms to Homeland Security needs and to guarantee a steady conduit for Foreign Service and CIA cadre from U.S. colleges and universities
A motion calls for the MLA to play an advocacy role on behalf of super-exploited teaching assistants and adjuncts, who teach nearly 60% of all college-level literature and writing classes, often at sub-minimum-wage levels, without benefits.
Over the past decade the RC has provided strategies for progressive academics in the MLA and a home base of kindred spirits — for leftist activism. Within the last year the RC has also played a leading role in organizing the new Alliance of Radical Academic and Intellectual Organizations (Radical Alliance, for short), which seeks to coordinate the activities of anti-capitalist academic caucuses — and the resources of various leftist academic journals — so that unified initiatives can be taken against the current racist, repressive and imperialist U.S. policies, domestic and international.
A communist analysis of both world politics and the role played by institutions of higher education is essential to the successful work of both the MLA Radical Caucus and the Radical Alliance. While left-inclined academics are receptive to a broadly anti-capitalist view of current trends, many conceive of “the university” as a place beyond politics. The current critique of the “corporatization” of higher education is often based on denying the role colleges and universities have always performed on behalf of the capitalist class that rules society. There is no “golden age.”
Moreover, the “left” ideas that shape the activism of many anti-capitalist academics incorporate, without criticism, the old communist movement’s outlook that socialism, and then communism, could be attained only by moving through a series of necessary “stages.” This views reformist activities, such as participating in electoral politics, as being vital to developing a revolutionary movement.
Finally, it is communists who stress the central role of racism in current U.S. ruling-class actions, including the vicious cutbacks in access to public higher education and the prosecution of foreign policy. The fight against racism, both domestically and internationally, is crucial to a communist strategy for organizing among progressive academics in the coming period. (A report on the results of the convention itself will be forthcoming.)

Who are the Main Murderers?

The discovery of three bodies of teenage boys in the basement of an apartment in a supposedly “run-down” part of Hammond, Indiana has shocked Northwest Indiana and the nation. The first response of many people is to rely on pro-capitalist explanations of this tragedy, rather than looking deeper into both this situation and other mass killings in our society. Because this case is so sensational and “in your face”, and because so many people get their understanding of society from television cop shows, movies, and fear-mongering in the news media, many people focus on the killer. Is he “evil” or “sick” or a combination of both? But if we want to stop the killings of innocent people, we have to look deeper into just what is happening in our society.
A major aspect of racist, anti-working class actions by the cops is how they harass, brutalize, and sometimes kill innocent people. Another aspect is how they often do not do the kind of work to actually protect working class people from killings like this, although television would have us believe that the cops are great protectors of the working class. The alleged killer was convicted of killing one child in 1974 while he was in the Army in Germany, and served over ten years in jail for killing a second teenager in Chicago in the 1980’s. He was a suspect in another teenage murder. He also was out on bail for drinking with a couple of teenagers a few months ago, including one of the teenagers found murdered. A friend of one of the victims even told the police that there was something strange about the relationship between the accused killer and one of the victims.
The first teenager disappeared from that neighborhood last spring. The other two were killed several months later. In a society where the police and the FBI are spending hundreds of millions of dollars spying on anti-war activists and arresting Muslims, they were unable to put the pieces together. Can you imagine what would have happened if the first two people he had killed were cops----or even the children of rich people! Not that we want the government to keep more files on everyone, of course. They will just use those files against communists and other pro-working class activists. But it is important to understand that the cops really DON’T provide protection for working class people from most crimes! That is like believing that Bush invaded Iraqi to “protect the Iraqi people” instead of the real reason: to control the huge Iraqi oil reserves (see editorial in this issue of Challenge). That’s point one.
Point two is that the alleged killer was an abuser of drugs and alcohol, and his own mind was twisted by the psychological stresses of capitalist-created family problems. Capitalism stresses children and parents and their parents. It does this through economic stress and through a culture that says that people can be used and abused like toys. Some people take this further and become major abusers and even killers. And the lack of serious treatment for so many people with mental disorders creates a situation where they are either in jail or back on the streets, with no support system to help overcome their disorders. The increased pro-war spending will mean further cutbacks in these kinds of social services.
But there is another, more fundamental point to all this. Capitalism also kills many millions more in polite, legal ways. For example, the youth were killed just a short distance from three major steel mills, the execution chamber for dozens of steelworkers killed, and thousands more who died early from diseases, as a result of capitalism’s drive for profits and carelessness with workers’ lives. It is near a power plant, which drops poisonous mercury and cancerous smoke throughout that area, and near the oil refinery as well as numerous toxic dumps which have given cancer to thousands more over the years. And that’s just in Northwest Indiana—we could write more about the tens of millions that capitalism, and the respectable businessmen who live in nice neighborhoods, kill all over the world. They are the biggest “serial killers”!
Our schools, news media, and entertainment media exist to cloud the picture, to make us fear other working class people and to ignore the real causes of our oppression. A Marxist analysis, a communist analysis understands how anti-working class exploitation and oppression lie at the roots of our problems, and communists organize to build working class unity against all forms of capitalist oppression, from the obvious exploitation on the job, to the more hidden ways that they create the conditions for other crimes against the working class. Challenge-Desafio is an important tool to help combat the lies of the capitalist media. Help distribute bundles of Challenge-Desafio to family, friends, and co-workers! Help destroy the lies and the racist, anti-working class system of death which is capitalism!

Communist Leadership Crucial to Mass Movements

Recently over 200 workers, youth and professionals participated in a Peace and Justice symposium in our city. It’s theme was “War, Resources and Empire in the 21st Century.” PLP members and friends helped organize and lead the symposium.
Why is communist leadership important in these events. Communists highlight the difference between capitalist and communist ideas and welcome debate. We make as objective an analysis as possible about what people think based on our shared personal and political ties with them. We stimulate and lead “actions” while emphasizing that the roots of the class struggle lie in the capitalist system itself. We organize for communist revolution within the mass organizations and the mass movement, measuring our success by the growing number of CHALLENGE readers and the growing number of new PLP members who can in turn give leadership. The quality of our leadership depends on the depth of our political consciousness, how well we understand complexity in situations, long-term practice and experience and our ability to be self-critical.
“To change the world we must understand it, not just in its appearance but also in its essence,” said a comrade at the opening sessions. Throughout the event, many ideas and questions were expressed and debated. Are we simply seeking a better or more humane U.S. “foreign policy” or are the roots of the war in Iraq in the imperialist system itself? Understanding empire and conquest in a general sense not the same as understanding what is modern imperialism. It isn’t just an evil empire that causes endless wars, but inter-imperialist rivalry on a global scale.
Most oppose global exploitation of the working class and the widening gap between the super-rich and the poor. But what’s the solution? Do we accept lessening the “inevitable gap” and leading personal lives of “sacrifice and service” while leaving the capitalist system intact? Or do we organize for revolution and prepare for workers’ power and the construction of communist society? Can “withdrawing consent” and “practicing active non-violence” end the violence of capitalism against the working class, oppressed people, women, children and the elderly?
Many campaign for resolutions calling on city governments to refuse to “enforce” the Patriot Act and defend the “Bill of Rights.” Communists participate in these campaigns, and in struggles against attacks on immigrants. But from history we also learn the main features of fascism and how it was violently defeated, mainly by the Red Army and millions of workers who gave their lives in the Soviet Union.
“Is the U.S. the 4th Reich?” asked a comrade in his talk. Communists point out that nationalism, national liberation and self-determination failed to free the working class from poverty, war and racist repression, whether in Africa, South America or anywhere else.
Some aspects of communist ideas were raised in the main session, in workshops, in conversations between friends or one on one, depending on the circumstances.
Communists can never give in to liberalism blind hope based on illusion. “We must learn well from history that this leaves us open to manipulation and ultimately to fascist demagoguery,” said a comrade in her session.
Communist seek to really know the masses. In organizing for the symposium we listened to many rank-and-file people in community groups and churches, who last year thought the war in Iraq could be justified. Now they’re appalled as events unfold. They read letters from loved ones in the U.S. military in Iraq in which soldiers questioned the “morality” and “reasons” for their mission. As we get to know people more deeply, we learn to rely on their thinking and efforts. Our personal ties cement friendship even as we have intense political disagreements.
The symposium endorsed several “actions”: participation in a protest to close down the School of the Americas (which trains Latin American death squads), a Martin Luther King Day protest to demand: “Jobs, yes. Occupations, no; Racist repression has got to go”; a protest at the local Senator’s office against the 24-hours-work-for-12-hours-pay slave labor of home attendants, mostly women immigrants; and an April action to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion. Communist leadership will prove vital in motivating more people to come into the street, to overcome fears and passivity and to give vigorous leadership at these protests.
As PLP members continue to work in the grassroots coalition we must be self-critical. It is imperative that we develop and rely on youth leadership, fight negativity in ourselves and rely more on our friends. We cannot accept a lack of growth in CHALLENGE readership and the Party’s base because we’re timid or lack plans. Over 300,000 workers and youth poured into London’s streets to protest Bush’s visit there, thousands of workers too part in insurrection in Bolivia, millions in Italy struck against pension “reform” and thousands marched against globalization in Miami. Clearly we can see an outcry against capitalist war, inequality, poverty and racism. With all its ups and downs the revolutionary process is in motion. Let’s seize this moment in history.

PLP Leaflet in Italy Attacks
Government-Boss Gang-up

[In the first weekend of December, over one million workers in Italy protested the right-wing Berlusconi government’s plan to raise workers’ retirement age. This is the same government that sent troops to help the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The following are translated excerpts of a leaflet distributed by PLP friends in Italy.]

Against the Attack by the Government and Bosses’ Federation

The Berlusconi government is sharply attacking our working conditions and standard of living, in the name of competitiveness and balancing the country’s budget, to guarantee corporate profits.
Over the past 25 years, in the name of competitiveness we have seen: cancellation of automatic cost-of-living increases; increased workloads and speed-up; an explosion in contracting and subcontracting work (thanks to the “center-left” governments); and reduced job security. We’re told it’s “necessary to accept sacrifices” to compete with U.S. and German products. But we’ve seen workers in other countries subjected to the same prescription and same excuse.
To save one’s own standard of living by leaving matters to the competitiveness of the company or the “national system,” means throwing ourselves into an endless whirlpool of reductions, along with other workers here and worldwide. Capitalists need workers, but want them at the lowest cost in order to exploit them even more. The attack on pensions, schools, health, the national contract, the rights of immigrant workers, and on Article 18 (defining firing for just cause) are all part of the capitalists’ offensive against workers of all colors and nations.
With the abolition of Article 18, the bosses are demanding the freedom to fire, making us all less secure. This blackmail reduces our ability to organize and struggle, to defend and improve our conditions. The Confederation of Industrial Bosses wants a more pliant, non-union workforce, without collective organization and therefore is constantly trying to eliminate state control of the workplace [Current laws protect most European workers from being fired at will by private employers.
The “left” government of Schroeder [Germany] wants to raise the retirement age and the governments of France and Switzerland are making similar plans. Even the “left” government of Lula in Brazil, dictated by the International Monetary Fund, is ready to enact pension “reform” against the workers’ interest, despite the fact that it was the working class of Brazil that put Lula into power.

Increasing Military Spending To Control Oil

There’s no difference between “left” and “center-right” governments in wanting to make workers pay for military re-armament and future wars. The first meeting to construct a Europe-wide imperialist army occurred under the D’Alema government (Democratic-Socialist Party), between D’Alema (then President of the European Council) and Tony Blair in London. The political economy of the Berlusconi government — and of the European states and the USA — creates war that all workers will pay for, both in economic terms and in blood.
We must direct the anger of the working class against the ruling class, instead of allowing it to be diverted into the dead-end of voting for the parties and governments of the “center-left,” as occurred in 1994 when the general strikes led to the fall of the then Berlusconi government. When L. Dini [author of the pension reform law] switched from Berlusconi’s government to the “center-left,” he then launched a milder pension reform , backed by the unions and the Democratic-Socialist Party. This was the main reason workers struck.
We must rebuild a revolutionary communist party for our class, a Communist International as the alternative to the capitalist future of barbarism, war, lack of job security and poverty. Fight for Communism!
Progressive Labor Party (Italy)

Colombia’s Oil Workers Fight Boss / Union Traitor Privatizing Plan

Colombia’s oil workers are locked in a life-and-death struggle for their jobs with ECOPETROL, the state-owned oil company, while fighting their traitorous union leaders.
A year ago, a mass meeting of ECOPETROL workers adopted a resolution rejecting the bosses’ demands that would lead to privatizing the company and force workers into arbitration. They also demanded the rehiring of fired workers and were ready to fight on these issues. But last August, the new union leadership argued for “flexibility” in negotiations with the bosses and the government, and disavowed the position taken at last year’s mass meeting. The hacks spread a lot of illusions about the bosses; after all, Colombia is in the center of the growing trend of war, inter-imperialist rivalry and fascism spawned by world capitalism.
But the company’s idea of “flexibility,” is using contractors, downsizing and ending job security for all workers. They are also attacking the pension plan, demanding workers pay for their health insurance and refusing to re-hire fired workers. The anti-worker Arbitration Board is expected to rule against the workers, and for the first time, the USO (the ECOPETROL workers’ union) has agreed to accept its decision.
While this sellout has paralyzed the usually militant USO membership, the company is speeding up the privatization process. Army patrols are flooding the company’s installations, harassing and threatening workers. Some rank-and-file workers are seeking the solidarity of other workers and students, but the treachery of the union leadership has made it very difficult.
The ECOPETROL workers’ struggle reflects what workers face throughout Colombia and worldwide. President Uribe’s fascist government, fully backed by the Bush administration, is forcing workers to pay for the crisis of capitalism. The union hacks are handcuffing the workers, who lack a revolutionary leadership capable of confronting these attacks.
But this is a temporary situation. Every dark night has its end. Angry workers will eventually finish off this capitalist nightmare as revolutionary communists in PLP give bold leadership, step up our political work and our distribution of CHALLENGE-DESAFIO as an ideological weapon of the workers.


Joblessness a Mass Killer

In early December, Chilean papers reported the Pope had denounced communism for mass murder during the 20th Century. He again repeats the anti-communist Big Lie, as perfected by Hitler’s Propaganda czar, Goebbels — the bigger the lie, the more people will swallow it. This particular lie is used to cover the crimes of history’s biggest mass murderer: capitalism.
Capitalism kills in many ways. Here in Chile, 10% of the labor force is relatively well-paid, earning an average of several thousands dollars a month, but 60% of the labor force earns less than 350,000 pesos ($500) a month. The official unemployment rate reported by President Lagos’ “Socialist” government is 8.6%. If the average minimum wage of 105,000 pesos a month was paid to the unemployed by taking it from the well-off 10%, it still wouldn’t solve the unemployment problem because even the minimum wage is nearly like being jobless. One can barely survive, much less improve one’s life. But unemployment can never be solved under capitalism because it’s intrinsic to the system.
How does this relate to mass murder? Capitalism kills workers fast and slow. Being poor kills us slowly. The bosses exploit workers till they drop dead because of lack of decent health care, poor nutrition, inadeaquate wages, stress, injuries on the job, etc. They kill us on the altar of maximum profits, for a few bosses and their lackeys.
Another capitalist killer is fascism. Chile had one of the most murderous fascist regimes in recent history. Under Pinochet — blessed by the Vatican and Nixon/Henry Kissinger — thousands were jailed, tortured and murdered. And the Catholic Church is one of the biggest mass murderer of all — the Crusades, Inquisition, slavery and genocide against African and Native Americans, etc.
The best thing the Pope could do would be to shut up — or, better yet, leave the world of the living already.
A Comrade in Chile

Use CHALLENGE to ‘Connect the Dots’

Rereading the letter “Looking Forward to Challenge” (12/17), I see differences between today and the Watergate era when, as you said, people seemed to be more “eagerly awaiting the next issue.” Similarly, visions of “soldiers grabbing Iskra . . .craving communist analyses of the war” do not appear today. Instead we see: (1) qualitative demise of the international communist movement; (2) resulting cynicism that penetrates our own ranks; and, (3) equally important, subtle but deliberate anti-communist news. Even internet “exposés” are written in such a way as to keep our friends AND US passive, frightened and blind to the dialectics of history.
CHALLENGE has noted the confusion spread by Russia (before 1989) and China calling themselves communist (after they had long abandoned it). The daily papers emphasize the effect of the trade deficit between “us” and China and the blocking of Russia’s share of Iraqi “reconstruction” profits. Every day people hear that “communism equals imperialism.”
Our own cynicism is not immune to this international scene. In addition, our involvement in larger, sellout-led organizations can sap our confidence to advance the idea of a corruption-free society. We have the backbreaking job of dispelling the illusion that unions are the answer WHILE simultaneously fighting side by side with our co-workers for pennies.
Challenge can be the lever that helps us.For example, the Wal-Mart article (12/17, p. 3) exposes the New York Times’ advocacy of workers hovering around the poverty line rather than below it. This can provoke much discussion about unions, the liberal news media and capitalism generally. We do our homework and pore through every issue, noting those articles that connect the dots, and check those headlines that might interest specific friends. Frequently, even if people read no further, they will pay attention to the feature you’ve taken the trouble to pinpoint for them.
In discussing this letter with two new comrades, they said the Wal-Mart article and the “facts” box contrasting the Medicare drug rip-off and health care under communism were helpful. They felt it was important to be specific as often as possible about differences between life under capitalism and communism. However, they said the culture articles on that issue’s back page presumed the reader was already a communist, and that kind of assumption wasn’t useful.
They said they wanted to participate in a future discussion of how the paper is written. Meanwhile, we agreed to discuss several articles in every issue, even reading CHALLENGE on-line if we don’t have an actual copy. The world may be smaller today, and the international working class more than ever is demonstrating in the streets, but the pervasive bombs of the media pound our class every moment, making our job more complex, and our presenting of CHALLENGE must therefore become more attentive.
Red Nurse

‘Over’ vs ‘More’ Consumption

In the “Over-consumption vs. More Consumption?” letter to CHALLENGE (12/17), I think the comrade fails to see it is not the use of bourgeois sources that is being criticized but the idealistic portrayal of environmental tactics, “greater efficiency and less waste” as a reason why “consumption levels will increase for all workers.” Communism will vastly increase individual consumption for workers worldwide, primarily because we will work collectively to build a society where sharing is based on need and everyone will share society’s benefits and burdens.
The comrade correctly says the transition from feudalism to capitalism decreased the amount of labor in products but fails to note that the majority of workers worldwide could not afford them. Environmental concerns, though important in a planned communist society, will have to take a back seat to the life-and-death concerns of the majority of the working class, as clearly explained in the original criticism (CHALLENGE, 11/19).
Avid Reader

$1 More Won’t Put Dent in Poverty

On Dec. 8, a demonstration by the “$5.15 Is Not Enough Coalition” demanded the New York State Legislature and Governor Pataki increase the NY State minimum wage to $6.75/hr. Half a million workers state-wide could benefit, including 10% of NYC’s workforce. Cheng-Wha Hong of the NY Immigration Coalition said: “70% of immigrant families have very low incomes. A higher minimum wage is essential to get immigrant families out of poverty.”
The demonstrators argued against the bosses’ lie that a higher minimum wage will eliminate jobs. They accused Pataki and Republican Joseph Bruno, head of the State Senate, of blocking legislation for a higher minimum wage.
Workers deserve as much as we can take from the bosses, but a dollar increase in the minimum wage wouldn’t put a dent in poverty. A family of four needs at least $15-$20 an hour to stay just above the poverty line. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will grant workers that demand, since both parties serve the bosses.
No amount of higher minimum wages will end poverty and racist exploitation. Several decades ago the minimum wage was half what it is now, but there are more workers in poverty today than before, particularly black and immigrant workers. Capitalism is based on reaping profits from the workers’ labor. If bosses are forced to pay higher wages, they must increase their profits by other means: layoffs and speed-up, higher taxes and higher prices, etc. That’s why we fight for communism, to abolish wage slavery, bosses and wages, where production serves the needs of the working class.
‘Any Wage Is Not Enough’



Israel trains US vs. Iraq

Israeli advisors are helping train American special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads....A former senior US intelligence official ...added that he feared the new tactics would inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East....We’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams. (GW, 12/17)

Scratch a liberal, find Bush

Dr. Dean’s candidacy has been defined by his opposition to the war in Iraq, the position that most energizes his supporters. But more quietly, he is formulating a worldview that has surprising intersections with Mr. Bush’s. The critical often-times one of style more than substance.
“It’s all about nuance,” he said. (NYT, 12/14)

Wal-Mart exploits Mexicans

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 5 — The company that ate America is now swallowing Mexico.
Wal-Mart, the biggest corporation in the United States, is already the biggest private employer in Mexico, with 110,164 workers on its payroll....
Wal-Mart’s power is changing Mexico...with the same formula: cut prices relentlessly, pump up productivity, pay low wages, ban unions....
In Mexico, for a newly-hired Wal-Mart cashier, the pay stub read about $1.50 an hour. (NYT, 12/6)

Need medicine? Bring money!

Medicare beneficiaries will not be allowed to buy insurance to cover their share of prescription drug costs under the new Medicare bill....
Congress...wanted to be sure that beneficiaries would bear some of the cost. (NYT, 12/7)
Can’t defend terror charge
A team of military lawyers recruited to defend alleged terrorists held by the US at Guantanamo Bay was dismissed by the Pentagon after some of its members rebelled against the unfair way the trials have been designed....
“The first day, when they were being briefed on the dos and don’ts, at least a couple said: ‘You can’t impose these restrictions on us because we can’t properly represent our clients.’
“When the group decided they weren’t going to go along, they were relieved. They reported in the morning and got fired that afternoon.” (GW, 12/17)

Bosses muddy the Red label

Twelve years after the collapse of the Soviet one-party state, big business has become by far the most influential force in Russia’s elections....
Leonid S. Mayevsky, a Communist member of the current Parliament, publicly criticized the party at a news conference last month, saying that 28 percent of its candidates were millionaires.
“Is this the party of the people or of the millionaires?” he asked.
He was promptly expelled from the party. (NYT, 12/2)

An empire has no morality

The White House is not a branch of Amnesty International....When it is better served by supporting dictatorships like Uzbekistan’s, expansionist governments like Ariel Sharon’s and organizations that torture and murder, like those in Colombia, it will do so.
It funded Saddam when it needed to; it knocked him down when it needed to. In neither case did it act because it cared about the people of his country....
All empires work according to the rules of practical advantage, rather than those of kindness and moral decency. (GW, 12/10)