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
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
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
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
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,
• 1979: “Saddam seizes power with U.S. approval,
moves allegiance from Soviets to USA in Cold War.” (GregPalast.com; Palast
is author of N. Y. Times bestseller, “The Best Democracy Money Can
• 1980: Saddam “invades Iran [now ruled by
anti-U.S. Ayatollah Khomeini] with U.S. encouragement and arms.”
• 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 intelligence...to aid...Iraq’s armed
• 1987-1988: “U.S. warships destroy Iranian oil
platforms in Gulf and break Iranian blockade of Iraq shipping lanes.”
• 1988: “The CIA...provided military assistance to
Saddam’s ferocious February...assault on Iranian positions...by 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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”
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
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
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
“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:
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Immigrants’ Anti-Racist March Challenges Nationalists’
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
• 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
•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,
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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.
‘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
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).
$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
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
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
‘Any Wage Is Not Enough’
RED EYE ON THE NEWS
BELOW ARE EXCERPTS FROM MAINSTREAM
NEWSPAPERS THAT CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION:Abbreviations: NYT=New York Times,
GW=Guardian Weekly (UK)
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 difference...is often-times one of style more
“It’s all about nuance,” he said. (NYT,
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
Wal-Mart’s power is changing Mexico...with the same
formula: cut prices relentlessly, pump up productivity, pay low wages, ban
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
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
“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
“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
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,
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
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
All empires work according to the rules of practical
advantage, rather than those of kindness and moral decency. (GW,