The world's biggest bosses' quest for oil has killed millions of workers. It will continue to do so until the working class, united in a communist party, puts a violent end to the profit system.
The Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom's impending purchase of the Yukos oil company significantly advances Russian president Vladimir Putin's plans to dominate wide swaths of Europe and Asia by wielding the oil and gas weapon. State ownership is crucial. Valery Draganov, a Putin-backer in Russia's parliament said, "There is...agreement in the society about increasing the role of the state in the economy. The state protectionism will increase our effectiveness and competitiveness." (London Financial Times, 11/30/04) Former Soviet-bloc countries like Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary already depend on Russia for every drop of crude they use. Putin is trying to boost Russia's market share in the 15 nations of the "old" European Union, now standing at 15% for oil and 20% for gas.
Putin's energy schemes directly challenge Exxon Mobil and the other U.S. oil giants, who back Bush's genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the Kremlin's seizure of Yukos began last year, when Putin jailed its CEO Mikhail Khordokovsky just as he was about to sell Exxon Mobil a 50% share in his firm. In 2003, Exxon chief Lee Raymond said he considered Russia a safe place to invest. But the Gazprom deal has him singing a different tune: "The latest data may say my judgment was premature." (Bloomberg, 12/8/04)
The price Putin & Co. paid for the Yukos grab contrasts sharply with the cost of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The prize in each case amounts to 1.7 million barrels a day (Iraq's current flow and Yukos's usual production). To secure Iraq's reserves, U.S. rulers had to spend hundreds of billions of dollars and waste the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis and over 1,200 GI's -- and counting. Yet they still haven't finished the job. Putin only had to send out a handful of cops and stage some phony court proceedings.
While Russia's military currently lags far behind the U.S war machine, the Kremlin's fascistic economic control goes way beyond what U.S. rulers have managed to pull off. Bush's emerging second-term cabinet, however, is set to tighten the screws. (See article, page 2.)
Like all capitalist rivalries, Putin's energy ambitions have a deadly, military side. Russia has been at war for ten years in Chechnya, the site of a major export pipeline. In June 2004, Russia bought the right to station thousands of troops in Tajikistan by investing in energy projects there. After Lukoil began a $1-billion gas project in Uzbekistan in 2004, Moscow began arming and training its army, to Washington's dismay. (Energy Empire: Oil, Gas and Russia's Revival," Brookings Institution, 2004)
Ultimately, Russian and U.S. imperialism are on a collision course over energy. Any capitalist bent on being the world's dominant oil broker must control the unmatched reserves of the Persian Gulf by armed force. "Right now U.S. rulers have the upper hand there, however precariously. But Russia has been active in the region lately, waving both the carrot and the stick. On December 7, Putin met with Iraqi "President" Allawi and agreed to forgive 90% of Iraq's $10.5 billion debt to Russia so that "the Iraqi government will reconsider agreements reached between Russian oil companies and the Hussein government on development of Iraq's vast oil reserves." (Radio Free Europe, 12/10/04) Meanwhile, Russia is furnishing most of the technical support for Iran's fledgling nuclear arms program. An Iran with nukes would open many more battlefronts in an already war-torn Middle East.
To break Russia's stranglehold, Chevron Texaco and Dick Cheney held talks in late 2003 with Ukraine's president Kuchma and Prime Minister Yanukovich on pumping Chevron's Caspian crude through the Ukraine to Western Europe. When the Ukrainian leaders showed reluctance, U.S. financier George Soros began donating heavily to the opposition Yushchenko party, particularly to its student wing, Pora. Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security consultant to four U.S. presidents) flew to Kiev in May 2004, met with Kuchma, and made speeches about NATO support for an "independent" (read "pro-U.S.") Ukraine. The threat was clear: Play ball with the U.S. on the oil route or you'll get the NATO bombing treatment rained on Serbia 1999-2000, when it tried to counter U.S. pipeline schemes. Brzezinski had written in his 1997 book, "The Grand Chessboard," that the Ukraine was one of five crucial "pivots" in the Eurasian region, control of which he considered critical to control of the world. A pro-western Ukraine could undermine the power of Russia: "Without Ukraine," he wrote, "Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire."
But the deadly U.S. war machine is stretched thin, and Russia is feeling its oats. Ukraine's rulers sided squarely with the Russians. "This year, under pressure from Russia, Ukraine has reversed the flow of a new pipeline that was built to carry Caspian oil...up towards Poland. Instead it will now carry Russian exports...to Western Europe." (Economist, 12/11/04)
Yes, CHALLENGE has been documenting this repeatedly, but anyone needing further confirmation need only read a UNICEF report released on Dec. 9. It states that among the one billion children suffering extreme deprivation because of poverty, AIDS and wars, one child dies every three seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If a nuclear war killed 100 million people, it would only equal the number of children dying from this extreme deprivation every ten years. This poverty, lack of health care and war-caused death are created by a system whose foundation stone is the drive for maximum profits. Truly, capitalism's attack on the working class, and especially its children, is the most horrendous holocaust the world has ever seen.
The UNICEF statistics are numbing:
* "More than 29,000 children die every day of mostly preventable causes" (NY Times, 12/10/04) -- that's over 10 million per year;
* Nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in wars since 1990 were children;
* Of the world's 2.2 billion children, 640 million live on dirt floors or in extremely overcrowded housing;
* Almost a half million children died of AIDS last year;
* Over two million children are "employed" in the sex "industry";
* "Global military spending was $956 billion, while the cost of effectively combating poverty would be $40 to $70 billion." (NYT)
But $70 billion might only lift the 1.4 billion workers up to what the International Labor Organization (ILO) defines as the "poverty line": $2 a day. Half of the world's 2.8 billion workers now earn below that figure. (550 million earn less than $1 a day!) And, of course, raising them to slightly above $2.00 a day (or $3 or $4) would hardly lift them out of poverty. Eliminating poverty cannot be accomplished under capitalism, a system that thrives on working-class poverty. As the ILO report states, the 186 million who were unemployed in 2003 "represent the tip of the iceberg...since more than seven times that number...are employed but still live in poverty."
UNICEF reports that child poverty is not restricted to "developing" or poor countries. "It has worsened in...Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Italy." And, surprise, surprise, "the United States sill had a child poverty rate substantially higher than any of those European countries -- at 21.9%." (NYT) Parenthetically it says child malnutrition has risen in Iraq, under the banner of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," no doubt.
The goal, is to reduce by half the 550 million workers below the $1-a-day figure by 2015! That's "achievement" under capitalism: "lifting" 275 million workers over the dollar-a-day line in the next 11 years! Meanwhile, according to previous UN reports, 50 million people die every year from preventable causes.
This holocaust is occurring in a world in which the working class is mounting very little fight-back. Because the international communist movement went under, the working class is left with too little leadership to point the way out of this massacre.
Anti-communists have always claimed that revolution causes widespread death. Yet it is capitalism that is murdering tens of millions. It is capitalism,especially U.S. imperialism, that launches war after war, to grab oil, markets and the "right" to exploit workers. It is capitalists who are privatizing even such a basic necessity of life as water.
Death during revolution would be infinitesimal compared to the profit system's wholesale murder. Communist revolution that would destroy capitalism, its bosses and profits and wage-slave system, would SAVE hundreds of millions of lives. That is the only way out of this dark age that the bosses' system has created.
The White House cabinet represents a key component of their scheme. The situation remains in flux. Nonetheless, a trend has emerged:
* It's no secret that as Secretary of State, Colin Powell openly pushed the liberal agenda against some of Bush's more narrowly-focused pals among the bosses. But the new nominee for the position, National Security Adviser Condeleeza Rice, is hardly an enemy of the warmakers. A protégé of imperialist guru Brzezinski, Rice sat on the board of Chevron Texaco, which now profits from the Pentagon's slaughters in Iraq and elsewhere. Count on her to push for a dramatic expansion of the infantry -- more boots on the ground -- to secure Persian Gulf oil for Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, et al.
* Bernard Kerik, Bush's original choice for Homeland Security, is out in quick disgrace. First using racism, blaming a nanny for being an undocumented immigrant; then his extramarital affairs with two women, along with his ill-gotten sudden multi-million dollar fortune and his mob connections, hid the real reason for his demise: the need for someone who's more in tune with the liberal agenda for fascism.
At his 2001 swearing-in as New York City police czar under Giuliani, Kerik had explicitly cited his disagreement with the "community policing" strategy of Giuliani's first top cop and now LAPD chief, Bill Bratton. Community policing turns schools, churches and neighborhood organizations into a network of stoolpigeons for the cops and, therefore, for the big bosses. This program represents a cornerstone of the Hart-Rudman plan to mobilize U.S. society for war. The liberals want to build a mass base for fascism by getting the working class to participate actively in its own repression. The openly racist Kerik-Giuliani style of policing assumes the job can be done simply by giving a small minority of uniformed cops a "shoot-to-kill" blank check. The liberals think a more subtle, devious approach is necessary. They understand that Hitler was on to something when he concocted the Judenrat ("Jewish Councils") to get a section of Jewish traitors to help carry out deportations to the concentration camps.
* To get more people to believe the lie that the bosses' government can represent workers' interest, Bush has nominated two Latino candidates to the cabinet: Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General and Gutiérrez for Commerce. As a member of the White House legal staff Gonzáles concocted the now notorious "torture memorandum," which sanctioned the brutal abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay and gave a legal green light to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. As CEO of Kellogg, Gutiérrez closed the Battle Creek Corn Flake factory, laying off 500 workers, and then had the gall to tell workers that making the company "leaner and meaner" was in their interest.
The Bush cabinet is still in flux. However, none of it is good news for the working class. We must guard particularly against hoping that the appointment of liberals will improve the situation either in Iraq or on the home front. Our situation will improve only when we rely on our own class and build our own forces, particularly the PLP.
The U.S. bosses' war budget impels these attacks on the working class. These cuts help pay for the U.S. capitalists' war to control Middle East oil. As the rulers commit more troops and expand the war, there'll be further attacks on workers here. Every union contract becomes a war contract.
The soldiers in the Army's 343rd Quartermaster Company show how to really fight back. One whole platoon of 19 refused to obey orders to deliver contaminated fuel without adequate protective escort. The U.S. bosses fear such actions will grow to challenge the imperialists' reasons for the war. In World War I, communist organizers in Russia were able to transform soldier rebellions into a vital force for communist revolution.
Local 1199C members must mutiny against our war contract. The key demand must be to improve patient care with more full-time jobs. Make the bosses pay. We also must fight for better benefits.
At the November city-wide 1199C delegate meeting, a member cited direct action against the war shown by the 343rd Company. He called on the union to "bring the mutiny home" in our coming contract fight. In the past this delegate's comments usually brought silence from the floor and criticism from the union President. This time, however, the delegate received a good measure of applause.
But mutiny alone is not enough. Even more important is for more hospital workers to become communists and join PLP. Our enemy is not just the local hospital bosses or whoever wins the White House. Our enemy is a capitalist system in a period of war and fascism.
Only communists can analyze the whole world picture. Communists understand that even if we win some reforms, the bosses -- with their state power -- will always find ways to take them away. That's why PLP believes we must turn every struggle into one that advances the fight for communist revolution.
In past contract struggles a few more workers became CHALLENGE readers. Some joined PLP. Party members played important roles in these contract fights and had some success in bringing communist ideas into workers' debates about the contract. But that wasn't enough then and it's not enough now.
CHALLENGE readers in the hospitals must be won to join PLP now! There's no other choice. The union leaders preach negativity, telling us we have no alternative but to accept cutbacks. They keep us tied to capitalism. Communist revolution is the only way to break the cycles of capitalist war and suffering. From Iraq to Philadelphia, the workers' enemy is capitalism. Join PLP to abolish the wage system and live a in communist society, free of bosses and profits, and therefore free of racism, unemployment and war.
People are generally angry at how hard we have to work, from 4 AM to 6 PM. We must carry heavy equipment, loading it and unloading it constantly.
The day we arrived at a new training location, we were tired and just wanted to relax before going to bed. But when we moved into our tent, my group was given a small section to set up our cots. We were all mad. We'd been told we'd have MORE room, and here we were with our cots closer together than at our previous base.
One soldier who I identified as a "rebel" from the start (and with whom I'd quickly made friends) placed his cot in the "wrong" spot, but only one row away from where he was supposed to be. Nonetheless, the commander-in-charge moved him without letting him know.
The "rebel" was furious. He exclaimed, "F--k this....I'm sleeping outside!" Picking up his duffle bag and cot, he headed towards the exit. No one thought he was serious since it was drizzling outside, and recent rain showers had left mud everywhere, making living outside ridiculous. Well, there's something about a rebel to admire. When one makes up his or her mind to stand up and oppose the system, he/she will act on it.
This was a perfect opportunity for me to talk to him and show him support, so I followed him. After things calmed down, my relationship with him took a qualitative leap. We discussed the structure of the military, about its purpose: to defend the bosses' profits and how the brass are really out to screw us, endanger us and keep us in line. I told him I admired him for what he'd done. I also remarked that we'd find ourselves in worse situations once we were sent to the Middle East.
Without minimizing his bravery, I told him that acting together as a group can produce even better results, especially when facing more difficult conditions. After talking for about two hours, we made a pact to stand up for each other when things get rough. Later, another soldier told me he respected my stand, and told the "rebel," "never let them break your spirit!"
Another time, after watching the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," we had a good talk about this being a war for oil profits, not for "democracy." Some people got pretty angry about that.
One day I heard three soldiers talking about communism. One had heard some positive but vague things about it from relatives and was explaining this. I joined the conversation, saying I'd heard that too. The others wanted us to define communism, which we did. The soldier who had some knowledge about it thanked me for my help. We agreed to talk more.
These are just a few examples of the opportunities here. I foresee a lot more.
A Red GI
But workers, employed and unemployed, continue to fight. "Union conflicts and strikes return with a vengeance" says Clarin (12/5), a leading daily here.
Recent strikes by railroad, telephone, subway and government workers, and teachers have expressed their class's anger. The bosses and their media tried mightily to turn the public against the strikers, but they failed.
Many strikes have overcome the sellouts, exceeding the limits set by these union hacks. Subway workers here struck for the second time this year demanding higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions. The House of Delegates who are shop stewards led the strikes and have become the subway workers' real leadership, after many years of organizing, breaking the control of the right-wing union leadership. The subway workers physically blocked the rails to ensure the trains didn't run. Though not winning all their demands, they've learned many new forms of struggle.
The telephone workers seized the main telephone building. The company's armed goons failed to kick them out. The public turned against the bosses so the government was forced to listen to the strikers, intervening without openly siding with the company.
Many workers are young, influenced by the 2001 rebellion. One 20-year-old phone worker told Pagina12 (Dec. 12): "What we did was [to] go back to the old sit-down strike, instead of just a `Sunday' strike...[nothing militant]. This is not new but it's being applied in a different political situation. You can do it if you have enough active workers to support it; otherwise the company can break you..."
For many of these young workers, these strikes are becoming "schools in warfare," as Lenin described them. But much more is needed. Otherwise the bosses -- with the union hacks' help --will eventually take away whatever they gained. They must turn these struggles into "schools for communism." The key missing element is revolutionary communist leadership. These young militants must be won to become fighters for communist revolution.
Students pay an activities fee every semester. The Student Government Association (SGA) oversees the spending. For several years the fees have not been spent but the money is never returned to the activities fund. One reason the fees are unspent is because most SGA-planned activities are denied approval or are curtailed, with a litany of excuses -- no space, public safety, etc. Although students pay for activities semester after semester, they have no control over their money.
This term an end-of-semester party was planned. The day before the scheduled party, the Administration cancelled it. Why? "Not enough public safety officers" and the area was "unsafe" when the party was scheduled to end.
This was the last straw. Immediately ten students met and went to one Vice-President's office demanding to be heard. Rejecting his excuse and "compromise" offer, we sprang into action. After having a political discussion, the group decided to print a flyer. Some wanted to indict Public Safety as the guilty party. Others pushed to condemn the entire administration. They won.
Many flyers were posted throughout the school. A petition was circulated. Next a comprehensive leaflet was written denouncing the administration and calling for action from the student body, saying we would not allow cancellation of the party. The next morning students were greeted with flyers calling for a rally. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 flyers were readied for distribution in the event our demands weren't met.
Later that day some student leaders met with the head of the security and two Vice-Presidents. Besides agreeing to scaling back the party's closing time from 3 AM to 2 AM, we had vowed beforehand: NO COMPROMISE. Every excuse for canceling the party melted away after students threatened to have the party regardless of what the administration said.
Although fighting for a party seems insignificant, the real struggle was over who controls the money from students' fees. Many good discussions arose about the use of the police force, who would be called if we refused to leave and had a party. Even further, we decided that even if we lost, we were determined to make a statement.
Instead of following a liberal line saying that we were right but should use the "proper channels," our most important lesson was that through collective struggle we can win.
Our biggest victory was that some students were drawn closer to the Party. Hopefully a formal study group will begin at the college, and students will fight together against a decrease in the quality of student life. The bosses and their college administrators believe that students, like those at this mostly black college, deserve only a life of war and fascism (90% of all NYS soldiers who have died in Iraq are non-white). As part of the war budget another tuition hike is planned, forcing many Medgar Evers students to drop out.. We can use the confidence gained in the struggle to mount a collective fightback against all these other attacks.
Three dozen friends attended the three events. Despite some of them being upset over the re-election of Bush, there's a small but growing thirst amongst our friends for a real alternative to capitalism. The pre-election debate amongst them was sharpened. CHALLENGE helped clarify various questions with these workers. All this expanded opportunities to raise communist ideas among people with whom we have long-term friendships.
For example, at one dinner, one speaker outlined the material basis for the post-election dismay felt by many honest people, including the low level of class struggle. Another speaker discussed how decisions would be made under communism. These two, and one other presentation, sparked a flurry of questions from workers, ranging from how we deal with the lack of a current model for a fully communist society, to how to deal with religion and "multi-ethnicity" after a communist revolution. Party members posed answers to all these questions. After dinner, discussions continued for another two hours in three smaller groups. Almost every PLP member brought at least one non-Party person to the event.
Several long-time friends said they were impressed with the high political level of this "standing-room only" event. Now we must make a concerted effort to win many of these workers to join PLP -- which we did not do at the event itself -- while trying to answer their questions in more detail. We must also sharpen the class struggle within the mass organizations in which we're active to help do this. We're planning social events and a PLP forum on a communist view of terrorism, and of the "war on terrorism."
Four police cars soon arrived, blocking an entire lane of traffic. The cops tried to intimidate the protestors, asking them to move. The students stood their ground, so a cop said, "We can't make you move, but we can ticket the people who are honking." They then issued $100 citations to four cars (mostly black or Latin drivers). Instead of scaring people, it made them angry. Two ticketed drivers left their car and joined the rally.
A community activist called the town council's liberal member, who came immediately and stayed until the rally ended. They complained to the next town council meeting about the police, and got the issue placed on the agenda of the following meeting. Word spread quickly, as local liberal activists organized to defend "free speech."
Considering the fascist assault on Falluja that sparked the rally, this "free speech" campaign was at best naive and at worst a diversion. As one student said later, "They're turning Falluja into a police state, and that's exactly what they'll do here, too." We'd better not repeat the mistake of pre-fascist Germany when communists and other workers relied on elections and "constitutional rights" instead of organizing to destroy fascism at its capitalist roots.
At the town council meeting over 100 people filled the chamber, and for over an hour speaker after speaker (aged 8 to 80) supported the anti-war rally, criticized the cops and demanded the council apologize to the ticketed drivers and get the citations dropped.
A rally participant compared Falluja to Guernica (destroyed by the fascists in Spain in 1936), saying it showed how far U.S. rulers will go for maintain oil profits and global empire. She said the Veterans' Day protest honored U.S. soldiers -- like those of the 343rd QC -- who think for themselves rather than blindly follow orders. A student said it was important to oppose U.S. war crimes. Two ticketed drivers spoke and supported these points.
But most of the speakers -- including the councilman who'd been at the rally -- stuck pretty much to "free speech" and the obvious lies in the police report. The other four council members seized on this, saying they, too, were for "free speech" but the tickets "had nothing to do with the war." They said they "couldn't believe" that their cops could possibly have done anything wrong -- they wouldn't "tie the hands of the police." This in a town where the police have been notoriously racist!
"I was shocked," said one student. "This is a liberal town, voting 80% against George Bush. They're Democrats." Another person responded, "That tells you something about the Democrats! Just because someone voted against Bush doesn't mean they share our views or values. Kerry wasn't against the war, either."
Underlining this point, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) just returned from a junket to Iraq saying: "Bush should tell the American people the truth, that U.S. troops will have to stay in Iraq for three, four or even five more years."
The students plan to hold a monthly rally at the same location, and are enlisting more classmates to help. They'll continue to show videos, host speakers and conduct other educational activities on campus. Conversations have become deeper. Some youth have begun reading CHALLENGE. "I never paid much attention to politics before because it was too depressing," said a mother of two, "but I have my kids to think about so I guess I have to pay attention."
Before Paul Bremer, former U.S. Proconsul in occupied Iraq, left his post last June, he signed some 100 orders that effectively operate almost as laws. Order 81 forbids Iraqi farmers to keep the seeds from a previous harvest, meaning they can't use the same seeds twice. Each year they must buy new seeds. The world's seed business is dominated by five companies: Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical.
International organizations like GRAIN and Focus on the Global South denounced Order 81, saying Iraq is part of multi-national agribusiness's drive to impose a monopoly over seeds, thereby controlling agriculture and the world food supply.
For millenniums, farmers have kept, reused and freely shared their seeds. But the world's imperialists are using the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to privatize what Mother Nature produces -- seeds, plants, proteins, genes and even human cells.
Imperialist agribusiness wants to use IPR to force anyone planting anything to pay royalties to the corporate "owner" of the seeds. "Guilty" farmers can be prosecuted the same way Microsoft and music giants go after those who copy "pirated" versions of their software, music, etc.
So Iraq, the cradle of world's agriculture -- the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom -- will now become a test for agri-bosses' profiteering. And Order 81, arbitrarily invoked by Bremer without consulting even the Iraqi farmers, is the tool to do that.
Iraq also has become a testing ground for genetically-altered food, rejected by the European Union (EU) and even by Africa's poorest countries. El Grupo de Reflexión Rural (GRR, an Argentinian farmers' defense group) says the struggle between the EU and the U.S. over transgenic foods is part of the world's fight over access to markets, linked to the invasion of Iraq. "Biotechnology is very important to the interests of the empire, and the industrial genetic multinationals help the war effort, playing their part in the world's food market," declared the GRR (Feb. 2003). "After the war, and taking advantage of population starvation, they will surely send aid in the form of transgenic food, not only to subsidize U.S. farmers but also to `prove' that genetic engineering is the solution to world's hunger."
U.S. food expert Peter Rosset says: "With the Iraq war and with new military bases in the countries of the Southern parts of the world, the U.S. is seeking advantage over its competitors in the new war to colonize the Third World."
So the war in Iraq is another battleground in the imperialists' fight to control the world's resources and so-called free trade. Don't expect France, Germany, China or Russia to support the U.S. war efforts in Iraq. And expect many more "trouble" spots worldwide (Ukraine, Sudan, Congo, etc.) as the world's imperialists gear up for endless wars and eventually World War III.
(Information from La Jornada, Mexico, 12/5 and from http://www.bioseguridad.tk/)
During the civil war here, the CIA trained these men and women to kill in cold blood under any circumstance. They graduated with "honors" in torture, disappearances and assassinating workers. It's easy to imagine what they will do against Iraqi civilians.
These mercenaries - including retired captains and lieutenants as well as members of the Special Forces - will be paid $1,200 to $2,200 a month. In El Salvador the minimum wage is $144 a month. "If they're dying of hunger at home, at least if they die in Iraq, they'll leave life insurance for their families," a worker commented ironically.
Enemies worldwide are threatening the global hegemony of U.S. imperialism. Capitalism's internal weaknesses are emerging more rapidly. Rank-and-file U.S. soldiers' morale is low. Many are now seeing this is a war to benefit the Haliburtons and Big Oil. The GI's goal is to come out of this war alive. This won't help U.S. imperialism against a politically committed opponent despite having a reactionary leadership. That's why the U.S. needs to contract mercenaries from poorer countries.
In contrast, the Soviet Red Army's discipline in World War 2 grew from the commitment to maintain a society that benefits the working class.
A recent poll revealed that more than 80% of Salvadorans oppose sending soldiers from here and didn't believe this oil war is for liberation of the Iraqi people. On the contrary, they thought it could lead to Salvadorans being targeted by terrorist groups. There are currently 360 Salvadoran soldiers in Iraq making up the 3rd Cuscatlan Batallion.
Only the bosses and their government benefit from this war, while demonstrating their loyalty to U.S. rulers. Meanwhile, the Salvadoran military continues oppressing those who oppose their capitalist system.
The working class here and abroad must keep fighting this oppressive capitalist system. PLP is the only weapon workers can actually use to take on the imperialists. CHALLENGE is our most effective tool in confronting our class enemy. We aim to spread distribution networks for the paper, as well as build study groups in factories, universities and in the bosses' army based on these communist ideas in CHALLENGE.
This event was born out of one student in a campus organization raising the importance of backing the soldiers of the 343rd QC who refused orders in Iraq, and later distributing a petition to rally support (which sparked more general political issues). The discussion lasted two weeks and generated formation of a commission to take action. A good third of this organization, rather than depressed by Bush's re-election, was thirsting for political action and responded to this idea. They decided to organize a demonstration against imperialist war and its racist consequences.
Lots of dedicated collective work over long nights among this small group did whatever needed to be done. Some promised to deliver short speeches. They came through, detailing the effect of racist budget cuts on working-class students. One speaker critiqued the anti-Bush movement, exposing capitalism as the source of workers' problems, while calling for support for the 343rd. He encouraged everyone to get involved. Another student advocated communist revolution to end imperialist wars and racist terror.
Over 270 copies of CHALLENGE were distributed and many comrades had exciting conversations with students about communism. One student organizer said a better connection between the budget cuts and the war could have been made, but overall most felt the demonstration was an overwhelming success.
A professor invigorated by the event said it was about time that somebody did something on our campus. The anti-war movement had been dead since early last year. Our rally affected the entire campus. Students from a speech class told a speaker they learned a lot. Some teachers stepped forward to defend the students. Others debated the merits of the rally. Such actions are vitally necessary in the long-term fight to free the world of exploitation, capitalist oppression and racist, imperialist war.
Now an anti-war coalition has been formed. A group of students continues to plan for the upcoming term. These humble beginnings can bear great results, helpful in combating depression and cynicism in the fight to build PLP.
As we marched on the picket lines, we witnessed various anti-worker individuals. Scabs leaving work mocked the protesters with, "I've got money, bitches, I got money!" and other profanities, their soulless taunts belying the nature of their selfish materialism.
Hotel patrons also insulted the locked-out workers. Several had the guiltlessness to stand outside the hotel, wine-glasses in hand, with disapproving sneers plastered on their faces. They muttered among themselves and gave us disgusted glares, wondering when the protesters would just leave.
These instances highlighted the economic disparity between the wealthy patrons and the working class. Is it right to belittle workers fighting for their livelihood? Is it conscionable to scorn the poor who are striving against an economic machine that controls them? The rich did not care because their financial security was not at stake. Their concerns were entirely self-centered.
As we left that night, I realized that the San Francisco hotel lock-out was but one instance of exploitation in a world filled with injustice for the poor. Owners would never voluntarily concede power. They would have to be forced.
West Coast friend
This was reflected in the workers' rejection of the anti-communist smear tactics a union misleader launched against the union shop steward, a PLP member. When communist and non-communist workers develop personal ties based on mutual respect and friendship, it's very difficult for the bosses to break them.
We're engaged in a fight to get full-time hours for part-time workers. Part-timers outnumber full-timers 2 to 1. They're from Ethiopia, Somalia and Laos, and are victims of racist super-exploitation. The racist bosses drive their wages down, threatening the full-timers' wages as well. Many immigrant and non-immigrant workers have united around a petition demanding full-time hours for part-time workers. Obviously, the bosses may reject this since it would cut into their profits. During this struggle many part-timers have become CHALLENGE readers.
Only through a communist revolution can the international working class gain a better life in a society without racist bosses to oppress workers. Once millions of workers worldwide fight for this goal, the bosses are finished. Like Mao Zedong said, "Dare to struggle! Dare to win!"
It's ironic that Vang and many others in the Hmong community have been victimized by racism, since their immigration to the U.S. was a reward for the Hmongs providing fascist death squads for U.S. imperialism during the Vietnam War. Also, some of the Wisconsin hunters were Vietnam vets and were indoctrinated with the bosses' anti-Asian racism that they retain today. This tragedy proves that racism and capitalism are a deadly combination for workers.
The ruling class is the only one who benefits from racism because it reaps billions in super-profits from all workers. The only solution is a communist revolution led by PLP, where workers build an international, integrated communist society.
A St. Paul Reader
It took six years of lots of work by hundreds of volunteers, knocking on 100,000 doors and making thousands of phone calls, holding demonstrations, etc. to achieve this.
"This was a victory for us, the working people," a happy and proud Leonor Torres told NY Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz (12/9). Ms. Torres is a garment worker who hails from Cuenca, Ecuador, and has been a New Yorker since 1982. For three years, she has put much of her time and energy into making the wage hike a reality. "I'm happy thinking about how many families will benefit from this," said the short, personable 48-year-old grandmother. "And I'm proud to have been part of this tremendous effort."
"This is really a historic event," said Alex Navarro, communications director for the Working Families Party. This party was a major force behind the campaign for a higher minimum wage. The WFP is supported by unions like UNITE.
It's obvious that when workers are motivated like Ms. Torres, they can move mountains. But the struggle for a higher minimum wage should be seen from another angle. The WFP has become the third largest political force in New York, after the Republicans and Democrats. But it's mainly an electoral party, and is subservient to the Democrats, like many of the unions behind it. Electoral politics aren't enough.
I'm glad the minimum wage is increasing but prices are rising at an even faster pace; $7 an hour won't make ends meet in NY, and that's in 2007. Workers need at least $15 an hour. But even that won't free us from being wage slaves and subject to the mass racist unemployment constantly operating under capitalism.
The working class needs the energy of workers like Ms. Torres, but the opportunist, pro-capitalist leaders of the WFP and UNITE are just misusing her to maintain illusions in capitalism as "working for the little people."
We need to win the honest workers in groups like WFP to understand that any wage under capitalism is wage slavery. We need to fight for the abolition of wage slavery, for communism!
A Manhattan Comrade
There was no mention at the meeting or in the latest issue of the TWU "Express" about how the Iraq war was hurting the lives of NYC transit workers and riders who have been overwhelmingly opposed to the war.
When I got the mike during the discussion period, I said the MTA's poverty cries and cutbacks because of the Iraq war were no different from the deficit complaints former TWU leader Mike Quill faced from Transit Authority (now MTA) bondholders and President Johnson's wage freeze to finance the Vietnam War.
Quill told the bondholders they would freeze in hell before he let transit workers be dragged into poverty.
I maintained that elections never won us the right to organize unions, to smash segregation which forced civil rights laws or to stop the Vietnam War. I concluded that it was the fighting spirit of transit workers who took part in all those struggles, along with millions of other workers, that kept us from being reduced to poverty, de facto slavery and war.
There were some cheers and handshakes and a worker who used to be active with PLP told me he missed getting all the real news in CHALLENGE. I gave him our paper and we discussed how the "leadership" talked about needing allies while spending our union dues on politicians who support the anti-strike Taylor Law and Iraq war. As we parted he said he'd subscribe to CHALLENGE. I recalled somebody saying, "What you do counts."
Retired Transit Worker
Last year many members turned the bag inside out in protest, so as not to show the logo. Pfizer must have noticed this because this year it distributed a bag that could not be turned inside out. Although there was no organized protest, many members were unhappy and said so.
A friend of mine and I plan to organize a protest next year, which hopefully will provide an opportunity to increase the sale of CHALLENGE.
Our integrated group leafleted, chanted and picketed the box office, wearing yellow stars of David in memory of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass), November 9, 1938, when Nazis smashed the windows of Jewish synagogues, businesses and homes, and beat and killed many.
Our 150 leaflets were gone in 30 minutes. Many people listened. Some said Wagner's art made his anti-Jewish racism irrelevant. One guy said he agreed with Wagner's racist ideas. One of our picketers had lost family in the Holocaust. A Latin telephone worker denounced the Lyric for pushing Nazi art and SBC Communications for being a sponsor and giving away free tickets while planning thousands of layoffs.
A black college professor said Wagner not only hated Jews, but all other "inferior races," stating that racism is used to inflict terror on millions of people, from the Holocaust to Iraq.
"Das Rheingold" is a racist allegory about Jews (the Nibelungen) corrupting the German ruling class (Wotan and the other gods) through their control over money (the Rhine gold). And to ensure his audience would get the racist message, Wagner wrote pamphlets and articles outlining his anti-Semitic ideology.
Mrs. A. Watson Armour, of the Armour meat company, is a major financial supporter of Wagner's operas. The Armour Company incited a race riot in Chicago in 1919 to break a meatpackers' strike.
Wagner's music inspired the SS (Hitler's elite killers) in the concentration camps and was also featured at the premiere of the pro-KKK film "Birth Of A Nation" of racist director D. W. Griffith. His music was used when Vietnamese were being slaughtered in the movie, "Apocalypse Now."
The next day, 15 church members showed solidarity with our action and remembered Kristallnacht by wearing the yellow stars after church service. One day, Wagner's true nature will be fully revealed and his operas will never be played again. Communist revolution will outlaw racist "art," and true working-class culture will throw racism into the trash can of history.
Medardo Gonzáles, alias "Comandante Milton Méndez," an ex-guerrilla commander of the FPL ("Popular Forces of Liberation," (one of five groups that formed the FMLN during the Salvadorian Civil War), and Oscar Ortiz, also an ex-FPL commander, were contending for the FMLN's top post last month. Both were very clear. "You can't think about governing the country without first negotiating with big capital," said Ortiz. Gonzáles, representing the FMLN's more "radical" wing, agreed, saying: "If we did it before in order to sign the peace accords, why can't we do it now?"
"Comandante Milton" received political help during the election from Shafik Handal, ex-Secretary General of the defunct Salvadorian "Communist" Party and current FMLN president. He also got help from some European Union imperialists. On the other side, Ortiz received financial help from U.S. imperialists, using it to commandeer a big hotel in the center of a rich neighborhood, where he wined and dined quite a few journalists.
While "Comandante Milton" won the election, the result would have been no different for workers had Ortiz won. Both candidates' ambitions were to take power and fill their pockets at the expense of the working class. Both represent the interests of the most bloody and genocidal capitalists in history.
According to the electoral census, the FMLN has approximately 90,720 members. Of these, only 51.6% went to the polls. The fact that more than 43,000 members didn't vote indicates that neither candidate represents the interests of the working class.
History shows us that the FMLN's top leaders have always been allied with the capitalists. The Salvadorian Civil War, which caused so much death and suffering for the working class, was a fight between one section of the ruling class allied with the Russian and European bosses and another section allied with U.S. bosses. This fight continues, temporarily transferred to the electoral process. The FMLN leadership used workers' aspirations -- their desire to break away from the U.S. imperialists -- only to sacrifice them to the Russian-European imperialists. Eventually this fight will lead to World War III.
But the workers have another alternative. We can and should fight for true Communism, not the fake variety that imperialism's faithful servants have tried to pass off as real. Organizing PLP clubs and expanding CHALLENGE readership will make it possible for us to break free of the chains that the servants of this capitalist system have wrapped around us.
When a leader of a country refuses to cooperate with economic hit men like Perkins, the jackals from the CIA are called in.
Perkins said that both Omar Torrijos of Panama and Jaime Boldos of Ecuador -- both men he worked with -- refused to play the game with the U.S. and both were cut down by the CIA -- Torrijos when his airplane blew up, and Roldos when his helicopter exploded, within three months of each other in 1981.
If the CIA jackals don't do the job, then the U.S. Marines are sent in. (Russell Mokhiber, (11/19) http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com
Their traditions are not always pleasant. Some protesters have been chanting nationalistic and secessionist songs from the anti-semitic years of the second world war.
Nor are we watching a struggle between freedom and authoritarianism as is romantically alleged. Viktor Yushchenko... and some of his backers are also linked to the brutal industrial clans who manipulated Ukraine's post-Soviet privatization....
In Ukraine Yushchenko got the western nod, and floods of money poured in to groups which support him....
Intervening in foreign elections, under the guise of an impartial interest in helping civil society, has become the run-up to the postmodern coup d'etat....Instruments of democracy are used selectively to topple unpopular dictators, once a successor candidate or regime has been groomed....
Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US. (GW, 12/9)
Profit system from hunger
Though 800 million people are permanently malnourished, the global increase in crop production is being used to feed animals: the number of livestock on Earth has quintupled since 1950. The reason is that those who buy meat and dairy products have more purchasing power than those who buy only subsistence crops. (GW, 12/9)
They were threatened and told to keep quiet by other military interrogators.
One...had witnessed an interrogator... "punch a prisoner in the face to the point the individual needed medical attention."....When the D.I.A. official took photos of that detainee, the pictures were confiscated....
Two D.I.A. officials...had been instructed "not to leave the compound without specific permission even to get a haircut," threatened, and told their e-mail messages were being screened. (NYT, 12/8)
Infections among women are soaring....In many countries women's subordinate status and lack of education and economic power have made it impossible for them to negotiate sex with men or to ask for the use of condoms. (GW, 12/9)
Here's the part I love: the companies' legal argument is that the "lifetime" coverage specified in the contracts does not mean the lifetime of the workers, but the "lifetime" of the labor contract. Cute, eh? (Liberal Opinion Week quoting, Molly Ivins)
What if students develop psychological problems because, in our society, jobs are scarce, personal relationships are frequently tenuous, and the future is often frightening?
...Some students do need psychiatric help. But university administrators, as well as journalists, would be well advised to ask whether student depression is a symptom of much larger problems. ( Letter to NYT, 12/8)
"This court must be extremely cautious in permitting suits here based upon a corporation's doing business in countries with less than stellar human rights records," Judge Sprizzo wrote, warning that such suits could have "significant, if not disastrous, effects on international commerce." (NYT)
The anger at the commercial has little to do with a woman dropping her towel, except for the fact that it occurred in front of a black man. The National Football League (NFL), and commentators who were "shocked" at the image of the black athlete and the naked white woman, ignored the fact that the NFL has been using sex to sell football for decades.
Once television provided football with the opportunity to make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, sex -- already marginally present in the form of young women in scanty outfits -- was given more prominence to induce people to watch. The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders set the mold of the modern cheerleader, with busty costumes and hot pants. Today virtually every team has its own version.
The NFL gets its millions from TV because stations can charge advertisers enormous sums. Commercials during the Super Bowl cost several million dollars per minute. Sex is integral to the commercials. From the fantasy of sleeping with blond twins while watching football and drinking beer, to overcoming impotency with the latest drug, the League has been profiting from sex. Starting in college, the NFL's "minor league," sex is a standard part of the recruiting process, as young athletes are feted with girls, booze and drugs on "recruitment weekends."
For the NFL, or anyone else, to pretend football and sex haven't been in bed for years, and to cry "foul" over this particular commercial as being "too sexual" is sheer hypocrisy. It exposes the role of "race" and racism in the reaction to the image.
Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy might have had a point when he said the promo perpetuated stereotypes of black athletes as caring more about sex than their team, but he ignored the huge racist reaction to the image of the black man with a white woman. The complaints over the ad weren't generated by a concern over Terrell Owens' dignity. It was about a deep fear of black men, a central myth of U.S. capitalism, pushed as both a justification for slavery and an excuse to viciously attack any sign of black rebellion. It's been used to maintain all sorts of racism, from paying black workers lower wages, to the cutting of welfare, and more.
One of Hollywood's earliest movies, "The Birth of a Nation," was a racist fantasy dedicated to burning the image of the "dangerous black man" into the nation's psyche. It featured the KKK "rescuing white women" from "rampaging black men" freed from slavery. President Woodrow Wilson championed the film, telling all Americans to go see it. And it had an effect.
The Scottsboro Boys who were jailed for many years, falsely accused of raping a white woman, and Emmit Till, a 14-year-old boy beaten to death for whistling at a white woman, are just two of countless brutal attacks against black men justified by this racist myth.
More recently we have witnessed the beating of Rodney King, and the cops' murder of Amadou Diallo, as well as the imprisonment of a million black men.
In the essay "The Road Not Taken," Lerone Bennett, Jr. describes how racism and slavery was forced on the early settlers by the rulers of the colonies to divide and control black and white indentured servants, expressly to make money:
"How was all this done?.... By the creation of a total system of domination, a system that penetrated every corner of colonial life and made use of every colonial institution. Nothing was left to chance. The assemblies, the courts, the churches, and the press were thrown into the breach. A massive propaganda campaign confused and demoralized the public, and private vigilante groups supplemented the official campaign of hate and terror.
....It was all done deliberately....to mold the minds of whites, to teach them the new ideas, and to let them know who was to be loved and who was to be despised."
Bennett shows how laws were the heart of a massive campaign aimed not just at blacks, but also very much at disciplining whites.
Except for white slave-holders raping black women, laws were enacted to prevent intermingling of blacks and whites. And there was always a lot of resistance. White women were "whipped, banished, and enslaved to keep them from marrying black men." "The severed heads of black and white rebels were impaled on poles along the road as a warning....Some rebels were branded, others castrated. This exemplary cruelty, which was carried out as a deliberate process of mass education, was an inherent part of the new system."
Whether we're conscious of it or not, the images and ideas whipped into these early settlers, black and white, and reinforced by hundreds of years of laws and mass culture, still haunt us today.
I teach U.S. history to black and Latino working-class high school students. In this period of wars and economic crisis, it's good to expose and confront the military recruiters and their lies. But no matter how many recruiters we kick off our campuses, the ruling class will still send young workers to fight their wars. Many of my students will be in the military. Some will choose it more or less consciously; more of them will be forced by an economic draft to make that choice after a year or two of dead-end jobs or trying simultaneously to support themselves and go to college part-time. A draft would force more of them into the military. But even without a draft, a substantial number of my students have joined and will continue to join.
What's a communist teacher's response to that reality? What should these young people do in the military? How can we prepare them for this experience and the choices they will face?
I try to help them take a critical view of what they will be taught in the military. I start the semester asking them why they think the only thing our state standards for U.S. History includes about Native Americans is the Navajo Code Talkers. We discuss how history indoctrinates them into fighting for "their country." I ask them to think about other reasons to study history; what they expect from their history class. In this initial discussion, students express many ideas, including patriotism and rejection of U.S. patriotism in favor of nationalism.
Then I ask them to look at the photograph of U.S. soldiers surrounding a mass grave of Native Americans massacred at Wounded Knee and imagine they're one of the soldiers. They must write a letter home from a young soldier to his cousin explaining what's happened and how he feels about it. As students read their letters aloud in small groups, they see some soldiers are won to a racist view of the "enemy," while others realize they've committed an atrocity. I ask students what they might have done if they had opposed the massacre.
This early in the semester, not too many students are thinking about organizing mass action, but the seeds are planted. When we discuss the massacre at Jolo in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, and the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, students begin to understand imperialism. In reviewing how soldiers joined with the workers to make the Russian Revolution, they can see the historic role soldiers have played in revolutions.
We discuss strikes, class consciousness and organized struggle. When we study the Vietnam War, we see a wide range of soldiers' responses, from the My Lai Massacre to fragging their officers.
Every student in one of our classes is to some degree under our leadership. It's good if they enter the military and organize under that leadership. We can prepare them to see through the racist and patriotic crap they'll be fed, that the real enemy is the bosses and the brass, the capitalist system, and not other working people. They can learn that soldiers have always had options: to fight for the bosses or to fight for the working class. We can have the confidence that they're not merely victims of the recruiters -- they have the potential to be a force to change the world.
Of course, this is just the beginning. We must develop close ties with these youth and continue to struggle with those who enter the military. This is an indispensable part of our strategy, now and in the future.
Previous campus meetings produced political discussion championing the idea of "U.S. troops out of Iraq" while opposing the recruiters. The latter implement capitalism's mission: an economic draft of low-income youth to fight wars for oil companies' profits. Recruiters fill their quotas by lying to working-class youth about college tuition, bonuses and other "benefits," following their bosses' in the White House who lie about the whole imperialist invasion.
At the protest, an Iraqi war veteran condemned the murderous war and massive civilian casualties, like the recent slaughter in Fallujah. Others emphasized that U.S. workers and soldiers have more in common with Iraqi workers than with the recruiters and their military superiors and corporate sponsors.
While we struggle against the most blatant symbol of militarism and war on our campus -- the recruiters -- we must expose the recruiters as tools of imperialism, the inevitable product of capitalism in crisis. If we do kick the recruiters off our campus, as good as that might be, it only means they'd continue recruiting elsewhere.
While intensifying our outraged opposition, on campus and in the streets, neither student and civilian demonstrations alone, nor pacifist politics, can end imperialist war. The CHALLENGE article (12/15/04), "Armed Forces Mutinies During the Vietnam Era," reveals that soldiers and sailors who mutinied against their brass and rebelled outright against the imperialist mission were important in helping oust U.S. bosses from Vietnam.
Many students and workers on campus have friends and family in the military. We'll continue to urge them to share their concerns and outrage over an increasingly horrendous occupation that devastates the Iraqi people and puts U.S. youth at ever-increasing risk. To end imperialism, we must build unity between students, workers and soldiers to fight for revolution and workers' rule.