In 1884, the AFL passed a resolution to make eight hours "a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." Workers were forced to labor "from sun-up to sundown," up to 14 hours a day. The Chicago Central Labor Council then called for a general strike on May 1, 1886, to institute the 8-hour day.
On that day, Chicago stood still as "Tens of thousands downed their tools and moved into the streets. No smoke curled from the tall chimneys of the factories and mills," reported one paper.
On May 3, the cops murdered six strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works. The next day thousands marched in protest into Chicago's Haymarket Square. A bomb was thrown by a police agent. Four workers were killed, seven cops died and 200 workers were wounded in what became known as the Haymarket Massacre.
Nine demonstration leaders were framed for "instigating a riot." Four were hung. A mass protest movement forced the Governor to free those still alive when the government admitted the frame-up.
The tens of thousands who won the 8-hour day saw it eroded, so another general strike was called for May 1, 1890. At the July 1889 meeting of the International Workers Association, organized and led by Karl Marx, the U.S. delegate reported on the struggle. The Association decided "to organize a great international demonstration, so that...on one appointed day the [world's] toiling masses shall demand..." the 8-hour day. "Since a similar demonstration has already been decided upon by the American Federation of Labor....this day is adopted for the international demonstration." [This kind of international solidarity is vitally needed today.]
As it progressed, the international communist movement took up the struggle and organized May 1st celebrations every year. In the U.S., it was championed for many years by the old Communist Party, with 250,000 marching in New York City in the 1940's. But when that party abandoned its principles, May Day was resurrected by the Progressive Labor Party in 1971 which advanced more revolutionary ideas. May Day marches have been organized by the PLP for the past 35 years, in cities such as Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Delano, California and others, as well as PLP contingents in Latin America.
While the bosses try to smear May Day as being "imported from Soviet Russia," it remains as a signal contribution of the world's workers that grew from the actions of those Chicago strikers over a century ago. Today we march for the universal demands of all workers, regardless of capitalist-created borders: against imperialist war, against racism and sexism, for unity of immigrant and citizen workers, against wage slavery, against fascist police terror and for the communist solution to all these attacks facing the international working class.
How prophetic were the last words of Haymarket martyr August Spies as the hangman's noose was tied around his neck and he declared, "There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!"
Capitalism always seeks maximum profits. Even if the rulers could reduce the war budget, the reduction would be invested in the search for maximum profits. These profits come from exploiting workers even more. That's how capitalism operates.
There can be no "peace dividend" because U.S. capitalism -- built on the slavery of millions of black people and genocide against Native Americans -- has been at war throughout its history, invading scores of countries, and has been on a permanent war footing for 65 years. After the end of World War II, U.S. rulers launched the Cold War against the then-socialist Soviet Union and China. They poured billions down the Chiang-Kai Shek rat-hole, trying to defeat the then-Chinese communists. They spent more hundreds of billions in the Korean and Vietnam wars, trying to "stop the spread of communism." During the Cold War they spent trillions establishing military bases around the world, encircling the Soviet Union and China.
After the collapse of the then capitalist Soviet Union, the wishful thoughts of a "peace dividend" were dashed with the invasion of Somalia, Gulf War I, the air war against Yugoslavia and the current invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. More wars are on the horizon -- Iran, North Korea, Syria, and who knows where else.
When they're not spending trillions on open hostilities, they're spending billions on "proxy wars" in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Colombia, or overthrowing anti-U.S. forces in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), Grenada (1983) and the failed interventions in Cuba (Bay of Pigs) or sending 38,000 Marines to crush a popular uprising in the Dominican Republic (1965) and Haiti (1997 under Clinton and 2004 under Bush).
The U.S. ruling class has military bases in over 60 countries, plus 14 floating aircraft carrier bases containing 200,000 personnel on the accompanying destroyers, cruisers, submarines, bombers and fighter aircraft, missiles and thousands of ground troops.
Maintaining a U.S. military presence in the Middle East without the Iraq war costs a billion dollars a week. The war in Iraq costs another billion a week. Wherever the U.S. launches a war, it builds new military bases to be used in future wars, producing billions in profits for the likes of Haliburton & Co. After the murderous attack on Yugoslavia, the U.S. built a base in Kosovo, housing 7,000 military personnel, with stores, schools, airfields, supply depots, and the largest hospital in Europe. In Iraq, the U.S. is building fourteen permanent military bases.
These wars and war budgets are supported by all sections of the U.S. ruling class. Neither liberals nor conservatives call for the U.S. withdrawing its military from around the world. After all,every president -- Democrat and Republican -- from Truman to Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Bush put them there. Ever since the Carter administration, U.S. rulers' strategy has been based on maintaining control of Middle East oil as part of the bosses' "national interest."
The "liberals" criticize Bush for not having spent the hundreds of billions for war "wisely," not for attacking the workers' standard of living or for the racist attacks against blacks and immigrants, particularly Muslim. They say that after 9/11 Bush's ineptitude wasted a window of opportunity to mobilize the entire country for racist, endless wars and a fascist police state. Instead, now the military is having problems meeting its recruitment quotas.
We should continue to expose how the imperialist war budget is slashing workers' wages, jobs and healthcare, and sharpen the class struggle to fight these attacks and the bosses' imperialist slaughter. We should explain that these attacks are built into capitalism and its drive for maximum profits.
Capitalism can only produce permanent war, not a "peace dividend."
The few gains workers made in the past -- mainly when communists led the class struggle -- are now being reversed, from Moscow to Berlin to Beijing to Detroit to Mexico City to Lagos. This May Day we in PLP vow to avoid the errors of the old communist movement -- which limited itself to reforming an unreformable capitalism. We vow to lead the international working class to turn all struggles into schools for communism, to turn the imperialist wars into class war to wipe out all the bosses and build a society based on workers' needs, not on the warmaking bosses' drive for maximum profits.
Ratzinger denounced the most recent U.S. invasion of Iraq as not meeting Catholicism's criteria for a "just war." He said the U.S. should have followed the lead of the UN Security Council -- essentially France and Russia. Ratzinger slapped a form of excommunication on Democrat John Kerry -- who had war plans far grander than the Bush gang's -- by ordering priests not to give the pro-choice, remarried candidate communion. So the liberal media in turn attack the new pope's right-wing orthodoxy, recalling that the man who styles himself Benedict (blessed) was dubbed God's Rottweiler and Panzerkardinal even by loyal Catholics.
The New York Times (4/21) worried on its front page, "The election of an unstintingly conservative pope could inject a powerful new force into the intense conflicts in American politics....Catholic voters, long overwhelmingly Democratic, have become a critical swing vote." The leading liberal mouthpiece lamented the church's role in defeating the potentially more capable warmaker Kerry: "Mr. Bush carried 56 percent of the white Catholic vote in 2004, up from 51 percent in 2000 -- a formidable part of his conservative coalition."
To distance an important part of this bloc from Rome, the Times-owned Boston Globe impugned Benedict's credibility regarding his Nazi episode. In the Globe's target area, the Democratic Party and leadership are heavily white and Catholic. Under the headline, "Questions Over Wartime Past, Church's Future," the Globe (4/21) flatly contradicted Ratzinger's claim that belonging to the Hitler Youth was compulsory. It quoted Rev. Rupert Berger, a former classmate of Ratzinger's, who refused to join because his resistance leader father had been shipped off to Dachau. "You could not be forced to join" Berger said, adding that his only punishment was a steep hike in his school tuition.
Back in New York, with a different electoral landscape, the Times (4/21) printed the lie, "enrollment in the Hitler Youth was mandatory." So much for the liberals' vaunted "truth and objectivity." Although granting full absolution on the Nazi issue, the opportunistic Times plays to its own liberal middle-class audience and slams Benedict's views on abortion, birth control, euthanasia and stem cell research.
But Benedict's role in the imperialist rivalry troubles U.S. rulers even more than his meddling in domestic politics. His anti-U.S. stance on Iraq is just one example. The Times' April 20 editorial decried the pope's staunch opposition to admitting Turkey into the European Union. Turkey, a poor nation by European standards, will soon have more people than Germany. U.S. rulers want it in the EU to dilute the political power of France and Germany and saddle their treasuries with tens of billions of dollars in aid handouts. Turkey is also home to the U.S. Air Force's huge Incirlik base, which supports the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan and guards Persian Gulf oil routes. The pope's position, gaining favor in Paris and Bonn, could dash the Pentagon's dreams of an EU checked by U.S. bases stretching from Scotland to the Black Sea. Rather than full membership, France has proposed granting Turkey "special status." Germany's Christian Democrats have suggested a "privileged partnership."
The old Third Reich warrior now soldiers for grateful European imperialists. In 1998, France made Ratzinger commander in its prestigious Legion of Honor. In his acceptance speech, Ratzinger spoke, not of the church, but of fostering political unity between France and Germany. Unlike John Paul, who turned against U.S. rulers late in life, Benedict has loathed them ever since he swore fealty to the Fuhrer at age 14.
Workers and youth have good reasons to fear Benedict XVI, Yes, he was a Nazi and stands to the right of Torquemada (the original Inquisitor). He wants to go back to the dark ages. But we shouldn't fall for the trap of siding with U.S. liberals on this or any issue. They seek to further U.S. imperialism through ever more murderous wars, and the pope stands in their way. Our struggle is for a world without any bosses and their defenders, be they the Vatican or the New York Times. That's the side the communist PLP takes. Join us!
This has forced tens of millions of workers from Latin America, Asia and Africa to migrate to the more industrialized capitalist countries. The U.S. has been a main recipient of this migration. Despite what they might claim, all U.S. bosses agree on the need to exploit this immigrant labor. Both their Democrat and Republican politicians have enacted racist immigration laws to better super-exploit this labor and drive down the cost of all labor.
It's worked wonders for them. In the last decade, when more immigrants than ever entered the U.S., the U.S. gross domestic product has grown more relative to its main competitors, except China. "The main factor driving higher U.S. economic growth is not greater productivity gains; it is a more rapidly expanding population." ("Mind the Gap," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005)
But productivity is also a big factor. Despite U.S. bosses' claims, European workers are actually more productive than U.S. workers. However, U.S. workers seem to be more productive because they work 40% more than Europeans workers, mainly because of the "labor flexibility" U.S. bosses enjoy.
"Labor flexibility...critical to GDP growth" is closely related to the "receptivity to immigrants....The U.S. has ten times more foreign-born citizens than the EU." (Foreign Affairs) "Labor flexibility" refers to the U.S. bosses' ability to absorb and exploit skilled and unskilled immigrant workers, as well as other workers, subjecting them to low wages, speed-up, and long hours with little or no benefits.
While this attack on U.S. workers has bolstered U.S. bosses' profits, their competitive edge is now being erased because their main rivals are also using this tactic to attack their own workers. During this period, most U.S. workers' wages and living standards have declined sharply, while their work-hours have increased.
Immigrants have also become an important factor in U.S. imperialism's military, helping to project its global power. Tens of thousands serve in the bosses' armed forces. Hundreds of thousands work in war-related industries. Immigrants contribute substantially to local and federal government coffers. Undocumented workers alone pay over $7.5 billion yearly into Social Security, money they'll never see. It builds the surplus the government robs to pay its bills and for its oil wars.
Immigrant workers are therefore crucial to propping up the bosses' system. As the imperialists' international competition for markets, natural resources and cheap labor sharpens, so does the bosses' need to intensify the exploitation of these and all workers. Therefore, they're forced to integrate immigrants more into their key industries and armed forces. So the bosses must deal with what to do with the more than 10 million undocumented workers living here.
The debate isn't whether to deport them, but how to best exploit them. Some bosses and their politicians advocate a more openly racist/fascist immigration "reform"; others want to give it a more "humane" face. But regardless, their main goals are: (1) to win immigrants to patriotism, so they'll enlist in the armed forces to fight for U.S. imperialism; and (2) to secure a source of cheap, loyal labor for their expanding war industry. This issue is also being use to pass fascist laws that will be used against all U.S. citizens. (See box)
Immigrant workers are very important economically, militarily and politically. They're not "insignificant" as the bosses want us believe or "defenseless victims" as others portray them. They're in key positions, able to play a leading role in the struggle for the liberation of the international working class. Their future lies with uniting with their working-class citizen brothers and sisters -- black, Latin, white, Arab and Asian -- not voting for pro-imperialist Democratic or Republican politicians.
United, immigrant and citizen workers have the potential to paralyze the bosses' military-industrial complex and lead rebellions inside the bosses' war machine against imperialist war. They do not need pity, charity or mercy from any politician or boss. They do need two things: communist ideas and to join the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party.
Together we'll forge the international unity, determination and long-term commitment of workers, students and soldiers to fight for communism, where production for need, not for profit, will utilize the creative power of the entire working class to the fullest. No worker will need to migrate searching for a job. Yet, in a world with no borders, all workers will always be welcome everywhere.
We don't march behind the "red, white and blue" of U.S. imperialism, or the flag of any other boss. We march holding high the red flag of workers' power, which means: "Workers of the World, Unite! Fight for Communism!"
What's Next? Hard Time for Not Doing Homework? ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. April 23 - First, they arrest two teenagers in New York City and accused them of being "possible suicide bombers" just because they are Muslim. Then, an assistant principal treats 4th grade Haitian students at a Queens Village, NY school like animals and forces them to eat on the floor without silverware just because a couple of students in their class had a little fight. Now, a 5-year old girl [!] in a St. Petersburg school is handcuffed by three cops and put in the back of a police car just because she had a temper tantrum. What's next? Hard time for any kids not doing their homework? Welcome to public school systems across these United States under the Patriot Act.
A video camera captured images of the girl tearing papers off a bulletin board, climbing on a table and flailing her arms in front of an assistant principal before police were called to Fairmount Park Elementary.
Then it shows the child appearing to calm down before three officers approach, pin her arms behind her back and handcuff her as she screams, "No!" After being placed in the back of a police cruiser, police released the girl to her mother but only after prosecutors informed the cops they wouldn't bring charges against a 5-year-old.
Inga Atkins, the outraged mother, has hired an attorney to bring charges against the cops who handcuffed her daughter. Lawyer John Trevena, who provided the tape to the media this week after obtaining it from police, says the officers went too far. "The image itself will be seared into people's minds when you have three police officers bending a child over a table and forcibly handcuffing her," said Trevena. "It's incomprehensible ... There was no need for that," he added.
But in the minds of the school administrators and cops who did this, it's very comprehensible, based on the racist profiling of black and Latino students -- even 5-year-olds -- and on the fascist-like mentality created by the Patriot Act and the endless wars of U.S. imperialism.
Paraphrasing what a German minister said as the Nazis were arresting him: "First they came for the Muslim high school girls, then for the Haitian 4th graders, then for a 5-year-old girl... When they came for my kids there was no one left to protest." Let's make sure there are plenty of people to protest this racist outrage.
The Administration for Children's Services is being investigated for allegedly using "465 foster children in HIV drug trials, sometimes without testing them for the disease.... Most of the children...were black or Hispanic."
Vera Sharov, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, said many of the children were tested without their consent. On some occasions, she reported, children were removed from foster parents who refused to approve of the drug tests.
Sharov said, "Those experiments were not about helping children. Helpless children of color were exploited and made to suffer so that others could make money."
Such is the racist profit system's "regard" for children, particularly black and Latino kids. It seems that no matter what the nature of the horror, capitalism can always top itself.
The demonstrators included home health care aides, nursing home and hospital workers. An alliance of the 1199/SEIU union leadership and the greater New York Hospital Association organized the rally. Not one speaker had a cure for capitalism's on-going health care crisis.
Several workers from one hospital were disappointed with the union uniting with the hospital bosses to fight cuts. Clearly this alliance will mislead workers to rely on the hospital bosses and politicians who represent the profit system. As one worker stated, "The politicians and the bosses must be held accountable for any health care cuts that would result in workers deaths and layoffs."
However, the budget was passed. The union, Governor Pataki and the legislature claimed "victory." Pataki's $400 million cut in the Medicaid program will have a great impact on the working-class poor.
Pataki, the hospital bosses and the labor leaders have said more hospitals must close so that the survivors can "thrive." The 1199/SEIU union leadership agrees with the appointment of a commission to oversee this process.
So far, since 1996, 33 hospitals have closed in NY State, mostly in poor communities. St. Mary's Hospital and North General Hospital, both located in predominantly black communities, are candidates for closing. Institutional racism has made these closings particularly devastating for black and Latino workers since they already have a high unemployment rate. These actions will cause more suffering in those communities.
The health care system is in terminal crisis. Every day thousands of workers search for medical care. They may lose a full day's pay for a single doctor's appointment, whether with a private physician or a hospital clinic. Meanwhile, workers are constantly waging battles with their bosses against short-staffing, violations of patient care and to keep whatever benefits they have.
Workers must fight union leaders who defend the bosses' system, uniting workers across all borders to wage war against capitalist exploitation. Capitalism cannot meet the needs of workers and patients to improve health care through preventive measures and to assure health care for all in a non-racist health care system. Only in a communist-run system, without bosses, politicians and rich people, can the working class have a commitment to each other.
So stated a support staff worker after a recent union meeting at Evanston High School (ETHS.) The Director of Human Resources attended the meeting to blame us for the school district losing money by not reporting time off the job. The Director announced a new policy: all employees who've exhausted their sick or vacation time must now sign a time sheet (this affected 4 of 125 support staff members; most of their lost time was due to medical issues). The Friday before spring break, these four workers received only a fraction of their normal pay and others received layoff notices.
In March the ETHS school board unanimously passed a budget that cuts teachers, staff and programs for September. The administration plans to chop an additional $2.5 million next year. These cuts will be dwarfed by the slashing of almost 1,000 teacher positions, program cuts, and increased class sizes in Chicago's public schools next year. While billions are going for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Homeland Security, 80% of Illinois schools are sinking under a $175 million budget deficit! Chicago receives $350 million a year in Homeland Security funding, while the public schools, with 90% black and Latin students, will be devastated by these racist cuts.
Our response is to build a fighting PLP among teachers, students and school workers, and from Evanston and Chicago, we will be marching on May Day.
The opening May Day speech was so impassioned that we couldn't show the movie right away; we had to discuss questions like what communism means, what it would look like and if violent revolution is necessary.
A highlight of the evening was a middle-aged African American woman's response to the need to overthrow capitalism. She recalled the Vietnam War, when her son was first born, and that she had cried when she first held him in her arms, thinking of how he would probably be sent overseas to die for some boss's profits. "I was very much aligned with the Black Panther Party," she said. "...But I came to realize...that when a mother cries, her tears have no color. Suffering has no color."
She said she's not allied with communism in particular, but she's not against it either. She knows that capitalism kills and must be destroyed, and a new life built for workers everywhere, on workers' terms. Whatever brings that about, she said, "I'm for it."
We need to strengthen our work here to become a force in the Baltimore area generally, a city certainly in dire need of revolutionary politics. The murder rate here is three times that of Los Angeles and five times that of New York. The vast majority live in pretty horrendous poverty by U.S. standards. Many are illiterate.
Our successful May Day dinner is a good step on the road to expansion, reflected in one dinner participant's enthusiastic question, "Hey, when's your next meeting?"
In 1970, there were 46,000 autoworkers in New Jersey assembly plants, in Edison, Edgewater, Kearny and Mahwah. Now there are none. The Ford Edison plant closed in February 2004.
While the Linden plant is not yet officially closed, 1,700 workers are being permanently laid off and there are no plans to restart the line. Some will move to GM plants in Texas, Michigan and Missouri and others will retire.
Over almost 70 years, the Linden plant produced nearly nine million Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles. It once employed 6,000 workers and was the first factory outside of Detroit to build Cadillacs. During World War II, women worked the line building fighter planes.
A few of us in PLP worked at Linden for a short time, after having been fired from the Ford Mahwah plant in 1973. We had done a fair amount of communist and anti-racist political organizing at the Ford plant, selling plenty of CHALLENGES and culminating in a week-long series of wildcat strikes and physical fights with the union leadership in June.
In August, the Party led 350 Chrysler workers to take over the Mack Ave. stamping plant against racism, health and safety hazards and the firing of another PLP member. After the 1973 Mack Sit-Down in Detroit, UAW President Leonard Woodcock declared PLP "Public Enemy #1," and the union worked with the auto bosses to purge PLP from the auto industry.
That fall, a group of NJ industrial unions called for a mass rally protesting the OPEC oil embargo against the U.S. We went, CHALLENGES and leaflets in hand, with our union, Linden UAW local 595. The Ford Mahwah union hacks saw us and told the Linden union hacks who we were. The Linden hacks then told GM, who immediately fired us for "falsifying job applications." The fact that there are no more auto plants in Jersey is, at least in part, the legacy of this pro-boss, racist and anti-communist union leadership.
Former Linden GM Red
Gutierrez supported the mass uprising that ousted President Mahuad in 2000. He then won the 2002 election, backed by the leadership of the mass movement, CONAIE (the native people's organization) and the fake leftist People's Democratic Movement. Their leaders even became cabinet members early in the Gutierrez government. But soon Gutierrez turned from a "friend of the people" to another supporter of the Bush-Uribe Plan Colombia (militarization of the region) and the International Monetary Fund. Recently, Gutierrez came to NYC and was hailed by Wall Street. He was praised by LatinSource, a Wall Street analyst of Latin American economies, for "Ecuador outperforming even the most optimistic scenario." (NY Times, 4/25). Of course, this was at the expense of Ecuador's workers, peasants and youth. Four-fifths of the population live in poverty; hundreds of thousands have been forced to immigrate to the U.S. and Europe in search of a job; the dollarization of the economy actually ruined many small businesses.
A section of the bourgeoisie began to fight Gutierrez over the spoils. Former President Febres Cordero and his right-wing Social Christian Party led the struggle to oust Gutierrez. They had major disagreements over the privatization loot (the state-owned oil company Petroecuador and the telecommunication companies Pacifictel and Andinatel are on the privatization table). Gutierrez fought back, making alliances with the hated and crooked former President Bucaram ("el loco"), toppled by mass protests in 1997. He replaced the Supreme Court judges with his appointees, pardoning Bucaram -- convicted of corruption -- allowing him to return to Ecuador in April. This was the final straw, leading to mass protests sacking Gutierrez.
Now Gutierrez's Vice-President Palacio, who recently broke with him, is the new President. He's taken a less pro-U.S. position, even promising to review the presence of U.S. troops in the Manta military base on the Pacific Coast. Whether the new government actually fulfills its promises is questionable. After all, Gutierrez also came to power as a "pro-people" candidate.
What remains is "the same dog with a different collar." The same ruling class is still in power; capitalism remains intact. Racism is still rampant, attacking the indigenous people. The opportunism of the indigenous movement's and fake left's leadership hasn't changed -- just as in Bolivia, where mass protests also ousted a very unpopular president two years ago, but conditions are the same. As a matter of fact, Febres Cordero and the old bourgeoisie seem to be the real winners.
So one aspiring dictator was ousted to be replaced by the old bourgeois dictators. The missing ingredient is a red leadership that turns the anger of the masses into a revolutionary storm to oust all of them -- the bosses and their system -- instead of replacing one fascist for another.
This occurs a month after a military/police invasion of several farmer "liberated zones" and the kidnapping/murder of an ex-president's daughter, supposedly carried out by an armed wing of the Socialist Party (PPL) and by police allegedly trained in kidnapping by Colombia's FARC guerillas.
The Interior Minister asked the press "to be responsible" and not to "alarm" the public with "big headlines" like "militarization" or "policization" of the country. Simultaneously with the launching of the official police state, President Duarte Frutos repeated his request for a national intelligence service. Paraguayan Secret Service will keep track of "agitators" and threats to the ruling class -- teachers, students, farmers and workers.
Paraguay is South America's second poorest country and the second most corrupt in the world. Discontent is widespread. Farmers "without roofs/land" frequently protest. However, their demands for agrarian reform have been ignored. Duarte Frutos has attacked farmers who squat on government land, and has threatened to "pull them out by their ears." Students also protest at the National University in their struggle to receive a cost-friendly education. Teachers are constantly striking, many working for more than five years without pay! Indigenous groups are the targets of racism and are relegated to selling jewelry at the bus stations and airport. The economic crisis constantly breeds kidnappings and crime, the supposed reason for the maximum-security alert. The ruling class feels its interests are threatened and therefore enforces the police state.
This all occurs with the support and under the watchful eye of Uncle Sam, with military bases and CIA agents across the country supposedly fighting drugs and international terrorism. So capitalism in crisis and its endless wars are creating the police state. Neither the oppositionist PPL, the Beloved Motherland Party (Patria Querida PPQ), the Liberal Party or the ruling Colorado Party, which has been in power for over 50 years, can make conditions better since they all serve one form or another of capitalism. Although the farmers' resistance (even with armed struggle) and organizing is encouraging, the key ingredient missing here and throughout the continent is a revolutionary communist leadership.
With that, the struggles of workers, peasants and students can become one for a society free of capitalism, its permanent wars, misery, corruption and racism. The dictatorship of the bosses can be replaced by a revolutionary workers' dictatorship to build a society based on each according to commitment, to each according to need.
The writing of the European constitution reflects the divisions that weaken the continent's rulers. The main contradiction is between the bosses of the big countries -- France, Germany and the U.K. -- and those of the smaller ones. The big countries were accustomed to running the EU. When it was enlarged from 15 to 25 members, they demanded that the small countries surrender their veto power, instituting a qualified majority voting system favoring the big countries. But in December 2000, the small countries, led by Poland and Spain, used a temporary contradiction between the French and German bosses to give themselves a bigger say in EU votes. After 9/11, the French and German bosses became worried about the U.S. military power build-up. They agreed to maintain their hegemony in the EU. In early 2002, a 74-member commission, headed by former French president Valéry d'Estaing, was named (not elected) to write a constitution. They spent 16 months haggling over the text.
But the small countries' bosses said the constitution depleted too much of their power, so in 2003 inter-governmental conferences postponed approval of the constitution, especially since the U.K. bosses claimed it lacked anti-worker measures. Finally, the French and German bosses made a few concessions so last June the heads of the 25 EU member states approved the constitution.
EU's bosses never really disagreed about the need for, or contents of, this constitution, only about how much power each group of bosses would have.
Now each member country must ratify the constitution, either by legislature vote or by popular referendum. Two main reasons for this are: (1) bourgeois ideology forces the bosses to maintain the fiction of "democracy," that "the people" are supposedly the source of all power and therefore should approve the constitution; and (2) the bosses hope to whip up patriotic fervor in the constitution's approval process.
But this constitution is not about democracy whatsoever. Its purpose is creation of an imperialist bloc to rival the U.S. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission and leader of the Portuguese Social-Democratic Party (and a Maoist 30 years ago), said the constitution intends "to make the EU the most competitive zone in the world."
The constitution's clearest anti-democratic feature has laws written by the European Commission, whose unelected members are named by the various national governments. The European parliament can only approve or veto laws the commission sends it. Also, some EU countries, including France, have "the right to a job" in their constitutions. The European constitution replaces that with "the right to look for a job"!
Almost half the constitution's text contains similar neo-conservative policies. In fact, rather than establishing a system of government, the constitution prescribes the bosses' favorite economic policies in the name of "untrammeled free trade" -- finishing what Europe's bosses began 20 years ago: privatizing nationalized industries, deregulating (eliminating protection for workers), downsizing, outsourcing and globalizing. The constitution gives the bosses a free hand to massively attack workers' standards of living.
Much of the constitution encompasses the "fight against terrorism" and development of a European military force. Article III-276 provides for collecting, storing, processing and analyzing information on terrorists and criminals, without defining them. Article III-297 gives the unelected European commission the power to intervene internationally, and unilaterally decide on the goals, means, extent and time period of its intervention.
Article I-41 gives the European Council (member states' government heads) the power to declare war (by unanimous decision). Article III-309 says the EU can use its military to send military "advisors" and aid and "to maintain peace." The EU can use military force for crisis management and to fight against terrorism, both inside and outside Europe.
Article III-311 establishes a European Defense Agency and defines its job, including harmonizing and strengthening the military in each country. The agency is also responsible for promoting military research and development and for reinforcing the industrial and technological base necessary for the arms industry. Article I-41 provides for a common European military force representing Europe's most powerful countries, even if the smaller ones drag their heels.
(Next issue: how EU members are already beefing up their military, and the various splits within France's political parties on ratification of the constitution.)
I then explained that Wal-Mart's strategy of driving down wages to drive down prices hurts many groups. In fact local merchants --many grocery, clothing and hardware stores are forced out of business by Wal-Mart -- were part of the labor-led coalition to stop Wal-Mart. So are immigrant rights groups (Wal-Mart's subcontractors super-exploit undocumented workers to clean its stores); women's rights groups (Wal-Mart doesn't pay or promote women at the same rates as men); and taxpayer groups (Wal-Mart's low pay and lack of benefits force many of its workers onto supplemental welfare, food stamps and Medicaid).
Then the good questions started coming. Mary asked, "how do they think low-paid workers will be able to buy the things in the stores?" This provoked us to think about how capitalism works. "Workers never get paid a salary equal to the value they've produced," explained a friend of the Party. "Marx wrote about `surplus value' in "Capital." That's where profits come from."
"What about production being moved to the world's low-wage areas?" asked Manny, adding that "there are more products produced than can be sold."
Now we were getting into the crisis of overproduction. The discussion couldn't have been more timely as GM's Linden, N.J. auto plant had closed this week. I explained that a "race-to-the-bottom" strategy exists in every industry as one set of capitalists intensifies its efforts to maintain and expand its market share. This is also true worldwide as capitalists try to control sources of raw material and cheap labor as well. When capitalism takes on this international dimension, it becomes imperialism.
Howie asked, "What about the dollar? It's been losing value relative to the Euro." I said this change reflects the increasing challenge to U.S. capitalists' control of the world. As this competition intensifies, we see increases in the military budget -- war becomes the only way the U.S. tries to stay on top.
There was much agreement among this group of retirees. A notable exception was a union staffer who wanted to focus the discussion on winning on Staten Island and not those "old-time" ideas.
I had hesitated to get involved in the Stop Wal-Mart campaign because it's tightly controlled by the Labor Council's leaders. I didn't think I could raise advanced ideas in that struggle. Boy, was I wrong!
An active red retiree
The militant and enthusiastic demonstrators included immigrants from scores of countries from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, striving to learn English, and youth working for their GED's. They carried signs reading, "Increases, Not Cuts"; "Books, Not Bombs"; and "Don't Cut Our Classes". One young woman who earned her GED said , "I have a brother who's in Iraq fighting, and what is he really fighting for? If they cut these education programs.... where are we going to go, to McDonald's?" (NY Times, 4/3)
The rulers' hypocrisy knows no bounds. While they "reform" welfare in the name of forcing people to work, they deny workers and youth the tools which might lead to jobs. Of course, capitalism thrives on permanent unemployment, and these cuts fit that mold. As a PLP leaflet distributed at the rally pointed out, the anger of these protestors must be directed against the system, not just Bush.
The U.S. bosses murdered some three million people in Vietnam, and two million more in Laos and Cambodia, but still lost. It ended with U.S. helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, carrying U.S. personnel and local lackeys fleeing from the victorious anti-U.S. forces. The Vietnam Syndrome still haunts U.S. bosses, particularly in Iraq. But compared to the fascist-religious anti-U.S. opposition in Iraq, Vietnamese workers and peasants were guided by many communist and anti-imperialist ideas.
One example is Vo Thi Mo, a young woman then, who was featured in a long article in El Mundo (Madrid, 1/17/05). She joined the National Liberation Front (as anti-U.S. forces were known) after seeing U.S. planes bomb her native Cu Chi province in southern Vietnam, killing two of her brothers.
Like many women fighters, they weren't accepted initially by the guerrillas, but the women proved them wrong. Vo and the women she led were so brave that by the end of the 1960's, the U.S. Command put a price on her head. In 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson -- elected the previous year as the "peace candidate" -- began sending more troops to Vietnam, the all-women C3 battalion was formed, young women mainly 16 years old. They took on all kinds of missions, becoming legendary in Vietnam and worldwide. They fought in the jungles, rode motorcycles in Saigon and other cities to execute chosen targets, and also carried out what Vo and her comrades call the "most painful missions," sleeping with the enemy to spy on them. These women were ordered not to become "bar girls" (prostitutes serving GI's) but "girlfriends" of soldiers and officers. They did it despite suffering daily insults from fellow Vietnamese, calling them "whores." She remembered drawing maps she discovered during these spy operations.
Vo was also very compassionate. She recalls surprising three GI's resting in the middle of the jungle. She aimed her AK-47, ready to fire against an easy target oblivious to her presence, when one soldier took out a picture of his family. The others started reading letters from home out loud. They began to cry, missing their loved ones. "For the first time I saw them as persons," Vo said. "I turned around and left." The three GIs' lives were saved without them knowing it.
She was mocked by other guerrillas for being "soft," but nobody doubted her loyalty to the struggle. She won the medal of Military Victory after killing 10 enemy combatants. The C3 Battalion became known as "the women who defeated America."
With such a fighting spirit, nothing the U.S. and its lackeys did could crush them. When General Harkins tried to put "the fear of god" into these "invincible men and women" by using napalm, Agent Orange and carpet-bombing the jungles, causing many casualties, their fighting spirit just grew.
In 1970, Thanh, another member of the C3 Batallion, was captured and tortured for three months by the South Vietnamese lackey army. She was released with an infected left arm (many women incurred such injuries). Her arm was amputated in the jungle with a knife, without anesthesia. But three months later, she was out on mission riding a motorcycle, using what was left of her arm to rest her gun while shooting.
Interestingly enough, these former fighters don't think much of the insurgency in Iraq. "Why do they kill innocent people?" asked Le Thi Suong, 59, a vet of the C3 Battalion. "If it's a people's war, everyone, including women and children, fight to expel the invaders and victory is assured. If you kill civilians it's because you don't have a clear mission, nor a leader guiding you nor a just cause," she continued. "When we saw houses next to a military camp, we never attacked."
Thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War ("America's War" the Vietnamese call it since they weren't "the ones who went half-way around the world" to make war), these former guerrillas live very simple lives, mostly in their villages. They are also saddened about what's happened in Vietnam. Their dream of an egalitarian society seems now far away as the likes of Ford, Nissan, Sony, Samsung and Nike super-exploit workers while bars like "Apocalypse Now" serve foreign tourists and young Vietnamese. "We fought two wars," says Vo, "one for the liberation of our country and the other for the liberation of women. We won the first, but the second one is still pending. We already did our part. Now the new generations must continue the struggle."
The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution was preceded by the great uprising of 1905, both of which have important lessons. The latter is reviewed below.
A century ago, imperial powers Russia and Japan were locked in a deadly war over control of parts of China. Workers were paying dearly in blood and taxes for this bosses' imperialist war.
Despite tsarist repression, in January 1905 440,000 struck the steel mills, oil fields and other industries -- a huge number for that time. The young comrade Stalin, a leader among the Baku oil workers, and other communists helped organize the strikes.
Communist leaflets distributed amongst the workers called for "international fraternity." They exposed and opposed tsarist attempts to pit Armenians against Tartars, Georgians against Russians. "Long Live the Red Flag!" became a mass slogan in Tbilisi.
Mass May Day marches led to clashes with police and troops. In Warsaw, several hundred workers were killed or wounded, and workers launched a general strike. For three days, they erected barricades in the industrial center of Lodz and fought the tsarist troops. Lenin called this the first armed action of the workers in Greater Russia.
The Bolsheviks had been working among the sailors, opposing imperialist war and calling for internationalism. In June, Odessa workers were on a general strike when sailors revolted on the Potemkin, a battleship of the Black Sea Fleet. These working-class sailors' grievances included harsh treatment and rotten food. In an historic mutiny, they seized their ship, raised the red flag and put it at the service of the revolution.
Sailors on other ships in the Black Sea fleet refused to fire on the Potemkin. But communist leadership amongst those sailors was not strong enough, and these other ships didn't join the revolt, which was finally crushed.
The Potemkin rebellion was "an event of the utmost importance ... the first occasion on which a large unit of the armed forces of the tsar sided with the revolution. This revolt made the idea of the army and navy joining forces with the working class...more comprehensible and nearer to the heart of the workers and peasants, and especially of the soldiers and sailors themselves." ("History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union") The great Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein immortalized this uprising in the silent film "Potemkin."
Debate within the Social-Democratic Party intensified during this period. Communists struggled for the importance of building the Party and calling for socialist revolution, while the "economists" glorified "the spontaneous movement" and promoted bourgeois ideology.
"Our duty," wrote Stalin, "is to deflect the spontaneous working-class movement from the path of narrow trade-unionism to the Social-Democratic [Communist] path. Our duty is to introduce socialist consciousness into this movement and unite the advanced forces of the working class in one centralized party. Our task is always to be at the head of the movement and combat tirelessly all those -- whether they be foes or `friends' -- who hinder the accomplishment of this task."
After a year of heroic struggle, the 1905 Revolution was crushed. Communists had too small a mass base amongst soldiers, sailors and industrial workers to take and hold power. The Party was not yet strongly unified around the left line for which Lenin and Stalin fought, but they learned many important lessons. Twelve years later -- amidst an even larger and more devastating imperialist war -- they led a history-making revolution which established working-class state power.
Carrying my slide projector and dressed in my professional best, I entered at the sole ground floor entrance, which had a guard and a sign stating, "No parents or visitors may enter here." The guard told me the correct entrance was on the other side of the building on the fourth floor, which required about a 20-minute walk up a steep hill or driving to a location where there was no parking. I explained I couldn't carry around this heavy equipment or get there in time and called the teacher. Even when he arrived, I was still not allowed inside as I couldn't be properly "scanned and searched" at this entrance. The upshot was I couldn't give my talk. Clearly, parents are not welcome at this school.
Ironically, I was prepared to show slides of the checkpoints and harassment suffered by Palestinians and of the Israeli-built Wall fencing them in. Although my middle-class friends are horrified by the pictures, the students here would have recognized the similarities with their lives in the Bronx. At least in Palestine my group of health workers was ultimately able to get where we had to go.
A Red Doctor
It started when the bosses issued safety glasses after a worker accidentally got a chemical in her eye. These glasses blur your vision and make some workers dizzy. The shift manager, who previously tried to spy on one of our union meetings, said the company would pay all medical expenses due to damage from wearing the glasses.
Workers are also upset about not having enough supplies, especially gloves, to do our jobs properly. We need them to handle certain materials.
The union officials came out for a meeting with the workers. When we arrived, the company managers and a vice-president were there as well! Naturally, many workers were reluctant to speak in front of our racist oppressors, but some did. Our shop steward pointed out that it was wrong to invite the bosses to a union meeting; others agreed.
Afterwards, workers leveled some serious criticisms of the union officials for pulling this stunt. These social fascists, who claim to be our friends but collaborate with the bosses, completely whitewash workers' demands for more full-time work for part-time workers.
In this struggle we have an opportunity to win workers to communist politics, how capitalism and their union flunkies can never serve workers' interests. Only communist revolution will allow workers to run society and our workplaces without racist bosses and sellout unions. We'll fight to have union meetings without bosses, and keep CHALLENGE readers posted on our progress.
The racist treatment of Native Americans made young Wiese snap. The reservations are no more than Bantustans similar to the old Apartheid South Africa. Whether on the reservation or in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Native Americans have the highest unemployment in Minnesota. Red Lake reservation is the most economically backward area in the state. Also, alcoholism is a serious problem for Native American workers. Capitalism and the racist bosses have done nothing but perpetuate genocide against Native Americans ever since the mass murderer Columbus "discovered" America.
Ironically, Wiese was both a victim of the racist ideology he embraced as a Nazi sympathizer and the systemic racism directed against him. This sick capitalist culture produced the second worst school shooting since Columbine. Native American, and all workers, deserve much better.
Capitalism and the racist bosses must be destroyed with communist revolution. Communism, under the leadership of a mass PLP, will abolish the reservations, help Native Americans end alcoholism and overcome centuries of racist abuse. Communist multi-racial unity with the international working class is the best hope for our Native American brothers and sisters.
In mainstream music, they've chosen to promote only bands with no political agenda in an effort to depoliticize what was traditionally a politically driven musical style. This began in the early 1990's with the explosion of the So-Cal scene when bands like Green Day (which just won a Grammy for a song attacking Bush as an "American Idiot"), the Offspring, and Rancid were promoted to dilute the resurgence of political punk rock groups then. While these new bubblegum punk bands had little effect in the punk underground at the time, they did shape the next generation of punk rock musicians. Once it was about working-class angst; now it's about selling albums, making money, looking good and getting girls.
For people who remained true to the roots of the punk style, the culture managers had an even more insidious plan. The scenes that remained "underground" were flooded with drugs and succumbed to racist/sexist violence. Substance abuse and chemical dependence had always been a problem in the punk scene, but where at one time punk clubs were constantly being raided by police in order to make drug busts and do warrant searches, they're now being largely ignored. A punk show is a place where you can now freely buy and sell narcotics, which were in all likelihood supplied by the police, and drink until you're disgustingly drunk.
The bands have all come to embrace this desensitization. Where punk bands always bragged about drinking a lot, now they also openly brag about crack and heroine use. Even overtly political bands like Choking Victim will in the same song sing about how screwed up the system is and about how you should just smoke crack and drop out. This mentality is decidedly anti-revolutionary and anti-working class and has completely immobilized a large segment of potentially revolutionary working-class youth.
The violence and machismo so crassly promoted by the mainstream media have also worked to infiltrate and demobilize the punk underground. Violence has always been a part of punk culture, as an expression of working youths' frustration, but never has it been directed at others in such a racist/sexist way. White power punk bands and nazi skinheads, who are typically linked to the punk underground, have never been more popular. Skrewdriver, the original nazi punk band, sells more records now than they ever did when their singer was still alive. Violence against women in the punk scene has also increased dramatically in the last 15 years. Rape, sexual assault, spousal abuse and deadbeat dads are all common occurrences in the punk scene now.
The punk underground, like all enclaves of working-class people, has always struck fear into the hearts of the ruling class. These are kids who did not buy into the mainstream indoctrination in their schools or on TV. Their rebellion, while directionless and generally misguided, was originally their own and anti-capitalist, but now it's being sold to them by the ruling class. In their "rebellion," youth in the punk scene are buying into the racism/sexism of the capitalist rulers and are being sedated by the same chemical and alcohol dependencies that the ruling class has always used to subdue working-class movements.
Unfortunately, many street vendors are not organized; they are influenced by individualism and many other bourgeois ideologies. Plus, they have very little time to do anything else besides trying to survive.
I am trying to build ties with many of these "informal" workers. Last December, the rent was raised a lot for the temporary places we work at. Some of these places are owned by a rich guy who arbitrarily sets the rent prices. I met with some fellow vendors and told them that we need to organize to fight this abuse. If the owner sees that we are united, he would think twice about what he does. When we went to see him, he tried to say we were sabotaging his business, but we remained firm. A few days later, he let us know he was going to lower our rent so we could see he wasn't such a monster. But if we hadn't protested, nothing would have changed.
We still face the daily harassment of the cops and the local government, which treat us like delinquents, blaming us for many street crimes, of not paying taxes, of causing the bankruptcy of "regular businesses," etc. But the real culprit of mass unemployment, of the closing of many plants, of the drug-gangs, is the capitalism, which the cops and politicians defend. We want regular jobs which it cannot provide. Indeed, a system like this must be smashed and replaced by a communist society which would provide decent jobs for all, instead of profits for a few bosses.
A Street Organizer
He was already deeply suspicious of the left wing inside the church...in 1966....
"Marxism revolution kindled the whole university with its fervor, shaking it to its very foundations," he wrote (NYT, 4/24)
After years of fiscal prudence, privatizations and other market reforms prescribed by Washington, [unemployment] and poverty rates have hardly budged. Poverty remains pervasive, engulfing 44 percent of the population....
The cynicism among Latin Americans who feel shortchanged is palpable.... (NYT,4/25)
Brown's long study of slave revolts suggested that an act of exemplary violence would set off huge slave uprisings and self-emancipation....
To those who argue that Brown's commendable goals were sullied by his bloody methods, [author] Reynolds retorts that violence was in fact central to his message and his legacy. In the 1850's, it was the pro-slavery forces that held a monopoly on armed force -- terrorizing antislavery citizens in the Midwest as well as the South....
With his guns and pikes, Brown reversed the equation -- stiffening the backbones of Northern abolitionists, terrifying the white South -- and hastening, through both effects, the Civil War and emancipation....
If terrorism is defined as the random killing of civilians to make a political point,, then it is not just misleading to call Brown a terrorist, it is flat-out wrong. Brown selected his victims carefully; all had reportedly threatened abolitionists and the Brown family in particular....
In our own time, some may discern equivalent evils in continuing racial oppression, economic exploitation....Far better to have future generations complain about your methods than condemn you for doing nothing. (NYT Book Review, 4/17)
Female members of trade unions are increasingly in the line of fire....The rise is due to more women participating in the labour movement....
The seeming impunity enjoyed by those who commit crimes against union members suggests that the repression of workers' rights is to some extent government-backed. Of the some 3,500 trade unionists murdered over the past 15 years, only 600 cases have been investigated, resulting in a mere six convictions....
An anti-union culture appears to pervade government actions, reminiscent of the McCarthy communist witch-hunt in the US. (GW, 4/21)
Running through all these tragedies is the story of how the most powerful countries in the world ignore the factors that lead to the destabilization that sets populations on the move....
In the wake of 9/11, the refugees said that the emphasis during interviews was on lies, how best to catch...the asylum-seekers, find holes in their testimonies so that they could be turned down...A new stamp had been devised -- LOC, `lack of credibility' -- and it was now stamped on to most of the files as a reason for rejection....
The government's perception of refugees altered with the end of the cold war, when the "good" refugees fleeing communism suddenly transformed into "bad" refugees threatening civilization. (GW, 4/21)
Every year, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 children are born in...[the US] with lower IQ's because of exposure to mercury pollution....
And the Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a new rule regulating mercury. The goal is to cut emissions by 69 percent by 2018.
Yep. An estimated 300,000 to 600,000 children are born every year with lower IQs because of exposure to mercury. And we're bravely aiming to get the problem partially fixed in 15 years or so....
The Bush administration decided on a slower, less-expensive approach favored by the chief polluters in the utility industry. (International Herald Tribune)