Aristide, who BIll Clinton installed in power with 20,000 U.S. troops in 1994, was now given the "choice" by the U.S. ambassador to leave the presidency either on a Lear Jet or in a body bag. Now the drug-dealing death-squad "rebels" (CIA-armed via the government of the neighboring Dominican Republic) are in Port-au-Prince. The workers and youth who "welcomed" these murderers are cutting their own throats.
The White House disliked Aristide for many reasons -- maybe for being too close to one of the Bushites' many worst enemies, the liberal Clinton gang; or for bringing hundreds of Cuban doctors to work among the poor (Miami's Cuban exiles, crucial to Bush winning Florida in November, helped finance the armed "rebels"). All this despite everything Aristide did to serve imperialism and capitalism: signing a sweetheart deal with the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund; allowing construction of free trade zones that super-exploit workers; and even profiting off the drug trade. But the White House responded by cutting aid packages, enforcing embargoes and rumor-mongering.
U.S. imperialism funded all sectors of Aristide's opponents. The bosses never quite trusted him to serve their interests, even when Clinton restored him to power in 1994. They gave money to the whole spectrum of political opposition: from Hubert DeRonceray's right-wing, pro-Duvalier party, all the way to Gerald Charles-Pierre's "left" OPL (which split from Aristide's own Lavalas party), as well as to the "civil society" represented by industrialist-sweatshop millionaire Andy Apaid. According to an OPL member in the U.S., in the last few weeks the State Department told the political and civil opposition in the "Democratic Platform" not to negotiate power-sharing with Aristide. Thus, his last-ditch attempts to save his skin were constantly rebuffed by the political opposition.
The so-called rebels directed by Guy Philippe (a former Aristide police officer) and Louis-Jodel Chamblain -- a former army officer and death-squad leader responsible for the murder of over 1,000 Haitians during the 1991 coup ousting Aristide -- practically walked in and took over cities and towns throughout northern, northeastern and eastern Haiti, meeting little if any resistance.
What happens next remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: this is a dogfight between different groups of capitalists and their puppets. The French bosses hated Aristide because he demanded repayment of money Haiti had given France as reparations after the anti-slave rebellion that defeated Napoleon's army. France took advantage of a weakened Haiti to force compensation for losing its richest possession. Now France, which clamored for Aristide's ouster before Bush did, has a foothold in its old colony. Racism also unites Chirac and Bush; both want to bar "an influx of Haitian refugees -- the Bush administration to Florida...and France to its Caribbean provinces."(NY Times, 3/3)
At the same time, France will be better able to compete with the U.S. in part of the latter's Latin-American turf. Contradictions will sharpen among the imperialists.
For the impoverished working masses, it hardly matters who comes next: whether it's the "U.S. candidate," Marc Bazin (former World Bank official and Finance Minister under Baby Doc Duvalier); or Leslie Manigat ("elected" president by the military junta that ruled after the fall of Duvalier); or some other clown who will be allowed to serve only at the discretion of the U.S. and other imperialists. It also doesn't matter what comes next: the expected re-constitution of the Haitian Army (a tool to repress real workers' rebellion) led by the old TonTon Macoute officer corps; or an extended foreign occupation.
The Haitian urban and rural workers and youth have a long history of rebelling against their oppressors. Two centuries ago they kicked out the French slaveowners. Then they defeated Napoleon's powerful army. More recently they sent "Baby Doc" Duvalier packing to Paris. They forced Clinton to bring back "reformer" Aristide in 1994 when U.S. bosses feared a more radical mass uprising against the Gen. Cedras death-squad regime. Now that the death squads are back in power, Haiti's exploited masses must carry the struggle even further: uniting with their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean-Latin America region and elsewhere to crush the endless cycle of misery capitalism creates. Pick up the red flag and join the Progressive Labor Party in building a mass international communist movement.
This drug money provides billions not only for the cartels, but also for the banks (many in Florida) which launder the money; and for the drug gangs (including the CIA-backed armed "rebels" now occupying Port-au-Prince). The drug money is also used to re-pay Haiti's huge debt to international lenders stemming from IMF-World Bank policies.
Each generation of workers pays Social Security taxes to support the previous generation's retirement. According to the bosses' law, those taxes are supposed to go into the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for current and future retirees' pensions.
But in 1968, faced with a skyrocketing deficit caused by the billons spent on the Vietnam War, the Johnson administration started transferring the Social Security surplus into the general budget (labeled the "Unified Federal Budget"). Allen Schick of the Brookings Institution says, "This is illegal. By law, Social Security is excluded" from the general budget. But, "in practice, it is included." (N.Y. Times, 1/31/95)
Between 1968 through the year 2012, U.S. imperialism will have been paying for its war machine by stealing over FIVE TRILLION of these surplus dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund.
Every Democratic and Republican administration has taken the surplus generated by Social Security to "lower" that year's deficit, mainly caused by the multi-billion dollar war budget. Clinton's Federal budget "surplus" was "a mirage," according to a N.Y. Times editorial (11/9/98), "due to a big surplus in Social Security...which was spent on other things."
According to South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings, if these annual Social Security surpluses had remained in the Trust Fund, just starting from 1999 it would have created "a $3.2 TRILLION reserve in 2012 when payments to retiring baby boomers will start to exceed revenue." (N.Y. Times, 11/9/98)
A ruling class bent on endless imperialist wars to preserve capitalism and maintain world domination is sacrificing the retirement of current and future workers. The trillions in oil and war profits come from the value produced by our class. If the workers who create that value controlled it, retired workers could live healthy lives, confident that their needs would be met. But that will only happen when capitalism's thieving system is destroyed by communist revolution.
Based on his recommendations, huge increases in Social Security taxes were pushed through. While Reagan was reducing income taxes for millionaires, workers' payroll taxes were climbing. In fact, 75% of U.S. taxpayers pay more in Social Security taxes than in income taxes.
Since 1983, U.S. workers have paid $1.8 trillion more into Social Security than the Fund has paid out. "This year Americans will pay about 50 percent more in Social Security taxes than the government will pay out in benefits." (NY Times, 2/29/04) This was supposedly Greenspan's way of the baby boomers paying for their retirement in advance. But this "$1.8 trillion....[in] advance payments have all been spent....running the federal government." (NYT, 1/29/04) Essentially this was a way of increasing taxes on workers' income to be used to pay for the ever-expanding war machine, a thievery that continues to this day.
Another rip-off of Social Security is the wage cap. As of 1995, the Social Security tax of 7.65% was taken out of all earnings up to an annual maximum of $61,200. A married couple earning $60,000 a year, pays an annual Social Security tax of about $4,600 (7.65% on $60,000). But a boss earning a million bucks a year pays the same $4,600, because he is only being taxed on the first $61,200 of his income. That means the boss's Social Security tax rate is really only one-half of 1% of his million-dollar salary ($1,000,000 divided by $4,600). That's how the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.
And he added, the "convicts don't benefit much from the training for jobs that no longer exist in America because they have all gone overseas or into prisons."
As part of a national trend, Oregon is recruiting companies that would otherwise move offshore, like Michigan-based Perry Johnson, Inc., to create a "niche where the prison industry could really help the U.S. economy." So said the state's director of the agency that recruits for-profit businesses to prisons.
Perry Johnson chose the Snake River penitentiary near Ontario, Oregon, because it's half the cost of moving to India. Here it pays workers $30 a week for 40 hours -- 75cents an hour -- without fear of strikes, demands for wage increases or health care or worries about workers making it to work on time. Oregon and many other states are now making garments and furniture, two industries that have largely moved offshore, for as little as 12cents-an-hour!
But use of prison labor is not merely a cheap labor device to reap racist super-profits. Under fascist laws like the Patriot Act, the growing use of prison labor borrows a page from Hitler's slave labor book, to win the general population to accept a future of fascism and war -- and concentration camps for all those who oppose the bosses' system.
Here was an idea that could sustain revolutionary activity for a lifetime, but how to present it? Another teacher solved my problem by sharing this lesson plan with me.
We begin by making a bar-graph comparing the average gap between a CEO's salary and a manufacturing worker's wages. A U.S. CEO's pay is 34 times larger. ("Towers Perrin, Worldwire Total Remuneration," November 1999, quoted in "Teaching Economics as if People Mattered"). If a bar-graph representing the factory worker's wage is 1/2-inch tall, the CEO's bar would be 17 inches tall. We need two sheets of paper stuck together to accommodate it.
Then we turn to our role modeling. We are a small auto parts factory making seats for GM cars. Ten students are recruited to "work" in the factory. Most agree that at $20/hour they're earning "good money." To be hired, however, they must agree to work 8 hours a day and make 8 car seats in those 8 hours, as well as do quality work since these seats sell for $250 each. They sign on the dotted line. (I deliberately use a "good-paying" job because liberals continually equate the idea of exploitation only with the lowest-paying sweatshops).
We fast forward to the end of the day. Using play money I go down the line of production workers. Did they work 8 hours? Did they make 8 seats? Did they do quality work? "Yes, yes, yes," they reply and I give each one $2,000 (8 x $250).
Then I produce the contract they signed. They all agreed to work for 8 hours at $20 an hour, or $160. I go down the line again. They can keep "their" $160 but must return to me "my" $1,840. As you can imagine, even though its "play" money there's always some students who don't want to give it all back!
After much cajoling I end up with "my" $18,400 (10 workers times $1,840 each). Of course, it's not all "mine." I must give the banker thousands in interest, the landlord thousands in rent and pay the suppliers thousands for the raw materials and energy. I'm "lucky" if I end up with "only" $5,440 for the day (34 times the factory worker's pay)!
Is that fair? What would be fair? Can any wage be fair? I point out how some of the student-workers didn't want to give any of their money back to me, the owner. Were they right? We break into groups to discuss this and then (groan) write up our conclusions. (They will be the subject of a future article.)
[Editor's Note: A Business Week on-line story, 4/21/03, presents 2003 figures. The average CEO makes $7,400,000 a year. If the average worker is paid, say, $30,000 a year, that would mean the CEO's now make 247 times the average worker.]
The main strike issues were health benefits, pensions and a two-tier wage system. Current workers will pay higher co-payments for health benefits. Wages and benefits for new hires will be cut. Creation of a low-wage force becomes an incentive for the bosses to eliminate the higher-paid workers. No strikers were happy with this settlement. Some said it was worse than the bosses' original offer. But because workers saw no other alternative, the pro-capitalist union leadership was able to jam it through. The union leaders accept capitalism, war and fascism as being as "natural" as rain. But that's definitely not the whole story.
There were modest but important political developments. Many PLP members and friends went to picket lines with their unions and with water, food and literature, but not consistently enough. We underestimated the importance of winning our friends by supporting this strike while exposing the bosses' attacks as part of a broader political one.
The potential was evident at one store, where strikers were especially open and enthusiastic to our several visits. One worker had organized fellow strikers to go to the union hall demanding that the union resume picketing at Ralph's and at the food distribution centers so that Teamsters wouldn't drive the food to the struck markets. The union told Ralph's customers to shop, even though the bosses had locked out the workers. The union leaders claimed they had to pull the pickets because Ralph's was the only nearby store where customers could buy food. They were doing the bosses' work for them.
At this store, we interviewed the picket captain, a black woman with 28 years on the job. During the strike, she learned that no job is secure in this society. She said the union leaders had not prepared them for a long strike and that it was a bad idea to pull pickets from Ralph's. She said Ralph's shared its profits with the struck stores. This did not surprise her. "They're united," she said. "We have to be united."
Seventy percent of the customers supported the strike (the companies claimed they lost $1.5 billion), but "many people are living in a fantasy world," the picket captain said. "They think this could never happen to them, but it will. The scabs think of `me, me, me.' They need to learn class solidarity," she declared.
Another woman striker with 14 years at the store said that, while the strike had been very hard on her family, she and her husband used it to teach their children about the nature of the system. "We could only buy them food, nothing extra. They've learned that the things they need don't fall from the sky. We have to work very hard for them."
This Mexican worker explained that the strikers had become "family" -- black, Latin and white; that neither the bosses nor the union leaders would be able to destroy this unity. She said the "middle class" is disappearing; there will only be rich and poor. "The poor grow the corn, make the clothes, do everything. We don't need them [the rich bosses]. They need us." When asked if the poor could live without the rich, including eliminating the rich, she replied, "Yes, we can do that too," agreeing that only a revolution could make that happen.
Another 17-year veteran striker got $14,000 behind during the walkout. He called the scabs cowards, explaining that the strikers weren't fighting only for themselves but for all workers whose health benefits are endangered. He said workers should have organized to stop the scabs, even though "its against the law." When workers first organized against the scabs, the company videoed the strikers, to arrest them. This worker said from now on the rank and file would be more active in the union. The bosses' laws and cops are there to guarantee their profits.
Several strikers condemned the union's big rallies where politicians posed as the workers' saviors. That money should have been used to maintain strike benefits. The Democrats offer no solution, just empty promises. Strikers stressed the importance of teaching class consciousness to all youth and workers, that we're all part of one working class.
PLP intends to deepen our friendship with these workers, bring them CHALLENGE regularly, and invite them to join PLP. They must help teach the rest of the working class the need for class consciousness, unity and to fight for a communist society in which those who create all value use it to meet the needs of the working class, not the profits of the rich.
A few days later, a 40 year old co-worker unfortunately died of a heart attack after work. When the boss refused to permit the workers to attend the funeral and say their final farewell to their co-worker, more than 80% of the workers stopped working, left the factory and went to the funeral. For the boss, making profits is everything.
Stopping production twice in a week wasn't easy for the workers. They had to overcome the fear of being fired and any lack of confidence that their co-workers wouldn't support them. But class solidarity and class hatred of injustice and exploitation overcame these obstacles.
Our PLP garment industry collective has discussed how to draw out and put into practice the revolutionary communist lessons of this struggle. The first strike over the piece-rate protest and firing creates the opportunity to expose capitalism and its murderous wage system enslaving us our whole lives. We can advance the goal of eliminating wage slavery and its wage system, in a communist society where we all produce and receive according to our needs.
The second strike fostered solidarity with our late co-worker. This tragedy exposed capitalism as a killer of thousands of workers on the altar of its bloody profits. Garment workers have no health insurance or decent working conditions. This friend and co-worker leaves a family at the mercy of poverty, without life insurance or a pension. Under communism, workers' health and well-being will be primary.
These struggles show a small but important advance in the revolutionary ideas
of a group of co-workers with whom we've had hundreds of lunch-time political
discussions over the last three years. Building on small changes will lead to
bigger ones. We can now make a qualitative leap with some of the CHALLENGE
readers and a group of friends who discuss the ideas in the paper. This can
lead to an expanded readership and recruitment of new comrades to the long-term
struggle for workers' power. The push of fascist repression in the factories
opens the door to building the Party and spreading its ideas.
West Coast Red Worker
Delicias, a city in a semi-desert area, was built 70 years ago. Delphi has been operating there for almost 20 years. Now, as part of the bosses' worldwide drive to " compete" for maximum profits, the Delphi workers -- and the thousands more who depend on them and on doing business with the company -- are out on the street.
Many workers think the plant is being moved to China, where labor is cheaper. But actually Delphi's setting up shop in another area of Chihuahua state, where workers earn even less.
The Delicias workers' contract provided for an 800-peso monthly bonus (some $73) if they didn't have more than one unjustified absence.
When the union presented the workers with the bosses' demand to eliminate the bonus or there'd be no new contract, the workers rejected it, knowing the contract wouldn't guarantee anything, including their jobs. For the first time in its 25-year existence in Mexico, the world's biggest auto parts company didn't sign a union contract.
Delphi is the second largest private employer in Mexico, with 35,000 workers in 24 plants (second only to Wal-Mart). Delphi employs 192,000 workers in 171 plants worldwide.
Since the U.S. economy fell into recession in the second half of 2000, hundreds of thousands of maquiladora jobs have been lost in Mexico's border states. Delphi plans to eliminate jobs in Mexico and worldwide, mostly in the U.S.
Capitalism is a system only interested in maximum profits, not in the lives of workers. They want us to blame workers in China, Detroit or in nearby Sinaloa or Sonora. But this is just a bosses' weapon to provoke us to fight each other instead of their system. Workers need international unity to fight a capitalist system hell-bent on endless wars and "job-cutting competitiveness." The communist slogan of "Workers of the World, Unite!" is now more important than ever.
Only a mass union petition campaign (initiated by a PLP member and led by the rank and file) that tied the December cutbacks to the Iraq war budget prevented even worse cuts. The union leadership pulled the plug on that campaign when the transit bosses agreed to "defer" 40% of the cuts until 2004. Well, 2004 is here and the bosses have become tongue-tied. "Defer" is no longer in their vocabulary.
While the working class will fight the cuts and layoffs -- as we always have -- more of us should be promoting communist revolution as the ultimate solution to this never-ending series of attacks. A war economy takes $400 billion of workers' taxes for the U.S. military and $357 billion for interest on the federal debt. Nearly $150 billion has been spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, so far, to make it "safe" to steal oil profits. And $38 billion for Homeland Security threatens workers who fight back. Recently, two county sheriffs' officers, identifying themselves as agents of Homeland Security, visited a union hall where workers were involved in supporting grocery strikers. This is fascism. Since when does a grocery strike threaten "national security"? When it threatens the security of capitalist profits!
To fund this brutality, no working-class service will be spared. It now takes a student from a downtown high school three buses and two hours to get to her East side home. The bus line that ran by her house was eliminated and another was cut in half. She often gets home too late to help her mother, who's recovering from surgery. This is an added stress to the recent public health cuts. Her school district is under state trusteeship and has planned closing five elementary schools. For workers and students, capitalism is a nightmare!
In the months ahead, transit workers will have many opportunities to develop communist leadership in the class struggle. We must unite riders and workers to battle the transit bosses on March 2 when they vote on their war cuts. During this struggle we will invite many to come to May Day. On May 1 workers can join transit and other workers and youth in Los Angeles to build PLP and the revival of the world communist movement.
Also, this July 1 three contracts in this metropolitan area expire. All districts threaten workers with cuts in medical coverage and jobs. We will organize to unite transit and other workers and urge them to join PLP for the long-term fight to destroy the system that needs fascism and war.
In the mid-19th Century, Edwin Chadwick and other members of the English ruling class passed the Sanitary and Factory Acts to improve conditions in the factories and working-class districts. These acts dramatically improved life expectancy in England.
Chadwick and the British rulers enacted these measures to keep the lid on epidemics that could threaten the rich and as a reaction to rising labor militancy reflected in the Chartist movement. But the primary reason was their concern that the English working class was being worked to death, and productivity and capital accumulation were threatened. Chadwick explained this in his "Inquiry into the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain":
"The depressing effect of adverse sanitary circumstances on the labouring strength of the population, and on its duration, is to be viewed with the greatest concern, as it is a depressing effect on that which most distinguishes the British people, and which...constitutes the chief strength of the nation -- the bodily strength of the individuals of the labouring class."
Decades later this public health "urge" came to John D. Rockefeller and U.S. bosses. (See "Rockefeller Medicine Men" by E. Richard Brown.) In the early 20th century, Rockefeller and his agents discovered that the inefficiency and "proverbial laziness" of workers in the southern U.S. were caused by anemia due to the hookworm, a parasite that enters the body through the soles of the feet. They established programs to eliminate it in the south and in many tropical countries targeted for investment. Although the Rockefeller programs did not completely eradicate the disease, they did control it in many areas.
They said the hookworm program was important "on account of the direct physical and economic benefits resulting from the eradication of the disease and also on account of the usefulness of this work as a means of creating and promoting influences."
Frederick Gates, a principal Rockefeller advisor, wrote that the stocks of cotton mills located in the parasite-infected counties of North Carolina were worth less than mills in other counties "...due to the inefficiency of labor in these cotton mills, and the inefficiency of labor is due to the infection by the hookworm which weakens the operatives. It takes by actual count about 25% more laborers to secure the same results in the counties where the infection is heavier." It also meant 25% more housing, machinery, more capital and higher operating costs, and "this is why the stocks of such mills are lower and profits lighter." Many internal Rockefeller documents described the extent of hookworm infection and the loss in labor productivity. Increased productivity generally followed treatment programs in each area.
So the Rockefeller parasites declared war on the hookworm parasites to protect their profits. It was just good business. Under communism, medical care and public health programs will truly meet the physical and psychological needs of the international working class.
In terms of wages compared to total value added in manufacturing, the study found the U.S. "more competitive" than Canada, Germany, Britain and South Korea. But if "structural costs" are included, the cost of doing business in the U.S. rises 22.4%, exceeding costs in these other countries. One of the main "structural costs" is health care. "And the solution," reports the Times, "may be something that has traditionally been anathema to corporate chieftains: bigger government."
In all these other countries, both public and private money pays for health care. But U.S. businesses pay a larger chunk than their European and Asian counterparts. In Canada, the private sector spends 2.8% of gross domestic product on health care. In the U.S., the private-sector figure is 7.7%, and this falls mainly on big employers like GM, which covers the health care of 1.2 million people, costing $4.5 billion.
One way U.S. bosses deal with this is eliminating retiree health care. In 2003, only 36% of large companies (500+ workers) provided a retiree medical plan to at least some retirees not eligible for Medicare, down from 50% in 1993. But now a major strategy is to support government-sponsored health care, like the prescription drug benefit enacted last summer, and have taxpayers foot the bill.
It's not clear what type of government-sponsored health plans will evolve. Some advocate a single-payer system, as in Canada. The majority of businesses seem to favor some sort of tax credits -- rather than employers providing benefits, consumers would buy health care. But no matter what type of system emerges, the effect would be "to transfer the financial burden from companies to American taxpayers." (NYT) It won't be surprising to see major sections of the ruling class opt for increasing taxes. This is another reason why many of them disagree with Bush's tax cuts -- they run counter to the ability to deal with the exorbitant healthcare costs (not to mention the money needed to maintain the bosses' war machine).
So all the new health care "reforms" are designed to take some of the burden off business, not to help workers. There's good reason to expect that the overall level of health care will continue to drop. After all, the bosses will likely need those taxes for other things, like prisons, Homeland Security fascism and wars. Communism is the real antidote to a health care system that fails to meet workers' needs.
While not exactly the same, my students have also been "zoned for slavery." They're home attendants, part of the 80,000-member Homecare Division of Local 1199-SEIU. Other thousands of attendants and home health aids here aren't unionized. Almost all are immigrant women workers.
Said one of my ESL students:
"I don't understand why an agency...in the union pays $6.65 an hour. In special cases (persons [for whom]... everything has to be done in bed, who don't use pampers, defecate on the sheets which must be cleaned, in addition to the usual cleaning, cooking and washing) home attendants are paid $7.65 a hour. Extra hours in these cases pay $7.73 an hour. Extra hours (overtime) are after 45 hours...[not] after 40 hours. They don't pay sick days and personal days and we have to work a certain number of hours to get medical insurance. I know of persons who work 72 hours a week, 6 days, 12 hours a day, with 2 or 3 children. They can't dedicate themselves to their children and they kill themselves working, destroying their health and neglecting their children.
"To me it is necessary to get more knowledge about this kind of work....but it is bad what I see.... I would appreciate it if these irregularities (among which you have spoken are persons who work 24 hours and are only paid for 12 hours) come to light and...that we do something to better the situation."
The union has an apartheid system. Home attendants work 12 hours for straight pay and 24 hours for 12 hours pay with a small night differential. Workers in the Hospital Division work 8-hour shifts with an hour paid lunch and time and one-half after 8 hours, supposedly the "law" in the U.S.
There are plans to expose and fight these conditions for home attendants. In my classes workers have written letters and testimonies, like the one quoted above. I and some of these home attendants will attend a "Freedom Ride" conference sponsored by union, community and immigrant groups to present our case and expose 1199's duplicity and hypocrisy.
One student is a union delegate; we'll try to persuade others to become delegates so we can better organize home attendants on a grassroots, struggle level. I'm in a social justice group of churches and community organizations that's organizing a forum for International Workers Day about globalization and free trade, at which several home attendants will speak. From this we'll propose some local actions.
We plan to consolidate two PLP study groups into one, combining social justice activists and home attendants. Hopefully this will strengthen both groups and EXPAND the network distribution of CHALLENGE from its current level of 30. As more workers join PLP, we can further develop them into politically conscious communist organizers in the unions, churches and groups to which they belong.
One of the "debate" issues in the Democratic Party primaries is free trade agreements. This "debate" is phony, manufactured to obscure the fact that "globalization" -- imperialism, which Lenin called the highest stage of capitalism -- has already consolidated power into the hands of a few capitalists who dominate all production: banking, industry, service, the media and military contracts. Loss of jobs in the U.S. while the U.S. occupation of Iraq is grinding down, terrorizing and killing Iraqi workers into submission to become yet another free trade zone, are permanent features of imperialism, as are endless wars. PLP members in the anti-globalization movement should concentrate on uniting workers internationally and fighting against "zones for slavery."
Ultimately imperialism cannot turn the clock back. Workers must "zone" it for extinction. A politically conscious, organized and internationally united working class can fight back constantly while re-building the international communist movement. Learning the lessons of the past movement and preparing the working class for the revolutionary seizure of power to build a new communist world that will abolish wage slavery and the imperialist profit system remains our road to liberation.
Now suddenly the leading spokesman of the U.S. ruling class, the New York Times, has "discovered" the Soviet role in previously "unpublished archives" -- as if they were heretofore unknown. In an article (2/21) entitled, "A Job for Rewrite: Stalin's War and Hitler's Downfall," the Times begins with the picture of World War II that the paper itself has painted for decades: "A plucky Britain refusing to bow to the Luftwaffe's blitz, Patton and Rommel dueling in the North African desert, the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge -- these tend to dominate American's conception of the Allied defeat of Germany.... The decisive impact of America's erstwhile ally was often deliberately underplayed in the West for political reasons."
Then it admits that, "Military historians have always known that the main scene of the Nazis' downfall was the Eastern Front, which claimed 80% of all German military casualties in the war.
"The four-year conflict between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army remains the largest and possibly the most ferocious ever fought....The front extended 1,900 miles (greater than the distance from the northern border of Maine to the southern tip of Florida) and German troops advanced over 1,000 miles into Soviet territory (equivalent to the distance from the East Coast to Topeka, Kansas). And they clashed in a seemingly unrelenting series of military operations of unparalleled scale; the battle of Kursk alone...involved 3.5 million men.
"In short, the war fought on the Eastern Front is arguably the single most important chapter in modern military history."
It repeats "the conventional view" (without mentioning the Times' role in spreading that view) that "Soviet tactics and performance were leaden and unimaginative." Now, citing the "latest findings," it says "the Soviets' brilliant use of encirclement and what they called `deep battle' -- extremely rapid, far-reaching advances behind the enemy's front lines -- constituted the most innovative and devastating display of "operational art" in World War II. Soviet operations...were far superior to those of the German Army at its best."
Did this have anything to do with the nature of the first communist state, with the leadership of Stalin and the Communist Party? One couldn't conclude that from reading the Times' article. Although the headline refers to "Stalin's War," he's not even mentioned in relation to the defeat of the most powerful army the world had seen up until that time. In issue after issue, in nearly every section of the "paper of record," year after year, Stalin is depicted as "worse than Hitler." But in tracing the gigantic development of the Soviet Union, even that arch imperialist, Winston Churchill, was forced to admit that, "Stalin came to Russia with a wooden plough and left it in possession of atomic weapons." All in less than 20 years!
The Times and the bosses' media generally do not want workers to relate communist ideas and leadership to this monumental achievement that almost single-handedly saved the world from fascism. Had Hitler been able to conquer the Soviet Union, millions of people in Britain and the U.S. would have been killed. There probably would never have been a "baby boomer" generation.
Yes, in this first attempt to establish a communist state, amid all the achievements, serious errors occurred, many of which CHALLENGE has pointed out in our attempt to build on the positive aspects of the USSR while trying to avoid its weaknesses and develop a more successful road to communism. We must rely on the international working class to advance to that goal, even as we applaud the contribution of the Soviet Union, its Red Army and its leader Stalin that brought us as far as they could go. (For a full analysis of WW2 see the CHALLENGE Supplement of May 17. 1995)
The NY Daily News (Feb. 25) reported: "The bankruptcy filing of Parmalat USA, a division of scandal-tainted Italian dairy company Pamalat Finanziaria, raised doubts yesterday about the future of its Sunnydale Farms plant on Stanley Avenue in Brooklyn.'This company will be sold and the new owners might close Brooklyn and operate in New Jersey,' said a local dairy industry source. `Brooklyn has a high cost of doing business.'"
The source said a number of suitors are interested in buying Parmalat and its two subsidiaries, Farmland Dairies, which distributes milk in the New York area, and Milk Products of Alabama. A deal could be announced in a few weeks.
While workers could lose their jobs, Parmalat bosses won't lose much. A federal judge approved a $17.5 million loan from GE Capital to allow the company to continue operating during the bankruptcy period. Parmalat expects to double that loan next month.
Company founder and former chairman Calisto Tanzi has been jailed, along with six other former executives after Parmalat failed to document $11 billion missing from its accounts. The Milan-based parent company filed for bankruptcy in Italy in December.
When Tenet moved to lower mandated overtime pay to time and one-half, the nurses balked. Citing studies proving mandatory overtime increased errors, the nurses insisted on eliminating the practice altogether. Tenet tried to smear the nurses as "disrupting patient care" but the latter won the public to realize that the strike was over patient safety.
The strike was as ineffective as are all strikes run by AFL-CIO sellouts. They made no serious effort to stop scab agency nurses from crossing the picket lines. Philadelphia labor leaders and some Democratic Party politicians gave little meaningful support, merely lip service. Union workers from Local 1199 crossed the lines.
Tenet then laid off many of these workers just before Christmas and blamed the nurses, winning these workers to do the same. Meanwhile, the 1199 leadership remained silent. Michael Nutter, the district's Democratic councilman, took Tenet's side. He attempted to paint the strikers as "overpaid and greedy," ignoring the real issue -- patient safety.
Despite this mis-leadership, the nurses eventually won concessions. Mandatory overtime would end by June. Then, while the nurses were celebrating, Tenet announced the hospital would be closed in March. These backstabbing bosses had repeatedly lied to the nurses' negotiating committee, assuring them there was no plan to close the hospital.
The MCP hospital has a rich history in Philadelphia. It was founded by Quaker abolitionists over 150 years ago as a medical school for women. This hospital serves a black and Latin working-class community of 70,000. It's an important trauma center, but Tenet's bosses couldn't care less. They claim MCP is draining $5,000,000 a month from their profits. And under capitalism, profits -- not workers' health or jobs -- is the bottom line.
Hospital workers and community residents are fighting to keep this important hospital open, a movement in which our PLP collective is participating. The struggle relies heavily on legal tactics and is controlled by Democratic Party politicians, including Nutter, who sold out the nurses. These misleaders, of course, don't expose capitalism as the cause of the healthcare crisis. However, angry workers do understand that this hospital closing is a racist attack on them on behalf of Tenet's profits.
By advancing our Party's line in this battle, we aim to win these workers to realize that only the destruction of capitalism can end such racist attacks. Building a communist world is the only way to fulfill all their needs!u
An MCP worker
"Passion's" backers have some interests that conflict with U.S. imperialism. Newmarket Films, the outfit distributing the movie in North America, is controlled be Helkon Media of Germany. European capitalists have long chafed at U.S. support for Israel and U.S. domination of Mideast oil. The U.S.-Europe rivalry also explains why Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls declared that the Pope had given "Passion" a pontifical thumbs-up. "It is as it was," Navarro-Valls quoted the Pope as saying after a private screening. Navarro-Valls is a leader of Opus Dei, a secretive, right-wing Catholic sect funded by anti-U.S. European capitalists.
But don't think for a minute that the main, liberal wing of U.S. capitalism is fundamentally opposed to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism remains a powerful weapon in the rulers' arsenal. They dust it off when they need it. Anti-Semitism has been particularly helpful to the main wing in bringing fascistic discipline to the business world. The rulers set the stage for the current prosecution of Enron, Worldcom, and the rest over a decade ago by demonizing and jailing financiers Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Dennis Levine and Martin Siegel, who happened to be jewish. Books from mainstream publishers bore ominous titles like "Den of Thieves," "Predators' Ball" and "Barbarians at the Gate" and decried the "greed" of Wall Street investors. Gibson's movie would prove useful, should the rulers require a similar purge in the future. And there's no guarantee that Israel's pro-U.S. rulers will stay in power forever. If Israel were to cease being Washington's lackey, any tempering of anti-Semitism in the U.S. would vanish. That's why the liberal media have chosen to publicize rather than suppress "Passion," even as they criticize it.
But now, under John Paul II, the pendulum has swung back. The pre-Vatican II church's condemnation of Jews -- which it only recently retracted -- and its mystical, medieval symbols glorifying suffering, are what Gibson projects onto the screen. (By the way, the earliest symbol of Christianity was not the torturing cross but a fish, representing the weekly meal that members used to share.)
Not a single Jewish character gets a sympathetic portrayal. Jews are either pompous high priests, conspiring to safeguard their own privileged position, or mindless rabble. Christians, however, from the Marys to the disciples, are beatific. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, comes across as a philosophical man, deeply conflicted. In reality, Pilate was a relentless hard-liner who so antagonized the masses of Jerusalem by forcing Roman state religion on them that he was recalled by the Emperor. Gibson ignores this opposition to the Roman empire as well as the early Christians' egalitarianism.
Gibson preaches filth; that's for sure. But the liberals are no better. Their pleas for tolerance mask an agenda of intensifying fascism and war.
These profits were spurred by mass free publicity from the media, the controversy it caused, and organized religion's purchase of millions of tickets. Besides being gory ("The Passion according to Marquis de Sade" says Newsweek), it revives the old anti-Semitic lie that the "Jews killed Christ." It could become the next Protocols of Zion, the forgery created by the Tsar's secret police a century ago and distributed worldwide by Henry Ford, used to carry out pogroms against the Jews in Russia, Eastern Europe and finally the Holocaust (denied by Gibson's father).
It's graphic depiction of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus could translate into, "it is good to suffer to save U.S. imperialism from anti-Christian forces like the Islamic fundamentalists."
Unfortunately many people treat all this as "historical fact." It's assumed that Jesus' crucifixion is an historical event, the truth of which needs to be uncovered (and then depicted). But history is not on the side of this myth.
When the Roman Empire ruled the Middle East there were at least several "Jesuses," a Greek name corresponding to "Joshua." The New Testament is written in Greek.
In the Old Testament, Joshua was the great general of the Jews who wiped out the Canaanites, so many rebels assumed the name of "Joshua," or "Jesus" in Greek.
There are a number of these known to history, but NONE at the time of the Biblical story of Jesus. Not one. There is historical evidence for King Herod, Pontius Pilate, even John the Baptist, even James "the brother of the Lord," called Jesus' brother in the Book of Acts, but NOT for Jesus.
Modern scholarship suggests there was some kind of historical figure behind the "Jesus" figure -- probably a rebel of some kind, or several of them. But the "Jesus" stories in the New Testament are mythical.
Some helpful information is available at these webpages: The Jesus Puzzle -- this writer, Earl Doherty, is a respected non-religious scholar of the period.
Jesus and the Jewish Resistance, Hyam Maccoby, is a Zionist, but knows his stuff. He takes the "Rebel" viewpoint. The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man -- this is about the best short thing around. Price is brilliant, and a former Fundamentalist who was led by the evidence first to skepticism, later to atheism.
Price's latest book, also called "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man" (Prometheus Press), is terrific, scholarly, full of humor, well-written, and the best thing in print. To listen to a lecture by Price, go to this page. (You'll need "RealPlayer") The Quest for the Historical Jesus
Price also has a very scholarly book, "Deconstructing Jesus."
Finally, see the articles in the current Communist Magazine on religion and in the old PL Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer-Fall 1981, pp. 59. It's a review of Maccoby (see above), with lots of historical information, though it's over 20 years old now.
A final note: Christianity began making a big deal about who killed Jesus when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. This changed the ideology of the early Christians, the one Engels compared to young communards. Constantine turning Christianity into the official religion meant that the ordinary Christian was to be fatalistically in the hands of their priest who was ordained by the state. This is not irrational; it's class ideology to serve Rome's rulers.
Democratic Party front-runner John Kerry spoke recently at a nearby university campus. A friend dragged me along. I must say it was an eye-opener for the mostly anti-Bush, anti-war crowd in the auditorium.
Kerry began by criticizing the war effort, calling Bush and his administration amateurs and "armchair hawks." He promised a "stronger, more comprehensive strategy for winning the war....than the Bush Administration has ever envisioned."
Kerry, faulting Bush repeatedly, declared, "I believe he has done too little," and called for adding 40,000 more active-duty army troops in Iraq. Because the U.S. is already in Iraq, it must finish its work there, he said. (This sounds exactly like Nixon's policy on Vietnam that Kerry supposedly opposed in 1971.)
On Homeland Security (aka the police state), this liberal proposed that domestic police and intelligence agencies be consolidated under the CIA in order to "break down barriers between national intelligence and local law enforcement." In this vein, he criticized Bush's tax cuts to the rich for endangering Homeland Security--"we can't afford not to fund Homeland Security."
My friend was a little shell-shocked, like many in the audience, when they heard this liberal warmonger speak.
I made sure my co-worker had several CHALLENGES in his hand when we left. Now that he has heard war and fascism advocated from the horse's mouth, CHALLENGE's communist analysis shines through the fog of illusions.
A West Coast comrade
This slick display designed to recruit working-class urban youth from my campus made me ponder why the Army needs to pay for its soldiers' college education once they get out? Why isn't it free?
Many of my students come from public high schools which haven't prepared them for college. They struggle through their classes while holding down one or even two jobs. One had to take a job over an hour away in order to pay for school. Tuition costs are skyrocketing, way up this year and rising again next year. Meanwhile, federal and state programs are now forcing students on financial aid to severely limit the number and variety of courses they can take. No more liberal arts classes for students on financial aid. Free college education died when the ruling class discovered it could get away with charging people for such public services. To most of my students free college education is as exotic an idea as free health care. They've never seen it, so it's hard for them to imagine it.
When I talk to my students about having a free education, it's a concept that, like free health care, resonates with them. I tell them we must organize and fight for this right. But when the ruling class forces us to work harder and harder to survive, it's difficult to become organized. PLP members must help to educate and organize workers and students to see the patterns of capitalism and become communist organizers themselves. Communism means free education, free health care, a secure retirement. Communism means everyone shares in the wealth our class produces.
A College Teacher in Brooklyn
"While I believe that Socialism (I'd rather say communism) will inevitably come, I don't think it will come trotting up to us as readily as you seem to think. Wasn't it Lenin who said `Communism won't come to us as a scheduled train comes, puffing up to time, into a first-class [train] station.' There will be a big fight for it....
"Communism, so far from being the end, is but the beginning. I look for it, not that we must rest from our labors, but that we may begin them. They have begun in the USSR; we haven't been able to start yet. No one can determine now how we can prevent things from being mismanaged or abused under Socialism; that must be evolved during the transition period, out of actual experience....
"But be assured, the struggle when Communism comes will not be less, but greater; but achievement will be certain....The big thing now is the terrible economic immorality under which we live and suffer and die. That controlled, all other things will reach a healthy and vigorous level....And, to me, Communism is the gateway."
Unfortunately, sometimes editing can distort the message an author is attempting to transmit. For example, in an article from Challenge (2/18/04), entitled "Internationalism Trumps Nationalism at MEChA Conference," the original article didn't say that internationalist politics overcame deep-rooted nationalist ideologies. In fact, an extremely nationalist rap group performed at this conference the same night as the woman who spoke. This confusion was not completely the fault of the editor, since the article didn't include enough of these signs of the continuing presence of nationalist politics.
It's imperative that the dialectical nature of base-building be taken into account when writing to CHALLENGE. There are two mistakes we can make when analyzing our struggle. One is to trivialize the obstacles that we must overcome. The other is pessimism about the potential for growth within our base. Both these mistakes are dangerous to our Party's development.
Before submitting this article, the city committee discussed whether or not to say that what happened "showed the potential to win many of these young people." This became a sharp political struggle over whether or not it was truly possible to win large numbers of these young people to the Party over time. We decided it was possible and to put "many." Our experience over the last year showed we should not become pessimistic about the potential towards winning these young people.
In fact, we've already gone a long way towards developing a solid base in MEChA within a relatively short period of time. One example: a resolution proposed by a PL member against the war in Iraq was passed unanimously in the region. One young woman (who is now closer to the Party) stood up for use of the word "Fascism" within the resolution.
Yet we know that to win these people will take a lot of hard work and intense struggle. When CHALLENGE decided to print this headline and to change the first sentence to state that "working-class internationalism won out over nationalism and liberalism," it seemed to say we had already overcome nationalism. This trivialization of obstacles can be dangerous. We want our base to know that CHALLENGE prints the whole dialectical truth. I'm confident that our team of editors will continue to do just that.
Comradely, Editing the Editor
This mess was done by a right-wing leadership of SEIU Local 73 HC which was ousted after highly contested elections. The new more "progressive" leadership has done little about the situation.
There was an article in the past CHALLENGE. and also a flyer put out by the friends and members of PLP. Both were excellent.
The main thing we have to do it to break down the barriers of racism which help the capitalists. In the now gone House Committee of Un-American Activities a man was accused of being a member of the communist party. The Committee asked the accuser how he knew the man was a communist. The accuser answered that the man invited his black and Hispanic friends to his apartment.
Reading and writing about anti-racism is certainly important. We must put it into practice. It is important and it is fun to learn about other cultures.
The bosses give the impression that they favor one ethnic group above the other. In most cases, they do not favor all the members of each ethnic group.
We must talk to those that are not bought off. In some countries there are strong leftist movements and talk about communism is not out of this world. The ethnic barriers must be broken. If a situation is hot, the chance of success is great. Under normal situations, it is a long but rewarding process.
If we get even a paragraph in the native language of another language of the ethnic groups, that is a success.
In the early days of PLP in the hospital, we made some multi-ethnic dinners with each person bringing a dish from their respective country.
Theory and practice in fighting racism and capitalism are inseparable. Read CHALLENGE. Go beyond the labor union limits.
A red pharmacist
Unions were born in labor's struggle against capitalist bosses who enslaved them. Unions grew to the extent they forced the bosses to back off on some of the oppression and give workers a little more of the vast wealth that was stolen from them. At a crucial point in that struggle, the labor movement split between communist workers who wanted to continue the militant fight against the bosses, and business unionists who wanted to ban communists from the unions, discourage strikes, become the bosses' lieutenants and accept the system that exploits us all, in exchange for a slice of the capitalists' pie. These class collaborationists won that battle and turned unions into businesses profiting "leaders" who negotiated sellout contracts, raised dues and made members pay for their lavish life-styles so they could mingle as "equals" with the corporate bosses.
Today workers are back to square one because corporate and union capitalists can only be successful by accelerating the oppression of the working class. The challenge for the working class is to build the class struggle against the ruling class and capitalist wage slavery while fighting for a communist world based on workers' needs. And the challenge for the Party is the nurturing and development of communists who can rise to that task.
So Haiti lurched from coup to coup....
France, backed by the US, later ordered Haiti to pay 150 m[illion] francs in gold as reparations to compensate former plantation and slave owners as well as for the costs of the war in return for international recognition. At today's prices that would amount to 18 b[illion]. By the end of the 19th century, 80% of Haiti's national budget was going to pay off the loan and its interest, and the country was locked into the role of debtor nation -- where it remains today. (GW, 3/3)