To play the enforcer role for their U.S. backers, Israeli bosses need some degree of internal stability. Now Hamas, like Al Qaeda, represents those bosses in the Middle East who want to control the major share of the exploitation of Palestinian workers.
Some say the responsibility of governing will soften Hamas. But Michael Hertzog, an Israeli general, warns, "Granting Hamas legitimate political status and access to the prerogatives of state power seems to be asking for trouble." Hertzog quotes the threat of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, "We will join the Legislative Council with our weapons in our hands." (Foreign Affairs, March-April, 2006) Amatzia Baram, senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, thinks "Hamas is more likely to maintain a confrontational stance" and "in the worst case... spark a regional war." (New York Times, 1/29/06)
However, these policy planners gravely underestimate the danger by failing to frame the Hamas flare-up in the context of intensifying imperialist competition in the oil-rich region. Not only has Israel become a less reliable gunslinger for the U.S., but the scale of conflict has gone far beyond the proxy stage, starting with Gulf War I in 1991.
The current "Palestinian question" results directly from the scourges of the profit system, racism and imperialism. Hamas' rise to power, like that of Islamic fundamentalism as the main apparent opponent of imperialism, is one more outcome of the destruction of the old international communist movement.
Israel's Zionist founders, like all capitalists, knew they could boost their profit rate by super-exploiting Arabs, thereby suppressing the wages and living standards of all workers. (Currently 32% of all workers in Israel live under the poverty level, compared to 10% less than 20 years ago; in 2003 the average salary of senior managers in the top 100 companies was $700,000, excluding perks).
To counter rebellion against the apartheid-like second-class status of Palestinian workers, Israel subjected them to military rule from 1948 to 1966. The rulers later tweaked their tactics of oppression. Israeli storm troopers have always gunned down Arabs indiscriminately. But in the 1980's, U.S. bosses began to encourage Israel rulers to deal with phony Palestinian leaders who could keep a lid on dissent and herd workers into low-wage labor camps. The most notorious was Yassir Arafat. In return for renouncing violence, Benjamin Netanyahu and Bill Clinton made Arafat the effective boss of outfits like the Gaza Industrial Estate, where hundreds of underpaid workers toil for Motorola, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Proctor and Gamble and Xerox.
U.S. imperialism further impoverished the Palestinians at the time of Gulf War I. Washington policy-makers, fearing that Kuwait's 400,000 Palestinian oil workers might side with Saddam Hussein, instructed Kuwait's ruling Emir to expel them all. Many returned to Israel jobless.
Hamas' Aim: An Islamic Ruling Class to Replace Western Oil Bosses
The vote for Hamas was largely a vote against U.S.- and Israeli-imposed poverty, apartheid-type racism, killer cops and the rampant corruption of the late Arafat's ruling Fatah party. But it was a serious political error for the Palestinian working class. Hamas' policies are quite literally suicidal. It represents yet another faction of capitalists willing to shed workers' blood for profit. Hamas' sole aim is to replace Western oil bosses with an Islamic ruling class.
Internal turmoil sharpened by the Hamas crisis undermines Israel's already waning ability to bail out the U.S. militarily. The peak of Israel's usefulness for U.S. rulers came in 1973. With the U.S. still mired in Vietnam, Israel took on and beat the combined might of Egypt and Syria. To do so, Israel put over a tenth of its population on the battlefield (a feat U.S. rulers only approached in the Civil War and World War II).
In 1981, Israel did Washington's dirty work with air strikes on an Iraqi nuclear plant. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, where support for Iran's newly-enthroned ayatollahs was running high. In a display of U.S.-sponsored ruthlessness, Israel -- under Sharon's orders -- massacred several refugee camps during the invasion. Such actions today could trigger a domestic explosion.
But as bad as it was for U.S. rulers after the Shah's ouster from Iran in 1979, their military position in the Middle East is even more precarious now. Proxies like Israel can provide only marginal help. Gulf Wars I and II taught hard lessons -- which the Bush gang has yet to learn -- about the Persian Gulf and troop strength. The U.S. couldn't take Iraq with 750,000 soldiers in 1991. It surely can't hold it in 2006 with 150,000.
With China entering the fray, the U.S. will have to mobilize millions in the foreseeable future. That's why the Pentagon itself released a report last week that the army was stretched "to the breaking point." While ostrich-like Rumsfeld ignored the problem, the top general in Iraq, George Casey, concurred. Madeleine Albright and William Perry, Clinton's Secretaries of State and Defense, have issued a report with conclusions identical to the Pentagon's. The liberal Democrats only differ with the Bushites over how to wage more deadly and wider imperialist wars.
The Hama's crisis threatens more local wars and underscores the inevitability of combat magnitudes more deadly than the current U.S. killing sprees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The history of the last century shows that workers, organized and led by a communist party, can transform such imperialist wars into revolutions for workers' power.
Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.
According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were "weak and dormant" until after the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies. (Richard Sale, UPI Terrorism Correspondent)
2-1. Another added, "The global economy can't be stopped, but building plants around the world looking for the cheapest wages creates more poverty everywhere. Paying pennies an hour doesn't create any new markets, while workers here either losing, or afraid of losing, their jobs aren't going to buy any new cars either." The first worker replied, "The bosses are global, but so are the workers. But we need international leadership. Our union leaders are backing the companies instead of the workers around the world."
These workers were discussing the recent plant closings and job cuts announced by GM and Ford, what one "specialist in manufacturing efficiency" called "the sad story of two armies in retreat, a retreat that is feeling more and more like a rout." (NY Times, 1/25) GM announced that it lost $8.6 billion in 2005, $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter alone, just four days after Ford announced it would close 14 factories over the next six years and eliminate up to 30,000 jobs. The St. Louis assembly plant will close March 10.
If GM and Ford are "armies in retreat," then the two Ford workers quoted above are soldiers in that army. And like the soldiers in the Russian army during World War I, or U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, soldiers in a losing army have the potential to rebel, revolt and, with communist leadership, lead the working class to power. While the UAW leadership is rushing to the aid of its billionaire masters, PLP is organizing soldiers in the global car wars to unite with autoworkers worldwide, and build a mass international PLP to lead the struggle for communist revolution.
GM lost more than $5 billion in North America, as sales slumped and its market share dropped to 23.6%, the lowest since the 1920's. Like Ford, last November GM announced plans to close 12 factories and cut 30,000 jobs. Along with Chrysler's restructuring, the "Big Three" U.S. auto companies will have cut 140,000 jobs since 2000. The sharp decline in auto jobs has hit black workers particularly hard, down by 33% in the last 25 years (Report by Center for Economic and Policy Research)
Hundreds of thousands of active and retired workers and their families are being thrown overboard to meet the fierce competition from Asia and Europe, especially for the U.S. market, which last year sold 16.9 millions cars and trucks. Almost 60% went to foreign-based auto companies and Toyota is about to overtake GM as the world's biggest automaker. In March, Toyota is expected to announce annual profits of more than $11 billion.
The plant closings and job cuts come as the UAW leadership gave Ford and GM billions of dollars in health care concessions midway through the current contract. GM got $15 billion in current and future health care concessions. Meanwhile, Delphi workers, most of whom are former GM workers, are angry and want a mass strike. (See article page 3.) A Delphi strike now could shut GM almost immediately and force it to spend its $20 billion cash-on-hand, driving the auto giant into bankruptcy. This could create an airline-industry scenario of union-busting, massive concessions and jobs cuts throughout the auto industry.
As the struggle in auto heats up, May Day looms on the horizon. Building networks of CHALLENGE readers and distributors among the soldiers in these "retreating armies," can lead to a block of autoworkers participating in May Day and making their presence felt in the class struggle. This is the short-term plan on the long-term road to revolution.
At an anti-war event, a young black veteran, let's call him Jay, told me how he couldn't sleep at night. Jay is easy-going and barely past his teens but he'd seen and done things most people haven't.
"We zip cuffed this one guy and I shot him in the back of the head," he said stuttering. Jay said his unit never really faced insurgents. "It was more gangsters. Guys with guns who didn't look behind their weapon, aim, or take cover. We killed them. But most of the time it was civilians. We'd knock down a door of a house, it didn't matter which one. We'd find the men of fighting age and beat them up. Sometimes we killed them."
Jay says his unit operated on its own. "Sometimes we cut off an area for the special forces. No civilians, no military, nobody was allowed through. Most of the time we were on our own." He said his unit targeted civilian men in mosques, dug graves, and burnt bodies to keep their actions secret.
Jay was discharged because of his injuries. Some details - what his unit was, where and when he was in Iraq, and even his name -- have been changed or withheld to protect his identity. But the fact is, the U.S. military uses terrorism, torture and bombs mixed with a little charity all to remain the Number One super-power in its rivalry with other imperialists, even though the media that reaches here about troops in Iraq focuses on humanitarian missions.
Again, the liberal bosses are angry at the Bush gang for not preparing the country for more and more wars. "After 9/11, the president had the perfect moment to put the nation on the road toward energy independence," says the Times, "when people were prepared to give up their own comforts in the name of a greater good. He passed it by, and he missed another opportunity last night."
It's a big mistake to still believe the Democrats and the liberal section of the U.S. ruling class are "more enlightened" than the Bushites and Neo-Cons. They differ tactically over how to prepare the workers to shed more blood and their pensions, health plans and wages. In order to meet the growing challenges facing U.S. imperialism -- from Baghdad to Beijing -- the liberal wing wants to discipline those bosses and politicians who care more about their own narrow interests than about the entire system.
One rally organizer pointed out that Delphi has factories worldwide worth millions, but is only declaring bankruptcy on its U.S. plants. While exposing the bosses' corruption and bad management, he declared that Delphi workers here could maintain their wages and benefits and still be "competitive" in the world auto wars. Competitive against whom?
We support the Delphi workers' struggle against these massive attacks and will help build a strike movement that can shut down Delphi and the wounded GM, (Delphi's parent and main customer). But we're not competing against workers in China, Mexico, India, Germany or South Africa. We're building an international movement of industrial workers to overthrow the bosses with communist revolution. You can't have it both ways. The UAW's outlook of demanding "better" bosses and supporting U.S. automakers against "foreign" competition has put the union on the brink of extinction.
We have another idea. "Workers of the World, Unite!" That's the outlook we'll bring to Delphi workers in the coming battle.
Public health has become a key front in the battle to win support for imperialist war. Not only do the bosses count on health workers to sell their racist doomsday scenarios to the public, they need health workers to keep their fighting forces fit. After 9/11, Bush and the bosses began to militarize public health, subjecting workers to dangerous and unnecessary smallpox vaccinations and perverting public health science for imperialist war (restructuring public health, medical and nursing curricula to teach bogus epidemiology like bio-terrorism). Most public health workers and professionals lacked the political focus necessary to understand this assault, let alone plan to resist it.
However, a conference highlight was the Iraq war veterans' workshop. Soldiers and their families exploded the myth that the military takes care of its own. A young vet spoke about the daily psychological terror he suffered since returning from Iraq. He remembers the gruesome smell of burning bodies and cannot function at work or at home because of these hallucinations. The VA hospital won't treat him for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because he cannot prove to them that he was in a combat zone.
Outraged parents spoke about their son's descent into alcoholism and eventual suicide after returning from Iraq. A mother spoke about the racism that her son was being taught in boot camp and the hatred he expressed towards Muslims in phone calls and letters he wrote home even before his deployment. These soldiers and their families left no doubt that this is a public health emergency!
To combat this, APHA planted a few soldiers in the audience to repeat the Pentagon's lies, but they only served to galvanize the audience against them. It only proved that the bosses are trying to avoid any discussion of the military's massive failure to care for GI's.
The bosses have used every tactic to prevent public health workers from seeing that class status, more than any other variable, determines who gets sick and who doesn't. The latest tactic has been to blur the lines between public health and the military, which began long before this meeting. Many APHA members are military officers and for years the military has set up recruitment and public relations displays advertising careers in the military as public health services plus bombs.
Corporations also compete for space, advertising products and services with obvious military applications. The MITRE Corporation boasts having "played a critical role in developing some of the most sophisticated command and control systems in the world." It provides technical assistance to the Air Force and has organized the Pentagon. When I asked the project coordinator why a company whose stated objective was "to contribute to winning the war on terrorism, and...to advance the military's transformation into a 21st-century fighting force" was advertising at a public health fair, she replied that the technical expertise supplied by her company had applications for disease surveillance. (And an M-16 can be used to open a can of beans!)
Although the APHA has passed dozens of resolutions condemning war and the use of torture, it continues to permit the military to advertise at APHA meetings. This year, members of the Maternal/Child Health section began an online discussion about the need to give military recruiters the boot. When the discussion gained momentum, APHA staffers asked us to take our conversation elsewhere.
It was clear that the APHA leadership didn't share the membership's anti-imperialist views. These members petitioned the APHA leadership to have an anti-military booth adjacent to the military recruiters. Instead, APHA agreed to a "Peace Booth" in an obscure corner of the exhibit hall, using paid staffers to man the booth. APHA staffers are employed to court congressional members and routinely silence the membership in order to curry favor with those in power.
The effort to kick military recruiters out of APHA was useful for organizing the struggle to wean healthcare workers from the illusion that the liberal Democrats offered a long-term solution or that once the war was over, government funding would be re-directed to social or health programs.
On December 12, Bush arrived in Philadelphia to sell his "victory" strategy and public health workers joined the street protest. They were mostly white and their message was disorganized. The anti-war movement has failed to involve working-class people of all backgrounds as evidenced by the number of people who simply walked by the protesters on their way to work. Unless the anti-war movement adopts a coherent, anti-imperialist focus and engages black, Latino and Asian workers, it will never be a mass movement worthy of working-class support.
Tehran University students published a statement backing the strikers and went to a number of bus depots to support the pickets. Many were arrested at Area 6 Terminus and haven't been heard from since.
The workers' "crime" is to demand decent wages, reinstatement of laid-off drivers and introduction of collective bargaining.
Tehran's mayor says the drivers' union is "illegal." The regime is preparing for a showdown, aiming to crush the strike with a mob of 10,000 vigilantes. The drivers have received warm support from the capital's residents and workers in many other sectors, as well as from around the world.
Following close on the heels of the murder of 12 other miners in the Sago mine barely three weeks before, on Jan. 21 the lives of Don Bragg, 33, father of two, and Ellery Hatfield, 47, father of four, were snuffed out when a fire erupted on a conveyer belt 900 feet underground in the Alma mine here in Logan County. And sure enough, the drive for profits by the mine owner, the Massey Energy Co., led directly to these deaths.
A miner there, granted anonymity because he feared being fired, told the N.Y. Times (1/22) that this wasn't the first such fire in the Alma mine. "I work at the belt that caught fire and had to put out a fire at the same exact spot just a couple of weeks ago when the sprinkler system didn't work," he said, referring to a Dec. 23 fire. "I reported the fire to my supervisor," he told the Times, "and he ignored it." Had the sprinkler system been working, brothers Bragg and Hatfield might be alive today. But Massey's profits come before fixing sprinkler systems.
Government records show that since last June the Alma mine has been cited at least 12 times for violations involving fire equipment among 100 safety violations overall. But the federal government is just as guilty as the bosses here; its safety agency withdrew a proposal in July 2002 that would have required conveyer belts to be made with fire-resistant materials.
The Massey company -- a notorious union-busting outfit -- is intent on hiding safety hazards, as noted in a 2001 report from the state's Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training which cited "a lot of questions about Massey's use of contract workers and also whether the safety records it was keeping were accurate." Bosses barred rescue units with advanced equipment from entering the mine. (ABC-TV, 1/20)
While the governor is "expressing anguish" and the state's liberal Democratic billionaire Senator John D. Rockefeller IV cries crocodile tears -- "We are in pain," he moans -- the carnage in West Virginia continues. His use of "we" hides the class nature of these murders. Rockefeller and Massey are not in pain; it's the miners who are, while these bosses rake in the profits.
Although West Virginia Congressional Democrat Nick Rahail (whose district includes the Alma mine), whines that "every coal mine health and safety law on the books today is written with the blood of coal miners," the existence of those laws doesn't seem to halt the trail of blood. He says "the health and safety of coal miners [are being] sacrificed on the altar of budget-cutting," yet he and his politician buddies all voted for the war in Iraq which is the source of the budget cutbacks and layoffs of federal mine inspectors.
These 14 miners at the Sago and Alma mines are every bit a casualty of this imperialist war as are the 2.200 GI's and 100,000-plus Iraqi workers dying in Iraq. Until our class succeeds in destroying this profit system with communist revolution, the rich will get richer while workers will continue to die in these bosses' wars, at home and abroad.
The response has been very encouraging because four co-workers in one area have agreed to distribute the paper and the majority of those who receive the paper help us economically. Part of this political struggle over the paper is for the workers to understand the need to support it financially. For example, 25 of the last edition were distributed and we collected $36. Other comrades in other parts of this same company distribute a similar number. This will be a constant struggle with ups and downs, but we'll try to make it always move forward.
The paper's distribution and discussions about our next contract struggle are proceeding simultaneously. While talking with a group of workers about the contract that expires this year, a black worker said, "All of these past contracts, we've been giving in, giving our benefits and wages, but the more we retreat, the more they push us against the wall. I think that in this new contract, we have to dig in our heels and fight or we'll end up leaving our children a working hell. We have to unite to be able to win."
A comrade said, "To really win, it's not only this struggle. For the liberation of the working class we need to educate ourselves politically, learn about the revolutionary history of the working class, and the fight against racism." After this discussion, this co-worker took CHALLENGE for the first time.
The general sentiment of the majority of workers is that if we strike, we should fight to win, not return to work conquered without a fight. These discussions have provided the opportunity to push the sale of CHALLENGE as a way to sharpen the discussions about our contract and about fascism, and to show that, like all U.S. workers, we face cuts in our pensions and medical benefits to pay for imperialist oil wars. This fight is not only one against our boss, but against the whole bosses' state.
The political development of the workers who are regular CHALLENGE readers is clear. The conversations reach revolutionary political levels about many topics. For example, recently five workers met at lunch and one asked, "What are we going to talk about today?" We discussed the homeless, racism and religion. While different points of view were presented, ultimately a scientific analysis of society prevailed, as did the need for communist revolution. At the end, an older worker concluded, "It's time to go back to work, friends. Later we'll continue looking for scientific solutions to the problems of the world."
At one school's parent center, several parents and campus security aides talked about the unity we had in a struggle at school, and at the multi-racial demonstrations against the Minutemen.
Everyone received CHALLENGE. They saw the photograph of the demonstration at the Home Depot. We also noted how the bosses' media want to convince workers they're powerless in the face of the racists, while they use racist terror against immigrants to lower the wages of all workers. They want us to see the McCain-Kennedy amnesty/bracero bill as the "solution." The bosses always want workers to rely on liberal politicians as their "friends" instead of relying on our own organization.
This discussion skipped from English to Spanish because some parents didn't speak much English and others spoke no Spanish at all. The Spanish-speaking parents were reading CHALLENGE for the first time.
Meanwhile, an African American parent who has read the paper off and on for a year and a half -- she had been so interested in the article about the communist influence on Rosa Parks that she had sent it to her sister -- pointed out the word "Communist" on the CHALLENGE masthead. "This is really important. There are a lot of misconceptions about this word -- but it's a good thing."
The struggle against the Minutemen highlighted the importance of supporting the anti-racists charged with felonies for protesting against these fascists. Many Latino students are aware of the Minutemen. The politicians use these gutter racists to win workers to accept the new "guest-worker" and punitive "amnesty" programs.
We've been getting more CHALLENGES to students, emphasizing the potential power of immigrant workers in the factories and of all workers in organizing against this racist system. One young African American student comrade explained to a meeting of teachers state-wide how a student group at her school is organizing against the Minutemen and that an injury to one is an injury to all. It helped everyone to realize the potential of a united working class.
Discussions have also focused on the federal government's role in trying to win working-class youth -- especially immigrants and the children of immigrants -- to join the Army to fight for U.S. imperialism. We've linked the plans of the liberal politicians to the flood of publicity about the Minutemen, citing this as the "good-cop-bad-cop" tactic. The National Service Plan, the Dream Act and McCain-Kennedy -- which "puts immigrants on the road to legalization" -- are all part of the "good cop" plan to project the Federal government as youth's "protector" from the Minuteman fascists (the "bad cops").
Using CHALLENGE in our discussions with young people and winning them to distribute it to their friends will counter the bosses' plans to win these youth to patriotism. It will help them to fight for the working class, whether in the factories, in school or in the military.
Bolivia is rich in natural resources and has the hemisphere's second largest natural gas reserves. Yet its 85% indigenous-mestizo population finds 64% living below the poverty line, 50% on less than $1 a day. That's the result of 300 years of brutal Spanish colonialism and 200 years of racist capitalist exploitation.
Bolivia's workers, especially the miners, have a proud history of mass, militant struggle against the racist rulers. The horrific racist oppression they face can only be smashed with a violent revolution led by a communist party that fights for communism. This definitely is not on Morales' agenda. In fact, his election is a smokescreen enabling the rulers to advance their class interests, while trying to make angry workers believe that capitalist "democracy" can meet their needs.
Assuring the capitalists/imperialists who rule Bolivia, Morales said in a recent interview, "When it comes to Che Guevara .... I don't accept armed struggle. Maybe it was the way in the '50's and '60's, but we want a democratic revolution." His vice-president Linares made it even clearer, "We admit that Bolivia will still be capitalist in the next 50 to 100 years." In another interview, Morales said, "I do not want to expropriate or confiscate any assets. I want to learn from the businessmen."
And to assure Brazilian bosses and the European imperialists, during the inauguration one of his ministers, Carlos Villegas, announced that "although Mr. Morales had threatened during the presidential campaign to nationalize the hydrocarbons sector, the new government would respect the property rights of foreign investors." (London Financial Times, 1/22/06).
He also said, that the oil companies "Repsol [Spain/Argentina] and Total [France] were willing to renegotiate their contracts to give a greater share of their profits to Bolivia. Petrobras [Brazil] has said it is prepared to accept lower profits."(Financial Times, 1/22/06).
He hopes to satisfy and calm his followers with these renegotiations and his "symbolic nationalization," which, he said, would "...consist of giving the ownership of the hydrocarbons first to the state when these are in the ground and then to the oil companies when the hydrocarbons have been extracted...."
As it is, European imperialists and Brazilian capitalists are the biggest investors in Bolivia. They've invested some $3.5 billion in Bolivia's oil and gas industries and have gobbled up Bolivia's gas reserves. Spanish-Argentinean REPSOL and Brazilian Petrobras each own about 25 % of the gas reserves; French Total-Elf and British Gas another 14% each. U.S. Vintage Petroleum owns only 2.1%. With the 20% left to the state, Morales plans to reestablish the state energy company, in which the Chinese imperialists are expected to invest $1.5 billion. Petrobras also owns two refineries and a quarter of Bolivia's gas stations.
The massive social unrest in Latin America has its roots in the chronic mass poverty, racism and unemployment ruthlessly imposed by the super-racist exploitation by all imperialists and local capitalists alike. Now some of these vultures are using it to attack U.S. imperialism in the region.
The worldwide hatred of U.S. imperialism is more than justified. But if this anger is not channeled into revolutionary action led by a communist party, these movements will always be nothing but pawns in the inter-imperialist dogfight.
Since the Soviet Union's collapse, former U.S. allies, especially the EU, have been moving more aggressively into the U.S. backyard. The EU has become Latin America's (all countries from Mexico south) second largest investor with a total stock of $192 billion, compared to the U.S.'s $284 billion. But the EU is by far the main investor in South America (all countries south of Panama) with a stock of $96 billion, exceeding the U.S.'s $67 billion. Besides the EU placing about 87% of its South American investments in MERCOSUR, it is MERCOSUR's and Chile's main trading partners. The EU is also Latin America's second most important trading partner, a trade that's more than doubled between 1990 and 2004.
This, and the emergence of China as a powerful trading partner and investor, coupled with the rising cost of oil, have made possible the survival of Cuba's Fidel Castro and the rise of demagogic politicians like Chavez, Brazil's Lula, Argentina's Kushner and now Evo Morales. Last year direct and indirect trade with China gave the Brazilian rulers a $54 billion surplus and enabled them to repay their entire debt to the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF). With help from Chavez's oil revenues, Argentina also paid off the IMF. Now, Chavez wants to create a South American energy bloc to sell energy to the highest bidder, especially to China. Therefore, Bolivia -- with its gas reserves -- is strategic to Brazil, Chavez's plan and to the U.S.
The ruling classes behind these politicians want to break the chains that bind them to the U.S. bosses. They're looking for more lucrative relations with other imperialists, who also need to control these markets, raw materials and cheap labor. Both butchers finance and foster these populist-nationalist movements that in no way threaten capitalism and only attack U.S. imperialism.
With possible similar scenarios in Peru and Ecuador -- and Chile being dependent on its neighbors for energy -- the balance of forces is inclining toward Brazil, MERCOSUR, the EU and Chinese bosses. Instead of freedom from oppression, those movements will lead to more racist exploitation and death on the imperialists' battlefields. Only the growth of the international PLP can insure that the struggle of our class brothers and sisters won't foist another capitalist butcher on them but will liberate them with communist revolution. This alternative can motivate the Bolivian workers and all workers to travel the decisive road to power.
The talk we had stayed in the back of my mind for a very long time. I considered your arguments and reasoning constantly. It left a deep impression on me, more perhaps than you may have realized.
After my university classes in Sao Paulo (Brazil), I've been checking the PLP website every day at an Internet café. I've followed CHALLENGE-DESAFIO postings, and been working to understand the Party's theoretical pieces, especially on sexism and racism. I've also started a thorough self-study of dialectics with the pamphlets posted, and the PDF of "What Is Philosophy?"
I've only just begun to realize that the foundation of my knowledge of history (let alone Marxism!) is based on the same prejudices and preconceptions, learned in school and published virtually everywhere in the media and "left" and liberal publications. They taught me to fear communism and to judge the communists no differently than the Nazis. To a degree, I bought the myth that the "noble path" is to moderate my views and try to "change the system from within."
I wanted to write you for sometime, but now feel I must. Every day that passes compels me to take action, even if I'm studying abroad right now.
I spent a month in Venezuela, viewing the "Bolivarian Revolution" and staying in the horrifyingly large barrios that encircle Caracas and other spots in the interior. I now realize that the so-called "revolution" contains few, if any, of the essential qualities that can genuinely free Venezuela and the world, both practically and ideologically (especially ideologically!). Private property has not even been touched; most of Venezuela's 9.8% economic growth in the third quarter was carried by the private sector's massive explosion. Chávez just signed a new joint-exploration contract with Chevron, which I learned (from CHALLENGE) is being sued in Ecuador for dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste.
I'm concerned about how fast Chávez is capturing the imagination of the "left" while the fundamental contradictions in Venezuelan society have not been addressed. The "Bolivarian" movement is far too fractured and incoherent to present any kind of program at all, radical or reformist.
Nonetheless, while I attended the Youth Festival in Caracas, an organizer privately told us she thinks we're probably being monitored by the U.S. government through our e-mails. I was listening to her with another friend of mine, a labor organizer from New Jersey, who later told me his friends in the States had been arrested with suspension of habeas corpus, and their computers confiscated.
My friend had infiltrated a Minutemen meeting in New Jersey. Suddenly a PLP contingent stood up and disrupted the entire thing, really shaking up the place. While he isn't in PLP, another friend with him was held and questioned by police in New Jersey while we were in Venezuela.
When I return to the U.S., I want to continue the conversation we started this summer and talk about PLP. I'm really excited!
New Youth Party Member
One member took students and teachers to the picket line near their school each day. Joining the smaller picket line enabled her to make strong connections with five workers. The strikers were happy to receive the donations she'd collected for them; to greet the students she brought with her; and to hear her communist ideas. One worker drove her students home.
Another member, relying on his close friends at his school, organized the writing of a letter. He and two other teachers helped do this. This collective struggle helped bring one friend closer to the Party and turned another acquaintance into a CHALLENGE reader. The collective work of team teaching during the strike sparked creativity within the teaching staff. One of the member's close friends used CHALLENGE articles in the classroom as part of a lesson on great strikes.
Another club member raised over $300 for the strikers. This far outdid the teachers union's request of a $1-per-teacher donation to the union. He also brought students to the picket lines. When they arrived there, the strikers were milling around. The appearance of the Party member and his students sparked the workers' enthusiasm to start a loud picket line. They offered their megaphone to the group, enabling the Party member to give a political speech that fired up the workers. This kind of leadership has made teacher discussions of workers' struggles commonplace at the school, advancing class consciousness.
Although another member was new to his school, he raised many issues with his colleagues. His leadership enabled the strikers to use the bathroom at another comrade's school. Serving the workers in this way created the basis for many good political conversations with the workers.
This strike opened many possibilities for Party work, and taught us some lessons on how to organize and take individual initiative as we seek a revolution that can destroy a system based more and more on fascism and endless wars.
During the 1966 transit strike, I remember President Lyndon Johnson demanding similar give-backs and wage cuts "in the national interest" during another imperialist war, the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. TWU president Mike Quill said, in effect, to hell with your war and your no-strike Condon-Wadlin Law -- you're not taking transit workers to the poorhouse. We shut NYC down for 11 days and won not only needed wage increases and a pension but also amnesty from the no-strike penalties.
CHALLENGE was well-received and appreciated by almost all the workers I met during the strike and its aftermath -- on the picket lines, at rallies, meetings and throughout the transit system. Your paper's analysis of the contract's economics and the political framework that shaped its provisions was a much-needed perspective for transit workers. Your Party should not underestimate its influence in this struggle or let up on trying to build a base among these workers, who, despite the tremendous obstacles mentioned above, showed great courage and a fraction of the power and political understanding they possess.
They have an opportunity to use these qualities to build a new, strong leadership that can take on the fight against the supposedly all-powerful bosses and show them who really runs this city.
Retired transit worker
I had brought a CHALLENGE just in case my new friends got around to talking politics. I decided to give the paper to the token booth clerk, pointing to a page-three article with ideas similar to the leaflet. Pessimistically, I didn't think much of it and wondered whether I made the right decision to give my only copy of the paper to a stranger I probably wouldn't see again.
The next day, my girlfriend was walking past the same booth and stopped in her tracks. The orange leaflet was gone. In its place was the front page of CHALLENGE folded out. The paper took up so much space it was hard to see the clerk. My girlfriend called me on my cell phone and said, "We need more of what you gave to the worker."
I couldn't believe it. At best I thought the clerk would read the article I showed him. I never thought the CHALLENGE front page would be hanging up three shifts later at the main token booth of a train yard. Dozens of TWU workers pass there every day.
CHALLENGE hadn't been up when I returned home from the play the night before. I asked my girlfriend what the toll booth clerk looked like and it wasn't the guy to whom I'd given the paper. That means the original worker from the night before had shown it to other workers and a few of them decided to display it in the booth.
This small show of agreement with what Progressive Labor Party had to say about the strike doesn't mean we've made the needed ties with these workers. But if we follow up this kind of agitation with years of on-the-job struggle and develop deep social and political relationships, hopefully CHALLENGE will be the workers' flag in the next battle between the bosses and labor. I never saw that token booth clerk again but for now, I carry two papers with me -- just in case.
After walking from Queens into upper Manhattan each of the three strike days, a young woman from Eastern Europe, a single mother who works as a cleaning lady, said, "They shouldn't have gone back, they didn't win anything yet."
A retired union worker who walked back and forth to his volunteer job three miles from home noted that his union acceded to pension benefit cuts years ago and said that workers starting at his job now will retire on a pension one-fourth of his. They'll become the pensioned poor.
Several busboys walking from middle Brooklyn into Midtown Manhattan remarked that they don't have a union and that this strike helped them see why it would be a real important thing for them and their families.
The two friends who started this discussion know that unions were the best thing the working class ever won but we weren't able to hold on to that victory. The leadership was co-opted, the unions were busted and now less than 15% of the working class has one. We know we need to win that fight again, once and for all.
A retired NYC teacher
The discussion turned to the limits of what reforms can be won in the present war economy. She said sometimes people don't get involved because they think it's hopeless. I replied that I thought that it would take a revolution, not reforms, to get what workers need; therefore it's important to fight around these local issues in a way that would build a revolutionary movement. She agreed a revolution would probably happen eventually, and that it's important to do what we can now to ensure it will be led by "progressives," not religious fascists.
Our mutual friend reads CHALLENGE, so I'm asking him to show it to this woman. Maybe I've been too influenced lately by fear-mongering and repressive legislation, or maybe things are starting to change, because I'm just now realizing how many people really are open to PLP's ideas.
The student hadn't eaten in the cafeteria because she didn't want that food. Another student in my classroom became sick to her stomach from eating the cafeteria food. My school should read the book "Fast Food Nation." They're doing nothing about the quality of the food here.
The school administration has the audacity to tell students they need to eat better and provide valid reasons why they need to do so, but do nothing to provide for their needs to do just that. The vending machines, full of junk food, compete directly with the cafeteria's snack food section for the students' dollars.
How widespread is this regulation on ambulance calling? The school system is responsible for ambulance or health charges a student incurs at a hospital, but the capitalist system is sacrificing the health of our children and their nutritional needs to fund and fuel the U.S. imperialist war machine, and spending the blood of our children to fight it.
I look forward to working with the student PL'ers in this school to help organize a fight-back.
Is it reform struggles around wages and benefits? Sure, we'd all like a few more dollars to live on, a better health plan and pension, but what motivates our co-workers deep down? Shall we appeal to reforms with narrow self-interest? Or to the values of a deeper humanity?
Several years ago, PLP members and their friends at MUNI -- the San Francisco Municipal Railway's transit system -- confronted and defeated the bosses' plan to institute a more fascist contract, highlighted by a two-tier wage system.
For several months, PLP members consistently distributed CHALLENGE, leaflets and got to know a number of bus drivers, resulting in some revealing discussions.
One day we asked several drivers, "What do you think of George and Martha's (the MUNI PLP'ers') leadership? One driver replied, "You can trust them to level with you." Another said, "You can't trust the others, the so-called union leadership." They'll make promises and sell us out to the management, under the table." A third worker said, "You can go to George and Martha. They're honest; they'll put all the cards on the table."
And so we got a glimpse of what our co-workers value most -- integrity, honesty and truthfulness.
Keep up the good work in CHALLENGE.
West Coast Comrade
The bosses gave us some bags with the company's logo on them for the gifts we bought. The day before Christmas, the 90 workers, the supervisors and the bosses walked two blocks to the shelter. The bosses and supervisors took photos and videos showing the bags, the company logo and the people receiving the gifts.
Some workers became very angry. They explained to the homeless people receiving the gifts that they came from the workers, not the bosses; that the bosses were trying to look good at the expense and sweat of others.
Returning to the factory, there were many discussions about the bosses' shameless greed. They fill their pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and all of it comes from the profits they make off our labor. The bosses don't have a tiny speck of "charity" when it comes to the workers. Since Christmas, several workers have been fired for coming late to work. The bosses' oppression and thirst for profits oozes out of every pore.
The bosses lie and say that workers only think of ourselves and our paychecks -- individualism. The opposite is true. Workers are motivated by a desire to improve living conditions not just of ourselves but of the whole working class. The bosses cynically try to use this for their own benefit.
These experiences help us understand the need to unite and learn to fight for a system where the workers don't have to depend on charity or exploitation, but produce to meet the needs of all workers worldwide.
A Garment Worker
After discussing the economic aspects, he emphasized that the issue of respect was paramount, that the bosses treated them with disdain, writing them up for every insignificant "infraction." He was angry about how workers were treated in general. When he takes his daughter to the emergency room for treatment for her asthma, they're treated in a racist manner, sometimes forced to wait for hours and lectured about "not knowing how to care for her." With his rent rising, he has no chance of owning a home and reaching the "American Dream."
He feels his daughter has no future. While his own father was a transit worker who does own a house, he himself won't reach that point, so there's little likelihood his own daughter will be able to go beyond their present circumstances.
In a discussion about communism and revolution, he was open to the idea that the workers were paying for the problems of capitalism, that we had to look beyond the solutions presented by the union.
We have created this monster by allowing trash food marketers to prey on our children....
An American child born in 2000 has 1 in 3 chance of contracting diabetes in his lifetime. An African American has a 2 in 5 chance. At current rates, every other Latina born in 2000 will get the disease. Fast Food soda and sugar snack companies are well represented in the Fortune 500, but the costs on the other end are staggering. (Boston Globe, 1/11)
But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans....
"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism..." (NYT, 1/17)
But Dr. David Blumenthal, an author of the article, said it was "not very likely" that many in medicine would listen to the group.
"I'm not very optimistic,"....
The drug industry spends tens of billions of dollars a year to woo doctors, far more than it spends on research... (NYT,1/25)
What could be worse than ignorance?
Horrible history: the distortions, misinformation and myths that passed for "the facts of Reconstruction" for nearly a century after 1877. In that history...was a "tragic era" of military occupation, corrupt state governments, heavy taxation, wasteful spending and, worst of all, "Negro rule": the enfranchising of ignorant, gullible, bestial black men. All seemed lost, until the Ku Klux Klan arose and expelled the carpetbaggers, dragged and scalawags back to the white side of the color line and put the former slaves in their place. Home rule was restored, the south redeemed.
That's not a caricature. That was Reconstruction at our finest universities...and it was Reconstruction in popular novels, histories and films, most notably D.W. Griffith's repugnant classic, "The Birth of a Nation." Woodrow Wilson, a political scientist and Princeton professor before he became president, viewed the film in the White House. It is "like writing history with lightning," he said, "and my only regret is that it is so terribly true."
It was terrible, but not true -- as African-Americans knew.... "The vast economic and political power of the South's white elite hung in the balance," he writes ....
Landowners and merchants wanted laborers to plant and pick their cotton -- on terms as close to those of slavery as they could get. (NYT, 1/29)
By luring and keeping large numbers of immigrant doctors, the American medical establishment is reducing medical care where it is needed most. (12/14)
Like the book, the movie doesn't try to sugarcoat war. Unlike the book, however, it glorifies the "raw" side of war, depicting it as an "unfortunate, but necessary" campaign waged in "the larger interests" of the U.S. In this way, it hopes to win workers to "sacrifice" themselves for future wars waged in the ruling class's interest.
As the film starts, after the troops arrive in Iraq, and are on the way to their assigned posts, they begin discussing the politics behind the war. One Marine says the bosses and their corporations are behind the invasion. Immediately Troy, one of the Marine snipers, ends the conversation saying, "F--- politics. We're here. All the rest is bullshit."
This cynical statement sets the tone for the rest of the movie, that war is not political. The audience is supposed to forget the U.S. ruling class's profit motive behind its invasion of Iraq, and instead see imperialist warfare as something that happens "for the greater good of the nation."
In a very political way, however, the film spends much time presenting war as an auditory and visual entertainment spectacle. In one scene, the troops are watching a scene from "Apocalypse Now." In the crowded theater, they recite the lines word for word, anticipating the impending destruction of a small Vietnamese village. The scene glorifies the unity of the Marines forged in the anticipation of the racist murder of the "enemy." Death and destruction are presented as necessary complements to a shared sense of purpose and national identity.
In another scene, Sergeant Siek (played by Jamie Foxx) is sitting in the Iraqi desert, his face illuminated by burning oil wells. Foxx professes his unquestioning love for the Marines, saying, "Who else gets a chance to see shit like this?" Here, imperialism is seen as an adventure experienced only by a privileged few ("The few. The proud. The Marines.") In this way, the film acts as a recruiting video for working-class youth, reinventing imperialist invasions as "exciting," once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Throughout, the film uses sexism to portray the Marines as male warriors whose manhood is forged in the heat of battle. Women are either highly objectified or not depicted at all. Just as the liberal rulers are pushing the fascist idea of "sacrifice" for the greater good of imperialism, the film uses sexism to depict warfare as a right of passage where "boys become men" through shared sacrifice for "their" country. It's this message of patriotic "sacrifice" that will propel the next wave of U.S. imperialist invasions.
As the U.S. progresses toward fascism in the face of its declining economic and political power, and while its quagmire in Iraq drags on, the corporate media -- in order to build support for U.S. imperialism -- will no doubt continue to churn out films that encourage workers to "sacrifice" themselves. Only a PLP-led mass communist movement that takes control of politics, economics and culture can destroy the capitalist drive toward endless war and fascism.
But for the bosses, the fight is over how they will wield power against their billionaire rivals and the working class. Hidden beneath the squabbles over abortion and religion lie the real question; how much power does the President have?
Originally most power was in the hands of the states rather than the federal government. In Washington most power was in the hands of Congress rather than the President. But with the development of imperialism and rivalries on a world scale between major capitalist powers, the ruling class needed to be able to discipline itself and mobilize for war. From the 1950's to the '70's, the Supreme Court was used as a battering ram to centralize power and force through policies that the rulers wanted in order to discipline sections of the ruling class and blunt worker rebellions, like outlawing segregation or legalizing abortion.
But now the Bush team wants to use the court to uphold the theory of a "unitary executive." In Alito's words this means, "The President has not just some executive powers, but the executive power -- the whole thing." Alito, Meiers and Roberts all believe the courts should only limit the President's power in the most extreme cases. They're not really hard-liners on abortion or religion. It's their views on presidential power that all three have been pushing the envelope.
John Yoo, who teaches at the University of California-Berkeley, wrote the Justice Department memos justifying torture, secret prisons, imprisonment for life without any charges or court review. In his latest book, "The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11," Yoo says when the U.S. is at war, the President has the authority to imprison, interrogate and torture those believed to be associated with the enemy. During wartime, the President can regulate speech, search homes and spy on the population. He also says the President can start a war anytime he wants. All Congress does when declaring war is "recognize the state of affairs -- clarifying the legal status...rather than authorizing the creation of that state of affairs." Yoo cites the powers of European kings to declare war and says that the U.S. is at war whenever the President says so. Bush is free to declare war on "terrorists" and claim all the powers of a wartime president. Yoo also claims that no treaty or international law can limit the President's power.
Two weeks after 9/11, Yoo wrote, while at the Justice Department, "The centralization of authority in the President alone is particularly crucial in matters of national defense, war, and foreign policy, where a unitary executive can evaluate threats, consider policy choices, and mobilize national resources with a speed and energy that is far superior to any other branch."
This plan to centralize power is at the heart of many disputes within the ruling class. Consider the National Security Agency's wiretapping scandal. Who cares whether the NSA or the FBI does the wiretapping and what difference does it make if they have to fill out a form which is almost always rubber-stamped by a secret court? The point of exposing the NSA is to weaken Bush politically and block his plans to concentrate power. That's also what's behind all the corruption scandals (who would have thought that Congressmen take bribes?). This is a counter-attack by those who fear that the Supreme Court is going to let Bush do whatever he wants. While they were appellate judges, both Roberts and Alito upheld policies that Yoo rationalized. That is why Bush nominated them and what policies and actions they are likely to support on the Supreme Court.
In the liberated city of Lublin, the Marxist Polish Workers Party grew rapidly, working in the Committee to build a new society on the ashes of the old. Strong says, "What enabled the Committee to expand...was not money, or foreign recognition, but control of certain housing facilities...and certain stores of food....It induced the peasants to turn in food quotas for feeding the cities."
With food, shelter and an army at their back, "peasants and workers could come to congresses and schools" where mass organizations were built and political struggle encouraged. "Brilliant engineers and famous scientists could offer their services and the Committee could keep expanding to take them in. Always provided -- it was a big proviso -- they were patriots [sic] willing to work for their shelter and three meals in a government dining room."
The Committee organized on the communist principle "from each according to ability, to each according to need." Unfortunately (with hindsight), the Committee also organized on the capitalist principle of nationalism. Nationalism unites workers with capitalists within a particular country, and disarms workers in the class struggle against their exploiters/oppressors.
In Warsaw, while fighting continued, Army political workers held mass meetings, attended by thousands. One explained:
"You dodge across streets and you hunt up active citizens and the ones that are willing to work. You get them to clearing streets and pulling folks from under fallen houses and cleaning wells. You start with half a dozen members and then you get a chairman and a vice-chairman. Then more people join and you begin to divide into sections."
They distributed food, criticized and evaluated the work and started thousands of house and block committees. "You don't think you are getting anywhere, but when you sum it up like this, you see how much it is," one reflected.
Despite inspiring stories about fighting Nazis, escapes from concentration camps and the volunteer work of rebuilding, Strong, like many she interviewed, embraced both communism and nationalism. She did not see, as we can from her book and from hindsight, how nationalism and a united front with the capitalist bosses would destroy the seedlings of communism in Poland.
The Red-led National Committee of Liberation planned - with the Soviet Union's blessing -- to unite with the Polish capitalist government-in-exile in London. Though these capitalists opposed the Soviet Union before the war, and their army attacked anti-fascist partisans, the Committee thought it had to compromise with these enemies. They disastrously handed over the hard-won gains to a Provisional Government of National Unity.
Strong doesn't say what happened to the grass-roots organizations. She mentions that Poland's industrial base (the coal mines, steel mills and shipyards) would be government-run. Though called "socialist" on that basis, the capitalist-led National Unity government guaranteed that workers were never in control. Poland therefore was never in any sense communist. It was state-capitalist from the start and run primarily by the capitalists.
PLP has different goals. Imperialism's endless wars and inability to manage or prevent catastrophes create the need and the opportunity. In war-torn and devastated cities -- from Baghdad to New Orleans -- we'll organize people around communism, not nationalism or socialism. Workers, armed and organized, will take control of housing, food and the entire means of production. There will be no coalitions with our class enemies or building of socialism: we will fight for workers' power. "From each according to commitment, to each according to need" will not be a temporary emergency measure, but the basis of a fierce struggle for an enduring communist society.