CHALLENGE, January 21, 2004


"Anti-Terrorism" Alerts: Paving the Way for a Fascist Police State

2003: Good Year for Halliburton, Wal-Mart Deadly for Workers

‘Disappeared’ Muslim Immigrants Tip of Patriot Act Iceberg

D.C. Metro Union Election A School For Communism

Defend PLP Teacher Who Attacks NYC Rulers’ Racist School Chaos

Students, Teachers, Parents Fight Fascist Steel Gate

‘Serve the Patients, Fight the Bosses’

MLA Condemns Fascist Patriot Act, Imperialist War in Iraq

MLA Conventioneers Soak Up Red Ideas

‘National Liberation’ Never Liberated Working Class

Garment Marchers Indict U.S. Bosses As ‘No.1 Terrorists’

Class Conscious Soldiers Can Help Defeat Bosses’ Wars

Building the Party in the Heart of the Working Class

Lenin’s ‘What Is To Be Done’ Makes Revolutionary Politics Primary

Video Review: Robert Greenwald's "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about Iraq"

LETTERS

Scaling Hills to Deliver CHALLENGE

Living In A Society Without Money

Thanks-For-Fighting-Racism Feast

Willie Nelson Song: Oil Causes War

Archives Expose Anti-Stalin Lies

Challenging Challenge

Class Line Exposes ‘Red Scarf’ Lies

RED EYE ON THE NEWS


"Anti-Terrorism" Alerts: Paving the Way for a Fascist Police State

Did you get through the holidays without a major breakdown? Well, along with Mad Cows, the latest Michael Jackson and Britney Spears shenanigans, annoying Xmas commercials, excessive drinking, we had to deal with Code Orange and sky marshals on international flights.

Most people realize that much of this is political hype by the Bush gang and the media. They are targetting as terrorists the very same crew that the CIA and its allies in the Mid-East and South Asia trained, armed and financed for several decades — including Osama Bin Laden. Tens of thousands of these "holy warriors" were sent by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to fight "communism" in Afghanistan. (The fundamentalists hated the Soviets for daring to educate women and grant some rights to poor peasants). After the Soviet Union’s collapse, these holy warriors began fighting each other, while the CIA and its friends in the Pakistani Army created the Taliban to rule Afghanistan.

Bush Sr. and Clinton sent tens of thousands of these holy warriors to Bosnia to help break it away from the former Yugoslavia. Now Tom Ridge and his Homeland Security Department want to protect us from these same people.

So on Dec. 23, he declared a "Code Orange" alert. The next level, a Code Red, means that the government is completely militarized and all civil liberties are suspended (a total police state).

This is the fifth Orange alert since 9/11 (and we still don’t know exactly what happened that day). On Feb. 7, 2003, Code Orange was declared after Colin Powell showed "proof" at the UN that Saddam Hussein had WMDs (Bush recently admitted that WMDs were a non-issue). Powell’s presentation was ridiculed worldwide, but Ridge said, "there were signs Al Qaeda was going to attack." Nothing happened. Later it was shown, by the FBI no less, that it was all a CIA fabrication. Ridge admitted, "Despite the fabricated report, there are no plans to change the threat level." (ABC News, 2/11/03)

Maybe we will get another Code Orange, or even Red, just before the November elections, and the Bush gang will declare martial law to keep itself in power. General Tommy Franks, former chief of Central Command, said a massive terrorist attack in the U.S. could lead to martial law.

But the Bushites are not the only ones preparing for this. Clinton’s Hart-Rudman Commission warned that a major "Pearl Harbor-style" attack on the U.S. was probably needed to prepare the population for a police state. The rulers prefer bourgeois democracy, with heavy police-state repression when needed, to fool and rule the masses. Fascism is actually a sign of the system’s weakness, but all the bosses and politicians are prepared to play the fascist card.

Workers and their allies should also be prepared to organize against the bosses and all their plans. We cannot rely on any of the Presidential candidates running against Bush, nor on their union-hack supporters. We must build our own forces to fight the fascist economic and political attacks we’re suffering. We in PLP have a huge task ahead, in trying to lead this titanic struggle for the future of the working class and all humanity.

2003: Good Year for Halliburton, Wal-Mart Deadly for Workers

At the start of 2004, is the economy improving? Most definitely — for Haliburton and Bechtel and Wal-Mart. But for the nearly 20 million jobless, 60% of whom are not even eligible for unemployment benefits? Most definitely not. Nor for the tens of millions trying to exist on poverty wages. The rich get richer and the working class gets poorer because the owners of production — the bosses — keep most of the value produced by the labor of the workers as their profit from this mass exploitation. The producers of that value receive less and less for their labor, if they’re lucky enough to have a job at all.

This difference in wealth is skyrocketing. According to data confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office (The Nation, Jan. 5), between 1973 and 2000 the average real income of the bottom 90% FELL by 7%. But the income of the top 1% — the owners — ROSE 148%. Even worse, the income of the top one-tenth of 1% rose 343% and the income of the top one-hundredth of 1% leaped 599 percent! This is a class society in its extreme.

In this "world’s richest nation," in 2003 over 30 million experienced joblessness at some time during the year, but the bosses’ Congress refused to extend benefits an extra 13 weeks for the long-term unemployed. While profits, stocks and productivity — fewer workers working harder — are rising, the jobless "recovery" marches on.

Hunger and homelessness rose at double-digit rates; 14% of those seeking food were denied due to "short supply." In New York City last month, a record 36,638 people were "housed" in shelters in one night. Low-income households now pay an average of 46% of their income for housing.

In Michigan, one million people live below the government’s already low poverty line. In Cleveland, welfare benefits have been reduced every month for three years due to the limits imposed under Clinton’s welfare "reform" law. And 90% of the cities surveyed in a December 18th U.S. Conference of Mayors report expect homelessness and hunger to increase in 2004.

Globally one billon people suffer unemployment and half the world’s six billion population exists on an income of $2 a day.

Meanwhile, U.S. military spending has reached half a trillion dollars annually. The victims? Tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanis — not to mention nearly 500 U.S. soldiers. U.S. imperialism is driven to war to guarantee its profits by controlling the world’s most vital resource — oil.

But the horrors of capitalism/imperialism are meeting resistance. In the largest single-day worldwide demonstration in history, ten million people took to the streets simultaneously last February to protest U.S. rulers’ impending war against Iraq.

Mass strikes have erupted in country after country — Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Italy, China, Dominican Rep., Nigeria, among others. In the U.S., California grocery and transit workers struck over the bosses’ attempts to shift the burden of healthcare costs onto their backs. In Benton Harbor, Michigan, black workers and youth rebelled against racist police murder.

While imperialist rivals are fighting each other over who gets to exploit the most workers at the lowest possible cost for the highest profit, they are all united on maintaining the system that permits them to ravage the world’s workers. Only one factor can fundamentally challenge the source of all these horrors: a united international working class led by a revolutionary communist party. On May Day 2004, PLP will march for that goal: a society without bosses — communism. Join Us!

More Misery

"A broader look at the levels of serious distress being faced by increasing numbers of Americans comes from the latest Index of Social Health, which is published annually….

"The categories that worsened in the latest index were children in poverty, child abuse, average weekly earnings, affordable housing, health insurance coverage, food stamp coverage, the gap between rich and poor, and out-of-pocket health costs for those over 65." (New York Times, 12/19)

‘Disappeared’ Muslim Immigrants Tip of Patriot Act Iceberg

Imperialists worldwide, especially the U.S., have used 9/11 to make fascist attacks against the working class "the new normalcy" (Vice-President Cheney addressing Republican governors, 10/25/01). This will continue as their "solution" to their never-ending crises.

Since 9/11, hundreds of Arabs (mostly Muslim immigrants and a few citizens) have disappeared in the U.S. On Sept. 20, 2001, the FBI arrested Mohammed Rafiq Butt of Pakistan on a neighbor’s "tip." He was never charged with a crime, but was ordered deported for a minor visa violation. Rafiq Butt died in a New Jersey jail five weeks later. Prisoners reported he had complained of chest pains but was refused treatment. His corpse was shipped back to Pakistan where an autopsy showed body marks consistent with extreme torture.

Agents arrested Jose Padilla on May 8, 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He disappeared completely until Attorney-General John Ashcroft announced on June 10 that Padilla had "planned" to detonate a radioactive "dirty" bomb. The following day, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted there had been no actual plot to detonate a bomb. Padilla is still being held without charges, as an "enemy combatant" in a military brig.

In the fall of 2001, mainstream media, including the liberal New York Times, discussed the need for the U.S. government to use torture to get information.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers have been disappeared over the last few years. The government refuses to release their names, their location, or even confirm they’re being held. The courts have ruled that this information "even concerning those found to have no connection to terrorism, was exempt from disclosure." (NYT, 11/3/03) The Supreme Court will consider the matter, but the ruling class manipulates its laws according to their priorities of the moment. If they need to disappear workers legally, they’ll do it. How many of the more than two million prisoners in U.S. jails are there because they were framed by racist cops and prosecutors or were victimized by the "war on drugs"? That "war" puts mostly black and Latin workers and youth behind bars for possession of a few ounces of marijuana or crack cocaine while the big banks make billions from laundering drug profits. We cannot rely on their laws for justice.

During the Clinton era, the Hart-Rudman Commission laid the basis for the repressive Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department. The new standard operating procedure is: denial of habeas corpus; military tribunals; death penalty imposed by secret military judges; use of secret or no evidence to convict or detain indefinitely; government surveillance and infiltration of community groups and political organizations; organized spying by some workers on others; increased monitoring of e-mail, internet and telephone conversations; denial of legal representation; and stripping of legal and civil rights.

The Patriot Act defines "Domestic terrorism" as "acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of criminal laws" if they "appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government." The U.S. ruling class is waging war on the same terrorists they trained and used during the past 30 years. The repressive apparatus is capable of inflicting great harm. But the same was true of the Nazis until a Red Army of workers fighting for a communist future defeated them.

Presently, U.S. rulers are singling out Arabs for "disappearing." They may eventually return to their families — or may be buried alive in secret jail cells similar to our brothers and sisters in Latin America, Apartheid South Africa or Saddam’s dungeons.

Bosses’ Fascism Can Be Taken

But Muslim immigrants are not the only ones being victimized. They want us to quietly accept all this, quietly continue to produce profits for them, while we hope they won’t come for us or someone we know. History tells us only communist revolution can crush fascism. The Italians used to say Mussolini killed so many communists until there were two million of them. The red-led partisans defeated six Nazi Army divisions and liberated all of Northern Italy, captured and executed Il Duce, hanging him by his heels. The left-led French Resistance liberated Paris from the Nazis before the Allied Armies got there. Only assembling ourselves under these banners can we defeat and destroy the ruling class. Join the PLP!

(If you have any information about disappeared workers, send it to CHALLENGE.)

D.C. Metro Union Election A School For Communism

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 5 — "We activated more people and created the basis to recruit a lot of workers to PLP. If we do that, then it was successful." That’s how PLP member Mike Golash summed up his recent run for President of the 9,000-member ATU Local 689 in the Metro bus and rail system, amid imperialist war and the Homeland Security fascist build-up.

Mike described how a group of about 35 drivers, station attendants, cleaners and mechanics, led by regular readers and distributors of CHALLENGE, circulated literature, organized meetings, and held discussions with approximately 2,000 workers. Out of that effort, about 1,200 voted for a revolutionary communist to lead the fight to maintain health insurance and pensions, fight racist pay differentials and resist management’s increased attacks. This may have been the most union votes for a real, OPEN communist in 50 years, in the capital of the imperialist world, in the shadow of the White House. "Our base is disappointed that we didn’t ‘win’ the office," said Mike, "but see more clearly the need for a mass political base."

He said, "We’ve been unable to overcome the workers’ conservative ‘I’ve got a good job’ attitude." But the economic crisis and the political crises of racism, police terror, health care and war have been a process developing over years, and things may be changing. The budget crises of the cities, fueled by the Iraq war and huge tax cuts to billionaires, are leading to privatization of mass transit, which means "more cutbacks and attacks, lots of dark clouds."

Now the battle shifts to this spring’s contract negotiations, which will take place as the Iraq war drags on and possibly spreads, fascist Homeland Security intensifies and racist terror touches all workers. "The last contract cost Metro $40-$50 million in increased labor costs," Mike said. "Increased pension contributions alone, over the next three years will be over $100 million. It will be impossible for the union to maintain the current contract without a major battle."

Our job is to build a PLP club, use CHALLENGE to raise the consciousness of the workers, and provide a revolutionary, militant alternative to the sellout union leadership. Mike has carried out this fight for 28 years, as a bus operator and union activist. The response to his election campaign reflects mass confidence in communist leadership that has been earned over decades of struggle. Capitalism can never meet the needs of our class. And while every reform movement is ultimately doomed to failure, this struggle demonstrates that we can build a mass PLP out of the bosses’ mass movements.

Defend PLP Teacher Who Attacks NYC Rulers’ Racist School Chaos

New York City’s billionaire mayor Bloomberg is instituting more intensive fascist rule in the public school system, marking the overwhelmingly black and Latin student population for his racist attack and then blaming them for the spreading chaos. Education under capitalism is geared to defend the system, both with what the rulers want taught in the classroom and with the "choice" they give students: low-wage jobs that guarantee maximum profits for the bosses, or a military "career" to fight and die in wars to secure world domination for U.S. imperialism.

Since September this chaos has enveloped hundreds of schools: overcrowded classes, management disorganization, City Council calls for more "student accountability," the bosses’ racist media blaming violence on "out-of-control" students, new teachers struggling to get their pay and health benefits, hundreds of laid-off aides and paraprofessionals awaiting re-hiring, expansion from five large districts to 10 regions accompanied by breakdowns within each region, and mass creation of small schools by dismantling old ones with no provision for the excess students. The rulers figure they can get away with this chaos precisely because racism helps them make the hundreds of thousands of black and Latin students expendable. And the union leadership, never taking up the fight against racism as the key to fighting the bosses, has — in effect — taken the bosses’ side in this struggle.

The newly-created Department of Education was as poorly planned as the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Bloomberg aims to destroy the teachers union while making a mockery of public education. The ten newly-created regions have no organized format, have no communications between systems or districts and are incapable of handling many necessary functions.

Last year at my school a program was introduced for ninth graders in which teachers were counselors as well as teachers and were able to give students more individual direction. Even though the class limit of 24 students grew to 34, and even though none of the promised computers and equipment arrived, teachers were involved in day-to-day discussion about — and support for — the students. The absentee rate plummeted and students felt more positive about school.

This year the program was supposed to encompass the entire school. However, the funding was pulled, forcing the school back to its original format.

Then we were told the school would close soon and re-open as two or three smaller ones (format to be determined). The students quickly realized that last year’s promises had been broken. They were understandably upset.

When teachers tried to respond to this chaotic environment by making their classrooms bright and interesting, they faced a disrupted school staff with many new teachers and a new principal and assistant principals. There was no continuity. Within a few weeks children began acting up, accusing each other of "hitting my friend," etc. While there are a number of gangs present, problems escalated because of the broken promises.

All this was aggravated by Bloomberg’s new detention system. Now a student would be "disciplined" by reporting to an in-house suspension detention room within the school building. With no "cooling-off "period, the fights continued the next day. Some 60 students have been arrested up to five times and returned to the school the following day.

A few fights led to a buzz throughout the school of how this one fought and who "won," etc. Because of the way they were arrested and then returned to the school, many students feel they were fighting back against the system. The growing anger towards the school led to more fights. Students did not want to enter classrooms. Clearly they felt it was all a joke. The in-house detention room only made it worse. This promotion of pandemonium helps the administration to further blame students and individual teachers. And all many teachers can see are "students in chaos."

I am a PLP member and teach global history in this vocational school of 1,200 students. I’m an outspoken union delegate with a reputation for blaming capitalism for workers’ problems. Although I have over 17 years of classroom experience with a clean record and satisfactory evaluations, because of technicalities in state rules I am still considered a "new teacher." This denies me tenure, enabling the school bosses to more easily attack me.

Because I have explained the causes of this boss-created chaos and because when children ran into my classroom I would not give them up to security or anybody — not rat them out — in mid-October the administration began an unrelenting campaign of harassment. In barely a month, seven letters were placed in my file (all being grieved), as well as a complaint — since dismissed — of verbal abuse against a child and an unsatisfactory evaluation. As a "new teacher" three "unsatisfactories" within one semester can cancel my teacher’s license. I would seem like "easy meat," but teachers and students stunned these arrogant bosses.

At least 15 petitions are being circulated supporting me, three by teachers and 12 by students. One has 200 signatures and another has 150, so far. The students have already submitted three to the principal. The teachers held a rally/party at a local tavern amid a strong expression of unity. Although many teachers don’t agree with me politically, the majority support me, knowing of my devotion to the students, the majority of whom also support me. When the issue was raised at the Delegate Assembly as an attack on activists, it drew the support of the teachers there.

CHALLENGE sales at the school are still low but we are working to increase them. A number of friends have drawn closer to the Party. The struggle continues as management seems determined to remove me from the school. Our goal must be to turn the growing teacher/student anger into a fight against the racist capitalist system, the cause of this chaos.

A working teacher

Students, Teachers, Parents Fight Fascist Steel Gate

"It stands 10 feet tall, has curved-down spikes, and is made of steel. It’s the new gate in the science building," our school paper reported on its front page about the latest fascist attack on our students. A steel gate INSIDE THE SCHOOL BULDING erected during Thanksgiving weekend has sparked controversy and struggle by students and teachers. This, in turn, has provoked both more fascist attacks on those fighting back, and an attempt at compromise.

At this writing, the administration has offered to replace the steel gate with a wall and an ordinary door, a prettier fascism. But students will still be treated like prisoners — the administration refuses to allow open exit from the campus. They’re incapable of treating the students with dignity, the purpose of the school is to train these young people to be capitalism’s wage slaves and, increasingly, cannon fodder in imperialist wars. Only in a communist society will schools be run by the working class for our own benefit, as places where young and old can learn how to build a world where work will be for the good of all, not for the profits of a few.

When the gate was put up, students and teachers alike were shocked. Dozens of teachers and hundreds of students signed petitions opposing the gate because it makes the school look like a jail and is a hazard in case of fire or earthquake. These petitions and student activism forced the administration to call an open meeting where all concerned could comment on the gate. PL students and friends circulated a leaflet calling on students and teachers to "fight the fascist gate." We explained how it was part of the move towards a racist, fascist police state. It gets students used to being treated as criminals, and to the discipline of a factory or the army, and it also prevents class struggle such as past walkouts students have organized against racism and imperialist war. It’s one of a series of fascist attacks in our own school: drug-sniffing dogs in the classrooms and the city attorney coming to the leadership class asking students to become snitches for the cops, helping to add to the over two million already in prison, mostly black and Latin workers and youth.

At the meeting, the administration said the gate was built to keep outsiders off campus and to prevent student walkouts. Students eloquently argued that they should be treated with dignity as students, not as criminals. They said the gate was an insult and an attack. Parents were divided. Some supported the students, saying the gate should be removed. Other parents backed the gate — or a door if possible — to ensure no outsider could enter the campus. Teachers spoke on both sides, although a majority who came said the gate was not conducive to an educational environment and should either be taken down or replaced by a door.

Some staff members defended the gate and attacked the student activists and PLP. Before the meeting, they were heard reading the PL leaflet in a mocking tone. They’re nervous about being called fascists and about the issue of fascism being raised at all. Then, during the meeting, a member of the security staff accused the students present of being criminals and ditchers (cutting class). These students, frustrated at being attacked and then prevented from responding, walked out.

As we go to press, the administration, realizing it both created more controversy than it wants, and that the fascist nature of the educational system was exposed, has offered to replace the gate with a door — a prison without bars. The struggle to remove the gate will continue, but the real victory is not merely changing the way the prison looks, but in students, parents and teachers understanding that capitalist schools will always be jails — both physically and in imprisoning the mind with bosses’ ideology — and joining PLP to fight for a communist future.

‘Serve the Patients, Fight the Bosses’

As healthcare workers in this large eastern city take hit after hit, PLP members and friends are organizing campaigns that go beyond narrow trade unionism, not only concerned with our wages, benefits, and working conditions, but address the general attacks on patient care. One union member described it as, "Serve the patients, Fight the bosses." Such discussions always lead to exposing capitalism, in a period of war and fascism, as the source of these attacks. From Iraq to the USA, the profit system is making life worse for the working class.

This city’s eighth largest hospital is slated to close in March, scrapping 1,000 jobs, including 600 union workers. The closure was announced shortly after more than 200 nurses ended their strike against mandatory overtime, okaying a tentative agreement. The bosses claim that caring for uninsured and under-insured patients is too costly. The mostly black workers from the surrounding working-class area will have to seek care elsewhere.

Black workers suffer worse health problems due to racism. Our mostly black local union membership will now have to pay co-pays for prescriptions, making racism even more deadly. The ordering procedure is so complicated that many union members will need assistance or risk doing without their medicine.

While the rulers will have spent $150 billion of workers’ money to control Iraqi oil, our pension benefits — the only thing keeping many of our members from an old age mired in poverty — will be cut in stages. The older workers are worried about how they’ll survive. The younger ones are certain they’ll have no pensions at all.

At one hospital, rank-and-file workers and union delegates are going beyond narrow trade unionism by organizing a blood drive "to show our commitment to patient care." Other members are organizing a fashion show to strengthen union solidarity, especially among younger members. The planning meetings have introduced some of the older union activists to the younger generation. The former have benefited from many useful fashion tips while learning of the younger members’ surprisingly strong distrust of the union leaders. Some of the show’s organizers are also trying to integrate it more to reflect the multi-ethnic membership.

Last summer and fall, there were several racist and sexist conflicts between black women workers and the mainly white nurses and doctors. In one case, union members leafleted and organized a march, causing the offending nurse and her supervisor to "leave" the hospital. This campaign led two doctors to "voluntarily" apologize to the union members they’d mistreated. Workers followed up with a proposal for orientations to all incoming staff, to "put a face on the jobs we do," and challenge the racism, sexism and elitism dividing union members from nurses and doctors.

These anti-racist campaigns sparked discussions with several black doctors who’ve experienced racism and tried to combat it. They believe the hospital’s lack of black doctors and nurses discourages black students from attending the hospital’s medical school. A union committee will meet with an administrator about these issues.

Out of these varied activities we have formed several discussion groups, involving workers at various political levels. All of them are activists with ties to other workers. Most importantly, all these groups generate the introduction of anti-capitalist, pro-communist ideas, already stimulating a modest increase in CHALLENGE sales. More of such events will follow.

MLA Condemns Fascist Patriot Act, Imperialist War in Iraq

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 30 — Delegates to the 2003 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention overwhelmingly and enthusiastically approved initiatives advanced by the MLA Radical Caucus. These motions and resolutions follow proposals by the Radical Caucus and others for the MLA to aggressively advocate for academic labor justice and against racism, fascism, and imperialist war.

By huge majorities, the Delegate Assembly passed resolutions endorsing cooperation with other academic organizations to reverse the systemic exploitation of part-time, "contingent" labor; opposing the U.S. government’s pro-imperialist war rhetoric; demanding repeal of the fascist Patriot Act; attacking federal funding of the imperialist war in Iraq and calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that such funds should be spent on education and other human services.

An "emergency" resolution condemning Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HR 3077) was approved 72 to 3. HR 3077 seeks to establish an International Education Advisory Board and thereby censure both teaching and scholarship in foreign languages and in areas such as Middle East Studies. This would both stifle research by approving only those projects friendly to U.S. imperialism; and guarantee the steady flow of cadre into the Foreign Office of the U.S. State Department and the C.I.A.

PLP members and friends should be gratified with these results. During the convention, over 150 CHALLENGES were sold to MLA members (see adjoining box), many to anxious graduate students desperate for employment in a system which seeks to decrease the number of tenured, full-time professors.

A new organization of radical caucuses and left-wing formations across different academic disciplines has recently met to serve as a clearing house for movements opposing academic sexism, racism, fascism and cooperation with imperialist war efforts. Only our own timidity and fear can hold back such a movement. It opens the door to PLP’ers winning academics to communist politics and to ally with the working class in organizing for a revolution which eliminates exploitation and where education serves working people.

MLA Conventioneers Soak Up Red Ideas

A group of PLP members and friends drove to San Diego during the holidays to sell CHALLENGE at the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) national convention. We hadn’t done this before and didn’t know what to expect, but we found the English professors and graduate students very interested in — and some seem to be in search of — revolutionary ideas. We distributed over 700 leaflets and distributed 150 papers for which we received over $50 in donations.

Many conventioneers were impressed that a group of young people like us had such focused answers. A lot of young MLA participants took leaflets and CHALLENGES. We discovered many of the young participants were looking for jobs that only 30% may get.

Many professors were happy to discuss the war in Iraq and the Democrats. Often one would declare opposition to the war and to Bush, leading to a discussion about whether the Democrats or revolutionary communism was the answer.

We found that some conventioneers who didn’t slow down for a leaflet would stop dead in their tracks to buy CHALLENGE when offered a communist paper. These people didn’t lack political openness, just knowledge of PLP and its ideas. This is CHALLENGE’s role. There is vast openness for the paper and for communist ideas. We hope we helped expand a presence for the paper and the Party in the MLA, as we are trying to do in our mass organizations on local campuses.

‘National Liberation’ Never Liberated Working Class

The old communist movement waged titanic struggles to achieve a society without capitalist exploitation. Unfortunately, its right-wing errors destroyed that movement and gave U.S. imperialism a clear path to commit murder and mayhem worldwide. These primarily "right opportunist"errors have many forms, but all reflect the deadly delusion that workers need a political "half-way house" short of communism to prepare them for "the real thing."

Historically, "communism light" had two overlapping versions. One was socialism, which, despite its many remarkable accomplishments, committed the fatal flaw of preserving capitalist social relations in the form of wages. Socialism was somehow supposed to transform society into communism. The other version was "left" nationalism, or "national liberation." According to this theory, communists would lead the fight against the "main" oppressor, usually a colonial or imperialist power. All forces in society who had a gripe against the "main" enemy were enlisted in this fight, including the so-called "national" bourgeoisie of local bosses who wanted a bigger share of the pie than the colonialists or imperialists were willing to give.

In the 20th century, national liberation movements led by communists inspired hundreds of millions of workers to fight heroically for the wrong goal. Tens of millions died in epic battles against fascism and imperialism. Spearheaded by the Red Army, the Soviet working class ground Hitler’s Nazi hordes into dust. Led by their own Red Army, millions of Chinese peasants and workers drove out the Japanese imperialists and the U.S.-backed Chiang Kai-shek fascists. The Vietnamese people first fought and defeated the Japanese, then drove out the French colonialists, and finally paralyzed the supposedly invincible U.S. military. Similar developments took place in Algeria against French colonialism, in a number of sub-Saharan African countries against colonialism and U.S. imperialism, in South Africa against apartheid, and elsewhere.

Yet after all this heroism and sacrifice, the international working class still labors under the horrors of the profit system. The former Soviet republics are all capitalist nations. Russian bosses are scrambling around to rebuild a modern version of the old Czarist empire. Chinese rulers have embarked on a long-range plan to replace the U.S. as the world’s chief imperialist power. In Vietnam, nationalist politics have today given Ford, Nike and other U.S. investors the opening that all the fire-power in the world couldn’t create 35 years ago.

The old communist movement’s capitulation to nationalism also unintentionally opened the door to a deadly new phenomenon: Islamic fundamentalism. Initially, it was used as an anti-communist tool, serving U.S. imperialism but now it is a weapon serving capitalists opposed to U.S. bosses. Iran’s holy rollers were the first to seize this opportunity. Now others have entered the fray, most notably bin Laden & Co., who represent a wing of capitalist Saudi malcontents anxious to change the present alliance between the Saudi royal family and Exxon Mobil. There are others. We can’t identify the forces conducting the guerrilla war in Iraq against the present U.S. occupation, but they clearly reflect nationalist ambitions to control Iraqi oil riches.

Many people around the world correctly despise U.S. imperialism and Bush. This is good. The class hatred exhibited internationally by tens of millions of demonstrators when Bush & Co. launched their Iraq adventure in February/March 2003 was an encouraging sign. But class hatred against the so-called "main enemy," no matter how justifiable and sincere, leads into a fatal trap unless it’s accompanied by uncompromising opposition to ALL bosses, big and small. Bush is bad, but bin Laden & Co. are no better just because they’re in competition with him. Sharon’s a murderer, but Arafat and his successors have a similar agenda for maximum profit. The apartheid gang were ruthless killers, but now that "black capitalism" rules in South Africa, the masses continue to groan under the yoke of horrible oppression. The current gang of Chinese bosses has developed an expertise in slave labor that the Japanese imperialists and Chiang would have envied.

It’s the same story wherever the old communist movement conceded to nationalism. The movement’s collapse has left billions of workers vulnerable to the lie that a "lesser evil" can exist among bosses. Communists today face no more important task than the exposure and demolition of this concept. The job is difficult and complicated, but it can be done.

Our own Party’s limited experiences prove that nationalism’s triumph isn’t eternal. As CHALLENGE reported (1/7), a PLP leader received 1,200 of 4,100 votes in the Amalgamated Transportation Workers Union (ATU) Local 689’s recent presidential election. The PLP’er is white. Black workers comprise 80% of the Local’s membership. These workers have been as greatly subjected to nationalist culture and ideology as anyone else in the U.S. Yet approximately 1,000 black workers voted for a white communist presidential candidate. CHALLENGE will offer a detailed analysis of this campaign in other articles. The point here is that an uncompromising communist position can overcome many obstacles, including nationalist illusions.

The PLP’er has befriended and led these workers and fought shoulder to shoulder with them for 28 years. They know that he and the Party are on their side. He has regularly sold them CHALLENGE. He has patiently and persistently explained the PLP’s position on revolution, imperialism, fascism, racism, nationalism and the role of the working class in society. The vote doesn’t necessarily mean these workers are ready to join our Party in large numbers. Some should join soon; more may join later. We are still in a period where hard work yields modest results at best. But this vote is nonetheless a resounding victory for the idea that workers will respond positively to the basic truth about capitalism and communism and that they are prepared to follow the lead of communists who stand behind a principled revolutionary position.

Nationalism wins when communists cave in to it. The working class has already paid too high a price for this surrender. The ATU Local 689 election campaign should inspire us all to begin 2004 and the May Day organizing period with renewed confidence in the working class and in our Party’s line that nothing less than communism will do. With this line, billions of workers will one day change the world.

Garment Marchers Indict U.S. Bosses As ‘No.1 Terrorists’

It was evident here in Los Angeles that there is a great potential to organize for the real interests of the international working class inside the mass movement. The majority of the 200 workers in my garment factory didn’t go to work. Although only ten of us went to a march organized by a group of garment workers, those who did go were elated with the action that defied the bosses. Several days later PLP distributed a leaflet at the factory exposing the boycott as a bosses’ trick, led by the liberals to give immigrant workers the dangerous idea of trusting the Democratic Party politicians and their capitalist system. PLP’s alternative was the fight for communism. The leaflet sparked many good discussions among the workers.

The march had several positive effects on myself and my friends. First was the workers’ militancy. Second was a speech at city hall, attacking the bosses’ profits as the source of racism and exploitation and calling for unity with workers in China and Central America to fight the imperialists.

Afterwards we continued marching to the Placita Olvera (Central Plaza for Immigrant Workers) where hundreds of boycotters were gathered listening to music on a live radio program in Spanish. We moved through the middle of these hundreds of workers who applauded and chanted our slogans. The radio announcers raised the volume of the music to try to drown out the demonstrators, but the workers continued chanting the slogans, forcing the radio announcers to "offer" two of the demonstrators the chance to give "short speeches."

One said, "To see sweatshops we don’t have to go as far as Honduras or China. Here, two blocks away, the center of LA is full of sweatshops." And "To see terrorists, we don’t have to go to the other side of the world. Here the U.S. government is the number one terrorist. U.S. bosses during the last decade killed hundreds of thousands of workers in Central America and today are killing thousands all over the world. Our goal is to unite to fight against racism, fascism and exploitation."

The hundreds of workers applauded, chanting slogans like, "Workers struggles have no borders," and, "The workers, united, will never be defeated!" Such bold actions provide fertile ground for communist ideas.

Rebellious Garment Worker

Class Conscious Soldiers Can Help Defeat Bosses’ Wars

Soldiers have played a major role in wartime to change the course of history. In the Russian Revolution communist soldiers organized fraternization between Russian and German troops, fought against the abuse of soldiers and sailors and ultimately led the working class in open armed revolt against Russia’s rulers.

In pre-revolutionary China, communist-led soldiers supported worker/peasant rebellions. Years of communist organizing inside the military combined with the objective conditions of imperialist war and sharpened class struggle, led to these revolutionary developments.

In 1941 hundreds of thousands of men and women were inspired by the fight against fascism to join the U.S. Army. When World War II ended, tens of thousands of soldiers refused to stay in the Philippines to fight against the Filipino communist-led movement and demanded to be sent home. In one demonstration, 30,000 soldiers marched against the military brass.

The Vietnam war witnessed the triumph of political commitment over technology. Politics was decisive on both sides. The Vietnamese, lightly armed ,with no air support, but with great political commitment to anti-imperialism and socialism, took on helicopter gunships, tanks, heavy weapons, napalm and horrific bombing attacks, and endured tremendous hardships necessary to wage a successful guerilla war.

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers, alienated from their imperialist mission, up against a resolute opposing force and politically influenced by the mass anti-war movement in the U.S., undercut U.S. rulers’ efforts to seize Vietnam.

However, soldiers can also do much harm to the working class. The Nazis fielded an army committed to their fascist masters and murdered millions. The U.S. Army in Vietnam, before imploding, killed millions.

Soldiers can shape history. Developments during major wars are rarely pre-ordained. Imperialism’s horrors World War I — poison gas, tanks and airplanes used as killing machines — were eventually rejected by thousands of soldiers from different countries. The Russian soldiers turned that nightmare into the most significant event of the 20th century.

In the current period of prolonged imperialist war, especially over control of Mid-East oil, the soldiers’ role will be crucial. So far they have — for the most part — followed orders to kill other workers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But there have also been encouraging signs of resistance.

In Israel hundreds of soldiers have refused orders to kill Palestinian workers in the occupied territories, while pilots have refused to carry out assassinations. While possibly reflecting a moralistic rather than a class outlook, it’s positive that soldiers are deciding what’s right and wrong, and refusing racist orders.

In Iraq, some U.S. soldiers have told the press they want to go home and it’s been reported that many have gone AWOL. A commander of a small reserve unit is being prosecuted for refusing to sign a waiver allowing the military to send his unit to Iraq less than a year after they’d returned from Afghanistan. He wouldn’t make the four enlisted men in his unit go who didn’t want to. Several dozen Bulgarian soldiers have just refused orders to serve in Iraq.

But these small developments won’t mean to much without the political leadership of a communist movement that gives class consciousness to these spontaneous actions. Only communist ideas will give soldiers the ability to liberate themselves and the working class from the rulers’ imperialist wars. CHALLENGE can play an important role in giving this leadership. In the past, communist ideas have inspired soldiers to refuse orders to kill for imperialism but instead to side with the working class. This can happen again.

Building the Party in the Heart of the Working Class

"Listen; someone from our area proposed I run for shop steward" said a transit worker to a comrade. "I like the idea, but I need to know what you think." The comrade answered that he’d think about it and discuss it with other workers who are CHALLENGE readers.

The next day we asked the closest workers, CHALLENGE readers and members, to come to a meeting to discuss this worker’s candidacy. At lunchtime in the brake shop, the workers came — more than we expected. An open discussion developed, with workers at different political levels, but under our leadership.

Everyone agreed we need new union leadership. Some made suggestions and jokes about the candidate, but in essence everyone thought he was a good choice.

However, we made it clear that it was important for a new leadership to be different, that the only way to get the kind of leadership workers need is by understanding revolutionary communist politics. Then we proposed to let this particular election pass and prepare for the next elections. The candidate agreed with the majority who thought this was the best path.

Collectively we decided that to train him we need a study group every two weeks at lunch time; that he participate in political activities and class struggle inside and outside the union; that he visit workers in other areas of the company; and that he read and write for CHALLENGE. Since then, we’ve had three study groups and now have a larger network of CHALLENGE readers.

In one study group, inside a bus, some workers said, "It all sounds good, but how can we guarantee that this time the same thing that happened in Russia and China doesn’t happen again?" A comrade answered that the only thing guaranteeing that communism succeeds and is maintained is precisely the massive participation of millions of workers, not as obedient followers but as leaders capable of making decisions and able to distinguish a good line from a bad one. They must recognize when the party takes a wrong turn.

Someone else explained that socialism in Russia and China didn’t fail only because of the leadership, but also because they had the wrong political line. Socialism left intact many of the bases of capitalism — money, wages, wage differentials, and even worse, production for the market, which means exploitation. Our idea is that after workers seize power with the bases ready, we’ll install communist practices from the beginning. That’s why it’s so necessary today to study revolutionary history and theory.

We emphasized the importance of becoming more committed to the Party, to ensure that CHALLENGE is read by more workers. Slowly but surely the distribution and readership of the paper has been increasing. The other two study groups dealt with "Reform and Revolution" and the "Economic Crisis of the Capitalist System."

Some time ago I read a revolutionary novel describing a factory called Putilov in which the workers trained themselves politically inside the factory. To me this action seemed impossible. But today, based on our modest experiences, I think it’s possible, and that the workers are winnable to communism. Our victory only depends on whether we take seriously our great task of giving leadership to the workers, of leading them to take state power through a mass PLP.

A comrade behind the wheel

Lenin’s ‘What Is To Be Done’ Makes Revolutionary Politics Primary

"…Party struggles lend a party strength and vitality; the greatest proof of a party’s weakness is its diffuseness and the blurring of clear demarcations…"

(From What Is To Be Done title page)

The struggle against reformism (revisionism) is a life-and-death question for the world’s workers. The international communist movement has been waging it since it began. A principal reason the old movement collapsed was its vacillation over putting revolutionary politics above reformism. We in PLP are trying to learn from the achievements and errors of past revolutionaries. V.I. Lenin, leader of the 1917 workers’ revolution in Russia, which freed 1/6 of the world’s surface from capitalism, sharpened the struggle against opportunism in his 1902 pamphlet "What Is To Be Done?." This work remains on the "must-read" list of all those interested in the political and organizational tasks necessary for communist revolution.

Lenin had planned to deal with three questions: "the character and main content of political agitation, organizational tasks, and the plan for building, simultaneously and from various sides, a militant, all-Russia organization." A more active Russian working class and the stiffening resistance of reformist elements within the Party forced Lenin to expand on his original theme. "The exposition of our views on the character and substance of political agitation developed into an explanation of the difference between trade-unionist politics and Social-Democratic politics [the latter phrase denotes "communist politics" or "the Party’s line"] while the exposition of our views on organizational tasks developed into the difference between the amateurish methods which satisfy the Economists, and the organization of revolutionaries which we hold to be indispensable. Further, I advance the ‘plan’ for an all-Russian political newspaper…"

Fight To Learn, Learn To Fight

Lenin was essentially a nineteenth century writer. His sentences are long and complicated, requiring concentration. Further, understanding Lenin requires some knowledge of the events of his day. Nonetheless, generations of revolutionaries have drawn a great deal from this communist classic.

"Talk about serious things in a serious manner…," said Lenin, concerning the training of "worker-revolutionaries." Our Party has fought for the working classes’ right to know everything from Shakespeare to mathematics. What can be more serious for a worker than the theory and practice of communist revolution? We have a collective duty to overcome any obstacles to understanding "What Is To Be Done?"

Still Burning Questions Of Our Movement

After exposing those in the Party who hid from principled struggle under the slogan "freedom of criticism," Lenin turned to combating spontaneity. Lenin’s distracters criticized him for "belittling the significance of the objective or spontaneous element of development." (All italics from here on are Lenin’s.)

"There is much talk of spontaneity," Lenin answered. "But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology… for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism…and trade-unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task…is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working class from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving…and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social-Democracy."

In the next chapter, Lenin predicted revolutionary Social-Democratic workers would confront those who worship spontaneity. "…We are not children to be fed on the thin gruel of ‘economic’ politics alone; we want to know everything that others know, we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life and to take part actively in every single political event," Lenin envisioned they would say. He then argued subservience to spontaneity was at the root of terrorism as well as trade-union Economism. He called for "comprehensive national political exposures" as an antidote.

To bring such comprehensive political knowledge to the workers, communists "must go among all classes of the population; they must dispatch units of their army in all directions." (Here Lenin noted that the Social-Democrats should beef-up their military work.) Communist consciousness was brought to the workers "only from without…the economic struggle."

From this, it follows a communist party must be organized differently than a trade union. A communist party must "raise the level of amateurs to the level of revolutionaries," which can function under any-and-all conditions.

"The fact is that society produces very many persons fit for ‘the cause,’ but we are unable to make use of them all," Lenin concluded, protesting that Economist ideology hindered the training of political leaders and organizers. He asks how best to "serve" the mass movement. Building an organization that can produce communist political leaders to bring the Party’s line to the mass movement was his answer.

Lenin devoted his final chapter to the plan for a national newspaper to serve as a communist organizing tool.

This brief summary is no substitute for reading the original.

PLP constantly struggles with the concept of making revolutionary politics primary , as against burying our ideas in reformist politics. The "Economists" Lenin fought believed that trade unionism would automatically lead to revolution. We immerse ourselves in all the struggles waged by workers and others, but see our primary role as "winning them to communist politics." Since capitalism is based on exploitation of workers, it cannot be reformed. It is now 102 years since "What Is to Be Done?" was written and capitalism is only capable of producing endless wars for profits, fascist/racist terror, mass starvation, jobless recoveries, etc. The old communist movement failed because of its own weaknesses, but it has demonstrated that a better world is possible. We have a long way to go, but communism is the only way out of this hell.

Video Review: Robert Greenwald's "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about Iraq"

"Uncovered" is insightful for what it presents and what it neglects. It wants to ensure that the anti war movement stays firmly wedded to electoral politics and the multi-lateralists in the Democratic Party and doesn't become anti-imperialist, embracing an anti capitalist critique of U.S. imperialism and revolutionary communist politics.

The video consists almost entirely of interviews with retired officials from the CIA, Pentagon and State Department. It's sponsored and widely circulated by MoveOn.org, a pro-Clinton group formed during his impeachment period and now adopted by billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis, who each donated $5 million to promote the video and build support for the Democratic nominee in the 2004 presidential election.

The intelligence veterans are sharply critical of the reasons given by Bush & Co. for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They are pro-imperialists who favor a multi-lateral approach. Most of their points were made before this by journalists and activists, including the Institute or Public Accuracy and the new book "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told us About Iraq."

A fifth of the video champions patriotism, saying it's "our patriotic duty" to criticize Bush & Co., its main point. Its greatest insights are what it doesn't say about the war. These veterans of U.S. intelligence agencies present a chilling portrait of exactly how the multi-lateralist branch of US imperialism, would run U.S. foreign policy. Meanwhile:

• They never mention the words oil or oil profits, nor the U.S. drive for broad geo political control of the Middle East, nor its new bases in Iraq, nor the neo cons' aim to fortify Israel's hold on the West Bank and Gaza, nor why virtually the entire U.S. government and corporate media enthusiastically lined up behind the war.

• They ignore the fact that the two countries with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the Middle East are Israel and the U.S. and that the latter not only reserved the right to use nuclear weapons against Iraq but had surrounded it with military bases and naval fleets while openly stating it was preparing to attack Iraq. Thus, the actual military threat was exactly the opposite the one Bush and Congress proclaimed.

• They don't explain that the U.S. attack on Iraq had three phases - first, the 1991 Gulf War; second, the decade from 1992 to 2003 with its deadly sanctions, almost daily bombing runs and vast missile attacks prosecuted by the Clinton administration, all of which devastated Iraq and killed over 1,000,000 Iraqis, according to UN estimates; and thirdly, the current military invasion. (The video completely overlooks these crimes of the Clinton administration, especially since those interviewed not only supported the Clinton/Bush, Sr. administrations' policies, but were then government officials who designed and implemented these policies.)

• The video never mentions the Carter Doctrine, a formal U.S. policy committed to military force to assure access to Persian Gulf oil, nor U.S. support of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party with extensive weapons, food, and intelligence for Iraq during the during the '60s, '70s and '80s when the movie's interviewees were enthusiastically pursuing careers as U.S. intelligence agents and military officers in the Middle East.

• It also omits the long history of U.S. support for other repressive regimes throughout the entire Middle East in order to control the region's energy resources.

• Finally, it virtually ignores the anti war movement and the ten million who took to the streets worldwide.

It's clear why George Soros so extensively supports MoveOn.org and promotes the wide distribution of this movie. He and kindred spirits realize that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has led to increased resistance. They want to channel this opposition back into the electoral system, especially to support the liberal Democrats.

"The Whole Truth About Iraq" could have been more aptly entitled, "How to Hide the Whole Truth…."

LETTERS

Scaling Hills to Deliver CHALLENGE

"This paper seems to be written by prophets," said a worker in El Salvador referring to the analyses in CHALLENGE the last several years about the war for oil profits in the Mid-East. The confidence workers here have in our newspaper is more evident every day.

A "young" comrade of 73 walks through the hills as much as two kilometers taking the paper to other comrades. She said, "I do it because the revolution needs it." She added that during the past war she lost four children, "but I have others to continue the struggle."

"I’m donating $5 for CHALLENGE," said another worker, "because I know it’s needed to move forward." He’s paid poverty wages but understands the need to contribute financially to CHALLENGE and to fight for communist revolution.

Comrade from El Salvador

Living In A Society Without Money

For about ten years, we lived without money. I’m a farm worker, born in Morazan, El Salvador, like working with PLP and support the Party’s ideas and activities. I can’t read or write, but still help distribute CHALLENGE.

During the armed conflict in the 1980’s, I was 13 and had to leave the country for El Refugio, Colomoncagua, Honduras. I participated in the work with the other women — 7,000 of us — in the Guerrillas’ camps. Some of us made tortillas for the old people, children and fighters wounded in battle.

The men who were able stayed in El Salvador fighting with the armed wing of the FMLN. We now know the leaders weren’t fighting for the goals we thought they were.

Everyone in our community shared what we produced. There were neither rich nor poor. I cared for children. Others were involved in making shoes, clothes, and tools, in carpentry, ceramics, and in taking care of chickens and pigs. There were also children’s centers, but when we were old enough and conditions were right, we joined the armed struggle.

We learned to live collectively; to share our food and distribute medicine, housing, clothing and all the basic necessities.

We never used money all those years in exile working together. Without money, the working class will live better. One can live very well without money. We didn’t own private property, just our hands. Our idea was to work for those most in need.

Now after the "peace accords," after they’ve given each farm worker a small plot, life’s become much harder. In the best of cases, we only have enough to eat once a day. Prices rise constantly. This is the desperate reality of our lives. We must fight together along with PLP to build a society based again on sharing and living without money.

Salvadoran Farm Worker

(Editor’s comment: Thanks for your letter, showing that workers like yourself have been, are, and can be motivated by political rather than material incentives.)

Thanks-For-Fighting- Racism Feast

Lots of food, people and political discussion marked late November’s Thanks-For-Fighting Racism Feast in Maryland. For over fifteen years workers and students come together to see old friends, make new ones and renew their activist spirit. We raised $200 for the defense of Ines Weiner (CHALLENGE, 12/5). While enjoying the delicious food, the group also was very focused on the anti-racist politics.

A mother spoke poignantly about the brutal murder of her son by the Prince Georges’ County police. He was shot 14 times while sitting cuffed in the front seat of a police cruiser wearing nothing but cut-off shorts and shoes. She was a founder of the Prince Georges County People’s Coalition for Police Accountability, which is currently leading the effort to get cop Charles Ramseur indicted for the shooting of Desmond Ray in the back and paralyzing him last year. (Ramseur was not indicted last week by a Grand Jury, but the struggle continues.)

High school students related their anti-war activities, featuring a forum packed with students and teachers who brought their classes. On the day the war started, they organized a picket line and a walkout.

A Howard Univ. graduate student urged the crowd not to give up on friends and co-workers who might be pulling back from the struggle, advising them to maintain ties — "they will return."

Activists fresh from the American Public Health Association meetings in San Francisco recounted two successful endeavors — to refuse to collaborate with Homeland Security and the police (not turning in undocumented workers who come in as patients) and refusing to participate in a smallpox vaccine campaign aimed at building war fever. (See CHALLENGE, 1/8/04)

The final speaker, a Metro bus driver, spoke about the U.S. ruling class aim to stay in Iraq to maintain control of oil routes. He explained that workers’ futures lie in getting rid of capitalism, the system responsible for more racism, imperialist wars, joblessness, and inadequate health care. He said communism is the only solution that can stop this madness, where workers’ power will rule led by the Progressive Labor Party.

Workers left satisfied in both body and spirit, Renewed and refreshed, ready to intensify the struggle against racism.

D.C. Anti-Racist

Willie Nelson Song: Oil Causes War

Willie Nelson just came out with an anti-war song titled, "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth." He endorses Kucinich, the most anti-war of the Democratic Party candidates. Willie’s politics, of course, are limited by liberalism. But what’s interesting about him, as well as the Dixie Chicks, is how popular they remain even after they sharply opposed the war. It indicates the tremendous depth of anti-war sentiment among the working class, including sections we tend to think of as conservative.

The first stanza of Nelson’s song, while liberal, cites oil as the reason the Bush Administration went to war. Later he clearly refers to Bush as a "damn liar." Many of the most popular books, as indicated by the N.Y. Times non-fiction best-sellers list, are liberal attacks on things we say are endemic to capitalism — war, poverty, tremendous inequality — but which they say are the result of conservative policies. Al Franken’s and Michael Moore’s books are #3 and 4, respectively, on the Times’ list at this writing. (Moore’s is the better of the two; he at least attacks Clinton’s policies.)

Several people I know — family members and co-workers — have read these books, praise them and want to talk about them, which I’m very happy to do. These authors make many good points, which we can agree with, although we need to constructively point out the limitations of their analysis. We should also, myself included, be writing reviews of liberal protest culture for CHALLENGE.

An anti-war and anti-capitalist reader

Archives Expose Anti-Stalin Lies

All the "revelations" in Soviet government and Communist Party files, secret of course during the Soviet era, DISprove all the anti-Stalin stuff. Stalin comes across as not only a good leader but, as a person, one of the very best imaginable! A few specifics:

• There is NO evidence Stalin was anti-Semitic. A few books claiming this all lie, often in very obvious ways. For example, Stalin opposed the "Doctor’s Plot" arrests in 1952. He never murdered Solomon Mikhoels, and the "Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee" was certainly involved in Zionist organizing, for which it was disbanded. The trial transcripts have been published and confessed in some detail to this.

• Many of Khrushchev’s specific statements about Stalin made in his ‘secret speech’ in 1956 and again in ’61 have been proven to be lies. Probably they all are. But Khrushchev had his agents go through many archives, taking materials out and destroying them. They left notes — "X pages removed" — so Russian historians today know this happened. They don’t know what was taken out, but presumably stuff that contradicted Khrushchev’s anti-Stalin stories.

• Many interrogations — pre-trial, investigative stuff — of the major defendants in the three big "Moscow Show Trials" of 1936 to ’38 have been published (many more haven’t been). They show conclusively that these guys were all guilty; they admit it in detail and accuse each other.

• They also involve Trotsky. There are a few INDEPENDENT pieces of documentary evidence of Trotsky’s involvement with the Japanese fascists. Nothing so far about his involvement with the Germans, except:

• The confessions of Tukhachevsky and some of the other top-level generals who were accused of plotting to overthrow the government in collaboration with the Germans and Japanese in 1937 have been published in part. All of them directly implicate Trotsky, as do the interrogations of the defendants in the "show" trials.

• General Pavlov was executed in 1941 for opening the Ukrainian Front to the Nazi invaders. The trial transcript has been published. Parts have been quoted in a number of Russian-language books and articles. Pavlov was convinced the Nazis were unbeatable — they had just whipped every power in Europe in record time — and so he wanted to make himself useful to them. He refused to pass along commands from the General Staff about getting his armies into battle formation on June 18, four days before the invasion. He had also discussed doing favors for Hitler with another general, Meretskov (who wasn’t executed), in 1940. This one general’s betrayal cost the USSR millions of deaths and captives, and Pavlov admitted this!

• The Soviets did all they could to help Loyalist Spain during the Spanish Civil War. They did not execute "traitors," as they have been widely accused of doing, and in fact supplied to Spain more arms than even the Spanish gold could pay for.

• Beria turns out to have been a very good guy also, probably Stalin’s right-hand man. Khrushchev & Co. murdered him, probably because he wanted to "democratize" the USSR by getting full-time Party functionaries out of power. These are the people who took over under Khrushchev & Co.

Stalin, with all his faults, mostly only evident now in hindsight, was a great communist leader. Our Party is founded on that insight — that the errors of the USSR were political errors, not caused by "crazy, corrupt, murderous" leaders.

Red Historian

Challenging Challenge

Within the letter, "Look Forward to Challenge" (12/17/03), the author asks: "Do we need a greater variety of articles so the paper touches more aspects of people’s lives?" I admit I’m not a careful reader of every article, but the titles are a good indication of the content — i.e., analysis of the economic and political consequences of U.S. foreign policy, Medicare, education, war, etc.

While such analyses may help foster an understanding of capitalism, what is lacking are articles which give due attention to other human issues — i.e., love; a father-son relationship; dealing with the feelings from the loss of a loved one; the loss suffered from a fragmented childhood; or a beautiful sunset. Maybe these issues have been discussed, but how often are they explored, not analyzed, on a personal or human level?

In fact, here’s an idea: When such an issue as Medicare is analyzed from a Marxist perspective, more vitality can be contributed to the article with a personal interview. Instead of accepting or refuting statements from bourgeois pundits with a counter analysis, ask the elderly what are their opinions of the new bill.

Our current reality is capitalism, but still there are positive experiences between people which lend hope and optimism. There’s also some good in the world; despite hardship, people still have options to improve their personal lives via meditation, an AA meeting, a better diet or a good dosage of stand-up comedy In the least, the constant dispensing of the ills of capitalism within CHALLENGE probably do not have a good overall psychological impact on the mind. If I’ve had a bad day at work or am in a bad mood, I feel better reading something from the Twelve Steps tradition.

Despite my spirituality, I’d like nothing more than the elimination of the ruling class. But I think it’s in this paper’s interest to lighten up a bit on the overemphasis of capitalism’s failures. Facts alone will not inspire the working-class to overthrow capitalism.

A casual reader

Class Line Exposes ‘Red Scarf’ Lies

I’m a high school teacher required to teach the memoir "Red Scarf Girl," part of the new National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) "Ramp Up" curriculum. New York City recently adopted the NCEE program as part of its city-wide literacy initiative.

This memoir is a bourgeois young girl’s perspective growing up during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. This anti-communist book was chosen for purely political reasons, an example how the system teaches politics through literature. The literary quality is very poor; students really don’t find it interesting.

I taught this book by spending a week discussing communism, reading Chinese poetry, putting daily quotes from Mao’s "Red Book" on the board for analysis, and reading excerpts from "Fanshen" by William Hinton [about the commune movement in China]. In retrospect, I should have taught some of Mao’s poetry as well as Li Po’s, Tu Fu’s and Wang Wei’s. I also discussed the principles of an egalitarian society, asking students to write their idea of the perfect society. Their descriptions were all parts of communism.

This opened up a lively discussion on why communism "failed" and why they were taught communism was such a bad thing. I explained that at one time a billion people lived under socialism, and that socialism was reversed after having been established by workers.

I discussed class differences, enabling my students to then determine that Ji Li, the book’s protagonist, was bourgeois. They picked out the class differences between Ji Li and her classmates and realized that by having a larger apartment, more money and a housekeeper, she had greater advantages than her classmates and had a great deal to lose to the Red Guards. They understood how socialism was — and always will be — reversed, that a direct fight for communism is needed.

After finishing the book’s first two chapters, my students hated it. I then switched to another text, stating this one was far superior to "Red Scarf Girl." The principal agreed to the change, leading another teacher to follow suit. Now none of the NCEE English teachers in my school are planning to teach "Red Scarf Girl.

A great teacher’s aid would be a pamphlet on the Red Guards, a collection of Mao’s poetry, some proletarian memoirs portraying the working class’s experience under the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and the advancements made in Socialist China. Other help on teaching "Red Scarf Girl" would be greatly appreciated. (Anybody with information on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, please submit same to the CHALLENGE office.

A Red Teacher

RED EYE ON THE NEWS

BELOW ARE EXCERPTS FROM MAINSTREAM NEWSPAPERS THAT CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION:Abbreviations: NYT=New York Times, GW=Guardian Weekly (UK)

Saddam was ally vs. Iran

Saddam Hussein "ranked with the world’s most vicious dictators." Let us not forget that the United States took advantage of this man’s talents in the 1980’s to further its own foreign policy goals.

I wonder how much evidence that demonstrates our previous collusion with this monster will be deemed "top secret" during a future war crimes trial. (Letter to NYT, 12/16)

Draft Board: Help wanted

President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld won’t go near the subject — at least not on the record. But in November the Pentagon placed a notice on its Web site seeking "men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board."

Hmm. Why have draft boards if a draft is out of the question?

After the notice set off alarms, it was hastily pulled from the Web site without explanation.

The explanation is easy to figure out. It is well documented that morale has been plummeting among troops being asked to serve long tours in Afghanistan and Iraq….

In a recent poll in Stars and Stripes, a respected newspaper for the military, roughly half of the soldiers surveyed indicated they would not re-enlist when their tours ended. (Hearst Newspapers, 12/4)

NY 9/11 detainees beaten

Videos recorded inside a New York jail show Arab and Asian detainees, who were picked up in a sweep of immigrants in the wake of the September 11 attacks, being slammed and bounced off the prison walls by guards, according to an official US government report….

Across the country, more than 1,200 people, mostly Arabs and Asians, were detained on immigration violations after the 2001 explosions and held while they were investigated for possible links with terrorist groups. None was ever charged with terrorist-related crimes. (GW, 12/31)

Call it Mother of Oil Wars?

A drum roll, please: It’s time to announce the results of the Name That War Contest….

Some people suggested that instead of Operation Iraqi Freedom, this is "Operation Iraqi Liberation." I thought they were hawks until I recognized the acronym: OIL. Also on the petroleum front, Peter Wilson of Pennsylvania offered "Mother of Oil Wars…." And movie buffs urged Operation Kick the Dog," "The Empire Strikes Out," "Apocalypse Right Now…."

Scholarly readers…suggested "Pre-emptive War I," leaving room…to continue the series if [moving] on to Tehran and Pyongyang." (NYT News Service, 12/1)

Profit system = mad cow

At least 150,000 downer cattle — those who because of injury or illness cannot walk — were sold annually…. Selling damaged cows for human consumption never sat well with Mr. Behling, who in 2001 briefly had in his feed lot the Holstein cow identified last month as the downer with mad cow disease.

"It’s an absurd practice," Mr. Behling said….caused by maybe a certain amount of greed…."

In the 1990’s, meatpackers bought machines that were able to strip a few extra pounds off carcasses while saving millions in labor costs….The extra meat was sometimes laced with nerve tissues, where mad cow disease can incubate. But…getting rid of the machines would mean a loss to the industry of more than $130 million a year….

For years, the industry had a simple strategy: Fight proposals that would crimp its ability to squeeze as much revenue as possible from each cow….

The United States Department of Agriculture is by no means the first body to be captured by industry groups. In Europe and Japan the spread of the disease was facilitated by the repeated failure of government ministries to act on behalf of consumers. (NYT, 1/5)

Racist Thurmond raped ‘family slave’

There may not have been a more lowly and vulnerable position in Edgefield, S.C., in 1925 than that of a teenage black maid.

But that was how Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s mother, Carrie Butler, was employed when she and a young Strom Thurmond, the scion of a powerful white family, had what Mrs. Williams described as "an affair…."

But…the word "affair" makes it too simple — …intimidation was organic to that time and place….

"White men were king," said Valinda Littlefield, a professor of African-American history at the University of South Carolina. "She was basically a child. He can do with her what he wants. She’s more or less the family’s slave." (NYT, 12/21)

Terrorists at US workplace

Workers decapitated on assembly lines, shredded in machinery, burned beyond recognition, electrocuted, buried alive — all of them killed, investigators concluded, because their employers willfully violated workplace safety laws….

They were not accidents. They happened because a boss removed a safety device to speed up production, or because a company ignored explicit safety warnings, or because a worker was denied proper protective gear.

And for years…senior officials at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration….have repeatedly pledged to press…for criminal charges against those responsible.

These promises have not been kept….

OSHA’s reluctance…persisted even when employers had been cited before for the very same safety violations. It persisted even when the violations caused multiple deaths….

There have been repeated efforts to make it a felony to cause a worker’s death. But strong opposition from Republicans and many Democrats doomed every effort.

(NYT, 12/22)