Anti-Racist Movement Growing in the South:: Katrina Survivors Organizing Fight-Back
Student Protest Defies Hampton U. Bosses
Langston Hughes on Hamptons Racism
Boeing Strikers Fighting for Future Workers
Garment Workers' Unity Stops Bosses Cold
Auto Workers Shouldnt Pay For GM-Ford Decline
The Struggle at CUNY: Building Solidarity Between Workers and Students
Cook County Rank-&-File Unite, Demand Strike vs. Give-backs
Lynne Stewart Case: Hundreds Take Stand vs. Police State Attack
Homecare Workers Tell Off Sellout Union Bosses
Toledo Cops Protect Nazis, Attack Anti-Fascists
Home Health Care Workers Strike Over Racist Poverty Pay
Anti-war Conference Spawns New Activists
France: Clear Rebels of Deadly Assault
Anti-Racist Holiday Excites Co-Workers
Soccer Players Score Against Racism
Back Anti-Minutemen Protesters
Language-Literature Profs Planning Counter-Attack vs. Fascist Control
Land of Dead Review
Slavery Built New York
UNDER COMMUNISM: What will science be like?
NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 10 "Ive been bumped around to four different places since Katrina. Now Im in a hotel in downtown New Orleans with a whole bunch of other people. They say theyre going to put us out soon, and I dont know where well go." The speaker, a woman in her fifties, was standing in front of City Hall at the concluding rally of the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) march today. "What well probably do is walk in that door and camp on the floor till they find some housing for us," said another homeless resident. If the City doesnt do something to help these people, theyll have to arrest a whole bunch of people. Theyll have to build a whole bunch of jails."
About 1,200 hurricane survivors and their supporters from the Gulf Coast and around the country marched behind a big red banner reading, "From Outrage to Action; Justice after Katrina: the People Must Decide." A brass band energized the marchers, who felt stronger and more determined the farther they walked.
Spectators greeted the march enthusiastically, dancing, clapping, shouting or blowing car horns. Although few people were on the streets, many joined the march. One survivor who joined commented, "Somethings got to start. It might as well be now!"
Chants like "Im Back, Youre Back, Tell [Mayor] Nagin Were All Back," "Whose Streets? Our Streets," and "What Do We Want? Housing! When Do We Want It? Now!" rang out loud and clear. PLP members led chants like, "FEMA, You Liar, Well Set Your Ass On Fire," "The Workers, United, Will Never Be Defeated," and "The Only Solution Is Communist Revolution!"
Rally speakers condemned all levels of government for the racist terror against hurricane victims and tied their murderous actions to the war in Iraq. Survivors encouraged New Orleanians to reclaim their homes. This grassroots march barred any politicians or big-name speakers from its platform.
The day before the march, about 500 survivors and activists met in Jackson, Mississippi, to plan further action to fight for the rights of the mainly poor, black workers who were displaced by the ruling class since the hurricane. The energy and commitment of many young people in PHRF was inspiring. These multi-racial youth see the events surrounding Katrina as the beginning of a new anti-racist movement. They fought hard for the agenda and demands of the movement and the voices of the survivors came through in the events.
But nationalists and revisionists (pseudo-leftists) also fought hard to lead and control. Nationalism is the same worldwide: "Follow me because I look or talk like you. Hate those other folks and forget that theyre oppressed workers just like you. Follow me into battle so I can claim my piece of the capitalist pie." The U.S. ruling class uses this ideology to get workers to fight and die in their wars. It poisons any movement claiming to fight racism.
PLP members learned a lot and were very moved by seeing the devastation of New Orleans first-hand. The contents of peoples homes are on the street waiting for pick-up, trees are leaning on power lines, few people are on major streets. But the French Quarter looks like nothing ever happened, as middle-class people living there buy sushi at the corner grocery. A few streets away, black neighborhoods have no electricity, not even street lights or traffic signals. In the wealthier areas, the lights are on again.
We shared our communist ideas and literature with many people at the conference and the march. We exchanged phone numbers with survivors who are totally disgusted with the system and interested in revolutionary ideas. We pointed out to college and high school students who came to help Katrina victims that communism is the only solution to racism. We plan to continue to work with this movement.
The racist attack against black workers after Katrina may have changed the possibilities for class struggle in the U.S. Given the imperialist war in Iraq and the slashing of workers living standards to the bone, New Orleans can energize an anti-racist movement. All CHALLENGE readers should do what they can to join and support the struggles of Katrina victims.
HAMPTON, VA., Dec. 9 Twenty Hampton University (HU) students protested the war in Iraq, U.S. racism in New Orleans, the AIDS epidemic, and the war in Sudan by distributing flyers and holding discussions in the student cafeteria on November 2. HU administrators and police shut down the activities, detained and videotaped students, confiscated their IDs, and charged seven students with putting up posters, distributing flyers, and holding a protest without obtaining prior permission and threatened, in writing, to expel them! If anyone doubted that were on the road to fascism, both locally and nationally, lose those doubts. But the HU students have sharpened their activism, are preparing a new offensive against racism, war and repression, and some may be joining the PLP Winter Project in Washington, DC over semester break.
The students at this historically black university responded to the administration attacks by reaching out boldly to fellow students and to local and national organizations in which they have been involved (including Amnesty International, United Students Against Sweatshops, and the Campus Antiwar Network). Their participation in these mass organizations provided many friends to call on. Soon hundreds of phone calls and e-mails were pouring into administration offices. The university was embarrassed by local media, and the story quickly spread widely via the wire services and the internet. Two of the seven students wrote an article entitled "Corporate Plantation," a sharp and detailed analysis of recent events and the long history of racist oppression at Hampton. The article has been posted on the internet:
On the morning of the hearing, several dozen students and others were at the Student Center to support and defend the HU Seven, including supporters from Howard University, who brought petitions of support with 900 signatures, gathered in just two days; the parents of the accused; a faculty advisor; attorneys from both the ACLU and AFSCME; and the director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of Amnesty International. Members of predominantly white local anti-war organizations set up a support picket line just outside the University grounds.
Parents and attorneys put the HU administrators on the defensive and exposed the proceedings as a kangaroo court. The administrators rushed through the hearings and quickly announced that all were guilty; six received a "sentence" of 20 hours of community service and one (who had merely passed by the protest activity) was given a "warning." The administrations clumsy attacks and the students bold response have changed the atmosphere on campus, paving the way for more intense struggle.(See article page 2)
Many outside supporters could scarcely believe that the Hampton University (HU) administration imposes such restrictive rules on its students (see front page article). Hamptons near-fascist regime exists not only because its president for over 25 years, William Harvey, is a Republican who has enjoyed close ties to Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II but the school has been run this way ever since its founding in 1868, and plays an important role in sustaining the entire structure of racism in U.S. capitalist society (see box). Many of the over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) similarly serve the ruling class.
Hampton University was founded by a Union general who believed that blacks and Indians were thousands of years behind whites in moral and social development and therefore must be denied civil and political rights. Hampton trained teachers to be sent throughout the South to try to make blacks accept their subordination as super-exploited agricultural workers in a Jim Crow (segregated) society. Its most famous student was Booker T. Washington, who cloned Hampton at Tuskegee and received a huge endowment from billionaire capitalist Andrew Carnegie. In 1895, in his famous Atlanta speech, Washington openly embraced racial segregation and rejected the struggle for political rights. As W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out, Carnegie and other big capitalists contributed money to Tuskegee and Hampton to foster the movement to maintain black workers as cheap labor to break strikes and unions and thus hold down all workers. One historian called his book about Hampton "Schooling for the New Slavery."
Today Hampton trains black professional, managerial and technical workers to help the ruling class maintain the super-exploitation of black workers in a period of imperialist wars and U.S. decline. That means training Hampton students as army officers in the rulers wars; as criminal justice officials in a racist system of mass incarceration of blacks; as professional workers in corporations whose profits depend upon super-exploitation of workers; and as doctors and lawyers in a system that denies black workers access to decent medical and legal services.
To accomplish this mission, Hampton indoctrinates its students to look down on black workers and look up to military, political and corporate leaders such as Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice. For example, Hamptons president Harvey selected as graduation speaker this past year Alphonso Jackson, Bushs Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jackson has cut Section 8 subsidized housing for poor workers. More recently, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Jackson told the Houston Chronicle that most of New Orleans black population should not be allowed to return, and that New Orleans should become a predominantly white city!
The HU administration can deliver its chosen product only by operating in a highly repressive way. But these lackey administrators will not succeed. Black students often choose to come to HBCUs to avoid the racism at predominantly white colleges and universities, and then discover the racism of a heavy-handed black administration. However, in the late 1950s and 1960s black students at HBCUs sparked the sit-in movement that spawned the militant Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Their militancy provided leadership and inspiration to the entire student movement in the U.S. and worldwide. Black student leadership today is crucial to the development of an anti-imperialist, anti-racist revolutionary movement, and Hamptons bold fighters are moving in that direction.
Langston Hughes, the black communist writer, penned an article in "The Crisis" in 1934 condemning the political conservatism of black colleges. He once was asked by Hampton students to speak to them about two vicious racist incidents the death of Fisk Universitys popular dean of women, caused by the refusal of white hospitals to admit her after a traffic accident, and the beating to death of a Hampton graduate by a white Alabama mob.
Hughes noted, "The students wanted to protest the brutality that brought about their deaths . We began to lay plans for a Sunday evening protest meeting, from which we would send wires to the press and formulate a memorial to these most recent victims of race hate .
"The faculty sent their dean of men to confer with the students. Major Brown [said] that perhaps the reports we had received had not been true. Had we verified those reports? I suggested wiring or telephoning immediately to Fisk and to Birmingham for verification. The Major .felt it was better to write. Furthermore, Hampton did not like the word protest. That was not Hamptons way. He, and Hampton, believe in moving slowly and quietly, and with dignity .
"On and on he talked. When he had finished, the students knew quite clearly that they could not go ahead with their protest meeting . They knew they would face expulsion and loss of credits if they did so . Hampton students held no protest over the mob-death of their own alumnus, nor the death on the road (in a Negro ambulance vainly trying to reach a black hospital) of one of [their] finest young women. The brave spirit of that little group of Hampton students who wanted to organize the protest was crushed by the official voice of Hampton ."
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA About 1,600 workers in the International Association of Machinist (IAM) struck Boeings rocket business Nov. 3. The main issue mirrors the one that sparked the earlier September strike by 18,500 Machinists in the Seattle, Portland and Wichita commercial airplane plants: retiree health care for future hires. "Were fighting for people who arent in the work force yet people we dont know," said Gary Quick, an 18-year veteran Boeing employee.
Since Lockheed workers overrode their leaders sellout on this issue in the spring, no IAM local leadership has dared to accept such a contract. The Party has helped put this class demand on the front burner, as rank-and-filers in several locals demanded solidarity around the fate of these future hires.
Nonetheless, the ideology of these pro-capitalist union leaders undermines this fight. Rather than hanging patriotic bunting over a small rally of a couple of hundred, we must mobilize the strength of our class. "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains," said Karl Marx in concluding the "Communist Manifesto." These days those words are life and death for our class brothers and sisters.
As reported in the last CHALLENGE, 100,000 workers in Sidney, Australia marched on the Boeing headquarters in support of 25 striking Boeing workers in that country. One thing that infuriated Sidney workers was the sacking of two workers for calling another employee a "scab."
International class consciousness that calls a scab a scab stands in stark contrast to the union leaders flag-waving nationalism. Nationalism is the ideology of the bosses, an enemy within our ranks. "Its national security or retirement security," said Peter Peterson, chairperson of the Council on Foreign Relations, the bosses premier foreign policy think-tank.
The attack on retiree medical benefits has shifted from the purely economic realm to the political. The bosses are calling for an all-out attack on retirement benefits throughout the country. Although backed up with actuary figures, the real reason behind this attack is the need to wage bigger and more costly wars to maintain control over primarily Mid-east oil. The inter-imperialist rivalry is sharpening and weve been added to its list of victims. Appeals to nationalism play right into the bosses imperialist plans.
Even as this battle unfolds, SPEEA, the Boeing engineers union, caved in on retiree medical care for future hires. In addition, the rocket workers medical care expired and scabs have become a real problem. Now more than ever, these strikers need the class-conscious, revolutionary ideas advocated in the pages of CHALLENGE.
"We should stop production," a garment worker declared when I said Joaquin had quit because he couldnt stand any more yelling from the factorys general supervisor. We agreed to discuss a strike with other workers after lunch.
In five minutes, two other workers approached another workers machine to relate what had happened. I proposed to them to stop working at noon. Angrily they said, "Why dont we stop now? Why wait?" "Then we must talk to the others," I responded, realizing I had underestimated the workers anger.
In minutes the factory was paralyzed. This wouldnt have happened so quickly without the help of a co-worker who had gone through similar struggles in another factory. While I talked to my closest friends at one end of the factory, she did the same at the other end. Class consciousness and previous experience were her guides. But what really convinced all the workers was one worker yelling, "An injury to one is an injury to all!"
The machines stopped. We met near the offices and agreed to demand to speak to the boss, who was at her other factory. The general supervisor and an office worker asked, "Whats happening? Why arent you working?" Their Spanish was hard to understand. "We want to talk to Maria [the boss]. We dont want any more harassment. Were not animals. We want Joaquin to come back, but we dont want to talk with you," declared the workers angrily.
When the two returned to the office, one worker told everyone that strikes are good weapons against the bosses. He raised the recent rebellion in France showing were part of the same working class as well as the racist police murders and the immigrant deaths at the border. He said we need to fight back, both inside and outside the factories.
"This is a dictatorship," said another worker who doesnt work on the sewing machines. "If you dont fight back, youll continue to be exploited." Another said, "Personally they dont mistreat me because I dont let them, but they do pressure me to work faster. The machine I work on is dangerous; it has knives and I can get cut. Pressure causes accidents." Then he told how another worker had been injured because of speed-up.
The general supervisor returned with a secretary to translate into Spanish. He argued that since he didnt speak Spanish well, the workers misunderstand him. "Those who dont like me raise their hands," he said, expecting a positive response. No one did. The workers answered, "All of us dont like you." "Then Ill leave," he said, turning around. "Bye Mister," said one worker." Say goodbye to Mister."
He glared angrily at this workers sarcasm and returned to the office. Out came the person in charge of giving out the work, saying, "We spoke to Maria and she said to go back to work and shell be here in half an hour to resolve this problem." No one opposed this, but many workers didnt want to go back until they had talked to the boss.
When the boss arrived she made an announcement on the loudspeaker. "He [the supervisor] has a strong accent and since he doesnt speak Spanish well, he was misunderstood," the boss said. If you dont like him, thats no problem. Well find another, but it will always be the same because I like them to be strict." She offered us child care and financial aid for some of our children in school.
The worker who quit came back. I havent worked in this factory long but the solidarity of these workers shows that the next step is building closer ties and distributing CHALLENGE to more workers to be able to move this anger towards the long-term fight for communist revolution to end exploitation once and for all. All bosses are the same. We need workers power.µ
A Garment Worker
In a 1997 survey of the worlds auto industry, the British magazine The Economist noted, "By 2000 overcapacity will have risen from 18 million to 22 million units (per year) equivalent to 80 of the worlds 630 auto assembly plants standing idle." This was one of many indicators pointing to serious problems for world capitalism. Unemployment, idle machinery, loss of capital (plant closings), all loomed large in its immediate future.
While the survey was thorough, hindsight reveals an underestimation of the potential for capitalist growth and investment in China.
But when the next survey was published, Sept. 10, 2005, the Economist had changed its tune. "But globally the auto industry is set for a huge expansion with the motorization of China and India Garel Rhys, the Director for the Center of Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University in Britain, says this growth will create the need for 180 new factories Some experts predict that over the next 20 years more cars will be made than in the entire 110-year history of the industry." From the prospect of shutting down 80 plants to building 180 new ones in eight short years is quite a turn-around.
Then how is it that at this moment General Motors and Ford plan to lay off 30,000 workers each and close up to 18 plants in North America? For decades they were the poster boys for U.S. industrial supremacy. Today, however, the worlds auto industry is expanding while GM and Ford are contracting.
Its a snapshot of the relative decline of U.S. industrial power. Domestically it shows up in over two million jailed; over 43 million without health insurance; wages falling; hours of full-time work increasing; Arab-Americans jailed without trial; the racist Katrina catastrophe and so on. Financially, it shows up as the worlds biggest debtor nation and being challenged by the euro as a world currency.
The world has changed drastically since World War II ended, when the bosses dreamed of an "American Century" and 80% of the worlds manufactured goods were U.S.-made. Today autos and steel are made everywhere and the challenges to U.S. imperialism are many. Every major industry, from auto and steel to textiles and aerospace, are undergoing dramatic and brutal restructurings as U.S. bosses try to maintain their status as the #1 imperialist in a shrinking world with many players. Europe is undergoing similar changes.
Despite all their layoffs, plant closings and attacks on pensions and health care, one of the U.S. bosses main trump cards is that theyre armed to the teeth and able to ensure that the worlds oil market still trades in dollars. The other is the defeat of the old communist movement, which allows them to get away with unlimited attacks on the working class while at the same time the old socialist countries like China have become a source of imperialist investment. However, Chinas economic growth is enabling it to turn itself into an imperialist power and a rival of the U.S. and other bosses. This is partly true for India as well.
Even though Japanese and European bosses have a jump-start in the growing Chinese market, GM and Ford are also investing heavily there, building factories and hiring workers at 70 cents-an-hour. While a long strike at Delphi could eat up most of GMs cash on hand, GM and the UAW appear to be working very hard to avoid that (see below).
All the auto bosses investing in China are dreaming of selling cars to a potential 250 million buyers. But this feeding frenzy will create still another glut of over-capacity, especially if there are serious economic downturns in China, leading to more boarded-up factories and long unemployment lines. Just as the rush to build auto factories in Mexico created more poverty on both sides of the border, now many of those Mexican plants are being shuttered and moved to China. Its the nature of the beast.
GM and Ford highlight U.S. imperialisms precarious plight. For decades now, control of the worlds oil has sustained its status as the worlds safest harbor for international capital. With a shrinking industrial base, it needs that capital more than ever. As CHALLENGE has pointed out, todays war in Iraq is part of a larger plan to grab control of all Middle East oil. The strategic aim is to displace the euro as a rival world currency and open a door of influence in the Asian consumer markets by controlling the key raw material oil.
All this challenges the working class. Can 60,000 GM and Ford workers (and thousands more in the supplier plants) be thrown out on the streets without a murmur of protest? Shouldnt we fight for all our unions to send telegrams to the UAW urging support for any strike, including on mass picket lines and in sit-downs, and protest against this attack on our class?
This can be an opportunity for PLP members and friends on the shop floor to once again expose the U.S. bosses strategic plan for up to 30 years of oil war. It can also expose the central role of the union hacks who, in the face of preparations for sustained war, promote pro-war patriotism and passivity, as if the working class is merely a victim of history and not the actual agent of change.
Even if such a campaign doesnt produce strikes or protests, it will help bring our revolutionary communist politics to masses of workers, strengthen our base and expand our revolutionary influence.
(Third of a four-part series)
In 1912, Big Bill Haywood, leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), stood before thousands of striking textile workers in Lowell, Mass. He held up one hand with each finger extended separately. "This is how the AFL organizes," he said. Then, raising a clenched fist he exclaimed, "This is how the Wobblies organize!" In 1919, Haywood joined and became a leader of the then revolutionary Communist Party USA.
Today, the working class in NYC is on the defensive, lacking real solidarity. Although theres a "NYC Central Labor Council," in practice union leaders cut their own deals and dont support each other. All city workers and students face declining wages and deteriorating living conditions as the capitalist class forces them to pay for imperialist wars. The Professional Staff Congresss (PSC) contract struggle at the City University of New York (CUNY) is one example. Solidarity with other workers and CUNY students would sharpen this struggle, making it more successful. Steeled by united participation in immediate battles, the working class could also begin to look beyond reform, to the need for revolution.
At a September 29 PSC mass meeting, the President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Treasurer of the Transit Workers Union (TWU) promised to support the PSC in our fight. Although informed about the PSC informational picket lines scheduled for Oct 19 and 20, they didnt organize their membership to support us.
This typifies classic trade unionism: unions rarely look beyond their own ranks. Building solidarity with all workers is not optional or a "second stage," only to be considered after ones own contract is settled. Its a vital part of winning economic demands. Rank-and-filers shouldnt wait for the leaderships signal to do this. PL members in the PSC proved that even modest efforts can pay off. As a result, on a few campuses members of the UFT and AFSCMEs District Council 37 joined our lines. And sympathetic TWU shop stewards at three bus depots took flyers to distribute to their members.
These stewards agreed about the need to unite against the Taylor Law, which criminalizes public employee strikes, threatening severe penalties for doing so. Fearing this, many CUNY workers would rather settle for a give-back contract. But if the PSC united with other municipal workers, together we could bust this anti-labor law and solidify unity within our own ranks. This occurred in the 1966 transit strike, when tens of thousands of other workers backed TWU members and busted the old strike-breaking Condon-Wadlin Law; in fact, it was that action that led to passage of the Taylor Law. By fighting together we could also break the citys strategy of enforcing bargaining patterns, in which one union settles low and sets a precedent for other contracts.
The weakness of fighting separately was clear in the current graduate students strike at New York University (UAW Local 2110). NYU refuses to negotiate a new contract with the graduate teaching assistants while cutting their health care benefits and threatening to void their next semester appointments if they dont return to work. While some professors are holding classes off campus, the majority of faculty, staff, and students cross the picket lines as if there were no strike! Ironically, NYUs adjunct professors are also organized by the UAW (Local 7902). Where is the solidarity even between UAW locals?
PLP says fight to win. To take on the full power of the bosses be it CUNY or NYU we must build working-class solidarity across union lines.
For the PSC, this also means developing ties with CUNY students. Some faculty believe that bringing students into union "politics" breaches professional conduct. This is strange coming from a public university with a long history of fierce united student-teacher battles here for open admissions and affirmative action programs inspired by the anti-racist rebellions and anti-Vietnam war movement of the late 1960s early 70s.
After some delay, the PSC leadership is now taking seriously the need to build a worker-student alliance. First, students were invited to attend the September 29 mass membership meeting. Next, at the informational picket line flyers distributed to students raised the need for solidarity and explained why students should be supportive of CUNY workers and a potential strike. Student reaction was overwhelmingly positive. At one campus, students from an anti-war group joined the picketing by distributing a solidarity flyer and collecting signatures on a petition supporting PSC workers. At other campuses, students led the picket lines with rousing chants like, "Students and Workers United, Will Never Be Defeated!"
Now theres a strong feeling of worker-student solidarity among workers and students. PSC workers are responding by speaking out against planned tuition hikes. Many CUNY workers and students are won to the idea that give-backs and tuition hikes are related to austerity measures forced on workers by a system that prefers to cut taxes for the rich while funding wars and prisons.
A worker-student alliance is particularly important at CUNY whose student body is overwhelmingly black, Latino and Asian. Racism has been a divisive tool used by the ruling class for centuries. The fact that a majority white faculty can unite with a majority non-white student population sets an example for the whole working class. CUNYs racist bosses have cut state funding by 70% since 1990. Given that CUNY students come from predominantly lower-income black and Latin families, faculty opposition to tuition hikes in this instance also becomes an anti-racist fight. CUNYs attack on the faculty is also an attack on students.
To cover up these racist attacks, CUNY bosses try to pit one against the other telling students that workers gains cause tuition hikes. In reality, wages at CUNY have dropped 47% since the early 1970s while tuition has skyrocketed. (CUNY was tuition-FREE until the 70s when its student population switched from predominantly white to mainly black and Latin.) A worker-student alliance will beat this divide-and-conquer strategy and sharpen the fight against racist tuition hikes and give-backs.
These events at CUNY prove that students and workers understand the need to fight together. They demonstrate that the "separate fingers of the hand" are really connected and have a lot to offer each other. The ability to see and make these connections is something communists can offer workers who are artificially divided into unions, movements, "races" and teacher/student categories. As more and more workers are involved in united struggle, theyll begin to think and act as a class, laying the groundwork for the collective fist of the working class to smash capitalism with communist revolution.
CHICAGO, IL Dec. 1 "Its Time For County to Pay! Its Time For County To Pay!" "They Say Cutback, We Say Fight Back!" These chants and others cut through the freezing temperatures as more than 200 black, Latin, Asian and white men and women workers held a lunchtime picket line at Stroger Cook County Hospital. The SEIU and AFSCME locals that represent thousands of area healthcare workers called the protest. County workers have been bargaining for a new contract for more than a year. The workers in SEIU Local 20 had just voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
Some of the pickets work for Hektoen. Their jobs are funded by grants, mainly from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Their near-unanimous vote rejected a tentative agreement between SEIU and Hektoen. Then they voted to authorize a strike despite the union organizers attempted sabotage. During the strike vote they put out a flier stating, "The bosses are Katrina, the union is FEMA, and Hektoen is our Superdome!"
Though a much smaller bargaining unit, Hektoen workers, with their militancy and solidarity, have helped set the tone for the much bigger showdown at County. The union is threatening to call out the Hektoen workers on their own while continuing talks at County. Many workers have adopted the slogan, "Two Contracts One Struggle," and want to strike both contracts together.
Health care is the main issue. The bosses were telling the Hektoen workers to sign up for the new health care plan they had just rejected, while the union sat by silently. The Countys last proposal would see increases in worker payments of about $200 month for family coverage, meaning a big wage-cut for most workers. And even these concessions pale compared to the health care available to the patients we serve.
The mostly black, Latin and immigrant poor patients at County often wait days in the ER for a bed, and more than 24 hours in the pharmacy for a prescription. The $6 billion-per-month cost of the war in Iraq is eating up all social services. In health care it means big cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that affect the poor and the elderly. Even a Sunday bus line to County was cut out. These racist cutbacks are financing the imperialist oil war and the building of the Homeland Security police state.
County and Hektoen workers are way ahead of the union leaders, who are desperately seeking an accommodation with the bosses. Last September the workers organized a bus to the anti-war march in Washington, D.C.
As one Party leader, a black woman with over 25 years at County, said recently, "Most workers are caught in the here and now. We need to spend more time struggling with the workers politically. We get so caught up fighting the attacks, the firings, handling grievances, fighting around the contract and with the Executive Board, that we spend more time fighting for reforms than for communism."
To remedy this, were trying to increase the CHALLENGE readership to 100, based on winning a number of new network distributors. A mass base for CHALLENGE will become the political leadership of the workers; theyll be the first to follow the Party into battle. The network distributors will be the next wave of recruits. Were planning a meeting for all CHALLENGE readers to fight for a strike that can truly be a school for communism.
NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 8 Tonight between 250 and 300 people attended a "speak-out" in support of Lynne Stewart, the lawyer facing a sentence of up to 30 years, for "conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism" and to "defraud the U.S. government." Her Arabic translator Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Satter were also convicted. PLers distributed 90 CHALLENGES.
The event aimed to reach out to organizations and activists beyond Ms. Stewarts normal base of supporters. The organizers hoped to merge the personal support for Lynne Stewart with the fight against developing fascistic trends facing working people in their schools, neighborhoods and unions. The event also featured politically-oriented entertainment by the "Raging Grannies," who sang, a spoken word poet, a comedian and a gospel singer.
Panelists included speakers from varied religious faiths, a union officer, a high school teacher and an anti-police brutality activist. Each gave impassioned reasons for supporting this fight. The clergy attempted to fuse their religious/moral outlook to activism needed to confront class, race and political oppression. The unionist questioned the failure of union "leaders" to openly oppose the war in Iraq and challenged their silence on the Stewart case. She called for rank-and-file power to change the direction of the unions.
The teacher related efforts to have Ms. Stewart speak at his school. His talk moved many in the audience to have confidence in youth to critically evaluate the world and act to fight racism, fascism and war. The speaker exposing police brutality demonstrated the need to fight this unjust system.
Afterwards, numerous people took the mic. One speaker explained how both Democrats and Republicans had joined together during the Clinton Administration the Hart-Rudman Commission to chart plans for wars abroad to control the world and fascism to prevent dissent at home. Another speaker questioned whether a system should exist that cant and wont house Katrina/Rita refugees, brutalizes youth, and wont educate them.
A cheer arose for a speaker who while detailing the attacks against auto and airline workers who face loss of pensions and health coverage called for support of the NYC transit workers in their contract fight.
Probably the highlight of the speak-out portion were the teenagers from two Brooklyn high schools who detailed their activities in their schools to support this anti-racist struggle.
All in all, the general character of the evening was reflected in the statement by the anti-fascist German pastor Niemuller: "First they came for the communists and I did nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists and I still did nothing. Then they came for Jews and the Catholics and I did nothing. Finally they came for me, and there was no one left to defend me."
NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 11 Last week eleven homecare workers and their ESL teacher paid a surprise visit to their union, 1199/SEIU. As we left the elevator, shocked faces peered around cubicles. "What are your names and what agencies are you from?" the officials asked.
"That doesnt matter," a worker replied. "Were from different agencies, were here as a group and we want to see the president."
"Shes not here, but Ill see you. I guess the revolution is starting today," said an official as she led us into a conference room. "So, whats this about?"
"We want overtime pay that weve never gotten and we dont want to work 24 hours for 12 hours pay," said the workers spokesperson.
The union official began a long-winded talk which several workers tried to interrupt. "Just let me finish!" the official admonished. (Later a worker said she acted like we were children or people from another planet.) Then a union organizer entered and recognized one worker and the ESL teacher because two years ago we had circulated a petition outside his assigned homecare agency demanding overtime. At that time he told us overtime was not the unions priority and that the workers "liked" working 24 hours. "Yes, they love working 12 hours for free," the ESL teacher had shot back. Hundreds of workers had applauded as they lined up to sign the petition. Humiliated, the union official had scurried inside to meet with the agencys director.
Now this same organizer wagged his finger in the faces of the worker and the teacher. "I know you and you. I dont know what your motive is. But the rest of you better do this in an orderly way and within, not outside the union," he threatened.
Anger boiled over as the worker yelled back at him. The tables turned. All the workers spoke up. We demanded a meeting with the union president and that the union set up a committee to carry on this struggle. As we expected, the union official "explained" that a legal case to change a 1974 federal law that exempts "domestic companions" from the overtime law is in court and in the meantime theres nothing the union can do.
"Yes, you can," responded a worker. "You can take us to Washington to fight this law."
"But the agencies and the City have no money," the official whined.
"Are you blaming that on us?" another worker added. "Thats the governments problem, not ours."
"Just give us your names and phone numbers," the union official demanded. Not a single worker signed. Finally we agreed to leave one name and phone number so they can tell us the time of the meeting with the president. As this meeting ended the officials became defensive, saying, "Were not your enemy, were on your side."
Afterwards the workers gathered far from the union building to discuss what had been learned. "I had to leave because I couldnt stomach how they treated us." "They showed theyre not on our side."
"Why did they single you out?" a worker asked the teacher. The teacher, a PLP member, said, "It was a victory for us. Almost all of the workers spoke up. The union leaders exposed their racist attitudes toward their members. Its the first time in two years of organizing that weve gotten their attention. Now we must keep it. To organize inside the union is messy and tricky, but we have to do it. They attacked me because they remember our petitioning activity, but also because they know that Im motivated to fight for the working class. Im against capitalism and Im a long-time member of a revolutionary communist party, for those of you who dont know. This is our newspaper."
Three distributors took their CHALLENGES; one gave $40. Other workers received it for the first time. The Party has many opportunities with these workers to continue and expand our fight-back and to raise political consciousness. We have a world to win!
TOLEDO, OHIO, Dec. 10 Two months after an anti-racist rebellion ran the "master race" out of town, about 30 Neo-Nazis returned to the scene of their crime, this time under much heavier police protection.
PLP members also returned, to spread revolutionary communist ideas and to try to smash the gutter fascists and their police protectors. Our group was mainly college students from Chicago and Indiana. About half were new to PLP and had never attended such an event.
At the rally, about 150 anti-Nazi demonstrators had to pass through police checkpoints, remove everything from their pockets, go through metal detectors and then be photographed! These fascist measures, coupled with freezing temperatures and the presence of about 200 cops (about 50 on horseback), caused many local residents to stay away.
The 30 Nazis were separated from the protestors by a full city block and a combination of a line of riot police, a 200-yard area covered in a foot of snow and a line of wooden horses. The police tried to provoke the crowd by riding horses into and around the anti-racist demonstrators. Towards the end of the demonstration, the police rode their horses directly into the crowd and arrested two people after assaulting one of them with a stun gun. They repeated this stampede several minutes later.
This action made it crystal clear who the police serve and protect. It exposed the true nature of the capitalist state we live under as one which not only protects, but promotes hatred. It also inspires us to fight for communism and build a world where racism will not be tolerated and Nazis will not be protected.
NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 12 On the cold and windy morning of Dec. 8, 1,000 home health care workers in Local 1199-SEIU, employed by People Care, went on a four-day strike over wages and health benefits. The agency pays less than $7 an hour with no health benefits or sick time. The racist and sexist bosses figure they can get away with these poverty conditions because the workers are predominantly black and Latin women.
As one worker told NY1-TV, "We need to pay our rent; we dont have sick days. We dont have holidays. Even for vacation, they only pay half of one week and the salary is so low."
The 1199-SEIU leadership neglected to mobilize mass strike support from among the 70,000 hospital workers. Consequently, there was a very small turnout on the picket line. This is the same leadership thats always crowing about "strength in numbers" and that theyre a powerful and effective union. However, the union leadership uses its members for political campaigns to elect bosses politicians who represent the capitalist system thats always cutting back on these same workers benefits.
Last year, 1199-SEIU settled with other home care agencies to raise hourly wages to $10. People Care has refused to match this. Even at $10 an hour (before taxes), its almost impossible for these workers to feed, clothe and house their families.
The home health care workers provide compassionate home care for people discharged from hospitals. The hospital bosses encourage shorter stays for these patients, because it increases their profits.
The patients tend to have more ailments when theyre discharged and require extra assistance at home. The workers administer medication, monitor pulse and temperature, assisting with physical therapy exercise, bathe, feed and dress the patients, run errands and escort patients to doctor appointments. Some patients are bedridden and obese, making the work even more strenuous. This work is just as important as that of a health care worker in a hospital but pays a lot less.
The capitalist home health care system is two-tiered, based upon agencies that make enormous profits from low-paid workers and a lack of patient care. Medicaid and Medicare finance the system, with the funds coming from taxes and bosses profits extracted from the working class. Medicaid and Medicare monies are channeled through Certified Home Health Agencies (CHHA). They withhold a substantial amount to pay their own administrative cost and reap their profits. They employ mostly nurses and therapists. These CHHAs in turn subcontract to Licensed Home Care Service Agencies. The LHCSAs use the money from the CHHAs to pay their own administrative costs and take their profit cut, leaving only a tiny amount for those who do all the work, the home health care workers.
Since the invasion of Iraq, billions have been diverted from social programs to support that war. The bosses are striving to reduce the cost of health care and drive down the wages of the working class. The answer is to organize the working class to build the PLP around the revolutionary communist ideas in CHALLENGE.
The Students and Educators to Stop the War Conference (CHALLENGE, 12/14) provided a broad political arena for students and teachers who had never attended such a mass, progressive event. Newcomers witnessed mass political activism and saw themselves as political agents. Students made presentations, chaired sessions, helped with logistics and attended Youth/Student Committee meetings combining political veterans and new activists. A significant group of teachers brought students and participated similarly. The numbers reflect years of strong base-building and political struggle by students and teachers active on many campuses.
The conference increased students' and teachers' commitment to fight against the war in Iraq and against racism. At one high school this inspired more students to join a student club and confront military recruiters. More actions are being planned and more people are reading CHALLENGE.
At one college, which produced about 60 people for the conference, some enthusiastic teachers want to organize a mini-conference at their school.
Over 30 students attended from another school. Their preparation for the workshops helped them understand much more about the war and its connection to racism and capitalism. In the workshops, the ideological struggle was sharp.
In one workshop, on immigrants and the bosses' military, there were four presenters. One high school student advocated the need to organize in the military. This contrasted with some of the presenters who said that youth in general, and immigrants in particular, should completely reject the military. The inter-imperialist rivalry for resources (oil) and world dominance was highlighted. Another speaker described the Russian and Chinese revolutions. When one mentioned defending "our people," a discussion ensued about the whole working class being "our people."
Another workshop was devoted to teaching about war and peace in elementary school. Creative lesson plans were presented to raise issues about war with younger students. When opposition arose to the pledge of allegiance, some participants had a nationalist response, but most responded positively to the idea that the working class must unite internationally, rejecting all bosses' divisions.
In a workshop on dismantling the war machine, one presenter reviewed moral and religious grounds against the war. Another described how the war machine was part of capitalism and its quest for empire. Yet another advanced the need for revolution and the role of soldiers and workers in making it. At the end, someone asked what the solution was. One presenter said "socialism." Another presenter said that every time socialism was heroically fought for and established, it returned to capitalism, that the answer was communism, which the working class can fight for directly.
Many teachers were excited at seeing young people who were politically sharp and motivated. Most people who went came away exhilarated, wanting to do more to fight back and to learn more about how to end the war machine. A lot can come from this conference, as we keep the action and political struggle in high gear.
West Coast Participant
The article "France: Youth Explode Against Racism" (CHALLENGE, 11/30) includes an inaccuracy which is not without political significance. The article says "the young rebels" were responsible for "a deadly assault on a retired auto worker."
It seemed that way initially. LHumanité (11/8) reported that on Nov. 4, Jean-Charles Le Chenadec, 60, president of an apartment building tenants association in Stains, went to the foot of the building with the association vice-president to douse a fire in a garbage bin. The two men were talking when some youths threw stones at them. The men ignored this. Then a man approached them and asked what they were talking about. They answered, "Our cars." The man struck Le Chenadec, who fell to the ground in a coma.
A small group of youths ran to help the two officials and then dashed into the street and stopped a passing ambulance. Unfortunately, this was in vain and Le Chenadec died on Nov. 7.
However, on Dec. 1, Le Monde published an article indicating that Le Chenadecs widow, Nicole, had stated she believed her husbands murder was a revenge killing unrelated to the urban violence.
Apparently the young rebels are not guilty of murder, but rather did everything possible to save Le Chenadecs life. Nevertheless, CHALLENGE is right in saying that the rebels did make serious mistakes.
A Reader in France
At my new job, soon after the Thanks for Fighting Racism Feast (TFFRF; see CHALLENGE, 12/14), I was eating lunch while chatting with a young black coworker around my age. He was fasting, even though he loves meat and barbecue and a lot of other great food. He said the aroma of the cooking was giving him hunger pangs. When I asked this buddy of mine why he was doing this, he replied he was protesting Thanksgiving. After all, he told me, Thanksgiving is really about conquest, not about friendship and community, and any assertions to the contrary are essentially a propaganda spin to make racist pigs look like wallflowers. So he fasts to show his opposition to all that.
I immediately thought about the TFFRF, and how amazing and inspiring to have had such a group of people in Washington D.C. that past weekend to recap a year of fighting racism, and yet also have the REAL food and community that most people associate with the racist Thanksgiving holiday. So I said, "Theres this great event that happens the weekend before Thanksgiving; its an anti-racist version of that day..."
As I revealed my friends protest already existed as an organized dinner, including food, absolutely everybody else in the room maybe fifteen others stopped their own conversations and started listening to me outline the TFFRF. They stared with a mixture of amazement, happiness and mock anger that I hadnt told them sooner! Then everyone, including my friend, starting dropping stuff like, "Why didn't you say anything?" and, "Invite me next year!"
I was embarrassed, not because of their attention to me, but because I realized my error in not having considered that they all might have wanted to attend the Feast together! I assured them Id invite them next year, and they responded, "Yeah, you better!"
This taught me that even in a new situation although it might take time before people could come closer to the Party and to communist thought it doesnt automatically mean it takes just as much time to introduce them to an anti-racist event. Many people are anti-racist and already understand the need for people everywhere to fight racism. The fact that I didn't invite them shows not only that I simply "didn't think of it" because Im new on the job, but also that I dont have the confidence I should have in people who are active in reform movements but really, in their hearts, also want serious change.
Ive learned that lesson now and all these co-workers will receive a full, open, and well-in-advance invitation to next years Thanks For Fighting Racism Feast!
Young (new) worker
Imagine my surprise when I turned on the soccer channel Sunday morning (12/4) to watch Lazio vs. Siena in the Italian league. The teams lined up side by side, reached down, picked up a big banner and unfurled it across the whole line-up: "No al Razzismo!" (No to Racism!)
The players were protesting racist heckling of black players in European matches, where the teams field players from all over the world. I had heard of these types of racist actions in Spain but not in Italy. This protest was an act of multi-racial, international solidarity among the players, and I wonder who organized it. Professional players make high salaries, far more than workers, but it was great they did this. It went beyond the individual political protests U.S. athletes sometimes make.
The match went to Lazio 3-2, but today both teams scored against racism.
Calcio Rosso (Red Football)
On December 10th an overflow crowd of transit workers squeezed into NYC's Jacob Javits Center as thousands more stood outside. The mass membership meeting began with bagpipers circling the hall playing 'Amazing Grace,' which was written by the captain of a slave ship. Then came the pledge of allegiance to a system that practices genocide against Katrina victims and millions worldwide. This was followed by prayers by those who condone the slaughter by insisting that only god and not workers' power can stop it. Finally some flag-waving "justified" a steady supply of soldiers from our ranks for bosses' profit wars, financed by driving us into poverty.
The meeting consisted mostly of a discussion of Metropolitan Transit Authority demands for give-backs, speed-up, second class status for new workers and dangerous service cuts. The absence of any worker demands seemed to suggest the union would settle for a small raise and the stopping of most, but not all, of the give-backs. The lack of any real strike preparation or any rank-and-file input into the strike decision leads me to believe the Toussaint leadership will announce another, 12th-hour sellout "deal."
The hard reality is that the TWU is led by high-paid bureaucrats who use workers' dues to pay lawyers and politicians to negotiate with the bosses. It took bloody rank-and-file struggles led by communists to win the right to form the Transport Workers Union and establish collective leadership from the bottom up, with leaders like Mike Quill receiving an average worker's wage. When the U.S. government tried to force workers to pay for the Vietnam War, (like Bush with Iraq today), Quill led the workers in defying the war and anti-strike laws in a successful strike against cuts that would "force our workers into poverty."
Transit workers cannot continue to let these sellouts mentioned above conduct our struggles against corporate oppression. We must face the reality of a fight to the death against the bosses and their cops, courts and military. We need to unite with communists again, not just to win good contracts but to build a system dedicated to workers' needs communism
Retired transit worker
ORANGE COUNTY, CA, Dec. 12 Two anti-racists who were arrested May 25 for demonstrating against the Minutemen had their preliminary hearing today. The Judge refused to drop or lower any charges against one of them and dropped only two charges against the other. They face serious charges based on the lies of the Garden Grove and Orange County police who attacked the demonstration.
We ask those who support the fight against racism and the system it thrives on to contribute money to help with a vigorous legal and political defense against this attack. The defendants and their supporters are organizing a speaking tour about the Minutemen, the rise of racism and fascism and the need to organize against them. They spoke at the "Students and Educators to Stop the War" conference where they received donations and support. This fight, part of the long-term fight to destroy racism at its roots, will continue.
Most people dont think of academic conferences as political battlegrounds, but the Radical Caucus of the Modern Language Association (MLA) knows that winning the hearts and minds of the Associations faculty and graduate students is an important part of the struggle to put people ahead of corporate profits. The MLA is the nations largest association of college language and literature professors. It meets each year from Dec. 27-30.
This year, the Caucus is aiming to battle the conservative groups that are trying to control whats taught or discussed on campus. The Caucus is organizing two academic sessions on "Academic Work and the New McCarthyism." As part of its counter-attack, its proposing a resolution and a motion to the Delegate Assembly. They directly link the right-wing attacks to the economic de-funding and restructuring of higher education. The latter has replaced tenure/tenure-track faculty with vulnerable graduate teaching assistants or adjunct and non-tenure track ("contingent") faculty. These groups teach up to 65-75% of all higher education courses, at much lower salaries.
Government cuts in student financial aid, university administrative attacks on graduate student unions and exorbitant increases in tuition exemplify how economic attacks on higher education have freed up tax dollars for war and corporate tax cuts, making political activism more difficult just when its most needed. Communist faculty and students in the Progressive Labor Party have been active supporters of Radical Caucus resolutions and other efforts to popularize Marxist perspectives. Were fighting for anti-capitalist demands that expose the inabilities of capitalism to meet our needs and to argue that more radical change is needed and possible over time.
The Radical Caucus resolution calls on the MLA to "oppose the Academic and Student Bills of Rights (A/SBOR) and all related legislation" which give government agencies power over course content and faculty expression. Distorting the rhetoric of the "Bill of Rights," these groups including David Horowitzs Center for Popular Culture, Students for Academic Freedom, Campus Watch and the David Project want to enforce the teaching of reactionary ideas that cannot win support on their own merit while violating the rights of both students and faculty.
The Caucus motion demands that the MLA leadership allot financial and human resources to urge the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to modify its policies to "assert the freedom of each faculty member, tenured or untenured, part-time or full-time, to determine what is relevant to the subject matter he or she teaches, and to teach accordingly." The motion argues that the current AAUP statement "provides humanities teachers with insufficient protection, since it is widely acknowledged that our subject has porous boundaries, and the determination of controversiality is politicized."
Within the MLA, the Radical Caucus has been the primary leader of anti-capitalist struggles for more than a decade, successfully proposing resolutions that link the growing international competition over resources, the "war on terrorism" and the U.S. invasion of Iraq to growing political repression and economic attacks at home. Many of these resolutions advocating academic labor justice and opposing racism, fascism and imperialist war have passed the Delegate Assembly by large margins. This indicates that MLA members recognize how capitalist economic goals have led to massive reallocations of tax dollars to fund the war and to provide, through tax cuts, unprecedented profits for corporations and banks.
Since 9/11, and especially through the USA Patriot Act and the propaganda campaign around the "war on terrorism," faculty nationwide have been intimidated, and in some cases even fired, when their teaching "questions" U.S. foreign policy or the war. One recent example is the campaign to fire Warren County Community College English Professor John Peter Daly when his e-mail protesting an on-campus event by the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom was fed to the media. Such attacks, just like the torture in Abu Ghraib and the CIAs secret prisons abroad, reflect the hardball being played by the U.S. government and economic elite, using intimidation and force, to enforce their policies as their lies get exposed and public support wanes for their imperialist motives.
At past conventions, PLP members have played a critical role in advancing Marxist class analyses of literary/cultural issues, of the Iraq war and of the growing ruling-class use of fascist tactics. As the economic and human costs of war increase the stakes at home and abroad, its more important than ever to help build a movement for communist ideas in the MLA.
George Romeros fourth zombie saga, "Land of the Dead," was recently released on dvd. Along with outlandish gore, it offers serious class politicsin fact, according to both Romero and those who know him, he made the film with politics in mind. Not that this is anything new. Romero is known for his populist take on the horror genre as well as his collective method of directing movies, in which actors and other staff share multiple jobs and have a say in the shooting of the films. "Night of the Living Dead," his first zombie film released in 1968, was, according to both critics and Romero (in a recent interview), a commentary on the violence of the Vietnam War as well as a critique of rural racism. 1979s "Dawn of the Dead," filmed in one of the countrys first shopping malls, is a classic satire on consumerism. The 1985 sequel "Day of the Dead" (as well as Romeros 1975 film "The Crazies," about military quarantine of a town with an outbreak of a psychosis-inducing virus), was a blunt attack on the racism, sexism, and "leaderism" of the military, with a healthy poke at the idealism of modern science. Romeros zombie movies are also implicitly antiracist: "Night" features a strong, confident black man as its star, and both "Dawn" and "Day" end with a black man and white woman as the films only survivors.
This brings us to "Land of the Dead," which features a black male gas station attendant (humorously named Big Daddy) in the "lead zombie" role. The countys few remaining human survivors live barricaded inside a city, with the outskirts (and everywhere else) populated by flesh-eating zombies. But the real problem is that a class system still remains, and with a vengeance. Dennis Hopper plays Kaufman, the self-appointed leader, a power-hungry ruling-class type who lives in an exclusive high-rise shopping mall called Fiddlers Green. Only the rich, through an exclusive application process, are allowed to inhabit this place, which, it is soon pointed out, Kaufman simply took over. The rest are left to live in a slum. Kaufman maintains control not only with a personal security force dressed in nazi-like gray uniforms, but by providing the people with "vices and games"for example, a casino includes a grotesque game in which bets are placed on which caged zombie would be the first to kill a prostitute (perhaps meant as a satire on wrestling and other sports).
One of the movies best political scenes occurs when a Scottish man encourages several slum-dwellers to rise up against Kaufman, so they can collectively improve their lives. The films main plot line centers on John Leguizamos character, Cholo, a young Puerto Rican man whom Kaufman has hired to make dangerous trips outside to collect food and other supplies that cant be produced in the walled-in city. However, Cholos real goal is to save up enough money in order to live in Fiddlers Green. When Kaufman turns him down, due to his own racism and classism, Cholo takes drastic measures, which could also harm the citys non-ruling class residents. Kaufman then sends the films hero, played by Simon Baker, to stop Cholo, but he has his own individualistic goal of moving to Canada, where there are neither people nor zombies.
However, "Land"s secondary plot is much more interesting. More and more zombies are seen trying to use tools, presumably as a way to imitate their former human existence. A trick that the humans use to distract the zombies begins to lose its effectiveness. The zombies, although technically dead, seem to be learning (a theme hinted at in Romeros earlier films). This is all happening under the leadership of Big Daddy, who seems to be aware of how his fellow dead are being slaughtered by the humans on their missions. With the zombies as a parallel for the underclass, Romero hits us with an exciting subplot with revolutionary implications.
"Land" is not without flaws. Some of the acting is uninspired, the ending is a bit anticlimactic, and it was mostly filmed at night, making the gory scenes that had occurred in broad daylight in "Dawn" and "Day" seem less bizarre. The over-the-top gore and violence is not for everyone. And Romero apparently intended Kaufmans character to be more of a jab at the Bush administration than against the ruling class in general (theres a funny scene where Kaufman inadvertently quotes Bush). However, its great to see a film that is both fun and sides with the underdog, while trying to wake people up to the class oppression we live under.
Five trillion dollars has been corruptly removed from the worlds poorest countries and lodged permanently in the worlds richest countries .
Multinational corporations, wealthy individuals and unscrupulous governments .use the worlds tax havens and banking systems to hide sums of money that could address almost all of the continents financial needs.
Some 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan African nations disappeared offshore in the second half of the 1990s. The situation in the Middle East and north Africa is even worse .
Greedy individuals and companies and compliant banking systems and governments are far more responsible than corrupt dictators for the state of the poorest countries. (GW, 12/15)
Im not saying that President Bush is a dud in responding to national emergencies but when he announced his plan to fight the next flu pandemic, Las Vegas odds makers immediately installed flu as a 3-1 favorite .(MinutemanMedia.org, 11/15)
London, Dec.7 The playwright Harold Pinter turned his Nobel Prize acceptance speech into a furious howl of outrage against American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but had also "supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship" in the last 50 years .
Mr. Pinter said: "You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good .
"Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words the American people provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You dont need to think. Just lie back on the cushion " (NYT, 12/8)
Young middle-aged and old, these citizens of New Orleans, wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and now urgently seeking government assistance, spoke Friday of sleeping in a truck and on a floor, living out of a car and waiting for the help that never seems to come .
"You come to these FEMA centers, you sit all day" said Myrna Guity, 43, ."You get no answers to your questions. Theyre evasive. Youre constantly pending. What are you going to be doing, pending for the rest of your life? Ive lost everything. "
Three months after the storm, political figures here talk often of the progress that has been made .But hidden behind these sometimes rosy declarations are tens of thousands of their constituents, living at the edge of their dwindling resources .
"Weve got food stamps, and thats pretty much it." (NYT, 12/3)
Over the last few years G.D.P growth has been reasonably good, and corporate profits have soared. But that growth has failed to trickle down to most Americans.
Back in August the Census bureau released family income data for 2004. The report, which was overshadowed by Hurricane Katrina, showed a remarkable disconnect between overall economic growth and economic fortunes of most American families.
It should have been a good year for American families: the economy grew 4.2 percent, its best performance since 1999. Yet most families actually lost economic ground .
And one key source of economic insecurity got worse, as the number of Americans without health insurance continued to rise.
We dont have comparable data for 2005 yet, but its pretty clear that the results will be similar . (NYT, 12/5)
The power of these lies was considerable. In a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Sept. 25, 2001, 60 percent of Americans thought Osama bin Laden had been the culprit in the attacks of two weeks earlier, either alone or in league with unnamed "others" or with the Taliban; only 6 percent thought bin Laden had collaborated with Saddam; and only 2 percent thought Saddam had been the sole instigator. By the time we invaded Iraq in 2003, however, CBS News found that 53 percent believed Saddam had been "personally involved" in 9/11; other polls showed a similar percentage of Americans convinced that the hijackers were Iraqis. (NYT,11/12)
The percentage of American private sector workers in unions has fallen to 7.9 percent, the lowest rate in a century and down from 35 percent in the 1950s .
Surveys showed that more than half of American workers say they would vote to join a union if they could. Nearly one-third of companies facing unionization campaigns fire union supporters and one-half threaten to close work sites. (NYT, 12/9)
Capitalism was born dripping blood from its pores. As Karl Marx pointed out, the original accumulation of capital essential to the development of the profit system was created by robbery and mass murder. The trans-Atlantic slave trade and enslavement of 12 million black Africans remains one of the greatest examples of this robbery. A current exhibit at the New York Historical Society on slavery in New York City bears this out. (Quotations are from this exhibit.) Teachers should definitely take their classes to see it. It closes March 5.
The slave trade "was the largest forced migration in world history," in which millions died from the brutal conditions on the slave ships. The racism directed first against Native Americans and soon afterwards against black people (later extended to Latino, Asian and other immigrants) was the foundation stone of U.S. capitalism. Without the continuance of this racist exploitation, it could not survive.
Originally, slavery of black people existed alongside "unfree white labor" indentured servitude, forced military service (impressement), apprenticeship and convict labor. But "only in the late 17th century did North American [slave owners] tie lifelong and hereditary slavery to skin color." Soon the rulers used the division between black and white as a club over white workers heads to force down their wages. This rulers racism has been used to weaken the working class ever since.
"The trans-Atlantic [slave] trade yielded fabulous profits and transformed the world . Profits from this trade fueled the worlds first industrial revolution in 18th century England."
"The trading of slaves along the African coast was tied to the rise of plantation agriculture in the Americas and the enormous expansion of European waterborne commerce."
The schools teach about slavery in the Southern U.S., in South America and in the Caribbean, but rarely mention slavery in the northern colonies of New York and New England. Yet from 1613 to 1633, Dutch ships provided the slaves who literally "built New York." The Dutch West India Company told Peter Stuyvesant, its Director-General in New York, that, "The importation of Negroes would greatly benefit the cultivation of the soil .The welfare of the country depends on it."
Stuyvesant supplied slaves to Portuguese, British and French sugar plantations in Brazil, Barbados and throughout the Caribbean" as well as "to New England, Chesapeake" and "to farmers on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley." When the British took over New York from the Dutch in 1664, slaves "provided the labor that made New York boom."
"Trading in slaves was big business and enriched merchants, farmers, professionals and craftsmen." In 1703, "42% of New Yorkers had slaves .Among cities, only Charleston, South Carolina, had more."
"Slavery was the lifeline of hundreds of New York businesses . Slave ads helped keep newspapers in business" because of regular advertisements for the buying and selling of slaves as shiploads arrived in New York, and through ads for the capture of runaways.
State law proclaimed, "All children born of slave mothers shall be slaves as well . Living conditions were harsh, work constant." The "work-day" began before dawn and lasted until late at night. Revolts were met with death. Organized religion justified the oppression.
But, "For 400 years slaves rebelled, during the Middle Passage, on plantations, escaping to mountains, swamps and jungles . Resistance never stopped." The first mass rebellion in New York occurred in 1712.
When slaves were promised freedom during the War for Independence, many joined Washingtons army. One-fourth of the troops at the final British surrender were black. However, when the war ended, Washington demanded the return of his slaves. (The British promised freedom to slaves who joined their army.)
The burgeoning need of Northern capitalists for wage labor impelled them to push for elimination of slave labor. Wage labor cheapened the cost to the capitalists, who imported a flood of white immigrants from Europe to compete with the freed slaves for jobs, driving costs even lower and profits higher. This led to the outlawing of slavery in New York in 1827, though not in New Jersey until the 1860s and led directly to the U.S. Civil War, to prevent the spread of slave labor as the U.S. expanded westward. However, after the North won the war, the Northern capitalists helped the former slave owners keep freed slaves terrorized and a source of cheap labor there as well.
The Societys exhibit did not cover the brutality and conditions on Southern cotton plantations, where thousands of slave rebellions occurred. But despite this, the exhibit does reveal much about how slavery was central to the economic growth of U.S. capitalism. The major capitalists sponsoring this exhibit hope to imply "progress" since slavery. But the horrors of Katrina visited on the black people of New Orleans; the 70% of the two million in U.S. prisons who are black and Latino; the prison-like schools in the inner cities; the mass unemployment among black and Latino youth; the racist police and many other racist horrors all this can be traced to the brutal conditions of slavery suffered by black people for centuries. No exhibit implying "progress" can hide these continuing racist crimes by the capitalist ruling class based on endless wars and racist super-exploitation.
Capitalism and racism were born together. Only the struggle to build a society based on the abolition of wage slavery and racism can free the entire working class from the yoke of oppression. That society is communism.
Science, far from being purely objective, is largely influenced by the prevailing social and economic system. For example, Darwins theory that evolution occurs through natural selection, has influenced the field of biology for the last 150 years. Few scientists have disagreed with the fact that evolution has taken place, but Darwin and other scientists showed that natural selection was one of the key mechanisms making it happen. Currently the anti-science religious right-wing is trying to roll back this scientific progress.
Nevertheless, as powerful and confirmed as Darwins theory has been, it also partly reflects the capitalist social relationships of Victorian England a highly individualistic society, marked by workers competing for jobs subservient to capitalist exploiters competing for profits. Thus, Darwins formulation is about "survival of the fittest" rather than merely "survival of the fit." Not all relationships among members of a species or between members of different species are competitive. Many species cooperate to help those members with disabilities, such as parents do with children, so that even many of the less fit members will be able to survive and produce their own children.
In todays capitalist society, similar false ideas are passed off as "objective science." For example, to justify racist and sexist discrimination, genetic theories of "race" and gender differences claim that white people are born "more intelligent" than black people or that men are born "more intelligent" than women.
Recently two scientists from Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC posed that violent behavior among black youth is inherited. They proposed giving drugs to innocent children to curb "possible future criminality." In the 1980s, a racist British scientist, Cyril Burt, claimed intelligence was inherited based on his "studies" of twins. His data was exposed as completely falsified to produce this racist result. Emphasizing environment instead of genetics, Ivy Leaguers Banfield and Jencks concluded that impoverished workers were so used to the "culture" of slums that they actually "preferred" to live in slums!
Or consider the claim that the HIV virus causes AIDS. While HIV contributes, this simplistic approach omits the factors of widespread poverty, ignorance, racism, lack of medical care, global profit-seeking and sexism that contribute to full-blown AIDS.
So if society influences science, what will it be like under communism? Firstly, an understanding of science wont be restricted to just a few select scientists. All workers will come to understand it.
Communists will fight for more widespread knowledge of the social sciences which will occur prior to a revolution. Many workers will need first to grasp the ideas of communist scientific philosophy dialectical materialism. "Dialectical" refers to the struggle between two opposites. "Materialism" refers to the position that objective reality not "design" or idealistic "freedom" of will determines how people think and act. Dialectical materialism is, first and foremost, the science of revolution, including the interpretation of history that the working class is the dynamic force for social change.
In biology, for example, worker-scientists will develop an understanding of the extraordinary complexity defining the relationship between genetics and environment, how they simultaneously act on one another. We will learn the many ways in which the social environment affects the individual and vice versa.
Under communism we will struggle for every worker to be trained in the science of dialectical materialism. At every workplace and in every classroom, we will learn, and be guided by, the dynamic laws of change present in everyday life. Capitalism, on the other hand, through its schools, seeks to create an unquestioning, robot-like working class in its factories and in its armies. Communist society will need every individual worker to actively question and think about effective ways to improve the conditions of all: from the prevention of deadly diseases, to protection against natural disasters like Katrina, tsunamis or devastating earthquakes. We will study how to improve personal relationships, health and the environment. Science under communism, above all, will liberate the working class from misery and want.
(A future column will show what the science of dialectical materialism reveals about capitalism.)