January 18, 2006

  1. Workers Refuse to Sacrifice for Imperialist War:
  2. Bosses' State Power Cuts Wages, Pensions, Health Benefits
  4. NY Union Hacks on Bosses' Side in Transit Strike
  5. `The Bosses are the Real Criminals . . .
  7. U.S., China Imperialists Headed For Showdown
  8. VW Wildcatters March Against Union Hacks
  9. UAW Sellouts Jam Thru Suspect Vote Over Ford Give-backs
  10. No Matter Who `Administers' the Market, It's Still Capitalism
  11. Frame-up of Anti-Racist Fighters Defeated
  12. Anti-Racist Legal Strategy
  13. D.C. Winter Project Combines Marxist Study with Pro-Worker Action
  14. Challenging the Pro-War Dictatorship in Public Health
  15. Under Communism
    Soviet Women Fighter Pilots' Struggle for Equality
  16. Banks, Loans Sharks Make War on GI's
  17. `Monk' Builds Sympathy for Cops
    1. Class Consciousness Emerges on Picket Line
    2. Barcelona Bus Drivers Greet NYC Strikers
    3. Strikers Cheer Student, Teacher Support
    4. Transit Fight Helps Teachers
    5. Bosses' Media Unite to Attack Strikers
    6. U.S. Bosses Aim to Slaughter Pensions
    7. CHALLENGE comments:
    8. Hospital Workers Back Strikers
    9. Youth Stand on Workers' Side
    10. Morales' Socialism Protects Bosses
    11. Using CHALLENGE to Fight Factory Fascism
    1. `We do torture' US school could boast
    2. Big biz robs us no matter who is elected
    3. US, Britain plan hidden control of Iraq oil
    4. Shantytowns erupt, losing faith in SA gov't
    5. Workers founded science, not just great men

Workers Refuse to Sacrifice for Imperialist War:

NEW YORK CITY, Jan. 2 -- For three days, 33,000 black, Latin and white, men and women transit workers, members of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), shut down the largest mass transit system in the U.S. These workers move 7,000,000 riders 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is a dangerous job with one of the highest injury rates in the U.S., prompting many other other workers to appreciate the transit workers' efforts and to agree they deserve a decent contract and retirement rights at 55.

The strike showed that workers are not willing to pay for the hundreds of billions the bosses need for their endless imperialist wars. The ruling class must allocate as much money as possible to its war machine, with little left over to pay for workers' wages, pensions or health care. Locked in fierce global competition with their imperialist rivals, the bosses must drive down the wages and working conditions of workers here. Even if the workers didn't view this as a strike against the war economy, the bosses certainly do. The mainly black and Latin workers waged an illegal strike over issues affecting the entire working class -- health care, pensions and wages. They defied the Taylor Law which bans strikes of public employees, fining them two days pay for every day on strike and fining the union $1 million a day.

The rank-and-file's leadership and anger forced the walkout and demonstrated the power of the working class, setting an example for workers everywhere facing the same attacks. When scores of PLP members joined the picket lines, the strikers gave CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets a warm reception.


The racist rulers cannot stand workers challenging their state apparatus. What if auto and airline workers were to follow that example? Despite an all-out racist attack from the ruling class and its media, the strikers enjoyed mass support. One poll showed 52% of the general public and 75% of black people backed the strikers. This reflects how the war in Iraq, the mass racist terror following Hurricane Katrina and endless economic hardships are beginning to impact the outlook of the masses. This bodes well for future attempts to organize mass support for workers' actions.

Despite a $1 billion surplus, the corrupt MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) bosses -- recently caught keeping two sets of books -- demanded a discriminatory two-tier pension system for new workers and an increase in the retirement age from 55 to 62 plus a 6% contribution towards the health plan for new workers. While the Mayor, the Governor and the media smeared the workers as "law-breakers," the MTA was breaking the Taylor Law, which makes it illegal to negotiate retirement benefits.

The bosses pulled out all stops of their state power and their media to beat down the transit strikers. In a lynch-mob atmosphere, racist billionaire Mayor Bloomberg called the mostly black and Latino workers "selfish, greedy thugs." A NY Post columnist labeled them a "homegrown enemy," comparing them to the terrorists responsible for 9/11. Even black radio morning show DJ Miss Jones slandered the mostly black strikers. Every news outlet lied about how the strikers were "harming the poorest workers," something they never said when the MTA hiked the fare to $2. With the strikers defying the Taylor Law, racist billionaire Bloomberg tried to get the court to impose a penalty of $25,000 PER WORKER for the first day of the strike and DOUBLING it every day thereafter -- more than a year's wages in two days!

This short transit strike, led by black and Latin workers against the bosses' law, defying racist hysteria that equated them with 9/11 terrorists and "holding the city for ransom," was a breath of fresh air for the entire working class. It highlighted the power of organized workers and how the city runs on workers' labor. It showed how the bosses run the state and will use their class dictatorship launch racist attacks to finance their imperialist wars. Only the fight for communism -- where workers will rule -- will smash the bosses' dictatorship.

In the wake of this strike, PLP will work hard to consolidate new readers and distributors of CHALLENGE and strengthen our ties with transit workers, on all of our jobs, in our schools and communities and in the barracks. This is how that flash of anti-racist defiance can build the revolutionary movement. Although it did not "win" appreciable gains, the transit strike was a significant political battle. It could be the rumbling before a volcano or the thunder before a storm.

Bosses' State Power Cuts Wages, Pensions, Health Benefits

The year 2005 saw a mini-strike wave. It ended with the transit workers strike in NYC and with Northwest Airline strikers rejecting the bosses' latest offer and its pilots threatening to strike. Attacks on pensions and retiree medical care for future workers have sparked a walkout at Lockheed and two at Boeing -- to name a few. The New York Times worries about the "clash of race, culture and class." The potential for anti-racist, class-conscious politics has grown in a few short months. Let the New York Times and the bosses they serve have nightmares!

The bosses' labor lieutenants have worked mightily to short-circuit rank-and-file militancy. In order to hit the bricks, Lockheed workers had to override a proposed contract the IAM union misleaders had cooked up to eliminate retiree medical benefits for new hires -- setting the stage for walkouts at Boeing. The biggest Boeing strike was cut short when the liberal Gephardt, ex-Senator from Missouri, brokered a secret deal. Most recently, the TWU strikers were undercut by nearly the whole NYC labor leadership in another backroom deal.


We need to build working-class strength. Make no mistake about it; such strength cannot be built through secret backroom deals. Such deals won't help our class understand how the bosses exercise their dictatorship over us. They only spread illusions about the nature of capitalism, illusions that disarms us.

No matter what the result of the TWU contract, the ruling class intends to use the "unforgiving discipline of the financial markets" to force future pension and retiree health cuts. A New York Times article a scant two weeks before the transit strike ("The Next Retirement Time Bomb," 12/11/05), said, "Thousands of government bodies including states, cities, towns, school districts and water authorities [will be subject to] a new accounting rule to be phased in over three years." These governmental bodies will be forced to account for "future [retiree] obligations" instead of the present "pay-as-you-go" accounting rules. Their credit ratings will plummet, making it enormously expensive to borrow money, if not actually forced into bankruptcy -- "propelling radical cutbacks for government retirees."

The "invisible hand of the market" will assure these attacks are viciously racist. "The pressure is greatest in places like Detroit, Flint and Lansing," doubly victimizing a disproportionately black work-force already attacked by the cut-backs in auto and other manufacturing industries.

Democracy is exposed as a sham when faced with capitalist markets. The same group of labor hacks who sold out the NYC transit strikers complain about "right-wing think tanks and conservative Republicans [who] want to do away with traditional pension plans and replace them with much-cheaper 401(K)s." (New York Times, 12/24/05) But the fact remains, no politician, Democrat or Republican, can stand up to the "unforgiving discipline of the financial markets" -- the hidden hand of the bosses' dictatorship.

Turn Strikes into Schools for Communism

The only viable answer to the bosses' dictatorship is the dictatorship of the working class. Working-class power can't be voted in, nor can even the most militant of strikes assure it. That kind of power requires a revolution.

Indeed, even socialism, which preserves the market and production for sale, can't serve our interests. Nothing less than communism -- where we produce for use not for sale -- can end these attacks.

The bosses must prepare for "stunningly expensive" wars to maintain their hold on Mid-East oil, according to Peter Peterson, the head of the Council of Foreign Relations. "It's national security or retirement security," he warns. We welcome and support anti-racist, pro-working class strikes, but ultimately the bosses will use their dictatorship to force cuts to finance their imperialist dreams. We must shed all illusions of peace with capitalism and prepare for communist revolution. Lasting gains can be measured in CHALLENGES sold and new networks of sellers, laying the basis for growth of the Party and the revolutionary movement.


"I think we got shafted," said veteran bus driver William Vargas. "I don't think we should pay for health benefits. We never did and we shouldn't start now." (NY Daily News, 12/28) He's right. The corrupt MTA claimed it couldn't afford to pay workers a decent contract despite a $1 billion surplus, because of a projected "deficit" three years from now.

But that "deficit" is caused by rapidly rising interest payments to Wall Street's big banks. In the 1990's, Governor Pataki cut the state's contribution to the MTA's capital improvement budget in order to pay for his tax cuts. This forced the MTA to borrow millions and raise fares. The interest payments on the debts to the banks will double between 2002 and 2007, and the MTA will pay twice as much in debt service costs to the banks as it pays to the workers' pension fund, shooting up 36% by 2009.

In their last contract, the MTA cried "broke" and forced workers to take a wage freeze in the first year. Now, it claims it needs a $1 billion surplus for "future deficits." At this rate workers could never demand increases. And it's the State's under-funding of the transit system that's responsible for the "deficit," a scam that fills the vaults of the big bankers.


Meanwhile, transit workers may be stuck with a wage-cut! The tentative agreement provides a total wage increase of 10.5% over 37 months. However, workers will pay AT LEAST 1.5% per year in health premiums (see below). Deducting that 1.5% in health premiums leaves a net increase of 9% over three years. If inflation rises at 3% per year, or 9% over three years, the workers' wage "increase" will have been wiped out. But....


The kicker is health care premiums are not limited to 1.5%. The "Memorandum of Agreement" states that "the 1.5% contribution shall be increased [our emphasis -- Ed.] by the extent to which the rate of increase in the cost of health benefits exceed general wage increases." Based on the MTA's projected rise in health care costs over the next three years, the workers' health premium would soon go up to 2% per year and would continue rising thereafter as health care costs rise. Combined with projected inflation, the workers will end up with a net wage cut.

Taylor Law fines of 6 days pay for 3 days on strike average $1,000 per worker, or a .7% percent over three years. The lump-sum refund of pension contributions-- for maybe half the workforce (talk about two-tier systems) -- that were wrongly deducted from workers' paychecks from 1994 to 2000 is no sure thing either. It has to be approved by the State Legislature and if that happens Pataki has already promised to veto it (as he has done twice before).

Yet this was the workers' money in the first place -- the bosses stole it to pay it into the pension funds prior to 2001. If workers had not struck, the MTA would never have given it back as part of the new contract. And rarely publicized is the fact that the pension system already is a multi-tier system, with continually added tiers by the State Legislature.

Finally, the workers lose in two ways because of the 37th month contract extension: First, it means this agreement expires on January 15, 2009. meaning the workers lose the leverage of a potential mid-December strike, during the billion-dollar holiday season; and second, the MTA "estimates that the contract extension is worth...more than $11 million [to the MTA] because it "defers raises by one month in the second and third years." (NY Times, 12/31/05) [Our emphasis -- Ed.)

While the contract includes maternity pay, an extra holiday and increased health coverage for retired workers, it made no progress on one of the union's main demands, a reduction in the 16,000 disciplinary attacks on the workers.


Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg labeled striking transit workers "greedy" and "selfish," but didn't mention his buddies on Wall Street. According to Johnson Associates, a compensation consulting firm, the top layer of traders, brokers and investment bankers will rake in $17 BILLION in incentive payouts and year-end bonuses. According to New York magazine, Goldman Sachs alone has put aside $11 billion for bonuses! Top guys can expect incentive awards of up to $40 million each.

NY Union Hacks on Bosses' Side in Transit Strike

"What they did not do was declare support for the strike." (NY Times, 12/23) That's how the bosses' leading mouthpiece characterized the city's union leaders who abandoned the strikers and helped sell them out. They feared that their own members might get similar militant ideas if the strike continued.

According to the Times, 40 city union "leaders," who "represent" over two million members, "warned [Local 100 President] Toussaint that the fines, public anger and contempt citations could be disastrous," and that "his union was in real peril" if he didn't end the strike soon. So Toussaint asked the presidents of UNITE-HERE (apparel/hotel/restaurant union) and SEIU Local 32-B (building service workers), who both backed the mayor's re-election, to let Bloomberg know that if the MTA dropped the (illegal) pension demand, the union would accept health care payments for the workers. This enabled the bosses to take their illegal demand off the table in exchange for the TWU accepting a 1.5% payment per year for health benefits. It created the illusion of "give and take from both sides" and led to the tentative agreement. The workers give, and the bosses take, capitalism's foundation stone.

The TWU International didn't back the strike, denouncing it as "illegal" and urging workers to cross their own picket lines. Trying to save their own asses from any fines or jail time, they sent their lawyers to court to support the bosses' position that Local 100 was breaking the law!


The union misleaders are caught between Iraq and a hard place. Their loyalty to the Wall Street bankers and the profit system mean they must figure out a way to help the bosses drive down the standard of living of all workers so they can maintain a permanent war economy and compete internationally.

The strike exposed the bankruptcy of relying on Democratic or Republican politicians. Politicians from both parties condemned the strike as "illegal," despite receiving millions in contributions from the TWU and other city unions.

In 1937, when the bosses threatened to use the Army and National Guard to retake the GM plants seized by workers in a sit-down strike, the then communist-led UAW organized 40,000 workers from four states to rush to Flint, Michigan, and surround the struck factories. That kind of support is far from the minds of NYC's labor fakers who feared organizing their two million members into any mass demonstrations or sympathy strikes and expose the bankers who reap billions off the workers and riding public (see page 2).

Today GM and Ford squeeze auto workers for nearly $2 billion in health care premiums, Delphi demands a 67% wage-cut and the airline bosses cut wages and eliminate pensions, all without strikes, except the Northwest Airlines mechanics who got no support and were all replaced.

But even greater militancy isn't the answer, though it's necessary. The key is building a movement to overthrow the bosses with communist revolution. Despite the best efforts of those who came before us, today we are facing permanent war and the bosses are taking back 70 years of hard-won gains. As long as the bosses hold power, no worker is secure, and no strike will lead to workers' power. But every strike and every action can build the revolutionary movement if communists are active in the struggle, building unbreakable ties to the workers and offering them a revolutionary alternative. Based on the warm reception given to PLP on the picket lines, there are more opportunities to win transit workers away from the bosses' lieutenants who run the unions and to communist revolution and a system that operates for workers' needs.

`The Bosses are the Real Criminals . . .

(The following are strikers' comments a PL'er heard at the Mike Quill Bus Depot, 41st St. and 11th Ave., Manhattan, on the first two days of the transit strike.)

"I fought in Nam and the Gulf War. This is how they repay us, by attacking workers and cutting VA benefits. These wars are all about making money for the rich."
"The Taylor Law is a weapon of management against the workers. We need to break it."
"If we're not allowed to strike, what good is a union?"
"They send these guys to die in Iraq and leave behind families with no way to support themselves."
"They sent us to ferry people to and from the WTC on 9/11 without giving us any protective gear or warning about toxic dust. Now some of us are sick and they deny we were poisoned."
"The workers helped people get out on 9/11 but the politicians take all the credit."
"The bosses lie to the public about how much we earn."
"Why are the police here? They pay them overtime while we get fined."
"The bosses are the real criminals. Look what they did to the Enron, Northwest and GM workers. They cut our wages and steal our benefits, and then they call us `thugs' for fighting back. Workers are never safe."
"We face disciplinary actions for calling in to use the bathroom on the job."
"The bosses' media spreads a bunch of lies to turn other workers against us."

[Upon hearing from a union lieutenant that Toussaint was going to meet with a mediator and send the workers back before settling a contract, one worker shouted out]: "This is a fascist society! The bosses are no different from Hitler. They want to bust the unions. I'm not going back until we have a contract." [The crowd of workers around him cheered.]


SAGO, WEST VIRGINIA, Jan. 4 -- Eleven miners were murdered in an explosion in a mine filled with deadly carbon dioxide, owned by the ICG conglomerate, a mine cited for 202 violations in 2005. Sixteen citations were for "unwarrantable failure orders," problems that a mine owner "knows exists but fails to correct. Thirteen of these orders were issued in the past six months." (NY Times, 1/4/06) The company was fined $24,000 for these 202 citations, an average of $118 per violation.

Since June the mine has had 15 roof-falls or wall collapses, "an unusually high number...indicative of roof-control problems." The mine also had "dangerous accumulations of coal dust....which is highly combustible."

The dead miners' families experienced an excruciating turn of events when at one point the bosses and the deputy secretary of the state's Dept. of Military Affairs and Public Safety said the miners were alive, "being examined at the mine...and would soon be taken to nearby hospitals." (NYT) This was exposed as a blatant lie when three hours later the overjoyed families were told that the eleven were dead.

Such is the life of a worker under capitalism where profits are supreme and bosses such as these mine owners look on paltry fines as merely a "fee" for doing business, while these coal barons' government hardly gives them a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, the miners' families must suffer the rest of their lives without fathers, husbands or brothers.

A system that destroys the lives of workers in this fashion must be smashed.

U.S., China Imperialists Headed For Showdown

The U.S., currently the world's biggest imperialist power, and China, the fastest growing economy, are on a collision course over Middle Eastern oil. We can't predict just when or how the crunch will come, but both sides are warning of -- and planning for -- dire events.

Flynt Leverett and Jeffrey Bader, Brookings Institution scholars, recently published an article entitled "Managing China-U.S. Energy Competition in the Middle East" (Washington Quarterly, Winter 2005-2006). They note China's skyrocketing energy needs: "By 2004, with the economy still growing at 9.5 percent annually...Chinese oil demand had risen to six million barrels per day....China's oil demand will rise to about 10 million barrels per day by 2030, of which 80 percent will be imported." Those imports can come only from the Persian Gulf region, which holds two-thirds of proven global oil reserves. No other part of the world, including Russia and the Caspian region, claims more than one-tenth.

But U.S. rulers' oil thirst is growing, too. And it's not just because U.S. imports will pass 20 million barrels a day in 2025. U.S. imperialism functions largely through the energy weapon. The domination of Mid-East crude by U.S. companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco, and British allies Shell and BP, gives U.S. bosses tremendous economic and political leverage over dependent foreign customers. Russian Gazprom's strong-arming of Eastern Europe pales beside the worldwide extortion racket the Exxon gang has run ever since World War II.

Chinese and U.S. oil requirement projections are fairly old news. What's new is the increasingly hostile rhetoric. Imperialist pundits and politicians now admit freely that the economic conflict could erupt into war. The Brookings paper says China will intensify its financial, diplomatic and naval efforts in the Middle East in order "to maximize its access to hydrocarbon resources under any foreseeable circumstances, including possible military conflict with the United States." It cites Vietnam War criminal Henry Kissinger as arguing, with direct reference to China, "that competition over hydrocarbon resources will be the most likely cause for international conflict in coming years."

In November, Senator Joe Lieberman, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), another top imperialist think-tank like Brookings, foresaw "Sino-American confrontations over oil that could in the years ahead threaten our national security and global security." Lieberman, who led Senate support for both U.S. wars for Iraq's oil, warned, "China is entering military-basing agreements with countries along its oil supply routes from the Middle East and is building a very substantial blue-water navy." Lieberman bluntly suggested the ultimate scope of the conflict: "Wars have been fought over such competitions for natural resources....exactly such a competition is one of the factors that led to Pearl Harbor and World War II."

What will happen, and when, has become a topic of great debate among think-tankers. Ted Galen Carpenter, a CFR member who preaches imperialism at the formerly isolationist Cato Institute, has written a book called "America's Coming War with China." It pinpoints the sinking of a U.S. aircraft carrier off Taiwan in 2013 as the outbreak of combat. Beijing recently reaffirmed its threat to seize Taiwan -- which commands Mid-East oil routes to much of China, as well as to Korea and Japan -- if Taipei declares independence. Adam Segal, a CFR fellow, acknowledged (CFR interview, 02/16/05) the conventional wisdom that "China was two decades behind the United States" militarily. But Segal cautioned, "China doesn't have to be a peer competitor with the United States to be a threat, especially if you look at the weapons it's been purchasing from the Russians: the Su-27 and Su-30 combat aircraft, the Sovremenny-class destroyer, the Kilo-class attack submarine. All of these seem to be targeted to U.S. Navy carrier groups."

In a real sense, the shooting has already started. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 nullified big oil-production contracts China had made with Saddam Hussein in 1997. But U.S. rulers are not yet ready to face China, or even a Chinese ally like Iran, head-on (although, if forced, they will, ruthlessly). They suffer from serious weaknesses. One is their inability to wage war by proxy, as they did in NIcaragua, El Salvador and Colombia. Another is their inability to field an army large enough to secure Iraq. Most significant is their related failure to militarize U.S. society, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. When 33,000 New York City transit workers struck recently in defiance of the bosses' law, they showed a healthy reluctance to submit to an agenda of "sacrifice" for U.S. imperialism.

U.S. rulers seem to be pursuing a tactic of side-stepping the China problem until they have emerged victorious from Iraq's quicksands and fully mobilized the nation for war. Since each prospect appears increasingly doubtful in the near term, U.S. imperialists are seeking to buy time. Brookings and Lieberman urge China to buy oil on the international market (meaning from Exxon), instead of making private deals with "rogue states" like Iran. Such purchases, while enhancing China's economic and military might, would at least for a while, slow China's influence with U.S. enemies. Kissinger, hoping to use the U.S. nuclear arsenal to deter China's expansion, calls for "a global conference among the nuclear powers." Carpenter says the U.S. should sell Taiwan more arms but avoid binding promises to defend the island against a Chinese invasion.

We don't pretend to have the proverbial crystal ball. We can't provide a date or location for the outbreak of U.S.-China hostilities. But recent history shows that capitalists' need for profits drives them to fight viciously over resources such as oil. Chasing oil wealth, U.S. rulers have wasted the lives of over a million Iraqis and thousands of GIs in the past two decades alone. War between the U.S. and China would make that carnage look trifling. The only way to stop the escalating slaughter is to eliminate the profit system itself and replace it with a government of the working class. This is our Party's ultimate goal.

VW Wildcatters March Against Union Hacks

BARCELONA, SPAIN, Dec. 30 -- On Dec. 23, the day before the Xmas "recess" was to begin, 660 workers at the SEAT Martorell auto plant here (owned by VW) got a holiday "gift" from the bosses: mass layoffs. The bosses went worker to worker, telling them to pack their belongings and leave. They even had buses waiting for the fired workers, who were some of the most militant rank-and-filers and older workers who the company wanted to replace with lower-paid workers.

Workers immediately organized wildcats against this attack, first paralyzing the morning shift for three hours, later almost shutting down the next two shifts. Marches were organized to the bosses' main offices and to the two unions in the plant (CCOO and UGT) which endorsed the deal. SEAT security guards were sent to protect these hacks from the angry workers.

A third smaller and more militant union, the CGT, was heavily hit by the firings, including the woman leader of the local CGT, Merchez Sanchez. Twenty percent of all those fired were women although they comprise only 12% of the labor force. Some were pregnant.

While workers were fighting back, union hack Joan Costubiela, general secretary of the CCOO in Catalonia, with help from the local government, justified the deal, saying: "Unfortunately we had no choice but to negotiate the firings." They think that this way VW will at least continue some production in Spain, instead of moving to lower-wage regions in Eastern Europe.

SEAT, Spain's biggest auto company, was originally built by fascist dictator Franco with help from Italy's Fiat). In the last decade VW, Europe's largest automaker swallowed SEAT. Ironically, the SEAT firings occurred just as VW was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the mass production of the VW Beetle -- Hitler's dream car -- although it was not sold commercially until after World War II. In December 1945, British occupying forces took it over to restart production and later turned it over to its original German bosses.

Today, the world's big automakers are fighting their own "car war." To be competitive, Ford and GM are eliminating 60,000 jobs worldwide. VW is attempting the same. It's estimated VW has 15,000 excess jobs in Western Europe. Spain used to be a cheaper labor zone, attractive to automakers because of its proximity to the big auto markets in France and Germany. But Eastern Europe and China are taking Spain's place.

Spain's "socialist" government is doing its best to ensure that labor costs are competitive with cheap wage areas like China and Poland. New "labor reforms" aim to end the collective agreements and open-ended contracts -- won when the Franco dictatorship collapsed in the 1970's -- and which guarantee cost-of-living increases while protecting other conditions and rights for 70% of Spain's workers. Recently coal miners and SEAT workers, among others, have struck against the labor "reforms."

With this deal, Volkswagen says it will continue its $750 million investment as part of a restructuring plan entitled "New SEAT." This involves the production of a new model of its Ibiza car and another new model at Martorell in 2008. But in the 1990s, VW also invested heavily in SEAT and built one of Europe's most modern and productive plants. So many think the attacks against the workers will continue.

The Martorell SEAT Plant was scheduled to reopen on Jan. 2. The union hacks, the company and the local government are trying their best to sabotage any workers' struggles. Again, we see that autoworkers worldwide have a lot in common: they're suffering mass attacks aided by union hacks, be they UAW in the U.S., CCOO/UGT in Spain, or IGMetall in Germany.

Autoworkers need a common international strategy to fight back. They need an international revolutionary leadership to carry on the fight against these warmakers, and to link their struggles from Barcelona to Detroit. Autoworkers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your union hacks and mass layoffs!

UAW Sellouts Jam Thru Suspect Vote Over Ford Give-backs

DETROIT, MI. Dec. 22 -- "I underestimated my brothers and sisters," one Ford worker said as his local and many other workers rejected the UAW leadership's health care concession contract. The UAW leadership claims it passed by 51%-49%, but didn't release a local-by-local vote count and refused to say how many workers voted. "Democracy" in action!

About 87,000 active Ford workers were eligible to vote. As with GM, where the union claims the contract won by 60-40, retirees were barred from voting. Large locals in Chicago, Louisville, Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, and St. Paul, MN rejected the contract. A leaflet distributed at Local 600, the UAW's biggest Ford local, said the contract passed by 68 votes, 2,645-2577, after union officials passed around plastic jugs to collect "Yes/No" slips. Had retires voted, both contracts definitely would have been rejected.

The UAW agreed to $850 million in annual health care cuts for retirees just as Ford was announcing the closing of six plants and eliminating 30,000 jobs. Active workers will pay a minimum of $2,000 annually to a health care fund while retired workers will pay up to $752 a year for family coverage.

At GM, the union agreed to $15 billion in current and future health care cuts and ten days later GM announced 12 plant closings and the slashing of 30,000 jobs. These cuts, and more to come at Chrysler, Delphi and Visteon, will ripple throughout the industry and the economy.

These attacks, midway through a contract that expires in September 2007, are a down payment by the nationalist union leaders to help the bosses meet their fierce international competition, especially their loss of the U.S. market share to the Japanese bosses. The UAW hacks' loyalty to the bosses has brought the labor movement to the brink of extinction as more than 70 years of hard-won gains are unraveling.

This inter-imperialist competition among billionaires has led to the savage war in Iraq, which has already cost more than 100,000 lives and more than $6 billion-a-month. The bosses need fascism in the workplace to feed their war economy. The only future we have supporting "our" bosses is more poverty, racist terror, Homeland Security fascism and imperialist wars.

We need to build an international communist movement to overthrow the bosses and their racist profit system.

The sentiment of Ford workers, like that in the NYC transit strike, could reflect a change in the workers' mood refusing to sacrifice themselves on the altar of the bosses' war machine. It certainly signals increased opportunities for PLP's growth among industrial workers. This process will in part be measured CHALLENGE by CHALLENGE and with a growing network of distributors.

No Matter Who `Administers' the Market, It's Still Capitalism

On November 19, I participated in the "Students and Educators to Stop the War Conference." In my workshop, a participant mentioned political torture in El Salvador and said workers administering the means of production would create an alternative system to capitalism. Two decades of political struggle taught me the futility of this path. Administering factories in a capitalist market inevitably leads back to exploitation and oppression. Nothing short of smashing the whole capitalist apparatus with communist revolution will free our class.

I related my experience in El Salvador. In 1992, ending a 12-year civil war with "peace accords," FMLN leaders said we were in a "new stage of the revolution," feeding us the illusion that the socio-economic changes we had fought for were here.

Under this illusion I joined an "association" of FMLN members. Among them were members of the misnamed "Communist" Party of El Salvador, the main promoters of this association. Their goal was obtaining credit and buying goods produced in the FMLN's factories. During the war, these shops produced shoes and uniforms for the fighters. However, when the fighting ended, they started producing for the civilian market.

With credit we opened two stores with the idea of selling goods at low prices to benefit the neediest people. But the illusionary ambition to make quick money flourished in some of the supposed "revolutionaries." Their price for the shoes was almost triple the production cost. As they raised prices, they dreamt of each "associate" having his own store. To achieve this, they hired a saleswoman. Before long, they used their positions as bosses to make sexual advances toward her.

In previous jobs, I had seen supervisors take similar advantage of women workers' need to work. I had fought it and refused to be silent now. At a "partners" meeting, I demanded respect for the saleswoman. "If she wants us," they replied, "there's no problem."

"We can't go from being exploited to being exploiters," I argued. "We've fought against this and shouldn't do it now." I explained surplus value, saying the price of the goods was too high. This conflicted with the association's plans. They labeled me a "conformist" (I was settling for too little). With this thinking, the business wouldn't grow.

They were correct, but essentially my ideas weren't so different from theirs. I only wanted to sell the shoes for less, not stop selling them altogether. I agreed with profits, but lower ones. Our clients were exploited workers and we, the "revolutionary" businessmen, only wanted "a drop more" of the workers' sweat.

I knew nothing about communism, but was class conscious. In defending workers, it didn't matter if I had to risk my life, but I never thought I'd have to confront those who said they had also fought for the workers' interests.

In one of the last confrontations, the association president told me, "The two of us don't fit here. Either you leave or I leave. I'm not afraid to die." "Neither am I," I replied. We talked coldly and seriously, knowing that bodies continued appearing in the streets of San Salvador and the possibility existed that one of us would be among them.

I decided to leave. "No more `politics' for me," I said. I began thinking I had wasted my time trying to achieve a different society for the workers. That prompted my emigration to the U.S. Here my idea of peacefully leaving the class struggle also changed. The super-exploitation in the factories and learning about real communist ideas changed my mind.

Today I see workers' movement to "take over the factories," in South America, led by liberal bosses like Chavez (Venezuela) and Lula (Brazil) along with "revolutionary" union leaders. They champion the dangerous illusion that workers can escape exploitation or class struggle with these take-overs. My example disproves this. Under capitalism, you're either an exploiter or are exploited -- there's no third road. These "factory take-overs" continue to depend on exploitation, sale of commodities, legalization by the courts and bank loans.

Commodities (produced for sale), the market, wages and money must be eliminated; they're the material basis of capitalism. Anywhere they exist, capitalism maintains its essence, no matter who administers it.

Cooperatives, workers' associations, factories rescued and "run" by workers, do not change the essence of capitalism. Socialism maintained the market, including the sale and exploitation of labor power -- wages, as --PLP's "Road to Revolution IV" explains. The solution lies in building a mass international revolutionary communist movement to destroy capitalism and build a new communist society based on production for the needs of the whole working class, not for sale and profit.

Red Worker from Central America

Frame-up of Anti-Racist Fighters Defeated

BRIDGEWATER, N.J., Dec. 14 -- All charges against four anti-racist demonstrators were dropped here today as each defendant pled guilty to "speaking too loudly," a minor municipal ordinance offense and paid a small fine. The four had been arrested last June while protesting a recruiting drive by the racist Minuteman Project at the Bridgewater Sports Arena. This hearing was the culmination of a six-month-long battle to fight charges of assault, disorderly conduct and trespassing, following a brutal attack on one of the anti-racists by a Somerset County SWAT cop.

Over 40 people attended the hearing to support the defendants, filling the small courtroom. The crowd included members from the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of NY. That union's Executive Council had passed a strong class-conscious resolution opposing the Minutemen and contributed $500 to the legal defense fund.

After the hearing, at a rally outside the courtroom, the anti-racist who had been brutalized gave a rousing speech. Another speaker explained the importance of this case in exposing the bosses' increased drive for "homeland security." Although the rulers' state power still allows them to promote racism and fascism, the speaker called on those present to fight for the day when the working class, led by PLP, will take that power away from them.

This struggle is not over. We're suing the cops for the arrest and fascist assault on our comrade. We'll bring people to the court for that case, too.

Four PLP members in Farmingville, NY still face charges for their July protest against racist anti-immigrant filth there. Two anti-racists in California face more serious charges. An Anti-Racist Legal Defense Fund has been established to carry on these court cases. This showed once again the importance of an ongoing legal defense committee (see box).

There will be bigger battles in the future. We must train ourselves to fight on all fronts, including the courts. As fascism grows, and the capitalists fight bigger wars to control the world, the battles we lead can begin to challenge their hold on the masses. The fight for workers' power can emerge from that cauldron of struggle.

Anti-Racist Legal Strategy

Members and friends of PLP, joining together as the Bridgewater Legal Defense Committee, applied the lessons we've learned through years of fighting back against the capitalist legal system. That system has, as one of its main purposes, crushing working-class struggle and resistance.

In most attorney-client relationships, the attorney is the "expert," the legal system is a maze of mysterious rules and procedures and the client is a passive participant. Our attorneys and defendants met together regularly. We discussed the politics of the events, the prosecution's and legal system's points of weakness, and the tactics that we developed along the way, including mass support, both inside and outside the courtroom.

We remained strong and united in our commitment that no defendant would be sacrificed in order to obtain a better deal for any other defendant. Our willingness to force the prosecution to take us to trial unless they were willing to give us an acceptable plea agreement again proved to be a winning strategy.

D.C. Winter Project Combines Marxist Study with Pro-Worker Action

During the last two weeks of December, 18 comrades and friends kicked off the Washington, D.C. area's first Winter Project with vigorous discussions about the struggle in transit (led by two transit workers), the battle at Hampton University, the fight against the Minutemen, and the need to study and learn about revolutionary strategy. We distributed over 60 CHALLENGES and more than 400 party flyers to the English professors at the Modern Language Association's annual meeting. We also rode buses ("ride-alongs") with our transit comrades, distributing PL literature to passengers talking politics with the driver.

The intense political readings and discussion during the project included Lenin's "What Is To Be Done," about the need for a disciplined party with a well-distributed newspaper, stressing revolution over reform. We saw the parallels with PLP's "Reform and Revolution" document. Friends and comrades made presentations on the Party's Road to Revolution 3 and 4, and on Anna Louise Strong's 1957 book, "The Stalin Era" (available on PLP's website), published shortly after Khrushchev attacked Stalin and consolidated the capitalist road in the Soviet Union.

This book helped us understand and debunk the myths about the Soviet Union and its leadership and refute anti-Stalin lies. Comrades, friends and potential future Party members discussed the Soviet Union and the ideas and lessons to be learned. One lesson: taking power is not as difficult as holding it amid revisionist ideas and counter-revolution. As one comrade declared, "The capitalists won't say, `Oh here, take's ALL good.' They'll fight and die trying to hold on to their individualist profit system" -- which means a ruthless revolution is needed.

We also discussed the advances communist leadership made against sexism in the 1920's and 1930's, including a greater move toward wage equalization and in rights for women workers. The Soviet Union was the first to have women bomber pilots! Also, Strong noted the communist fight against the religious mullahs and their oppression of women, important today in fighting the sexism of the Islamic fundamentalists (and the Christian fundamentalists as well).

I was particularly impressed by Strong's account of the energy and enthusiasm of workers in creating this new revolutionary society based on the needs of the working class. Even though the Soviets retained capitalist wage differentials, their commitment to a working-class future should be emulated by us all. One comrade noted he drew that kind of energy when participating in Party actions, saying it would be great if everyone could achieve that level of energy.

The Winter Project created a spark of interest and zeal that will help build our Party and move towards revolution. Everyone should read Strong's book, as well as others on Stalin to better understand him and the Soviet Party's accomplishments at that time, as well as their errors, it is from this that we continue to learn today. All power to the Workers!

D.C. Red

Challenging the Pro-War Dictatorship in Public Health

PHILADELPHIA, PA, Dec. 13 -- There was something liberating about the sight of over 100 health professionals filling the wide carpeted aisle between displays of the newest health care products and public health teaching aids, chanting "One-two-three-four, We don't want your racist war!" The voices of tweed-jacketed professors and graying midwives joined scores of others, the sound filling the cavernous exhibit hall at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting. Onlookers gaped, many smiled and still others joined the marchers.

By the time the group reached the U.S. Air Force Medical Personnel booth, it had become a giant picket line large enough to completely surround the block of booths containing the recruiters' exhibit. Philadelphia Police and "undercover" Convention Center security "guarded" the Air Force recruiters while a woman from Military Families Speak Out raised a picture of her uniformed son, now back in Iraq for yet another tour. Marchers picked up her chant as they passed: "Support the troops -- Bring them home!"

This mass protest was encouraging, as was the distribution of 2,500 anti-war buttons, but other developments showed there's plenty more to do. The battle between communists in PLP and ruling class representatives for the ideological leadership of health workers intensified at this meeting.

As reported earlier (CHALLENGE, 12/14), APHA's Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, has actively obstructed attempts to publicize the APHA's official anti-war public policy, established in a series of resolutions passed by the APHA's Governing Council in recent years. Although these policies sit on the association's Web site, they've never been communicated to the press or otherwise acted on. Last February, anti-war APHA members started pushing Benjamin and the Executive Board to withhold exhibit space from military recruiters as one way to put teeth in the anti-war policy.

Benjamin vigorously opposed this and personally blocked e-mail distribution of the proposal within one APHA section. His actions were openly challenged in the 200-member Governing Council; a motion called for the APHA central office in Washington, D.C. -- where Benjamin and his staff work -- to "facilitate communication" by distributing mass e-mails for section chairs when requested.

One Councilor said, "I find it outrageous that one person can dictate what will be discussed in e-mails by members of this association." Benjamin lunged to the microphone claiming a "point of personal privilege," meaning he had been personally insulted. The Council Speaker responded, "The Councilor's comments are not appropriate and will be removed from the record!"

Every speaker who followed opposed the motion, including many "progressives" who defended Benjamin because he's the first black Executive Director in decades. The motion was defeated; over 80% voted to support Benjamin. One comrade put the Council vote in perspective saying, "If 20% voted against the Director's authority, that's a few dozen people we need to contact about how to oppose developing fascism inside our `liberal' association."

The PLP members among the 12,000 attending the four-day convention function in a few of the larger sections and caucuses and raised resolutions against the oil war, against collaboration by health personnel in torture and in support of Katrina victims. With friends and colleagues we organize sessions that raise awareness of developing fascism in medicine and the health consequences of imperialist war. The political work combines mass education, organizing struggles against racist and imperialist practices in the health sphere and one-on-one work with colleagues and friends, communists of the future.

We added more CHALLENGE readers during this meeting. One colleague looked particularly tired after the Governing Council confrontation over Benjamin's censorship powers. A comrade asked her, "Does CHALLENGE make any more sense to you now?" She replied, "I've always thought that paper made sense." While our numbers limit our impact, our main task is to use those moments -- when APHA reveals its true nature as part of the ideological and institutional control of a capitalist society moving toward more overt fascism -- to turn these opportunities into new CHALLENGE readers and eventually new members.

Soldiers -- along with veterans and military families -- and black workers are crucial to the revolutionary process. We can strengthen our ties with Military Families Speak Out and the Black Caucus of Health Workers (BCHW), both of whose members are essential to building PLP. Right now, the APHA anti-war activity is mostly all white, and BCHW's anti-racist activity never mentions the war budget that's slashing programs vital to black and other low-income workers.

At next fall's APHA meeting, a solid base of CHALLENGE readers and others, presenting the perspective of soldiers and workers, especially black and Latin workers, can expose both the Democrats and Republicans' imperialist program for the 2006 elections. We must spend the next 11 months strengthening our personal relationships and intensifying the political struggle, enabling us to advance under the increasing backlash from APHA's leadership. Sharpening the contradictions will parallel world events, bringing us closer to the revolutionary society in which public health is a reality.

Under Communism
Soviet Women Fighter Pilots' Struggle for Equality

(Part 2 of series on Soviet women flyers)

The December 14 CHALLENGE described how Soviet women excelled as World War II fighter pilots. This part depicts their struggle for equality. (Quotes are from Anne Noggle's "A Dance With Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II.")

The Soviet Union was the first workers' state to try to end capitalist exploitation. We try to learn from their achievements and mistakes. One of their great achievements was the people's war it waged against the Nazi military machine -- the most powerful and deadly of its time. Some 27 million Soviet workers died in this titanic battle in which women played an important role.

"When the war began we women applied to join the army along with the men, but we were not accepted because the army would not draft women. We protested that we were brought up to believe that women were equal to men. In October, 1941, we learned that three women's air regiments were to be formed."

One woman remembers, "I was promised that I would be appointed flight commander in this squadron, but when I arrived there were all male pilots. Some...were full of indignation saying, `Why? Aren't there any good men?' I told the commander that I would like to be appointed to the position right now but first let these male pilots see what kind of a pilot I am. The commander often tested me and sent me with other crews on missions. Then...I was appointed flight commander."

Another said, "On one airfield there were two regiments, one female and one male. We had the same missions, the same aircraft and the same targets, so we worked together. The female regiment performed better and made more combat flights each night than the male regiment. Once, one of our German prisoners told us, `When the women started bombing our trenches, the radio stations on this line warned all their troops, Attention! Attention! The ladies are in the air! Stay at your shelter!'"

Still another woman pilot recounted, "I was going to reconnoiter the ground and photograph it [with] two fighters to protect my plane...After my transmission I heard, `Why are you speaking in such a tiny voice?' I realized they [the other two fighter pilots] didn't know I was a woman. I managed to photograph the front line even though the Germans made some holes in the plane. I reported from the air...and the person on the ground said, `Thank you, Anechka,' and only then did they [the accompanying pilots] realize I was a woman. I told them, `Thank you, brothers; land, please.' They escorted me to my field, wagged their wings, and flew away."

"When I was assigned to a male regiment, they flew the Lavochkin-5 aircraft, more advanced than our Yak fighters. From the very start the male regimental commander didn't believe we were good pilots. Once he decided to test us,, and said, `In the afternoon we will have a training dogfight between two male crews and you two.' One of us approached their aircraft from the rear and won the mock attack. Everything depended on skill."

"I flew an open cockpit plane -- open to the wind -- and in spite of the armistice [with Finland] we went on flying out the wounded. My life was complicated by the fact that I was...[pregnant]. When in June I announced to the commander that I was expecting a baby, he was astonished. He had never even noticed.... It had never occurred to him that there should be a gynecologist on the medical test board."

Toward the end of WWII, one woman said, "I have always been a devoted Communist, and I have worked for the benefit of my people. There is an opinion about women in combat that a woman stops being a woman after bombing, destroying, and killing, that she becomes crude and tough. That is not true; we all remained kind, compassionate, and loving. We became...more caring of our children, our parents, and the land that has nourished us."

Communism will teach all men, as well as women, that -- without capitalist exploitation -- everyone can be kind, compassionate and loving.

Banks, Loans Sharks Make War on GI's

The hypocrisy of the U.S. imperialist war machine knows no bounds. Exposing the rulers' calls to "support our troops" in Iraq, the bosses' profit system has trapped GI's into the clutches of "legal" loan sharks who force these GI's to support that very profit system to the tune of $40 billion a year. CHALLENGE revealed this fraud some time ago, but it appears to have increased, affecting possibly 300,000 GI's. These loans are incurring interest rates far exceeding even those demanded by the Mafia.

It works this way: A GI goes to a "payday store" and shows a pay stub and proof of a bank account to borrow $100 for a charge of $120. The borrower writes a check for $120 and postdates the check to next payday. After two weeks, if the borrower can't pay, the loan is rolled over until next pay day for another $20. The Pentagon says "most troops go through four or five rollovers."

"Army Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Burden, serving in Iraq, told Congress he paid back $1,400 on an original loan of $300." (all quotes in this article are from the N.Y. Daily News, 12/26) That's an interest rate of nearly 400%! "It just kind of keeps snowballing if you don't have the money to cover it," Burden said.

"The troops get roped into it and they can't get out," says Joyce Raezer of the National Military Families Association. "It becomes a spiral."

A Pentagon official "estimated that 7% of the active-duty military, or 100,000 troops, used the loans, but consumer groups said the number could be as high as 20%," or nearly 300,000.

The 22,000 U.S. outlets involved in this $40 billion payday scam are backed by some of the country's biggest banks who provide these leeches with the set-up money they need to get started and keep going. Thus, these bankers are raking in part of the profits through the interest they charge the payday outfits for the banks' loans to them.

The drive to maintain these big-time loan sharks is a bi-partisan affair. "The loan industry's powerful lobbyists, both Democratic and Republican, are fighting hard to keep the interest windfalls, which in at least one case topped 500%." Opposing any limits is Maria Echevista, a lobbyist for the payday business association, and a deputy chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton.

Of course, nobody seems to ask WHY the GI's need the loans in the first place. The fact is, the brass has ordered up tens of thousands of Reservists and National Guard troops, paying them a good deal less than their civilian incomes. This has forced them to borrow to make up the difference in order to meet their family's bills. Talk about putting troops in harm's way!

Not only does this imperialist system use GI's as cannon fodder to fight their oil wars but then it turns around and makes them pay the system interest to support their families while dying for the bosses while killing tens of thousands of Iraqi workers and their families.

`Monk' Builds Sympathy for Cops

"Monk" is a witty and entertaining TV show about an obsessive compulsive cop who has an almost miraculous ability to solve crimes. (Meanwhile, he's treated rather as a "freak" -- in one episode all of his friends reject and ridicule him, selling out to the TV star who, of course, turns out to be the killer.)

It's an easy show to get sucked into -- and I did. I pretended to myself that it was just in fun, that the "bad guys" (as the cops say of anyone they don't like) deserved to be caught. I used to feel the same way about the original "Columbo" series, where a cop "up" from the working class was always able to solve the crime, even in the face of frequent opposition from police higher-ups. The guilty in "Columbo" were almost always rich people, so one could relate to this guy. One or two shows changed my mind: he bulldogged even people with absolutely justifiable motives for their crime.

The same is true of the "Monk" series -- only it's worse. In between solving crimes, Monk manages to take backhanded slaps at unions, and to praise "tort reform" which, as he defines it, is to stop the ability of people to sue, with the threat that if they lose their case they have to pay court costs. In practice this sympathy for the "overburdened court system" means people who have been screwed by rich corporations will be frightened to fight back. (Of course, I'm not saying the court system answers what's being done to working people, but there are times when, short of revolution, one must get a good lawyer and fight back. The hero Monk says that's a bad thing to do, so don't try it.)

But a particular episode really slapped me in the back of my head for not having been sharp enough to see what was going on.

Because of his condition, Monk was thrown off the force years back, and now he's used as a "consultant." In one episode, the wife of his boss, Lieutenant Stottlemeyer, is involved in a car crash caused by a man trying to prevent the cops from finding a gun he used to kill someone.

Stottlemeyer, as anyone would be, is horrified and angry that his wife may die. Though she pulls through, in his "justifiable rage" Stottlemeyer attacks union strikers who he believes may have caused the crash. Monk finds out the union's not at fault, and he tries to calm down his lieutenant, to little effect. When Monk and his female assistant learn who really caused the crash, Stottlemeyer tries to physically attack that man, but Monk nobly keeps the attack at a minimum. It all ends peacefully enough.

But it struck me that when workers -- say the ones who died or lost their homes and belongings recently in New Orleans -- are screwed openly by a combination of big business and government, and then prevented by cops and courts from doing anything about it, they're treated as "crazy" or "unreasonable" in their attempts to do something about it.

We can't root for cute and witty cops any more than we can cheer on brutal cops. While some of us may know a nice person who took that job, in my experience, most change for the worse. Those who keep some sort of ethic and morality will inevitably have to protest the rotten cop -- or quit the "force." Most stay.

In a way, shows like "Monk" and "Columbo" are instructive: because the cops and the courts operate to prevent us from fighting back, generally only a revolutionary attitude works to fight back. (Note how Lynne Stewart is facing jail because she attempted to fight for her client.)

Joining the revolutionary Progressive Labor Party is the first step in changing the heroes into those who actually fight for us.

Up North Reader


Class Consciousness Emerges on Picket Line

The recent TWU strike was very inspiring. It showed that when workers are organized with class consciousness they have the power to change society for the better. The week before the strike my union passed a resolution supporting any transit workers' action. We planned to send workers to each bus depot. When the strike began, we arrived bearing signs reading, "Right to Organize, Right to Strike!" We joined the picket line at one of several depots where workers walked out on the bosses' system.

Workers gave us thumbs up. They thanked us and eagerly spoke with us. One worker told me he was a veteran of two wars and that the rulers sacrifice workers to enrich themselves. His high level of consciousness was very impressive.

Several workers described the deplorable working conditions. We agreed on the need to "hold the line" on pensions to protect future workers. These workers clearly knew their action was setting a militant precedent for workers nationally. We mentioned the Northwest, GM and Ford workers who were facing similar vicious attacks. One worker said the bosses' pension demand was a divide-and-conquer strategy, creating a divisive tier system. The bosses' attacks, media lies and slander provoked another worker to shout, "This is a fascist society!" We noted that Hitler and Mussolini broke the back of labor, the same as U.S. bosses now.

The next day, we started a chant with a few pickets and the whole line enthusiastically joined, "They say give back, We say fight back!" When we left the line, the workers gave us high fives and heartily thanked us for our support.

But that was not all. We made several contacts and drew up a plan for rank-and-filers to organize against the strike-breaking Taylor Law and to push for all city unions to bargain as one. We agreed that rank-and-filers shouldn't wait for their crooked leadership to make this happen. The leadership of many NYC unions made lots of promises but delivered nothing during the strike. Workers would be better off if they started organizing each other. Together we could bust the anti-labor laws and call crippling general strikes. This strike line was truly a school for communism.

Red Duo

Barcelona Bus Drivers Greet NYC Strikers

The following letter was sent to PLP:


We in the CGT union local in the bus company of Barcelona, Spain, are following with much interest the transit workers' strike in New York.

We would like to send our solidarity greetings to those workers who are defying a regime that forbids them the right to strike. We are asking you to send them our solidarity greetings....

CGT delegate, Barcelona buses

Strikers Cheer Student, Teacher Support

During the recent NYC transit strike, a group of college students and a teacher had some great experiences, both on the picket lines and at our jobs and schools.

The overwhelming response at my job was to support the strikers 100%. Although these hourly or commissioned workers aren't paid if they can't get in, they understood the larger importance of the transit workers' action. We had some really sharp discussion about the mis-treatment of the transit workers, and how their demands would benefit other workers.

On the lines the strikers greeted us -- and our signs: "Teachers and Students Support Transit Workers" and "Smash Racism" -- with tremendous cheers. At every line strikers grabbed our literature, which linked their fight to the war and to the need to smash capitalism.

We heard many strikers' stories. Although most of them clearly understood the issues in the contract fight and why the bosses want to save money on their backs, PLP's role with the pickets and back at the job must be to broaden the struggle and win these workers to fight for the working class worldwide.

One mechanic has since kept in touch with me because he wants to report how the returning workers are treated by their bosses and about further struggles. He knows now that CHALLENGE will tell the truth about class struggle.

PL Strike Supporter

Transit Fight Helps Teachers

Some teachers in my NYC high school met and agreed to support the transit strikers by collecting money, joining the picket lines and building support among other teachers. One of many reasons why teachers backed the transit workers was that they were fighting our fight, too -- we just got sold a really horrible contract.

Several teachers were active collecting over $200 and writing flyers and notices. When we joined the lines, the pickets were delighted to have our support and applauded us. We told them they were the heroes, not us. We distributed CHALLENGES and leaflets, and brought money that we'd raised to the picket captains.

Not all teachers supported the strike -- some fell for the bosses' propaganda that the workers were attacking us by striking. The school helped this along by doing nothing about organizing carpools for teachers to get to work. Some were angry at spending money for cabs, or being unable to get in at all.

One struggle was turning people's anger toward the ruling class, not the strikers. A worker in my department missed one day, and then paid $25 to get in by cab. When I asked for a contribution he really became angry. We've shared teaching materials and are developing a relationship, so we were able to talk and get past his anger. He then contributed $5. Often the personal ties we build can lead to political gains.

Two people who stepped forward are CHALLENGE readers and have moved closer to PLP. One distributed the paper to strikers. The other collected money and towards the end of the strike was thinking about joining the Party. Our organizing strike support has opened up many opportunities to advance our ideas and class struggle.

Red Teacher

Bosses' Media Unite to Attack Strikers

One lesson of the New York transit strike was the role of the media as an arm of the state. From the "right-wing" Post to the "liberal" Times, all were unified in "reporting" that people were angry at the hardship caused by the walkout.

Print, television and radio media all played quote after quote of upset, put-out people. On the second day, a reporter for the "liberal" NY1-TV said she was interviewing people who supported the strike as well as those upset by it. This "balanced" perspective was too much for the morning anchor, the very liberal Pat Kierney, to let stand. He practically forced her to say that the "majority" of people were angry at the strikers.

This view contrasted sharply with what was happening in the real world. On the street, at many PLP members' jobs and when talking to friends, the feeling was for lots of support for the strike.

Sure, there were people who were angry, and others who said what the TV people seemed to ask for. But most people, even those walking many miles to work, didn't seem angry at the strikers.

Ironically, NY1-TV released a poll the day after the strike ended showing a majority felt the workers' demands were "fair," with more people blaming the MTA bosses for the strike than blaming the workers.

Wonder why they didn't run that poll on day 2 of the strike?

A Comrade

U.S. Bosses Aim to Slaughter Pensions

On a picket line during the recent NYC transit strike, I asked a bus driver about management's demand to increase the retirement age from 55 to 62. He said there were many days when his back ached after a day of driving his bus, and that he couldn't envision driving a bus in his late fifties. 'Besides," he continued, "shouldn't we have the right to enjoy our final years with dignity?"

Good question. The average U.S. life expectancy is in the mid-seventies (probably less for industrial workers). A worker retiring at 55 has roughly 20 years to live. (It's probably less since most workers can't retire at 55, both because their pensions aren't adequate and they're not collecting Social Security yet.) So how will workers spend the last two decades of their lives?

That's a social question, determined by class struggle. The capitalist class - and their politician agents - are determined to reduce pension and Social Security because they cut into profits, through higher labor costs as Social Security is half paid by employers. They plan to reduce pension costs by forcing workers to (a) retire later; (b) contribute more to their pension plans; and (c) convert defined-benefit plans to 401(K)-type plans. Under Social Security workers receive a definite amount each month. But under 401-(K) plans, employees contribute to their own pension investment plan. These are vastly under-funded, and provide only a fraction of what retirees will actually need to live.

According to the NY Times, only 20% of private sector workers have defined-benefit plans, down from 40% in 1960. Many private companies have switched to 401(K)s because they're less costly for the owners. Many large companies have reneged on their pension contributions, forcing a federal agency to pick up the tab, while paying workers only a fraction of their "guarantees." In California, Schwarzenegger attempted to replace the defined-benefit plan with a 401(K), greatly reducing benefits for State workers.

The attack on the NYC transit workers was part of the ruling class's plan to cut overall pension costs, enthusiastically supported by billionaire Mayor Bloomberg and Presidential candidate Governor Pataki. Bloomberg explicitly said that city-worker pensions must be cut, and that the MTA was leading the way. And who does this racist mayor pick on as the targets in this anti-pension attack? The mostly black and Latin transit workers.

The fact is the strike cost NYC hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue while the Times reported that the MTA's demand would have saved only $15 million in pension costs in the first three years. This only makes sense if one understands that the ruling class as a whole is willing to bear a costly strike as part of an overall goal to worsen pensions for all city and state employees, and then the entire working class (and, as usual, start the attack with a mostly black and Latin work-force).

Bloomberg said he had received hundreds of messages from people without pensions complaining about transit workers striking against forcing new workers to pay 6% of their salaries to their pension (present workers pay 2%). Bloomberg was fanning resentment among lower-paid, non-unionized and white collar workers - without pensions and health benefits - towards unionized workers who have managed to hold on to some of these gains that were won by previous strikes and struggles but have now become too expensive for a capitalism in crisis. This bosses' ploy tends to weaken the unionized workers and bring them closer to the level of the non-union workers, while the bosses laugh all the way to the bank.

While workers' intense class struggle can fight these attacks, ultimately only a society free of profits and bosses - communism - can devote all of the value produced by workers to the well-being of the working class as a whole, as determined collectively by our class.

A Reader

CHALLENGE comments:

We agree but would add that the U.S. bosses' campaign to reduce employee pension and health plans - as well as wages and corporate taxes -- is driven by the necessity to meet competition from international corporate rivals, who are virtually free of worker health care costs because of government-paid plans, or who function in countries with no health benefits whatsoever. This lowers their labor costs relative to U.S. bosses who must pay out billions in health benefits fought for by workers here, where there is no government health insurance for workers under 65 unless they are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Likewise, to meet increased competition from both U.S. bosses and low-wage countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, European bosses are seeking to drastically cut long-held social services to lower their own labor costs.

Hospital Workers Back Strikers

When the NYC transit strike began, my son and I made the 45-minute walk from our house on a cold and windy day to join the workers on the picket line. I distributed 15 CHALLENGES to the strikers. During my two days on the picket line, I shared the ideas in the paper and noted the need for a mass communist party for all workers.

I told them I'm a hospital worker in solidarity with them. They welcomed my support. I started some chants on the picket line: "Whose trains? Our trains! Whose subway? Our subway!" And, "The Workers, United, will never be defeated!"

Back at the hospital, I encouraged coworkers to join the picket line nearest to their neighborhood. We had many discussions about the strike. One worker stated that it "would take a revolution" to break the Taylor Law. All strikes are considered illegal by the bosses."

The next day two workers from the hospital joined the picket line. I interviewed a few transit workers about the strike and conditions below Ground Zero on 9/11.Their responses:

"The work is hard and dangerous. It's hazardous to your health. You're working with lead and other forms of chemicals."

"The life span of a transit worker ends around 65."

"Our union should have called on workers from other unions to join the picket line. The union hasn't raised a strike fund."

Despite this, the workers seemed very upbeat as they defied the Taylor Law.

A Hospital comrade

Youth Stand on Workers' Side

As a working-class youth I believe transit workers were right to strike. It demonstrated their power. Working-class youth should stand alongside and ally with the workers in solidarity to fight back against the capitalist system exploiting us all. This alliance is crucial in working towards a communist revolution.

At our PLP club study group held days before the strike, one comrade said the transit workers are the heart and soul of New York and we should support them. Others added that the strike is necessary to show that people can protest their treatment in the workplace. Workers really have NO rights under capitalism.

My school stands across the street from a transit workshop picketed by the workers. On the day before the strike there was a rally right outside my school. After school a group of my classmates, members of my debate team and a few teachers bundled up in the freezing cold and talked with the workers. I came to realize that the workers were fighting for more than bigger paychecks and pensions, that they also cared about the future of the working class. When I pointed to capitalism as our common enemy, a worker on the line hugged me.

This strike demonstrates that the working class is journeying on the road to revolution. It shows that workers' power is enhanced through the amount of people standing with them. We need a worker-youth alliance to fight back. The transit strike is a step towards this and can lead to developing a communist society. This struggle needs masses of people, young and old. The workers, united, will never be defeated.

Red Youth

Morales' Socialism Protects Bosses

Evo Morales has been elected as the "first Indian President of Bolivia." His Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) is supposed to be a threat to capitalism. But, again, this only highlights why PLP fights for communism, not socialism. Morales and his socialist MAS party affirm abstract principles like ending exploitation and racism, building "economic community and social justice and protecting the environment. But they can't achieve this while rejecting the concrete goal of destroying capitalism. Morales can't "move toward socialism" while promising to respect and protect private (capitalist) property.

Major historical socialist movements - especially the Bolsheviks who established the Soviet Union - were far to the left of Morales, MAS and other current socialists. They fought for power by smashing the bosses' government rather than working within it, destroying capitalism rather than reforming it. They saw socialism as an immediate step toward communism, not an abstract ideal.

We've learned valuable lessons from these heroic achievements. One of PLP's most important contributions to the working class is our recognition that socialism not only did not, but cannot lead to communism. Socialism maintained and nurtured key elements of capitalism (such as nationalism and the wage system) with the disastrous results seen today in former socialist countries like Russia and China. That's why -- as CHALLENGE says on page 2 -- we fight directly for communism.

That's also why I think it's unfortunate that some of the contributions to the useful "Under Communism" series obscure the differences between socialism and communism. It's certainly important to laud the Soviet Union's achievements in fighting racism, fascism and sexism. It's just as important to acknowledge their limitations. Articles praising the former Soviet Union -- under the heading "Under Communism" -- without also explaining the sources of its reversal, can leave the mistaken impression that socialism and communism are basically the same.

Let's strive to be more consistently dialectical in our efforts to learn from history and envision more clearly the communist future PLP fights for.

A Comrade

Using CHALLENGE to Fight Factory Fascism

What does it mean to be political and militant in a factory under fascist conditions? Is it one individual confronting management, or is it organizing a base for class struggle, fortified with a network of CHALLENGE readers? This thought arose after Humberto, a co-worker (and CHALLENGE reader) said to me, "I thought you were political and militant. Why didn't you speak out?" (at a meeting between the workers and the company manager who related the importance of our work for national security).

Management detailed the use of our products for homeland security and the "war against terror" - that we "should be proud of our contribution to freedom." The company manager said they wanted to outsource work, consolidate all the shops and eliminate old unused machines, also saying we "needed to be more careful" - clean up any spills we spot and tell the boss if we see someone doing something wrong.

One government representative stressed the importance of this work being done "in-house," not outsourced.

Most of my shift of machinists and assembly workers was there. The morning shift had filled the room. The number of workers they said took in-house training was suspect - it nearly matched the total number of workers. Yet most of us haven't been trained.

I wanted to expose the government rep's praise for our "doing a good job" and lauding company for keeping the work in-house. But most of the work is already outsourced. We're retained because some aspects of the work are proprietary; only this company can do it.

But there was a contradiction: the VP intended to eliminate machines and looked to outsource some work, while the government representative said the work should stay in-house. Would the work be kept here based on "company values" and the "integrity" written on the back of our badges? Or will it be profits and shareholders' interests not written on the back of the badges? My heart was pounding when they asked for our questions, but I did not say anything, realizing we had no organization or plans.

When I spoke to my friend Ramon, he said my question was very good, but if I asked it I'd be "a marked man." He wanted to ask if we were doing "so well why weren't we getting any more overtime and why couldn't he get the grinding wheels he needed for some jobs. I replied that it's because they want us to do more with less. Another worker agreed that I had a good question, but asking it would end my tenure in this factory.

Humberto was angry, demanding, "Why didn't you speak out? You know those classes they're offering are only for managers and engineers, not for the machinists."

"The whole meeting was propaganda," I replied. "It was about outsourcing, about working harder and faster to keep our jobs under threat of outsourcing," I continued. "That was their main demand. Besides, if I said something, who would back me up?" Humberto said, "I would."

"But we're only two," I countered. "Who else is with us?" They'd list us for getting fired. We have no organization. They outlined their demands but what are ours?"

"We could have come up with some on the spot," he said. "Then other workers might have said something."

"Yeah, but we don't really know that, do we?" I asked. "We must have a plan. Before the next meeting we need to assemble other workers in the shop and develop our demands. Then we can meet theirs with ours."

It's becoming clearer that to reach this point, we must talk to more workers, to deepen their understanding that the source of all these attacks on us is the capitalist system. Our best weapon for this is CHALLENGE. Increasing the number of workers who read, study and distribute our paper will help us sharpen the class struggle and use it as a school for communism.

West Coast Red Worker


`We do torture' US school could boast

The US military ran the notorious School of the Americas (SOA) from 1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a motto, might have been "We do torture." It is here in Panama, and later at the schools' new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, that the roots of the current torture scandal can be found.

Some Panama school graduates went on to commit the continent's greatest war crimes of the past half-century: the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, the systematic theft of babies from Argentina's "disappeared" prisoners; the massacre of 900 civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador; and military coups too numerous to list here....

The embrace of torture by US officials has been integral to American foreign policy. GW, 12/22)

Big biz robs us no matter who is elected

There is nothing unusual about handouts for private companies. In his book Perverse Subsidies, published in 2001, Professor Norman Myers estimates that when you add the direct payments US corporations receive to the wider costs they oblige society to carry, you come up with a figure of $2.6 trillion, or roughly five times as much as the profits they make....

It would be tempting to hold Bush responsible for this, but the oil firms were scooping up taxpayers' money long before they put their robot in the White House. Myers reports that between 1993 and mid-1996 "American oil and gas companies gave $10.3m to political campaigns and received tax breaks worth $4bn." (GW, 1/5)

US, Britain plan hidden control of Iraq oil

November 21, a consortium of U.K- and U.S.-based policy groups published Crude Designs: the rip-off of Iraq's oil wealth, a 48-page exposé of the slick plan devised by the United States and Great Britain to take over Iraq's oil profits. Read it yourself at

It says, "Iraqi public opinion is strongly opposed to handing control over oil development to foreign companies. But with the active involvement of the U.S. and British governments a group of powerful Iraqi politicians is pushing for a system of long-term contracts with foreign oil companies which will be beyond the reach of Iraqi courts, public scrutiny or democratic control." (San Antonio Express-News)

Shantytowns erupt, losing faith in SA gov't

South Africa's sprawling shantytowns have begun to erupt, sometimes violently, in protest over the government's inability to deliver the better life that the end of apartheid seemed to herald a dozen years ago.

At a hillside shantytown in Durban called Foreman Road....the only measurable improvements to the residents' lives amounted to a single water standpipe and four scrap-wood privies. Electricity and real toilets were a pipe dream....

The number of shanty dwellers has grown by as much as 50 percent to 12.5 million people.

Unemployment, estimated at 26 percent in 1994, has soared to roughly 40 percent.... 881 protests rocked slums in the...year; unofficial tallies say that at least 50 percent were violent.... Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria estimated that the minister's tally was at least five times the number of any comparable previous period....

Said [Council analyst David] Hensen.... "It shows that ordinary people are now feeling that they can only get ahead by coming out on the streets and mobilizing -- and those are the poorest people in society. That's a sea change from the position in, say 1994, when everyone was expecting great changes from above." (NYT, 12/25)

Workers founded science, not just great men

In writing about science...historians celebrate a few great names -- Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein -- and neglect contributions of common, ordinary people who were not afraid to get their hands dirty. With "A People's History of Science," Conner tries to help right the balance. The triumphs of science rest on "massive foundations created by humble laborers," he writes....

An accomplished army of the anonymous bequeathed...their tools, data, problems, ideas and even, Conner argues, the scientific method itself....

Tough, trial-and-error, sometimes live-or-die work...was gradually refined into the intellectual and rarefied pursuit we call science. (NYT, 12/18)