CHALLENGE, March 30, 2005

Hundreds At Anti-War Conference: Must Organize to Fight Imperialism

Class Consciousness and Red Politics Key to Crushing Warmakers

Brass Wants Token Sacrifice From Elite School Youth

Bosses To Bankrupt Workers: Drop Dead!

PLP H.S. and College Students Bring Revolutionary Ideas to Anti-War Conference

Hundreds March for Immigrant Rights; Need to By-Pass Liberal Dems

CUNY Students Blast Military Recruitment for ‘Career’ in War

Union Misleaders Derail MUNI Work-Action

Boeing Union Resolution Supports Lockheed Strikers

General Strike Hits France to Keep 35-Hour Work-week

Philadelphia City Hall Scandal: ALL Politicians Are Crooks

Palestinian and Israeli Workers Must Unite to Tear Down Apartheid Wall

600 Protest Racist LAPD Murder of Teenager; Boo Ex-Police Chief

Everyone Can Learn Math — And Communist Politics

Concentration Camps: Second Nature to Capitalism


Staying in for the Long Haul

Banning Unions Before They Start

A ‘Life-Changing’ Experience

Youth’s Vital Role At Anti-War Conference

Women ‘Hold Up Half The Sky’

‘Million Dollar Baby’: Capitalist View of Human Nature

Eastwood’s Fascist Attack on Disabled

Reviewer’s Response


Hundreds At Anti-War Conference: Must Organize to Fight Imperialism

NEW YORK CITY, March 5 — "Imperialist War Means: Fight Back!"; "Racism Means: Fight Back!"; "Shut It Down!"; "Students and Teachers, United, Will Never Be Defeated!"

An explosive mix of militant urban youth and radical teachers’ chants rang through the hall at the close of today’s conference of Educators to Stop the War as 750 East Coast teachers and students from schools and colleges as far as Florida and Indiana convened to discuss how to stop the war in Iraq. The title itself was a call to action for teachers from kindergarten to grad school, and by 260 students, half from high school.

The event was sponsored by U.S. Labor against the War and many teacher union locals from SUNY, CUNY, and Rutgers. PLP teachers and students also worked hard to build the conference and brought many participants.

The title raised the key question: who can stop the war, and how? Teachers and students allying with soldiers and industrial workers? Protests? Prolonged resistance in the army and the workplace, such as strikes and rebellions? What about the politics of the Iraqi insurgency? Can we end imperialist wars while leaving capitalism intact, or take the road to revolution? These questions were prevalent but challenged: "I’m just a student with asthma from the Bronx," asked one. "What does capitalism have to do with me?"

Some hoped education could be a "free zone" in capitalism. Many didn’t think about class as the "hidden curriculum" of capitalist schooling, reproducing this brutal system with deep links to the imperialist war machine. (However, everyone understood the role of recruiters in schools, a hot topic with students.)

Teacher unionists debated their contract and education budget fights as struggles against a "war contract" and a "war budget." But teachers were galvanized by the young students, who clearly loved being with their teachers as equal comrades in struggle. "Student-teacher alliance" was the cry everywhere.

The Conference generated tremendous excitement and hope in a period of downturn in anti-war actions. Communists presented a glimpse of schooling in the communist society PLP fights for: multi-racial and non-sexist; collective leadership; non-hierarchical, with presentations from high school students and doctoral faculty; soldiers and vets offering their perspective; Marx’s "relentless critique of absolutely everything"; the role of the Party pushing constantly for working-class interests. Communist schooling will be the ultimate student-teacher alliance.

Soon the success of the conference emerged, anti-war action against military recruiters exploding at CCNY (See page 3). Other counter-recruiter protests were blocked by police at Bronx Community College, and were planned at Hunter College March 16. Many, including PLP, wanted to make April 20 a day of such mass actions, linking anti-war to contract and tuition demands.

It was an action-oriented conference, with an emerging student-teacher alliance in 42 workshops discussing: organizing in the teacher unions, schools and campuses, in curriculum and teaching methods, the roots of the war, and critiques of ideologies that support the war. The more than 150 workshop presenters were one-third black, Latino/a, Asian or Middle Eastern, more multi-racial than most anti-war events.

Some leaders of Educators to Stop the War red-baited PLP and its allies. They don’t want communists and their ideas to influence anti-war activists and to challenge liberal anti-war organizations like United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). But the war in Iraq is an imperialist war for U.S. ruling-class interests, it does have its roots in rival capitalists’ drive for endless accumulation, we do need a full understanding of these processes to know how to better fight the warmakers. Finally, communism — for all its past weaknesses — has been the only philosophy with the ability to mobilize millions to end capitalism itself, the root of modern war.

Organizing mass militant action at work, fighting racism that pervades capitalist education, building unbreakable lifelong ties with co-workers, bringing them closer to communist thinking by patient work, and forging a mass party out of daily struggle, is the way ahead. A global worker-soldier-student-teacher alliance can create a communist future, free of imperialist war and capitalist mis-education.

Class Consciousness and Red Politics Key to Crushing Warmakers

A recent meeting of the Progressive Labor Party’s Steering Committee discussed a lengthy, detailed report about the contradictions facing U.S. rulers. The report covered the state of inter-imperialist rivalry and the likelihood that the present oil war in Iraq will soon broaden. It reinforced the estimate that the economic and military rise of Chinese capitalism will eventually lead to armed struggle with the U.S.

The PLP leadership confirmed its view that this remains a period of widening war for world domination and that although the U.S. will remain top dog for some number of years, the general trend will see its chief competitors in Asia and Europe gain strength and boldness. PLP’s Steering Committee once again endorsed the idea that communist revolution can be forged in the crucible of the world war that will erupt in coming decades.

The discussion took into account the wide tactical maneuverability the bosses still enjoy and underscored the importance of properly assessing their strength and the advantages they hold over the working class at the moment.

The most important of these advantages remains the low level of communist class consciousness in the U.S. and throughout the world in general. Weak class consciousness leads to weak class struggle. Both at home and abroad, the rulers are getting away with racist murder. From the military’s routine slaughter of civilians in Iraq to the denial of health insurance to 45 million people here, CHALLENGE constantly describes the atrocities U.S. capitalism commits daily.

The self-inflicted failure of the old communist movement has temporarily placed our class in a position of weakness without historical precedent since Marx and Engels wrote "The Communist Manifesto" nearly 160 years ago. Strikes provide a good gauge of working-class militancy. In the U.S., they are very low by historical standards. Scabbing — the use of strike-breakers to replace striking workers — has risen steadily since the benchmark year of 1981. Then Reagan hired scabs to replace 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, without a peep from the labor union brass. The percentage of unionized workers continues to decline. In both the U.S. and Europe, the union "leadership" has long since made the commitment to serve as the bosses’ henchmen in the system’s drive to suck maximum profit from our labor power.

The bad news is the present picture is bleak. The good news is we can do something about it. The working class is still paying dearly for the deadly errors committed in the course of previous revolutions. But errors can be analyzed and corrected. This process will be long and difficult, but can be accomplished. The profit system can neither solve nor abolish the contradictions and problems it creates. That job remains the role of the working class and the responsibility of its communist party, the PLP.

Our chief task today is rebuilding militant, communist class consciousness until it becomes the order of the day throughout the working class. The word "scab" must once again become the foulest word in any language, and scabbing must come to include not just strike-breaking but also the failure to respond vigorously to any and all attacks against our class brothers and sisters worldwide.

Even in these difficult times, opportunities arise. CHALLENGE articles about actions against racism, economic attacks or imperialist war in Iraq prove that the bosses can never totally extinguish the flame of class struggle. But we can do better, particularly on the ideological front of promoting and sharpening class consciousness.

As always, the correction of weakness or error begins with leadership. Our Party’s Steering Committee recognizes its responsibility in this regard. As May Day approaches, we challenge ourselves once again to deepen our commitment to the principle of militant, revolutionary, international communist working-class solidarity against all bosses and all forms of scabbing.

Brass Wants Token Sacrifice From Elite School Youth

As U.S. rulers pursue an agenda of ever widening war, they face a crisis of class consciousness in their own ranks. Very few children of the ruling class serve, even briefly, in the war machine that maintains their wealth, power, and privilege. But the more far-sighted of the rulers fear two consequences: (1) Working-class GIs and their families will rebel against having to bear an obscenely high casualty rate; and (2) the ruling class will soon lack the military expertise necessary for an all-out mobilization.

General Josiah Bunting wrote an article for the Winter 2005 "American Scholar" entitled "Class Warfare: It is Wrong that America’s Most Privileged Families Have Abandoned Military Service." He decries "the deepening chasm that is separating those who serve from those whom they serve."

Bunting laments the declining numbers of war dead among alumni of the elite Lawrenceville School near Princeton, where he was once headmaster: sixty in World War II, ten in Korea, five in Vietnam, and none for Gulf War I or the current slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the working class continues to bear all the killing and maiming, he worries, domestic tranquility could suffer.

Bunting sees a need for the token burden sharing of WWII, in which young Roosevelts and Kennedys, but few Rockefellers, saw heavy action. Bunting hopes for a sea change. Envisioning world-wide conflicts, he dreams of a fully militarized future, in which the children of today’s rulers "appointed or elected to offices...will carry the inestimable benefit of having themselves done what they will be asking another young generation to do."

Bunting speaks for the liberal, imperialist wing of U.S. capitalists. He recently oversaw the admission of women to the Virginia Military Institute. Bunting now presides over the New York-based Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, which, under him, increasingly focuses on military leadership and the relationship of the military to the rest of society. This foundation counts as "life trustees" General William Westmoreland, who commanded the U.S. genocide in Vietnam, and Jeremiah Milbank, whose family has managed the Rockefellers’ billions for over a century.

By choosing the "American Scholar" as his vehicle, Bunting targets administrators at elite universities, who, while cashing Pentagon research checks, persist in hindering military recruitment. One college president who needs no convincing, however, is Harvard’s Larry Summers. Last June, he held the first commissioning on Harvard grounds of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) since 1969, when students led by the Progressive Labor Party booted the bloodsuckers out. Summers is pushing to re-establish Harvard’s ties to the military completely. When the rulers’ media complain about Summers’ abrupt shifts to the right, they’re attacking his lack of finesse, not his politics.

Along with Bunting’s persuasion, the rulers are using the coercion of state power to bring their own class in line by putting more of its children in uniform. A bill before Congress, variously known as H.R. 3699 and the Solomon Amendment, will end the ability of colleges to block recruiters and ROTC. It sailed through the House last year, with overwhelming backing from Democrats and Republicans.

The rulers know that, ultimately, only one solution exists. They can hardly expect their pampered offspring to renounce selfishness willingly. Selfishness lies at the heart of capitalist philosophy. Pining for the Good Old Days, Bunting says that, in 1956, Princeton sent 400 of its 900 graduating seniors into the military and that the figure for 2004 was nine out of 1,100. He pointedly leaves unsaid the glaring fact that the great "motivator" back then was the draft. The rulers will have to restore it, sooner or later.

Bosses To Bankrupt Workers: Drop Dead!

The latest change in the bosses’ bankruptcy laws is one of the more blatant pieces of class legislation enacted in decades. It will extract another pound of flesh from working-class families ruined by health costs and job loss and add billions to the already swollen profits of the banks and credit card companies. Meanwhile, Congress refused to raise the already paltry minimum wage above the 1996 level, which is falling even further below the poverty line.

These kinds of fascist attacks on workers will continue until the working class mounts an organized fight-back to limit them and eventually turns them back on the ruling class with a communist revolution eliminating the capitalist system that breeds them.

Most people are forced to file for bankruptcy because of sudden illness, layoffs or divorce. A Harvard study found that medical bills account for over half of all bankruptcy filings, and most of those families had health insurance but it didn’t cover the cost of medical debts. One-third of all bankruptcies are filed by people with incomes already below the poverty line.

This new law — already passed by the Senate and soon-to-be enacted by the House — will push millions of working-class families still deeper into poverty. It will require debtors with incomes above the median in their states to file for bankruptcy under a Chapter 13 proceeding, in which a judge orders a repayment plan, rather than under a Chapter 7 filing where debts are erased once most of the debtors’ assets are liquidated. This will force hundreds of thousands of families to make large payments to creditors from their current income even if they subsequently lose their jobs or incur huge medical bills.

Meanwhile, the wealthy will retain their loophole of the "asset protection trust" which enables them to maintain their riches even if declaring bankruptcy.

The banks and credit card companies have been pushing for such legislation for eight years. The likes of the American Bankers Association, Ford Motor Credit, GMAC, Visa, MasterCard, Citicorp, Capital One and MBNA, among others, have made more than $40 million in political contributions over that period, an investment that will now reap a multi-billion dollar bonanza.

Interestingly, the ten states with the highest bankruptcy filings are "red" states in the South and West, many of whom voted for Bush based on racism and support for the Iraq war. Even though all ten voted Republican last November, their Senators will still punish them with this new law. But the Democrats are guilty as well — 14 Democratic Senators joined 55 Republicans to bar any filibuster from killing the bill, including such stalwarts as Delaware’s Joe Biden, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow (whose state has one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, driving workers to bankruptcy).

As the U.S. debt burden skyrockets, billions will be extracted by the banks from bankrupted families. Bankruptcy filings leaped from 200,000/yr in 1978 to 1.6 million last year. In 1946, consumer debt was 22% of after-tax income. By last year it had jumped to 110%. The probability that a family’s income will be cut in half from one year to the next has doubled from the 1970’s to over 20%. That could mean that tens of millions can slide from relative comfort into poverty due to illness or job loss, and then be subject to the impossible squeeze of this new bankruptcy swindle.

The credit card companies prey on the weakest sections of the population: credit card debt among seniors has increased 149%, and among families with income below $10,000 it’s rocketed 184%. A family of three earning a minimum wage and working five days a week, 52 weeks a year, is already below the federal poverty line.

All capitalists in general are like vultures circling above tens of millions of families falling deeper into debt, and then swooping down with this new bankruptcy rip-off to dig their profit talons into defenseless debtors. They’ll keep succeeding until the working class stops them.

PLP H.S. and College Students Bring Revolutionary Ideas to Anti-War Conference

NEW YORK CITY, March 5 — Over 250 high school and college students at the Educators to Stop the War Conference were on the verge of marching on an Army recruiting station in Harlem until we discovered the center was closed. About 50 of us were from one Brooklyn high school where we made buttons and held a forum with two soldiers speaking, to build interest in the event. Students who attended the conference were very moved by it.

The militancy at this anti-war conference was unexpected, but the revolutionary leadership given by young PL’ers changed the tone of the day. Students were fed up with limiting anti-war activity to marches — which end up supporting Democratic Party politicians — and wanted to take direct action against the war machine.

We made plans to return to our campuses and high schools to organize more students for a demonstration at a recruiting center in the near future.

A multi-racial contingent of PL students led workshops on Creating a Student Anti-war movement, Stopping Military Research and Homeland Security Programs on Campuses, Recruiters and the Draft, Racism, Imperialism and building a teacher-student alliance. These workshops helped make the conference a huge success. We were able to advance the Party’s line against pseudo-leftist and liberal reformist ideas.

In the Recruiters and the Draft workshop one student described how he helped kicked military recruiters off the City College campus one day last fall. An ex-recruiter revealed how he was duped into becoming a salesman for the military. Another speaker discussed the draft, explaining that an economic draft existed already for many workers, even before the Iraq War. He declared that when the "real draft" comes we should advise youth who will go in and actively organize soldiers to stop the war rather than dodge military service. He said while students’ and teachers’ anti-war activity is important to opposing the war, only U.S. soldiers and industrial workers in solidarity with workers in Iraq can stop it. We need to support these workers’ actions. Some further comments from students about their feelings on the conference:

"I think the conference was a good step towards making people knowledgeable about the war. It was good to see teachers and students come together on a more synchronized level. It was a good experience and other things should be done to follow up."

"I think I understand the war a bit more and it makes me want to get involved to assist the movement. I would like to see more students involved in protesting this Imperialist war. There should be workshops in the school to explain the war to students."

"In order to show how informed we students are and how we disagree with the war, the entire school should walk out to voice our opinions on the war. I realized that the minority of the country is controlling the majority of the working class. It makes me think about how wrong this government is. I am not sure if I totally agree with the concept of communism, but I would like to learn more."

"I do believe capitalism is a very bloody type of government. The war is being fought by poor and working-class soldiers and they are killing other poor and working-class people. END THE WAR NOW!"

The conference and the militancy of many of its participants show that following Bush’s re-election the "depression" suffered by many who oppose the imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq is over among many activists. We must ensure that the idea of "It’s not just Bush, it’s also the Democrats and capitalism" takes hold among many of these anti-war activists. Being anti-imperialist means being anti-capitalist and a communist, serving the working class and helping lead a working-class movement to totally destroy capitalism.

Hundreds March for Immigrant Rights; Need to By-Pass Liberal Dems

QUEENS, NY, March 12 — Capitalists and their flunky politicians in the Federal, State and local governments have no shame. They’ve launched virulently racist attacks against immigrants, especially since 9/11, blaming them for the problems created by capitalism itself.

Immigrant workers are fighting back here on two fronts: against denial of drivers’ licenses and against budget cuts for adult education, but all within the limits set by the bosses. However, as CHALLENGE readers know, this is very much like running on a treadmill, getting nowhere fast. While waging these important struggles, it is vital that we raise the bar by building a movement for a communist revolution as the best and longest-lasting solution to eliminate these vile anti-immigrant attacks.

On March 5, more than 300 immigrants and other workers and students marched in Jackson Heights as part of the Queens Drivers License Coalition to demand that officials and the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) end their discriminatory and irresponsible plan to suspend the driver’s licenses of about 300,000 immigrant workers (cab drivers, delivery truck drivers, etc.). Over 7,000 immigrants in NYS have already lost their licenses because of the new rule requiring a valid Social Security number to obtain a legal driver’s license.

Shouting "El Pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!" (The people, united, will never be defeated"), and "Inquilaab zindabad!" (Freedom now!" in Bengali), the protesters’ leaflets and demands that the politicians stop their irresponsible plan were well-received by thousands of passers-by.

Fight Adult Education Budget Cuts

Also, in recent weeks dozens of teachers and students in the CUNY Adult Literacy Programs have begun organizing against the Bush administration’s proposal to cut by 2/3 the amount of federal money for adult education. The vast majority of students in these programs are immigrant workers looking to earn their GED diplomas in order to improve their jobs and/or go on to college. They’re planning a protest demonstration for April 22.

The weakness in both of these struggles is the tendency to look to politicians, especially liberal Democrats, for help. The strength has been the involvement of many immigrant and other workers. These cuts are aimed at many groups. The ruling class hopes each group will struggle for itself only. Each one must reach out to other groups to support each other. In these struggles, PLP’ers must show how these attacks on immigrants and major cutbacks in social services are part and parcel of the imperialists’ endless wars and Homeland Security police state, supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

CUNY Students Blast Military Recruitment for ‘Career’ in War

NEW YORK CITY, March 9 — About 15 students and professors at City College — part of the City University of New York (CUNY) — entered the annual Career Fair and brought the message to the college administration and the Army that fighting in imperialist wars is not a career option. Upon entering the Great Hall, campus security met us and announced that any type of protesting or anyone entering with anything remotely political would be escorted out.

At the fair, we saw the careers the administration and ruling class are offering working-class students as they raise our tuition and cut financial aid. Military and police recruiters dominated the Fair. Tables for the National Guard, Army, Marines, Air force, NYPD and State Troopers lined the row of "employers."

Some of us began distributing leaflets linking CUNY’s $500-a-year tuition hike to the Iraq war. We assembled next to the National Guard table, near a line of students who were having their resumés reviewed. We started chanting, "U.S. out of Iraq, Recruiters off our campus!" In three minutes, campus cops surrounded us and told us if we didn’t stop chanting we’d have to leave. We chanted even louder. Everyone in the Hall took notice.

The guards then threw us out of the Great Hall. We rallied in the hallway but were told we couldn’t protest there either, that we had to go outside in front of the building. Someone called to us, "Whose school?"; we replied "Our School!" This chant prompted students inside the fair to pump their fists in solidarity, forcing security to close the door to the Fair, isolating most of us from those inside.

Since they couldn’t get us to stop chanting or to leave and more students were assembling in the hallway, they started threatening to arrest us. We didn’t budge. They brutally arrested three people, throwing one on the floor and pushing his face into the wall. Another cop assaulted a second person from the back and his buddies stomped on him. The third was taking pictures and screaming at the cops, along with all of us, to let them go. We then distributed literature to all the students who were standing around.

We all made speeches in our classes, urging everyone to join a rally we were having the next day protesting tuition hikes and supporting the "Great Hall Three." They’re charged with misdemeanor counts of "assaulting an officer, resisting arrest" and "disturbing the peace."

The next day a vigorous picket line took place, joined by other students, including PLP, and the City College chapter of the faculty and staff union. The administration "answered" by arresting a professor — charging her with assaulting an officer — and suspending one student, while defending their fascist campus security.

While we weren’t able to kick the recruiters off the campus, in trying to silence us they’ve added more fuel to our fire. This class war is a long-term one. As the college administrations join more and more the bosses’ plans to militarize the entire society, the unity of workers, students and soldiers to build a mass communist movement is the road to end this system based on endless wars and of police state.

Union Misleaders Derail MUNI Work-Action

SAN FRANCISCO, March 13 — "Union Shuts Down Cable Cars"… "Wildcat"…"Strike"…"Job Action." On March 2, these were unusual headlines about this city’s Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 250a which covers all transit operators for SF MUNI. Drivers at many garages greeted this action with enthusiasm and solidarity. "Great!…Finally…See, we can do it…Let’s spread it!" "If anything happens to the cable car drivers we all should go out." "We can run the show, we can bring the City to a stop." Momentarily our potential power was a reality.

Then the cable car operators returned to work while the top Downtown TWU leadership negotiated. When "Union Apologizes for Job Action…" hit Friday’s headlines, drivers were pissed off — "Apologize for what? Can [General Manager] Burn’s discipline the union or the cable car operators?" But the Downtown TWU leadership frittered away a chance to stop service and pay cuts and a fare increase.

In appearance the union leadership called the job action because MUNI management refused to follow the contract in a grievance appeal for two cable car operators. But in essence the real cause of this action was general frustration and tremendous anger after nine months of continuous threats to cut wages and transit service, and raise MUNI fares. Drivers have constantly demanded a real plan for action from the union leadership. Frustration intensified when the transit bosses adopted a budget on Feb. 28 that cut $13.5 million in services, demanding labor "efficiencies" and $13 million in fare increases — but absolutely no increased revenue from downtown Big Business.

The Cable Car action came after a rumored "sick-out," and although unorganized, some workers stayed off at two work-sites. Management flipped at the very whiff of a MUNI "sick-out" and prepared contingency plans and counter-attacks. The Downtown TWU leadership attacked the rumored MUNI action as "unauthorized." Then they called the Cable Car action a few days later.

Management, City politicians and the media had poured gas on this potential fire for months. When the union leadership lit the match, the cable car drivers did the rest, pulling all cable cars into the garage and struggling for solidarity, to overcome individual concerns over losing pay.

We drivers have an unsolvable, antagonistic relationship to MUNI management and the Downtown Corporate Businesses that run SF. Their attacks on us stem from capitalism which dictates a widening war for Mid-East oil and tax cuts for the rich. This won’t go away by changing General Managers. Negotiations usually amount to lowering the wages and benefits of the newest and future workers, often our children, to pay for any improvement for more senior workers.

In discussions following these actions, communists in PLP have tried to encourage more workers to become leaders of our class. The lessons learned will last longer than any material gains.

True to form, the top union leadership didn’t spread the action or organize riders to join us, while refusing to challenge the right of Big Business to profit from our labors. Unions now function to negotiate the terms of our exploitation and contain our struggle. A work stoppage can change the power equation somewhat but the bosses will regroup to hit us again.

Management and the union leadership will exploit a divided workforce (along lines of "race," nationality, age, new hires vs. senior workers, different garages, etc.). We need an integrated PLP-led group that advances communist ideas, such as raising the class consciousness and unity of all workers — viewing transit as a service that’s vital to the working class; uniting with passengers, other city workers and all drivers.

We need organization, not spontaneity, to confront such a powerful enemy. Media-driven actions don’t work. In a war, we need a general staff to plan and evaluate the battles. Historically, communist parties have played this role.

Communists fight for the working class to take over so our class runs society and shares the fruits of our labors. Transit workers in a communist society would collectively decide, along with passengers and other workers, how to best meet everyone’s transit needs. Communism is the only alternative to the profit system.

Class Consciousness Wins One:

Boeing Union Resolution Supports Lockheed Strikers

SEATTLE — The union leadership tried to adjourn the last membership meeting early, but were shouted down, in a voice vote, by shop stewards and rank-and-filers determined to discuss unity with Lockheed Martin strikers. Twenty of us prepared a resolution supporting these workers who’ve taken the lead this contract season. The union mis-leaders feared going on record opposing solidarity, so they and their hangers-on abstained and the resolution passed unanimously. There’s still a deep yearning for class unity that can be tapped when we lead boldly or even when workers spontaneously fight back.

These 2,800 Marietta, Ga. workers struck mainly over a provision denying retiree health care benefits to newly-hired workers. "How can we ask someone to join the union and then slap them in the face!" said one Machinist, during the contract vote at which over 70% rejected the deal recommended by the IAM Local 709 leadership. Since the average age in the plant is 54, these workers struck for a workforce that largely has not even been hired yet. The strikers hit the bricks March 8 for the second time in three years.

Breaking the Pattern; Taking the Lead

These Marietta strikers broke the pattern set by the IAM and UAW in aerospace. Lockheed IAM Locals in Palmdale and Sunnyvale, CA as well as three UAW Boeing Locals already accepted similar contracts with the same provision dividing older from newer workers. "It’s very rare that you see the local of a union break from a pattern that’s been established in bargaining," said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. (Fort Worth Star Telegram, 3/9)

The International sees the danger to their plans to guarantee production, particularly war production. "This could be the crack that will eventually blow apart the whole plan for a sellout," said a past union officer in Seattle, referring to the strike and our support resolution. Upcoming contracts at Boeing on September 1 and next year at the Forth Worth, TX. Lockheed plant hang in the balance.

The International has quickly moved to settle, while offering only lukewarm support for the strikers. "The majority has spoken at Local 709 and the international will support them," said John Crowdis, national IAM negotiator, "I’m disappointed we weren’t able to reach an agreement… They believe they’re fighting for what’s right." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/8) The union had already scheduled new talks for March 12.

Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and Representative Phil Gingrey, both Republicans, have come to the aid of the International, warning that the timing of the strike was "unfortunate." (Columbus, Ga. Ledger-Enquirer, 3/9) They implied that production might be shifted to Lockheed’s Fort Worth plant by a Pentagon that wants cheaper weapons to run its "stunningly expensive war in Iraq" and other imperialist adventures. "It’s [Lockheed’s Marietta plant] an old facility in which the workforce is difficult to deal with," said Loren Thompson, a war analyst at the Lexington Institute. "I’m sure Fort Worth and St. Louis [Boeing subcontractor] are wondering what this strike means for them."

Conscious of Our Class’s Revolutionary Role

The broader implications of this strike-support resolution didn’t escape the rank and file at the meeting or those on the shop floor. After it passed, many stewards took copies back to their shops. A lower-level union functionary noted that the top union leadership was opposed to the strike. "This is really messed up," he complained.

"I hope there is no attempt to do anything like this with retiree medical care in our contract and I don’t care how you try to disguise it," said another retired member, who made a special trip to attend this meeting.

All agreed that the local leadership didn’t want to publicize this strike because it might upset their plans for the next contract, hence the attempt to adjourn the meeting before it arose. "This dishonesty pissed me off more than anything," said an assembler at lunch the next day. We vowed to write our own reports on this strike, not trusting the leadership to implement the reporting provisions of the resolution.

Class consciousness carried the day at this meeting. Given the bosses’ determination to steal our retirement, both private and public, to finance their imperialist wars, our class also needs to be conscious of our historical role. We industrial workers can help lead the way to revolution, where imperialist war and the need to steal from workers to finance these bloodbaths will be nothing but history. Then the only weapons we produce will be destined to support the working class.

FLASH — As expected, the IAM agreed to a new deal to shut down this pattern-breaking strike. Details were not released but the company is on record saying it would not reward Marietta strikers for rejecting the offers that others have accepted. Lockheed Local 709 members were under extreme pressure from the company, the government, the union hierarchy and the media, which claims there are larger numbers of scabs this time around than last time.

On March 15th, a tentative agreement was reached but the workers will remain on strike until the result of the vote is known.

General Strike Hits France to Keep 35-Hour Work-week

A massive general strike shook France on March 10, with mass marches across the country. Capitalism worldwide is trying to make workers pay for their crisis. One 32-year-old auto striker, Moussa, showed the anger and frustration which led to the strike:

"I’ve been working for the past two and a half years for Citroën, I make 1,200 euros [$1,600] a month. Management wants to force us to accept workless days paid at 60%, but I can’t accept that.…Management is offering to let us make up the workless days next year, but I don’t want to. The work conditions are too hard. We would have to work on Saturdays, in other words, six-day weeks, when we’re already really tired after four days! It’s hard on the assembly line. You have to be fast, patient, resilient, and the bosses keep us under pressure all the time…"

Philadelphia City Hall Scandal: ALL Politicians Are Crooks

PHILADELPHIA, March 12 — The scandal that has hit this city is just one more example of the kind of corruption found among all capitalist politicians, from mayors to governors to senators to presidents. We live under a system controlled completely by rich bosses. Mayor John Street answers to these people, not to the workers of Philadelphia.

Prior to the November, 2003 mayoral election, a listening device was found in the Mayor’s office, eventually revealing that the FBI was investigating the wide-spread "pay-to-play" scandal in the Street administration. "Pay-to-Play" means "if you want favorable action from City Hall, you’ll have to pay for it."

FBI involvement in such routine corruption doesn’t mean it has become a crime-fighting organization. The FBI is just as corrupt as the politicians. Street and his cronies have funneled hundreds of millions to themselves while claiming the city is "broke." This "investigation’s" purpose is to send a clear message to small-fry politicos that such sloppy selfishness won’t be allowed by the big capitalists who rule Philadelphia.

The fact is: (1) ALL politicians are crooks, no matter what their skin color; and (2) Counting on a black mayor to "do the right thing" is no different than letting a fox "guard" the chicken coop. When workers need higher wages or better mass transit, Street cries "poverty." But when the bosses want a downtown, no-tax, "enterprise zone" or a cut in their taxes, Street always claims it "benefits" the city. These anti-worker schemes create bosses’ benefits on workers’ backs.

Black politicians claim that because they’re black they’re "better." But black politicians are just as corrupt, anti-worker and pro-boss as white politicians. Many people voted for Street thinking he was "better" than Republican Sam Katz. But BOTH are hucksters. Only the color of their skin and the particular business people who back them are different. Neither has ever fought for workers’ interests.

The FBI just released a tape of a telephone conversation between Street and one of his cronies, Philadelphia lawyer Ronald White. White was up to his ears in the pay-to-play scandal but died last November before his trial began. Street and White were caught on tape discussing how they were "now forced to play the race card." These two-bit crooks want people to think they’re being attacked "just because we’re black." What hypocrisy! All mayors and city officials have enforced the real effects of racism: cops gunning down black teenagers at will as well as black people suffering from higher unemployment and lower wages. These guys couldn’t care less about the sufferings of any workers. Once again, nationalism gets you nowhere. Elections under capitalism are designed to maintain the capitalist system. They only give workers a choice of who will oppress them. Workers need internationalism and a communist system to smash all bosses and their politician servants.

Palestinian and Israeli Workers Must Unite to Tear Down Apartheid Wall

I was part of a 12-person U.S, medical delegation, including 10 Jews, wh ich recently returned from 11 days in the West Bank, occupied by Israel for 40 years. This was the latest of several trips to provide medical assistance and gather information, in partnership with Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. We found that Israel has created conditions for the Palestinians resembling the oppression Jews themselves have suffered in the past.

The most startling aspect of the Occupied Territories (OT), which include the West Bank and Gaza, is the overwhelming presence of the Israeli military and the Wall. There are over 700 checkpoints in an area the size of New Jersey. One cannot travel over 30 minutes without being stopped. Access to every city is controlled by concrete barriers and barbed wire, where people and vehicles must line up to be scrutinized by teenage Israeli soldiers with machine guns. No Palestinian can pass a checkpoint or leave his/her town without a permit. In 2003, only 56,000 permits were issued for a population of 2,300,000.

Israel plans to surround the entire OT with a 2-story-high wall, now over 1/3 complete. Although the OT border was decided in 1967 and labeled the "Green Line," Israel is building 85% of the wall inside this border, thereby seizing 11.5% of territory supposedly in the West Bank. This is partly to surround Israeli settlements illegally built throughout the Palestinian territory, and partly to capture the land on the western border containing the greatest underground water supply. Israelis and Palestinians have separate road systems, with the former able to whiz from the settlements to Israel on modern highways while the latter drive on indirect rutted roads.

The inability of people to move freely has a tremendous impact on health. Even pregnant women about to deliver must stop at checkpoints and may not be allowed to pass. Fifty-six births have occurred at these barriers, causing several deaths. Fearful of this, fewer women are getting pregnant; 30% of new-borns are delivered at home. Although several sophisticated tertiary care hospitals exist in the West Bank, patient access is virtually impossible.

A new medical school in East Jerusalem has an impressive faculty and student body, but days are lost as faculty and students try to travel from clinical settings to the school for lectures and exams. The medical library has no journals later than 2001; obtaining replacement parts for CT scanners can take over a month. Patients with chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease cannot get regular access to medications, specialists or dialysis, even if only a short distance from these centers. Up to 70% of children’s inoculations may be ineffective because the long delays in transit render the vaccines useless.

Israel has seized control of 90% of the water, so farmers’ crops wither while Israeli settlers enjoy swimming pools and gardens. Barriers block many farmers from their fields. Palestinians can’t work in Israel, which now imports "guest workers," creating an unemployment rate of over 50% in most Palestinian cities and villages. Two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. Mental health and family relations suffer as children witness their parents being humiliated daily by soldiers and attacked by settlers.

The ostensible reason for this apartheid is to "protect Israel from terrorist attack," but terrorists do not cross checkpoints, and an agile person could easily skirt the barriers. Instead, the system degrades, impoverishes and humiliates all 3.5 million Palestinians and reinforces virulent racism among Israelis. Lack of contact between the two groups encourages nationalism and makes unified resistance very difficult.

There are fight-backs on both sides, sometimes uniting Israelis and Palestinians. Together, hundreds have gathered to harvest olives in barricaded groves or blocked or torn down sections of the fence and wall. Hundreds of Israeli students have refused to serve in the occupation; many have gone to prison. However, the so-called militant factions in Palestine, such as Hamas or the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, seem to fluctuate between cooperating with the Fatah party of Arafat and Abbas or launching terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. This is the nature of "national liberation" politics, followed by many OT activists.

The Israeli peace movement still believes Jewish persecution is "special" in the world, and that a Jewish state is needed to protect worldwide Jewry from present and future persecution. They don’t grasp the universal nature of racism and nationalism as bosses’ tools to oppress and divide workers and induce them to fight wars against each other. Many on both sides see Bush and Sharon as "special cases" of warmongers and fail to understand that U.S. imperialism’s need to control Mid-East oil will insure ongoing war and support for a militaristic Israel, no matter who’s in office.

In the 1970s, Israeli and Arab communists, friends of PLP, were building a revolutionary movement uniting workers in Israel and Palestine to fight for a united society without capitalism and racism. The politics of this small group was powerful enough for the Golda Meir regime to jail them for ten years. This movement must be rebuilt, based on the communist politics of fighting for multi-ethnic and international unity of all workers and youth. That’s the road out of the hell of endless wars and terror affecting the Middle East and the world.

600 Protest Racist LAPD Murder of Teenager;Boo Ex-Police Chief

LOS ANGELES, Feb 26 — Over 600 people marched to protest the LAPD police murder of Devin Brown. While politicians leading the march chanted "Stop the Killing," most marchers added, "LAPD, Stop the Killing!"

At the post-march rally, politicians tried to turn this outpouring of anger into a campaign opportunity for the Mayoral election. When mayoral candidate and ex-police chief Bernard Parks tried to co-opt this outrage, speaking about the "supposed excessive force" the police used against Devin Brown, many audience members booed and loudly expressed their anger at the word "supposed" in his speech. He barely stayed on stage for ten minutes.

Many bought CHALLENGE, agreeing that the bosses are increasing their terror because they fear the revolutionary potential of angry black and Latino youth in the military and in the factories.

Since this killing, the police killed 23-year-old Tony Diaz, shooting over 100 times into a moving vehicle. They claim he shot at them first, a story his friends refuted.

On May Day, PLP will march against racist police terror and the imperialist war in Iraq, calling for an alliance of workers, soldiers and students to fight for communist revolution to end these capitalist evils for good.

Everyone Can Learn Math — And Communist Politics

"The Myth of Ability," by John Mighton. Walker & Company, New York 2003.

Mighton is a University of Toronto math professor who demonstrates in this short book that all children are equally capable of learning mathematics — a principle — as will be seen — that can be applied to political development as well. Mighton disproves the almost universal belief that children differ in ability based on their genetic make-up.

He has developed a written program called JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) for teaching teachers how to teach — demonstrating that every child can be a prodigy, if taught correctly.

Mighton says the main aspect of correct teaching lies partly in the breaking down of mathematical ideas into the most basic elements, but mainly in convincing every child that she or he is capable of learning math at the same high level as the fastest students in the class. A student’s initial speed is generally a culmination of a series of events in early childhood, often not discoverable since it is interwoven in their daily lives. Nevertheless Mighton found that proper training can overcome these initial differences.

The main obstacle to learning math is discouragement after not succeeding immediately, stemming from teachers and parents falling for the myth that math ability is an innate genetic quality. Consequently, teachers and parents only reinforce the child’s discouragement when the latter doesn’t succeed immediately, crating a vicious circle in which success breeds success and failure breeds failure.

Mighton has written a JUMP program and taught it to hundreds of teachers and volunteers who are not necessarily mathematically trained themselves. The volunteers help teachers in Canada’s overcrowded classes, enabling entire classes of children — without exception — to succeed in math.

Mighton’s says no class should proceed until every child has grasped the current step. His methods include holding the interest of children who grasp a concept more quickly, and this changes from one step to the next.

Mighton has discovered that children’s intellectual development happens in discontinuous leaps and bounds. JUMP convinces teachers who initially believe that a particular child is incapable of learning that they were wrong. The implications of this approach go far beyond teaching children math. The principles apply to political work as well.

Part of the working class’s ability to win a revolution depends on its revolutionary Party becoming convinced that every worker is capable of learning to think as a dialectical materialist and to act as a communist. That every worker is capable of adopting a class outlook and understanding that capitalism is the source of almost all our problems. That every worker is capable of learning that only a revolution led by a revolutionary communist party, the PLP, can end the almost universal misery and horror of imperialism, racism, sexism, endless war and genocide.

PLP has adopted and developed this principle of universal political ability. However, capitalist propaganda about inherent ability and the dominance of one’s individual genetic makeup over her/his life partly undermines the conviction of many of us. Most professionals buy into that myth and lie. While PLP’s success in organizing workers, students and soldiers is a much greater antidote to this fatal capitalist concept, Mighton’s book is a partial antidote and can reinforce our resolve.

The ruling class — through research grants from its foundations, through think tanks, publishing houses and publicity in its mass media — fosters the belief that ability is innate and genetic. It serves the rulers’ interests for the working class and its children to believe they’re incapable of doing higher math or any kind of serious conceptual thinking, whether about science, literature or politics.

A recent U.S. governor’s conference bemoaned the fact that most high school students are ill-trained to cope with the technological world. They realize that they suffer from a shortage of scientists who can help develop increasingly sophisticated weaponry for the ruling class’s imperialist designs of control over the world’s oil supply and other resources, as well as over markets and labor supplies. The high school drop-out rate is also cutting into the ruling class’s ability to train workers to run the industrial machine. So they are looking for ways to train more, but not most, of the working class because generally they want to keep workers in the dark about their own abilities.

The book is particularly useful for PLP teachers and parents. It should help in struggles to improve the quality of teaching in the schools, a reform that is possible only to a very limited extent under capitalism, but can help organize working-class students for capitalism’s demise.

Concentration Camps: Second Nature to Capitalism (Conclusion of a five-part series.)

May 5 marks the 60th anniversary of the raising of the Red Flag over the Reichstag, the Nazi parliament in Berlin. Previous articles detailed OSS (predecessor of the CIA) recruitment of war criminals like SS Major Von Braun and other top Nazi scientists. They later became top honchos in NASA. Auschwitz and other concentration camps were used not only for the Nazi "final solution" but also to make super-profits for German industrialists. But the Nazis did not invent concentration camps; they are part and parcel of modern capitalism-imperialism.

The Southern slave plantations and Indian reservations in the U.S. preceded Auschwitz, murdering untold black and Native peoples. The Southern plantations resembled the Nazi labor camps, extracting huge profits from slave labor.

At the end of the 19th century, the British interned many thousands in concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer Wars. Actually many capitalist countries have used concentration camps at one time or another. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans were interned in camps in California and the Western U.S.

Today, U.S. bosses have their own concentration camps in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan, and even send prisoners to be tortured in other countries. Michael Ratner, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has written a book entitled, "Guantánamo: What the World Should Know," comparing the U.S. interrogation camps in that naval base to the WWII Nazi camps. Ratner states that the 1949 Geneva Convention specifically bans such camps to mistreat "enemy combatants," that they should be treated as POWs. That Geneva agreement was meant to prevent Nazi-type atrocities.

The U.S. government refuses to recognize prisoners in Guantánamo and other camps in Iraq and Afghanistan as POWs, instead labeling them "enemy combatants": "There is no legal justification for what they do, it matters little what they call the prisoners," adds Ratner. "The U.S. interrogators don’t use the regular questioning methods demanded by the Geneva Convention. They harass prisoners from morning to evening, torturing them, using cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, violating international treaties."

Ratner recalls that the U.S. military in Afghanistan put hundreds of people arrested by the Northern Alliance (U.S. allies) in containers so densely packed that the prisoners literally lay on top of one another. The heat was unbearable. Then soldiers shot the containers full of holes, slaughtering several hundred prisoners inside.

To whose who know the history of capitalism, how it was born in blood worldwide — as Marx said in "The Genesis of Capital" — none of this is surprising. But many still believe the U.S. is fighting "for democracy" in the Muslim world, and that torture is committed by "bad regimes" (like Saddam’s). But concentration camps, torture and mass terror are universal aspects of capitalism. The cruelty and murder may vary according to particular situations, but whether it’s Auschwitz or Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, terror and capitalism go hand-in-hand.

Bosses Desperate to Win Latin Youth for Its Imperialist Wars

In the U.S. Army’s latest TV commercial, a Latino youth is talking to his mother. "You taught me right from wrong; how to have confidence in myself. You want me to go to college," he says, trying to convince her of something. Soon the scene fades to blank with a big "Go Army" symbol and a phone number to call the recruiter.

The bosses are desperate for young Latino soldiers and for low-wage labor to work in their war-retooled industries. They’re campaigning to win Latin youth to believe the illusion that their future lies with U.S. imperialism. One of the bosses’ tricks is promoting new "American" heroes for us to die for.

In February, the City of San Antonio and corporate sponsors like Doritos organized a massive Martin Luther King Day march. Despite San Antonio being a racist city with a small black population, its MLK march of 60,000 was the country’s largest. In late March, San Antonio will sponsor a Caesar Chavez March.

To some, this seems like progress: the U.S. has recognized past racism and has become "more democratic." Many workers and students may march again to pay homage to these past struggles. But these marches are actually tools to fool workers into thinking freedom can be achieved through patriotic U.S. politics.

As head of the United Farm Workers (UFW), Chavez represented the powerful and connected, not the working class. During the Vietnam War, he argued that farm workers should rely on their class enemies, the federal government and the war-making Democratic Party, to win their rights. While militant farm workers organized to stop scabs, Chavez insisted upon pacifism, organizing boycotts that took workers far from the workplace — the site of their real power. Rank-and-file Mexican and Filipino workers tried to build unity, but Chavez promoted divisions. Most importantly, Chavez attacked undocumented workers.

The UFW organized vigilante squads to attack immigrants trying to cross the border, and required that workers wanting to join the union produce legal immigration papers. Chavez argued that U.S. workers would be better off if undocumented immigrants were barred from the U.S.

This divide-and-conquer line promoted U.S. nationalism — the idea that Chicanos were "better" than undocumented immigrants because they were born in the U.S. Yet ultimately farm workers were just as exploited as before. No wonder U.S. bosses are interested in promoting nationalists like Chavez to the working class. Facing declining Army enlistments, they hope to shovel large numbers of Latin youth into their army to fight and kill other workers in imperialist wars.

In Iraq, U.S. imperialists are fighting to keep oil away from their rivals. To justify this war, they claim they’re spreading "democracy" worldwide. Elevating union sellouts like Chavez as U.S. heroes is part of their effort to win workers to support U.S. imperialism. Workers and students must demand "U.S. out of Iraq!" and work to smash all imperialist wars and all nationalism with revolutionary communist internationalism. We should attend these marches with our friends to spread those ideas. We must challenge the bosses’ efforts to offer us heroes and holidays.

We should bring friends we meet at these bosses’ events to May Day — the working class’s real holiday. We celebrate the millions of working-class heroes who have stood for uncompromising unity against the racist and imperialist bosses.


Staying in for the Long Haul

My Senior Officers decided not to send me before the Captain for missing a day due to inclement weather. Their decision was based on what they perceive to be a change in my attitude towards the brass. They’re wrong; tactics may change, not the outlook.

A group of us had been struggling against a tyrannical Officer, managing to slow his attacks. However, the chain of command began to closely monitor my buddies and me. Usually, when you can’t report back on time for duty, you may be assigned extra duty. However, in my case, they took me before a Disciplinary Review Board.

At the hearing, the NCO (highest enlisted person) accused me of "skipping duty," having a "superiority complex" towards the Chain of Command and treating white superiors different from black superiors (even though some of my buddies who I’ve been struggling with are white). After the draconian hearing (essentially attempting to discipline an insubordinate worker), I decided on my own to either consciously disobey orders or leave the base. I left the base and met with a comrade.

He talked some sense to me — stay in it for the long haul, accept whatever discipline they hand out, momentarily hold back on directly attacking the brass, focus on building the base but don’t get too far ahead of them.

When I returned, several of my buddies (one white, one black) chastised me for leaving the base. They said I should have stayed and continued to struggle instead of running off. Both were right. Another buddy agreed with them. I felt my individualism had let down both my base and the collective by taking matters into my own hands instead of relying on my buddies and the Party for guidance.

Since the incident, while reducing direct attacks on the brass, I’ve continued to carefully distribute CHALLENGE and base-build. As a result, four buddies joined me at a local meeting about police brutality and some have committed to attend May Day.

I’ve learned that right now there are limits to our struggle, a practical feature of living under a bosses’ dictatorship. This has also taught me to have some patience and a stronger faith in the people I’m working with — to look to one’s base. I will continue to take a longer-term approach, knowing that we must stay in this struggle for the long haul in order to build a workers’ state. All Power to the Workers!

Red Soldier

Banning Unions Before They Start

When is a custodian not a custodian? Apparently, when he or she is not a member of a union. By labeling them "clean-up crews," public school districts have been able to keep some of the most essential workers without union protection, and in some cases without contracts. According to a number of school representatives, workers who are not already in a union are not to be labeled custodians.

In the local school system I attended, the custodians, teachers’ aides and typists had gone three years without a contract, despite mass support from both faculty and staff. This increasingly common practice is forcing thousands of workers into low-paying jobs without benefits or decent working conditions.

A friend who is a part-time custodian at an upstate New York school told me about some of his experiences. First, it’s stated up front that no employees shall join or form a union. Secondly, part-time workers are sometimes forced to stay until 10:00 P.M. (well beyond their normal shift, thus extending beyond legal part-time hours) but are denied contracts. Raises were promised every six months depending on job performance evaluation; however, no evaluation was ever made — therefore, no raise.

My friend told me about a worker who was the model employee: he stayed late when needed, never called in sick or took personal days, always worked to the best of his abilities and never complained. The only time he missed work was to look after his sick child. Apparently, under his contract as a full-time custodian, he had exhausted his sick days (which he had been forced to use not for himself, but for his child) and was fired on the spot.

Abuses like this against workers happen all the time, many of whom are unaware of their rights as workers. Upon hearing this, I gave my friend pamphlets on workers’ rights and offered him some copies of CHALLENGE to distribute amongst his fellow workers. He was more than happy to take them and told me that the others would be very excited to read them. I’m awaiting a report on the situation and remain ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help them in their cause.

A new comrade

A ‘Life-Changing’ Experience

On February 26th, my family and I went to a CHALLENGE/May Day Dinner at a friend’s house. I was the only high school student among many adults and children. Little did I know my eyes would be opened to all the hardships we must endure, everyday things we take for granted. Amid all the eating and hanging out, suddenly a conversation began about the things happening in our world, ranging from the war in Iraq to personal issues. I discovered many problems we don’t know about but need to be researched.

The people at the dinner are very involved in workers’ struggles, in spreading the truth and their ideas on what’s going on. Newspapers only give some of the facts. Who better to hear the truth from than those who actually live it?

We heard that CHALLENGE is written by the working class and has information we can’t get from a regular newspaper. It also teaches workers and students how to fight back.

Amid my amazement, the new May Day DVD was played. I marched on May Day four years ago but didn’t know much about why we were marching. This discussion revealed the importance of the march. I noticed people of all ages participating. I was inspired by all those people standing together, fighting for one cause, particularly by all the youth my age. It made me question what I’m learning in school. The video made me think, "Why shouldn’t I be able to stand up against the cruelty of racism and sexism in the work-place, my school and in my daily life? Why can’t I stand up against police brutality? WHY?" The dinner answered my question: "Why not?"

In the video a woman said she attended May Day as a "present" from her best friend. When she continued "…and it’s the best present I could ever get," it struck me that the ability to stand up to what others might fear is life-changing.

One person at the dinner said cops had approached her son after he greeted his friends and accused him of purchasing drugs. So many emotions ran inside me hearing that. Her son is my age. Now I want to let people know my opinions on people’s struggles and about my own. We made plans to organize a CHALLENGE student study group and involve my friends.

We’re off to a good start. Thirteen May Day DVDs and many CHALLENGES were distributed. I’m happy knowing that I too can contribute to the objectives of CHALLENGE and its supporters.

Bronx high school student

Youth’s Vital Role At Anti-War Conference

Some friends and I helped lead a workshop at the Educators to Stop the War Conference. I really enjoyed it. It was good to learn things about topics I never would have otherwise. I also was able to present a speech about my feelings as a youth growing up in New York, about my experience at a college fair, and what I face in the future if this society remains the same.

I liked the reaction to my speech. Many people asked a lot of questions and were interested in what I had to say, including my view that capitalism offers no future to youth, that we need a communist revolution.

I think it’s important for more youth to become active in the type of work my friends and I have been exposed to. We’re taken more seriously as young adults who matter, who have important things to say. The conference was very beneficial for others to see three young panelists who care enough to take action; and for us to see adults who care about the youth.

High School Red

Women ‘Hold Up Half The Sky’

Solidarity greetings on International Women’s Day (IWD) from political prisoners in Peru.

Women along with our male brothers must carry forward the struggle for common interests, not reducing them to gender, and fight for a better material and spiritual life. United we must break the chains that bind us. And as women suffering double oppression, we clearly see the need to break them.

In primitive communities life was not ruled by economic or social pressures. Those pressures came with slave societies (Greece, Rome, Ancient Egypt) where a state apparatus was formed. This led to women’s first major defeat, the end of matriarchal society, turning men against us. Women entered domestic servitude, beholden to their husbands, even though both belonged to the same social class. The state, religion and the family structure were used to keep women down.

We’re never told that women discovered agriculture because their daily duties led them to see how seeds sown into earth developed and flourished. Just this fact exposes how the role of women in history’s social and economic development is always ignored.

The church continued this oppression. "St." Thomas de Aquinas labeled women the "embodiment of the devil, perverse," helping keep women oppressed and ignorant. Feudalism maintained women in domestic chores, without the right to learn reading and writing In many societies women had to walk behind men.

The 20th century saw women joining the struggle for social emancipation of all. The great revolutions of the last century helped spur the fight against oppression of women. Their participation in production as workers and the great social upheavals helped women not only to fight for many rights which they deserved but also for the need to share everything with their fellow male workers. The idea that women hold half the sky helped shatter the narrow concept that it was just a gender fight, but rather one for total liberation from class oppression.

We are always fighting to break the isolation and rules our jailers have imposed on us here. Our comrade Myriam suffers very inhuman total isolation from the rest of us, even after 10 years of imprisonment.

These are our brief comments on IWD. We hope you succeed in your goals, and would appreciate any help in ending our isolation.

Revolutionary prisoners, Chorrillos, Lima, Peru

CHALLENGE COMMENT: The struggle for the liberation of women and all workers is linked to the struggle to defeat capitalism in all its forms: free market, state capitalist, Christian or Islamic fundamentalist. The defeat of the international revolutionary movement has been very costly for all workers in Peru and worldwide. But the struggle will continue, this time for a communist society where men and women will finally be freed from all forms of oppression.

‘Million Dollar Baby’: Capitalist View of Human Nature

The letters in CHALLENGE (3/16) regarding the review of "Million Dollar Baby" (3/2) were unnecessarily negative. The comrade from the "Frozen North" deserves a great deal of credit for analyzing a bit of capitalist culture, especially since such critiques are rare in CHALLENGE.

Resources are in short supply I’m sure; and, true, the review could have been longer and more explanatory. However, the letter writers’ missed the comrade’s correct point: capitalism chooses what to portray and how to express the portrayal. In this case Eastwood created a film in the genre of hopelessness, a sub-species of the main genre: collective struggle is impossible. Daytime TV specializes in this field, particularly the "innocent victim" variety.

Capitalist culture is intended to manipulate the audience to accept a particular view of "human nature": greedy, helpless, mired in religious superstition, pointlessly brutal and rescued only by a "hero." Clearly the letter writers were profoundly affected by this manipulation.

In the absence of Communist culture, PLP should be destructively critical of the capitalist view of "human nature" in all its media forms. Instead of being "gut wrenchingly" moved, workers might become angry at such insidious manipulation.

A long-time reader

Eastwood’s Fascist Attack on Disabled

My friends and I think the movie "Million Dollar Baby" is fascist because it promotes euthanasia or murder of disabled people. The working class is under attack, and our disabled, ill and elderly are the most vulnerable. Politicians discuss taking apart Social Security and Medicare; Medicaid and in-home support services are slashed; millions have no access to health care whatsoever; and the bosses’ wars disable more people daily. So what does Hollywood offer us? Death in the form of an unlikely injury with suicide as the only reasonable resolution.

Director and millionaire Clint Eastwood is no friend of the disabled. Angered by a lawsuit against a hotel he owns where restrooms were inaccessible, he testified before Congress against the Americans with Disabilities Act, calling it "a form of extortion." He’s made a movie in which no one on the hospital staff offers support, counseling or medication to someone struggling with depression from a new and devastating injury. Eastwood’s message is clear: life with disability is without value and better ended. This was a position implemented by the Nazis in the 1930’s and extended to the elderly and other "undesirables."

In the article, "Why Disability Studies Matter," Leonard J. Davis points out, "It’s a lot easier to make a movie in which we weep for the personal defeat of a person who loses a leg or two, or cry with joy for the triumph of an individual with disabilities, than it is to change the whole way we as a society envision, think about, and deal with people who are disabled." As workers and organizers, we need to learn to look beyond individual problems to societal causes. Disability is a part of life that sooner or later touches us all. How can we raise these issues with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers? How would a communist society deal with and integrate those with illness and limitations?

Reviewer’s Response

I don’t think my review of "Million Dollar Baby" (CHALLENGE, 3/2) deserved such nasty, uncomradely attacks as printed in CHALLENGE (3/16). One writer says the Morgan Freeman character was anything but an uncle tom: "He could have been any color." That’s true, and Freeman is a good actor, but he was chosen for the role, I contend, for the same reason a black actor was chosen to play the betraying Judas in "Jesus Christ, Superstar." In whose interest was making the bad guy in that movie black? Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice do their fascist jobs very well, regardless of their color, but anyone who doubts that the rulers use them for other motives is sadly naïve. Would it be wrong to call them uncle toms?

My examining the two vicious black fighters and comparing them to Freeman’s character suggested his was not the best way a black character might have acted. He accepts with an ironic smile an incredibly racist, though naïve, remark from one fighter. Couldn’t he have explained to the guy that he was a victim of racist propaganda, but should watch his mouth in the future? Apparently Eastwood felt this would have been wrong. (Freeman was right in beating up a black fighter who had been sadistically pounding on the same man who called Freeman the "n" word. But from a structural point of view, what did this imply?)

A comrade once told me a southern guy he worked with said to a terrific black co- worker, "If I ever use a word that offends you, please forgive me. That’s how I was raised." The black worker replied: "Sure, and if I wind up punching you out, please understand that’s how I was raised." Which irony do you prefer?

Also, I don’t see that Eastwood’s previous openness as a fascist figure has been modified, either by this movie or "The Unforgiven," A friend suggested I see "Unforgiven." When I told a friend I thought Eastwood’s a fascist, the friend said, "He was a fascist, but here he’s apologizing for it." After seeing it I told him, "Unforgiven’s more fascistic." In the last scene when Eastwood’s riding out of town, one of the bad has a perfect shot at Eastwood’s retreating back but doesn’t fire. This simply implies he’s a Nazi "superman." Many people watch movies and think they’re just looking in someone’s window. No! Writers and directors are using a general over-riding metaphor — called by fascist poet T.S. Eliot "the objective correlative."

I don’t think the movie is an "indictment of boxing," or that it’s a "great film," though my review said it was generally well-made and well-acted. Which makes it even worse, having more power to suck us in. "The Godfather" was a great movie, but I have no illusions about its not being racist, anti-Semitic, pro-business and ultimately fascist. It was wonderfully written, made and acted, and its power is what I have against it. More so than this movie, which — except for what happens to Maggie — is a fairly trite story, and not at all anti-boxing. (If the film had continued the rise of Maggie’s character, there essentially wouldn’t have been a movie.)

Why didn’t anyone attack my point about the disgusting anti-white working-class message of the film? Doesn’t that matter? My charge of racism against black people was denied, not answered.

The tone of the letters is the way to shut people up. It takes more thought and political arguing than is shown by saying, "I liked it." So what? I somewhat liked it too, until after some thought I separated what it says from how it says it. Hollywood, and especially Eastwood, with his pro-vicious cop, anti-people persona he carries around like a third arm, poisons and deludes good people. I think the two fans fall into this category. Cleaning up at the Oscars further proves my point.

Perhaps I’m way off in my analysis, but don’t question my motives: prove me wrong. If you only want people to repeat what they "feel," you’re not going to have any dialogue at all. You can’t learn without struggle.

North Country Red


Excerpts from mainstream newspapers exposing a bit of the true nature of the system

Poll makes Marx a Founding Father

Most adults haven’t read the Constitution since grade school….

Another recent survey found that two out of three Americans believe that Karl Marx’s blueprint for communism — "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" — is part of this nation’s defining document. (L.A. Times)

Iraq shows limits of US power

A low-tech enemy force estimated at about 10,000 fighters has stymied the mightiest military establishment the world has ever seen. To be sure, the adversary cannot defeat us militarily. But neither can we defeat it…

The actual limits of American power now lay exposed for all to see…. (LA Times, 2/23)

Vets left uninsured and homeless

But when a vet does return to home and hearth you might suppose that at the very least he would be well cared for. Forget it. The president has reduced the income threshold for entitlement to health care. Now if you earn more than $25,000 from all sources, you’re medically on your own. Consequently whole regiments of vets have no health insurance at all, while damage to their lungs, brains and nervous systems is not considered "service-connected." Nor are there any longer housing programs, so traumatized vets are homeless far beyond their ratio in the community. (Liberal Opinion Week, 3/2)

Over $500 billion yearly for army

To fund the war machine needed to push foreign policy objectives in the Middle East and to guarantee military dominance in the world….[yearly] spending will rise to $419.3 billion, not including the $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, and billions more for the military hidden in other agency budgets.

U.S. military spending is now larger than the rest of the world’s combined. The second largest is by China, at $51 billion….

Double death rate for black men

Middle-aged black men are dying at nearly twice the rate of white men of a similar age, reflecting lower incomes and poorer access to health care, a study has found….

The death rate for black men ages 45 to 54 was 1,060 per 100,000 in 2000, compared with a rate of 503 for white men. (NYT, 2/10)

Inter-imperialist rivalry heating up

Adm. William Fallon,…to become commander, U.S. Pacific Command said…the United States must closely watch China’s "unprecedented" growth in military spending and maintain a "credible" deterrence against North Korea to facilitate six-party nuclear talks.

"Although the economic relationship between the United States and China is expanding, we must gain greater insight into China’s growth in military spending, its intentions toward Taiwan, and its regional strategy in Asia and the Pacific," Fallon said….

…Fallon said the planned U.S. military global realignment will not affect the capabilities to defend South Korea and Japan and to deal with a possible crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

As for the stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, Fallon said, "The U.S. Pacific Command’s job is to facilitate ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing the threat, while maintaining a credible deterrent posture." (Navy Times, 2/28)

Afghans’ abusers set up Abu Ghraib

Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public….

The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the Army report said….

…The battalion went on to Iraq, where some members established the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib and have been implicated in some abuses there. (NYT, 3/12)

‘Democracy’ serves Big Business

Watching the 109th Congress, one would be forgiven for thinking our Constitution was the blueprint for a government of Big Business, by Big Business and for Big Business….

Here’s the agenda….First, limit people’s power to right wrongs done to them by corporations. Next force people to repay usurious loans to credit card companies that make gazillions off the fine print. Then, for coup de grace, hand over [U.S.] history’s most successful public safety net [Social Security] to Wall Street.

Of course,…."Tort reform," "eliminating abuse of bankruptcy" and "keeping Social Security solvent" are the preferred Beltway phrasings for messing with the little guy. (LA Times, 2/23)