CHALLENGE, March 1, 2006

It’s Not Just Bush! Liberal Hawks Want Our Youth to Die in Imperialist Oil Wars

Beware AFL-CIO ‘Solidarity’: Iran, D.C, NYC: Transit Workers, Unite!

Cartoons, Racism And War

Chavez’s ‘Socialism’ Won’t End Workers’ Exploitation

Debating Communism on the Road to New Orleans

Katrina Survivors Picket White House, Blast Rulers’ Criminal Negligence

H.S. Students, Teachers Defend Anti-Racist Protestors

Teenager Nixes Pledge, Iraq War

Boeing Strikers’ Defeat Shows Need To Expand Communist Base

Mass Demonstrations, Student Strikes Hit French Rulers’ Labor ‘Reforms’

Community College Faculty Fights Piece Work

Fighting for Revolutionary Class Consciousness at CUNY

Miners’ History the Road to Follow in Altoona, Pa. Strike

Red Coal

Indian Airport Workers’ Strikes Stop Cops, Scabs

Workshop Responds to CHALLENGE

Revolutionary History: Secret Police No Match for Bolshevik Base Built Through Iskra Networks

UNDER COMMUNISM… Will You Have Your Own Toothbrush?


Religion’s Mass Murderers Are No Joke

Explanations Missing From Transit Articles

CHALLENGE comments

Fighting Racism in Turkey

Another Name for Communist Column?



It’s Not Just Bush!

Liberal Hawks Want Our Youth to Die in Imperialist Oil Wars

As U.S. imperialism faces a future of widening and intensifying warfare, Democratic politicians and other liberals are leading the effort to militarize society. Military challenges from China loom over the horizon, while Iraq’s insurgency, Iran’s nuclear threat and Hamas’s victory show that U.S. rulers have yet to conquer the Middle East. They now realize securing the oil-rich region will take several more invasions entailing far more troops and casualties than before.

Former Senator Gary Hart writes of "American lives lost in Gulf Wars I and II, and probably III, IV and V." (New York Times, 2/5/06) Hart knows a thing or two about U.S. imperialism’s goals for the 21st Century. He helped formulate them. Democrat Hart co-chaired Clinton’s Hart-Rudman Commission. As early as 1999, it envisioned a U.S. "galvanized" by terrorist attacks, voluntarily sacrificing "blood and treasure" in wars against Mid-East and superpower rivals. For these adventures, the Pentagon will have to recruit or force millions into service.

Bush, however, squandered Sept. 11th’s enlistment-boosting potential, and liberals have lambasted him for it ever since. The latest Bush-bashing call to arms comes from the National Security Advisory Group (NSAG), a Democratic Party-sponsored collection of war criminals that includes Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright, defense boss William Perry, and generals Wesley Clark and John Shalikashvili. Drenched in the blood of Serbian and Iraqi children, these liberals whine in their January 2006 report, "Bush...has failed to mobilize the American people....There has been no John F. Kennedy-like "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" speech — no call to national service." It may be necessary, the NSAG concludes, to restore the draft: "The strains on the nation’s ground forces are serious and growing, and the viability of the All Volunteer Force is at risk."

To meet coming requirements, the liberals demand that the army add 30,000 soldiers immediately, "make it easier for ‘middle-aged’ Americans (30- and 40-somethings) to join," and mend fences with universities that ban ROTC (officer training programs). Most of all, say the Clinton loyalists, "This country needs a Commander-in-Chief who can...inspire a nation of young people to serve."

Although a change in the White House is two years off (provided the rulers refrain from dire measures), Democrats are injecting a big dose of militarism into the November congressional elections. Calling themselves the "Fighting Dems" and "Band of Brothers," more than 40 Democratic candidates, all military veterans, vow to retake the House of Representatives, combat partisan obstacles to warmaking and "turn the map of America from Red and Blue to Red, White and Blue. (The blossoming love-match, noted in the press, between the Bush and Clinton families reflects the same battle-hungry bi-partisanship.) In Washington on February 8th, Wesley Clark and John Kerry led a speech-fest for the aspiring warrior-lawmakers that hammered a common imperialist theme: more youth in uniform killing and dying for the rulers’ profits.

Liberals’ approaches to the ruling class’s troop-raising imperative range from blatant to subtle. The New York Times (2/10/06) wonders in loud indignation how "Rumsfeld's Defense Department can produce a $439 billion spending plan and still skimp on the one thing the American military desperately needs: expanded ground forces so the weakened and cannibalized Army can meet the requirements of Iraq without hurting its ability to respond to other threats."

With only minor misgivings, the Times (2/9/06) gloated over one racist success the Pentagon has had in assembling cannon fodder, "recruiting Latinos has become one of the Army’s top priorities. From 2001 to 2005, the number of Latino enlistments in the Army rose 26 percent, and in the military as a whole, the increase was 18 percent." Harvard University, on the other hand, in addition to quietly restarting ROTC, runs a low-profile Rockefeller-funded project on "civic engagement" that steers Ivy League grads into government jobs, especially military ones.

Bush’s pro-tax-cut State of the Union Address and business-as-usual budget show that the main U.S. rulers are some distance away from winning the nation’s whole capitalist class to the agenda of war and sacrifice they so sorely seek. But we shouldn’t let the bosses’ temporary disarray cloud the reality that ever deadlier imperialist wars are the order of the day. No matter what stage of mobilization our class enemy is at, we should be fully on a war footing in building the Progressive Labor Party.

Beware AFL-CIO ‘Solidarity’: Iran, D.C, NYC

Transit Workers, Unite!

On February 15, demonstrations were scheduled be held in several countries, supporting the Tehran Yahed Bus Company workers’ strike in Iran (see photo above) and protesting the Islamic government’s repression. (See CHALLENGE, 2/15) Ironically, the AFL-CIO, which is sponsoring one such demonstration in Washington, D.C., has not backed any workers’ struggles lately here in this country.

As a matter of fact, the Amalgamated Transit Union’s (ATU) international leadership opposed the most militant recent strike in the U.S.: New York’s three-day transit walkout, an anti-racist struggle which objectively spit in the face of the bosses’ war budget and broke the strike-breaking Taylor Law. The ATU hacks sided with Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and the city’s entire ruling class in attacking these mostly black and Latin transit workers.

The militant Tehran bus workers deserve real international solidarity, not the phony one pushed by the AFL-CIO pro-boss hacks. So why is the AFL-CIO now supporting transit workers in Iran?

The answer to this question lies in the international situation. Currently, the holy rollers ruling Iran are in the gun sights of the U.S. military. Ironically, Iran’s rulers helped the U.S.-UK occupation of Iraq because it toppled their hated enemy Saddam Hussein — they fought a bloody eight-year war 20 years ago — and has brought pro-Iranian Shiite politicians to power there. But they have their own plans to control the Persian Gulf’s oil wealth. They don’t want to share it with U.S. bosses. Other imperialists — Russia, China and even India — have developed good relationships with Iran’s rulers. The latter two U.S. rivals want to get their oil independent of the chokehold of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco and Shell.

So the "solidarity" protest called by the AFL-CIO to support the Iranian bus workers against the ayatollahs is an action to aid U.S. bosses’ military aims in the region and therefore is really a pro-war action.

Cartoons, Racism And War

Meanwhile, the Iranian and Syrian bosses (also in the Pentagon’s gun sights) are using the cartoons buffooning the Prophet Mohammed to launch massive protests advancing their own interests. The racist cartoons published in the Danish fascist newspaper Jyllands-Posten (with heavy pro-Nazi and Italian fascist tendencies) have prompted violent reactions in the Muslim world. On one hand, these cartoons reflect the growing anti-Muslim racism in Western Europe. Denmark — a country of 5.4 million — has over 200,000 Muslims in Denmark. Just a few years ago it had none. Copenhagen, the capital, has denied permits to build mosques. There is no Muslem cemetery there, so the "Muslims who die [in Denmark] have to be flown back to their countries of origin for proper burial." (NY Times, 2/11)

The fundamentalists and rulers of Muslim countries are taking advantage of this racism to win the masses to their own fascistic causes. The Iranian rulers want to divert workers and youth from fighting for their own class interests (like the bus workers), but to blame others for their oppression. Egypt’s Mubarak prefers that the masses worry about causes other than their oppression and misery, like the recent sinking of a ferry boat whose bosses’ negligence murdered almost 1,000 Egyptian workers.

Workers worldwide must oppose anti-Muslim, anti-Arab racism while simultaneously opposing the imperialists’ war drive for oil. The Tehran bus strikers and workers across the Mid-East deserve real solidarity and leadership, like the kind provided by the Washington ATU Local 689, under communist leadership. Its members are organizing a component of the AFL-CIO rally calling for working-class unity and solidarity to crush all fascist terrorist governments, both in the U.S. and Iran. Workers don’t need the phony "support" of U.S. and British union hacks or reactionary Mid-East fundamentalists. Workers need to rebuild the international communist movement — which at one time had mass support in Iraq, Iran and the entire region — and wrest the leadership of the masses from the reactionary jihadists and religious zealots of all stripes.

Chavez’s ‘Socialism’ Won’t End Workers’ Exploitation

The following was written by a new young comrade who just returned from Venezuela and Brazil.

Part 1

Occasionally we fall victim to believing in miracles — miracles that abandon every scientific principle used to analyze social conditions. Some of us may fall for electoral miracles, as we read the latest news coming out of Venezuela, Brazil and now Bolivia and Chile. While very new to the Progressive Labor Party, I was driven to PLP through its scrupulous analyses in CHALLENGE-DESAFIO. I have just returned from Latin America, spending one month in particular in Venezuela to study Chavez and the "Bolivarian Revolution."

I believed in "el proceso"; it is very fashionable, especially for Trostskyists, anarchists and others on the "left" to elevate Venezuela as the international standard-bearer of "socialism for the 21st century." In a world ruled by the seemingly invincible power of monopoly capital and the ruins of the once-revolutionary socialist states now run by bastions of private capital and social misery, Hugo Chavez stands out. He shines with his charisma, lively, intelligent, and often humorous speeches, and his well-documented social missions funded by Venezuela’s immense oil wealth.

This series seeks only to show that, (a) Chavez is merely a liberal capitalist representing a new constellation of power in Venezuela, and (b) understanding Chavez’ regime is impossible without considering its international context, in particular its relation to China.

Firstly, the U.S. propaganda machine is so virulently anti-Chavez, it is tempting for those already discontented and seeking alternative theories to be drawn not just to Chavez’ charisma, but also to some results of his government’s first few years: Venezuela will be free of illiteracy (97% functional literacy rate); the Federal District of Caracas has either annihilated illiteracy or will do so soon.

The once theoretically state-owned oil company PDVSA has been seized from the previous regime’s oligarchy, which had used the profits to fund fabulous big toys and buildings. PDVSA — which in the U.S. alone owns five oil refineries and licenses over 14,000 gas stations under its U.S. subsidiary CITGO — has financed social programs and public works projects. Venezuela has set up a Caribbean oil initiative called Petrocaribe, which has provided discounted oil at long-term interest rates favorable to the poor island nations struggling to cope with rising oil costs. It has even offered this deal to Colombia’s President Uribe who, despite being a Bush ally, recently called Chavez a "brother." The two nations are now jointly building a pipeline through Colombia to the Pacific to service China, under the pretense of diversifying Venezuela’s oil clientele.

Venezuela provides 16% of U.S. daily oil needs. In the face of environmentalist demonstrations, it has just signed a new deal with Chevron for joint oil exploration with PDVSA from which Chevron will reap tremendous profits and devastate Venezuela’s environmentally fragile Orinoco region. Currently, Ecuador is pressing charges against Chevron-Texaco for dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Here in the U.S., PDVSA has launched a discounted oil program that began last Thanksgiving in the South Bronx and then in Boston through a partnership of CITGO and Bobby Kennedy, Jr.’s Citizen’s Energy Corp., which will deliver 1.2 million gallons of oil to "poor" families in that area. Kennedy’s company will determine who will receive the oil. Chavez has launched a $100 billion project to build a national infrastructure linking the least-developed parts of the countryside to the industrial and commercial centers.

A new national campaign (under the names of "Mission" Robinson or "Mission" Ribas dealing with tackling specific social programs) called "Mission Science" will aim at "democratizing the sciences" and making scientific innovations and developments available to "the people." This is, of course, in addition to the well-publicized introduction of 20,000 Cuban doctors into Venezuela’s poorest regions.

The state is now guaranteeing food at highly subsidized prices and will overhaul the nation’s healthcare system entirely, modeled on Cuba’s centralized system of hospitals/clinics/polyclinics. Chavez and Castro plan to staff these hospitals with a future generation of doctors training at the new Latin American Schools of Medicine in Havana and Caracas.

Finally, and the most important ideologically, Chavez has declared the construction of "socialism for the 21st century," stating "socialism" as a "thesis to be reclaimed" and re-forged. He has advocated worker occupations of factories (ALCASA, a huge aluminum plant and Invepal, a paper processing plant are the first "models" of "revolutionary worker co-management.")

A new pro-Chavez union federation, the UNT, has been formed to oppose the blatantly corrupt older CTV. The UNT has enjoyed skyrocketing membership as a federation with radical-sounding rhetoric and organizing in unorganized sectors, demanding worker-state co-ownership. A typical "co-managed" factory means the workers hold a 49% stake in the company while the state holds 51%.

The UNT has vehemently denied similarities made to German "worker co-management" introduced by social democracy. Some in the "opposition" decried this as more radical than the German approach. Yet the idea, essentially, is a product of Germany’s big labor misleaders’ great sellouts to the bosses. Workers are being armed through popular defense organizations; Venezuela has openly defied the FTAA (Free Trade of the Americas) and is nearing full membership in MERCOSUR (Common Market of Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay).

Everywhere in Caracas (literally), graffiti reads "FATHERLAND OR DEATH," if not "VIVA CHAVEZ." Chavez relentlessly calls Venezuela’s anti-imperialist struggle a national one, a struggle of national life or death. This message is transmitted through an appeal to the country’s "true patriots," the true "Bolivarians," who will take up 19th-century bourgeois independence leader Simon Bolivar’s sword against enemies of the state.

A materialist perspective hardly needs a light tug at the loose string of yarn before things start to unravel, and the truth in all of its sadistic and barbaric aspects reveals itself.

Chávez has in fact done nothing in his presidency to really tackle the root of poverty in Venezuela and around the world: private property, meaning the factories, big multi-national banks, multi-national corporations, foreign oil companies and foreign investors are raking in record profits. Private management or "co-management" means workers still produce socially but their labor produces commodities to be exchanged on the market, for profits. This is opposed to a rationally planned communist economy devoted to the socially necessary and socially useful production of use-values with no market exchange value.

Wage differentials haven’t been touched; inflation, while relatively slower in the past year, is still the highest in Latin America (although the Venezuelan government argues the availability and quality of social programs has dramatically reduced the cost of living; who’s fooling who here?). Private property has not been touched in Venezuela. Save for a few unused plots of land taken here and there, and some highly-publicized land deeds to local Indian tribes, land distribution in Venezuela remains as frightful as the rest of Latin America. But all the rhetoric about the "Bolivarian Revolution" might seduce us into thinking economic relations have really been subverted in favor of the workers and campesinos. (To be continued.)

Debating Communism on the Road to New Orleans

In mid-December, several PLP members rode with a busload of mostly college and high school students to a conference and march in Mississippi and New Orleans organized by the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF). One bus captain, a young black man, encouraged everyone to introduce themselves. We did so with CHALLENGE and communist ideas on racism.

Initially it was difficult to engage students in conversation. However, when we offered CHALLENGE to the young bus captain, he asked lots of questions. He and a young woman in a math tutoring program that brought all the high school students asked questions about revolution, religion and communism. It was productive.

The next day we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi for the "Survivor’s Conference." We distributed PLP literature inside the conference and in individual discussions, struggled against nationalism in general and black nationalism in particular in a principled manner, declaring that communists fight for internationalism. This really set us apart from all the revisionists (phony leftists) who all supported some form of nationalism. The whole conference was infested with sprinklings of nationalism from the liberal to the most overt.

The following day we boarded the bus for the march in New Orleans. With new riders joining our original group, the 2˝-hour bus ride was filled with conversations about communism, human nature and how the Chinese dealt with drug use and dealers after the revolution. There was loud discussion with lots of disagreement.

One man from a revisionist group supported the Chinese Communist Party’s contributions. I asked him if he’d heard of PLP. He replied that he had, that during the 1960’s PLP was known as "ultra-leftist" because we criticized the National Liberation Front and Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. He said these criticisms outraged the "left." I asked him, based on events in Vietnam today, were we wrong? He replied, "No."

Meeting workers from New Orleans and listening to their stories was a life-changing experience for all of us from Chicago. The young bus captain addressed the whole bus, especially the high school students, and referred to the earlier passionate discussion. Surprisingly he said, "Many of you heard a discussion we had on the bus and you thought that disagreement is a bad thing. Well, what you heard was a good thing, because in the process of discussing ideas, that’s how you come to understand truth. So never be afraid of discussion and disagreement. That’s how we learn."

I later received an e-mail from the guy in the revisionist group, saying he hadn’t experienced such honest and open discussion in a while and thanked us for it. This trip gave me increased confidence in the Party and its line of principled struggle. We’re working in the PHRF and will continue the fight.

A Comrade

Katrina Survivors Picket White House, Blast Rulers’ Criminal Negligence

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 8 — Today, hundreds of Hurricane Katrina survivors, mostly from New Orleans, converged on this city. About 200 marched in front of the White House to scream at the system that betrayed them. Between the demonstration and the post-rally reception, hundreds of PLP’s "Capitalism Kills" leaflets were distributed.

At the demonstration, pickets saw the leaflet’s title and demanded copies. Whenever we yelled, "It’s not just Bush, it’s the whole system and these rich bastards that control it; they don’t deserve our respect," there were cheers of "right on!" and "that’s right!"

At the candlelight vigil and brief speak-out held after the rally, some talked about God and religion, but most participants mainly wanted to relate their own experiences. They were upset at the ACORN groups’ coordinator for severely limiting the number of survivor-speakers.

However, those who did speak were inspiring. A young survivor referred to Katrina in the first person, calling "her" "the best thing that ever happened to me," because "she" shook things up with the reality of class and race. Knowing the horrendous stress Katrina victims have been under all this time, the poet also asked, rhetorically "…and they [the rich] wonder why things are so ‘bad’ with us [survivors] in Houston right now?"

Our leaflet pointed out that trusting the rulers to listen is an illusion. They know what’s happened and don’t care. Deep down, the survivor-demonstrators clearly know this. Whenever a speaker claimed that "dialogue" with the rulers can succeed, one woman bellowed, "They don’t care!"

Judging by their reactions, some survivors do not see the need for revolution. Rather, capitalism teaches working people that honest, raw anger is "inappropriate." Instead, it must be "tempered" and "dignified." That leads to workers being satisfied more with small reforms rather than with changing the system.

When the rally ended, about one thousand survivors swarmed across the street to the AFL-CIO headquarters for the post-rally reception. The lobby of this "House of Labor" gleamed in marble. Using an expensive, eardrum-splitting sound system, union officials pleaded — over the dismissive din of crowd conversation — that "the labor movement will be there for you. We will march with you. We will come where you want us to. We are with you!" Few believed this. Then, when a top hack asked how many in the room were "union brothers and sisters," only a few people raised their hands. As if any of the victims of this racist catastrophe owe these pro-capitalist bureaucrats anything. The only time the crowd paid attention was when an actual survivor took the mic, and shouted for the rest of the room to listen because "what I’ve got to say, we’re gonna take it to the streets."

Meanwhile, PL’ers continued to distribute leaflets. At least eight solid political contacts were made, mostly New Orleanians living in Houston. A young woman living there as part of ACORN’s rebuilding effort was told of PL’s tentative plan to go to New Orleans in March and help with reconstruction. She really liked that idea, and also PL’s politics. She said she’d get in touch with the Party down there. Similarly, a young working-class mother of two also wants to talk immediately with the Party where she is relocated.

Perhaps the best feature of this rally was to see how resilient everyone was, despite the horrors visited on them. The New Orleans dancing and music at the reception event proved strongly the old adage that you can take the people out of the place, but not the place out of the people. As people returned to their buses, we left the scene elated. By reaching out to, and eventually recruiting, the survivors of Katrina and the millions of other victims of capitalism, we can lay much more solid groundwork for a communist future.

H.S. Students, Teachers Defend Anti-Racist Protestors

Students and teachers here have started a fund-raising campaign to defend the college students arrested in an anti-Minutemen protest. Students are wearing buttons on campus saying "Defend Anti-Racist Protestors" and "Stop Racist Attacks on Immigrants." The teachers’ union local passed a resolution calling on teachers to support these students with fund-raising events and with a guest editorial in the union newspaper.

We invited one defendant to speak to a student club meeting about the case, about racism against immigrants in general and about the racist Minutemen in particular. Some of us shared our experiences about our participation in an anti-Minutemen protest. We also held an outdoor noon-time rally where students hang out. Several of us spoke in English and in Spanish, and raised $60 for the defendants.

We’ve reported how the Minutemen strictly enforce immigration on the Mexican-U.S. border, but not on the Canadian-U.S. border. This is a blatant racist attack on Mexican immigrants. It’s linked to pushing immigrant workers to join the U.S. Army which will put them on the front lines to be "awarded" citizenship in a country to which they may make it back alive.

Link Minutemen to Army Recruiters

Many of our friends differ about this. They hate the Minutemen; they don’t trust the military recruiters who are flooding our campus; but they don’t really think these things are connected. We’ve pointed out that the bosses are using the Minutemen to scare immigrant workers into relying on politicians to gain a limited amnesty or guest worker permit, while desperately trying to find enough Latino soldiers to fight their wars. The bosses are using the Minutemen to prod us into joining the Army as a way to get our citizenship papers.

We’re planning more fund-raising events, including at least one more noon-time rally at another part of the campus. We’re also distributing leaflets and CHALLENGES while discussing PLP’s ideas exposing borders between countries as something the bosses establish to serve their purposes. In a revolutionary situation, we would destroy these capitalist-created borders in order to unite workers and help us defend the revolution from the bosses’ attacks.

West Coast High School Club

Teenager Nixes Pledge, Iraq War

NAZARETH, Feb. 3 — A teenage student at Nazareth Area H.S. won his case in refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Fourteen-year-old Sam Smith said he wouldn’t participate because he opposes the Iraq war and because he’s an atheist, saying the Pledge "bugs him."

"You should be pledging your allegiance to all mankind," Smith told the local paper, adding, "I don’t believe in nationalism at all."

The school district maintained that any student refusing to stand and recite the Pledge needed a signed letter from their parents. That form contained a veiled threat of harassment by other students to pressure those who wouldn’t conform to the school’s views. The form letter said, "We worry about [students refusing the pledge] being singled out by other students when they elect to do an act that is not being done by many of the other[s]."

Smith thought that was ridiculous. "That’s like saying if everyone in the class is smoking, then you could be singled out for not smoking," he said. "It’s just telling you not to think."

Smith argued the rule violated his right to free speech. Other students seemed to agree. One sophomore said Smith, "Shouldn’t get grilled or discriminated against for not wanting to do it."

The school dropped its requirement for a parental note when Smith said he would be calling a lawyer to represent his case.

Boeing Strikers’ Defeat Shows Need To Expand Communist Base

Huntington Beach, CA Feb. 1 — Fifteen hundred Boeing rocket workers, members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), voted 60% to 40% to end an 87-day strike here and at plants in Alabama and Florida. The main company demand, elimination of retiree medical coverage for new hires, remains intact. With the defeat of this relatively long strike, Boeing will reinvigorate its campaign to make us pay for the bosses’ high-priced imperialist dreams. Aerospace workers need to answer with international unity and industry-wide strikes, particularly targeting racist super-exploitation among subcontractors. Such intensified class struggle will be driven by the expansion of our revolutionary communist base, demonstrating the potential power of the working class.

An unholy alliance of union misleaders and the company wore down these strikers. Company spokesman claimed a 38% scab rate. The union hacks dished out gobbledygook about a "substantive" if not "substantial" new offer. This "new substantive" offer is identical to the original sellout except for minor details in medical coverage.

Boeing’s profit, meanwhile, is really both substantive and substantial — increasing a whopping 258% on record commercial orders of over 1,000 planes. After eliminating retiree medical coverage for new hires in its latest engineers’ contract, the company is now going after 1,200 UAW members in its Pennsylvania plant, without a contract since Sept. 1. Boeing is clearly on a rampage to eliminate retiree benefits spurred on more by the general political climate than the company’s immediate financial situation.

Expensive Imperialist Wars Define Political Climate

The day after the contract vote The Seattle Times ran a banner headline: "Iraq War is costing $100,000 per minute." Upon seeing this, a friend at Boeing in the Seattle area — the last place left with retiree medical benefits for new hires — saw the handwriting on the wall. "You guys are right," he admitted to a CHALLENGE seller, "there’s not going to be any money left for pensions after all these wars."

The Pentagon is screaming for cost containment for all their fancy killing machines, given the projected trillion-dollar price tag for the Iraq war. (Who knows how much blood and money we’ll have to sacrifice if the bosses succeed in their long-range plans to send upwards of five million troops to secure Mid-East oil? See CHALLENGE, 1/18.) In fact, 15 Boeing V.P.’s are presently under investigation for one form or another of price gouging. But this is capitalism and it’s the workers — in this case, at Boeing — who ultimately will pay for the bosses’ imperialist wars.

The defeat of this strike is reversing the momentum created when the Lockheed workers overrode their union misleaders to strike for future workers. Our Party and friends helped bring this fight to the Seattle-area locals. The momentum built with the Seattle-area strike and the NYC transit strike, where black workers took the lead. For a while, no IAM leader would dare accept the elimination of retiree medical benefits for new hires. With this rocket contract vote, the misleaders have the green light to pave the way for long-planned concessions.

Union Misleaders’ Patriotism Undermines Workers

Rather than build the kind of industry-wide strikes which could "up the ante" in the battle against these war cuts, the IAM leaders held pitifully small rallies wrapped in patriotic bunting. In essence, they told the strikers, "You’re weak and small in number. It’s better to show your allegiance to the bosses and their imperialist war plans than look for power from the masses of workers, which could provoke a real confrontation."

"They’re picking us off, one small group at a time," complained a Boeing machinist.

We also must look beyond our shores for allies, as well as to other U.S. plants. Millions of our working-class brothers and sisters are employed building arms, or are in industries that can quickly be converted to weapons production, as the inter-imperialist rivalry sharpens.

The U.S. ruling class, in particular, is desperate to maintain its military and political hegemony while facing a relatively declining manufacturing base. The union misleaders tell us our future lies with these bloodsuckers. It’s a fools’ game! If this strike taught us anything it’s that lining up behind our nation’s bosses insures a future of wars and war-inspired cuts for workers.

The bosses will launch their wars and war cuts; there’s no way to reform this system to meet our class’s needs. Nevertheless, upping the ante with industry-wide strikes, both union and non-union, could help us understand both our potential revolutionary power and give us more real-life experiences fighting the obstacles to achieving that power. Such broad strikes could target subcontractors, home to the majority of aerospace workers and the site of vicious racist exploitation. We’ll learn who are our friends and who are our enemies; the need to build working-class international unity; and the need to fight all the bosses, regardless of which flag they fly.

The possibility of increasing our revolutionary forces comes with increased class struggle if we focus on expanding our CHALLENGE networks and recruitment. That’s the second lesson of this strike — and the most important: building for communist revolution is the only viable answer to the attacks by this system hell bent on an imperialist bloodbath that squanders both our young people and our retirement.

Mass Demonstrations, Student Strikes Hit French Rulers’ Labor ‘Reforms’

PARIS, FRANCE, Feb. 13 — Between Feb. 2 and 7, up to half a million workers and students demonstrated in nearly 200 cities nationwide to protest new government measures that would result in a massive increase in job insecurity and insecurity in working conditions. A student strike has shut two large universities. French bosses, in their drive to maximize profits, have been pressing for more widespread use of temporary workers and complete freedom in laying off workers, especially youth, during a "trial period" which lasts 24 months! They’ve been demanding that France fall in line with the rest of Europe which — in the U.K., Spain, even Germany — has more "flexible" labor laws.

Until now, France has strictly limited temporary work contracts, to be used only to meet sudden increased company needs, or to replace temporarily absent permanent workers, and then only for 18 months.

Despite this legal "protection," the number of permanently temporary workers has ballooned in France, as it has worldwide. In Europe, France is the second-biggest market for temporary work. In 2001, two million people — 2.3% of the working population — had a temporary work contract.

Years ago, small companies were granted looser labor laws and lower employee contributions to social security, "to allow these poor little companies to compete in the market."

Last summer the government imposed the CNE (contract for new employment) which allows companies with fewer than 20 workers a 24-month trial period before a job becomes permanent. This involves 95% of French companies, employing four million workers — 29% of the country’s workforce.

After quelling last fall’s rebellion in the housing projects, on January 15 the Chirac-Villepin-Sarkozy government decided to extend these measures through the CPE (contract for first employment). This will allow the same "flexibility" to companies with over 20 workers when they hire people under 26.

Employers can easily lay off workers during the trial period. The CPE will allow the bosses to blackmail young workers into accepting unbelievably bad working conditions. Even if workers comply with all the boss’s demands, there’s no guarantee they’ll be kept after the trial period ends.

In addition, employer contributions to social security are being cut. The government justifies this because unemployment figures are slightly better. But it has been aggressively striking unemployed workers from the rolls and baby boomers have been retiring. Reducing social security contributions will force workers to pay more — and directly — for unemployment benefits.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin — meeting the bosses’ demands — is enabling workers over 57 to top off their inadequate retirement pensions by returning to work, subject to discussion between the bosses and union leaders.

Finally — following another bosses’ demand — Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is rewriting the immigration laws to allow only skilled or university-educated workers to immigrate into France.

All this is leading to the government’s complete re-write of the law on temporary work contracts by this summer. It is all these measures that will produce massive insecurity. This is a huge attack on young people, the trade union movement, temporary workers, the unemployed, and the anti-globalization movement. Not surprisingly, resistance has erupted.

A joint trade union demonstration of up to 100,000 emerged on February 2 to defend public services and demand higher wages. Many demonstrators were high school students and their teachers. Condemnation of the CPE was a main theme.

On February 7, up to 400,000 people participated in 187 protests around France, responding to a joint call by the trade unions and the university and high school student unions. A Humanité-CSA poll showed 58% of the population opposing the CPE.

The center of student protests has been at the University of Rennes II. Prior to February 7, 1,500 students held a mass meeting. On that day, 12,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Rennes. The following day saw a mass meeting of 2,500 students held outdoors because there was no indoor amphitheater big enough for the crowd. Students voted to shut down the university. They’ve occupied the buildings and organized picket lines. The striking students are working to educate non-strikers, who generally oppose the CPE but complain that the strike limits their movements on campus.

The university hospital workers joined picketing students. One explained that the number of temporary workers at the hospital has tripled over the past several years.

The university administration is trying to use the student movement to pursue its own agenda of obtaining more government credits. Thus the board of regents approved a motion favoring the student demands. Of course, these are the same regents who extended temporary work at the university hospital!

Now students at the University of Toulouse occupied campus buildings today to protest the same CPE.

On February 13 students at Rennes II were to vote on whether to continue their strike. A new demonstration was scheduled for February 14. (Next issue: The machinations of the government and the political parties.)

Community College Faculty Fights Piece Work

BOSTON, Feb. 3 — More than two dozen part-time faculty at Roxbury Community College (RCC) have pledged to refuse to teach for reduced pay this semester, challenging an unjust policy that exists across the Massachusetts Community College system. The policy requires that adjuncts who teach courses with low student enrollment be further underpaid, basing their salaries on the number of students in the class (a form of piece work). (Full-timers have not faced such a pay-cut, yet.) In addition to the pledges, hundreds of faculty and students signed a petition to the college President calling for the elimination of this exploitative policy.

Throughout higher education, each year more and more adjunct faculty are hired to replace retiring full-timers. This two-tier system saves these publicly-funded colleges millions of tax dollars, which can then be diverted to fund the U.S. war machine. It divides faculty into the have-less and have-nots. The have-nots (adjuncts) are subjected to intolerable wages and working conditions. Even though adjunct faculty are covered by a union contract, they receive no health or retirement benefits and have almost no seniority rights. They work semester to semester, with a high level of fear and demoralization.

At RCC, the super-exploitation of adjuncts also has a racist character since many more adjuncts than full-timers are black and immigrant. Also, the downgrading of faculty degrades the education of the black and immigrant student population.

Adjuncts are also second-class citizens within the faculty union which has not fought to eliminate the two tiers. This has alienated the adjuncts from the union, which they see as an elitist organization that defends only the full-time faculty. (But given the existence of two tiers, the union has failed to protect full-timers as well - their pay, workload and seniority rights have slid backwards since the 1970's, following the expansion of the use of part-timers.)

With this campaign against "piece work" at RCC, the union has won enough unity to challenge one of the hated anti-adjunct policies. However, the most important victory is strengthening the unity between faculty, staff and students. That's the only way we'll be able to defend our jobs and fight the massive attack on public higher education, part of the general class war being waged against the working class. Strengthening this unity means struggling against elitism, individualism and fear within the faculty.

We cannot accept the increased use of adjuncts with second-class status simply as "the way it is." Nor can we accept the way management frames the issue, as a problem "for adjuncts only." We need to win all faculty away from the notion of "serving the college." This blurs the class realities and leads us to ally with the administration that is hired to carry out the policies of the corporate-controlled Board of Higher Education.

We must make the main contradiction not between full-timers and adjuncts, but between the fight for equality versus the acceptance of inequality. As we struggle to unite the faculty, we have an opportunity to build class consciousness. Spreading the readership of CHALLENGE will be an indispensable part of making this happen.

Fighting for Revolutionary Class Consciousness at CUNY

During the NYC transit workers’ three-day strike last December, nearly 100 City University of New York (CUNY) workers — all members of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union — joined the picket lines and marched in solidarity with the strikers. These academic workers were motivated by class consciousness — the idea that those who work for a living, whether blue, white or pink collar, belong to the working class, whose interests are opposed to the interests of the capitalist class, represented in this strike by billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MTA Chairman/real estate tycoon Peter Kalikow.

The Progressive Labor Party’s CUNY club helped organize faculty support for the strike, taking people from our schools to the lines, and encouraging other teachers to do likewise. Our pro-working-class colleagues were thrilled to see public workers militantly resisting the rulers’ plans to make us pay for our pensions and health care. CUNY professors and staff have worked for three years without a contract because management refuses to give us more than token salary increases, or to improve our pitiful dental and drug plans. Even for this, management is insisting on "productivity" concessions.

Elitist notions of "professionalism" are eroding as professors and staff realize that their own wages are not much different from those who run the trains and buses. The median salary for a full-time CUNY professor is $57,000 annually, while adjunct faculty — part-timers who teach the majority of CUNY classes — average $22,000.

The capitalist class’s huge ideological apparatus — TV, newspapers, the schools — denies concepts of class or class interests. Their ideology ridicules the powerful and correct Marxist understanding that classes exist and that the capitalists and their politician servants constitute a ruling class whose interests dictate governmental policy — from pension "reform" to oil wars in the Middle East.

The rulers’ ideology promotes division within the working class. For example, those with college educations, especially advanced degree holders, are encouraged to think they’re "smarter" and deserve higher salaries and greater benefits. People performing mental labor are led to feel superior to those performing manual labor. The professors and staff who picketed on those frigid December days did so because they long for a working-class unity enabling us to stand up to those who want to erode our salaries and working conditions, while sending our youth off to die in imperialist wars.

One thing differentiating us from some of our leftist colleagues and friends — our co-workers who we join in various activities — is our belief that revolutionary politics need to be brought into the reform movement. We believe it’s impossible to reform capitalism to meet the needs of working people. The demise of the old communist movement and the rise of the right-wing, including red-baiters and gutter racists like David Horowitz, have persuaded many anti-capitalists inside universities that revolutionary politics must be shelved. However, we in PLP think attacks on labor and civil liberties (moving toward fascism), and imperialist wars to control dwindling oil and gas reserves, all cry out for Marxist class analysis and the vision of a society run by and for workers.

The PSC, led by progressive activists, has fought hard and long for a decent contract, while opposing tuition increases for CUNY’s working-class students (the majority black and Latin, mostly from low-income families). Our friends have devoted considerable time and energy to these vital campaigns, and PLP’ers have joined this effort. Yet tuition continues to rise (more than 200% in 14 years) and is slated to rise again this year.

Recently, Governor Pataki, who is trying to burnish his "tough-on-labor" credentials in order to attract corporate donations for his Presidential campaign, rejected the tentative PSC contract as "too generous." The capitalists and their bought politicians don’t intend to give workers, including professors or students, what they need — either decent health care plans or affordable education.

Despite calls by conservative professors to stick to "bread and butter" issues, the PSC has firmly opposed the U.S. war in Iraq, and pushed for anti-war resolutions at the American Federation of Teachers convention. Hundreds of PSC members have marched in Washington, D.C. and NYC against the war. PLP members also have been active in building anti-war committees and clubs at our schools. Yet the Iraqi occupation continues, supported by Democratic Party standard-bearers like Hillary Clinton. Bi-partisan plans are being made for attacking Iran. Those who hate imperialism and its death and destruction, must fight its capitalist roots.

As CUNY teachers and staff, the rulers’ special role for us is producing future generations of politically docile workers, convincing them that capitalism is the best game in town; that it is "natural," with no alternative; and that if people are dissatisfied with their jobs or lives, they should seek individual, not collective solutions. Along with our friends, we in PLP are trying to create a red opposition, from elementary to graduate school, which tells students the truth about capitalism and imperialism and presents an alternative.

In the past, some European leftists advocated turning universities into "red base areas." But the ruling class will never allow their educational system to be controlled by its enemies. Instead, the "red base area" is the revolutionary party, the center of anti-capitalist education operating within the capitalist educational system, drawing in new faculty, students and parents. We energetically participate in political battles to win reforms, but out of which we must build the revolutionary PLP to win the ultimate prize, a new society, a communist world.

Miners’ History the Road to Follow in Altoona, Pa. Strike

The recent West Virginia mine disasters raise the question of the fight for the unionization of coal miners. Some people out here in the Western Pennsylvania coal fields say the real solution to miners’ on-the-job safety would be to organize a local of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at every mine.

If I were a coal miner, I’d definitely rather work in a union mine than in a non-union one. In reality, most miners understand the difference. This is a positive thing.

In fact, union safety committees have the right to "red tag" unsafe mines and shut them down. Also, a union miner can report unsafe conditions without fear of being fired. That’s not true for a non-union miner.

The murderous coal bosses do everything in their power to bust the union. The union represents a degree of mine workers’ power that the bosses can’t live with.

But the union leadership or bureaucracy, which supports the capitalist profit system and relies on the bosses’ government agencies, will not wage the kind of battle needed to organize the non-union mines.

Historically speaking, the UMWA was built through class struggle by rank-and-file miners. It’s interesting that when those trapped miners died in the Sago mine, some miners and other workers said they were going to arm themselves and get justice on their own. Throughout U.S. history, miners waged armed battles against company gun thugs to win justice.

Many coal miners have been willing to put their lives on the line to organize a union. However, the UMWA leadership will attempt to channel the miners’ militancy into support for so-called liberal Democratic Party "friends" of labor.

While I support the unionization of miners, I know that capitalism can’t be reformed to meet the needs of miners and other workers. In reality, a miners’ class-struggle fight for unionization must become a school for communism and workers’ power. Ultimately, the only real solution to the problems facing miners, such as safety on the job, is communist revolution and workers’ power.

Giving Strikers A Communist Slant

Trying to inch along that road, I went with a friend of mine to Altoona, Pa., where some electronics workers were striking for a new contract. The company had hired scabs. The strikers told the bosses they’d work under the old contract until a settlement was reached, but the company locked them out, telling them they "were no longer needed." The workers are continuing to picket, realizing this is a union-busting scheme. I decided to visit these workers and give them copies of CHALLENGE.

Altoona can be a very right-wing area. Recently some local skinheads held a Nazi rock show and beer bash at a nearby hall. The local press said 125 white racists attended.

I told a friend, an electrician, about the strike. He offered to drive me there. So I donned my Pittsburgh Steelers coat and off we went.

When we arrived, about 12 workers were picketing. I told my friend that if we got our asses kicked, it would be for a good cause. We approached the strikers and said we were from Cambria County and came to show our support for their strike. We chatted a while about the Super Bowl and the strike. Then I said I had a paper which always takes the side of the workers and handed them a couple of CHALLENGES.

They looked them over and then asked me, "A communist paper, huh?" Another asked if I was a communist. I replied that I wanted to see a society controlled by workers instead of by super-rich bosses and their servants in the Republican and Democratic parties. Then they asked if my friend was a communist and he said he agreed with me.

The workers kept the papers, we didn’t get our asses kicked and after a while we left. So now some more workers have been introduced to our revolutionary communist paper. Not a bad experience at all.

Red Coal

NEW YORK CITY, Feb. 9 — Today, PL’ers held a rally at the hotel residence here of Wilbur Ross, condemning the owner of the mines in which 14 workers were killed because his only concern is profits at the expense of workers’ safety. (See CHALLENGE, 2/4 and 2/18) We held up large "Wanted For Murder" posters with his photo pasted on them, distributing leaflets with the same headline.

The limo and private car drivers standing outside the hotel saw our posters and told us they knew Ross and often drove him around. One friendly driver spoke with us for quite a while.

People entering the hotel were shocked to hear their neighbor called a murderer. They took leaflets, some even shouting that he wasn’t a murderer.

But our revolutionary communist pro-worker, anti-boss politics exposed Ross for what he is, a killer of his workers.µ

Indian Airport Workers’ Strikes Stop Cops, Scabs

In the second week in February, 23,000 workers struck India’s airports for four days, defying the courts, the law, the local police, the Rapid Action Force (SWAT plus) and the Indian Air Force. Airport bosses admitted their hands were tied; they dared not hire scabs for fear the strikers would attack them. The strikers blocked roads leading to the main airports as well as terminal entrances. Headlines screamed about "Chaos at the Airports" and the "adverse affect on India’s international image." The "Indian miracle" promoted at the last Davos Big Business confab is a hell for workers.

Stopping privatization was the workers’ main demand. The private companies scheduled to acquire the airports plan to fire 40% of the workforce. The so-called "communist" parties won't risk their position in the coalition government and are calling on it to lead the drive towards "modernization." Whether private or public, the workers will bear the brunt of the costs of streamlining the airports. Only communist revolution can halt these attacks. Building a real communist party, the Progressive Labor Party, is the only road to that goal.

Workshop Responds to CHALLENGE

BROOKLYN, NY, Jan. 28 — Today activists in unions, faith-based organizations, schools and anti-war groups met to discuss CHALLENGE-DESAFIO’s role in bringing communist ideas to our friends in these areas. Our goal was to increase circulation and encourage more people to write for the paper.

Beforehand, we all were to introduce the paper to someone who’d never seen it. We also each discussed with at least one person what they thought about articles in CHALLENGE. With those who have already read it, we asked if they could circulate it to one or more friends.

After an initial session about the paper’s role in combating the problems facing the working class, in discussing our efforts in expanding circulation, many reported an increase. We agreed that each of us should make an ongoing plan to build circulation.

Next we had an exercise in writing articles. We divided into small groups to write an on-the-job article, a health-related series and a movie review. Questions before us included: What goes into writing a good article? How long should it be? Who are our readers? How do we present revolutionary ideas?

For quite a few, this was the first time they’d ever experienced such a discussion and exercise. Everyone agreed this was a well-spent afternoon which should be repeated soon.

Revolutionary History:

Secret Police No Match for Bolshevik Base Built Through Iskra Networks

The Czar’s secret police, the Okhrana, is thought by many to have been one of the most efficient political police forces ever. Nonetheless, it was never able to smash the revolutionary socialist movement organized along scientific principals by leaders like Lenin. Lenin credits the Bolshevik newspaper, Iskra, and the networks of mass distribution the Party built around it with preserving and nurturing the revolution.

Okhrana agents spied on suspicious persons hourly, day and night, without any interruptions. Its special brigades shadowed its prey throughout all Russia, even across Europe, from city to city, from country to country, hoping to uncover the Party’s organizational make-up.

Okhrana’s greatest successes came from its internal spying. One example was Julia Oréstovna Serova who worked as an Okhrana agent until 1910, when she was uncovered by the Bolsheviks. Occupying relatively leading Party positions, she supplied the Okhrana with important information about the Bolshevik organization in St. Petersburg and the provinces. Her betrayals led to many arrests of Bolsheviks, including the entire Petersburg Bolshevik committee on March 1, 1905.

Even though the Bolsheviks were masters at clandestine work, they could not completely prevent the Okhrana’s infiltrations. The Czar’s minister Stolpyn built gallows all across Russia. From 1905 to 1912 thousands of Bolsheviks and revolutionary workers were executed. Thousands more were exiled or imprisoned. Yet the Bolsheviks were able not only to survive these vicious attacks but to grow during this fascist period. Five years later they led the Russian working class to power! How? The answer lies in their newspaper Iskra and the Party’s networks of mass distribution.

Iskra, the all-Russian newspaper for which Lenin fought so hard, played two very important roles in this period — (1) to enable the Party to survive, to function under all circumstances and to grow; and (2) to train new leaders and the working class in general. From these networks they organized Party clubs and study groups and through them influenced the class struggle, which in turn led to bigger Iskra networks.

How did the Bolsheviks deal with the Petersburg arrests? If, for instance, their organization consisted of 70 members and each one had a readership and a political base of 10 others, this put 700 people under Iskra’s influence. Shortly after the arrests, the Party leadership would send a couple of members to reorganize the cells from that base of 700. The Bolshevik cells would be active again in a matter of a week or two, to the dismay of the Okhrana and the ruling class.

The leaders of these new Party organizations come from the workers, students and soldiers who had been reading Iskra for years. The all-Russian newspaper had given them an overview of the need for revolution and an understanding of the class struggle and the need for ideological struggle — in the fields, factories, schools and army; in the villages, towns, cities and the provinces; nationally and internationally; outside and inside the Party.

The weight Lenin gave to the Iskra networks can best be shown by his reaction to an infiltrator, who was responsible for smuggling Iskra into Russia. As a member of the Central Committee, the spy sat at Lenin’s side. "That way we have their whole propaganda apparatus," read the Okhrana’s archive. Lenin differed, saying, "He sent dozens of the best revolutionaries to death but he was forced to help create tens of thousands." If he had stopped introducing Iskra into Russia, it would have blown his cover and he would have been useless to the Okhrana, like the spy Julia who ended up committing suicide.

The Okhrana was helpless in stopping Iskra, much less in destroying its all-important networks that won and trained masses of workers to fight for revolution, and maintained the Party under all circumstances. It behooves us in PLP to learn from the Bolsheviks’ rich experience to be able to face the challenges that lie before us on the road to communist revolution.


Will You Have Your Own Toothbrush?

Communism means sharing and an end to "private property." But what do communists mean by "private property"? For example, does the end of "private property" mean that one will not even own a toothbrush, or your own clothes?

These questions are not as silly as they might appear. After all, anti-communists — particularly the capitalists, who stand to lose the most from a communist revolution — attempt to discredit communism in many ways. One way is to claim the communists say you must surrender all your personal possessions.

However, the "private property" that will cease to exist is profit-making private property, such as factories, mines and banks. These will all be owned in common by the entire working class — wherever communism exists. Common ownership of such sectors of society removes the basis for capitalists to exploit workers and steal the value of our labor which produces their private profit. (For a full explanation of profit, see the PLP pamphlet "Political Economy: a Communist Critique of the Wage System."

Working-class take-over of all public enterprises and functions will address the collective needs of our class, rather than the profit needs of the tiny capitalist class.

For example, communism will provide free mass transit, and much more of it, with people mainly traveling together instead of mostly alone in their cars. Schools will encourage students to think, work and solve problems together. Housing will be transformed so people interact more freely, often eat together, and even shovel snow or otherwise care for our residential surroundings collectively. Under capitalism, people shovel out their own driveways, sidewalks and parking spots, or mow their own lawns — though there are many examples in U.S. rural history of people working together on projects, such as barn raisings, corn huskings and quilting bees.

However, under extreme circumstances, such as world war preceding a communist revolution, people would likely be motivated to share all available housing, food and resources.

But what about that toothbrush? Don’t you want to have your own personal, private brush for mucking around in your own mouth? Do you really want to share your toothbrush with friends and neighbors? Or your underclothes?

Even as the Party and working class make gigantic strides toward redesigning institutions to be more collective, people still have individual bodies. Those bodies have needs, and the working class, led by their mass communist party (PLP), will take a reasonable and scientific approach toward meeting those needs.

Our mouths are full of bacteria. We may want to share many things, but not oral germs or toothbrushes. And it’s neither necessary nor practical for people not to own their own clothes.

However, there may be a collective aspect even to toothbrushes. Dentists now recommend electronic toothbrushes. The heads rotate or vibrate rapidly, much faster than one can do manually. They do a better job removing plaque, thereby helping to prevent tooth and gum disease. Under capitalism, these devices are expensive. Under communism they would be available to everyone. These base units could be made available to several people in a family; each one could use their "personal" toothbrush head.

So the idea that under communism you would be forced into unhygienic behavior or lose even the shirt off your back is just anti-communist nonsense. There would be plenty of personal space.

The working class will constantly need to coordinate individual physical and psychological needs while building a world based on sharing.


Religion’s Mass Murderers Are No Joke

The Danish newspaper that printed the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb as a turban is a neo-Nazi outfit linked to German and Italian fascism. It printed the cartoon mainly to spread more racism against Muslim immigrants in Europe.

Those Muslims are so "uncivilized" about their religion; they have no sense of humor, unlike some Christians. Let’s see:

Maybe it was the lack of sense of humor of the Christian rulers of Europe which brought us the Dark Ages (setting Europe back to pre-Roman Empire times), the Crusades, the Inquisition, colonialism, the slave trade, the Salem witchhunts, endless wars, the holocaust, and on and on.

Just a couple of months ago, millions of born-again Christians didn’t appreciate the sense of The "Book of David," a liberal TV show about a disjointed Episcopalian priest’s family — one son was gay, the other an adopted Chinese and the daughter a pot smoker — was cancelled after three episodes because of pressure from born-again Christian fascists.

It’s O.K. in the U.S. to slander science like evolution and invent crap like "Intelligent" Design and creationism, but raise doubts here about the Bible or Christianity and in some places your life will be in danger.

When a Spanish priest told Inca king Atahualpa to accept the Bible as the word of God and the road to salvation, Atahualpa shook the Bible, put it by his ear and, hearing no "words," threw it on the floor. Spain’s conquistador Pizarro took care of this kind of sense of humor by murdering Atahualpa and tens of thousands of Incas.

When another priest told Cuban Indian leader Hatuey to accept Christianity and he’d go to heaven, Hatuey asked if his Christian torturers would also go to heaven. When the priest replied "yes," Hatuey said he’d rather go to hell. Hatuey was burned alive by these good Christians.

For decades, hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants (many of them Indians) were murdered in Central America by the followers of Washington’s holy rollers, like Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efrain Montt, a born-again evangelist, whose daughter is engaged to a right-wing U.S. Republican congressman.

As Karl Marx said, religion is the opiate of the masses.

A. Teo

Explanations Missing From Transit Articles

The coverage of the NYC transit strike was informative. However, we need to improve an aspect of our CHALLENGE articles. They always present a contract\strike in the context of a "war economy" and of the current stage of capitalism — "inter-imperialist rivalry." These are part of our communist assertions that underlie the transit strike articles.

These assertions state facts concluded from a communist analysis and appear to be written for people who already agree with them. The steps that help other workers arrive at these conclusions are missing. CHALLENGE could be more helpful with articles that comprehensively show how we reached our conclusions.

What workers think is important to investigate. Our experience is that many, many working-class people see "guns vs. butter" as the direction of the U.S. economy — given trillions in spending, debt financing and tax cuts for the rich; — one effect of the war is less money in transportation budgets. Do they therefore feel, as CHALLENGE might conclude, that they can do something on the job about this?

In another city’s transit agency where PLP has exposed how the Transit Authority represents big capital and how they benefited from transit, a transit worker told us she talked up support for the NYC strike. She told co-workers that the $450 million New York City lost each day shows how much transit workers produce and how little we get back. But she didn’t want to discourage people about strike action if the settlement was bad, because that was the level they were at. She said the war was connected to City deficits but felt she couldn’t develop that connection with many co-workers. Still, a year ago she supported a PLP-sponsored union resolution that bus drivers should not collaborate with the police to transport arrested anti-war protesters, even though she had done it once. How she can influence co-workers is an on-going discussion.

The NYC strike demands reflected the basic idea of class unity. Strikers agreed to fight the trend of contracts settled on the backs of new workers. They struck against the MTA demand that new workers pay more for pensions and retire later. However, the demands didn’t oppose the Iraq war or U.S. imperialism.

While on paper TWU Local 100 is against the Iraq war (a resolution), there isn’t a lot of action from the members on this issue. There are Local 100 members in a Transportation Unit of the National Guard. Also, the predominantly black and Latin workforce probably has many families with relatives in the military. This situation can pull both ways in positions about the war. Probably most members are against it individually — polls show a high percentage of black and Latin workers oppose the war.

CHALLENGE says, "The strike showed that workers are not willing to pay for hundreds of billions the bosses need for their endless imperialist wars."

Does that mean that the transit workers consciously view a strike as a weapon of collective action to carry out their individual position against the war or to stop it?

After seeing transit workers bring NYC to a standstill, do our friends then conclude that strikes are a weapon in the hands of the working class to interfere with the war? Could this happen? Do our friends want to join us in developing this transformation?

Will transit workers look mainly at the economic outcome of the settlement and conclude that strikes are not worth it, as our transit friend worried above?

In our attempt to follow up with some NY transit workers, we found that many of our communist assertions rang true but required lots of explaining as to why. For example, we discussed the PLP pamphlet "Unfair at Any Fare" which exposes how Finance Capital (Wall Street banks and investment houses), ran the NYC transit system into the ground when they owned it. They then made billions by financing bonds for the City to buy it. We updated this robbery by indicating today’s differences when U.S. capital has problems competing worldwide and will attack transit workers even harder to lower labor costs while still collecting on the debt.

We asked each other what changes were needed in transit and other workers’ thinking to impel them to spread the illegal strike further, instead of returning to work without a contract. We asked them to evaluate what Local 100 members thought about the strike and the war. We’re continuing this dialogue about the war, the need for communist organizers in the union, revolution, communism, the need for a party, etc. We think this will help develop agreement with CHALLENGE’S communist assertion that, "The strike was a mass political and anti-racist struggle."

Long-time CHALLENGE sellers

CHALLENGE comments: We welcome the letter-writers’ critique of the paper’s reports on the transit strike. Yes, it is important to give explanations that enable workers to understand what’s behind our communist conclusions. If we didn’t do that enough in the many articles we wrote and letters received, we will try to do better in the future, and need your help.

On the point about whether this was a strike against the war or war economy: In the main article (CHALLENGE, 1/18) datelined Jan. 2, second paragraph, after saying that, "The strike showed that workers are not willing to pay for…the bosses…endless imperialist wars," there followed an explanation of the link between these wars and the need to attack workers’ conditions. It stated: "Even if the workers didn’t view this as a strike against the war economy, the bosses certainly do."

We continued in this article and others to explain that the reason for the bosses’ (and their media’s) vicious, massive attack on the strike stemmed from the fact that it would hurt their ability to pay for, and wage, war if other workers — who have been surrendering to the cuts in wages, pensions and health care benefits — were to follow the example of a strike that broke the bosses’ laws.

No doubt the workers didn’t make their demands because they opposed the war — which that first quote above may have implied (although, as you state, probably a majority are opposed individually). But we were indicating that this was the objective result of a strike involving the very things the bosses were trying to cut in order to pay for the war, and a strike against the bosses’ law, at that./

The similar understanding of some strikers were revealed in the string of quotes we printed that our members heard on the picket lines, such as, "I fought in Nam and the Gulf War. This is how they repay us, by attacking workers…. These wars are all about making money for the rich."

And another one, from a worker who shouted to a cheering crowd of strikers, "This is a fascist society! The bosses are no different from Hitler!"

The level of the workers’ understanding of the links between these issues — even if the demands weren’t directly linked to the war — was mirrored in a letter in the last issue which reported that workers plastered the front page of CHALLENGE ("The Revolutionary Communist Newspaper") on the front of a token booth for the whole world to see.

We also did explain how the bankers profit from the workers’ labors in the first three paragraphs of the article entitled, "Banks Are the Big Winners" in the January 18 issue.

On transit workers viewing a "bad economic outcome" as making strikes "not worth it": yes, the bosses spread this false idea to induce workers never to strike. But particularly NYC transit workers have a militant history of "no contract, no work" which they attempt to follow in the teeth of strike-breaking laws. The reason they struck is precisely because they knew they'd get a lousy contract without a walkout, which has happened in the past. If they do get a "bad economic outcome," many, if not most, will attribute it to an incompetent, sellout leadership, not because "strikes are not worth it." Many realized that without threatening a strike, and/or striking, they'd never have achieved whatever advances they've made. Of course the bosses always try to reverse whatever gains workers make.

On the point about the "communist assertion" that "The strike was a mass political and anti-racist struggle": The ruling class itself made this a major issue, from the mayor’s racist accusation of this predominantly black and Latin workforce as "selfish thugs" and "thieves"; to the NY Times worrying about the "clash of race, culture and class"; to the slew of TV, newspaper and radio talk show references to the fact that these workers saw themselves as victims of racism, which helped to drive the strike. They were equated with the 9/11 terrorists!

We tried to indicate through the many articles as well as letters from PLP members reporting on picket line events and reactions to CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets, that a strike that breaks the law, which provokes the ruling-class assault that ensued, including blatant racist attacks, really was "a mass political and anti-racist struggle."

Since you, our readers — and CHALLENGE sellers — are part of the "staff" that produces the paper, we would hope that you all see yourselves as helping to write the explanations that are necessary to prove our communist politics, as your letter is attempting to do.

Fighting Racism in Turkey

I have been following your website from Istanbul. Good work, brothers and sisters.

I was born here, am 25 and work in a bank. We are proudly fighting racism with our art movement in Turkey. Islamic fanaticism is growing here and we youths are trying to combat these fundamentalist ideas.

Good luck to your movement in the fight against racism.

Anti-racist fighter in Istanbul

Another Name for Communist Column?

The new column, "Under Communism" is a great addition to the paper. It helps develop the understanding that communism is a way of life, not just about taking money from the rich, etc.

However, I believe the title should be changed, maybe to "Communist Life" or something like that. The current title could be interpreted to mean that somehow communism is "over" the people. It doesn’t need to have that meaning, but it can feed into the anti-communist idea many have that communism is a plan made by experts who are separated from the people.

A title like "Communist Life" has a more positive, strong sound to it. It would also enable us to tell stories about "communist life" that existed even though communist political-economic systems have not yet been established, such as writing about the Subbotniks in the young USSR.

Please consider changing the name of the column to "Communist Life," or something like that.

A Regular Reader


US aim: Make Iraq safe for oil contracts

Bush will not withdraw our forces until U.S. oil companies have secure access to Iraq’s resources….

Prior to the 2003 invasion, foreign companies had been limited to no access to the Iraqi market. Only Iraqis or citizens of Arab nations could own a business in Iraq. The oil sector was fully nationalized....

Following the invasion, the Bush administration implemented orders that have the effect of law allowing for the privatization of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises, 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi business....These orders were enshrined in the October 15 Iraq constitution.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry aims "to begin signing long-term contracts with foreign oil companies during the first nine months of 2006," according to [one] report.

Signing the contracts is just the beginning, U.S. companies also need a safe place to work. This is where the U.S. military comes in and it is why Bush refuses to bring the troops home. (Antonia Juhas, author of "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time," Regan Books, to be published in April 2006 (, 1/18)

Majority Rule? We don’t get it by voting!

The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush’s tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax….

There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times…. (Molly Ivins: Creators Syndicate, 1/20)

US nudges Bolivia army toward a coup

Less than a month after an assertively anti-American president took office in Bolivia, the Bush administration is planning to cut military aid to the country by 96 percent….

The cut holds the potential to anger Bolivia’s powerful military establishment, which has been responsible for a long history of coups. (NYT, 2/9)

Army shifting to Latino cannon-fodder

From 2001-2005, the number of Latino enlistments in the Army rose 26 percent….

The enlistment of African-Americans, a group particularly disillusioned with the war in Iraq, has dropped off sharply, to 14.5 percent from 22.3 percent over the past four years….

Latinos often wind up as cannon fodder on the casualty-prone front lines. African- Americans saw the same thing happen during the 1970’s and 1980’s…

Hispanics make up only 4.7 percent of the military’s officer corps.

"The fear is that the military is going to try to replace, consciously or unconsciously, African-Americans with Hispanics…" (NYT, 2/9)

Replacing Bush won’t stop capitalist wars

…In Munich this weekend, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, staking out a position that is more hawkish than anything the Bush administration has said in public, put the predicament this way:

"There is only one thing worse than military action," he said, "and that is a nuclear-armed Iran." (NYT)

Comics tie Cheney hawkishness to gunshot

What do you do when the vice president shoots someone?....

Even Mr. Cheney’s most loyal friends could only brace themselves for the one-liners to come….

"Something I just found out today about the incident," Jay Leno said Monday on the "Tonight Show" on NBC. "Do you know that Dick Cheney tortured the guy for a half-hour before he shot him?"….

… "The Daily Show"…correspondent Rob Corddry, introduced as a "vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst," said that "according to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush," and "everyone believed there were quail in the brush," and "while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he would still have shot Mr. Whittington…" (NYT, 2/14)