CHALLENGE, January 19, 2005

With this issue we return to our biweekly schedule

Capitalism Kills Again: Turns Natural Disasters into Mass Death

Imperialism Slaughters Millions In Wars For Profit

Only Rebelling Soldiers Can ‘Bring The Troops Home’ From All Imperialist War

Spitzer: Hit Man For Finance Capital’s Fascist Drive To Discipline Wayward Bosses

Wall Street, 2005= Berlin, 1939

Politics Move Garment Workers To Fight Boss’s Attack

Airline Workers Stage Sick-out; Can’t Reform Sick System

New Death Squads: Gangs Ape Murderous Ruling Class

Repression Of Salvadoran Youth Fails to Curtail Crime

Bar-B-Que Yields Meaty Discussion

Racist Attack on ML King Hospital Helps Fund U.S. Wars

Health Care For Profit And Good Health Don’t Mix

Double Death Rate for Afro-American Babies

Government ‘Snow’ Job on the Deficit and Social Security

Pizza & Politics: 500 At HS Teach-in Debate U.S. Mid-East Oil Wars

Strike Aftermath: Chicago College Students, Teachers Fight Arrests, Cutbacks

Big Banks Back Blood-sucking ‘Lenders’ To Squeeze Workers, GI’s

Like The Drug Dealer Says, ‘The First Hit Is Free’

…and whose side is the bosses’ government on?

Bye, Bye Pension; Hello Profiteers

Anti-Communist Liberal Beats Drum for Fascism and Imperialist War

Racist Politicians Use Slave-Era Rules On Prisoners to Hold Power


Student’s GI Letter Spreads School-Wide

Internationalism Key to Fighting All Nationalism

Pinochet ‘Trial’ Is Phony Justice

Bosses Hide Behind ‘Labor Reform’ Schemes

Red Eye On The News

CAPITALISM KILLS AGAIN: Turns Natural Disasters into Mass Death

"There’s no reason for a single individual to get killed in a Tsunami. The waves are totally predictable. We have travel-time charts covering all of the Indian Ocean. From where this earthquake happened to hit, the travel time for the waves to hit the tip of India was four hours. That’s enough time for a warning." — Dr. Tad Murtry, University of Manitoba tsunami expert (quoted in interview with free-lance journalist Lila Rjaiva).

Tsunamis are phenomena of nature. However, the mass destruction, disease, and homelessness caused by the December 26 undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean were anything but a natural disaster. The blame for 150,000 deaths and the tens of thousands more who will surely die in the tsunami’s aftermath falls squarely on the profit system. Capitalism murdered these people — mostly very poor workers and their children — just as surely as capitalist bullets and bombs are murdering Iraqi workers in Bush, Jr.’s oil war.

A key to preventing the tsunami’s havoc would have been a simple system of buoys, each costing about $250,000. These detector buoys, called "tsunameters," have been in existence for decades. According to Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, just a few, costing a couple of million dollars, could have done the job.

If the tsunameters had been in place, a warning network would have had to have been established. Several hours could have made all the difference, and hundreds of thousands of people could have been evacuated. But as recently as a June 2004 meeting of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, when experts determined that the Indian Ocean faced a significant threat from local and distant tsunamis, the governments of Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries in the region chose to ignore this warning and twiddle their thumbs.

Individual reasons may vary. The Thai government didn’t want to perturb the lucrative tourist industry with potential false alarms. Many thousands have died in Aceh, Indonesia, but the Indonesian military — the same butchers who in 1965, with CIA guidance, murdered one million workers accused of being communists — has been slaughtering Acehnese workers in even greater numbers for years to keep the energy resources there safe for Exxon Mobil and the Indonesian bosses tied to U.S. imperialism. The rulers of India — as racist as their U.S. counterparts — could care less about the corpses of a few more thousand poor workers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is using the tragedy to build a coalition with Japan, Australia and India, mainly as a future force against the Chinese bosses. One reason the Bushites felt it necessary to increase U.S. contributions was "because China’s quest for a large Asian leadership role didn’t go unnoticed." (India Times New Network 1/4/05) And India is using this to expand its naval operation throughout South Asia. So even during such a tragedy, all the bosses are mainly concerned with their imperialist goals.

In essence, the overall culprit in the situation remains the racist profit system, which cares very little about the lives of poor Asian workers. The technology to detect tsunamis and avoid their devastation exists. But the social organization needed to do this does not. Right now, the U.S. is by far the richest and most powerful capitalist force on earth. Yet warfare and, at that, warfare for empire and world domination, is the only kind of intervention for which it can mobilize. After hearing of the tsunami, Bush promised $15 million for disaster relief. When a U.N. official called him stingy, Bush found another $25 million. Now he’s all the way up to $350 million and bragging about U.S. generosity. But this sick parody of "A Christmas Carol" stands in stark contrast to the expenses U.S. rulers really consider important (Contrary to the Bushites’ stinginess, immigrants from the affected countries and workers in the U.S. and worldwide have been very generous in their aid to the victims):

•The Pentagon spent $425 billion in 2004 on war and war preparations.

•The cost of Bush’s current Iraq war is approaching $150 billion.

•The U.S. military feeds, clothes, houses, and provides sanitation and health care for 1,246,000 active-duty troops.

•In Bush, Sr.’s Desert Storm I, the Pentagon supported 750,000 troops in the middle of the desert for months.

•The U.S. has an extensive network of seismic sensors to catch nuclear rivals, but it isn’t set up to warn of natural disasters.

You get the picture: billions to conquer the world, and chump change for the victims of preventable disaster.

The real disaster is the profit system. It’s been a long time since the fundamental conflict in society was between humanity and nature. Capitalism continues to make war and tsunami-like devastation inevitable. Workers need the social tsunami of communist revolution. It will take many years of patient, hard groundwork to develop. But it is as inevitable in its own way as the change of seasons, and when our Party leads it, it will send the entire class of war-making profit moguls to a well-deserved grave.

Imperialism Slaughters Millions In Wars For Profit

While it may be difficult to come to terms with the massive deaths caused by this tsunami, one should remember that U.S. rulers dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 250,000 in one day. A 1975 cyclone killed more than 500,000 people overnight in Bangladesh. A similar toll occurred after a 1970 cyclone, which intensified the conflict between the U.S. and the USSR, since India was armed by Moscow. So the U.S. Navy sent the nuclear-armed Sixth Fleet to threaten the Indian navy.

Cyclones in 1988 and 1991 each killed over 200,000 Bangladesh, although the number of victims was probably many times that. A 1991 CHALLENGE explained the role of the imperialist World Bank — how it dictated rice cultivation in a way that compelled a major population shift, forcing people to live in areas prone to flooding and cyclones.

However, in the current catastrophe warnings were not hard to come by (see adjoining editorial). The U.S. military can guide a missile to any spot on the planet. How come its operators at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii couldn’t pick up the phone and warn Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka of an approaching Tsunami?

All the excuses — "didn’t have the right phone numbers," misjudged the size of the original earthquake — fall flat when, in fact, they did warn the U.S. military base at Diego Garcia, smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Perhaps that is the purpose of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center: to warn the U.S. military. The rest of the world can go to hell. After all, right in the middle of an imperialist war in Iraq U.S. bosses refuse to give a count of Iraqi civilians they have killed.

Today we owe the families of over 150,000 dead in Asia condolences and support. But, in this much-touted information age, we also owe them clarity and a solution. Information in the hands of the imperialists is a weapon of mass murder. We need unity and organization on an international scale the working class has never yet attempted. We need one revolutionary communist party and that is the aim of PLP.

It is not to take away from the heartache of our Asian brothers and sisters that we point to the suffering of those in the Congo. Every three or four months they bury as many dead as this tsunami killed. Every three or four months the mass funerals go on and "somehow" the information age ensures ignorance of their grief. The Congolese are burying "only" about 31,000 a month because "peace" has been signed!

In the six years of war before the "peace," 3.8 million people were killed in the Congo. No single country since World War II and the Vietnam War has suffered such a high number of war dead. The wars and "peace" are being fought over which robber capitalist will profit from the wealth of minerals found in the Congo. Minerals like coltan — used in cell phones and computers — sell for as much as $350 a pound. The very tools of the information age have Congolese blood on them!

Our condolences and support spread from the Congo to South Asia. In addition to the immediate aid our brothers and sisters require, we must seize the moment to fill a most strategic need: the development and spreading of our international communist newspaper CHALLENGE-DESAFIO. Information in the hands of the imperialists and capitalists is a weapon of mass destruction. In the hands of the working class, it can be a weapon for revolution and liberation!

Only Rebelling Soldiers Can ‘Bring The Troops Home’ From All Imperialist War

An active-duty soldier recently wrote to the Syracuse Post-Standard (12/20/04): "The president should ask himself: Why are US troops in Iraq? Because we, the soldiers, are the ones living the everyday, never-ending hell. Soldiers and people dying, a great amount of oil, but still we have not found any weapons of mass destruction. When you ask a soldier who has been living in Iraq for a year why he is there in front of a camera, he might reply that it is to make Iraqi people free. But when he is out of the spotlight, his anger, pain, and hate will come flying out like it does in his everyday Iraqi life."

Catherine Ayro, mother of Lionel Ayro of Jeanerette, LA., a 22-year-old private killed in Mosul, said, "The soldiers in Iraq should all come home. Nobody should be there — nobody!"

Jorge Castro, the father of Spc. Jonathon Castro, 21, also killed in Mosul, is angry at Bush and the Pentagon. He said, "The public affairs people sent me a statement for me to send to the newspapers. I threw it out….He didn’t join the army to ‘fight tyranny.’ He joined the army to go to college." Through a sea of tears, he told CBS News, "What are we doing there? Killing all those people for nothing!" These black and Latino families’ anger is growing.

The day after the attack in Mosul, a New York Times front-page headline claimed, "Fighting On Is the Only Option, Americans Say." The next day, the Times printed ten letters, most expressing the opposite opinion. Surely they received many more such letters. The sharpest was from a relative of a soldier in Iraq saying, "If it was wrong to invade Iraq, how can staying there as an occupying force be less wrong? Innocent civilian lives are lost, and United States service members die right along with them…. If we as Americans don’t agree with the war, we must speak out and say so! Support the troops; bring them home now!"

Anti-war sentiment is growing among soldiers, military families, workers, and working-class high school and college students — especially those most affected by the war. During the Vietnam War, it took ten years before there was anti-war sentiment in the workplace. Today this feeling is growing at work.

Even the Army Times admits that at least one-third of the combat vets are against the war; 39% of active-duty military respondents to their latest poll disapprove of the way the war is being handled. Spontaneity alone won’t end the bosses’ war.

Aggressive organizing is warranted among these angry groups. The only way to "bring the troops home" is when the troops themselves fight for it, like they did in 1946 when U.S. rulers tried to get them to fight their former Russian allies. Even reactionary Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman said the occupation of Iraq will only last as long as the "grunts" are willing to be there.

All this proves the correctness of the communist strategy towards war: "In time of war, …the slogan of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war will remain nothing but an empty phrase unless regular political work is carried out in the armed forces in as serious a fashion as possible." ("Armed Insurrection," by A. Neuberg, p. 154; published by the Comintern in German in 1928, in French in 1931, and in English in 1970 by New Left Review Editions, London.)

In 1981, when the U.S. government began selective service registration, several groups distributed leaflets at Post Office sign-ups. While pacifists told people not to sign up, PLP urged them, if drafted, to pledge to fight racism and for revolution inside the military. In a CHALLENGE article (1/21/81) entitled "Draft Dodging Won’t Stop WW3," PLP members in New York reported on this activity, citing the Communist Third International communist tactics in imperialist wars: "In the event of a big mass movement arising at the moment of the outbreak of war in favor of refusing military service, the Communists must combat the boycott ideology and the pacifist boycott slogan. They must speak quite frankly about the inadequacy of refusal of military service as a means of combating war, and make it clear to the masses that the only correct way of combating the imperialist war is to transform it into civil war. Strenuous propaganda must be conducted urging the necessity for carrying on revolutionary work in the bourgeois Army." History has much to teach us.

Spitzer: Hit Man For Finance Capital’s Fascist Drive To Discipline Wayward Bosses

(First of a series on various ways a police state is developing in the U. S. Future installments will deal with consolidation of finance capital, heavy industry — particularly war industry — health care, education, the media, and the political mechanisms by which the rulers seek to implement fascism.)

For U.S. capitalists, the big story of 2004 was the growth of fascism within their own ranks. The London Financial Times’ choice as "Man of the Year" wasn’t Bush or Kerry or even bin Laden or Putin, but Eliot Spitzer, New York State’s attorney general. Spitzer won the honor for enforcing police state-style regulation of U.S. financiers and anybody who deals with them. Business leaders accuse Spitzer of "using regulation by terror to dictate the detail of how companies are structured, what prices they can charge, and even whom they can employ as chief executive." (FT, 12/24/04)

The U.S. ruling class is brandishing state power to tighten its control over the flow of money. Banks, brokers, mutual funds, and insurance companies engaging in speculation, fraud or any other practice diverting capital away from the rulers’ needs, have felt the heavy hand of Spitzer and federal enforcers. Workers have no interest in backing any of these capitalist forces — neither the big bosses who support Spitzer nor the smaller fry he’s whipping into shape. They’re all our class enemies. Understanding the process can help us avoid this trap.

Recognizing that finance capital controls the economy at large, Spitzer & Co. has targeted the largest Establishment firms. In 2003, he forced J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup to cough up a total of $255 million in fines for shady loans to Enron. Enron had run afoul of the main rulers by cornering the energy supply in California, jacking up prices and temporarily crippling the state’s industries. But September 11 made such robber baron maneuvers — especially the disruption of war production— unacceptable to the rulers.

Next on Spitzer’s hit list came brokerages and mutual funds that were undermining investors’ confidence by lying to or stealing from them. The rulers require a continuous flow of capital (largely workers’ pensions and life savings) into these markets. Merrill Lynch paid a $100 million settlement with Spitzer. Janus, Putnam and other funds refunded over $925 million in fees. All in all, Spitzer has wrung more than $4 billion in fines and restitution from Wall Street firms. In the eyes of one mutual fund watchdog, Geoff Broboff, "the ethical practices of the industry have been restored." Another, Mercer Bullard, praises Spitzer’s intimidation tactics: "If you are working in the industry, you care most about your fate. It’s the powerful image of a couple dozen high-level executives being disgraced, losing their jobs and in a few cases ending up in jail." (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/2/05)

Spitzer’s disciplining of wayward Wall Street executives parallels the climate of fear rulers in Germany spread among similar businessmen at the dawn of World War II (see box ).

Spitzer styles himself the "people’s lawyer," but his main support comes from the top ranks of U.S. capitalists, those with the greatest interest in restructuring the U.S. economy on a wartime footing. A group called "Restore the Trust," created and bankrolled by the Rockefeller Family Fund, has guided many of Spitzer’s reform efforts. While Spitzer rails at "big corporations," he actually strives to consolidate economic control.

Spitzer spent a two-year stint in the mid-’90s at Skadden Arps, the Wall Street law firm that, more than any other, helped bring about the mega-mergers that re-launched the U.S. drive to become the world’s dominant economic power. During Spitzer’s ruling-class apprenticeship at Skadden, the firm represented Mobil, Chase, and Travelers in their respective mergers with Exxon, J.P. Morgan, and Citigroup.

Spitzer takes the same approach to foundations, which function like banks in providing capital to, and thus controlling, non-profit organizations. Spitzer wants to abolish all foundations with less than $20 million in assets, a move that would further strengthen the hand of already powerful foundations like the Rockefeller, Ford and Mellon groups.

For more than a century, politicians’ regulatory reforms of big business have paved the way for U.S. imperialism’s wars. Spitzer claims Teddy Roosevelt, one of U.S. imperialism’s first mass murderers, as his model. TR’s highly selective trust-busting disguised the massive industrial consolidation (General Electric, U.S. Steel, etc.) that eventually enabled U.S. rulers to enter World War I. In 1938, another ambitious New York attorney general, Thomas Dewey, marched Dick Whitney off to Sing Sing. This thieving Morgan associate and ex-New York Stock Exchange president proved a convenient scapegoat for the Depression. But, more importantly, his jailing, signaling the end of Morgan’s power, greased the liberal FDR-Rockefeller camp’s consolidation of finance capital in the run-up to World War II. Complete government control of the economy soon followed.

After Clinton’s anti-trust prosecution of Microsoft, a chastened Bill Gates began investing in the Newport News shipbuilding yards, the U.S. Navy’s sole supplier of nuclear aircraft carriers. Spitzer pretends to aid the investor, the consumer, the "little guy." In one highly publicized media event, he once went to bat for Central Park pretzel vendors. But his, and all liberal politicians’ efforts mainly advance the ruling class’s war agenda.

(Next: The flap over pain-killers and the rulers’ need to tighten the vise on both the pharmaceutical industry and the government agencies which regulate it.)

Wall Street, 2005= Berlin, 1939

Günther Reimann, a German-American journalist, described the pre-World War II climate of fear Hitler’s bosses sought to spread among businessmen reluctant to fall into line for Nazi fascism. Here he quotes one of them:

"The German businessman sweats with fear….He does not know whether he has broken some law, whether and when he will be caught. He wakes up in the morning dreaming of an investigation by some state bureaucrat who has discovered some irregularity of which he, the businessman, knew or did not know. He enters his office fearing that he will find the announcement of a new decree which curbs his business, or that the condition of state finances will lead to some new measure of expropriation. When the office door opens, he expects a tax official who will investigate his business affairs for many years back until he finds some "irregularity." You may think this anxiety unreasonable. But unfortunately I cannot help fearing that I will experience tomorrow what is happening to others today."

Politics Move Garment Workers To Fight Boss’s Attack

Southern California — The following fight to organize a work stoppage in a garment factory has lasted over several weeks and was preceded by a year of shop and political struggle. There were two work stoppages last year. The first won the re-hiring of a fired worker while the second one occurred when the boss refused permission for workers to leave for a funeral of a co-worker, but they left as a group. We have regular CHALLENGE sales and leaflets, including one about how much surplus value the bosses steal from the workers; many political discussions about the war in Iraq and the rebellious soldiers who refused orders, as well as a discussion about two students in Mexico expelled from school for refusing to salute and pledge the flag. Most workers thought the students were right because the flag represents the bosses, not the workers. Now the struggle has sharpened again. A group is emerging to give leadership and support to their fellow workers. Now our story begins….

"Starting next week, everyone must punch out and punch in for lunch," announced the boss. He was timidly "booed" by some.

The news angered the 250 workers because there are only two antiquated timeclocks to mark the cards and only 30 minutes to eat. This attack opened up a bunch of other issues: bad treatment, the extra money the boss robs from our already miserable wages and especially, how to confront these attacks.

"We’re discussing important things, not trivial ones!" said one worker to another who had started talking about soccer. "What are you talking about?" he asked, getting interested.

"This is the last straw; they impose their rules and we just accept with our heads down," said Roberto, very angrily, adding, "We have to talk to the boss."

"And this damned forelady is so arrogant, she’s nothing more than a boss’s lap dog!" exclaimed Memo, referring to the harassment by a department supervisor. "She’s never said anything to me and I’ve never seen anything," said the soccer fan. "But," answered some workers, "that doesn’t mean she doesn’t do it to others."

"We have to stop production and unite all the workers to confront the boss!" said Tom, angrily. "No stopping production," exclaimed Jaime, "no, we don’t want to hurt anyone." He was surprised to see the rest of the workers, except for the soccer fan, nodding their heads in agreement with Tom. "It’s better if two or three of us go to the office and talk to the boss," Jaime insisted. "But," said Tom, interrupting him, "the workers must feel our strength and courage. Also, we need to learn to defend our interests together, not individually, because individually we’re weak."

Of the half dozen who participated in the discussion, not all were convinced to stop production, but they helped talk to other workers. This occurred on a Friday. At 9:00 A.M. on Monday morning, a leaflet was distributed hand to hand with the workers’ demands.

Everything seemed to be going well. The work stoppage was planned for 12:30 P.M. that day. No one was supposed to punch out for lunch or punch in again for work. The other workers supported the plan. Their comments poured out: "Count on me….I’m with you all….I’m going to talk to my co-workers back there….I agree, but we have to protect those people with problems….I like the idea that we all talk to the boss because last time, only those who went into the office knew what he said."

"Julia is right," said Tom. "We can’t negotiate behind the workers’ backs. The leaders of the working class can’t flirt with the bosses."

Some workers feared joining the work stoppage; others doubted the rest would support it, saying, "Look, the people won’t support us…The people don’t understand.…Many have problems with their [immigration] status….They’re afraid to lose their jobs."

To be continued….

Airline Workers Stage Sick-out; Can’t Reform Sick System

CHALLENGE ran two good letters from airport workers recently, the latest featuring a fight against racist attacks on part-timers. Each touted the increased circulation of our paper with the theme that the Party’s ideas were guiding modest class struggle. Meanwhile, baggage handlers and flight attendants staged spontaneous sickouts in cities nationwide, snarling traffic and stranding bags throughout the airline system over the Christmas holidays. It’s good workers are taking matters into their own hands, but spontaneity will eventually have to yield. As the letters imply, only increased class struggle guided by communist consciousness remains viable. Reform of capitalism is a dead letter at the airports.

Last year, the airlines announced $7.5 billion in cuts and at least 20,000 firings. This follows over $10 billion in wage and benefit give-backs and 100,000 layoffs during the prior two rounds of concessions. Last month, United Airline’s pilot union agreed to terminate its pension plan, portending the end of traditional airline pensions. This domino effect may seal the doom of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which insures defined-payment pension plans country-wide.

"Some new flight attendants will earn just $12,000, less than they might earn at Wal-Mart," reports the New York Times (12/27/04). "There are proposals being floated under the table now for mechanic wages that would make them better off at a Chevy dealership than at US Airways," adds the Dallas Morning News (12/19/04).

This structural reorganization of the airline workforce into a more non-union, low-wage entity, stripped of any reasonable pensions and benefits, follows the pattern set in auto, steel, coal, aerospace manufacturing and machine tools. More than market forces are at work here. The ruling class is searching to revitalize basic industry and transportation networks — systems increasingly falling behind its imperialist rivals. Japan’s total manufacturing output now surpasses the United States ("Unsustainable: How Economic Dogma is Destroying American Prosperity," by Eamonn Fingleton), not to mention the combined production of the European Union and a surging China.

Workers Pay for War Reorganization

Lest "these great [foreign] manufacturing nations serve as a powerful counterweight to the United States’ vaunted position as the world’s ‘sole remaining military superpower,’" as Fingleton warns, the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), in particular, is advising the ruling class to pay more attention to its industrial base. The economy — focusing on basic manufacturing and infrastructure — must become a war economy, using market forces where convenient, the State when necessary.

Without such a "revitalized" (on workers’ backs) industrial base, the cost of maintaining the high-tech military machine necessary for the Iraqi occupation and other imperialist adventures becomes prohibitive. For example, the cost of flying troops to the Middle East will be paid, in part, by airline worker give-backs.

Peter Peterson — Chairman of the CFR and The Blackstone Group, the country’s largest private investment firm — warns that we must choose between "retirement security and national security." He might as well have been looking right at airline workers when making this threat.

Unions Don’t Have Answer

The unions are stymied. "I don’t think anyone has an answer," admitted American Airline pilot union head, Philpot (Dow Jones, 12/02/04). Some unions, like Philpot’s, openly collaborate with management.

"We have not recognized that unions are a business," said American’s head of human resources, Brundage, "We saw them as something difficult we had to deal with, rather than legitimate business partners." Of course, collaboration hasn’t stopped management from instituting billions in cuts and a new round of layoffs.

In a year-end greeting, United Chief Executive Tilton praised employees for exceeding their goal in a new collaborative performance program. In the same message, he reminded his "business partners" that the airline would reward them with cuts in pay and benefits (Dow Jones, 12/22/04).

Meanwhile, the "independent" Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association is raiding the AFL-CIO unions using a racist, dead-end strategy of blaming lower-paid, largely minority workers. The new flight attendants union at Northwest is also unaffiliated.

Others, gathered around the Unity group in the AFL-CIO, endorse the opposite tactic, advocating merging airline unions "to better manage the crisis facing airline workers." (Los Angeles Times, 11/18/04)

‘Crisis’ Offers Stark Choices

None of these groups target the bosses’ imperialist war plans to control Mid-East oil. No matter what the tactic, trade unionism must attempt to "manage the crisis" in periods like this, disarming workers by limiting their outlook to "getting their share of (an ever-decreasing) pie." The union misleaders’ narrow trade union outlook forces them to play a reactionary role, building passivity and cynicism in our ranks. That’s how fascist traitors are born!

Our Party, however, must focus our fire on the system’s main contradiction: linking every skirmish to the inter-imperialist fight over control of the world’s energy sources. Such political consciousness, built over a lifetime of the closest personal ties, is essential to making the case for revolution. A narrow trade union outlook must be defeated within our class if we are to develop such a revolutionary strategy and build PLP, the only way to deal with the 21st century reality of this sick system. Such a firm grasp of reality is the best way to motivate workers to fight back, as the "crisis facing airline workers" intensifies.

Imperialism’s Needs Come First

The "hollowing out" of the U.S. industrial base, relative to its imperialist competitors, has more dire consequences than just extra cost. "The latest in a series of five studies by the Pentagon’s Office for Industrial Policy point to…significant problems with the defense industrial base…, raising concerns about U.S. technology lead in traditional weapons," reports Defense Daily (11/02/04).

The Office of Industrial Policy is pushing for an Industrial Base Acquisition Fund to bribe capitalists (with taxpayers’ money) to invest in U. S. manufacturing capability necessary for the maintenance of imperialist armed forces.

Competitive pressure has forced manufacturers to seek cheap labor abroad. Once foreign capitalists learn how to organize this outsourced production, they acquire the inside track on the next generation of technology. In addition, they obtain physical plants and the knowledge of how to quickly bring that technology to market. For example, when TV production was outsourced to Asia, firms there ended up owning the next generation of technology — VCR and DVD players. Now they have a crucial lead in related laser production, a key military technology.

The ruling class think-tanks have awakened to this threat. Recently, there has been a hue and cry about Boeing outsourcing wing fabrication — a key component of aircraft production — on its new commercial jet to Japan. Nobody seems to know how to stop it, given the success of Boeing’s chief rival, Airbus. One strategy with which all the pundits seem to agree is to establish a large domestic system of low-cost subcontractors. As the needs of the U.S. military machine grow, the ruling class will have to use its State power to force industry to conform to its imperialist goals.

Killing Women in Mexico and Central America:

New Death Squads: Gangs Ape Murderous Ruling Class

On Dec. 23 in a city north of Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, a bus full of passengers was shot up by a group of supposed Maras (gang) members, killing 29 innocent people, mainly women and children. This may have been instigated by the Honduran government or some high-ranking members — the weapons used in the massacre probably came from some in the army — to justify more repression of workers and youth in general and the Maras in particular. In any event, it appears these Maras are not merely "juvenile delinquents," but are hardcore murderers who ape the violence of local bosses and imperialists and prey on working people throughout Central America. The next day these criminals murdered 10 innocent people for no reason whatsoever.

These gangs are at war with the government, probably over who will control drug money. In May, some 100 gang members were incinerated when their jail cells caught fire and the authorities let them burn to death.

These gangs are becoming the new death squads of Central America. Many were trained in the gangs of Los Angeles and other U.S. cities, and then were deported back to Central America to proceed with their crimes, often helped by the cops or corrupt politicians.

In Guatemala, these gangs are responsible for many of the 1,500 women murdered since 2001, 500 just in 2004. While the murders of women near Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, bordering El Paso, Texas, have made news worldwide, little is said about a worse situation in Guatemala.

Most victims are poor, young women, killed by men full of hatred towards women. They’re modern Jack the Rippers, slashing their victims’ throats and even cutting them into little pieces, scattering the parts in different places. The victims are "single mothers, factory workers, poor immigrants and prostitutes. Most…are…no more than 20 years old, mainly living in very poor neighborhoods." (, 12/25/04). All this brutality is used to terrorize women factory workers to prevent them from organizing against super-exploitation.

Just as in Ciudad Juárez, most of these crimes remain unsolved, either because of police incompetence or complicity. Of 383 women murdered in Guatemala in 2003, only 10 cases were solved. Those caught were mostly gang members or other criminals, and even cops.

Many women are raped before being killed. Some are murdered by their own fathers or stepfathers, many of whom had abused their victims.

Magali Urbina was working in a clothing store in Guatemala City. Gang members demanded money for "protection." a la Al Capone, but she had none, being deeply in debt, raising her two children. In early December, gang members entered her house in the Mixco area and, after savagely torturing her and her children, cut their throats, along with Luz Maité López, a pregnant friend living in the same house with her 18-month-old daughter. She tried to escape but her body was discovered in the backyard. Her infant daughter was the only survivor, found alive a few days later because she had drunk the dead victims’ blood.

How can anyone commit such heinous crimes? One good reason is capitalism. These gang members are engaged in the drug trade and other criminal activities, part and parcel of a capitalist society based on money, profits and greed. The "authorities" in these countries are also involved in many such crimes. Directed by the CIA, they created death squads that killed hundreds of thousands of Central Americans fighting for a better life. The Guatemalan Army carried out a racist ethnic-cleansing war, murdering tens of thousands of workers and peasants, mostly Indians. These soldiers were trained and armed by the U.S. government. Col. Efrain Montt, who ruled in the 1980s when the massacres were more intense, was a born-again preacher trained by the same Christian fascists who today support Bush and his murderous imperialist war for oil in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blame can also be placed on the treachery of the fake leftists who led the insurgent movement in the region. Today, the Salvadoran FMLN and the Guatemala’s former guerrilla leaders are immersed in the electoral game, supporting various forms of capitalism, either pro-U.S. or pro-European. These opportunists betrayed the hopes of million of workers and youth for a better world.

A strong revolutionary movement fighting against all bosses and for communism can win some of these young people away from the gangs and ultimately erect a communist society that will eliminate these crimes and the capitalist sexist attitudes producing them. We must intensify the building of such a movement, for the sake of all these working-class victims, past and present.

Repression Of Salvadoran Youth Fails to Curtail Crime

EL SALVADOR, Dec. 28 — The government of President Elías A Saca admitted today that the "Super Hard Hand" plan to fight the maras (gangs) has failed. Nevertheless, cabinet member Rene Figueroa said police operations will increase in 2005 in the country’s working-class neighborhoods to "fight juvenile delinquency."

This means that the "hard hand" of right-winger Saca and the previous administration of Francisco Flores (1998-2004) — mass jailings of youth — have not stopped crime. For instance, on Sept. 2, 30 young people were arrested, accused of being gang members. But judges freed a goodly number due to lack of proof.

Instead of creating decent jobs enabling young people to survive the harshness of capitalism, the rulers’ "only answer" is to intimidate workers and youth in general — not to fight the big criminals, including many cops and government officials. (See adjoining article.)

Bar-B-Que Yields Meaty Discussion,

Plan of Action "We workers have to wake up and learn to fight, because nobody will do it for us." That was the slogan for the Bar-B-Que/meeting we organized at a park. From the time I arrived at 11 A.M., the one co-worker already there reserving the space was slowly but surely joined by others, as workers kept coming and coming.

As we cooked, we talked — about family, friends, the Governor of California, cars, the workers who couldn’t come, etc. When the meat was ready, we "attacked" it, and at the same time attacked the ideas of the capitalist enemy.

Soon one comrade began speaking, noting that everyone knew we were getting together to analyze the bosses’ attacks on us; the lack of leadership for the workers; the weakness of the unions; and the need of a labor movement capable of uniting the working class in general. He detailed the cuts in services, hospital closings, higher tuitions, and a future of more such attacks, linking all this to the war in Iraq and a potential draft.

Everyone listened attentively. Then one worker added more of the misfortunes awaiting us. After that, everyone wanted to speak. Someone asked, "How do we connect the war to our problems?" Another said, "We need to know more, to educate ourselves politically. I’ve read CHALLENGE, but I think we need more than that." Another worker offered his house for a study group.

"I thought I’d better come see if you were really having this Bar-B-Que," said a worker jokingly, after driving 25 miles from a church in another part of the city. "I also wanted to see who came and who didn’t." Though he came late, he and his son stayed afterwards to help clean up and continue talking politics. He was very impressed with the number of workers there.

This was a qualitative step. Previously few workers had come to such activities. We’ve been helped by our consistency spreading CHALLENGE and building ties with the workers, the closeness of our families and the ideological struggle. At one point a comrade suggested we need study groups to learn more about the fight for revolution. Two were organized. Most of the workers read CHALLENGE and some help distribute it among their friends.

In addition, some are circulating a petition supporting the soldiers from the 343rd Q.C. who refused their suicidal orders. This petition, which calls for an end to the war in Iraq, got a boost when some soldiers confronted Rumsfeld about better armor for their vehicles. We’re putting forward the petition at the next union meeting. Part of the struggle is to win our co-workers to come to support the fight against the racist, anti-worker, imperialist war for oil profits in the Middle East.

Racist Attack on ML King Hospital Helps Fund U.S. Wars

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 27 — Racism kills. This is clearly evident in the threatened closing of Martin Luther King Hospital (MLKH) here, a public hospital staffed by mainly black and Latino medical workers and administrators. The ruling class needs the resources to finance their oil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere for world domination. Keeping people healthy and alive is secondary, so expenditures for U.S. workers’ health must be cut back.

The rulers’ deliberately under-fund MLKH, and their media then spread racist distortions about it. After the 1965 Watts rebellion, MLKH was built as a political "showcase" in response to community demands. It provides the appearance of concern for the predominantly black and Latino South Central community it serves.

But because of long-standing racism throughout the healthcare system, it’s difficult for MLKH to recruit health professionals. Only 3% of U.S. doctors are black (Chicago Reporter, July-Aug. 1998), and 3% Latino (AMA statistic). Only two medical schools in the U.S. train mostly black doctors — Howard and Meharry, on the East Coast. Few of their graduates want to work at MLKH, with its miserable conditions, an under-funded, non-prestigious institution that doesn’t produce high quality research. Repeated cutbacks have lowered morale.

Racism in health care is so deadly that, "More than 886,000 deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites, according to an analysis in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health." (Washington Post, 12/21/04)

Health Care For Profit And Good Health Don’t Mix

Now along comes the Los Angeles Times with a recent five-part series of front-page articles about MLKH, detailing a host of horror stories about incorrect, fatal care, overpaid doctors, fake workman’s comp. claims, etc. The series’ theme implied that the hospital was bad because it was run by Afro-Americans. But almost any hospital would record similar stories. Without excusing the racist and negligent errors made by the MLKH staff, it’s a fact that most hospitals have a poor record concerning patient care (i.e., Kaiser and LA County-USC Medical Center) — mainly because of terrible understaffing and the profit needs of the capitalist class. An estimated 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals annually due to complications from receiving the wrong medicine, or from acquiring an infection during their stay. (Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, Institute of Medicine, "To err is human: building a safer health system"; Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, March 2000). This excludes deaths from medical care errors outside hospitals.

The LA Times series was the height of racist journalistic sensationalism to influence public opinion. Spinning many facts in the series distorted the essential truth.

In stating the hospital was mismanaged, the Times didn’t say why. The series noted that another public teaching hospital, Harbor/UCLA, was better-managed, implying that was because it was run by Anglo-Americans. The Times totally omitted the real reason for Harbor’s better productivity: it is one of the country’s most prestigious hospitals, receiving millions in grants and contracts from the U.S. medical establishment — drug companies and the U.S. government which provide far more subsidies to Harbor than to MLKH. Adequate funding engenders better quality medicine.

MLKH doesn’t receive such monies because its doctors aren’t considered "good enough." This reflects the whole racist system of academia. As mentioned above, 12% of the U.S. population is black, but only 3% of medical doctors are black. Afro-Americans are not on editorial boards of medical journals, nor on grant committees. This systematic racism excludes Afro-Americans from the mainstream of academic medicine.

Although Harbor’s medical care funding has steadily declined, its position in academia and relations with the drug companies has compensated for these disastrous cuts — an advantage unavailable to MLKH.

The Times is running this series to justify closing MLKH, saving the County $342 million annually. This will intensify LA County’s current deadly emergency room crisis. Five ER’s and dozens of clinics have been eliminated in the past two years. (N.Y. Times, "Los Angeles Emergency Care Crisis Deepens, 8/21/2004) These facilities serve black, Latino, Asian and white workers. Racism is the cutting edge of attacks on all workers. Northridge Hospital, serving mainly white workers, was closed. A week after the MLKH series, the LA Times admitted that the governor is planning deeper cuts in Medi-Cal and health facilities for all workers rather than raising taxes on California’s businesses. Currently 3,000,000 people in LA County alone have no health coverage.

This threatened closure of a public hospital is part of a massive nationwide cutback in workers’ health care. The bosses believe they can get away with this because they don’t feel threatened by a united working class fighting for health care and for power.

All workers should fight the closing of MLKH. This attack is part of — and diverts attention from — the entire, vast assault on the health care of all workers. Such a system is increasingly incapable of serving the most basic needs of the vast majority of workers. The bosses use racism to divide and weaken us, and blind us to the fact that capitalism is the mortal enemy of all workers. Our health and very lives depend on destroying it!

Double Death Rate for Afro-American Babies

Afro-Americans have always had a higher death rate than Anglo-Americans in the U.S. These higher death rates stem from all diseases. Deaths at birth: 8.2% of Anglo-American babies, 18.2% of Afro-American babies. ("Resolving disparities in infant mortality," Michigan Summit, 2001); Afro-Americans are less likely than Anglo-Americans to be insured or to have a primary care doctor or to have a hospital nearby. (Jet, 10/20/03); Afro-Americans are less likely to visit a doctor because of cost. (Chicago Reporter, July-Aug. 1998).

Government ‘Snow’ Job on the Deficit and Social Security

The Bush administration has been claiming that the federal deficit was "only" $412 billion. But last month the U.S. Treasury Dept. posted the country’s financial statement on its website with this message from Treasury-Secy. John Snow: "In the fiscal year 2004, government revenues were $1.9 trillion….The net cost of the government’s operations was $2.5 trillion….Total revenues less operating costs resulted in a net operating cost of slightly more than $615 billion."

Translation: When the "net operating cost" exceeds revenues, that’s a DEFICIT. Why was it $203 billion more than the widely publicized (phony) deficit of $412 billion? Because that $203 billion gap "is the amount of Social Security money that the government collected and used for its everyday operations." (John Crudele, NY Post, 12/28/04).

That’s right, the government took the Social Security surplus — the amount of payroll taxes collected that exceeded the amount it paid to retirees — and used it to pay for the military war machine, among other expenses. And then tells us the deficit is actually $203 billion less than it really is.

On top of that, it keeps up this steady chatter about Social Security being "in the hole." Sure, if you keep stealing its surpluses every year! This has been government policy since the Vietnam War, under every administration, Democrat and Republican. While they cry about the "crisis" of Social Security when the baby boomers retire, they’ve stolen TRILLIONS of dollars from Social Security surpluses for 40 years. Just one more scam through which the ruling class swindles workers out of their hard-earned retirement.

Challenge for Youth: Be A Future Revolutionary Organizer of Industrial Workers

We working-class youth have been coerced out of school by the racist school system and forced to work, either for a company, in the army, or in a prison, or it’s the unemployment lines. We must make a decision about who we’ll serve, and what we’ll do the rest of our lives.

Capitalism drives most of these decisions, so we must decide: will we be corporate boot-lickers, subservient to a system that will never serve our interests, or will we rebel and prepare to rise up against capitalism? What must we do to prepare for such an uprising?

Some of us have already joined the Progressive Labor Party and understand the necessity of communist revolution, while some feel capitalism is not the answer, but haven’t yet figured out what’s necessary to take state power away from the bosses and run society in the interests of our class.

Capitalism profits from all the products our labor creates. From the bars of soap we use to wash our hands, to the cars we drive, to the machines that we use to make things, even the guns that cops use to kill black/Latin workers and youth on the streets, and the bombs used to murder Iraqi workers for oil — all this comes from the hands of industrial workers.

These workers are the most powerful because they produce everything that everybody uses. They have the potential, when organized, to stop production bringing this system to its knees. But this alone won’t wipe out capitalism. Stopping production is an important exercise in class struggle, but the bosses will answer back with their state apparatus — cops, courts, prisons, armies. Since they won’t give up their power without a fight, we must be very careful to prepare for their counter-attack on our class.

Our main task in the factories must be to use every struggle, both inside and outside the workplace, to prepare our co-workers to smash the bosses’ state and establish a communist-led workers’ state. From fighting attacks on our health and safety to fighting racist police terror to fighting imperialist war, every assault on our class can become a way to expose the system and show the need for its destruction.

What’s an industrial worker? How do you become one? Industrial workers are factory workers: machinists, welders, machine operators, press-setters and any number of occupations involved in the means of production. One can become an industrial worker either by going to a trade school or going straight into unskilled factory jobs.

Some say industrial workers are fast disappearing. But capitalism cannot exist without producing the things people use. Industrial workers will always exist, as long as people need things to use. And U.S. bosses plan to increase the number of low-paid industrial workers here.

If you who are at a cross-roads in life, young, and have decided to take on this system, what better way to take it down than to become an industrial worker organizing for communist revolution?

Pizza & Politics: 500 At HS Teach-in Debate U.S. Mid-East Oil Wars

BROOKLYN, NY — A guiding principle of being a communist is reliance on the working class and its youth. We believe that not only will workers make a revolution against capitalism and its racism and profiteering, but that working people will build a new world based on collectivity and sharing. Recently, working-class young people at a high school here showed that a communist world is definitely in our future.

Youth are hungry for all kinds of nourishment. They certainly like pizza, but much more than pizza they want to make sense out of this crazy capitalist world. Just before the holiday break over 500 students jammed into a crowded school auditorium for a teach-in about war and imperialism in the Mid-East.

Starting with a young woman’s rousing speech denouncing Bush’s lies about 9/11 and weapons of mass destruction, she blamed the Iraq war on imperialism and oil. She also linked U.S. imperialism’s drive for oil to Saudi Arabia and to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Other activities showcased the talent, political commitment and tireless organizing of many young people. One group stayed after school many days to paint a huge banner depicting Bush the imperialist. It’s now displayed in the school’s halls. The debate team practiced for hours, constantly gaining new members. Rather than debating before a small polite audience, they faced a noisy crowd of 500. These young, inexperienced debate team members did great, under difficult circumstances.

Afterwards many students discussed the issues debated: When should soldiers disobey the orders of their commanders? Were the soldiers of the 343rd Q.C. justified in refusing an order needlessly endangering them? The step-dancing team put on a great show, ending with a poem over the bodies of fallen soldiers. These soldiers were victims of an aimperialist war.

The cheerleaders and the dance team entertained. Poetry was read and exhibited. A Power Point presentation about the war was shown several days later to a smaller group.

An after-school student club and some social studies teachers organized the 2½-hour event, beginning at 3 PM in the auditorium and ending in the cafeteria with a snack of 50 pizza pies. Meanwhile we distributed all kinds of literature, including hundreds of information sheets about the draft, extra credit sheets to be returned to social studies teachers and lyrics from Bob Dylan’s song Masters of War. Best of all, 200 people got their hands on this terrific revolutionary newspaper. Many students signed up for the after-school club.

For communists, for anti-imperialists, for working-class youth, this was quite an event!

But are pizza and politics contradictory? Well, shortly after 5 PM, as the Teach-In was ending and the pizza distribution beginning, things got a little chaotic. Some students let greed take over; maybe some just did not believe everyone would get a slice, although everyone did. While some students rushed to the front of the line, quite a few took the initiative to help with the distribution. It was quite something to see young men and women stand behind, and even on top of the tables and take charge. After the successful distribution of 400 slices, many didn’t even care if they got a slice or not. Political commitment not pizza was motivating them. Next, a discussion about communist political commitment will make a big contribution to the struggle for the world we want. And we will have that discussion!

Strike Aftermath: Chicago College Students, Teachers Fight Arrests, Cutbacks

CHICAGO — The Chicago City College (CCC) strike ended two months ago, but vicious attacks on teachers and students persist. The lose-lose settlement between the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) Local 1600’s union hacks, the administration and their investment bankers, is showing its true colors. The CCC bosses have prepared a blacklist of dozens of part-time faculty who supported the strike; they won’t be rehired. At Daley College, the administration’s plan to lay off part-time faculty was stopped for now, after full-timers marched on the president’s office. Two-thirds of the faculty are part-timers, with no benefits or job security, a group which Local 1600 refused to unionize (they have since organized two separate part-time unions).

A PLP student organizer at Malcolm X College was arrested at a demonstration at City College headquarters just two days before the strike ended, charged with battery and trespassing. We’re organizing a big turnout for his January 20 trial date. In addition, the school administration has dragged him to two disciplinary hearings, threatening him with expulsion. About 60 students and teachers attended his first hearing, and 40 were at the second, despite intimidation. Police arrested a teacher at his home a week later and charged him with assault and trespass for the same demonstration. An international student faces possible deportation.

The more than 150,000 primarily working-class black, Latin, immigrant and women City College students have been bombarded repeatedly with racist cutbacks, layoffs and tuition hikes. The IFT leadership has been complicit in these racist attacks, occurring in this period of war and fascism. The administration is using the new contract as a pretext to increase tuition by $2,700 for nursing students «, and add tuition hikes for all students every semester for the next three years. The CCC bosses are threatening to close colleges, particularly in black neighborhoods.

Working-class college students will pay for the Iraq war and the Homeland Security police state with $300 million in Pell Grant cuts scheduled for next fall. The Pell Grant is the primary scholarship for low-income students. As many as half of the 5.3 million Pell recipients will receive smaller grants; about 89,000 will get none. In addition, the new rules for the 2005-6 academic year "are expected to have a domino effect across almost every type of financial aid, tightening access to billions of dollars in state and institutional grants…" (New York Times, 12/28/04)

Throughout this struggle, PLP has fought for the political leadership of students and teachers. A dozen students attended our CHALLENGE Dinner and gave militant leadership in helping to form the Strike Solidarity Committee, which is now organizing campus clubs. We have formed a new PLP City College club and will increase our CHALLENGE distribution.

Big Banks Back Blood-sucking ‘Lenders’ To Squeeze Workers, GI’s

The Sopranos and other Mafiosi are penny ante loan sharks compared to the $7 billion raked in by the "Pay Day Lenders" industry, all of them backed up by four of the country’s ten largest banks. Pay Day Lenders (PDLs), collecting interest rates from 390% to 780%, "trap borrowers in a cycle that few can break without defaulting and facing legal judgments." (Bloomberg News, 11/23/04; all quotes and information from this source.)

"Free and equal access to credit for any legitimate business that complies with all the laws is a cornerstone of the free enterprise system," says Susan Stanley-Jones, spokesperson for Wells Fargo, 4th largest U.S. bank, which makes millions from providing hundreds of millions in credit lines to PDLs, enabling them to exist.

Tell Jason Withrow, a U.S. Navy petty officer second class, about that "cornerstone." On July 4, 2003, Withrow was struck by a car, injuring his back, while on sentry duty at his base in Kings Bay, Georgia. He had to quit his job unloading beer kegs at the base’s liquor store. Unable to pay his bills, the sailor turned to one of the PDLs — Advance America Cash Advance Centers among the thousands that are cluttered around military bases — and agreed to pay a $90 "fee" for a $300 loan, to be repaid two weeks later. Unable to meet that deadline, he rolled the loan over for another $90 fee, "an annual percentage rate of 780%"!

"Withrow got deeper in debt as he struggled every two weeks to pay the fee — let alone the loan itself. He borrowed more cash to service the first fee, and by February 2004, he’d paid about $5,000 in interest on $1,800 in payday loans at four different lenders." That’s what capitalism calls "legitimate business."

Demonstrating just how much the PDLs care about putting GI’s "in harms way," they concentrate on areas around military bases. "It’s legalized thievery," says Sgt. Andrew Perrin at Fort Bragg, NC. "These companies put pressure on soldiers because they can be discharged if they default on too much debt." As they struggle to make payments, "It…can affect a whole unit big time," according to Sgt. Carlton Brown.

Like The Drug Dealer Says, ‘The First Hit Is Free’

Of the 105 million households in the U.S., 14 million used PDLs in 2003. The overwhelming majority these PDLs target are exploited workers who have bank accounts and jobs but live from payday to payday on an average annual income of $25,000. "Payday lending is structured so you just pay the interest every two weeks," says Georgia State Insurance and Safety Fire commissioner John Oxendine. "They never want you to pay back the principal." Some PDLs even wave the initial fee to attract customers. "It’s similar to what you hear from drug dealers: The first hit is free," says Mark Pearce of the Center for Responsible Lending.

Nine of ten loans are made to repeat borrowers with more than five payday loans per year. The average borrower spends $600 in "fees" annually on a $300 loan. (2004 report in Yale University Journal on Regulation) Those caught in this web sink ever deeper in debt.

The PDLs could not exist without the big banks. They "are profiting from a predatory financial industry," says Matthew Lee of the Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch. "By partnering with payday lenders, they have enabled them to sprout like mushrooms all over the country." From just 200 PDLs in 1993, they have skyrocketed to over 22,000. In California alone there are 5,626, five times the number of McDonalds in that state. Skirting the usury laws through exemptions, PDLs are legal in 36 states.

JPMorgan/Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Wachovia — four of the five largest U.S. banks — have combined to extend credit lines of a HALF BILLION dollars to the largest of the PDLs. In addition, Wall Street investment houses like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley helped these banks underwrite these loans, all of whom themselves hold stock in the publicly-trade PDLs. All this has enabled PDLs like Advance America — the country’s largest, with 2.290 outlets in 34 states — to reap $6 billion in "fees" as an industry on $40 billions in loans in 2003.

…and whose side is the bosses’ government on?

Just in case anyone thought all this might be "illegal," the government’s Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which regulates state-chartered banks, has approved this wholesale swindle, concluding that "bank partnerships with payday lenders and the exportation of interest rates are not prohibited by federal law."

No matter how much capitalism exploits the working class, it always finds way to top itself. After stealing profits from workers at the point of production, it then robs even the measly wages they receive in their paychecks. Just some more reasons to destroy this murderous system.

Bye, Bye Pension; Hello Profiteers

In preying on desperate people, these payday lenders have come up with a new twist: pension-lenders.

Retired army veteran Kevin Jones was frantically trying to raise money to get his wife out of the Philippines after her home was destroyed in a bombing. He saw an ad by a Florida "financial services" company in The Army Times. Desperate to reunite with his wife and re-settle his in-laws, he signed over his $1,000-a-month military pension to C & A Financial Programs for the next five years, a total of $60,000, in exchange for $19,980 (after fees and insurance) immediate cash. These leeches pay out about $20,000 and make $40,000 profit.

Legal? While it’s supposedly against the law to offer military pension advances, neither the Pentagon nor Congress has prevented the practice. The Pentagon defines it as a "loan based on retired pay as collateral." (N.Y. Times, 12/29/04)

Anti-Communist Liberal Beats Drum for Fascism and Imperialist War

Liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently called Vladimir Putin a "Russified Pinochet or Franco." However, Kristof continued, "a fascist Russia is…much better…than a communist Russia. Communism was a failed economic system, while Franco’s Spain, General Pinochet’s Chile, and the others generated solid economic growth, a middle class and international contacts — ultimately laying the groundwork for democracy." (NYT, 12/15/04)

Firstly, the working class was worse off under fascism in Spain and Chile. Secondly, the "failed communist Russia" built a modern industrial society in 20 years, fought and smashed Hitler’s war machine — history’s most violent up to that time — virtually by itself, all during a period when the entire capitalist world was trying to obliterate the Soviet Union from 1917 on.

Here, in a nutshell, is why we communists must struggle even more sharply against the liberalism of the "blue-state" New York Times than against the "red-state" ideologues of the Bush administration. Kristof is reviving the bourgeois cry of the 1930’s, when liberal apologists for capitalism said, "better Hitler than Stalin."

Kristof conveniently ignores the fact that U.S. imperialism supported Franco, put Pinochet in office, and for over half a century — continuing right up to the present — has backed fascist regimes on every continent except Antarctica. CHALLENGE readers don’t need Kristof to tell us that Russia (and China) are now fascist states — we know that the USA is also racing towards it fast.

Kristof’s double-talk about fascism "laying the groundwork for democracy" is the same twisted logic used to justify the flattening of Falluja, and instituting a police state there, to "prepare for elections." It would justify the USA/PATRIOT Act and other fascist measures the ruling class called for in the Hart-Rudman report as a way to "save American democracy."

Kristof calls communism a "failed economic system" when what failed in Russia and China was not communism, but a socialism that led to state capitalism. For the working class, capitalism, whatever its form, is a monumentally failed system. Citing UNICEF statistics on the misery and death inflicted on children worldwide, CHALLENGE (1/05/05) correctly describes capitalism as "the most horrendous holocaust the world has ever seen."

That same CHALLENGE front-page also explains that "Russian and U.S. imperialism are on a collision course over energy." That means war, sooner or later, and when liberals like Kristof attack Russian fascism, they’re really trying to win U.S. workers to support U.S. fascism in this impending collision.

Some students at my school are very interested in CHALLENGE, because of the information it contains but even more so for its eye-opening communist analysis. Others, however, are reluctant even to look at it. "I don’t want to read that, I support the pro-democracy movement," said one young anti-war activist. "Communism didn’t work," said another. That’s Kristof’s line in action. After some struggle, both of those students have taken and read CHALLENGE. Now it will take a lot more struggle — within the context of our anti-war organizing, and the friendships developing out of it — to win them, and many others like them, to our politics.

That’s important because many students, including these two, say they’d never join the U.S. military, even if drafted. But staying out of the military won’t end imperialist war, just as liberalism can’t stop fascism. As long as ideas like Kristof’s prevail among anti-war youth, they’ll be, at best, ineffective against imperialism, and at worst won to support it in the name of "spreading democracy" or even "fighting fascism." Our job as communists is to combat liberalism, fight anti-communism, and build a worker-soldier-student alliance to turn the bosses’ war into a revolution for communism.

Racist Politicians Use Slave-Era Rules On Prisoners to Hold Power

The New York State electoral system has reverted back to the one embedded in the U.S. Constitution that used slavery to increase the Congressional power of Southern slave-owners — and is just as racist.

The original Constitution counted slaves as 3/5 of a person when apportioning Congressional districts, so the South was granted many more Representatives than warranted by the actual voting population. Of course, slaves had no right to vote, along with no other rights, in the great traditions of U.S. "democracy."

Now along comes the liberal "blue state" of New York to mimic that slave heritage. The 1970s’ Rockefeller drug laws led to mass imprisonment of non-violent, first-time offenders, "many of whom would have received brief sentences, drug treatment or community service under previous laws," (N.Y, Times, 12/26) but now were sentenced to 15 years to life. (All quotes from NYT.)

Nearly all these prisoners — 70% of whom are black or Latino — ended up in upstate New York. Legislators lobbied for new prisons in their sparsely-populated districts. "Nearly 30 percent of the people…counted as moving into upstate New York during the 1990’s were prison inmates."

Interestingly enough, the Census rules count these inmates as "living at their prisons" and therefore "residents" of those upstate counties, even though their actual homes are hundreds of miles away in New York City. Thus, these "prisoners are included in the population counts that become the basis for drawing legislative districts."

A la slavery, these prisoners, as "convicted felons," have no right to vote. But they gave new life to seven upstate New York Senate districts "that meet minimal population requirements only because prison inmates are included in the count." Otherwise many of these State Senators would be "merged" out of existence due to shrinking populations. These slave-era rules motivate them to keep filling (and building more) prisons for non-violent offenders, many of whom cannot afford quality counsel and are threatened into plea-bargaining even if they are innocent. The Republican Party relies on its large upstate delegation to maintain its majority and political power, and the Democrats go right along with this racist practice.

As during slavery, once again the racist rulers — who sentence black and Latino youth and others to long prison terms because of alleged possession of a few grams of crack-cocaine — use them as prisoner/"residents" to enhance their rule.

Racism infects every aspect of U.S. capitalist "democracy." It can be destroyed only if the profit system itself is destroyed.

(For a full analysis, see PLP pamphlet, "Prison Labor: Fascism, U.S. Style.")


Student’s GI Letter Spreads School-Wide

I attend a small high school. Every year there’s a toy and food drive/military package for orphans or homeless people or soldiers. As a frequent CHALLENGE reader I saw an article about the soldiers in the 343rd Q.C. who refused orders in Iraq because they believed it was a suicide mission. I got the idea that since we’re collecting packages for the military, we should write letters to these soldiers who refused their orders.

I suggested it to my English teacher and read the article to her. She thought it was a great idea but said that rather than just a class project, it should be done school-wide. She asked me to read and explain the article to a school assembly. I did, and my teacher made it an extra-credit assignment, and gave us community service hours for doing it.

Everybody in my school sent individual letters to soldiers in the 343rd, along with a small package containing basic items, as a Christmas gift. My letter said, "I thought it was awesome, that thousands of people are reading about soldiers who resisted orders in Iraq. I thought to myself, ‘We never hear about soldiers who resisted, only about how many die each day fighting for ‘freedom’ in Iraq and about their courageousness.’ I also thought that if these soldiers received acknowledgment publicly for dying and trying to save others lives, how come no soldiers are acknowledged for refusing to kill hundreds of more people. Wouldn’t NOT killing someone be considered saving their lives also?

"I truly believe that if more soldiers did this, as a true act of leadership and courageousness, then there wouldn’t be any more soldiers to fight and the weapons could be turned about to the true terrorists, don’t you think? I’ve written you this letter because I truly believe that a soldier to do such a courageous act deserves just as much respect as those who the media publicizes."

A fifteen-year-old comrade

Internationalism Key to Fighting All Nationalism

Recently, a CHALLENGE article entitled "Vote or Die is a Death Threat" condemned the Vote or Die movement led by Sean "P Diddy" Combs and other Hip Hop artists. It also stated that the Pan-African/Black Nationalist movements of the late 1960’s were rooted in the ideology of black superiority.

I agree that nationalism never unites but only divides the working class, and that "Vote or Die" is a death threat misguiding many youth about the cause of society’s social ills. However, I firmly disagree that the so-called Pan-African/Black Nationalist movements of the late 1960’s stemmed from a belief in black superiority over other groups. This distortion hinders our ability to build a base in black communities here and abroad.

The Pan-African movement finds some roots in the Niagara Movement launched in 1906. A young W.E.B. DuBois convened many leading black intellectuals, scholars and activists in Niagara, New York to discuss colonialism and racism — hence the beginning of the modern-day Pan-African movement. Such bold acts as the heroic 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner against plantation owners in Southampton, Virginia, and the publication of David Walker’s revolutionary "Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the United States" in 1829 spawned the Black Nationalist Movement in the U.S.. These movements were a direct response to systematic racism and oppression. They weren’t based on a belief in black superiority over whites.

Movements such as Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI) did (and still) argue a supremacy position. These nationalist movements are spiritual/mystic/cultural in character and not expressly political. They’re an ultra right-wing response to racism and oppression, hence the hate they produced. However, cultural nationalism is not political nationalism. There’s a big difference between the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the NOI. The latter argued that whites are the devil incarnate, while the early BPP argued that the state is the root of oppression; many of its chapters and members joined with whites to fight racism. Later, however, the BPP’s nationalism led it to support black capitalism.

Ultimately, nationalism never works for any oppressed group. However, lumping all nationalist groups and their supporters together with no explanation and analysis is a mistake. Yes, nationalism is not a progressive reaction to racism. Political nationalism may initially inspire oppressed people to combat their exploitation. But, with patient struggle, we will win them to understand that anti-racist internationalism based on working-class unity is the correct and effective way to fight racist oppression. PLP’ers can sharpen the class contradictions by fighting racism from this vantage point, both inside and outside nationalist organizations.

Navy Red

Pinochet ‘Trial’ Is Phony Justice

For the second time in recent years, we’re being told that General Augusto Pinochet, the bloody dictator who ruled Chile after the 1973 AT&T/Kissinger/CIA-organized fascist coup, will be brought to justice for his crimes. But will he really pay for the murder and torture of thousands or is this just another bosses’ media show?

To believe that Chile’s "democratic" bosses will bring this monster to justice is a deadly mistake. "Socialist" President Lagos represents the third "elected" government since Pinochet surrendered power 15 years ago. But Lagos, like the previous "democratic" leaders, owes a lot to Pinochet’s political base. So he must try to show workers and their allies that his regime is indeed a bit different than Pinochet’s.

These workers have received very little benefit from the economic bonanza these "democratic" regimes say they’ve created. So they must give workers some crumbs. The Pinochet show trial is one such crumb. Actually, Pinochet could have learned much from how Lagos and other "democratic" leaders rule. Their methods of social control are much more effective than Pinochet’s brutality, which was generating increasing social unrest despite the heavy repression. These new rulers — many from the fake left — know well that capitalism is a dictatorship of the bosses against the workers and their allies, so they create a dictatorship with more subtle "democratic" methods than the old fascist General’s iron hand.

These new rulers now talk about capitalism with a "human face," or "economic growth for all." But in essence, the gap between bosses and workers has actually grown under this "bourgeois democracy." The rich are richer and the poor poorer. Patricio Malatrassi, an economist at the Alejandro Lipschutz Institute, notes that 95% of Chile’s business people are very happy with "socialist" Lagos, indicating which side the government is on. He says that in 2004 transportation costs rose 9.5%, basic food needs up 16.8%, telephone charges up 4.8%, and so on, while wages barely rose 0.8%. These are the official figures; the real ones are worse.

Chile might have a greater Gross Domestic Product than other Latin American countries, but most of this wealth goes to a few bosses and the imperialists. The workers get zilch.

While we hope killer Pinochet gets his due before he dies in bed, it won’t really matter much because the conditions he engendered will remain, though with a "democratic face." We shouldn’t expect any real justice until we get organized to fight capitalism and build a worker-led society, communism.

A reader in the Southern Cone

Bosses Hide Behind ‘Labor Reform’ Schemes

National Public Radio broadcast a program on how "pro-labor" sneaker manufacturers in Jakarta, Indonesia pay their union workers a higher wage (proportionate to their economy) than non-union workers in Texas. The spokesman for the Jakarta bosses said notes describing workers’ unions, benefits and working conditions were inserted in every sneaker box so consumers would not feel guilty about helping to exploit fellow workers, a common condition throughout that area.

A woman called in thanking the spokesman for giving workers an opportunity to choose products made in a "fair environment." Another caller cursed the spokesman, calling him an anti-labor liar who was using foreign workers to "steal American jobs." The spokesman replied that Jakarta workers were showing labor solidarity with U.S. workers who opposed exploitation by demonstrating the benefits of unionization.

The bottom line for the bosses in this contradiction is that ALL bosses steal the surplus value workers produce and use it to make war on the international working class by reducing us to poverty, servitude and war. "Labor reform" schemes go back to the early 19th century and attempt to portray the bloody capitalists as benevolent leaders. But these reforms have always failed because capitalism is a predatory system dependent on increasing labor exploitation. Any boss who doesn’t do this is soon ruined and out of business.

The bottom line for workers is ending production for profit by building the PLP to win a communist system that will convert all our production into use value to serve the needs of the international working class.

Radio comrade

Red Eye On The News

Below are excerpts from mainstream newspapers — Abbreviations: NYT=New York Times, GW=Guardian Weekly (UK)

Countless battered in Iraq

An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans…

Veterans say…extensions of duty in Iraq are emotionally battering, even for the most stoical of warriors….

"People see the figure of 1200 dead…. Much more rarely do they see the number of seriously wounded. And almost never do they hear anything at all about the psychiatric casualties. (NYT 12/16/04)

A Red world could cope

[A]Natural disaster …may doom the community to future disasters, on an even greater scale.

The tendency is to rebuild in the same place (because there isn’t room elsewhere) in the same way (because there isn’t money for better construction).

Some of the world’s largest cities, and hundreds of others, sit on faults and flood plains. Whole regions — the Indonesian archipelago, Central America — are dotted with active volcanoes, their slopes crowded with farms and towns….Threat monitoring and effective warning systems…are expensive, but far less costly than repeated disasters. (NYT 1/2/05)

Religions lie about sex

Not only have abstinence-only programs failed, they’re telling our kids lies.

The Southern Baptist Convention claims that in the 10 years since launching its "True Love Waits" program, over 2.4 million teenagers have taken the virginity pledge. But….88 percent of teenagers who had pledged virginity until marriage ended up having premarital sex and…their rates of STD [sexually transmitted disease] were identical to those of teenagers who had not signed the pledge. Most troubling of all…virginity pledgers were less likely to use condoms, less likely to seek out medical care for an STD and less likely even to know they’d contracted one. They proved more irresponsible than kids who took no pledge at all.

No wonder such programs have failed. They don’t tell teens the truth….One text, for example, teaches that simply touching another person’s genitals "can result in pregnancy." Others assert that sexual activity increases the risk of cervical cancer, that having an abortion means a woman is more prone to commit suicide….

All abstinence-only government grants go to so-called "faith-based" or "church-based" organizations….It’s religion over science, and our kids are suffering. (Tribune Media Svc 12/3/04)

Big Biz likes TV as is

If anything is to blame for what appears on our screens it is the free market….Sex and violence sell well everywhere; high culture does not. So the entertainment titans keep dishing up more of the same….

The bottom line of capitalism is that if somebody will buy it, somebody will make it….

The real engine at work here, for better or worse, is the profit motive….Let’s face it: There’s not much money to be made off children’s piano recitals…or performances by your local orchestra. (Creators Syndicate, 12/1/04)

Legal Aid: anti-red vaccine

The Legal Aid Society….was not set up as an act of altruism — or even an attempt at social or legal fairness.

Instead…legal aid societies were initially designed to co-opt recent immigrants into "buying in" to an American society that provided them with lawyers when they had legal difficulties.

…."By convincing impoverished immigrants, its primary constituency, that justice was within their grasp it would deflect them from anarchy, socialism and Bolshevism and would strengthen their loyalty to American institutions."

How much has reality changed? (NYT, 12/22/04)

Dropout rate nearly half

While officially New York City’s dropout rate is put at about 20 percent, education officials say that 40 to 50 percent of city schoolchildren never earn their regular high school diplomas. (NYT, 12/17/04)

Bush: Armchair Slugger

Mr. Bush…was born into one of the most privileged families in the United States…As Jim Hightower memorably cracked... "He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." (NYT, 12/20/04)