The U.S. military's shortcomings in Iraq and Afghanistan expose the rulers' inevitable need to restore the draft. Their ever-expanding wars will soon require millions of troops that stagnant recruiting cannot provide. The only thing stopping them from implementing the draft now is widespread, though unorganized, popular opposition. Young workers are not so willing to serve in the Pentagon's murder machine. Working-class parents don't want their children killing and dying for Exxon Mobil's profits. But with imperialist wars stretching U.S. armed forces to the breaking point, the rulers have already begun forcing people into uniform. In late June, Army brass took a significant step towards restoring the draft by recalling 5,600 retired soldiers involuntarily.
However, while the government is funding and staffing draft boards and two conscription bills are pending in Congress, the rulers are trying hard not to let the cat out of the bag. The New York Times (7/3/04) printed a blatant lie: "Top lawmakers, joined by Pentagon leaders and administration officials, say that there are definitely no plans to resume the draft." The rulers' reticence goes far beyond election-year concerns. They fear the draft as much as they need it, remembering well the rebellions the draft sparked during the Vietnam War. In a Washington Post (7/1/04) opinion piece, "Why We Need the Draft Back," Noel Koch, a military aide to Nixon and Reagan, wrote, "In the late 1960s, America's cities were set aflame by the civil rights revolution; in the early '70s, the campuses of the nation's universities were in similar peril. The draft was a target of anti-war protests." Koch could also have mentioned the wave of mutinies and rebellions that rocked the U.S. military at the time. These militant acts, Koch says, forced Nixon to make a "tactical retreat" and end the draft. So a draft can work two ways. Sending hundreds of thousands into the army against their will offers great potential for GIs organizing inside the military against the very rulers that sent them there.
What Koch describes as dark days in fact were shining ones for the working class. Our Party led many of the struggles that Nixon's lackey laments. In them, we won many workers and students to a revolutionary communist outlook. The Party grew. We are now in a period that both resembles and differs from the Vietnam Era. Today, just as then, U.S.-led wars lay bare the fundamental murderousness of U.S. imperialism and the profit system in general. The level of class consciousness, however, has taken a nose-dive since then, primarily because the old communist movement has collapsed. Thus, ongoing U.S. atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, like prison torture and the slaughter of noncombatants, cause little useful outrage. Well-meaning anti-war activists have quickly joined Move On and other "Dump-Bush" movements that aid the more dangerous, liberal, Kerry camp of war-makers.
The lesson for us is clear, although we were slow to grasp it. In workplaces, communities, schools, and other mass organizations, our Party must take the lead in exposing the rulers' war crimes and their wasting of working-class youth as cannon fodder. No one else can or will attack both the Bushites and the liberals. No one else calls for organizing workers, soldiers and students to fight the real cause of imperialist war: the profit system. Our protests and other activities during the Democratic Party convention in Boston later in July will attack the other war Party: Kerry and the Democrats.
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 23 - Progressive Labor Party member Mike Golash has been elected president of the 6,000-member Local 689, Amalgamated Transit Workers Union (ATU). He defeated incumbent president Hicks 2,000 to 1,483 after the previous election was overturned. Amid an imperialist war in Iraq and the rapid rise of a Homeland Security police state, in the face of racist attacks and police terror, and in the shadow of the White House, this local of mainly black workers told the bosses and union hacks, "I'm with Mike!" This is a victory full of opportunities and dangers. Our job is to turn a mass base for a communist into a mass base for communism.
Working at Metro for 28 years, Mike has consistently distributed CHALLENGE to thousands of workers, built a base for PLP, led class struggle and been involved in all union activities, from wildcat strikes to the softball league. In 2000, he was elected Financial Secretary, and came in second running for the presidency in December, 2003, carrying three bus garages - Northern, Western and Bladensburg. Approaching that election, Mike and a group of Metro workers organized a campaign committee, and regrouped as a PLP study group after the election.
Mike filed an election protest because Hicks had used large amounts of union money to pay for his campaign. The International Union ruled that the entire election should be re-run to prevent Department of Labor intervention.
Mike campaigned for ending the racist multi-tier wage progression, militant struggle against management and for international workers' unity against imperialism. The committee issued two leaflets, one attacking Hicks for being an incompetent sellout, the other attacking nationalism and anti-communism (see text, page 3). Suddenly, the campaign committee mushroomed. Old union friends joined study-group members to press for Mike's election. By election time, the committee had representatives at all 34 polling places.
In the six months following the previous December election, while Mike was back to driving a bus and building the Party, the union was deteriorating. Hicks flipped out at one union meeting of 400 workers, screaming that he was running the union his way, and marching up and down the aisles cursing at the workers. He was also giving away the store to management in contract negotiations, agreeing to let Metro reduce its pension contribution and to a management plan for "alternative discipline."
Fearing for the very life of the union, workers, as well as the executive board and former union leaders, threw their support to Mike, but for different reasons. The executive board and former leaders wanted to save their union from going down the tubes and protect their pensions. Many of the especially oppressed younger drivers sensed a chance to finally stand up to management. This sense of hope for bold militant, incorruptible leadership swept through the system, creating a great opportunity for sharper class struggle and recruitment to PLP! This contradiction between the rank and file and the "leadership group" will certainly intensify.
Reform does not lead to revolution. The natural pull of the reform movement is to the right, to keep the working class tied to capitalism. In the 1930's, communists fought their hearts out to organize industrial unions, including the ATU, to win the 8-hour day and health insurance, to fight racism, and much more. But the more the reform movement consumed them, the further away they moved from building and leading a revolutionary movement.
The old communist movement eventually collapsed from its own internal weaknesses. Today the international working class is suffering more death, disease, war, genocide and fascist terror than at any point in human history. We will not make that same mistake. While we try to lead the fight for the immediate needs of the workers, more importantly we will fight to build a mass base for CHALLENGE and revolutionary communism, and recruit workers to PLP. This is a very complex and difficult process. It won't be easy. But in fighting for every small gain we will constantly expose to the workers how these endless reform struggles put us on a treadmill that always submarines any apparent gains, and why the cause of every problem, every grievance is the capitalist profit system itself.
Already the Metro bosses and union sellouts are plotting to sabotage the union's new red leadership. If we do our job right, we will face serious attacks. The bosses may take a harder line against Mike to "prove" that workers should not choose communist leadership. Legal and physical attacks, from the government, management or pro-boss union goons, could occur at some point, and workers will have to defend Mike's leadership and PLP.
In order to win workers to the Party and advanced communist politics, we must rely on many workers to spread the distribution of CHALLENGE. These readers and distributors will be the first to grasp communist philosophy, history, politics, economics and strategy. They will also be the most likely to lead militant class struggle around communist ideas, on and off the job.
We can organize discussions at the bus barns around all issues, from why Kerry and the Democrats are enemies of the working class, to why the war in Iraq is caused by inter-imperialist rivalry, to how the wage progression policy is a racist attack on all workers, and how all these attacks are part of a capitalist system that must be destroyed with a communist revolution. And we must look ahead to building the Party's influence far beyond this one local and workplace.
This victory could be a mixed blessing. But we have confidence that the Party and the Metro workers, over time and through much struggle, with advances and setbacks, will build the revolutionary movement in the capital of U.S. imperialism, a system that offers the working class only endless wars, cutbacks, racist terror and mass unemployment. If workers in many other industries follow the lead of the PLP-led workers in Local 689, and are offered the same communist politics, this development can be repeated widely. It's up to each and every one of us.
"More than one in four veterans of ground combat in Iraq show signs of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder" [PTSD], according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine of 6,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Miami Herald, 7/1) One in six "reported symptoms of major depression, severe anxiety or . . . " PTSD. (New York Times, 7/1)
These victims go beyond the toll of dead (853) and well over 16,000 wounded and injured, many of the latter also suffering mental illness.
More than 90% reported being shot at; 86% said they saw someone killed or seriously wounded; and over half said they killed at least one person, combat or civilian. And this study was conducted when the "war was one of Žliberation,'" before the time when most of the casualties occurred.
None of this compares to the suffering of the Iraqi people who have been bombed for 13 years and have seen over half a million children die from the effects of destroyed infrastructure, contaminated water supplies and lack of medicine. Imagine the incredible stress on the millions of Iraqi families who have lost loved ones and seen limbs blown off their parents or children.
Imperialist war is engaged in mass slaughter, all to secure U.S. control over oil supplies in the Mid-East and to establish at least forteen new permanent U.S. military bases in "independent" Iraq.
The Journal's study says the PTSD symptoms, the "flashbacks and nightmares," will become more common as time passes. A "study of veterans of the Persian Gulf War found that the prevalence of post-traumatic symptoms more than doubled between an initial survey and a second one two years later." (NYT, 7/1)
Moreover, more and more troops will be stressed out as the "unofficial draft" deploys still more troops for longer periods. In early June all individual tours of duty were extended until their entire units return home, keeping thousands for months longer than expected. As the imperialists find their military stretched thin fighting two wars simultaneously, their drastic measures - deploying thousands more from South Korea and Germany, and calling up 5,600 from the Individual Ready Reserve, soldiers who had already left the service and did not join the Reserve - will add to the carnage.
Not to be outdone by the Bush administration's butchery, the Democrats are calling for still more cannon fodder. "Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a chief proponent of more troops" declared there is an "urgent need to increase the size of the Army," saying the Bushite's policies to "maintain the nation's military commitment around the world has been woefully inadequate." (NYT, 6/30) This coincides with Kerry's demand for 40,000 more troops in Iraq.
But a larger army will create more anger and frustration among more soldiers and still greater potential for rebellion, to win more workers and youth - both inside and outside the military - to oppose the rulers. All this can spur the growth of the Party.
(Part 1 of this series - CHALLENGE 7/7 - reported the involvement of sailors and marines in practical work, including discussions growing out of viewing films linking Israeli oppression of Palestinians, the plight of Vietnamese youth and a rebellion in a Salvadoran neighborhood, followed by participation in a community meeting challenging the rulers' defense of police brutality, leading to the conclusion that the system causes this evil.)
May Day 2004 - This was easily the crowing jewel of my experience so far. Two of my new Navy friends decided+to make the trip.+(A third wanted to come but had duty that day.) We arranged to meet at 6:00 a.m in the day room but I slept through my 5:30 alarm. When one of my+new buddies had to wake me up, I knew that this would be a good+day.
We met at a comrade's house and got engaged in political discussion and world politics. As the van pulled away, everyone was in good spirits. When we arrived at the rally, it was in full+swing. We joined a picket line during the speeches. I agreed to a request from an elder comrade to work the bullhorn+and we kicked off the chants: "Racism means FIGHT BACK! Courts mean FIGHT BACK! Cops mean FIGHT BACK!"
One of my buddies was+on the street corner distributing CHALLENGE. He+estimated that he distributed over 50 copies that day. My other buddy was mingling in the crowd,+getting to know people. As our picket line progressed and we+began marching, the cops began getting aggressive, prompting the chant,+"Killer cops mean we have to fight back!" The crowd was really getting into it. One buddy really liked the chant, "Bush, you liar, we'll set your ass on fire!"
Afterwards, we had a dinner and listened to poetry, rap and motivational speeches on the state of the+world and of our movement. While both my buddies+were really moved+by the day's events, one seriously challenged our position on nationalism, leading to some good exchanges. I continued to stress that our Party blames oppression on the capitalist system, not on a+group of people. It's capitalism that continues to manufacture racist and sexist ideas and practices. He asked me if I thought that whites benefited from the system. I said that different levels of oppression do not equal privilege, that white+workers, indeed ALL workers, are punished by capitalism. Yes, black and brown workers are hit the hardest, but the wages+of all workers are pulled+down when black and brown workers'+wages are cut. That's why the Party advocates that smashing racism and the construct of "race" is central to destroying capitalism, that+fighting capitalism is the fight against racism. As Marx stated, "labor in the white skin can never be free while labor in+the black skin is in chains." The exchange was good; we'll continue on this subject and many more.
My buddy also talked with another young comrade from South America who's in the Peace Corp. It was good to see him networking with other young+soldiers for the+working class. After the dinner, we heard a good pep talk from one of our older comrades and then returned home. I felt good, knowing we had made some advances on May Day 2004 towards building the Party. (Next issue: a dinner at the home of an activist mother whose son was a victim of police brutality; and our first study group.)
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 7 - The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the country's second largest teachers union, is holding its biennial convention here starting July 13. Progressive Labor Party members will be there bringing communist politics to the delegates, and to fight the AFT's collaboration with the ruling-class attacks on the working class.
The union is led by Sandra Feldman, who followed Albert Shanker into AFT leadership. Shanker worked with the CIA in building anti-communist unions worldwide through the 1960s and '70s and Feldman picked up his mantle. She's a member of the ruling-class Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Rockefeller-built organization which develops policy for the liberal Eastern establishment.
What's the head of a workers' union doing helping develop policy for our exploiters? Feldman and the rest of the AFT leadership have the important job of winning teachers to support the rulers. So the rulers must win teachers to the idea that they're not workers, but "professionals," whose interests are tied to the bosses' interests.
Within this class struggle, the fight against racism is crucial. Teachers are training the next generation of workers. The big-city school systems, overwhelmingly black and Latino, are set up to provide the bosses with minimum-wage workers, if they have jobs at all, leaving them the "option" of being used as cannon fodder in imperialist wars. The schools have become racist prisons which send youth off to war, unemployment or a life of poverty and jail. Teachers are in the unique position of either fighting this oppression, uniting with their students and parents, or becoming a tool of the ruling class.
The AFT leadership has already chosen its side: supporting the Democratic Party and the ruling class's pro-war and fascist policies. When Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003, the AFT was the first union to jump on the pro-war bandwagon. Just last month, the AFT's largest local, NYC's UFT, rallied with the cops - whose job is to control workers and terrorize the very youth in these teachers' classes - to demand contracts, while refusing to help other unionized school workers resist a sellout contract.
Local unions have brought many resolutions to this convention. We will be helping support the anti-war and anti-racist resolutions. We will attack the drive to support Kerry - the AFT's drive for "anybody but Bush" hides the fact that Kerry, as a representative of the liberal Eastern wing of the ruling class, doesn't stand for anything strategically different than Bush. Kerry's call for 40,000 more troops in Iraq now, and for creation of a National Service with an option for military service, will continue to send working-class youth to fight other workers in a war for U.S. bosses' control of oil. In trying to win teachers to a class perspective we unite teachers with students, parents and other workers, in struggle against the ruling class. That class perspective is crucial to building a movement to get rid of this system once and for all.
The following letter was distributed to D.C. transit workers.
Dear fellow 689 members,
I wanted to deal with a couple of touchy issues around the campaign for the presidency of our local: race and politics. These are big issues, even when unspoken. So here goes.
I know from the feedback I've received that quite a few members decided not to vote for me last time because they preferred an African American in the position of president. At one level, I sympathize with this view. The history of slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, segregation, and continued racist discrimination makes every step towards black leadership seem vitally important. However, the nature of that leadership, the "content of their character," is equally important. I ask you to compare the candidates on their integrity, character, maturity, and dedication to the fight against racism. Hicks has betrayed your interests time after time; I have dedicated my energy since 1976 to securing your interests. I have energetically fought grievances, launched a campaign against racist wage progression, fought sexist attacks on women workers by supervisors, and even helped lead a strike to maintain our cost of living clause many years ago. It is true that, as a white man, I have not personally and directly experienced racism; however, I have seen the incredible damage racism causes and how racist conditions ultimately harm us all, and so I have dedicated over 40 years of my life to fighting against racism, from slugging it out with the Klan and Nazis to fighting against the institutional racism of Metro's management. As president, I will continue to do so. I urge you to put aside any misgivings you may have about voting for a white candidate.
I also know that some people decided not to vote for me because I am a communist, a member of the Progressive Labor Party. Unfortunately, most people don't know the truth about communism because the media and politicians have consistently distorted the truth about it (just like they are lying now about Iraq). In fact, communists have for over 100 years led the opposition to the capitalist system of racism and exploitation. Communists led the formation of integrated, industrial unions in this country, including transit unions! Communists believe that militant, multi-racial unity in the working class is needed to fight racism and the rich capitalists who benefit from racism and all forms of exploitation. We also believe that it will take a revolution to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a communist society in which the working class will control the government. It's not surprising that the billionaires and their corporations and government are eager to lie about communists. So please, don't let the bosses' propaganda through the school system and the media stop you from bringing a communist to the leadership of the union.
I hope these comments have been helpful to you in thinking through your decision in the upcoming election.
LOS ANGELES, July 6 - On June 23, Stanley Miller put his arms in the air and let two cops arrest him after an early morning chase. Racist cop John Hatfield ran up to the prone Miller and brutally kicked him in the head. Then he beat him eleven times with a heavy-duty flashlight while the original two LAPD goons held Mr. Miller down and three other racist cops looked on. The LAPD's racist beating of this black man was shown on local television at the end of a police chase.
Many people in the working-class communities of South-Central L.A. and Compton were outraged. But the local "leadership," like John Mack of the Los Angeles Urban League, "urge[d] calm and demand[ed] that the LAPD thoroughly investigate." (LA Times, 6/24) These sellouts are jumping to be on one of two community oversight panels created by competing political groups.
Mayor Hahn and a potential mayoral opponent, former police chief Bernard Parks, are using this beating as a political grandstand. These hacks are only arguing about whom can best win the public to fascist community policing. This program is part of the ruling class's homeland security plans. It attempts to win community "leaders" to work with the police and snitch on their neighbors, enabling the police to harass and terrorize the community and jail even more black and Latino working-class youth.
The community "leadership" claims that racist Police-Terror Chief Bratton is "working better" with the community than the racist Darryl Gates. But Bratton has only increased the brutal and racist attacks on young people with his "Broken Windows" strategy of viciously enforcing laws against graffiti and loitering while "reaching out to the community." If this is an improvement, then the community is screwed!
A Progressive Labor Party leaflet denounced the LAPD and the capitalist system as the real terrorists. PLP explained that community policing will never end the racist police attacks. Only revolution can remove the basis of police terror and racism - capitalism. We showed how the bosses need cops to control angry workers during this period of imperialist oil war and fascist budget cuts.
People were excited to see a leaflet that told the truth. Many exclaimed that the police have always been the terrorists. One man took 20 leaflets to post at his church. Another man really appreciated our condemnation of war, budget cuts and capitalism. He said he would read the leaflet and CHALLENGE to see about revolution and communism.
The cops who enforce terror on workers got caught in their daily racist actions. We have an opportunity to expose capitalism's racist nature. If we are bold in our organizing, we can channel the masses' anti-cop anger towards joining PLP. Then we can fight for the best antidote to racist cop terror: communism.
The annual convention of a liberal religious denomination seemed like a Democratic Party rally. Speakers and workshops continually pushed voter education and mass registration campaigns. While technically non-partisan, there was a roaring near-consensus around "Anyone But Bush." Hundreds of people trooped off one night to see and cheer "Fahrenheit 9-11."
However, a sharp political struggle on the convention floor exposed a deep rift over the question of Iraq, imperialism and, indirectly, about capitalism. In fact, "immediate withdrawal" aroused the main debate at the convention.
Hundreds of delegates signed a resolution calling for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year and for an end to the privatization of the Iraqi economy. But church bureaucrats pressured the resolution's author to craft a "compromise" calling instead for support for U.N. Resolution 1546. Some compromise!
UN 1546 supports the ridiculous lie that the occupation of Iraq "ended" in June (despite the presence of 140,000 U.S. troops, and more on the way) and that the CIA's man Allawi now heads a "fully sovereign and independent" Iraqi government. It provides a major role for "international financial institutions and other organizations" [read: imperialism] in the "reconstruction of the Iraqi economy" and blesses the presence of U.S. troops until 2006.
Another resolution, calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and bases from Iraq and the rest of the world, garnered nearly 200 signatures but was mysteriously "lost." However, a groundswell of grass-roots support for an "immediate withdrawal" amendment forced the leadership into a half-hour debate before nearly 1,000 people. An Arab-American delegate attacked the racism behind the idea that Iraqis need the U.S. to tell them how to set up a government. A woman spoke of her grandson, a soldier recently returned from Iraq. Others eloquently denounced the war as an immoral and unjustified attempt to control Mid-East oil.
But from the presiding minister's speech on day one to the parliamentary maneuvering at the final voting session, it was clear that the leadership was determined to guarantee "1546" and not "immediate withdrawal." It emerged that the church's "Washington Office" was getting political leadership from a former State Department official who held high positions in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. "We have to stay in the mainstream," a staff person whined. "They were just typical liberal imperialists," observed one of the delegates. Not surprisingly, "immediate withdrawal" was voted down.
Minutes later, an anti-privatization clause was voted out. ("If the Iraqis want private enterprise, they should be allowed to have it," said the State Department guy!) This vote was so close that the leadership declared another such clause "moot" and took it out without risking another vote. Unfortunately, the vast majority of delegates - including most who had wanted "immediate withdrawal" - voted for the final resolution, mistakenly thinking that "some anti-war resolution was better than none."
Many, at the conference and beyond it, were surprised by this debate and shocked by the leadership's tactics. This prompted some good discussions with new and old friends. "We need to be better organized the next time," said an anti-imperialist delegate. That's true, but there's also a need to organize around sharper politics. John Kerry is the liberal imperialist candidate, and "Anyone But Bush" is the liberal imperialist line. Voter education and registration campaigns are how the liberal imperialists keep grass-roots people "in the mainstream." They actually want to replace Bush with Kerry, who better represents their long-term imperialist interests.
The hard-working organizers for "immediate withdrawal" should not be discouraged by losing a few votes. They made a valuable contribution in exposing to their co-religionists the difference between liberalism and anti-imperialism. They opened the question of the connection between war and capitalism. There will be many opportunities to build on this in the future and to advance the long-term fight to destroy the system of wars and exploitation for profit.
At the end of the semester, we organized a demonstration at the military recruitment center across from our college to oppose and expose the imperialist war in Iraq, military recruitment on campus and the fascist torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison. Given that it was only a few weeks before finals, it was impressive to see a goodly number of students and faculty unite on these issues.
We showed how it's a war on the working class, exploiting and deceiving young working-class men and women to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan for capitalism. Links were also made between the prisons in the U.S. and Iraq, conveying the international struggle of workers against racism, imperialism and fascism.
Students made signs saying there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans; one student carried a picture of Iraqi torture victims in protest. It was invigorating to see the energy and class anger of many students throughout the march.
By giving Iraq "sovereignty," the Bush administration was again trying to restore credibility to U.S. Imperialism. The liberal wing of the ruling class has attacked the Bushites as "the enemy" of "American democracy" and the betrayer of the "American people." This picture plays on people's justified anger and says Bush is the problem, prompting workers to vote for the "lesser evil" (Kerry), as seen in the new movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." Replacing one capitalist with another won't cut it. We must expose capitalism as the root of imperialist wars for profit and the exploitation of the working class.
Significantly, the demonstration and the semester's activities exposed many students to communist politics. Some are now attending study groups, helping distribute flyers to industrial workers and receiving CHALLENGE. We must struggle against the false consciousness liberals are spreading to the working class. Workers need to hear from us, the Progressive Labor Party. Reaching these workers and students will strengthen our Party. Build PLP and fight for communist revolution!
The July 7 CHALLENGE described the crisis the world's working class faces due to water privatization. But how have these multi-national corporations come to own water - a fundamental resource for human life?
The World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Intra-American Development Bank (IADB) - through their tremendous financial influence - force governments in developing countries to privatize their public utilities and social services in order to qualify for multi-million dollar loans, so-called "poverty reduction." By imposing trade agreements and structural adjustment programs (SAP) on developing countries, the WB, IMF and IADB allow large multi- national corporations to own a developing country's water, sanitation and electricity system, as well as many social services like health care and public education. The revenue generated by the sale of these systems and services is supposed to help pay the tremendous interest rates these banks charge. Meanwhile, the local bosses in these countries make a pile for themselves for negotiating these sellouts to the imperialists and use those loans to buy weapons to suppress the masses' opposition. Of course, there's no global institution that defends workers' interests.
The World Trade Organization has total authority over these agreements. It was established in 1994 to defend the interests of the multi-national (imperialist) corporations by enforcing privatization contracts through a system of secret courts and closed-door ministerial meetings that have the power to sanction "disobedient" countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and South America (in that order) have the largest number of active or pending water privatization contracts with multi-national corporations. For instance, after the African National Congress (ANC) came to power in South Africa with the promise that it would end apartheid and provide water and electricity to all black townships, the ANC sold out the working class and signed agreements with the IMF and WB. Then the French company Suez was permitted to buy many of South Africa's municipal water systems and convert community water wells into coin-operated pumps. This forced poor people, who couldn't afford the fee, to collect dirty stagnant water. This led directly to the largest cholera epidemic in recent South African history. (New York Times, 5/29/03) Richard Makolo, a well-known anti-Apartheid activist, argues, "Privatization is a new kind of apartheid. Apartheid separates whites from blacks. Privatization separates rich from poor. (NYT)
Other examples: In May 2003, Aguas y Alcantarillado, a private corporation supplying water to San Jose, Costa Rica, issued 400,000 service cut-offs to residents who were unable to pay the increased water rate. (NYT, 5/26/02). In August of 2000, responding to the demands of the IMF, Nicaragua had to prepare a 5-year plan to privatize the water service for Leon, Chinadega, Matagalpa, the capital city Managua, and on indigenous land in Jinotega. In Honduras and El Salvador, the government is moving to sell the state-owned water services to private corporations, destroying poor communities' hopes of finally receiving running water. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, the U.S. Bechtel corporation increased the water fees by as much as 400%. (http://www.democracyctr.org/bechtel/index.htm)
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the French corporation Suez wrote a water service contract that guaranteed them 19% profit per year on their investment. In order to obtain that guaranteed profit, water rates rose dramatically. Most of the burden fell upon the poor, and service cut-offs increased by 30%. (Business Week, 7/17/03)
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg describing the destructive reality of inter-imperialist rivalry for water privatization worldwide. Capitalist competition turns everything - even water - into a commodity to accumulate profit. While U.S. Bechtel and French Suez rake in unprecedented profits from the sale of water, untold numbers of people are dying due to lack of water. Only a system based on competition for maximum profit would make people suffer and die every day due to lack of water while two-thirds of the planet's surface is covered by water.
(Next issue: what in the capitalist system pushes multi-national, imperialist corporations to privatize water, and what's the solution to this world water crisis?)
MEXICO CITY, June 27 - Hundreds of thousands participated in today's mega-march against crime. The marchers were manipulated and deceived by the rulers, politicians and mass media to become not only victims of common criminals but even greater victims of the biggest criminals of all: the capitalists responsible for the conditions that spawn petty crimes.
The Bankers' Association who helped finance the event wants people to forget the mega-frauds involving many of these same bankers. This corruption, combined with capitalism's financial and industrial system, is responsible for mass unemployment, gross poverty and inequality, drug-money laundering and other aspects of society's decay. The bosses of Bimbo, Mexico's biggest bread company, also funded the march. These are the very bosses who've hired goon squads to attack their workers fighting for better conditions. One cannot fight crime without waging class struggle against all these criminal bosses and bankers.
President Fox and his right-wing Party (PAN) also manipulated the growing fear and anger of the masses over spreading crime to hook them into a fascist movement supporting the call by the police chief and Attorney-General for the death penalty, even though recent polls showed most people believe cops and ex-cops are mainly responsible for the crime wave in Mexico City and surrounding areas.
The liberal opposition to Fox, like this city's mayor, doesn't support the march organizers, knowing full-well it's just a rally for the next presidential elections. But that hasn't stopped them from imposing "Zero Tolerance" on crime in the city. Former right-wing NYC Mayor Giuliani received $4 million to "advise" city authorities on imposing this program.
We in PLP must redouble our efforts to win workers to our communist politics exposing capitalism and crime as birds of a feather. The participants in this march were unknowingly marching for a police state - meaning giving the biggest criminals more power. The fight for communism will be a long and hard one, but it is the only road to end crime and its cause: capitalism.
Unemployment is a permanent feature of capitalism. The ranks of the jobless vary in size as economic conditions change but unemployment never disappears completely. The bosses' economists define "full employment" as approximately 5% unemployment, which amounts to 10% when including those who've given up looking for work or are working part-time because they can't find full-time jobs.
The existence of this permanent pool of jobless workers (which Karl Marx called the "reserve army of labor") benefits the bosses in two ways. During economic expansion, the unemployed can be swiftly integrated into companies hungry for workers. During economic downturns, they become a tool to depress overall wages: the bosses can threaten employed workers with being replaced by the unemployed. Unemployment is not a mistake, bad luck or a temporary problem of a cycling economy. It's a necessary and permanent part of the capitalist system.
Unemployed workers and their families are a lot less healthy than the employed. British surveys for 1985-86 show that the unemployed reported nearly 30% more chronic illness compared to the population as a whole. This is no surprise. With little or no income, even the basic health-maintaining necessities of life - food, clothing, heating, and home maintenance - are compromised. Doctor's visits are postponed. Depression and psychological illness, marital strain, and family breakdown - along with alcohol and drug abuse - threaten the unemployed worker.
Some years ago, Britain's "shadow" employment minister, Frank Dobson, said, "In plain English, [unemployment] kills and maims." It kills mainly by way of cancer, suicide, accidents, and violence. A middle- aged man who loses his job doubles his chances of dying in the next 10 years. One study in Edinburgh found that from 1968-87 the unemployed were 11 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Some have argued that it's not unemployment that causes bad health but rather people in bad health tend to lose their jobs. But surveys, including one from the British Office of Population Censuses and Surveys Longitudinal Study, showed that the high death rate of unemployed men could not be explained by the state of their health before unemployment.
About ten years ago, Business Week ran an article on Homestead, Pennsylvania, a city deserted by the faltering U.S. steel industry. Half the town's former steelworkers were collecting unemployment benefits or working at minimum-wage jobs. The residents called their city "a national disaster" and listed "the used-up men recently dead of heart attack, stroke, or suicide."
Just as unemployment lowers wages of the working class as a whole, it can also depress the health status of all workers. When unemployment rises, workers become relatively more expendable. If workers get sick, they can be more easily replaced. Therefore, bosses can invest less in maintaining workers' health because there is a bigger replacement pool. The bosses will still get their pound of flesh - and if that flesh is used up faster than before, no problem: just substitute another desperate body. No wonder unemployment is correlated with a general decline in health statistics. Listen carefully - when the unemployment rate rises, you can hear the bodies dropping.
Under communism there will be plenty of useful work for everyone. Top priority will be making life better for humanity everywhere, not profits for a small class of capitalist parasites. Unemployment ravages workers' health. It's a form of social murder. The "public health" solution is clear: end unemployment with communist revolution.
While the uproar about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war continues worldwide, here in the U.S. this practice is business as usual. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "There shall neither be slavery nor involuntary servitude unless duly convicted of a crime."
This may seem like an acceptable statement, not really worthy of notice until dialectically analyzing to whom this applies.
The 2.1 million people now imprisoned in the U.S., mostly black and Latino, mirrors the old slavery plantation. After the so-called Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the bosses then figured out how to continue capitalizing on free labor - thus the 13th Amendment. (The Proclamation did not free all slaves, only those in slave-holding states that had seceded.) To say the U.S. is "appalled" at the treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war is to literally blow smoke in the eyes of every conscious worker in this hemisphere. Stories of prisoner maltreatment here at home have been surfacing for years with no indignant outcry of rage.
On April 26 in Indiana, organizers called on over 1,300 prisoners to support a passive resistance campaign protesting inhumane treatment and conditions and systematic violation of our human rights. The organizers urged: unity regardless of race, religion or "gang affiliation"; boycotting the gymnasium, thereby forcing the staff to shower hundreds of prisoners within the housing units; mass filing of grievances with the prison grievance and with the governor's newly-appointed ombudsman to investigate both prisoner and civilian complaints and abuses; and an organized silent protest at mealtime.
If our complaints were not addressed, it called for a peaceful work strike/stoppage against the slave-labor factory-type work the prisoners perform. The organizers want to reduce the problems that stress out the prisoners, to decrease the possibility of destructive inmate-against-inmate violence.
The bosses' "answered" with a lockdown of the facility, is keeping inmates in their cells 24 hours a day, cold-sack lunches for meals and no visitation rights even for family members. They could have either taken the grievances seriously or denied them. But they responded with this vicious repression that will intensify the psychological stress and actually increase the danger of destructive violence. If the system treats U.S. citizens in this manner for asking for humane treatment, why would anyone be surprised at the treatment of prisoners of war?
We must speak out against the continuous oppression of our working-class sisters and brothers who have families and loved ones caught up in the system and are being forced to support those slave-labor programs. We should understand that these vicious prison practices are not caused by just a few sadistic individuals, but represents how capitalist society must routinely act. Now is the time to build a movement against the capitalist roots of this problem, even as we struggle against these specific forms of capitalist oppression.
An Indiana reader
I recently had a pace-maker/defibrillator implanted in my chest. When the cardiologist was trying to convince me to have the procedure, he said, "500,000 people die every year in the U.S. from ŽSudden Cardiac Death.' This can save your life." He didn't need to say much more. The whole procedure took less than two hours and I was kept in the hospital overnight.
I do feel a lot better, but I was really eager to see the bill. Finally it came - $142,000! The device alone was about $75,000! No wonder a half million people die every year. It's not because the technology doesn't exist to save them, but that people can't afford it. About 45 million people in the U.S. have no health insurance and millions more have lousy insurance. Capitalism creates heart diseases a million ways - stress, poor diet, smoking, hazardous jobs, etc., and only saves a fraction of the victims. If it wasn't a disease that affects the rulers themselves, there still might not be many advances.
Anyway, I'm one of the lucky ones; my wife has good insurance. But I promise to wear this battery out fighting for communist revolution!
Takes A Licking But Keeps On Ticking
I am a CHALLENGE reader. I don't agree with PLP on everything, but I enjoy the paper. But it upsets me when you find it necessary to attack Michael Moore. What's your reason for attacking him? Because a bunch of large corporations are associated with his film?
In a society controlled by the ruling class, it's impossible for a film to get to more than a couple thousand people without the support of large corporations. In the right-wing community in which I live I've seen many people who were once obedient to right-wing fascism begin to have their minds opened to the reality that another world is possible. Who opened their minds? Michael Moore! Moore is able to communicate with the masses of people in a brilliant way. Sure, he's not as far left as we would like him to be, but he's able to mobilize the masses against Bush, and occasionally capitalism. We should support him, and try to show his followers the path of Socialism. We should not attack him for not already being on it!
I'd like to share a little information on Michael Moore to dispel the myth that he's a working-class advocate. A friend of mine works at a West coast university that hosts different entertainment and speakers as a "service" to the local community. Through school money and donations from wealthy individuals the university subsidizes major acts to perform that otherwise could not afford to do so, i.e., an orchestra or a dance troupe that isn't guaranteed to make money through ticket sales.
After the hype of "Bowling for Columbine," Moore was invited to come and share his message. The fee for this "voice of the working class" came out to $120,000 for two speeches - all told, four hours work! As a comparison, a dance troupe of nearly 100 people would typically cost as much and high profile public speakers are generally paid $10,000 per speech. Also, at his request, Moore was put up in a five-star hotel, was fed a catered meal from a gourmet restaurant and was provided with several luxury SUVs for his entourage.
During his speech, an audience member asked why the ticket prices were so high ($75). Moore said the promoters were to blame. In fact, the university tried to lower his price, but he wouldn't agree. The fact that the university agreed to pay and host him points to its own agreement with his message. But many honest people who attended believe in the "down-to-earth" and pro-worker Michael Moore. He is really just another high-paid servant of the ruling class.
West Coast comrade
A small group of us from Purdue University attended our first May Day event in Chicago on May 1. When we left from West Lafayette, Indiana, for the 130-mile trip to Chicago, we didn't know what to expect. We were especially impressed by the combination of people there from all racial groups and occupations. It showed us that every-day people are a part of the radical, anti-capitalist movement.
The event gave us much to talk about on the long ride home. We hope to participate in another May Day event like this.
Some Purdue students
We have fought the neo-racist doctrine of White Skin Privilege (WSP) in our denomination since it first appeared in 1992. In our church, this doctrine states that racism is based on systemic power, sanctioned by the state, but the struggle against racism cannot be carried out in a multi-racial manner since all whites, especially white workers, "benefit" from racism.
This became the official position of our denomination's social justice bureaucracy and a concerted effort was made to impose this view on all the churches. However by 2002, thanks in part to our efforts, the position had been temporarily defeated, except among hard-core neo-racist liberals.
Our class analysis says the bosses try to bribe sections of the working class with citizenship, higher wages, the right to vote, etc., to keep the working class divided based on "race." Numbers of white workers have been won to this tactic and have acted against their own class interests as racist terrorists for the bosses in oppressing blacks and other minorities, and anti-racist white forces. Since capitalist ideology is primary in our lives and racism is a major capitalist ideological tool, we're all infected with this poison. Some whites, as well as non-whites, will fight to the death against multi-racial unity.
The primary aspect of our class analysis is that prejudice is the result of racism, not its cause. At its best, WSP confuses appearance with essence. Capitalism is the essence, racism is the appearance.
It is extremely important to widely distribute the Party's literature on the capitalist nature of racism. The agitation must be sustained and patient.
We attended meetings, went to conferences, did mass leafleting, sponsored programs, developed an anti-racist course, joined the enemies' committee and converted most of them to friends, and organized denomination convention sessions. What you can do depends on your political base and the nature of the mass organization.
Finally, we must try to win all those we influence to the following anti-racist principles: Racism is both an ideological weapon and a political economic system created by capitalism, initially to justify slavery. While there's no scientific basis for "race," racism exploits white workers while super-exploiting black, Latin and Asian workers. Therefore, no worker benefits from racism. Most of all, racism can be and has been fought, and sometimes temporarily defeated, but only through full-scale multi-racial unity where possible.
To strengthen our fight, we must greatly increase the distribution of CHALLENGE. Secondly, we must deepen our ties to those we are trying to win. Too often we make agitation and action primary over consolidation. Although we added three new people to our group, we still rely mainly on meetings rather than intensive base-building as the basis for consolidation.
All victories under capitalism are temporary. Only the ideological lessons we learn from our victories or defeats are permanent - as reflected in winning people to join PLP.
Two Anti-Racist Veterans
Possibly the greatest actor ever to come out of the U.S., Marlon Brando died on July 1. Brando took on some roles he shouldn't have - he had little respect for the actor's craft. But he also acted in some strongly anti-racist, anti-imperialist roles, such as "Burn" and "A Dry White Season," which never brought much money nor - unsurprisingly - earned good reviews.
But with all the praise he received upon his death, there's nothing critical being said about his most controversial role: Terry+Malloy in "On the Waterfront." This movie was made by a bunch of sellout ex-communists like Elia Kazan and Lee J. Cobb to justify their informing during the so-called McCarthy era - which more properly should be called the Truman era.Elia Kazan, the worst of the lot, lately has been "rehabilitated" after decades of condemnation. People like DeNiro and Martin Scorsese pimped for him when the Academy Award frauds gave him an honorary "Oscar." Some people, like Nick Nolte and Ed Harris, refused to stand for the tiresome standing ovation he got, and the press attacked them for their principles. Various reasons have been advanced for why Brando accepted the role of an informer in a longshoremen's union.
(There were plenty of worse unions at the time, but the longshoremen, like the equally-attacked Teamster's union, could bring the country to a standstill, and the rulers feared that power and the example it could set for workers generally.) Some people said Brando took the role because he felt he owed Kazan, his original director on Broadway, for giving him his break.
Whatever, one thing Hollywood and the whoring reporters reporting on Brando's death refuse to discuss is what Marlon Brando said about what he'd done in accepting that role: he declared that it was the worse mistake of his life. Who could say it better?
A Playwright from Brooklyn
CHALLENGE comment: It should also be noted that when Kazan appeared for his "Oscar," PLP helped lead hundreds in a demonstration against this anti-communist stoolpigeon's fingering of communists and left-wingers. And it was to Brando's credit that he refused to appear when he won his second Oscar but instead asked a Native American woman to come on stage and read his protest of U.S. genocide against Native Americans
(The following was supposed to have appeared as an introduction to the Cuban Perspective article in the current issue of "The Communist" magazine but was omitted by mistake.)
The "Cuban Question" continues to be on the political agenda in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The Bush administration, courting the votes of the anti-communist Cuban exiles in Florida, has tightened the embargo on Cubans in the U.S. visiting their relatives back home to once every three years. This has backfired, causing rarely-seen anti-Bush protests by exiles in Miami. The Democrats are taking advantage of this rift to try to prevent Bush from again stealing Florida in the November election.
While the embargo is being tightened, Repsol, the Spanish oil company, has discovered potentially huge oil deposits in the area of the Gulf of Mexico controlled by Cuba (25 years ago, the waters were divided among Cuba, Mexico and the U.S.) Repsol is so certain of its findings that it has rented a huge Norwegian oil platform for almost $200,000 a day. This could improve Cuba's economic situation, and assure control of the government by the current bureaucracy once Fidel Castro dies. It would also accelerate the process of "market socialism" (state capitalism mixed with private capitalism) now operating in Cuba.
There are also U.S. capitalist groups (currently mainly agri-business) which oppose the U.S. embargo. The London Financial Times (6/19) reported that U.S. oil companies might also press for ending the embargo, to be able to invest in this new oil bonanza. All this could sharpen the U.S.-European- Chinese imperialist rivalry in Latin American and the Caribbean.
For Cuba's working class, the future must be a struggle against all forms of capitalism. Some say it's difficult for a small island (and one so close to the U.S.) to build real communism alone. But a fight for real communism in Cuba could inspire the entire world's working class and could turn the tables in the class struggle. Workers could take the offensive, instead of being on the defensive as is mostly true in the world today.
In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex, F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon - a cyanide bomb - big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building÷.
Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar its owner. He didn't even issue a press release÷.It's hard to believe that William Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been Muslim, or even a leftist. Was Mr. Ashcroft÷reluctant to publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white supremacist? ÷.Murderous right-wing fanatics are still out there. The concerns of the Justice Department, however, appear to lie elsewhere÷ (NYT, 6/22)
A new book by the senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who headed a special office to track Osama bin Laden and his followers warns that the United States is losing the war against radical Islam and that the÷.threat is rooted in opposition not to American values, but to policies and actions, particularly in the Islamic world.
What drives executives to cook the books seem painfully obvious: it's greed, isn't it? [But] Competition, a primal force of capitalism, can steer even the nongreedy executive down an unethical path. Andrei Shleifer, an economics professor at Harvard, argues that if unethical behavior drives down corporate costs, rivals will be compelled to do the same just to stay in business.
"Evidence tells us very clearly, even the most saintly C.E.O.'s were involved"÷because of market pressure.
The principle works equally to explain accounting fraud, bribery or the use of child labor, Mr. Shleifer says. For instance, if a company gains a cost advantage by hiring children, and can thus offer lower prices to consumers, its rivals have a powerful incentive to hire children, too÷.
"The keener the competition, the higher is the pressure to reduce costs, and the more pervasive is corruption÷" (NYT, 7/4)
Yesterday a leading British charity, Christian Aid, released a scathing report, "Fueling Suspicion" on the use of Iraqi oil revenue. It points out that the May 2003 U.N. resolution÷would appoint an auditor to ensure that the funds were spent to benefit the Iraqi people÷.Instead, the U.S. stalled.
Given the Arab world's suspicion that we came to steal Iraqi's oil, the occupation authorities had every incentive to expedite an independent audit that would clear Halliburton and other U.S. corporations of charges that they were profiteering at Iraq's expense. Unless, that is, the charges are true. (NYT, 6/29)
The check for $10,000 arrived in the mail unsolicited. The doctor who received it from the drug maker Schering-Plough said it was made out to him personally in exchange for÷ his commitment to prescribe the company's medicines. Two other physicians said in separate interviews that they, too, received checks....
Doctors who demonstrated disloyalty by testing other company's drugs or even talking favorably about them, risked being barred from the Schering-Plough money stream....
The question [is] whether drug companies are persuading doctors - often through payoffs - to prescribe drugs that patients do not need or should not use or for which there may be cheaper alternatives. (NYT, 6/27)
(The previous article reviewed the inter-imperialist rivalry over Latin America, the Summit of the Latin American, Caribbean and European nations, their push for multi-lateral decision-making and warned workers not to side with any capitalists, local or imperialist. In this article we will show how the European imperialists' investments are penetrating into what the U.S. rulers consider their backyard.)
European investors are the principal source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flowing to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). While the EU's FDI in LAC averaged less than $5 billion during the 1990-1994 period, in 1997 it equaled the U.S. and has surpassed it since. In 1999, the EU invested $43 billion in LAC, compared to $20 billion from the US.
In 2001, the EU's FDI in LAC dropped to $29 billion and has continued declining since, but it still exceeds the US. Several reasons explain this decrease. First was the 50% drop in global foreign direct investment, mainly due to the world crisis of over-production. Secondly, much of the investment flurry in the previous decade was fueled by privatization programs in many countries. There's not much left to privatize. Thirdly is China's emergence as a haven for cheap labor. And finally there's the cost of integrating the Eastern Europeans nations into the EU. Despite the investment decline, the imperialists still suck $20 billion yearly in profits out of LAC.
In addition, EU investments have generated greater sales. In 1999, European transnational companies (TNCs) operating in LAC accounted for 50% of the sales of the 100 largest TNCs in the region, compared to 43% generated by U.S. companies. That same year, 7 of 10 largest TNCs in LAC were European, as were 5 of the 10 biggest banks. In South America, total assets of EU companies now surpass those of U.S. companies and are approaching the U.S. level in Central America and Mexico. Total EU assets in LAC climbed to $275 billion in 2003, with Brazil holding 38%, Argentina 26% and Mexico 13%.
Besides defying U.S. hegemony in the region on those fronts, the EU has also emerged as Latin America's second trading partner - being the first with MERCOSUR (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), with the Andean Group (Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela), and with Chile. The EU doubled its trade with LAC between 1990 and 2000. In 2003, this amounted to $91.3 billion. Brazil is its main trading partner (34%) and Mexico, despite NAFTA, is second (25.3%). With the integration of the Eastern European nations into the EU, these economic ties are bound to expand, not shrink.
Russian President Putin's recent visit to Mexico is another example of other imperialists targeting the U.S. backyard. Besides gaining some commercial agreements, Russia will build a military helicopter factory and other arms plants in Mexico. In South America, China is moving in more aggressively, investing heavily in Brazil's mining industry and strengthening their economic ties.
Despite the huge influx of capital in the so-called developing countries, poverty has increased. Latin America has one of the highest rates of unequal distribution of income with the top 10% gobbling up 48% and the bottom 10% only 1.8% of all income. Extreme poverty rose from 93.4 million people in 1990 to 102 million in 2003. Poverty overall rose from 200 million people to 226.6 million in the same period.
Sao Paulo, which produces 40% of the gross domestic product of Brazil, has over two million unemployed workers. Brazil was one of the main recipients of FDI, especially from the "caring" EU.
Only money sent by relatives living abroad has kept the masses of workers in the LAC region from being further ground into poverty. Last year it was $40 billion - $30 billion from the U.S. and the rest mainly from Europe. This exceeded the $36.5 billion in FDI that the LAC received that year.
Capitalism-imperialism, whether the U.S.-globalization model or the Euro-globalization one, has nothing to offer the working class but poverty, fascism and wars. There are no lesser-evil capitalists or imperialists. We can only rely on the workers, students and soldiers from our class that have been won to communist ideas, to turn the next imperialist bloodbath into a fight for communism. That's our challenge. To accomplish this, LAC workers need to build a mass Progressive Labor Party.
Along with the Democratic Party convention, Boston will also host the Social Forum, an outgrowth of the World Social Forum (WSF). Starting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the WSF was created as the capitalists' reaction to mounting militancy against globalization.
In November 1999, over 50,000 protesters descended on Seattle, Washington to confront the World Trade Organization conference. Nationalists, environmentalists, anti-globalists, trade unionists of all stripes and some communists participated in a variety of demonstrations, confrontations, and teach-ins to disrupt the conference. The workshop leaders called for reforming capitalism, not destroying it. And the leaders pushed national sovereignty, not workers' internationalism.
For the next 18 months, at every gathering of the major world powers these protests grew, both in numbers and militancy. Davos in Switzerland; Washington, D.C.; Melbourne, Australia; Prague, the Czech Republic; Nice, France; Quebec, Canada; Gothenburg, Sweden; Genoa, Italy.
As they grew, so did the repression of the state. In Genoa, Italy, 150,000 overcame fascist police measures. Reviewing the trend, the British business magazine "The Economist" warned, "Many of the issues they [the protesters] raise reflect popular concern about the hard edges of globalization÷about the poor being left behind, harming the environment, caring about profits more than people." Escalating police terror by itself was seen as counter-productive - live ammunition used at Gothenburg, a protester killed at Genoa. An ideological offensive was needed.
It is tempting to see the idea of a Social Forum being formed when World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab found himself trapped by demonstrators in Melbourne. "If I have learned one thing from here," he commented, "I will try in future to install a dialogue corner were some business people and some people in the street could meet and just exchange ideas."
In fact, the WSF was created out of a far more deliberate process. Within weeks of the Seattle demonstrations, while protesters were still glowing about its success, leaders of the French Non Governmental Organization (NGO), ATTAC, the Brazilian employers' Association, and the head of Brazilian NGO's met to counter what they considered the "failure of Seattle."
In their eyes, Seattle hadn't created a credible program to reform the international financial system (which favors U.S. imperialism). Unlike the majority of protesters, ATTAC doesn't want to smash the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, but rather to reform them (favoring French and European imperialism). The Social Forum aimed to "re-educate" the street so that it too favored "credible reforms" rather than "pie-in-the-sky demands" like abolishing the IMF! In 2001, the French government gave ATTAC about $360,000 in grants.
Yet ATTAC was not alone. By the time of the first Forum at Porto Alegre, the WSF was funded by a host of other "partners." For example, one was the Heinrich Boll Foundation, associated with the German Green Party which supported the wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan and was part of the Shroeder coalition government. Another is the Ford Foundation, long infamous as a conduit for CIA money.
(Next issue: how NGO's - really GO's - push identity politics rather than class solutions.)
Much hoopla has been made of Michael Moore's new movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." From a liberal perspective, it's an informative movie, exposing the Bush administration's obvious flaws in losing support for the war in Iraq and it's unilateralism - it's go-it-alone strategy. For conservatives "F 9/11" is a liberal, fiction-filled propaganda movie, with its ultimate ambition to win people to vote Democratic in the 2004 election. From a communist perspective, this movie, while attacking some corporations, basically not only promotes capitalism but is also anti-working class in its attempt to use the vilification of one section of the ruling class in order to ally with another.
Moore uses his signature style of fusing news footage, narration and journalism to make his case against the Bushites. It begins with the racist disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida that guaranteed Bush's "victory" in 2000. That election exposed the scam of voting and "democracy" under capitalism. Moore uses this as the pivotal moment in U.S. history where everything went wrong, negating the fact that for centuries U.S. workers have faced slavery, fascist terror, unemployment, wars, etc.
The movie then targets Bush for his incompetence and his connections to the Saudi ruling class, including Papa Bush's connections to the bin Laden family. Moore talks to several government officials who verify that after 9/11, while commercial aircraft were grounded, the bin Ladens as well as other high-ranking Saudis were flown out of the country. Moore dishonestly ignores the deals the U.S. has been making with the Saudis since Roosevelt, when 60 years ago that president offered the House of Saud U.S. support in exchange for "cooperation" on the flow of oil and oil profits.
The rest of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a liberal critique of the war in Iraq - the U.S. should have gone in with more troops, enlisted more of their European allies, etc. - while exposing the ruling-class ambition to exploit that country's black gold. Moore depicts corporations like Halliburton at conferences licking their chops over profitable contracts they will reap from the war. Moore completely absolves the liberals for its complicity in the war.
Worst of all, the film never, ever exposes the Clinton Administration's murderous policies in Iraq after the first Gulf War. The sanctions imposed on Iraq after Gulf War I prevented the country from repairing its infrastructure, t hat - according to UN studies - caused the deaths of approximately 5,000 children every month for 12 years. By the end of that decade, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis had died due to U.S./British sanctions and bombings.
Probably the movie's most effective parts involve Moore's interviews with workers in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. One worker says he was watching media coverage of the war and, noticing the devastation, said the same destruction existed in Flint. Moore later follows two Marine recruiters as they attempt to recruit young workers to the military, and how they're sneaky about it, concentrating on poor working-class neighborhoods.
The danger of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is Moore's attempt to unify audiences into the "we" as all Americans, that "our" country was taken away by the evil neo-conservatives and "we've" got to take it back. Moore never explains that the U.S. contains two antagonistic classes - the rulers and the workers - and that young workers forced to fight in imperialist wars are serving the bosses' class interests, not their own.
Lila Lipscomb, a mother who lost her son in Iraq, expresses her grief and sorrow but explains that she's patriotic and loves her country. Moore empathizes with her and says, "It's a great country isn't it?"
At the end of the movie, he narrates, "In time of need, it has always been the young poor, who have stepped up." (!) The young have basically been drafted into the military because the future for many in poor urban areas has always been bleak (2.1 million workers are in jail, 70% black and Latin). The military coerces young workers with the "carrots" of money and education.
This movie and the 2004 election, if successful for the Democrats, will further establish liberal fascism and a police state, with many believing that the U.S. is great so "get out and vote." Liberals want to put a smiling face on fascism to maintain ruling-class power. But most importantly they need millions won to their line to fight in wars for capitalism, a "mission" at which the Bushites have flunked miserably. Workers must understand the racist nature of capitalism, that it can never represent workers' class interests, no matter who is the president of the U.S.
(For a more detailed critique of Fahrenheit 9/11: "The Problem is Bigger than the Bushes." )