Wages and benefits for United workers had been cut twice prior to this action, along with 40,000 jobs, since 2000. Then the following day, United was back in court trying to impose permanent pay and benefit cuts on its machinists and mechanics as part of a $700 million concessions package. Ironically, United workers "owned" a majority of the company's stock until the airline filed for bankruptcy protection. So much for workers' "stock ownership" running "their" company.
United, in bankruptcy since December 2002, said it lost $1.1 billion during the first quarter of 2005, more than doubling last year's first quarter loss, and its 19th consecutive quarterly deficit. United's pension was $9.8 billion under-funded, and the company was released from over $16 billion in payments over the next five years. This is the largest default since the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) was created in 1974, and nearly three times greater than the default by Bethlehem Steel in 2002. The PBGC will slash pension payments, many by as much as 50%. The pension board covers only past obligations.
This action follows similar attacks on tens of thousands of steelworkers and US Airways workers, and threatens the rest of the airline industry, autoworkers, and other industries with similar "legacy costs." The president of United's Association of Flight Attendants said, "Today's decision...may have triggered the collapse of the defined benefit pension system nationwide." It also comes as the rulers are trying to destroy Social Security to help cover the costs of their endless "war on terror," the occupation of Iraq, and the racist Homeland Security police state.
Despite overwhelming strike votes by United's 62,000 workers, the same pro-capitalist union leaders that pushed the myth of "employee ownership" have no intention of fighting. "Our goal is to get a deal, not a strike," said a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which "represents" about 20,000 baggage handlers and ground workers. He would rather negotiate $176 million in wage and benefit cuts than have a federal bankruptcy court judge impose them. Their negotiations have been extended until May 31. Pilots and flight attendants have already approved more cuts, and mechanics are voting on a tentative agreement.
While AFL-CIA President John Sweeny and SEIU President Andy Stern fight each other, neither has anything to say about the United pension rip-off. Their loyalty to U.S. imperialism has only increased since Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers (PATCO) in 1981, setting the stage for decades of assaults on union workers, leaving the "labor movement" on the brink of extinction. This is how fascism is happening.
Every United terminal at every airport should be surrounded and grounded by thousands of workers. But that will not happen now. Today we must alert our co-workers, through newsletters and union resolutions, with articles in local union papers and lunch time discussions, by picketing United ticket counters and reaching out to United workers, about the need for communist leadership and to fight back. By example, we must turn our own contract struggles into battlegrounds to build class consciousness among all workers.
The pro-capitalist union leaders sabotaged the PATCO strikers. They supported the Democrats and Clinton while they wiped out welfare and more than doubled the prison population to over two million, 70% black and Latin workers and youth. They did nothing to stop the fascist round-up of thousands of Arab and Muslim citizens and immigrants in the wake of 9/11. And they will lead youth and retired workers to a future of mass poverty, racist terror and endless war. Our future is in our hands. Join and build a mass Progressive Labor Party.
Since 9/11, important parts of the Hart-Rudman blueprint, in addition to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have come to pass. The executive branch now has a Department of Homeland Security and a national intelligence czar. In the judicial branch, courts wield a widely expanded power to jail without trial. But although Hart-Rudman warned that "national security in the 21st century...mandates a serious reappraisal of both the individual and collective efforts of Congress and its members," the legislative branch has yet to recast itself as a shaper of wartime policy.
Hart-Rudman had hoped to indoctrinate the entire House and Senate in the military strategy of U.S. imperialism. "The wargaming center at the National Defense University should be expanded so that virtually every member of Congress can participate in one or more war games per two-year cycle. Giving members of Congress a reason to learn about...crisis inter-actions will lead eventually to a more sophisticated Legislative Branch." But the commission foresaw its own failure: "The very nature of power in Congress makes it difficult for legislators to reform their collective institution.... [It] has sustained a structure that undermines rather than strengthens its ability to fulfill its Constitutional obligations in the foreign policy arena."
The structure Hart-Rudman bewails is that senators and representatives win election by courting wealthy individual donors and organizing voter blocs. Republicans largely use religious groups, as Democrats use trade unions. The narrow profit interests of these backers often don't mesh with U.S. imperialism's class-wide needs. Sen. Joe Lieberman, for example, playing to labor hacks, is fighting the planned closing of the Groton navy base. U.S. rulers, however, today requires a far greater naval presence in Europe and Asia than in Connecticut. In the confirmation mess, the London Financial Times (5/16/05) complains that Sen. Bill Frist "may have chosen pleasing the social conservative base of the Republican Party over preserving his ability to serve as an effective leader of the Senate." Four years before the present deadlock over Bolton and the federal judges, Hart-Rudman said "the presidential appointment process now verges on complete collapse."
The electoral nature of Congress cuts both ways for the rulers. On the one hand, it helps them by steering millions of workers away from revolutionary politics down the dead-end road to the ballot box, pushing the lie that every citizen has three voices in the Capitol. But it also favors an ability to garner votes over loyalty to the dominant, imperialist wing of U.S. capitalists. Partisanship often creates obstructionism. Only one senator in the Republican majority, Lincoln Chafee, belongs by birth to the liberal, imperialist ruling class Establishment. The New York Times and other mouthpieces for the rulers are desperately counting on him to lead a compromise movement to break the appointments logjam and get on with the agenda of fascism and war.
Congress's quagmire has two sides for the working class, too. It shows the rulers' relative disarray, and thus their weakness, in implementing fascism compared, say, with Germany's Nazis. But it also warns that U.S. rulers will sooner or later move from floor debates and filibusters to more effective, violent means for getting their wartime house in order.
While the bosses squabble with each other to impose discipline within their own ranks, workers' class interests demand we organize to destroy the dictatorship of their class and the profit system that serves it. Congress, like the rest of the rulers' state apparatus, is a capitalist tool. Our job is to build the Progressive Labor Party and the long-range fight for a workers' dictatorship where workers rule over the bosses and their ideology and represent the best interests of the international working class.
(Next: The bosses' plan for restructuring their military: "leaner and meaner" now; bigger and meaner later.)
Imagine driving in your neighborhood through streets you've traveled hundreds of times. Directly behind you is a group of four heavily-armed HUMMV's signaling to clear the road for them to pass. They're protected by 4-inch armor steel, each with at least a mounted 50-Cal weapon, or a 240B machine gun, able to shoot 150 rounds a minute. Each person aboard carries an M-4 or M-l6 rifle. Such heavily-armed patrol units drive around Iraqi towns trying to catch the "rocket man," or at least deter mortar attacks. But they also provide a presence to establish control in a country that can easily explode into civil unrest or resistance to the U.S. occupation.
The Army has fire superiority. U.S. bosses aim to maintain control. By working hand-in-hand with the fledgling Iraqi Army and police, the U.S. has established a state of fascism. It uses systematic interrogation of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and the jailing of whole towns. But real control is achieved simply by the show of fire superiority. The U.S. military leaves much of the dirty work to the Iraqi Army and police.
One word prevalent here is "superiority," which means a lot, especially for soldiers. No wonder many have a superiority complex. They think they're "at the top of the food chain." One trigger squeeze and all fall to the ground. Sadly, I've seen many soldiers disrespect civilians. It's not evident directly, but is a subtle discrimination, when soldiers interact directly with civilians. However, it's more obvious and racist when soldiers interact with each other.
The commonly used label "Haji" casually refers to anyone who may fit the description of a Middle Eastern person, ignoring the fact that there are many ethnic groups among Iraqis. Although the direct meaning of Haji is different, it's been grossly reduced to a derogatory and insulting label. It's common to use it when criticizing Iraqis. I don't use the word, and ask anyone around me not to use it because although the direct meaning may not be insulting, the way it's used is outright racist.
Soldiers are always discussing why we're here. A soldier who considers himself conservative told me there's no other country capable of "helping" the "Haji" as the U.S. is doing. I told him "we shouldn't think of ourselves as saviors." This comes from the dangerous mentality that people aren't able to help themselves. It mistakenly defines us as "superior" to other nations. But we aren't superior to anyone. The U.S. has emerged as the "most powerful" country because of the murderous, imperialist actions it perpetrates worldwide.
"Savior" is not synonymous with oppressor. But that's how the U.S. has become a powerful nation. The existence of a super-power explicitly means there are people "lower" and oppressed, and others at the very "lowest" and most oppressed.
But simultaneously an opposite trend is growing. The longer we're here, the more prevalent the feeling that "we're all workers," that what we go through back home may not be as bad but resembles what the Iraqis experience here. We're really all in the same boat, all victimized by the bosses, the brass and imperialist war for profits. When officers tell us how "proud" they are of us, what a "good job" we're doing defending "our freedom" here, they anger soldiers -- "What does he care?" and "Here we go again"; "Here's another officer trying to make us feel better. What b.s."
Some skip these meetings altogether. Some spend more time cleaning weapons and "preparing" for patrols than actually carrying them out. These are growing signs that morale is worsening and the potential for more revolutionary class consciousness exists. We're not "superior" -- we're all one class. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi workers have the same class interests: to end this imperialism.
"Working closely" with the new bosses meant a two-year wage freeze after a 10% wage cut; possible loss of nearly 2,000 union jobs with management deciding who to rehire without regard to seniority; a phony cost-of-living adjustment that's unlikely to pay a cent during the five-year contract; major work-rule give-backs, including running multiple machines and multi-tasking; and trashing defined-benefit pensions either for present or future employees, depending on which of the three unions negotiating contracts you belong to.
Onex CEO Jerry Schwartz did promise to eventually hire additional workers when he got the "cost structure" in line -- minus, of course, any "troublemakers' or those too old to keep up. He specifically mentioned work from the regional jet-maker Bombardier, which is liberally subsidized by his buddy, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Workers were so furious that not a single union head dared sign on to any of the original offers. "Onex is determined to break up industrial unions," said IAM Wichita local president Steve Ronney, in a complete about-face.
Onex then sweetened the deal with company stock, which employees are forbidden to sell except under carefully prescribed circumstances, similar to the infamous sellout of the United Airlines workers. Boeing commercial CEO Alan Mulally threatened to "take the division apart" if the unions scotched the sale by not agreeing to Onex's terms.
The IAM negotiators flip-flopped again, scheduling a ratification vote for May 24. "If this doesn't go through, Onex goes back to Canada and Boeing...chops it up," warned Ronney.
As usual, screwing industrial workers is a bi-partisan issue. Former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt (Dem.) also signed on to sell the contract. Gephardt was the darling of organized labor, consistently winning the IAM's endorsement for U.S. President. When it comes to reorganizing industry to more cheaply produce (for war), the ruling class and its political servants are united.
The union leaders are helpless in this situation. They spread cynicism and defeatism because their ideology prohibits them from thinking outside capitalism's boundaries. In an unguarded moment, the IAM national magazine speculated that only a national strike could reverse the momentum, but the leadership emphatically stated they would never call such a strike. Well, we communists would!
This summer Boeing workers in Seattle -- home to the 1919 general strike -- will get a good dose of the kind of communist class consciousness that would make such action possible, in contrast to the usual pre-contract politicking. We'll follow through by building the revolutionary movement our class needs to rid us of these sales that destroy workers' lives for capitalist profit.
Schwartz is liberal Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's top corporate fundraiser, while expanding his network of friends in U.S. financial markets. In fact, most of Schwartz's deals "come from [his] Wall Street contacts." The federal government approved this sale because it trusts Schwartz to expand domestic industry with money stolen from the declining wages and benefits of industrial workers. He no doubt will be handsomely paid for his services to U.S. capital. (All quotations from "The Unmaking Of a Nationalist," Canadian Business, August 1994)
A group of factory workers was mobilized to challenge the racists. There were discussions before and after the demonstration about the need to take growing racism head-on as part of the fight for workers' power.
The nationalists and liberal leadership of the counter demonstration included the local mayor. They rallied far away from the racists and opposed confronting them. However, a small but vocal multi-racial group gave leadership to many, with chants and by leading most of the crowd closer to the racists to actually repel them. Someone threw a bottle at the racists. The police had to call in reinforcements to escort them away.
CHALLENGES were sold and leaflets distributed. The struggle for multi-racial unity to defy and stop the racists will continue on campuses, in mass organizations and in the factories.
The racists are planning a demonstration for July 4th and we aim to be more organized to show that workers' power is the way to fight fascism, part of the long-term fight for communist revolution. On the other hand, we applaud those youth who confronted the racists. This trend will grow.
In Philadelphia, the news is of corruption, joblessness and death in the streets. The city treasurer, two bankers and a businesswoman have been convicted in a "pay-to-play" city contract scam involving many others. The mayor's main fund-raiser and pal, who died recently, was the central figure in the secret deals. The mayor hasn't been caught -- yet. The preceding mayor, now-Governor Rendell, a potential Democrat candidate for President, was up to his eyeballs in the scam while he was mayor. Meanwhile, Rendell is pushing to cut Medicaid payments for the state's poor. It's all "logical" in capitalist society.
Hospital workers and city/regional transport workers are facing threatened cuts in job benefits, and may strike to defend what they have left. Jobs in the Philadelphia area paying more than the minimum are scarce. The population continues to decline despite cheery prophesies from the city. Reports of shootings, some "random" and some drug-related, often of children, appear in the papers daily.
Amid all this capitalist chaos and death, our May Day resolve is to renew and strengthen the Party's fight to destroy the bosses' murderous system. We have a world to win.
The road to revolution is a long journey with many detours and struggles of day-to-day life...This May Day dinner is a celebration for the international working class holiday. As a new member to PLP, I wanted to [talk about] the last 11/2 years since I joined the Party after a long campaign battle for new leadership in our local union. We worked long hours, developed close bonds, and mobilized workers at many worksites. We fought for common cause, that workers deserve better...We won the election and my fellow comrade and I were elected to the Executive Board...I have been in Cook County Hospital for 26 years. I knew of PLP...read CHALLENGE often, but never made a commitment.
We came together through a grievance battle. Management docked me 8 hours pay for calling in sick...I was denied at the 1st and 2nd steps, but won at the third. My comrade was very impressed with my determination and will to fight. She's been employed at County for 18 years, but we never crossed paths until this struggle.
We sat down, one on one, to get to know each other and found that we had more in common than we knew. We became very close and I shared my family history, my Dad being born in Cuba, who with his sisters and brothers, eventually fled as stowaways to Jamaica in hopes for a better life. We may be from different parts of the world, but we have a common interest...As we bonded closer, we found our struggles led to the same path.
Then she invited me to dinner at another comrade's house, and I remember...how at home I felt, and how we had more in common than not. On this day I joined the Party. I know this commitment, sitting down getting to know each other, is the only way we can build the Party and mobilize masses of workers to one day tear down the walls of injustice for all humanity, all over the world. This struggle is an ongoing fight and is not easy. The journey is a lifelong struggle...
As I have developed as a Party member, I have come to see how the unions are not the best direction for the working class because the system of wage slavery, built by the rich capitalists, have the workers set for failure before we start. This class system will never allow workers to prove their true value. Longer hours spent working, less quality time with family and friends, which leads to failing health on this never-ending roller coaster ride under capitalism. So I see right now as a good time for the Party to take advantage of the rapid decline of labor and unions, to mobilize workers for the true journey for mass revolution for workers all over the world.
This is our challenge comrades, to sit down with workers and explain why capitalism can never meet our needs; to get workers one by one to join the Party to fight for mass communist revolution. But we must be truthful to workers. This journey is long and hard and it won't get better over night. We have to have patience with each other so we can hear and have different opinions, but still come together for common cause....
We need to encourage our youth and show them they are vital and essential to keep the Party growing...We need to get more young comrades writing articles for CHALLENGE, so we can increase circulation and have more newsworthy articles that reflect the conditions of the day-to-day struggle of workers all over the world...
While the greedy leaders cut programs essential to our survival, cutting Medicare and Medicaid and federal funds for health care to pay for their war, workers work in unsafe conditions, doing the work of two or three workers whose jobs have been eliminated. Patients wait in long grueling lines in the ER, waiting three days for a bed in this never-ending attack under capitalism. The unions are doing less and less...conceding to layoffs, firings and attacks on workers where frankly, there becomes no difference between management and labor except for higher and higher union dues. They point their finger at the rich CEO's at Enron and Wal-Mart, but they start to look just like them and give money to the same politicians who oppress workers all over the world.
In summary, this year has been a good opportunity to talk to workers about how they feel powerless, about a president they don't want, and about working conditions that seem unbearable...It's a good time to build the Party. People don't know where to turn. We must step up to the plate to convince workers to join the revolutionary communist PLP, the only way they can rebuild their dreams and their destiny for the whole working class all over the world.
Under the headline "Low Cost and Sweatshop-Free," the ruling class's leading mouthpiece reports that Cambodia's garment industry is this bosses' paradise, and, naturally, backed by the U.S. government. The likes of GAP, Levi-Strauss and Abercrombie & Fitch are touting Cambodia as a place where unions are "strong" and workers earn "a living wage." The Times (5/8) says that the GAP, is "by far the biggest buyer of Cambodian garments." Why?
Cambodia "is still a very cheap place to produce apparel." How cheap? They've just reduced "production costs to $1.10 for each dozen T-shirts." That's 9cents a shirt! How do they do it?
"In a country where $45 [a month] is considered a living wage," the "wages are so low that all these girls can afford after sending home half their paychecks to their family is to crowd into a single room without electricity." Those are the conditions under which U.S. billionaire clothing bosses can "avoid the stigma of exploiting poor laborers in distant sweatshops."
With all the hoopla about "strong unions," "Chea Vichea, the leader of the garment workers' union, was shot to death in January 2004. Four months later, one of his top assistants was killed." Yes, says U.S. ambassador Charles Ray, the unions "are some of the best institutions" in the country....The exploitation of workers cannot be a path to development....Workers have to be treated with respect...."
"Respect"? Earning less than $2 a day, living five to a room, producing T-shirts at a cost to the bosses of 9cents apiece, shirts that sell for anywhere from $15 to $30 each, while their union leaders get shot in the head. This is an industry that the Times and GAP/Levi Strauss/Abercrombie & Fitch certify as "sweatshop free"!
This is the kind of "free market" exploitation and "freedom" that U.S. bosses love to impose on workers in countries like Cambodia, and by invasion in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. And then this is praised by the liberal media, like the New York Times.
Now the International Labor Office (ILO) reports from Geneva that corporations like Nike and Wal-Mart are "making $32 billion a year by exploiting the forced labor of men, women and children in sweatshops around the world." They pay less than $1,000 a year and "make an average of $13,000 a year" from each exploited worker. Children under 18 comprise 40% to 50% of the total of 12.3 million of these forced laborers, according to the ILO.
What's even more tragic is the fact that the workers and peasants of Cambodia -- as well as those of Vietnam where sweatshops also operate -- kicked out U.S. imperialism 30 years ago, but the nationalist politics of their leaders and the aberrations of the Khmer Rouge created governments which allow the GAP, et al, to super-exploit its workers. (See CHALLENGE, 5/25, for an analysis of why this occurred and why a true communist movement would never permit this.)
"May Day is the working class' international holiday celebrated by tens of millions of workers worldwide. I'm a high school student who worries about what's going to happen ten years from now. Would it be worse? Could students attend college? I dislike sitting at home and just watching the news. No, that's not me! I go out there and join the group. I fight for what I think is justified.
A teacher invited me to the march. When we got there I saw a lot of people in red shirts and signs that said `Obreros, Unidos, Jamas seran vencidos.' (Workers, united, will never be defeated.) ' When, I saw people passing out flyers, I decided to pass them out too. I read and analyzed both capitalist and communist papers. Capitalism is a system that only exploits and kill workers. I was mostly interested in communism."
"My day at the May Day march was interesting, fun and a positive thing to do. When we got off the bus I didn't realize we would be that deep. We must have had at least 400 people. I also liked walking past the cops and shouting `LAPD you can't hide; we charge you with genocide.' It felt good shouting in front of them and they couldn't do anything about it.
"I liked mostly everything about the march, especially that we were fighting for our future rights and trying to get a voice and be heard. The best thing was the unity of the working class. All races took part in this march which made me believe one day `we' the working class could take over and make life better for all of us."
"May Day was a wonderful experience for me. It was my first time in a march. Fighting for the rights of people made me feel good about myself. As we marched, you saw other people in the streets joining and supporting us. I believe that what we did on May Day was for the good of all people. It just felt good seeing all of the different people coming together and protesting for the rights of all people. As a girl who thought protesting didn't make a difference, today I saw it did make a difference in many ways."
When PLP'ers joined the picket line and leafleted the workers, we received an overwhelming positive response, with virtually no anti-communism from the strikers, a change from previous walkouts at Greyhound, Eastern Airlines and others.
When the workers lost their health benefits, and a striker went to the media because his daughter needed surgery, the company boss offered to pay for it to avoid public embarrassment. The striker said, "No way, I won't accept money from the CEO unless he restores health care to all 1,900 workers." Then the union covered the surgery cost.
A union rally of several hundred heard endless speeches from union officials and local politicians but there were no chants or speeches from the actual strikers.
For the workers to have any chance of winning their demands, they need mass support and massive picket lines from tens of thousands of workers in the area, a move that the city's labor misleaders will never organize. Breaking the bosses' rules and laws by the rank and file is a first step towards fighting for the workers' class interests.
PLP members provided the majority of signs and presented a strong message about the reasons behind the war. They provoked discussion among the participants and everyone eagerly held them. These signs, our bullhorn and speeches made the rally cohesive and collective, energized attendees and onlookers and helped bring everyone together.
At one point, a Party member escorted a heckler away to prevent him from trying to intimidate us.
Everyone at the rally received a copy of CHALLENGE. It truly seemed the rally's success was due largely to the leadership of two PL comrades. We think the newer participants will join other rallies because PL'ers set an active and encouraging tone. This rally and others like it show a major difference between reform organizations and PL, that PL is ready to step up to the challenge of aggressively fighting against war and racism.
Two new young comrades
Only one-third of the registered voters went to the polls. Many people saw no difference between Villaraigosa and incumbent Hahn. Villaraigosa was supported by Eli Broad, millionaire insurance tycoon and Democratic Party kingmaker, and by the LA Times. John Kerry and Magic Johnson campaigned for him.
Villaraigosa's first act as mayor-elect was to visit police chief Bratton and embrace him, promising to make the "gang problem" his number one priority. As City Councilman, he put 300 more racist cops on the street. As mayor, he promises 1,000-1,200 more. He's also campaigned for community policing and neighborhood councils. Such measures have little to do with "stopping crime," but rather aim to win LA workers to cooperate with the cops in informing on their neighbors and thereby support a growing fascist police state to prevent workers from rebelling against their exploitation.
Los Angeles is a center of low-wage manufacture in the U.S. Four million workers, mostly of Mexican and Central American origin, concentrated in industrial zones like the Alameda corridor, create $400 billion of wealth for U.S. bosses. Yet, in this deteriorating city of ten million citizen and immigrant workers, over three million have no health insurance and 40% of the population is one paycheck away from being homeless.
Villaraigosa cannot solve these problems, inherent in the capitalist system. That's not his mission. Whether or not he involves himself in the corrupt sweetheart contracts of ex-mayor Jim Hahn, he represents a much more dangerous kind of wheeler-dealer.
Celebrated in the national press as the poster child of "American inclusion" and minority opportunity, Villaraigosa's main job is to win workers, here and nationally, to the patriotic idea that they and their children will now have economic and political doors open to them. The other part of this deal, of course, is that they must take on the responsibilities of "inclusion," which include accepting: cut-backs, longer hours for less pay, further cuts in healthcare, deteriorating schools and -- most importantly -- the responsibility to serve and to teach their children to serve in the U.S. military and be loyal to U.S. imperialism and fascism.
We're living in an imperialist war-driven capitalist economy. The changes Antonio Villaraigosa promises simply cannot be fulfilled -- except for more cops. When every worker's tax dollar is being diverted (whole or in part) to the Iraq War and to the large-scale preparations for fighting challenges to U.S. imperialism's global position, there's no way Villaraigosa will be anything but a dangerous failure for workers won to rely on him.
The battle over the hearts, minds and practice of the working class will sharpen. By exposing this wolf in sheep's clothing and organizing class struggle against the bosses' exploitation, we can win workers to the revolutionary communist politics of PLP. Ultimately workers will shatter their illusions in lesser-evil politicians and will realize that they need to take power and run society in their class interests.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have stretched troop reserves thin, even leading to a "backdoor draft" where rotations are lengthened and soldiers completing their tours have been recalled to active duty. As CHALLENGE has reported, there's been talk of reinstituting the draft, even though it poses big problems -- mass political opposition, unreliable troops and inadequate training (two years isn't enough to train soldiers in modern, high-tech warfare techniques).
The Defense Department is outsourcing many non-military functions -- cleaning, laundry, food service, etc. Asian and other foreign workers perform many of these tasks. This allows the rulers to throw more money at potential enlistees who'll be combat troops.
Seventy percent of aviation training has been outsourced. Private contractors, not Air Force personnel, maintain many of the high-tech planes and helicopters. Private corporations often do intelligence gathering and analyses. During the Iraq invasion, mercenary contractors maintained and loaded many of the most sophisticated weapons systems and even operated the Army's Patriot missile batteries and the Navy's Aegis missile-defense system.
As of a few months ago, some 30,000 private contractors in Iraq were the second largest contingent of Bush's "Coalition." Many receive salaries up to $20,000 a month, nearly ten times the average bottom-rung enlistee. The massive U.S. base at Camp Doha in Kuwait, the launch pad for the invasion, was built, is operated and guarded by a PMF.
In some cases the Pentagon uses contractors to avoid certain restrictive rules. After Congress limited the number of military advisers in Colombia and soldiers in Bosnia, the Defense Department hired private paramilitary units.
Some of these contractors operate as private armies. Loose rules govern them, not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A military court can prosecute them "in a time of war," but there is little precedent for such a trial. At Abu Ghraib prison, private contractors committed 16 of the 44 incidents. Reports have surfaced that DynCorp employees in Bosnia were involved in the sex slave trade.
There may be some efforts to discipline contractors to avoid embarrassing incidents and limit them from inflating costs and ripping off the Pentagon. But it appears that military outsourcing is here to stay -- both the logistical support increasingly carried out by foreign workers and the many "security" functions conducted by the big PMFs.
Many of these contract employees are former Special Forces personnel, highly committed to the aims of U.S. imperialism. Although they may have working-class roots, many have betrayed their class to carry out the Nazi-like operations of a brutal military machine. They have not allied with oppressed workers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as with the low-paid workers doing most of the service jobs in U.S. military installations overseas, or even with rank-and-file U.S. troops who increasingly question their role in carrying out the Pentagon's oil-drenched war plans.u
P.W. Singer, "Outsourcing war," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005, p. 119.
S. Macomber, "You're not in the Army now," American Spectator, Nov. 2004, p. 26.
"Private armies march into a legal vacuum," Financial Times, 2/10/05, p. 4.
Anti-communists, from Bush to the rulers of Latvia and other Baltic countries, are trying to rewrite the history of World War II, claiming the Red Army was "as bad as the Nazis" it defeated. In Latvia, local members of the Nazi SS killers have even been rehabilitated while the Latvian President has refused to honor the Red Army. These bosses are again copying Goebbels (Hitler's Minister of Propaganda): the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.
The truth is just the opposite. Without the Red Army, the Nazis would have turned all of Europe into a vast slave camp for the "Master Race." Hitler's plans for Eastern Europe was to kill most of the population (27 million Soviet citizens died during the war) and leave only 30 millions as slaves for the Third Reich. Their plan also was to kill 12 million Jews, not six million.
Serguei Makin, writing in the Russian daily Sovietskaya Rossia (translated into Spanish in Rebelion.org), exposed clearly what the Nazis did. His family retained a paperback book of the series "Red Army Soldier Library" which each Red Army soldier carried during the war, probably written by Ilia Erenburg or other Soviet writers. The books reminded the soldiers about the true nature of the fascists they were fighting, something we should never forget.
The book describes how Soviet children, raised to build a new society without capitalism, became victims of the Nazi beasts. The Nazis were waging war not just against the Red Army but against all Soviet citizens, who they considered "sub-humans," fit only to be killed or to serve the "Master Race."
It reports: "From his plane the German pilot did not see military warehouses, or strategic targets, or moving troops. He didn't care; he just wanted to kill, to create panic and desperation. He saw clearly who was on the stations waiting to board trains. He saw women and children, fleeing from the front....The pilot aimed his machine guns, firing at mothers trying to cover their children. His bombs fell on trains filled with women and children.He aimed at the heads of children, bringing mass deaths. The pilots flew low, seeking...children fleeing from their native villages in the Ukraine, Byelorrusia, Russia -- blown away by bombs.But this was only the beginning of the Nazi blitzkrieg. The worst was yet to come." (Similarities to the "Shock and Awe" waged by the U.S. against civilians in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq are not coincidental. That's the nature of imperialist warmakers).
The book describes the Nazis' attacks on occupied villages in the former Soviet Union. The fascists would kick the people from their peasant homes in the Ukraine, forcing women and children out into below-zero temperatures, without winter clothing or food, ordering them to "get out now!" Otherwise, they'd be shot on the spot.
The Nazis seized the peasants' food and cows while people starved, children died, and lacked the strength to dig a grave in the frozen soil. Throughout the former Soviet Union little mounds of earth contained the remains of children and others buried above-ground.
But the Master Race's 1,000-Year Reich was cut short. The Red Army took the offensive, forcing the Nazis to retreat, at which point they took their revenge upon the local population. In the village of Spas-Pomazkino, the retreating Nazis burned the peasant homes and shot families trying to flee the fire. Children able to leave their dying mothers were also shot by laughing Nazis.
In the town of Ploskoye, the Nazis machine-gunned the family of a collective farmer, shooting his wife while she was holding a little child in her arms. To save a bullet, the Nazi plunged a silver dagger into the baby. The Red Army book reports, "There was no method the Nazis did not use to kill Soviet children."
When Soviet artillery reached the Nazis in Ksty, in the Kaliningrad region, the Nazis executed the entire town. Only one elderly woman, a collective farmer, survived, the Nazis giving her up for dead.
Indeed, all of humanity owes a huge debt to the men and women of the Red Army who finally defeated the Nazis.
In a book called "Away With All Pests," Joshua Horn, a British surgeon who lived and worked in China from 1954 to 1969, describes life in a hospital under communism. He shows how doctors were taught to be collective in taking care of patients. They had to change drastically. Their old ways were as know-it-all individualists who believed that nothing a patient, nurse, janitor, orderly, or anyone else could tell them would be relevant to patient care. Everyone in the hospital struggled with doctors to listen to anyone who knew the patient or had any idea about the patient's needs.
Horn tells of a little girl who had been burned in a fire. He kept trying to console her about the loss of her mother and brother, who died in the fire. The girl refused to talk with him. Then the little boy in the next bed pulled him aside and informed Comrade Doctor that his continually talking about her lost relatives was making her too sad to respond to him, that he should try a different approach. He took the boy's advice, and, as the boy predicted, the girl gradually began to respond to him.
He also explains that doctors' technical knowledge is good, but their attitude toward helping the patient is even more important. He tells of an eye doctor, Dr. Chen, who refused to be limited by what the books and medical journals told her was possible. She realized that books only represent what certain people understand at a certain time under certain circumstances and that most new discoveries require unlearning what the books had taught.
A man blinded in the revolutionary war came to Dr. Chen to have his sight restored. She consulted a senior eye doctor, who told her it was hopeless and risky. Refusing to believe it, she operated, and when the bandages were finally removed the man could see. Thinking that the senior eye doctor had been the one who saved his vision, the man hugged and thanked him. But the senior doctor, having opposed the surgery, said, "Don't thank me. I must thank you. I too have been blind for many years but now you and Dr. Chen have lifted the scales from my eyes."
The old ways were for doctors to be arrogant and selfish and to try to hide their mistakes. But the rest of the hospital staff and patients struggled with doctors, first to prevent errors whenever possible, second to admit them and third to learn from them. Horn saw how attitudes that are deeply rooted required years of patient and comradely struggle to change, but just this kind of struggle was fostered by the Chinese Communist Party and it had its effects.
Horn's book is full of examples of how the struggle to build a communist society changed health care for the better for hundreds of millions of urban and rural workers. Future columns will discuss some of these examples.
George Bush is a born-again Christian. He invokes the name of the lord, attends church and asks God for guidance. Presumably he reads the Bible: "Thou shalt not kill." But as the U.S. military's commander-in-chief, he's also responsible for killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and over 1,600 U.S. troops. Is this because he lacks morals? No, it's because he's doing what's best for the U.S. ruling class.
Hundreds of thousands of troops don't occupy Iraq because Satan whispered in their ears, "Kill Iraqi people." They do it on Bush's orders. Soldiers don't fly half-way around the world because Satan said, "Come fly with me." They go because they're carrying out orders. Religion may advocate good moral principles but the ruling class sets limits on what goes and doesn't go. Politics, not religion, determines morality.
Likewise, under communism we'll have morality too, but based on the needs of the international working class. With struggle, each will put their collective needs first. That doesn't mean everyone will get along or be friendly like in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. For a long time, murder may continue but the nature of crime will change.
Under capitalism the majority of illegal murders (excluding profit wars, workplace fatalities, police violence and other capitalist-created conditions) are caused by "love," "jealously" or money. Communism will eliminate money, exploitation and competition for wealth. Murder for money will fall drastically, along with the bosses, and as their class is wiped out; so too will murder be. Crimes of "passion" will decline also. As we abolish private property, we'll end possessive attitudes towards our partners. We want to eradicate coercion in personal and social relationships and stop thinking that anybody "owns" someone else. Terminating class exploitation should bring completely voluntary social and personal relationships, as well as the demise of killing for "love."
Some religions teach that we're born with sin. Therefore, without religion we'll just act up and kill somebody. But that's not the material reality of murder or any morals. Our morals are defined by the political-economic system we live in. So under communism, people can have morality -- without religion -- generated by communist politics.
Without your paper I never would have understood what Trotsky and the Trotskyites mean nor the correct way to look at Stalin. Maybe you're the world's only Party to formulate this honest line. That's the idea that's helped my thinking the most. Now I can correctly analyze why phony "leftists" organize in a sectarian way into smaller and smaller groups instead of concentrating on "what has to be done!"
Never give up. Our class really needs you, worldwide.
A comrade from Italy
Throughout the rally, I was consistently impressed by our solidarity and organization. We were safe because we were tight. As we stood before the cop/nazis screaming, "Death to the fascists! Power to the workers!" a comrade squeezed my hand, and I realized I'd never felt such love for the people fighting alongside me and such anger and hatred towards the fascists. It's this deep love for the working class and for our Party, and this deep hatred towards a system that breeds such horror, that will drive our movement forward.
Only now when I look back on the cops protecting the Nazis and attacking the anti-racists do I feel capitalism is truly as scary as I've always believed. However, I now know that my trust in my comrades will overcome my fear of whatever form of fascism we'll fight in the future.
As the cops arrested a comrade who had just been hit by a Nazi, several of us held onto him, screaming that he'd done nothing wrong, to let him go. They brutally pushed us away and took him; then the mounted pigs stormed the surrounding group of protesters and a cop clubbed me in the arm. I was also half-trampled by a horse. I grabbed the comrades and regrouped with the others.
Afterwards, some of my comrades told me I'd been brave and even heroic, but I don't see it this way. I wasn't scared; I realized I acted naturally when the cops attacked us, out of concern for my comrades. Capitalism teaches us to put ourselves first and to be scared of kkkops, but it can't squash our natural response to fight for the people we love.
I'm on crutches, and my arm is black and blue; next time, I'm only going to fight harder.
To be honest, I was kind of freaked out. I was wining and dining with living, breathing communists! The Hollywood images of what the Party might mean started to flow through my head. All I could see was red and a gigantic octopus with its tentacles reaching out engulfing all of society as the Party subjected all of humanity to its diabolical scheme. Any second I was sure they would make me sign a membership card or make a blood pact or even worse, take me to some secluded location to perform ancient communist cleansing rituals, to cleanse me of any remaining bourgeois ideologies.
Despite what anyone said, I still struggled for weeks trying to think through these stereotypical images that had been implanted in my brain. However, I trusted the people and now realize that at that time I was more afraid of probably having been a communist all along -- and only now began to really consider it -- than I was by the fact that they were communists. I used to dream of a better society. One where my dad didn't have to work at the economy-sized child of Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, because his 20-year loyalty to the corporate sector wasn't good enough. One where my mom could afford to go to the doctor after her body had become a broken-down machine from too much work, much like the machines she hauled around for that auto parts place.
I used to dream of communism, but without really knowing the words. This is why I joined the Party, because I was tired of always dreaming. It was the Party that helped give me the words to speak communism, to make communism. The Party, far from those stereotypical renditions of authoritarian conspiracies bent on subjugating humanity, is the means by which we are able to implement our common cause of human liberation. Now I no longer dream of communism. Now I help build it. Happy May Day!
A member (and loving it)
For 90 minutes Dr. James Jones, author of "Bad Blood: the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment," unraveled this most notorious racist experiment in U.S. history. In Tuskegee Alabama, a small town with a high incidence of syphilis among black men, the U.S. Public Health Service studied thousands of black men from the 1920's until the 1970's. Even when a cure -- penicillin -- was discovered in World War II, it was intentionally denied these men, to maintain the study. Dr. Jones said this effectively killed hundreds. He noted that many high-ranking medical and government careers were created by these "investigators" using the statistics and "studying" these black men until they died. This was nothing less than murder. He said the Civil Rights struggle put an end to this "experiment" and exposed it as a showcase of U.S. racist murderous "research."
Tuskegee is near Selma, Alabama, the site of a large Civil Rights march. Before that, a whistle-blowing scientist tried to expose this tragedy but it wasn't covered.
The weakness with Dr. Jones' scenario was his conclusion. He said hospital Ethics Boards now can prevent future racist studies. All study participants must sign "acknowledgment" forms.
I rose to thank him for educating the large number of young people there and for reminding me of my own participation in stopping a similar racist study at the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The latter was used as a "laboratory" to study impetigo and nephritis, partly funded by the Army. The "scientists" even flew young, scared Native American boys back to the University of Minnesota for kidney biopsies to get data points. They never offered treatment to the Red Lake population. Careers were also made from these racist studies, including a pediatric building named after the principal "investigator," Louis Wannamaker. The Civil Rights struggle halted this study.
But I also stated that this racist research continues today, citing Johns Hopkins placing black families in apartments being demolished to study lead effects even after they were found to contain high levels of lead. And Columbia University is trying to link "criminal behavior" to blood chemicals found in black families -- they took spinal taps of young boys who had brothers in prison.
Dr. Jones was speechless about these revelations. The moderator said there was some "controversy" about these studies. But if these connections are not made, it's not only counter-productive but very harmful to speak of Tuskegee as "an isolated event."
A Medical Worker
At a meeting, which the bosses unsuccessfully tried to spy on, we collectively wrote a strong and critical letter to the union officers demanding that no bosses be allowed to attend union meetings. We also demanded that the union leadership quit dragging its feet on the racist treatment of immigrant part-time workers. The workers told the union leaders that we expect a response to our demands within a few days, or we'll take our demands to the national leadership.
As PLP and CHALLENGE have pointed out many times, workers should have no illusions about the lousy pro-capitalist union leaders serving our class interests. Their total silence while the courts and the United Airlines bosses stole the pensions of 140,000 United workers is a harsh reminder as to who they serve. They're becoming more like the German unions that served Hitler and the Nazis.
Every struggle, big and small, from the United pension rip-off to the struggle of immigrant part-time workers to keeping bosses out of union meetings, can be turned into "schools for communism," where we can win workers to fight for communist revolution under the leadership of PLP. We'll keep you posted on the airport fight-back.
At the rally, I searched out the PL newspaper. Most had been sold by the time I arrived, but I obtained one from a PL member. As usual, I enjoyed reading it. After going on-line, I now see the paper is available on the internet. I will read it there often.
One more thing. It really was good to see the large presence of youth of color in your contingent in the LA May Day rally. None of the other left groups there had that presence. In fact, the march usually has only immigrant populations from Latin America, Mexico and Asia, and white U.S. supporters. The make-up of your representatives was a good sign of the type of orientation you have among the working-class communities.
One of our problems, especially in large urban areas, is petty-bourgeois nationalism. This is especially prevalent amongst the youth in the high schools and colleges. (Your article on LA's Cinco de Mayo scare brought this out clearly.) The youth are taught to hate other ethnicities. This poison remains in them as they become adults. Communist theory and practice endorses the unity of all workers and peoples, and gives no significance to the concept of "race." So, to see a rainbow of colors of youth wearing the red tee-shirt of communism and mobilizing for communism -- for me that was the best part of the rally. Thank you for being at the rally.
An avid reader
P.S. I feel PL must be more visible in this movement. Many of the workers who march for the rights of workers in various industries (such as janitorial, hotel, garment) are immigrant workers who are not anti-communist. I have worked for years attending rallies, supporting programs for these workers, but I never see PL. Your LA comrades should consider my constructive criticisms on this, for it is unacceptable that only liberal politics are presented to the militant immigrant workers at their events. Again, please excuse the sharpness of my criticisms. I think that being present at activities on May Day is very important. It's just not enough.
CHALLENGE Comment: Thank you for your criticism. We do try to participate in many as actions as possible involving immigrants and other workers and students. But we can always try harder.
May Day began 125 years ago, and although the numbers of participants, especially in the U.S., is small, the essence has improved in every aspect. This is due to PLP. The Party began to celebrate May Day in the 1970's, when nobody in the U.S. paid attention to this important day. Only the Party rescued it and put it in the hands of the working class again. We should be proud. We must always be in the vanguard of the political struggle.
We have to improve our work, to grow and to mature in all aspects. Since 1886, when the Chicago workers were massacred, the relations of production continue to be based on the bosses' exploitation of workers. But on a few crucial occasions, there have been attempts to end this exploitation. The Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution have been a source of inspiration for millions of workers worldwide, and a source of lessons for our Party.
Since 1886, there have been more wars, famines, epidemics and calamities in the world that have killed more workers than at any other time in history. Science and technology have advanced, in many cases displacing workers' jobs and leaving the bosses with billions in profits. All this money could have been used to combat the famines in Africa, the effects of natural disasters, like the tsunami, epidemics like AIDS that affect millions of workers in the poorest areas, to improve education. Instead it's used to make more wars, to conquer more markets, killing more workers, and generating more profits for the bosses.
Since 1889 workers have celebrated May Day. For workers it's not a party with dancing like in some countries, where the bosses and revisionists have tried to subvert it. It's a celebration of struggle, and a pledge to continue the fight for communism.
That's why I'm proud of our Party and of the recent march where we showed that the working class can follow, not fear, the correct line, the line of PLP and the fight for communism. Long live Progressive Labor Party! Long live Communism!
All music scenes, whether rock, rap or punk, have reactionary sides, including sexism, racism and drug use, but in many parts of the country Punk music opens the door to political discussion. One "scene" that stayed underground from the 1980's to the present is in Washington, D.C. Its forerunners were Minor Threat and later Fugazi. Both lead a movement of young people to escape the drug culture that infested both rock and punk scenes in the early '80s and get them involved in politics. These bands frequently played benefits for causes like homelessness, spousal abuse, apartheid and anti-racism, simultaneously creating a music that pushed the boundaries of what punk could do, fusing reggae, rock and punk. This is just one example of many.
Punk is soaked in liberal and anarchist tendencies but we need to take a balanced view in analyzing these subcultures. Young workers are drawn to punk because of capitalism's alienation. Many pick up instruments to try to communicate their frustrations with this racist system. We need to reach out and show them that waging class struggle for communist revolution is the ultimate way to get rid of the profit system's horrid conditions. And maybe we'll produce a bunch of songs about it, too.
In Chicago, only one of every 10 black teenagers found employment in 2004. In Illinois, fewer than one in every three teenage high school dropouts are working....
"Two-thirds of this generation are not living up to their parents' standard of living,"....
...Workers can't even get a modest increase in the national minimum wage.
Globalization was supposed to be great for everyone. Nafta was supposed to be a boon. Increased productivity was supposed to be the ultimate tool -- the sine qua non --for raising the standard of living for all.
Instead, wealth and power in the United States has become ever more dangerously concentrated,....
A remark by Louis Brandeis comes to mind: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both." (NYT, 5/12)
Its statements...came just days after Newsweek retracted an article...saying military investigators had reported that Americans at Guantánamo had flushed a Koran down the toilet... (NYT, 5/20)
....Americans may not notice. But people elsewhere in the world are more likely to reject the double standards. (Norman Solomon, Creators Syndicate 5/8)
Yet as Mr. DeLay boasted, many Democratic members of Congress also voted in support of these measures. In so doing, they undermined their party's ability to claim that it stands for something different.
So where will change come from? (NYT,)
"This Bosch is no good," Johnson said....
Two days after that phone conversation, thousands of U.S. Marines landed on the beaches of Santo Domingo...When the president went on television to declare that the military action was necessary to rescue U.S. citizens, he didn't mention that nearly all of them already had been evacuated before the Marines arrived.
...The public explanations for the invasion gradually shifted. On April 30, during a second televised speech, Johnson referred to "signs that people trained outside the Dominican Republic are seeking to gain control."
On May 2, LBJ pulled out the rhetorical stops, telling TV viewers that "what began as a popular democratic revolution, committed to democracy and social justice, very shortly moved and was taken over and really seized and placed into the hands of a band of Communist conspirators." But the evidence for Communist involvement was as flimsy as the claim about needing to save American citizens....
Four decades later the invasion is scarcely remembered in the United States....
The invasion of the Dominican Republic turned out to be the first in a modern series of U.S. military interventions...Santo Domingo was a prototype for the lightning-strike invasions of Grenada and Panama in the 1980s....against Iraq in 1991, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001....
...We're going to have to really set up that government down there," the president [Johnson] said, "and run it and stabilize it some way or other."
Forty years later, it's easy to imagine similar conversations in the present-day Oval Office. (Baltimore Sun, 4/27)