France: Youth Explode Against Racism
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The CFR: Center of the Web that Spins U.S. Foreign Policy
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Under Communism: What will prisons be like?
The rebellions against police brutality, racism and unemployment sweeping across many French cities have ripped the mask off the slogans of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, exposing a society in which millions of immigrant workers and their French-born children and grandchildren have been forced into high-rise ghettoes and into the country's worst jobs, education and living conditions.
The rebellion started on October 27, when cops began chasing two Muslim teenagers of African descent in Clichy-sous-Bois, an impoverished, ghettoized "suburb" northeast of Paris. The young men ran and climbed a fence, not noticing a warning about the presence of a high voltage electric generator. They were electrocuted. The cops told the usual victim-blaming lies when committing racist murder. And the rebellion was on.
Within days, it had spread across France to hundreds of oppressed "suburbs" where half the population is under 20. Many of these youth are the French-born sons and daughters of North African and sub-Sahara immigrant workers. Unemployment there is more than double the national average. For 18- to 24-year-olds it ranges between 30% and 40%. ID checks and police harassment are a way of life. (See page 4)
These French citizens and immigrants face the worst housing. All those who died in last summer's fires in run-down Paris buildings were black, from sub-Saharan Africa. While two-thirds of French children receive the equivalent of a high school diploma, less than half of foreign-born children do.
Now a three-month "state of emergency" exists nation-wide, permitting local officials to impose curfews and a ban on demonstrations as the rulers try to institute more of a police state. They've unleashed the special CRS "anti-riot" cops, known for their own brand of unlimited racist brutality.
With no communist political leadership, the young rebels have often targeted the most obvious symbols of a society that treats them like trash: the police, who brutalize them; the schools that humiliate and fail them; and the town halls symbolizing the government that exploits and discards them. Sometimes they've made serious mistakes, like trashing and burning thousands of cars, most belonging to other workers, or a deadly assault on a retired auto worker.
One wing of the racist French government and ruling class is using these incidents to characterize the rebels as "rabble" and "scum" and to depict the rebellions primarily as "vandalism" (Interior Minister Sarkozy). Another wing, resembling U.S. ruling-class liberals including Prime Minister De Villepin, Sarkozy's main rival for the presidency in the next election is shedding crocodile tears over a situation its system helped create, hypocritically decrying racism and calling for reform . The French "Communist" Party long ago gave up the idea of fighting for revolution. Along with the "Socialist" Party, more right-wing sections of both support the government crackdown and some called for even harsher measures. The unions they lead are misleading workers into the racist trap laid by the ruling class. And the Muslim religious "leaders" joined the chorus the French Union of Islamic Organizations issued a fatwa telling young Muslims to "calm their anger" if they want to obtain "divine grace."
The conditions that prompted these justifiable uprisings can't be reformed. Their history proves the indivisibility of racism and the profit system. The universal laws of capitalism apply to France just as rigorously as they do to the U.S.
Many in the international anti-war movement saw the French rulers as "allies" in the fight against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But Chirac opposed that invasion only because French oil companies lost their Iraq contracts when the U.S. expelled Saddam Hussein.
In the 19th century, French rulers colonized large parts of northern and western Africa, seeking an advantage in their competitive dogfight with British and German imperialism. This dogfight eventually led to two world wars. By the end of World War II, two developments were emerging. First, French rulers needed a massive influx of cheap labor power for their drive to become a major industrial force on world markets. Second, throughout the French empire, a growing independence struggle, led in large part by sincere communists with the old movement's incorrect pro-nationalist line, was taking shape.
The sharpest expression of this struggle for France was the Algerian War, which began in 1954, ended in 1961, and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. French President DeGaulle understood better than most of his political rivals the key class needs of French bosses, that an "independent" Algeria could be much more lucrative than an Algeria kept "French" by a costly colonial war threatening to tear France apart. So he signed the deal that made Algeria an ex-colony and turned its new bosses into business partners.
The war's end led to an explosion of immigration from Algeria and other parts of northern and western Africa to fill the most dangerous, lowest-paid jobs in heavy industry. The government gave French companies huge tax concessions to import these workers. The politicians were quite frank about the purpose of the newly-liberalized immigration policy. In 1963, Prime Minister Pompidou admitted: "Immigration is a way to loosen up the labor market and resist social pressure." When the bosses began to fear that legal immigration quotas might not fill the expanding economy's demand, Labor Minister Jeanney warbled praises of "Clandestine immigration" as " not entirely useless [otherwise] we might lack manpower."
But the profit system is unstable. Boom quickly turns into bust. By the mid-1970s, the "glorious years" of economic expansion were over. The bosses were laying off super-exploited immigrant workers rather than recruiting them. In 1974, Prime Minister Chirac, now president, suspended immigration. In 1978, Secretary of State Stoléru promoted an infamously racist measure to expel 500,000 immigrants over a five-year period. Throughout this period, Jean-Marie Le Pen was building the "National Front" the most successful openly fascist electoral party in Europe since Hitler - around blatantly racist, anti-immigrant slogans.
The mainstream bosses' parties were co-opting his agenda while pretending to distance themselves from him. In 1991, Chirac was preparing his eventual presidential campaign. He visited a French family living in the same neighborhood as Arab immigrants and wondered aloud how "good French people" could bear the "stench and noise." Four years later he won largely because he captured a large section of Le Pen's political base, much like the two Bushes and Reagan before them, who pandered to the openly racist elements of the U.S. electorate. Now main-line fascistic leaders and presidential hopefuls like Sarkozy are again co-opting LePen's followers.
But France's anti-immigrant racism doesn't belong exclusively to the open fascists and right-wingers. Barely two weeks after Chirac's racist tirade in 1991, Edith Cresson, then the "Socialist" Prime Minister, proposed charter flights to forcibly repatriate "unwanted" immigrants. Two weeks later, President Mitterrand, another "socialist," made a speech on July 14 (France's national holiday) supporting Cresson. Mitterrand had earlier distinguished himself as a collaborator with the Nazi occupation in World War II supplying the Hitlerites with intelligence that sent anti-Nazis to prison and/or execution- as well as the Interior Minister who launched the French government's first wave of brutal colonial repression when the Algerian war erupted in 1954.
So Interior Minister Sarkozy's racist filth against today's rebels hardly falls from the sky. Every single cause of the present rebellion racist super-exploitation of immigrant labor power, racist unemployment, racist police terror against immigrant workers and their unemployed children, racist schools that miseducate children and throw them onto a labor market to seek non-existent jobs, and racist insults by victim-blaming politicians can be traced directly to the profit system.
The universality of racism and its consequences under capitalism is one important lesson to draw from the current rebellions in France. Others include:
During the time the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong was sincerely fighting for workers' power, he wrote, "Revolution is not a tea party." Well, neither is spontaneous rebellion. The masses of young workers involved in today's uprisings are lashing out as best they can against a system that has made their lives intolerable. They aren't doing so in the most effective way, but they're hardly to blame for the current vacuum of revolutionary political leadership in France. The old communist movement first betrayed them, then abandoned them. Our Party salutes their rebellion and recognizes in it a sure sign that class struggle will always rise to the forefront sooner or later, even in the bleakest of periods.
In a context of sharp, massive international class struggle, today's anti-racist rebellion by French youth could potentially serve as a catalyst to galvanize the world's working class. This was the case in April-May 1968, when a militant protest by university students outside Paris led to a general student strike and very rapidly thereafter to a general strike of the French working class that virtually shut down the country for three weeks. The powder in France and throughout the world is just as dry today as it was then. The difference lies in the absence of a vital communist center (like the inspiration drawn from that eras Chinese Cultural Revolution) to transform class hatred into a force for the seizure of political power. However, a looming national rail strike (Nov. 21) against privatization of the railroads and an accompanying mass demonstration in Paris is an opportunity for oppressed youth to unite with workers in a pro-working class, anti-racist alliance.
We have a long way to go before we become such a force. But that's the Progressive Labor Party's goal, in the U.S., France and everywhere. We salute today's rebels. We celebrate their anger and their fighting spirit. We are inspired by their actions, which have once again placed class struggle on the front page. And we promise to keep building the PLP until it deserves to be recognized as the revolutionary communist leadership of the world's workers.
AUSTIN, TEXAS, Nov. 5 More than 3,000 protesters marched against the Ku Klux Klan today at City Hall here, the state capital. PLP members and friends from three Texas cities participated, some seizing leadership and leading chants, including "Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and White; No KKK No Way!"
This leadership galvanized the largest contingent of several hundred demonstrators, encouraging hundreds to join the march, and united with members of the U. of Texas Black Students Association to try to confront the racist Klan. Fake leftist organizers had no plan and were pushed aside as they almost led the march into an early police trap. Liberal peace groups trying to drown out militant chants were told by marchers, "Were here to confront the Klan, not listen to speeches and songs." Hundreds more at two other intersections were less organized, some obeying misleaders instructions to hold a "silent vigil."
Austins mayor protected the Klan with several hundred baton-wielding riot police, including dozens on horseback, with spotters, snipers and photographers on rooftops. These Klansmen in blue protected the seven Klansmen who tried to rally, sealing off two square blocks and keeping the racist Klan right next to a large armored police vehicle. Each street intersection leading to the City Hall where the Klan hid was blocked by lines of cops, their batons at the ready.
For the week before this Klan action "in support of family values and against gay marriage" the mayor, peace groups and newspapers pleaded with Texans not to demonstrate and to ignore the Klan "so it wouldnt get publicity." Obviously many workers and students refused these pro-fascist instructions, but some took them seriously until they heard the various ways the government is building fascism, including publicizing Klan events. Others argued the demonstration "wasnt important" if there was no way to physically attack the Klan.
But asking people to protest the Klan is important; strength of numbers can change whats possible. The bottom line is that thousands will fight racism and sexism, even without understanding how capitalism depends for its survival on keeping people divided.
PLP members talked to people about the militant rebellions of North African youth against the racist French government this week, the anti-Nazi rebellion in Toledo, and the massive street demonstrations against the U.S. and Bush in Argentina. We in PLP have a great opportunity to rebuild an international revolutionary communist movement among these thousands of angry demonstrators, from Austin to Argentina to the suburbs of Paris, to turn their militancy into a fight to destroy capitalism, the root cause of racism and fascism.
One radio station predicted hundreds would come to support the Klan because it supports a law banning gay marriage. But only a tiny handful of KKKers showed up while thousands came to protest. This indicates that the Klan is a product of the rulers media which publicizes its racist actions, and of their government which protects them. Every such event is an opportunity to win people to the need for revolution, not just reform.
In that vein, PL members met and exchanged phone numbers with marchers and spectators, including undocumented workers from Latin America who face attacks today from U.S. rulers newest nazi group, the Minutemen.
The bosses' state is not neutral. It represents the interests of the capitalist class. Workers must understand its nature, and why different ruling-class factions fight to control it. When workers grasp that concept we can see that we have no friends in the ruling class and that the only state that serves our interests is one where workers rule and abolish wage slavery, capitalist profits, their wars and racist/fascist terror communism.
The presidency of the United States is both supremely powerful and precarious. A president can make war (see box on Imperial Presidency), steer the economy, and shape society in significant ways. But the very importance of the office makes it a highly unstable element of the capitalists class dictatorship. Factions among them constantly battle tooth and nail over control of the White House. For more than a century, the struggle has essentially involved two camps: imperialist liberals, the dominant group, who need to militarize the U.S. for ever larger wars; and bosses who would only employ capital and manpower for their own companies gain. This fundamental rift, inseparable from the profit system, turns elections into circuses and underlies an endless series of presidential scandals, impeachments, and attempted and successful assassinations.
Today the liberal imperialist wing is using the Cheney-Libby-CIA flap to scold Bush for failing to secure Iraq and failing to whip up patriotic spirit for future wars. In response, Bush is taking small, halting steps to get on board the liberal agenda. In a Veterans Day speech, he vowed to finish the job in Iraq and even spoke the liberals magic word, half-heartedly acknowledging "the sacrifices that might lie ahead." "Shared sacrifice" has become the liberals slogan for the coming phase of inter-imperialist conflict. Capitalists will have to sacrifice some profits in the form of war taxes. Workers will have to sacrifice their wages, personal freedom and lives. But Bushs efforts are too little and too late for liberal media outlets like Newsweek, which recently saddled him with a dismal approval rating of 36%.
The imperialist camp upholds Franklin D. Roosevelt as the presidential ideal. The regulatory agencies he created bent finance and industry to U.S. imperialisms needs. He boosted U.S. troop strength from 400,000 to 14,000,000. But until FDR actually accomplished the liberals tasks, they employed their media to correct and direct even his administration. In 1938, the New York Times chief Washington correspondent Arthur Krock praised FDR for his "political execution of the right-wing conservative" and for planning "to mobilize industry under...a government agency reminiscent of the [World War I] War Industries Board." But simultaneously, Krock speaking for the impatient imperialists attacked FDRs "incapacity to consolidate progress." FDRs vindication, for the liberal warmakers, came only with the U.S. invasion of Normandy. Liberal sainthood followed soon after FDRs death, when Truman executed the nuclear genocide FDR had planned for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The liberal wing hasnt yet determined what it can do with Bush & Co. But it clearly wants them either ousted or thoroughly purged and the White House reshaped in the liberal image. The Times editorial (11/8) lamented, "It's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long." The Times, targeting Cheney as a chief hindrance to the liberal war agenda and complaining that he cant be fired, urges Bush to "keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm."
We cant predict which of the bosses favorite forms the housecleaning will take (see box, "Uncertain Terms", page 2) or even if the liberals can pull it off completely. But we can be sure theyll keep trying. As scandals pile up and harsher actions become more plausible, we must avoid the trap of siding with either of the rulers factions. This is not about the ethics or intelligence of any politician. What drives the Oval Office dogfight is the liberal imperialists need to dominate the world, while killing millions of workers in the process.
The growing need for U.S. rulers to expand and protect their worldwide profit empire by force has led to ever broader presidential war powers:
When the U.S. was just joining the ranks of the major imperialists in 1917, Wilson had to battle Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Fifty-six congressmen voted against it. By 1941, the war declaration had become a rubber-stamp formality. Congresss 470-1 vote for war on Japan merely blessed the mobilization FDR had begun years before. Truman dispensed with war declarations entirely, never bothering to ask for congressional ratification for the Korean War.
Presidents since then have had a free hand. JFK had troops in Vietnam long before Congress discussed the matter. Nor did the White House seek Capitol Hills advice for subsequent U.S. military assaults on the Dominican Republic, Panama, Haiti, Libya, Lebanon, Grenada, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Sanctimonious debates in Congress over launching the two Iraq wars were hollow farces. They both took place as the invasion fleets were already under way. Bush had Special Forces in Afghanistan well ahead of 9/11.
As the importance of the presidency increases, recent history shows tenure in the White House gets shakier:
Kennedy: Assassinated in first term. His call for economic sacrifice for U.S. imperialism angered many capitalists, great and small.
Johnson: Forced to forgo second term by failure in Vietnam and rebellions at home.
Nixon: Forced to resign under threat of impeachment over Watergate. Economic policies hindered U.S. imperialism.
Ford: Never elected. Two assassination attempts. Defeated by Carter who vowed U.S. war for Persian Gulf oil (Carter Doctrine).
Carter: One term. Iran revolution and hostage crisis revealed inability to deliver on Middle East.
Reagan: Two terms. Courted right-wing voters. Doubled-crossed them by pursuing imperialist agenda once in office. Shot by neo-Nazi, domestic oil heir Hinckley. Continued military expansion begun by Carter. Benefited hugely from collapse of politically corrupt Soviet Union.
Bush, Sr.: One term. Won back Kuwaiti oil for U.S. but fell short of seizing Iraq.
Clinton: Two terms. Impeached by anti-regulation camp over "sex scandal." Bombed ex-Yugoslavia. Bombed and starved Iraq with sanctions. Never managed to launch ground war. Failed to rein in industry, especially drug companies.
Bush, Jr.: Stole 2000 election from liberal imperialist Gore. Future uncertain.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 9 On Nov. 5, hundreds of marchers from the national movement to stop HIV/AIDS took its anti-racist message to the predominantly black Anacostia southeast neighborhood here. They included PLP public health activists and local members of Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) and the Prince Georges County Health Action Forum. PLP members distributed dozens of CHALLENGES to marchers and residents, emphasizing that capitalism is to blame for AIDS having gone from being a disease to a genocidal epidemic, and that only communism can organize society to consistently stop such social disasters.
The Anacostia community is the most at-risk for the disease but the most-ignored by the bosses. Residents welcomed the march, declaring, "Youre doing the right thing!" During the Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA) Days of Action (11/5 through 11/8), chants rang out like "HIV Prevention Worldwide Anything Less is Genocide!"; "Fund Condoms Not War!"; "Dead Addicts Dont Recover Needle Exchange and Harm Reduction Now!"
Three days later, C2EA convened in a park near the White House and "awarded" Golden Tombstones to right-wing groups which promote "abstinence only," fight sex education in the schools and oppose life-saving needle exchange programs for drug-users. After an energetic visit to the headquarters of one of these fascist lobbying groups, marchers demonstrated at the White House where 29 demonstrators were arrested after lying down on the sidewalk with gravestones reading, "Killed by Abstinence Only," and "Killed by Lack of Medications." In reality, racist capitalism is the killer, from the AIDS epidemic to the war in Iraq.
The MWPHAs Disparities Committee, in fighting the racist HIV/AIDS epidemic, will be holding monthly street outreach, and education in the libraries of the most affected neighborhoods, and will be organizing residents to demand drug treatment on demand, HIV prevention policies, outreach to vulnerable groups, testing and care for all.
All this is greatly needed here where 1 in 20 people (over 75% black) have the deadly HIV infection, a rate comparable to Tanzania and Mozambique. HIV is one of the most racist health inequalities in the world. Over 40 million people have HIV, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa. In the U.S., nearly half of all black gay men have HIV; rates are growing fastest among young people ages 15 to 24. In D.C.s poorest areas, drugs fuel the epidemic with IV drug-users spreading HIV to women.
The C2EA is demanding: HIV prevention based on science condoms, comprehensive sex education, clean needles for drug users; treatment for all everywhere maintain Medicaid for all beneficiaries; medications for people everywhere; full funding for the Ryan White Care Act, a critical source of financing HIV programs; Research for a cure and better treatment and prevention options; and an end to stigma and discrimination against people with HIV. Actions need to go beyond politics as usual.
Generating profit, not health, is intrinsic to capitalism. Blood-sucking drug companies insist on unaffordable prices for their drugs, so in Africa only 15% of the people who need medication are treated with the HIV drugs that keep people alive in the U.S.
Here, Democratic and Republican politicians all know that as long as there are enough reasonably healthy people to work (and fight wars), infected people can be ignored and disposed of. On the march we met a woman living with AIDS and ovarian cancer in a Mississippi shelter who was denied disability compensation because she "wasnt sick enough." Then she couldnt qualify for AIDS-related housing because she didnt have an income!
The C2EA days of action were mild reform actions. They showed that only the working class can lead the fight. Virtually no one from AIDS service organizations, Schools of Public Health, Health Departments or the D.C. City Council participated. Just as during Hurricane Katrina, its up to the working class to lead the fight for a better society based on equality and health for all. Our class must be organized around PLPs revolutionary politics, not the wishful thinking that a better politician will come along.
NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 4 The recent contract vote in the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) here saw 63% in favor and 37% against, the closest vote in the unions 40-year history. Among classroom teachers, the percentage against was probably 40%.
This contract reflected the intense racism that permeates the NYC school system, with its overwhelmingly black and Latino student body. Nothing in the contract did anything for the students, whom billionaire Mayor Bloomberg and the ruling class view as the source of an endless supply for their low-wage economy and of cannon fodder for their imperialist wars.
An Important Contract
The large opposition vote has the union leadership running scared. Theyre making plans to try to maintain control of the members. As CHALLENGE reported (11/16), opposition groups are growing within the union, some comprising young teachers who the bosses and the UFT assumed were in their hip pockets.
Two years ago the Mayor won direct control of the schools, no longer having to play political games to get what he wanted. He moved the headquarters of the renamed Department of Education (DOE) downtown, next door to City Hall. The UFT leadership agreed to this change, and therefore it was O.K.d by the State Legislature. Mayoral control has increased many educators fears of harassment and increased oppression.
This contract is one more step in the increasing control of individual classroom teachers, dictating placement of classroom furniture, materials to be placed on bulletin boards and walls, timing and pacing of lessons, down to the minute. This harassment places the burden of the students success solely on the teachers, not on the DOE at all.
Even more critically, UFTers have lost the right to grieve this harassment, having given up the second step of a 3-step grievance process. They can no longer complain when administrators place letters of reprimand in their personal files. The day after the contract was ratified, union members began hearing about administrators plans to target teachers they want to fire.
Due to the increasing harassment and the tremendous workload, many new teachers leave before theyve worked in the system for five years. The DOE bosses encourage that turnover since they assume these inexperienced teachers will not be loyal to their co-workers or to the union. While somewhat true, weve met younger teachers willing to fight and organize, some forming school groups against racism, others engaging in struggles against this contract.
We have to bring our co-workers and friends into action, struggling together against this harassment, micromanagement and racism, and build support for co-workers targeted by the administration. Even more important, we must build a fight for our students who are consistently losing out class size is still far too large, resources are scarce in most schools, and overworked, harassed teachers cannot do their best.
We must involve the students, their parents and rank-and-file teachers in a united anti-racist fight against these fascist conditions, which are keyed by racist neglect of the students, a situation which the union leadership either does nothing about or, worse, fosters. Gaining strength from fighting for the working-class black and Latino students is the only way teachers can improve their own lives. (The last contract teachers won both better working conditions and higher salaries was in 1975; its been all downhill since then.)
The intensification of racism in the schools and control of the teachers adds up to fascism in the educational system. Through a united student-parent-teacher anti-racist struggle, PLPers can bring communist ideas to the fore and demonstrate that the racism of capitalism can only be defeated by overthrowing the system itself. That lesson is the best education students can ever receive, to extricate themselves from the rat hole which the profit system has created.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, Nov. 9 Workers here are on the move. Today, 5,000 members of UTIER (Union of Water and Electrical Workers) marched to the governors house (La Fortaleza "The Fortress") protesting his privatization plan and demanding a new contract with decent pay. Several Senators met with the workers, saying they supported the demands, but the workers dont trust them and will continue their protests.
Earlier, over 3,000 teachers marched from the Capitol to La Fortaleza in the biggest teachers action in recent years, demanding the government negotiate a new contract, with an 18% wage hike, smaller class size and better working conditions. For the last 11 years a teachers basic wage here has been frozen at $1,500 a month (a cops starting wage is $2,300 a month, over 50% more).
The teachers union affiliated with the U.S. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has broken with the AFT, accusing it of just collecting their dues and doing nothing for them. The local here is fighting the AFTs attempt to put it in receivership.
The teachers are rejecting the governments claim of a "fiscal crisis" while money is being funneled to the Iraq war, in which many young soldiers from PR have been killed and injured.
One problem affecting teachers, and the population in general, is violent crime. Many teachers fear violence in their schools. The governments "solution" is increased police patrols. The governor has responded by sending more cops into housing projects and working-class communities. But the main causes of this violence are unemployment, drugs which cops are part of and the general crisis of capitalism.
The government has increasingly employed the police state Patriot Act. Even Senators were surprised when they found hidden cameras monitoring them in the Capitol building. A few months ago, an FBI death squad ambushed and, in cold blood, killed Filiberto Ojeda, leader of an underground pro-independence group here. This was repudiated by many, viewed as an attack on all workers fighting back.
This fight-back is a good thing. From this workers can learn that under capitalism lousy education for working-class youth, rotten working conditions for workers and crime are constants. Turning such struggles into schools for communism learning how to fight for workers power, a society without bosses is he best lesson to be drawn from them.
The latest bosses offensive in the auto industry (see article below) proves in spades that trying to reform capitalism is a dead end. Over the last 60 years, of all industries and unions, auto and the UAW are the ones claiming to have provided workers, especially unskilled workers, with the greatest job security, pensions and health care "for life." Of course, the auto companies didnt just give these reforms out of the goodness of their hearts. It took communist leadership in the unionization drive of the 1930s to win them, with sit-down strikes occupying the plants and defying the bosses laws.
Then along came World War II and the no-strike pledge. In the post-war period, the class struggle resumed, with strike after strike in those years winning cost-of-living wage increases, pensions, health benefits and finally the so-called Guaranteed Annual Wage, SUB pay (Supplemental Unemployment Benefits) that would grant workers 95% of their wages throughout layoffs.
UAW chief honcho, Walter Reuther (who had ousted the communists from leadership in the late 1940s during the height of the anti-communist cold war hysteria), proclaimed paradise for the workers. But capitalism the system that Reuther and all his successors in leadership champion doesnt work that way.
No sooner had the Big Three GM, Ford and Chrysler faced stiff competition from their imperialist rivals in Germany and Japan, the U.S. auto industry hit the skids. Plant closings, mass layoffs, wrecking SUB pay, and billions in wage and benefit concessions became the order of the day, destroying any measure of previously-won job security. The fierce worldwide competition for market share intrinsic to capitalism squeezed profits out of the backs of the workers.
Soon GM and Ford greatly increased the number of their plants in Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere, long before they started business in China. Now they could export many more jobs and pay these workers anywhere between 58¢ to $2 an hour, leading to even more massive layoffs in the U.S. This outsourcing partly helped cut the UAW auto membership in half. Ironically, VW, Nissan, Honda and Daimler began building plants in the U.S. (mainly in the non-union South) where labor costs are lower than in Germany and Japan.
Now wages, "guaranteed" pensions and health care are taking still another hit. This falls especially hard on black workers, who were the last ones hired in auto and the first ones to go because of the historic racist hiring practices of the Big Three.
So the laws of capitalism competition, export of capital seeking the lowest labor costs (imperialist "globalization") and racism are smashing all these reform gains won by the union, enforced by the bosses state in the person of bankruptcy judges and laws. The UAW leadership always operated within these bosses laws which guarantee that the bosses class interests are primary and that their profits must be defended at all costs. Now this means installing fascism in the work-place, which is exactly what these company attacks are producing, similar to what the Nazis did under Hitler.
All this is intensified by the U.S. rulers need to launch war after war to defend their class interests internationally against their imperialist rivals. This permanent war economy requires, among other things, money to pay for the enormous cost of their military machine. And the primary source of this money is lowering the living standards of the working class.
Once again, all this proves what PLP has always maintained: no reform is safe under capitalism because the bosses hold state power and, in the last analysis, their pro-capitalist laws and rule hold sway. Therefore, workers must understand that politics are primary even in struggles for reforms and that our class interests can never be served under capitalism. So sooner than later, workers must confront the bosses, their state and their union agents, along with their pro-war patriotism, racism and anti-communism, and fight for a system where workers rule: communism.
DETROIT, MI, Nov. 1 Tremors continue to rock the domestic auto industry. Delphi, the countrys largest parts supplier, filed the largest bankruptcy in the history of the U.S. auto industry and demanded billions in concessions, including wages as low as $10 an hour, a cut of more than 50%. GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced health care concessions of $15 billion in GMs previous contractual commitment, marking the beginning of the end of "guaranteed" benefits. Fords plan includes significant plant closings and job cuts for its North American operations. In September, it was forced to reclaim 24 Visteon plants to bail out its former parts division.
Ford reported a $284 million loss in the third quarter, and GM lost nearly $4 billion through three quarters, including its largest quarterly loss in over a decade ($1.6 billion).
Now UAW president Ron Gettelfinger reported details of the tentative agreement with GM to impose health benefit cuts on union retirees, unanimously approved by several hundred GM local union leaders. Membership ratification (retired workers wont be allowed to vote) is awaiting a court ruling that prevents retirees from suing the union and the company (see CHALLENGE, 11/16)).
For the first time, GM retirees will have to pay deductibles, monthly premiums and hospital co-payments. Right now this means a $15 billion down payment on a new 2007 contract that will include plant closings, elimination of the job bank for laid-off workers, and a possible end to the "30 and Out" retirement. In the long run, these concessions prove that as long as the bosses hold power, even benefits built up over a century of struggle cannot survive.
Retired GM workers will pay up to $370 a year for traditional coverage, ($752 for a family). The cost of some prescription drugs will double or triple. Current GM workers will give up $1-an-hour in 2006, deferring cost-of-living adjustments and wage increases to help pay retiree medical costs (GM will contribute $3 billion to the fund by 2011). Current workers will also face increased co-pays. Ford and Chrysler are looking for similar deals.
The bosses and bankers are locked in a sharpening struggle with their imperialist rivals, punctuated by high gas prices and declining market share. For them, $15 billion isnt enough. Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa said, Should GMs results worsen, we are concerned that the door to additional UAW assistance would be closed, increasing the chance of a serious strike. GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said, Its a very important step. I didnt say it was the last step
The brutal restructuring of the auto, steel and airline industries are not only destroying pensions, healthcare and wages, but bringing fascism to the work-place amid a permanent war economy. It will also shatter many illusions, the hard way. Along with the naked racism of the Katrina disaster and the building of a Homeland Security police state, the bosses are loaded for bear. Workers will not spontaneously draw revolutionary conclusions. Thats PLPs job, and this is our opportunity.
(Interviews with young Citroen workers from the housing projects, Lhumanité hebdo, 11/12/05)
"Today its like an erupting volcano," said Housni . Young people have accumulated years of discrimination."
"Me, I worked for Citroen for eighteen months," said Salim, 23 . "They promised [to] hire me. I took the tests and the medical check-up . But in the end they told me no." That was on May 5, 2003. Since then Salim hasnt found anything. "Im still furious. I would really have liked to work at the factory . I had done all the jobs. But the bosses dont want us."
"I work. I have nothing on my conscience, but I get stopped all the time by the cops." Lionel has registered several complaints on the police blotter against harassment. "I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps and the cops tell me: Youre from the housing project, youre a delinquent. The other day I went to eat in a little restaurant, they pass by in their patrol car, they stop. They call out my name. I come out, I ask them why. For nothing."
"If my name was Franck, Id have a good career," said Ahmed. "Weve always got to slave away four times as hard as the others to be recognized . When I went to ask my boss for a raise, he answered: In the old days your parents didnt ask any questions. I didnt understand what he meant right away. Afterward it really hurt me. Our parents left with less than nothing in the way of a retirement pension, without any thanks, without any gratitude. And yet they worked like mad. Today, its the same thing all over with us."
Ahmed echoed: "Its not normal for them to burn cars. But thats the only way you can make yourself heard . What they did to our parents, they want to do to us .The old guys at Citroen tell us they were called n-----s, they got hit. Today its starting over again. But they wont be able to do the same thing with us . I cant be any more French than I already am . They sell us the dream of equality. But its like the American dream. Its not for us."
(Second of four-part series)
"I will strike. Labor has been holding up the wall for too long." This overworked CUNY academic counselor, an underpaid Higher Education Officer (HEO) with no real dental benefits, grew angrier as she spoke with the picket captain. The latter was one of 350 faculty and staff organizers trying to inform the 20,000 members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) that the union might need to strike for a decent salary, health benefits and equity raises for the most exploited. The counselor then signed on to perform picket captain duty herself. She attended the next organizers meeting. Her reports of conversations with her list came in on time. She brought people to our first picket, unifying the rank and file at a higher level of organizing.
What does this new unity mean? As an African American woman in the HEO job title, she lives some of the structural inequalities in our own ranks that make unity so difficult. As in other industries, the capitalist organization of workers in higher education profits from racism and sexism through the division of labor. HEOs, with the same salary scale as faculty, earn less as a group because there is virtually no promotion in their series. The majority are women, compared to the 58% male faculty (68% male in the full professor title), and a majority people of color compared to only 23% of the faculty. Narrow professional and status consciousness among faculty, combined with residual racist and sexist ideas, increase their separateness from the more exploited professional staff, HEOs and College Lab Technicians (CLTs). CLTs are also a majority black and Latin with a very low salary scale.
Language Immersion and Continuing Education teachers are even more grossly exploited. The greatest inequality is between full-time and part-time workers. The latter comprise more than half the faculty and teach 60% of all CUNY courses, for one-third the per-course pay of a full-timer at the Lecturer rank. And though community college and senior college faculty have the same salary scale, their teaching loads are harshly unequal, especially because CUNY community college faculty hold Ph.D. degrees at twice the national rate. Meanwhile, management expresses contempt at the negotiating table for all but full-time senior college faculty.
Yet our new picket captain has a sense of workers need for unity as a class. Here reference to "labor," pointed to thinking of workers as a whole and the way unions are failing us all in the class war. Precisely as a PSCer, an HEO, an African American and as a woman, she classifies her specific situation as "labor," as part of the working class. Unusual in her political clarity, she sees the particular in the general, unity in difference. The PSC has a fair representation of HEOs, African Americans and women in the union leadership, but fall short among core activists. The union feels thats a major issue, so why havent we won our new picket captain before now? (Self-critically, a PLPer on the same campus believes, it is because of white radicals fear of rejection by colleagues with black nationalist views.) How can the PSC sustain her new activism? How can faculty unite with staff, white with black, and faculty with our students as full political equals? Tough questions.
This sister prompts both the main question of this article, and perhaps suggests its answer: how to create unity amid inequality in our ranks? As the new picket captains form a permanent network of activists to last far beyond this contract, we cannot placate those who are most exploited with small gains and expect unity to flow from that. We must agitate for the most oppressed, never stop "speaking bitterness," as Chinese communist women once put it?
Capitalism cannot end inequality because the wage and profit system itself endlessly reproduces it. The PSC must agitate for radical labor egalitarianism, not placate everyone as liberal unions do. The union (especially the PLPers among us) must win people to a notion of work not as capitalist wage labor, but, in communist style, as commitment to others in a collective social project. We will answer these questions of theory and practice through struggle. In the PSC were holding up the wall no longer.
The unity and struggle of opposites is a central idea in the communist philosophy of dialectical materialism. (A brief readable introduction to dialectics is the PLP pamphlet "Jailbreak.") What seems to be one thing (e.g., a union like the PSC) is in fact a unity of opposites, whose connection constitutes the thing as long as it lasts. But the tension between opposites eventually transforms the thing into something else, for good or ill.
In the PSC an equal number of full-timers and part-timers work together in a single union even though part-timers earn only one-third to one-fifth of the full-time scale. But theres a tension between the two, which, if each group looked out only for itself, could turn unity into division. The faculty at Nassau Community College on Long Island is divided into a full-timers and a part-timers union (the latter about to strike). "The literature shows that adjuncts who are represented by full-time faculty unions are treated as an afterthought we must stand alone," said an officer of the Adjunct Faculty Association. Maybe so, if the unions are badly led. But a union in which both really stood together, at a higher level of unity, would put all faculty in a better position.
In dialectics we regard the unity of opposites as secondary, while the struggle of opposites is primary; in other words, everything is in flux, everything changes. In the PSC the tension is not yet at that point and that unity still exists, but the PSC could also split if the leadership treats adjuncts as an afterthought. Revolutionary communists would say politics is primary over economics here. In the PSC leadership and rank and file theres still enough workers solidarity to challenge the capitalist myth of me-first. Enough full-timers want to fight alongside part-timers for equal pay for equal work for the PSC to remain united. But capitalism constantly threatens this unity, with its enforced inequality between the two and its culture of everyone standing alone. The CUNY bosses will fight to the bitter end to maintain the profits of inequality, and that means our political unity will be a constant struggle against the bosses ideology. The class struggle entails a constant battle for workers unity.
But politics is primary over economics, so higher and higher levels of workers unity are possible. The most oppressed workers in France are showing us the way. The political leadership of the union, and for the working class as a whole the revolutionary party, is the key factor. Pressing forward with a strike on the basis of mass organizing behind a strong demand for adjunct parity could lift unity in the PSC to a higher level and make it stronger for both groups. Dropping that plan and settling for a deal that leaves adjuncts behind will weaken unity in the PSC. ("10% of crap is crap," said one PSC adjunct leader.) The New Caucus leadership brought such unity to the PSC in 2000 and it has been much stronger since then. But things can still turn into their opposite under pressure from the boss. PLPers strive with our PSC sisters and brothers to keep the pressure on from the workers side, fighting for unity not only in one union but in our whole class. Then we can turn the petty mythology of inequality into its noble opposite.
"An injury to one is an injury to all." When that call sounded over the high schools PA system, teachers all knew it signaled an emergency union meeting to defend a popular counselor who the administration had attacked. It exemplified struggles occurring at this school.
While reforms that fundamentally improve workers lives are impossible under capitalism, involvement in the class struggle in the union, even when it appears to be only about "reforms," can contribute to a deeper understanding of capitalism among many people. During this period of increasing wars and war budgets, we can fight for stronger ties among teachers, students, staff and parents, and greater awareness of the long-term fight to destroy capitalism.
This large urban high school has a history of struggle. Its students come from families of Latino and black workers. Some at the school tell the truth about the class struggle, and have close ties with other students, parents, teachers and staff. Some although too few have distributed CHALLENGE.
The first struggle this summer involved taking away the right of the local school governance body to choose a principal, because our test scores had not met No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. While we dont advocate fighting to choose our own oppressor, this struggle enabled us to explain that NCLB is a war-time austerity measure attacking teachers and parents while making no improvement in the schools. We linked this attack to the need to attend a union-sponsored anti-war conference. A multi-racial effort broke down barriers of "race," age and status so prevalent in the schools. Without having picked our principal, we won more unity and class consciousness, and more people reading CHALLENGE.
This struggle made distributing a communist leaflet about Katrina in the school cafeteria easier. It helped more people understand that capitalism as a whole is a racist, killer system, and see the connection to the war in particular. This complemented work with students who, learning about racism, strikes, imperialism and past soldier rebellions, saw the links to current events in the capitalist system.
Students participated with PLP in the September 24 anti-war mobilization, distributed CHALLENGE, attended PLP study groups and played a leading role in organizing a school club on campus.
In October, when the new principal demoted a competent and popular counselor over an altercation with a notoriously rude administrator, and the union rep called an emergency meeting, announcing that "an injury to one is an injury to all," the entire school community mobilized to defend the counselor. All week the majority of the staff wore red union shirts and stickers with this slogan. Students were sitting-in in the principals office, and parents insisted on meeting with the principal. This struggle was victorious and has built unity in the school community.
While the union bureaucrats and many honest teachers were campaigning against Schwarzeneggers anti-teacher and anti-labor ballot propositions, we emphasized that its the unity and struggle of the working class that won back the counselors job teacher tenure laws, the union contract, politicians and elections were of no use here. Now students and teachers are interested in reading PLP leaflets that prove its not just Bush and Schwarzenegger, its capitalism, especially since its the Democrats who are pushing for more troops and more fascist homeland security.
During this struggle the district also canceled the unions permission to hold the anti-war conference. Teachers district-wide responded by donating hundreds of dollars to pay conference expenses. Students and staff signed petitions demanding the conference be held and the District backed down.
This has all helped increase class consciousness among many in the school community, especially measured by the doubling of hand-to-hand CHALLENGE distribution since last year. Fighting on a daily basis inspires confidence in the working class, and the need to deepen the struggle for the working class to take power. When communists give even modest leadership, to the class struggle, drawing communist lessons, were further along the road to ending this murderous system, and building one based on communist equality and workers power.
At the NYC Veterans Day parade, I joined my group of anti-war vets on 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. As luck would have it, a large group of politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was directly in front of us, stalled by the marchers in front of them. Our thunderous chants of "Troops home now!" had a visible effect on them, especially on Bloomberg, who began twisting and squirming until some police brass ran over and cleared a path so they could move out of hearing range.
About five minutes later 50 cops, some on motorcycles, surrounded our group trying to shield the rest of the marchers from us. I yelled, "This is Democracy folks your right to dissent as long as youre completely surrounded by cops."
We raised our signs and banners and chanted louder, continuing to grab attention from the recruits marching by until a plainclothes cop ordered his KKKohorts to push us into a side street. They pushed us and we pushed back a few times and then started to chant, "No Police State" until a top cop told the plainclothes ones to back off. The situation was heading toward a battle and arrests so I guess they realized that dragging off vets (some in wheelchairs) might not do their phony democracy image much good.
The cops then informed our group that if we wanted to march we had to walk back a couple blocks and wait on a side street (where we wouldnt be too effective). We moved there and waited until the very end of the parade, missing contact with the rest of the marchers. After almost two hours one vet joked, "Folks the Veterans anti-war parade has now officially become part of the Thanksgiving Parade."
When we finally got to march, we were dead last, with cops at our backs hurrying us along. We had a float for the disabled, playing music. The first song was, "War; what is it good for?" An 80-year-old vet in a wheelchair yelled, "Oil profits!" Everyone laughed and took up that chant, along with our anti-war drill cadences like, "Were veterans against the war, We know what were fighting for; Bring our troops back to our soil, We say no more blood for oil!"
I had made a sign with Marine General Smedly Butlers quote, "The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag." When vets asked who Butler was, I showed them a CHALLENGE with articles about him and another one about soldiers being turned into mindless killers.
It turned our to be a day when about 50% of a supposedly patriotic and pro-military crowd gave us the thumbs up or cheered us on wildly and when some vets and recruits learned something about "Democracy" and who the cops really protect. I want to thank CHALLENGE for its very timely articles and I hope it continues to take note of dates important to veterans and workers.
The CHALLENGE article (10/19) saying Toledo youth supposedly "put revolutionary ideas into practice" is incorrect. Their actions surely were fantastic, militant and an expression of violent anti-racism, which we should encourage. But "revolutionary"? That implies they supported, or at least were aware of, communist politics, but that hasnt been the case. These brave, local, mostly black youth acted completely out of their own anti-racist volition.
The article doesnt counterpose the issue of the militant anti-racism with the need for a communist society. We must be as disciplined in our writing as we are in real life. We cannot afford to write something that in the heat of unbridled praise supports "revolutionary spontaneity," a concept all serious Marxist-Leninists oppose.
The "Other Superpower" letter (CHALLENGE, 11/16) makes good points about working-class power but draws an incorrect conclusion about Katrina, that the ruling class is "glad" when large groups of workers die in disasters and other tragedies caused by capitalism because there will be fewer unemployment benefits, Social Security payments and less people to protest their crimes. The writer is criticizing another letter about Katrina saying the ruling class doesnt care about the victims.
Of course, bosses dont care if workers suffer as long as it means more profits, but they cannot be glad to be exposed for their racist neglect at home while spending hundreds of billions for imperialist oil wars abroad. A recent health study showed that while over 80,000 black and Latin people died last year from lack of health care equivalent to almost one Katrina every week it took the hurricane to make the rulers gross indifference a media event. The recent honoring of Rosa Parks and the resurrection of other black heroes shows that the ruling class realizes it needs millions of consenting minority troops for its imperialist plans and is desperately trying to repair its image.
The specter of black and Latin rebellions during the 1960s and 70s which caused troops to be diverted from Vietnam still haunts the U.S. ruling class, especially now with an ongoing two-week rebellion of exploited Muslim workers throughout France, spilling into Belgium and Germany.
While U.S. rulers cannot be glad when workers they need for imperialist expansion become devastated or politically hostile, the bottom line is that the anarchy of capitalist profiteering limits their options and creates the conditions for fascism which our Party should use to build its forces.
On November 3rd a group of D.C. Metro workers drove to Philadelphia to support the transit workers' strike there. We didn't know what to expect, but when we arrived, we found something definitely: leadership. The workers were sitting and talking amongst themselves. When we walked over, the workers were very receptive and excited about us being there to support them.
Soon the news cameras showed up and asked what we were doing there. We said we were showing solidarity with the strikers and helping do whatever is necessary to win the struggle. However, once I mentioned we also had to stop an imperialist war, the reporter quickly stopped asking questions. That's when we realized we needed to give some political leadership.
We started some chants with the strikers, including, "Asian, Latin, Black, and White, Workers of the World Unite!" Just like that the strike went from people standing around to people talking about what needs to be done to fight the bosses. It was an example of what correct leadership - communist leadership - could do for the workers.
Red D.C. Metro Worker
PHILADELPHIA On Nov. 3, a group of Washington, D.C. Metro transit workers brought solidarity greetings to transit strikers here during their recent walkout. The predominantly black strikers welcomed them to two picket lines and joined their chants, "Black, Latin, Asian, White; Workers of the World Unite!"; and "Healthcare Cutbacks mean Fight Back!"
The strikers were fighting the racist bosses attempt to make workers pay a $600 annual premium for health benefits. The Transport Workers Union conceded a payment of 1% of their base wage for health costs. Although the strike saved the drug prescription plan, it will be denied to all new hires when theyre covered by Medicare.
The act of solidarity by Metro workers, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, in supporting rank-and-filers from a "rival" union, sharply contrasts with the airline unions that not only refused to support striking Northwest mechanics but ordered their members to cross their picket lines.
MEXICO CITY Under capitalism, natural phenomena become a problem for the working class, provoking destruction, death, further impoverishment of the people and in many cases leaving them without enough to survive.
The hurricane Katrina devastated some U.S. cities and revealed the great contradiction that saw U.S. rulers sending thousands of soldiers to Iraq to defend the rulers oil interests, while being incapable of sending adequate aid to those affected by Katrina. It also brought racism to the forefront, since New Orleans is inhabited mainly by black and Latino workers, for whom aid was practically nil.
This same problem was seen even more cruelly in Mexico and Central America with Hurricane Wilma. Many communities were buried in mud and thousands died even though the bosses press lied that it was only a few dozen.
In Chiapas the government hasnt shown the slightest interest in helping those hurt by the hurricanes and floods. On the contrary, the funds slated for natural disasters (10 billion pesos) were stolen by the ruling politicians.
The human losses could have been prevented if the government had evacuated those who lived in the areas at risk. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments had the meteorological warnings.
Some bourgeois foundations like Televisa, TV Azteca and some politicians have taken advantage of this terrible situation to try to present themselves as the "saviors" of the communities by doling out crumbs.
Certainly very soon the government will disburse considerable monies to reconstruct devastated areas, but not to the communities where the poorest and most affected people live. Rather it will be used to rebuild tourist areas, the benefits going to the hotel and restaurant owners, as happened in Cancun.
We workers should be clear that under communism, natural phenomena will not become natural disasters, since people will live in secure areas and will build decent housing. They wont lack services or food, since all will work for the common good, not for profits.
Building the communist PLP should be the most important job of every worker if we want to rid ourselves of this criminal system of exploitation which cannot solve the problems of the majority of the population, the working class.
We must fight for a society where the common interests are primary, not the interests of the individual or a small group. Communism will abolish racism, nationalism, sexism and exploitation, all of which only divide and weaken our class.
Being a relatively new full-time factory worker, Ive sometimes mistakenly thought that mass ideas can only be reformist. The major contradiction facing me is, on the one hand, keeping my job by not exposing myself to my enemies, versus spreading communist ideas. The way forward is to develop closer ties with, and confidence in, my co-workers. My enemies are the bosses. Some workers seem right-wing, possibly snitches and close to the bosses. My outlook is building friendships of trust and organizing social gatherings leading to political discussions off the job.
Recently one worker, Humberto, with whom Ive made friends, said, "Man, what should I do? The boss was all upset because I told Health and Safety our workbenches are an injury risk. They said theyd observe my workbench. The boss told me to lie, to tell Health and Safety we arent at risk."
I told him he should lie to Health and Safety, that he should work on multiple machines and workbenches and then lead them to where I work all day hunched over a workbench assembling parts. Then Id tell them about the way I worked.
The day before I tried to adjust my chair because my neck was hurting. This angered another co-worker who said hed been using this chair for over 20 years and that I shouldnt adjust it. Actually the chair was difficult to take apart and adjust for my height.
I told Humberto about this conversation, noting that the bosses dont want to buy new chairs because theyre locked into a global competition for profits and have accountants counting every single penny thats why we risk injury.
Ive been struggling with Humberto for some time. Occasionally he says a worker must be on friendly terms with the racist bosses in order to get higher wages and keep ones job. Ive continually told him to keep it cool, not get too involved with them, that greater power lies in friendships and unity with co-workers.
We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant and discussed a plan to bring Health and Safety by "chance" to my workbench. My neck hurts too much not to say something.
Humberto told me about an uncle, much older than us, working as an assembler in another factory, and that he had gotten surgery on both hands and on his neck because of the repetitive stress of the job. Now, when he brought the conversation down to something personal, I seized the moment to sharpen the struggle over his ideas. I said thats why the bosses can never be your friends. No matter how nice you are to them, no matter how friendly they may seem, even shaking your hand, theyll never be your friend because their sole interest is in profits. You could die, have multiple surgeries, but they dont give a f--- about us. They count the pennies that add up to billions of dollars of profit.
He then said we needed a union. I mentioned the Boeing machinists strike in Seattle. I said these were some of the best-paid workers in the country and yet theyre still having to fight for their healthcare and benefits. If workers do manage to get something, the bosses take it from somewhere else, because their profits always must be made. In general, theyve been outsourcing most of their work to people like us, to break their union and pay lower wages, raising their profits in order to compete with other bosses.
He then asked what we should do. I said workers need to fight every day, fight for power from top to bottom. For that we need in the long run revolution in the complete interest of the workers, a state where the betterment of the workers is the sole interest. He nodded. Health and Safety never came. But Im planning to get CHALLENGE to more co-workers.
A Factory comrade
Liberals dont deliver fairer incomes
Income inequality is now near all-time highs .The average CEO now takes home a paycheck 431 times that of their average worker .
And inequality is non-partisan. The pace of inequality has grown steadily over three decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses. The Gini index, the global measure of inequality, grew as quickly under President Bill Clinton as it has under President George W. Bush. (MINUTEMEIDA.ORG. 10/27)
Business bigs find judge Alito all neato
Business cases, which arise far more often than privacy and abortion cases, are the bread and butter of the appeals courts and the Supreme Court .
Judge Alitos record in business cases .over the last 15 years was such that corporate lawyers relished the prospect of his participation.
Officials at the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce said that as they combed through his record, they had been favorably impressed with what they had learned.
"He has come down on a host of issues in a way that the business community would prefer" (NYT, 11/5)
Democrats help deny rights in Guantanamo
Democrats provided the margin of victory for a Republican-backed measure that would deny prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention in federal courts .
"A foreign national who is captured in the world war on terrorism has no more right to a habeas corpus appeal to our courts than did a captured solider of the Axis powers during World War II," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement .
Fewer than 200 of the approximately 500 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have filed petitions for habeas corpus hearings. They are not seeking trials, merely asking why they are being held. And according to government and military officials, an overwhelming majority should not have been taken prisoner in the first place. These men have been in isolation for nearly four years, subject to months of interrogation (NYT, 11/12)
40% in US have skipped their costly drugs
Americas health care system spends more, for worse results, than that of any other advanced country.
But dont people in other countries sometimes find it hard to get medical treatment? Yes, sometimes but so do Americans .
The journal Health Affairs recently published the results of a survey of the medical experience of "sicker adults" in six countries, including Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States. The responses dont support claims about superior service from the U.S. system .
Above all, Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they cant afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up. (NYT, 11/7)
Despite laws, CIA has secret prisons
The reported existence of secret prisons in eastern Europe where the CIA has detained top al-Qaida captives .could violate the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention Against Torture.
.It is illegal to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the US, which is why the CIA placed them overseas (GW, 11/7)
Thousands of homes mined by $trip mining
Last month, the Bush administration demonstrated just how regal King Coal remains when it issued a long-delayed report on mountaintop removal that callously announced that "these expensive studies" on damages to the countryside have become too "exorbitant" to be continued.
Scientific studies confirmed the damage to streams and forests .Thousands of Appalachian residents pleaded in hearings and petitions that the government bring mountain-top removal under control
Many hamlets spared condemnation found the stripped mountains causing torrential drainage shifts and floods dismissed as "acts of God" by mining officials.
"It wasnt God who went up on our mountain with a dozer to leave it naked," observed Betty Banks amid the muck in her house in Kentucky
Estimates are that by the end of the decade, an area larger that the state of Delaware will have been laid waste by dynamite and bulldozer (NYT, 11/7)
Elections make public education worse
Almost all states report that, based on their own tests, incredibly large proportions of their students meet high standards. Yet the scores on the federal test (which was given to a representative sample of fourth and eighth graders) were far lower. Basically, the states have embraced low standards and grade inflation .
Why the discrepancies? The states function in a political environment. Educational leaders and elected officials want to assure the public that the schools are doing their jobs and making progress .
States cling to lower standards for fear of alienating the public and embarrassing public officials responsible for education. (NYT, 11/7)
Were told that universities are neutral institutions with little involvement in U.S. imperialist wars. But actually universities play a major role in planning and carrying out U.S. capitalisms policies, used to fight rival capitalists and dominate the world. Universities also play a key role in pushing ideas that keep the rulers in power. The fight against these policies can lead to united action and building the long-term struggle to destroy the profit system, the source of imperialist war and racist exploitation.
Many imperial policy-makers circulate between the universities, private consulting firms, the State and "Defense" Departments, or White House jobs (see below). Recent examples include Condoleezza Rice (Stanford), Madeline Albright (Georgetown), and Zbigniew Brzezinski (Johns Hopkins). These universities have institutes specializing in particular aspects of imperial policy. In one Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) project, Charles Kupchan (a Clinton National Security Council staffer) argues that the U.S. needs a multi-lateral foreign policy to maintain world dominance.
The elite schools are the major sources of pro-imperialist ideology for public consumption. In a New York Times Magazine article (Jan. 2003), "The American Empire (Get Used to It)," Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff argued that imperialism is a good thing for Arabs and especially Iraqis.
Some universities develop weapons. Univ. of California-Berkeleys Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley and Los Alamos Laboratories develop and produce nuclear weapons. At MIT (Mass. Institute of Technology), labs that developed MIRV nuclear warheads in the 1960s are now working on military robots. MITs Security Studies Program researches "The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," and "The United States as an Asian Power."
Although policy planning is concentrated on a few campuses, all universities support imperialism. College ROTC programs provide 60% of all U.S. military officers and 75% of Army officers. The Solomon Amendment bans all Federal money for faculty research and students loans from colleges refusing to have ROTC. Clearly, for the rulers, these schools exist to serve imperialism, not the students or working class.
Many courses teach that capitalism is eternal, "the best of all possible worlds." Others teach that workers are powerless, that the U.S. "way of life" or "democracy" is superior and needs to be spread to other countries, and that communism cannot succeed. Teachers who encourage students to challenge these deadly lies are attacked and must be defended.
Programs students need for graduation remedial classes and financial aid are being cut drastically, along with workers pensions, to pay for the growing war budget. The CFRs Chairperson pushes politicians to cut all entitlement programs to fund wars in coming decades. Liberal Democrats like Hillary Clinton support these attacks, calling for 100,000 more troops in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Homeland Security planning is implemented on most campuses.
As long as the capitalist class holds power, universities will be capitalist-run institutions and serve the systems interests, supporting imperialism, racism and fascism. Students, faculty and campus workers are getting angrier. We have opposite interests from the rulers. Were starting to unite to expose and fight pro-imperialist and racist activities on campus. We can: (a) attack and discredit the lies that justify imperialism and racism; (b) campaign against military recruiters and ROTC, exposing their imperialist nature, demanding they be removed, and reaching out to rank-and-file soldiers whose class interests are anti-imperialist; and, (c) oppose planners, research and spokespersons for imperial policies.
Some student activists are uniting with workers to fight cuts in wages, benefits, classes and financial aid that pay for imperialism. Such activities can lead to united strikes against both racist cutbacks and imperialist war, turning schools into arenas of struggle against imperialism. Through CHALLENGE, more students, faculty and workers can see the potential and need to build a mass PLP to destroy the root cause of the problem capitalism.
Students alone cannot stop imperialism. The working class is the key, not just another "interest group." They can become leaders in the fight against imperialism and for a communist society. Under communism, schools and production itself will serve the working class, not the imperialists. Wars for profit, and the profit system itself, will cease to exist.
The hub connecting the small group of institutions which makes U.S. foreign policy for the ruling class is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). It includes executives of giant corporations, government officials, politicians and academics, who meet every few weeks in New York or Washington. The CFR publishes the journal "Foreign Affairs," and sponsors numerous books, study groups and special projects.
Other major foreign policy sources include top officials of the State Department and the National Security Council, a few key Senators, some think-tanks (Brookings, American Enterprise, Center for Strategic and International Studies), certain foundations (Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Shell Oil, Olin), and a few elite universities including Harvard, Columbia, Rice, MIT and Stanford. Universities develop military technologies from missiles to robots that are crucial for present and future imperialist wars.
A much larger group of universities provides training for military officers, spies and diplomats, develop pro-imperialist and racist ideology, and are currently developing spying programs for Homeland Security.
MAR del PLATA, ARGENTINA, Nov. 4 Thousands repudiated Bushs visit here during the Summit of the Presidents of the Americas. Bush just doesnt have too many friends, from Washington, D.C. to the South Cone. Instead of churrasco (a popular steak dish here) he got a fiasco. The Summit sharpened the differences between the U.S. imperialists and the leaders of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela over the U.S.-controlled continent-wide Free Trade Agreement.
The rulers of Brazil and Argentina see this U.S. plan as a blow to their own free trade agreement (Mercosur). Venezuelas President Chavez was Bushs most vociferous critic. This has ballooned into a fight between Chavez and Mexicos President Fox, a supporter of the U.S.s Free Trade scheme. Chavez and the rulers of Mercosur are fighting for their own class interests, seeking better deals with China and other imperialists.
Many workers believe Chavezs "Bolivarian Socialism" is the road to their liberation. Thats a big mistake. Chavezs main aim is strengthening the power of the section of the ruling class he represents, which controls the state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA. This powerful company owns CITGO, the largest gasoline-station owner in the U.S.
In the early 1960s, while author Edgar Snow was in China, he was invited to question a prisoner of his choosing. He selected a political offender under a suspended death sentence. The man was rugged in build, middle-aged and solemn. When Snow asked what his crime had been, the man answered that as a cop for the Kuomintang (the capitalist ruling party before the 1949 communist-led revolution), he led an anti-Red squad and had arrested many suspects.
Urged to elaborate, he said he had personally killed four revolutionaries, including a pregnant woman. He had compounded his crime by not coming forward after the revolution when everyone was given an opportunity to confess, repent and ask for punishment. Instead he hid, taking a textile mill job, pretending to be an ordinary worker. This worked for almost nine years, until someone recognized him and had him arrested.
Snow asked him if he felt hed been treated fairly. He responded, "I ought to be dead. I deserved death but instead Ive been given back life. I am being educated and I can now handle machines and do useful work. I am doing my best to remold myself to show my gratitude."
To Snow the man seemed sincerely remorseful, undoubtedly realizing that one bad mistake could be his last. Further, the man knew his salvation was completely dependent on his own repentance and reform. Snow thought that this knowledge must have placed a far heavier burden on him than there would be on a condemned man in a U.S. prison. In the U.S., prisoners realize that even a change of heart will generally have no effect on their situation, so at least theyre not subject to the agony of attempted self-reform. Instead they can blame society or their lawyers for their fate and avoid responsibility in their own minds. Rehabilitation is next to impossible under these circumstances.
Snow explained that the starting point for Chinese prisoners was sincere repentance, recognition of the crime and welcoming the sentence as "good." Once this happened their confinement was relaxed somewhat. The next step was the genuine desire to reform. Many prisoners were "really ignorant and understood nothing about the revolution or what the government was trying to do for the people." To overcome this ignorance, prisoners visited communes, factories and schools. Seeing the good being performed by workers was designed to make them ashamed. Those who were illiterate were taught to read and write. Everyone attended political lectures.
Prisoners who had already undergone these changes did much of the teaching. They were placed in cells with new arrivals and backward prisoners. True reform increased a prisoners chance of release.
Order and discipline was mostly maintained by these advanced prisoners, instead of by prison guards. Political prisoners did the same shop work as others but were subjected to much more intensified thought remolding in cells led by reformed prisoners. Punishment in prison consisted of overtime work or loss of holidays, but Snow was told that violence was never used and that solitary confinement never lasted more than a week.
Sometimes it took up to two years for prisoners to see the light. Very infrequently did prisoners refuse to admit error. However, even these silent resisters would be released when their sentences expired, as long as they worked well and were not political prisoners. But they were made to serve out their entire term. (Source: Edgar Snow, "The Other Side of The River")
(Editorial comment: Some American Indian cultures utilized similar "punishments," confining a murderer to the family of the person he had killed, forcing him to provide for food and maintenance for the family.)