To our readers: this is a 3-week issue of Challenge. We will return to our biweekly schedule on Sept. Meanwhile, we urge our internet readers to help us with our funds and sub campaign. You can buy a yearly sub to the printed paper (only 15 dollars a year), or send us a contribution. All checks and money orders should be made out to Challenge Periodicals and mailed to PLP GPO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202.
No matter who wins the 2004 electoral circus, the United States is and will remain a class dictatorship. Under the profit system, political parties exist for two primary reasons: first, to serve individual groups of bosses pursuing their particular profit goals; and second, to mislead workers into backing these profit goals with the illusion that the right to cast a ballot makes the U.S. a democracy.
Many people correctly saw through the crude, racist swindle that enabled Bush, Jr. to steal the White House in 2000 by denying black workers the right to vote in Florida. But this isn't the main reason the present government is a dictatorship. Swindles and voting fraud are as American as apple pie. In 1960, the Democrat John Kennedy beat Nixon because Chicago's Democratic political machine handed him the Illinois electoral vote by counting the votes of dead people.
The main lesson for workers in this election is the nature of state power in a class society. By "state," communists mean the entire government apparatus that enables the bosses to rule at the federal, state and local level. It includes all three so-called "branches" of government on each level. Every elected official, from Bush to the mayor of the tiniest town, every legislative body, from the U.S. Senate down to the smallest state legislature all belong to it. So do all four branches of the military and every cop, judge and immigration officer.
The capitalist state apparatus exists to prolong and protect the profit system, regardless of the party in power at any given moment. The state in this sense was born long ago, as a product of society's first historical division into antagonistic social classes. Under slavery, the state existed to protect the privileges of the slave-owning class. Under feudalism, it served kings and lords, helping them rule over serfs and bondsmen. Now, under capitalism, it protects the profits and private property of the wealthiest bosses, primarily against the working class, but also against real and potential rivals to U.S. imperialism.
The capitalist state therefore reflects the essential class violence of the system itself. This is perhaps less obvious today in a temporary period of relatively low class struggle, but even under present conditions, we see the class role of the police, for example in their systematic racist war of terror against workers living in the most oppressed sections of U.S. cities. The moment class struggle sharpens, the role of the police becomes crystal clear, as they protect bosses' interests at gunpoint, shooting workers, protecting scabs and enforcing back-to-work court injunctions.
A classic recent example of the state's role in class struggle was the decision by the Republican president Reagan to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981. This fascistic action set the tone for the increasingly virulent anti-worker policies the bosses have been implementing ever since. The Democrat Clinton followed suit with his racist "welfare reform," which was a thinly disguised union-busting, slave labor scheme.
The entire ruling class now agrees with the need to cloak its post-9/11 moves toward a police state in the form of "anti-terror" measures. Anti-Bush squawking from the Democrats reflects their discontent over Ashcroft's clumsy, inept tactics rather than over goals. The real purpose of these measures is to discipline our class, preparing it for the sacrifice in blood and living conditions that the rulers' long-range war plans will require. All the rulers agree on this question.
In foreign policy, none of the big bosses in any significant section of the Republican or Democratic parties disputes the U.S. imperialism's need to rule the world by force, to control the flow and pricing of all major sources of petroleum, particularly in the Persian Gulf, or to prevent the rise of serious imperialist rivals in Asia or Europe. The rulers differ only on methods and approach (see article on page 1 on the tactical differences between Kerry and Bush).
The post-World War II history of U.S. Middle Eastern policy reflects the consistency of the class role the bosses' state apparatus has played on this issue.
Immediately after World War II, key U.S. advisor George Kennan warned the Democratic Truman administration that control of Middle Eastern oil must become and remain an absolute priority for Washington and Wall Street.
The Republican Eisenhower organized a coup to overthrow a nationalist government in oil-rich Iran and replace it with the nazi-loving, pro-U.S. Shah. Eisenhower also forced British, French and Israeli bosses to back down when their 1956 invasion of the Suez Canal threatened potential U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
After the Israeli fascists proved the strength of their military in the 1967 Six Day War, every U.S. president from Johnson through Bush Jr. has armed Israel to the teeth and given it the assignment of serving as U.S. imperialism's local gunslinger.
In 1979, when a nationalist-Islamic fundamentalist uprising overthrew the Shah, Democrat Jimmy Carter announced the "Carter Doctrine," which stated that the U.S. would consider any attempt to wrest control of Persian Gulf oil from U.S. companies as a cause for war. Every U.S. president since then has followed this strategic line. The cost in human life has been staggering. The U.S. cynically backed both sides in the murderous 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Bush, Sr.'s 1991 Desert Storm in Iraq slaughtered hundreds of thousands. A million people, mostly young Iraqi children, died in the wake of Clinton's brutal sanctions and bombings. And now the Bush-Cheney war is adding to the toll.
As CHALLENGE has often said, the biggest mistake workers can make is to choose among supposed "lesser evils" under capitalism. Understanding the class nature of the state helps avoid this error. As long as classes exist, a state apparatus will exist, and its role will be to keep one class in power to rule over the class that directly antagonizes and threatens it.
Communists have an alternative to the bosses' dictatorship: the Dictatorship of the Working Class (or Dictatorship of the Proletariat). But the working class cannot seize political power by voting for it. Only a prolonged, violent revolution supported by communist workers and led by a communist party can achieve this goal. History shows that even when the first stage of the goal is achieved, keeping power and building communism are even harder than the seizure of power. Nonetheless, the future of humanity and the survival of the working class demand nothing less.
These are the goals our Party expects to win, regardless of all obstacles and of the time needed to win them. As the rulers' presidential circus unfolds, workers can take an important step in the right direction by shedding their illusions about capitalist elections and the capitalist state and by joining with the PLP to sharpen the class struggle and carry our class forward on the long, violent and inevitably victorious road to revolution.
(Another article will explore the ideological arms of the capitalist state apparatus and how the working class and PLP can fight them.)
Just days before George Bush took office in 2001, the Hart-Rudman Commission handed him its final, 148-page report. This document outlined the measures the U.S. ruling class deemed necessary for maintaining U.S. capitalism's worldwide dominance for the next quarter century. It proposed expanding the military, launching oil wars in the Middle East, creating a police state at home, centralizing the state apparatus and linking business more closely with government. Carrying out Hart-Rudman's provisions became job Number One for the U.S. president. Bush's failures and shortcomings in this regard, and Kerry's shaky promise, are--for the rulers -- central issues in the coming election.
Hart-Rudman said a terrorist attack on the U.S. would provide an invaluable recruiting tool for the military. Bush squandered that opportunity, was forced to send inadequate forces to Iraq, and now faces the rulers' wrath for the quagmire there. Hart-Rudman said the National Guard should serve as a homeland police force. Bush sent the Guard to Iraq to bolster the overstretched regular army. Hart-Rudman called for a sweeping restructuring of federal agencies. Bush set up the Homeland Defense Department only grudgingly and is balking at revamping intelligence services. Sen. Jay Rockefeller called Bush's recent appointment of Porter Goss as CIA boss a "big mistake." Instead of merely filling a vacancy, Bush should be uniting the CIA, FBI, NSA, and defense intelligence under an overall czar, according to Hart-Rudman and the follow-on 9/11 Commission.
Hart-Rudman urges that leaders prepare citizens to give up "blood and treasure" in the cause of U.S. imperialism. Bush has spilled the blood of a thousand working-class GIs and many thousands of Iraqis but hasn't managed, or even tried, to shift capitalists' profits from their pockets to the war effort. His tax cuts, while fattening the bottom lines of companies and investors, send the wrong ideological message, in the rulers' eyes. For them, it's "there's a war on," not Bush's "business as usual."
John Kerry, on the other hand, allies himself with Hart-Rudman's war-and-fascism evangelists. He works closely with a group called Business Executives for National Security (BENS), having spoken at its meetings and won praise from its chief Denis Bovin, vice-chairman of Bear Stearns, a New York financial firm. The directors of BENS wrote in the Wall Street Journal (6/15/04), "We hadn't fully anticipated the extent to which 9/11 and the security regime that followed has affected the job of a business leader. But blind faith in markets, ignorance of the ways of Washington, and a desire to avoid any unnecessary involvement with federal authorities are insufficient approaches to today's challenges -- and tomorrow's." Kerry's campaign advisors include Gary Hart, co-chairman of the Hart-Rudman commission, and Leslie Gelb, one of its 12 members. Kerry wants 40,000 more soldiers immediately and a national service program to provide cannon fodder for the long term.
The New York Times, the rulers' leading media outlet, expressed delight that "Mr. Kerry instantly embraced every recommendation of the 9/11 Commission" (8/15/04). But the same edition worried about Kerry's "opportunistic" flip-flopping, "Mr. Kerry, who voted against the first Persian Gulf War, tailored his positions on this one to his presidential ambitions. He was more hawkish when the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination seemed to be Richard Gephardt, and more dovish when Howard Dean picked up momentum. At the height of the Dean insurgency, both Mr. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, decided to oppose spending $87 billion to underwrite the occupation of Iraq that they both voted to authorize."
The rulers are having trouble producing a leader as galvanizing as an FDR or a Hitler. But that doesn't lessen their need to destroy foreign rivals or crack down on workers at home. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Patriot Act show that the capitalists' war-making and fascism are deadly under inept leadership. If a President Kerry should prove more capable than Bush, the working class would suffer even more.
The alternative? Destroying the capitalist system that drives these endless wars. Joining PLP and fighting for communism can ultimately emancipate our class.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's victory in the Aug. 15 referendum that kept him in office brought relief to the world's oil markets. Jimmy Carter and the OAS (Organization of American States) led by former Colombian President Gaviria (a Washington lackey) declared Chavez the victor in the teeth of the rantings of the local right-wing capitalist opposition, showing that despite everything, Chavez was the "lesser of two evils" for U.S. rulers, at least for now. A NY Times (8/18) editorial said it all when it told the opposition claiming fraud to "shut up" and accept that they lost badly.
Chavez was also the candidate of U.S., European and Chinese oil companies operating in Venezuela.
Why? According to the Internet intelligence service Stratfor (8/17): "The threat of destabilization should he have lost was too great a risk. Venezuela is a main source of oil, and Chavez's victory assured that supply."
Stratfor added that, "Hidden behind is another reality. The United States needed Chavez to win because his victory was the greatest guarantor of stability, and the United States does not have enough forces available to intervene in Venezuela should chaos break out. The lack of sufficient troops is now shaping U.S. policy. Washington is rooting for political opponents because it has no real capacity for intervention should instability result."
Stratfor wrote this amid the latest White House announcement to shift 70,000 troops out of Germany, Japan and other countries. This follows the Rumsfeld strategy to re-shape the U.S. Armed Forces. But this strategy contradicts the fact that U.S. bosses' primary need now is not a "hi-tech" army. Stratfor says Bush's speech announcing the troop reduction overseas indicates the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq still have not penetrated Pentagon planners.
This is exactly why so many elements in the U.S. ruling class prefer Kerry to Bush (see page 1). Workers in Venezuela who hate the old rulers unfortunately think Chavez is their savior (a line pushed by many in the pseudo-left worldwide). But Chavez just represents a different section of the capitalist class, willing to make deals with the devil as long as their interests are served. (Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA oil company owns CITGO, one of the largest gas-station chains in the U.S.). Chavez has used the oil profits to dole out a few crumbs (some bikes, sewing machines, cheap medical care courtesy of the thousands of doctors sent by Cuba in exchange for oil). But still, Venezuela's income gap is one of the highest in Latin America, and the poverty rate has not diminished much under Chavez.
Revolutionary-minded workers in Venezuela's "Bolivarian mass movement" should heed the lesson that only a communist-led workers' revolution can serve their interests. Their task should be to win workers and other exploited masses in the country's mass organizations to build the long fight for communism.
I'm in the National Guard. Recently our unit was put on "alert," headed for Iraq. CHALLENGE has often shown that certain areas of work and historical times are particularly ripe for communist leadership and Party growth. I've never experienced this more clearly or personally now that my friends and I face going to war.
The Army will give our unit months of training before sending us to Iraq. They've extended the activation period to 18 months, to turn the military's cheap "civilian" soldiers into better fighting machines. This has created problems for those having lives outside the military. Unlike regular Army soldiers, National Guardsmen are totally unprepared for duty abroad.
Besides "skills training," we've had "indoctrination" sessions by higher officers. Before this I had struggled with one soldier-buddy who agreed with the Party's analysis, but said he'd resolved his internal conflict by hoping he could do some good for the Iraqi people -- providing medical care, building schools, etc. He said it was better that he represent America than somebody else, who might shoot the first Iraqi he sees.
However, we were briefed repeatedly not to trust any Iraqi, not even to give candy or food to begging children because they might be providing a distraction for the enemy. Furthermore, we're not to trust reporters, neighbors or even family members. Why? Because "the information we give them might wind up in enemy hands." They gave an example of a CIA agent working for the Russians without his co-workers knowing. They said "terrorist organizations" include even environmental and abortion rights groups!
The commanders try to imbed paranoia and fear into us, while also winning us to "humanitarianism." They feed us the lie that the average soldier is privy to top-secret information. Meanwhile, we don't even know exactly when we're going to Iraq, or to what part.
The underlying assumption is: trust your superiors -- they're the only ones you CAN trust! This creates the illusion that in the military we're all "part of the same team," that we must separate our purpose from the rest of society.
I immediately asked one of my close friends what she thought of all this, and how she now viewed me. Since then she said it would be good for her to try to raise awareness among the soldiers.
One officer asked his audience of hundreds of soldiers: "Who's afraid of going?" More than half raised our hands. Then we were shown a clip from the movie "Band of Brothers": a soldier who admits he's afraid is told that it's because he still hopes he'll make it out alive. The movie says, essentially, "toughen up," realize you're a soldier, and you might die. The officer stopped the film here and used this to tell those of us who are afraid that we're still clinging to the hope we might not go. His response was: get over it, you're going!
Many soldiers talked afterwards about how they feel worse, not motivated, after these sessions. There is nothing like hearing it for yourself, what Party members have been saying all along. Now if you ask most soldiers, "Why go to Iraq?" they'll say that, since they have no other choice, they go "for each other," to relieve the soldiers already there.
The rulers may be able to exploit people's good intentions for now, but their callousness creates a very thin commitment to their overall mission of profiteering. In wartime, what it takes to preserve capitalism is really exposed.
Instead of causing me despair, this situation gives me hope. I use these opportunities to show my friends something really worth fighting for. The bosses have created a situation in which the working class is willing to sacrifice the little they have now for what they believe will protect their families and each other. Imagine the lengths to which they will go for communism!
A PLP soldier in the National Guard
Much has been made of presidential candidate John Kerry's role in Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) during the early 1970s. The liberal media portrays him as a hero because he inquired of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" I, too, was in VVAW around this time. My view of Kerry, and I think I speak for most in that organization, was decidedly more negative.
Kerry always wanted to save U.S. imperialism. He thought continuing the war in Vietnam would undermine the army and the whole U.S. Empire. "I don't see any other system other than democracy [i.e. capitalism]," Kerry told the Senate hearing, "but [it] has to remain responsive. When it does not, you create the possibilities of all kinds of other systems to supplant it, and that very possibility, I think, is beginning to exist in this country." He concluded continued fighting was a mistake. Eventually, a majority in the ruling class shared his opinion.
By the early '70s, large numbers of soldiers and veterans realized that the Vietnam War was no "mistake," but rather the logical extension of U.S. imperialism. Many in and out of the armed forces took anti-racist, anti-imperialist positions in the struggle against the brass and the ruling class. General Westmoreland, overall commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, pleaded in White House meetings to speed-up the withdrawal before the bosses "lost the army."
Kerry's pro-imperialist politics led to his desire to keep VVAW a relatively small organization of combat veterans, who would testify before Congress and make symbolic gestures like throwing away medals. Those with anti-imperialist, anti-racist politics wanted VVAW to become a mass, fighting organization of all soldiers and veterans, led by enlisted GIs, not officers.
Some active duty chapters, led by our Party, actually organized GI rebellions against the brass and the bosses' genocidal war. The New York Times (11/18/72) reported: "...organized servicemen, blacks and whites, have moved from a `position of conciliation to revolutionary, defensive and violent stands.'" Our Party's multi-racial, anti-imperialist, revolutionary line was more in tune with the consciousness of the majority in VVAW.
Kerry saw the handwriting on the wall. He could never launch his career as a ruling-class politician linked to an organization with such rank-and-file fervor. He quit.
New "resistance" organizations are springing up around the military and their families. One even updates the VVAW name, calling itself the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Today's soldiers and their family members would do well to heed the lessons of the Vietnam War. Symbolic gestures that don't threaten U.S. imperialism will not get the job done. We must build on the work of those soldiers who attempted to mold a revolutionary force in the army during the Vietnam War.
EAST CHICAGO, IN, August 9 -- "Last time we were out here, we were WITH the company, in our partnership to get tariffs passed for the steel industry," said Jim Robinson, Director of United Steel Workers Union (USWA) District 7 to a crowd of 500 workers surrounding the headquarters of Ispat-Inland Steel. They were protesting the company's decision to cancel the meager $62.50/month supplemental benefit paid to widows of Inland workers who retired before 1989. Many of their pensions only amount to $200/month. The contract with Local 1010 expired on August 1, and the bosses are holding these elderly steel widows as hostages in the negotiations.
Several workers made their own signs attacking the union's partnership with the steel bosses. "NO PARTNERSHIP," and "OUR PARTNER = OUR TERRORIST" conveyed the truth about the union leadership's traitorous alliance with the steel bosses. Workers were furious that Ispat owner Milat was cutting off these measly benefits while having just bought a $125 million mansion, and thrown his daughter an $85 million wedding at the Palace of Versailles!
The union's infamous "STAND UP FOR STEEL [BOSSES]" campaign has led to mill closings, mass layoffs, attacks on pensions and healthcare and government-imposed tariffs; the latter were later overturned by the World Trade Organization. The destruction of excess domestic production capacity and the scrapping of work rules, job classifications and pension and healthcare "legacy" costs have led to record profits for the industry and even more attacks on the workers. This unity with the bosses is bringing fascism to the workplace and ultimately leading the working class to another world war to defend the bosses' profits.
There are bosses and workers; you can't serve both. The pro-capitalist union leaders have no plan to fight these attacks. Not one dared mention "strike." Instead, they paraded a line of Democratic Party politicians, and ultimately washed their hands of any responsibility by sending the contract to binding arbitration.
First they tell us you can't strike when the bosses are losing money and under attack from "foreign" competition. Now they tell us you can't strike when the bosses are pocketing billions! The fact is the flag-waving union hacks are committed to defending the bosses' profits; even militant trade unionism won't change the fundamental laws of capitalism. PLP is stepping up our efforts to build a base among steel workers for communist revolution, to destroy the profit system and their "partners" in union jackets.
SEATTLE, WA -- "Are they talking about workers' power?" asked a hopeful Boeing machinist. He was referring to the Machinists' union Journal's cover story entitled "IAM North American Might." After detailing all the key places Machinists worked in the civilian and war economy the article posed, "Imagine for a second all those Machinists stopped what they were doing -- for a minute, an hour, a day or a week -- and you will get a sense what absolutely indispensable really means."
The next paragraph brought us back to reality, assuring the bosses: "Such a massive work stoppage cannot and will not occur, at least not by the unilateral decision of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers."
After bemoaning "unpatriotic" foreign off-shoring, the article concluded, "There will come a day when doing what's right means doing nothing at all." What's a worker to make of this flip flop?
Perhaps part of the answer can be found in Toledo, Ohio at the new DaimlerChrysler plant. Several years ago, our Party brought revolutionary communist politics to General Motors workers during their strike against the "Brazilian Model," (superexploiting workers there) where subcontractors actually bring in their own employees to assemble the final car. Since then the "Brazilian Model" has migrated to Europe and is now reaching the U.S. with this new Chrysler factory.
DaimlerChrysler is welcoming suppliers from the "Kuka Group and Durr of Germany and Hyundai Mobis from South Korea, each [of whom] will own and run a major operation -- the body shop, the paint shop and the manufacturing line for chassis, respectively." (LA Times, 8/8) "The setup has the potential to forever change the way American car companies finance their factories and develop their products," says J. Ferrer, senior analyst at PriceWaterhouseCoopers' automotive consulting practice.
The UAW has endorsed this "modification of the business model," signing contracts with independent parts suppliers at substantially lower wages and benefits, creating greater racist and nationalist wage differentials! News of this new kind of factory has sparked much discussion and debate on the shop floor and in union meetings.
IAM District President Mark Blondin brags about the $3.2 billion the union helped win for the company to locate the new 7E7 assembly line in Everett. But he omits the racist cuts in unemployment compensation -- targeted at farm workers, but affecting even laid-off Boeing workers -- that helped pay for that bribe. Meanwhile, the company is selling off whole sections of the fabrication division (parts-making), and once again the union is institutionalizing racist and nationalist pay differentials by agreeing to lower wages and benefits at the sold plants. Workers are confronting the union leaders about this "new business model." The District may have sold out to get a new plant in Everett, WA. that in the long run won't even employ Boeing workers.
Blondin's take on lower wage contracts for subcontracting workers is, "What can you do? It's either that or you're out." That's a far cry from the "absolutely indispensable" power of workers.
The rise of international competitors and the need to finance increasingly expensive wars for oil and imperialist dominance has forced the bosses to adopt a "new industrial business model." The traditional trade union model is no longer viable. Preparing for the necessary all-out class fight "...is not a weapon that the IAM has ever wielded," admits the IAM Journal. What little militancy the union proposes is for the sole purpose of becoming junior partners in this new business model of racist pay differentials to pay for imperialist wars.
The IAM is not talking about workers' power. Yes, industrial workers are "absolutely indispensable" to society. It's the bosses who can be dispensed with. Only PLP's revolutionary communist politics can offer the "proletarian model,"uniting workers from Sao Paulo to Seattle to fight for workers' power.. The times demand nothing less.
By 1995, the world's industries employed 500 million workers. While the world's population had doubled since 1950, its industrial working class had grown 3_ times as much.
Today, capitalism is bigger than ever. So, too, is its potential gravedigger, the international working class. Yet, at the moment it is capitalists, not communists, who are organizing the world's workers.
On the one hand, the employment, experience and working conditions of workers internationally are increasingly similar. But the capitalists are presenting workers with many flags to wave, political parties to join or lifestyles to uphold. Racism, nationalism, sexism, and even religious divisions may be bigger than ever. Thus, the ruling classes are "internationalizing" the working class at the same time that they push nationalism to try to set one nation's workers against all the others. So the world is moving in opposite directions at the same time.
It's doubtful there's a corner of the world that monopoly capitalism hasn't reached in some form. For example, in 1996 Volkswagen built its latest "dream" factory in Brazil -- not in the Sao Paulo area, the industrial heart of Brazil, but in the poorer inland city of Resende. Of its 1,000 workers, only 200 work for Volkswagen. The other 800 production workers are subcontracted out to work on the line in the same plant, earning about 1/3 less than workers in the Sao Paulo area. This method -- known as fractal production -- had been pioneered some years earlier when Volkswagen had bought the Skoda factories in what was then Czechoslovakia.
The Resende plant's success has turned subcontracting out into subcontracting in! But the story doesn't end there. Within the year Fiat had copied Volkswagen's "success" in its new plant in Mirafiori, Italy. The capitalists in the Czech Republic, Brazil or Italy may wave flags whose colors differ, but for subcontracted autoworkers the bitter taste of super-exploitation is exactly the same!
What's true in auto is also true in electronics, optical manufacturing, the iron and steel industry and so on. Increasingly this one world (market) has created one working class with almost identical experiences. It's already a gigantic working class and it's still growing. Every worker in each and every one of these plants has the same class interests. Our job is to win our class to realize that it needs just one flag -- the red flag -- around which to organize one revolutionary communist party, the PLP.
(It's easy to imagine this movement of production at Boeing. First, subcontract OUT to prisons, China, but mainly to Southern California, Texas and the south. Then hire another subcontractor INSIDE the Boeing plant.)
The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) is the latest example of the neo-racist, "liberal" fascism going down here. Since the 1980's, racist articles in the media about gang violence, crime and drugs have depicted the horrors of public housing, with a focus on major housing projects like Cabrini-Green and the big Federal St. Projects. More racist articles about the "culture of poverty" in the projects have accompanied them, lamenting how living in public housing was destroying one generation after another. Of course, the drug-dealing cops and gang-bangers, more often in cooperation than conflict, added more than an ounce of truth to these racist depictions.
But despite the racist propaganda, a large number of those using public housing were workers whose apartments were clean, well-kept, working class homes. Nothing was written about the CHA being a cash cow for Democratic Party politicians who doled out million-dollar contracts to favored financial backers in return for substandard services, elevator problems, poor trash pick-up and general deteriorating conditions. Nothing about how some of Chicago's biggest banks, like First National, made millions from storing CHA federal funds for municipal use.
Eventually, the bankers, real estate developers and politicians used this ideological offensive to seek to eliminate all major CHA housing in the city to make way for million-dollar townhouses and condominiums. CHA tenants would be "resettled" in "mixed-income areas" with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to subsidize their new homes. Daley-controlled tenant councils, City Aldermen, and Civil Rights leaders like Jesse Jackson covered up the poison with the taste of Kool-Aid.
And so, led by the neo-racist Daleycrats, the plan was launched. Three major units were blown up near Lake Shore Drive to the cheers of the real estate developers and kick-back artists in the Hyde Park-Kenwood area. The Cabrini-Green and Ida B. Wells Housing Projects are targeted for full-scale reconstruction. The row of housing projects along the Dan Ryan Expressway is also slated for destruction.
And what about the promised housing vouchers to the displaced, mostly unemployed or low-paid black women who are the heads of the households? The CHA has introduced new rules that perpetuate the racist myth that working-class tenants destroyed public housing, and are designed to prevent large numbers of former public housing tenants from getting new subsidized housing.
The applicant and their entire family must take a urine drug test. The applicants must have a clean record of lease compliancy -- which means that if at any time, for any reason you had a problem paying rent or utilities, you'll be denied the voucher. There can be no record of a felony arrest or a conviction. Even if you had charges dismissed, you're still ineligible for the voucher. Most of all, one must be employed.
Under communism, housing the international working class will be among our highest priorities. But today we live in the new Dark Ages, where tens of millions of men, women and children are either homeless, or live with no roof and/or plumbing. But there will be a reckoning and woe to all these bosses and their lackeys when communist revolution, led by PLP, comes roaring down the tracks of history. When that day comes, the whole earth will be our home.
NEW YORK CITY, Aug. 9 -- Last week a group of comrades and home attendants working in a Social Justice Summer Project went to a homecare agency to get signatures on a petition addressed to NY State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer and 1199-SEIU President Dennis Rivera. The petition demands overtime (time and one-half pay) after 40 hours for all homecare workers, part of the 123,000-member Homecare Division of 1199-SEIU here.
The majority of agencies in NYC pay no overtime or barely a dollar above base pay. Workers on 24-hour shifts are paid for 12 hours with a $17 night differential. The agencies' rationale? The workers don't work at night!
Many agencies refuse placement to workers who don't accept 24 hours. Those on a 5-day week, 24-hour day (some work 6 days) work 120 hours; 80 hours should be paid at time and a half!
We went to the agency on payday when workers get their checks. We were immediately surrounded by the women workers who eagerly signed the petition. Two workers grabbed the clipboards and began collecting signatures themselves.
The union organizer, who always sits inside the agency -- supposedly to address workers' problems -- then emerged and demanded to know what we were doing. Seeing the petition he asked, "Don't you people know that the workers `like' working 24 hours?" "Yeah, that's why they're all signing the petition," we answered. "Well, this isn't the union's priority!" he said. "We know the union's priority is to get Kerry elected, not to fight for the workers," we shot back "It's to get a $10 wage for home health aides by 2007 when the money will be worth about 80 cents after cost of living and taxes." Soon an administrator arrived. "Do they know you're here?" she asked, clearly meaning the union.
We now have 200 signatures, a mailing list of 60 workers and an active group of eight women. A network of workers is taking almost 50 Challenges every issue for friends and family members. Furthermore, a comrade has organized a PLP study group for these active workers. One has joined the Party. She and two other comrades will start a new Party club.
Our friends respond to PLP in various ways, from interest and openness to wariness, to "I don't know anything about politics" to open anti-communism. We must be patient and maintain both unity and ideological struggle with them in this time of both difficulty and opportunity.
We're confident that as our struggle heats up and we talk more about capitalism, imperialism and war, the fascist Homeland Security measures and communist revolution in our study group, we'll recruit more workers to the Party. They can lead our class from every fight-back on to communist revolution, however long it takes!
NEW YORK CITY, July 31 -- Frank Smith, known as Big Black, participated in the Attica prison uprising in September 1971. He died of kidney cancer today at 71. He lived in Brooklyn and Queens for many years before moving to Kinston, N.C. last year. He was tortured by police and prison guards after the rebellion, and spent the next quarter century fighting for legal damages.
Thirty-three years before Abu Grahib, the Attica Correctional Facility, 30 miles east of Buffalo, was a racist concentration camp. The prison was severely overcrowded, racist police brutality was commonplace, the food was inedible and inmates were given one roll of toilet paper a month. Many inmates were Vietnam veterans, and most had been deeply influenced by the war and the ghetto rebellions of the 1960's.
Frank was working at his 30-cent-a-day job in the laundry when the prison erupted. As coach of the prison football team, he was chosen by other inmates to be chief of security.
New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered state troopers to storm the prison. Rockefeller's troopers killed 32 inmates and 11 guards held as hostages. Frank was subjected to brutal reprisals. Police repeatedly struck him in the testicles with their nightsticks and dropped lighted cigarettes and hot shell casings on his chest. The guards repeatedly told him they would castrate him.
He spent the rest of his life keeping the memory of Attica alive, largely through legal proceedings that began in 1974, which charged that 1,200 prisoners had been beaten, tortured or denied medical care. In 2000, inmates won a $12 million settlement.
During the case, Frank arranged bus transportation and box lunches, from New York to Rochester so the former inmates could testify. He also volunteered as a substance abuse counselor and in suicide prevention, and often took mentally ill people into his own home.
Frank was born as his mother, the daughter of a former slave, picked cotton near Bennettsville, S.C., on Sept. 11, 1933. She balanced her newborn baby in her sack and finished the day's work. She moved to Brooklyn when Frank was five years old.
Though the Attica prison uprising was brutally crushed, it electrified U.S. workers and youth and inspired millions worldwide. Attica shows that the racist rulers are old hands at prison torture and humiliation and compared to Rockefeller's crew, the Abu Grahib prison guards were amateurs. The chant of the day, coined by PLP was, "ATTICA MEANS FIGHT BACK!" That's still true today.
Long live Frank Smith and the Attica Uprising!
Doctors under capitalism can be viewed as agents of the bosses in maintaining social order by everyday rules such as providing excuses for work missed due to illness, evaluating on the job injuries, providing vaccinations for certain jobs and triaging injury on the battlefield as well as deciding who returns to battle and who goes home. Company and military docs are always suspect since their allegiances to the bosses and brass may override their responsibility to the patient.
The rise of HMOs intensified the contradictions for doctors, who face loss of revenue if they order too many tests in a "capitation system" or if they treat too many sick patients and risk being dropped from an insurer.
Reimbursement issues also keep most physicians from treating the uninsured and Medicaid populations. Thus patients and physicians are frequently in conflict in a society where profit drives the rules. This is nowhere more dramatic than under fascist conditions where state-sponsored murder and torture become routine.
In the New England Journal of Medicine (7/29), Robert Jay Lifton writes about physicians in the military and in settings of torture. The author of "Nazi Doctors," Lifton addresses the physicians' role at Abu Ghraib prison. Doctors, nurses and medics all witnessed some of the now infamous torture scenes without effecting change or reporting this as criminal. Lifton says the use of medical records to direct effective torture and the alteration of these records to conceal causes of death are current issues which have not been fully revealed. The same issue includes an article "In the Name of Public Health - Nazi Racial Hygiene" by Susan Bachrach, related to the current special exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
The role of faculty and programs that train physicians to include study of these topics was recently discussed by program directors in internal medicine. While some supported the idea and the need for doctors to refuse to participate in torture, many others did not. Individual physicians may often take heroic stands against fascism, but as Lipton's book and article and this recent discussion illustrate, most continue to support the capitalist government. Physicians for Human Rights recently stated that "torture can also compromise the integrity of health professionals".
Physicians and nurses fought back recently against the smallpox vaccination campaign, building solidarity through e-mail contacts, unions and professional organizational contacts such as local public health associations. The leadership of PLP members was helpful in this struggle. Exposing this as a war propaganda tactic was uniquely raised by our Party. (Others opposed vaccinations primarily because of safety concerns as well as a mistrust of the government's rationale.) In wartime we must raise these issues among the students and residents we teach as well as among our friends and colleagues. In Iraq, many surgeons refused to collaborate with the state by binding up wounds of amputees punished for political deviations. Other international examples beyond the Nazi experience can probably be learned from our many international medical graduates.
I worked for a subcontractor for a big aerospace company as described in CHALLENGE 8/4), "Playing the Cards Your Dealt," about industrial manufacturing work being moved from highly-paid union factories into low-paid non-union subcontractors.
Right out of high school, I began working for a West Coast aerospace subcontractor employing 70-80% young Mexican and Filipino workers. Many came directly from super-exploitative jobs in the fields or other low-paying service jobs. Unlike union jobs with good wages and benefits, this sub-contractor pays only $3.00/hr above minimum wage for assembly-line jobs with limited benefits.
Many white workers in the machinist and engineering jobs came from large unionized aerospace factories that closed during the recession in the early 1990's. They said their union did nothing to fight for their jobs. Now they saw their wages cut by more than half and their pension shot to hell. White and non-white workers had many structural reasons to unite and fight for better wages, benefits and conditions, but racism, nationalism and fear is used to divide them.
Mexican and Filipino workers were separated on different production lines and prodded to compete with each other based on nationalism. The Mexican foreman would say, "Do you want those dirty Filipinos to out-work you today." The Filipino foreman would counter with, "Let's send those Mexicans back to the fields today." For a time, at day's end, whichever production line produced the most saw their country's flag raised on the wall.
White workers rarely toiled on the assembly line, working mostly office and technical repair jobs. They were constantly told, "At least you don't work on the assembly floor, your bathrooms are clean and you have air conditioning." While I was there, these workers were never involved in a major accident. Only the most advanced felt any connection beyond liberal pity to those injured on the line.
White workers were constantly told not to complain. Many non-white workers lived in over-crowded houses while many white workers were in the process of losing homes bought before losing their last union job -- they could no longer pay their mortgages. Yet, because of the bosses' nationalist and racist campaigns, very few white and non-white workers teamed up to improve their living situations.
There are no work-rules and no grievance system. Conditions are dangerous, with only loose adherence to occupational safety codes. Accidents causing serious injury occurred every year. There were also continuous minor accidents due to the lack of proper safety equipment, like thick gloves or heat-resistant safety glasses. Workers were constantly pushed to "avoid" accidents because of the rising cost of workmen's comp insurance, leaving many accidents unreported. Every single injury, every lack of a work-rule offers a chance to organize.
There are also other difficulties organizing non-union sub-contractors. Many workers start out as temporary agency employees. If you cause "trouble" they fire you simply by telling the agency to stop sending you out. Even after you're permanent, talk about organizing is grounds for firing.
Winning workers requires building deep ties with them. There are countless opportunities to become close to the workers in these non-union jobs. Organizing dinners, baby-sitting, English tutoring, homework tutoring for children, collectively buying work-gloves and shoes to obtain lower prices all were ways we bonded at the factory.
Lastly, many sub-contractors still effectively maintain a kind of "family" paternalism. They laid a thick line on us about how we're all "one big family," and because the owner still walks around talking to many of the workers, some may fall for this lie. The truth is that he owns time-share vacation condos in 12 different countries, wears European suits, buys a new Cadillac every year, and lives far away from the slums "housing" his workers.
The workers at this plant make key parts for airplanes and can be won to see that our fight is for workers' power, not for any bosses' flag. PLP's internationalist, anti-racist communist politics can and will break the divisions the bosses have created in the working class. Workers' unity will prevail against the ruling class if we in PLP and class conscious workers are bold, patient and creative in organizing these subcontracted factories.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD., July 31 -- Recently, in memory of the 11th anniversary of the brutal police slaying of Archie Elliott III, a young black man, by this county's Police Department, a grassroots organization held a rally and vigil. The rally was at police headquarters and the vigil at the site of the merciless police shooting.
The rally involved a picket line and speakers, each one calling for a specific action -- the indictment and prosecution of the two cops who killed Archie, and the prosecution of all PG County cops responsible for at least 47 deaths in ten years. One speaker linked police brutality, racism, and the system that makes it all possible -- capitalism. They cheered this connection. Neighborhood residents came out to listen to the speeches and cars stopped to take leaflets explaining the protest. Two mothers of other police victims participated, expressing their outrage with a "justice" system that continues to mete out injustice to county minorities. The murdered young man's mother spoke passionately about her son, the tragic circumstances surrounding his death, and the "justice" system that let her and her family down. She urged the crowd to action, calling on us to speak out immediately after an incident of police brutality and to become active in organizations opposing police violence. After her eleven-year battle and fighting tears, she ended with the battle cry, "No justice, No peace."
At the vigil, victim's names and the cops responsible for their deaths were read, showing that this was not an isolated incident but a systemic technique used against working-class county residents. Speakers again decried the enormous injustices meted out by the "justice system" and this system's impotence when it's time to prosecute cops. Here, once again, cars stopped and took leaflets, and neighborhood residents watched and/or joined the vigil. Many remembered the shooting quite vividly, even after eleven years.
To guarantee the event's success, there was a prior leafleting in the neighborhood where the young man was killed, at a nearby Metro stop used by many working-class county residents, and at a local university. Calls were made to the media, letters and e-mails sent out, and an information campaign organized. Over 1,500 leaflets were distributed and 30 contacts made.
This rally and vigil differed from most because it didn't call for system reform, a new police chief or a new county executive, but for accountability under the current laws. As communists we know there's no reform for a system dependent upon increasing violence and fascism to operate. Participating in organizations, these rallies and vigils gives us a chance to expose the futility of attempting to fix, reform, or revise a system which has no fix. For every case of police brutality that receives attention, another three atrocities are committed with impunity. This action allows us to identify the root cause of these attacks -- capitalism -- and gives our working-class comrades the opportunity to present the solution: communism.
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 13 -- Over 100 hotel workers, mostly women, defied their racist bosses and held a one-day wildcat strike here yesterday. "I was never political before," said a rank-and-file leader, "but the managers show us no respect. I had to get involved."
Workers in nine unionized LA luxury hotels have been working without a contract since April. The LA bosses are trying to enforce their "last, best" offer: escalating worker contributions to healthcare, denying pay increases, and intensifying workload.
Century Plaza Hotel workers confronted the manager when supporting a sick co-worker whose HMO turned her away. They protested having to pay nine weeks retroactive contributions.
When the manager threw them out, they blanketed the hotel recruiting other workers to leave with them. They phoned activists at Century City's other major hotel, who also walked out and joined their picket lines.
"I never thought we could get the workers from two different hotels to come together like this," a housekeeping worker said, "but we did!" Leaders of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE-UNITE) hurriedly told workers "not to provoke a lockout" while also "praising" them for "taking initiative." This mixed message typifies a union trying to win workers' loyalty to a capitalist system that's beating them down.
HERE Local 11 has organized committees in each hotel, held meetings and rallies, and had solicited churches to begin stockpiling basic food and household necessities.
The union is calling for hiring black workers, who were mostly fired years ago and replaced with mainly Latino/a immigrants. Multi-racial unity could be a big step towards sharper class consciousness and anti-racist struggle -- with communist leadership -- but without it the result could build multi-racial support for Democratic Party warmongers.
HERE officials like liberal darling Maria Elena Durazo oppose relying on the working class's mass strength to fight for power for our entire class. Instead, by begging the multi-nationals that control 75% of the hotel business to be "good corporate citizens," she builds the illusion that workers can get a "fair share" under capitalism by working within the bosses' deepening fascist system, praying that they'll have "a change of heart."
Hotel workers are in a tough spot. They suffered massive layoffs when tourism plummeted after 9/11. Now hotel occupancy is higher than three years ago, but few workers have been recalled. Workloads have tripled. The defeat of the grocery strike last winter was another blow. The same Federal mediator who engineered that attack is "mediating" the hotel workers' struggle. He's as "neutral" as the rest of the Federal government in this capitalist class dictatorship.
HERE works with liberal groups like LAANE (LA Alliance for A New Economy) and CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), pushing workers to depend on mediators, ministers, lawyers and the media to gain immediate reforms, while relying on the same government who's sending these workers' children to die in Iraq for the bosses' oil profits.
The day after the wildcat, HERE staged a media event in which a housekeeper was arrested making beds in the middle of a busy downtown intersection. They appeal to the media, and fear workers' power at the point of production. Such power can teach workers their potential to fight for class power.
Nearly one-third of all LA families are "working poor," including tens of thousands in manufacturing jobs, many in war-related industries. Youth from these families fill the ranks of the bosses' military. HERE leadership reflects the liberal imperialists' need to win the loyalty of these same workers being attacked by the corporations' drive for maximum profits.
The face of a new organizer lit up as she said, "We were so united and together. I was surprised that we could do it." We can seize such an opportunity to cement ties with these workers through which PLP can be built.
PLP members and friends will intensify our support of the hotel workers, using our red politics and long-term commitment to building a revolutionary communist movement of the working class.
A new book, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror," by Mahmood Mamdani, provides valuable information about the rise of political Islam and U.S. imperialism's "Cold War" strategy after World War II, to contain the Soviet Union and defeat revolutionary movements around the world. Terrorism, financed in part by the drug trade, lay at the heart of this anti-communist strategy.
Starting in 1964, U.S. imperialism sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. Massive bombing killed millions of Vietnamese. The U.S. used mass terror, like the "strategic hamlet" program, search-and-destroy missions to maximize the "body count" of Vietnamese and the CIA-inspired Operation Phoenix, designed to destroy the Viet Cong political apparatus in the villages. Nevertheless, by 1975 the Vietnamese had militarily defeated the U.S.
The U.S. also attacked Laos to stop the flow of troops and supplies from North Vietnam to the south. The bomb tonnage dropped on small, impoverished Laos equaled that dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II. Local Hmong mercenaries were recruited to wage a secret war against communist guerillas in the mountains of northern Laos, removed from any scrutiny. The use of local death-squads and militias, combined with ferocious aerial bombing, became the basis for U.S. imperialism's worldwide anti-communist strategy.
Drugs played a big part in financing post-World War II anti-communism. From 1948-50, the CIA worked with the Mafia in Italy and France, particularly with the Corsican underworld, in the struggle against the French Communist Party for control of the strategic Mediterranean port of Marseille. The Mafia used this port to export heroin to the U.S. for the next quarter century.
In 1950, the CIA ran covert operations along the Burma-China border with anti-communist Chinese forces that helped form the Golden Triangle heroin complex. These operations were designed to create an anti-communist force capable of mounting an invasion of mainland communist China. The invasion never happened, but Burma's Shan states became the world's largest opium producer.
Later the CIA helped develop a massive opium trade, supplying airplanes and landing strips. This is where the infamous Air America and Air Opium "airlines" originated. The money from this trade helped finance the Hmong mercenaries.
In the 1960's, the CIA engineered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, an anti-U.S. nationalist leader who received aid from the Soviet Union, and provided money and logistical support for a pro-U.S. mercenary group to crush a rebellion in the Congo.
U.S. rulers also financed anti-Soviet movements like UNITA in Angola, which engaged in direct attacks, kidnapping, and planting land mines on paths used by farmers. In the early 1970's, some sections of the ruling class backed the terrorist group Renamo in Mozambique, created by the fascist Rhodesian army (now Zimbabwe), and backed by apartheid South Africa.
During the Reagan administration, U.S. policy shifted from "containment," to an aggressive effort to "rollback" defeats in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The policy now targeted nationalist, anti-U.S., pro-Soviet governments, like those in Nicaragua and Afghanistan.
Again, U.S. rulers used terrorism and the drug trade to accomplish their anti-communist, imperialist objectives. In Nicaragua the CIA organized the anti-Sandinista "Contras," who soon established a reputation for cruelty and brutality, engaging in sabotage (blowing up bridges, oil tanks, port facilities), kidnappings, torture, and mass murder. The CIA delivered planeloads of weapons and materials to the Contras, and returned to the U.S. loaded with cocaine. Mamdani says that the point of the terror in Latin America and Africa was to bleed and discredit the existing governments.
Mamdani shows how the U.S. government helped create the Mujahideen movement that toppled the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan. Around 1980, the U.S. ruling class began to view political Islam as an ally in the struggle against the Soviet Union and militant anti-U.S. nationalism, and poured millions into training and financing right-wing Islamists, including "jihadists," who saw the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan as part of a holy war that would later be turned on the U.S. This effort involved alliances with opium-producing warlords in Afghanistan that reinvigorated the opium and heroin trade in the region. U.S. rulers armed and trained the most extreme adherents of political Islam, including Osama bin Laden, who represents a section of the Saudi ruling class which doesn't want to share the oil bonanza with Exxon-Mobil & Co.
Mamdani's book does not have a communist outlook. He concludes that nationalist movements can be progressive and that the wealthy powers in the world need to be more tolerant of such nationalism. PLP rejects this outlook and views all forms of nationalism as a dead end that promotes capitalism. Only communist revolution and the elimination of capitalism and imperialism worldwide will end terror and drugs. Nevertheless, this book provides useful information on the history of religious fundamentalism (Christian as well as Islamic) and various ideological tendencies within Islam. Linking terror and drugs to U.S. anti-communist policy over the past half-century is especially sobering.
Amid all the hoopla about "Fahrenheit 9/11," I decided to teach Ray Bradbury's classic "Fahrenheit 451" to my summer high school seniors. Though the political weaknesses abound in this opus against censorship, I feel I've made some great political advances with my seniors and deepened my own commitment to PLP.
The fascist government and ruling class in Bradbury's dreadful hypothetical future world uses television and the destruction of all books to totally control the minds of the working class and keep them in complete subjugation.
When the protagonist, a "fireman" who specializes in burning books, escapes from the city, he encounters the intellectual elite out in the wilderness. They are all educated liberals, entirely removed from the working masses in the city. They turn up their noses at the brainwashed workers and blame them for the state they're in.
When the protagonist asks Granger, one of the snotty "scholars," how many of them there are, Granger says "thousands." Think about what our Party could do with thousands and thousands of cadre dedicated to organizing revolution!
The novel concludes with the murderous military regime atomizing every city in a nuclear war. The genocidal murder of billions of the world's workers is part of Bradbury's "solution" to capitalism -- brainwashing. Bradbury realized that the sick society had to be destroyed, but fails to provide real solutions.
Ironically, the intellectuals insist they have no answers, but then organize themselves into a cashless, classless, collective society dedicated to smashing individualism in favor of society's needs! The intellectuals were looking to the past, to the sky, to old dusty books for answers existing all around them in their own reality.
My students were able to apply this book to present society, due to the ruling class's increasing fascism and wars. I advanced our political line and criticized capitalism via criticizing Bradbury's "future society." The students learned class struggle, political economy, the needs of the ruling class and dialectical materialism as I discussed the appearance and the essence of the world depicted in the bosses' media.
I concluded my lesson by assigning them to write their concept of the perfect society. They constructed a cashless, classless, egalitarian society based on "from each according to ability and to each according to need." Questions such as "Why do we even need money?" abounded and their class consciousness increased dramatically.
Using "Fahrenheit 451" in this way gave my whole class a better understanding of why capitalism can't meet the working class's needs, why conditions are the way they are, and what needs to be done. I used Bob Marley's phrase, "Free yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our mind," indicating that the working class, not a superhero leader, must free us from the bosses' deadly ideology in order to build a communist revolution.
The novel deepened my commitment to that goal, showing me what could happen to the working class if we were to separate ourselves and wander in the wilderness. We are the defenders of our class brethren, the future of our class, and each of our students is a potential communist leader. Four of the class had already been reading CHALLENGE. Now I'll ensure they all have the opportunity to read our revolutionary ideas.
A Red Teacher
SEIU Backs Kerry, Masking Support for Bosses' Wars
I attended some of the recent SEIU convention in San Francisco and found it very interesting from a communist perspective. Before I arrived, SEIU president Andrew Stern had given a speech attacking the AFL-CIO, challenging it to become a strong, united, international organization or the SEIU -- the country's largest union -- would secede. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney spoke the next day, calling for more "diversity" in the union leadership, so that minority and immigrant workers would be represented.
What kind of analysis can communists make of this? On the surface, a strong, global, multi-racial union sounds like a good thing. But through many struggles we've had within this union, we know it's not fighting for the workers. It is blatantly anti-communist and reformist. So what's with the rhetoric?
As worldwide inter-imperialist rivalry grows, it is crucial for the bosses that they keep the workers in line. The unions are one way in which this can be done. With a big, strong, centralized, global union controlled by the ruling class, whether through the Democratic Party or some NGO, the ruling class can more easily repress workers' wages and benefits, and even monitor their activities. Currently the SEIU is making a major push for amnesty and citizenship for undocumented workers, in the hopes of organizing them. What a grand way for the ruling class to be able to mislead the workers! If they expect these workers to send their sons and daughters to die in Iraq and elsewhere, they must at least get workers to believe they're in line for the "rights of citizenship."
Even though the delegates passed a resolution calling for an end to the Iraq war and bringing the troops home, they were very supportive of John Kerry, who spoke there. Kerry believes the U.S. needs at least 40,000 more troops in the military. Many will be the children and spouses of the newly-organized immigrant workers, who will be fed a liberal line about their "rights" in this "democracy."
Although we cannot predict exactly when or where the bosses will launch their next war, we do know that as inter-imperialist rivalry intensifies, they will attempt to "solve" their problems on the backs of the working class. We've already seen large numbers of job losses, pensions disappearing, and young men and women being killed in U.S. capitalism's drive for oil and profit.
To allow the unions and their leadership to be uncontested players in this deadly farce betrays the workers. Because we have a communist awareness, we have the tools to analyze the ruling class's attacks and how workers must respond. We need to get these tools -- CHALLENGE being a major one among them -- to the workers, so we can fight back with all our strength for the success of our class.
Comrade in SEIU
Put forward a revolutionary line this summer at the Democratic and Republican Conventions with Progressive Labor Party's white T-Shirt that reads:
sizes: M, L, XL. Send $10 plus $1 for shipping and handling.
Check or Money Order to:CHALLENGE PERIODICALS
PO Box 808 Brooklyn, NY 11202
BELOW ARE EXCERPTS FROM MAINSTREAM NEWSPAPERS THAT CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION:Abbreviations: NYT=New York Times, GW=Guardian Weekly (UK)
President Bush...unveiled a bold new strategy on pre-emption. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," he said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." (NYT)
Attorney General John Ashcroft recently went to Congress to herald another record year of fighting terrorism, showcasing numbers showing 310 defendants charged as evidence that "the Patriot Act is al-Qaeda's worst nightmare."
Few would argue about the nightmare part, but.... To a large degree, Ashcroft has used antiterrorism laws against citizens with no ties to al-Qaeda or even terrorism....
Prosecutors are pursuing artists, protesters and academics....
The most bizarre example was Ashcroft's prosecution of the organization Greenpeace.... Ashcroft wanted Greenpeace criminally convicted for boarding a ship allegedly carrying illegal mahogany....
In one case Ashcroft secured the curious victory of convicting three nuns who staged a protest by writing on the cap of a nuclear silo and praying until they were arrested. They were sent to prison for years and added to the pile of "national security threats" brought to justice under Ashcroft....
At the moment, the Justice Department seems to naturally gravitate to political critics, protesters and Muslims as the usual suspects for its body counts. (Baltimore Sun, 7/26)
Not just terrorists hate US
Since April 2002...favorable attitudes toward the United States have plummeted in Jordan from 34% to 15%, in Morocco from 38% to 11%, in Egypt from 15% to 2%, and in Saudi Arabia from 12% to 4%....
Do not even ask about policy. In Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and the UAE, support for the U.S. policy in Iraq is a 1 to 4%. Support for U.S. policy toward Arabs is between 4 and 8%. Support for U.S. policy toward Palestinians is between 3 to 9%. The strongest support for any U.S. policy in the region is for the war on terrorism, but even that ranges from 3% in Saudi Arabia to 21% in Jordan.
What you have is a collapse of trust...." (Boston Globe, 7/26)
Army re-enlistments are dropping; new enlistments in fiscal 2005 (beginning in October) are expected to fall 10% short of the total needed. If the United States means to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq for the next five years, there will be no alternative to reinstating conscription after the presidential inauguration in January. (Int'l Herald Tribune, 7/23)
Concentration of media sources leaves most Americans with a very narrow range of news awareness and an almost complete lack of competing opinions.
Important questions that impact most Americans are generally ignored. Why are 45 million Americans without health care? Why is poverty increasing in the U.S.? What happened to the safety net of social programs for the disadvantaged? What are the underlying reasons -- other than oil -- for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan?....
Where have all the living wage jobs gone? Why is the minimum wage now 60% of its value in 1968?....The corporate media choose not to address these important issues in any significant way.
Instead, they are keeping on top of...the Michael Jackson trial and the threat of new terror attacks....
The corporate agenda of maximizing profits undermines the public purpose of a free press. (MinutemanMedia.org, 7/28)
You can't really write about characters' lives without writing about their work....The office (or factory or restaurant) is where people find adventures, camaraderie, meaning....
Incorporating work into fiction "opens possibilities, introduces complications, [and] gets characters into revelatory conflict...."
Where are all the novels about working? Freud supposedly said all that matters in life is love and work, but as David Gates observes in the introduction to a new anthology, "Labor Days," it's remarkable how often fiction writers "prefer not to look at the significant portions of their imaginary people's lives that must...be spent at work." (NYT, 8/8/)
The Department of Health and Human Services wants hospitals seeking reimbursement to ask patients these questions, among others:
* "Are you a United States citizen?
* "Are you a lawful permanent resident?....
In many immigrant households, at least one parent is undocumented, but the children, having been born in the United States, are citizens.
When such families hear about the questions asked by hospital employees...it's likely that the undocumented immigrant parents will be terrified to seek care for their children, let alone themselves."
"Your newspaper helps me cope with the deluge of doublespeak and Bush-Fascism. Keep up the good work and please renew me for two years."
I received the PLP fund-request letter to help expand the many Party activities. My financial situation is not that strong. I'm a teacher in a South American country and only work part-time. The little I make is used to cover my basic expenses during the summer (January, February and part of April in the Southern hemisphere). I had free access to the internet in the local college I worked in, but now I'm no longer there and must pay for it.
My students and other teachers considered me an excellent teacher, but the administration gave me a bad rating, trying to pressure me to leave or else change my teaching methods and how I see education in general. I couldn't betray my ideals. It would be denying my whole life, based on being a human being, not a liar, racist, crook, ass-licker and careerist. These terms describe those who supposedly are my colleagues, who then stabbed me in the back, giving me the bad rating.
I found another job, although with less pay. But my conscience and attitude towards life are now stronger than ever.
Part of being a comrade is in essence to be "friends" and "compañeros," which is why I am telling you all of this now. Anyway, I will send $100 to help our organization and will try to send some money every month,
For one world, one working class, one Party.
A Comrade in South America
A fire caused by a possible gas leak killed over 400 shoppers in the crowded Ycua Bolanos Supermarket in Asuncion, Paraguay. The death toll is still rising. Over 150 bodies have yet to be identified. Several hundred escaped.
The son of the owner allegedly ordered the security guards to lock all doors, in order to "prevent robbery" by the customers who were fleeing for their lives from the deadly blaze.
The fire began on the first floor of the three-story supermarket complex, on a Sunday packed with families and small children. Many bodies were found huddled together embracing in their final moments of life, burned to death.
If the owner had not locked the doors and allowed the people to flee, the loss of life would have been greatly minimized. But the owner was more concerned about profits and less about the working-class families who frequented his store. The owner and his son have been charged with manslaughter. Their maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.
This tragedy shows us more and more that in order to combat capitalist greed and individualist thinking, we need a revolution by the international working class led by the communist PLP.
A South American Reader
Recently a letter appeared (7/21) from a friend of PL's, questioning hostility shown to Michael Moore, creator of "Fahrenheit 9/11." Moore has a lot of interesting contradictions, and that's not a bad argument in his favor.The movie is certainly worth seeing. But it's also proper to ask which side Moore is really on, especially now, when "Fahrenheit" has grossed over $100 million with no end in sight. And a major part of that is headed right into Moore's pocket since he owns just about the whole, non-studio rights to the movie. Well, the night that $100 million figure was first mentioned, Moore appeared on the Jay Leno Show, leading Leno in singing "God Bless America," gesturing for the audience to join in. This asskissing is not ambiguous -- he's come down on the side of John Kerry, though the love affair is stated in coy terms.
I wish, along with the reader, that there were stars in Hollywood and in other arts that had the guts to stand up for the fight for a decent society -- a fight which is necessarily anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. In the past there were thousands like Paul Robeson, Bertolt Brecht, Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda, Diego Rivera -- that's right, these people all were communists or friends of communism.
Don't expect non-communists or anti-communists to fight very hard to destroy the oppressing class system which rewards them with riches the rest of us have no shot at.
Red from Brooklyn
These are some thoughts from discussions I've had with a few CHALLENGE readers.
For some time now, PLP has said we've been moving into a period of fascism. Recent articles have talked about the accelerating creation of a "fascist police state." The Patriot Act has set up a new legal infrastructure for snooping on and locking up "terrorists," and it wouldn't take much to label anti-war protestors, strikers, and communists (who, after all, advocate violent revolution) as terrorists.
Politicians and the media are doing their best to create a climate of fear. The surveillance satellites, linked computerized databases and facial recognition programs available for spying and tracking are increasing at a rapid rate. Big Brother has become acceptable. We have "cookies" on our computers, RFID (radio frequency identification) devices on the sweaters we buy and surveillance cameras lining our streets.
All this high-tech instrumentation could be used for good. Keeping track of hikers in the wilderness, adults with Alzheimer's disease or grazing animals can be beneficial. Satellites can track the movements of political activists, but can also reveal areas at risk for forest fires and tornadoes. It's not the technology itself that's good or bad; it's how those in power use it.
The 9/11 Commission is calling for a National Counter-Terrorism Center that would set new precedents in allowing the intelligence agencies and the military to work together. If one aspect of fascism is preparation for war, it seems that the ruling class is getting ready, including disciplining their own, and trying to prepare us for years and years of global wars.
PLP has been very clear that this fascism comes from the ruling class as a whole, led by the main "liberal" wing of the capitalist class. We reject the idea that fascism represents only the policies of the most reactionary, nationalistic elements of the capitalist class.
But the international communist movement suffered a grave defeat with the rise of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China. The U.S. union movement is in dreadful shape, with something like 10% of workers currently unionized. Both internationally and domestically, working-class resistance to increased war, terror, and economic attacks is at a low level.
In the current period, the bosses don't seem to be facing a serious threat from the working class or some rival imperialist that would warrant fascism as a kind of emergency rule by the bosses. Yet they're changing the rules and putting in place more and more repressive policies. Why? Because they can!
In the absence of serious resistance, the bosses will move to crack down as much as possible to strengthen their political control and increase profits. In the past we've said that the capitalists prefer liberal democracy and move to fascism reluctantly when there's a crisis. Maybe in the 21st Century, at least for a while, the norm will be a hyper-repressive society, greased by high-tech gadgets. This makes for untold pain and danger for the working class. And it increases the challenges to, and responsibilities of our Party. But if it's not a life-or-death crisis, is it fascism? What do you think?
I love Boston. No, no! I love the Summer Project! This was one of the greatest youth-oriented projects I've ever been involved in. This week has been definitely worth our 20-hour drive from Chicago.
One protest that really opened my eyes occurred where Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich were speaking. It showed me how phony the liberals are. The Kucinich people organized the forum. Speeches addressed gay rights, women's rights and a call to all workers to put heat on the Democratic Party that has continued to ignore universal health care, a living wage, education, civil liberties and civil rights. The speakers called on all to mobilize for the October Million Worker March in D.C. However, no speaker indicted capitalism as the cause of all these problems. That was PLP's job and that's what we did.
Two PL teams of volunteers leafleted and sold CHALLENGE. There was a circus of different groups: libertarians, Larouchies, Christians for Peace; you name it, they were there. But when PL presented our line with confidence, enthusiasm and a boldness that could not be ignored, it was all over for those phonies.
Then out of nowhere a black limo drove up and out popped Jesse Jackson, looking large and in charge (so he thought). Well, we soon set him straight. An alert PL team immediately started to boo him and call him the sellout he is. This "reception" really caught him off guard. So much so, he ran into the church with news cameras chasing him. That's all we needed to see because what goes in must come out.
We made a plan for his departure, starting a picket line chanting, "Kucinich-Jackson you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!"
When Jackson came out, PLP was the one that was large and in charge.
We gave him everything we had, short of armed revolution. Workers on the streets of Boston watched and asked for CHALLENGE, to see what we were about. A high school student gave us her name and phone number and said she would tell her Dad about our group because we were so impressive. It was a great day!
I joined PLP! The whole project has changed my life forever.
Participating in a PLP Summer Project can be one of the best experiences in one's life. The recent Project in Boston was no exception. The comrades there were well-prepared for our arrival and had organized a very educational, entertaining and fun summer project that also helped the young people develop their leadership potential. We're thankful to everyone who helped in this organizing project.
The workshops at UMASS as well as the ones PLP organized led to burning discussions with valuable information. We were glad to see and be part of an organization that got out there on Boston's streets to fight for the international working class, the human race, against racism, fascism and the imperialists worldwide with demonstrations and agitations.
Sometimes government workers get confused about what snakes their bosses are. I work at a large public-sector agency whose mission supposedly is protecting workers. Some incidents expose the bosses and remind us that only a fight for communism is going to change things for real.
My best friend -- just been elected head steward -- and I were having lunch in the cafeteria when the agency head and her aides sat down at a table next to us. My friend wanted to introduce herself, but I was leery because this boss had just barred a Latino man from the building after a "vigorous" lunchtime conversation. (Only the intervention of the union's Civil Rights Committee got him back at work.)
But we went over anyway. The conversation started out politely, but escalated when the boss said she'd heard it was hard to get jobs at this Agency. I blurted out, "That's because there are so many contractors working here." (The government is saving money by contracting out much of its work to slave-labor agencies). The agency head replied, "There are no contractors here." My friend and I contradicted her. Then she backpedaled, saying only information technology jobs were held by contractors -- another lie! I finally said that, although the union does not want contractors here, at least the ones hired should receive benefits! "Isn't it the mission of this agency to protect workers?"
Well, I had stepped over the line. A boss's aide quickly ended the conversation.
The story of this confrontation spread. It showed the boss's duplicity -- she baldly lies to workers even when the workers know the real deal! The incident showed how workers' boldness is necessary here, how callous the bosses are, and it engendered good discussion throughout the agency about the nature of the system.
But maybe the bosses' would help out in an emergency? Think again -- looking out for #1 is their mantra. During a recent evacuation, I realized that a 250-lb. co-worker with breathing problems, who uses a wheelchair, needed help exiting the building. I asked a co-worker to help and requested that the boss -- the official "zone monitor" responsible for workers with disabilities to get out safely -- assist us. The boss left his office, looked down the hall at us, and walked the other way! We had to navigate our co-worker down a steep ramp to the street. I injured my back doing this, and went out on worker's comp.
Make no mistake. Simply because you work with them every day and they appear friendly, their essential nature is evil and inhumane. Workers will dispose of such enemies sooner rather than later!
This anecdote illustrates why boldness is essential in any struggle. My husband and I were eating at a "Potbelly Sandwich" place in College Park, Maryland. He had eaten at one down in Leesburg, Virginia. The décor is that of an old-time, rural general store with pictures and artifacts from the late 1800's.
After we sat down, my husband noticed a confederate flag emblazoned on a picture or book on top of a bookshelf. I groaned to myself and vowed not to eat there again. My husband, however, investigated and discovered it was on the cover of a book. He took it down and went to the manager demanding it be removed. He said this restaurant catered to a multi-racial clientele and this was inappropriate.
The manager, very young, was surprised to see the book, agreed with my husband and quickly took it. Others have eaten there since and reported the flag book has not reappeared.
As a veteran of the anti-racist struggle for 30 years, I felt defeated by seeing this flag. But my husband, who usually doesn't involve himself, decided enough was enough! We need to realize that any anti-racist action, no matter how small, does sow seeds.
An Anti-Racist Reader
The Brookings Institution is a ruling-class organization that develops policies to help the big capitalists stay in power. This liberal think-tank has important ties to key politicians in both parties, to finance capital and to two other think-tanks: the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. For example, Brookings member Kenneth Duberstein is on the board of directors of Boeing, Conoco Oil and Fannie Mae. Brookings specializes in the relationship between foreign and domestic policies. Kerry and his wife are both members, He has adopted its programs
Right now, they're working on reinstituting the draft, to supply the U.S. military for the continuous wars many are predicting. Last year, they published a collection of essays entitled, "United We Serve," on community service and the draft.
One of this collection's editors is E. J. Dionne, a senior fellow at Brookings. He authored an essay in the SF Chronicle (7/6/04), calling for a "Sacrifice From All." He quotes Rep. Charles Rangel (Dem,-NY, another contributor to "United We Serve") who pointed out that the stop-loss order (which prevents soldiers from leaving military service even after their time is up) and the recall of the Ready Reserve are actually a type of draft because service is no longer voluntary.
Dionne is a critic of: (1) the tax break for the rich because it siphons money needed for the military; (2) the politicians who ignored military leaders' estimates on the need for more soldiers; (3) the apparent lack of willingness of the leaders "to ask themselves and other privileged Americans to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." (One essay in "United We Serve" maintains citizens will not accept combat deaths until they see the privileged on the front lines as well, a point reinforced in "Fahrenheit 9/11" when it asks Congressmen to send their children to fight.)
Both Kerry and Bush represent the ruling class. They differ only on how to conduct the "war on terrorism," really a war to maintain U.S. dominance worldwide. Voting for either is a mistake. The only real alternative is to organize for revolution to overthrow the system promoted by these politicians and their think-tanks.
Through CHALLENGE we have learned many revolutionary ideas from PLP on nationalism, sexism, fascism, religion and especially the wage slavery system and state borders which are enemies of the international working class. We have also learned to reject categorically the two-stage theory (first socialism, then communism). Collective leadership is the best leadership. All powers belong to the Party (PLP) only, not to a single individual.
PLP criticizes the old communist movement (fake left) publicly. Their weaknesses ravaged many countries, e.g., Indonesia, Spain, Iran, India and Vietnam among many around the world. That's why today the working class is chained and oppressed by capitalism globally.
In Pakistan, the "Communist" Party split into many parts due to its individualistic leadership since birth. CHALLENGE is the one revolutionary paper in the world which opposes the whole capitalist system, without concessions.
For 12 years, we saw very few names of comrades in CHALLENGE. Organization should be confidential, but the Party is open to the entire working class.
No other party talks about a third world war except PLP. It is a dialectical analysis of a world perspective. What is the membership policy for non-U.S. areas?
Comrades in Pakistan
(CHALLENGE postscript: Arriving with the above letter were two pamphlets, one a translation of Road to Revolution IV into the Sindh language.our Partyis international. We are opento all those in agreement with our internationa communist politics and willing to build our movement.)