While the Minutemen attack immigrants at the border and across the U.S., the top liberal imperialists want to put many of the country's 11 million undocumented workers on the road to legalization and allow more to enter as "guest workers." This dispute pits the interests of an increasingly challenged U.S. imperialism against those of the Republican Party's right-wing. No wonder the New York Times -- mouthpiece of the biggest, most viciously racist bosses -- cries crocodile tears over the plight of immigrant day-laborers and editorializes for legislative reform! (2/25)
The Minutemen swine champion mass deportations, which divide and weaken the working class. They support the Sensenbrenner House of Representatives bill to build a 700-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and criminalize of anyone helping undocumented immigrants in any way.
Meanwhile, Senators Kennedy and McCain are sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that might "legalize" many undocumented workers while deporting those unemployed for over 45 consecutive days. It would control immigrants and enforce stronger border control.
For years, the labor union leadership has supported every anti-immigrant measure, along with protectionism, racism, and nationalism. Suddenly they "support" the immigrants' rights to organize. Part is opportunism since immigrant workers play an increasingly key role in all sectors of industry. Also, they need more dues-paying members as their ranks shrink to ever lower levels. At Caterpillar, for example, the union is welcoming into its ranks workers making less than half the wages of senior workers. (NY Times, 2/26)
The AFL-CIO and SEIU follow the dictates of the top imperialists. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) explains (see box page 2) that reforming U.S. immigration policy to allow legalization of undocumented immigrants and a guest worker program is crucial to improving relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries.
With the U.S. native population aging, and sharpening competition from their rivals, U.S. rulers need a loyal, low-paid workforce in key industries -- controlled by immigration reform -- while they slash higher-paying jobs. And the nation's growers want more workers -- braceros -- to pick their crops. The liberals want selective deportations -- not to deport everyone but to create terror. They're focusing mainly on Latino youth to join the military, to vastly enlarge the Army for an expanding fight for U.S. dominance of Mid-East oil beyond Iraq.
The liberal imperialist bosses are organizing a movement to "defend" immigrants against the Minutemen and the Sensenbrenner bill. PLP has boldly exposed and fought the racist Minutemen. We're stepping this up, bringing more co-workers and students to marches against the Minutemen and Sensenbrenner's bill. We must fight in the liberal-led movements, to expose their leaders seeking to "welcome" immigrants into exploitation and war. The liberals push elections, not class struggle from the shops to the streets.
Communists and anti-racists continue to fight like hell against all forms of anti-immigrant racism, from the Minutemen and Colorado Congressman Tancredo to McCain, Kennedy and SEIU's Stern. There can be no communist revolution without massive, sharp anti-racist fight-back. Racism is the mortal enemy of all workers.
Now more than ever, immigrant workers are in key positions and have tremendous potential power, a fact the liberal racists seek to hide. The bosses have been forced to open key weapons-producing industries and the military to immigrants because of increasing global competition and declining recruitment to the armed forces. By organizing in industry and the military against the racist imperialist bosses, immigrants can unite with black workers -- also concentrated in basic industry and the military -- as well as with white workers to build a powerful force for revolution. This will happen as communists work with their co-workers and in the mass movement exposing the liberal wolves in sheep's clothing.
The deadly message of Stern and Durazo (Hotel Workers' union head)? Accept slave labor wages, capitalism and imperialist war and just vote for liberals to "save us" from the Minutemen and Sensenbrenner. PLP's message is immigrant workers taking the lead in fighting for power for our class through communist revolution against the open and liberal racists. This will ring true to masses of workers, when coupled with CHALLENGE networks, anti-racist and anti-imperialist actions, close friendships, and day-to-day struggle against the racist exploiters.
By opposing the ports deal, Democrats like Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Jon Corzine advance U.S. militarism in several ways. Now every big business transaction involving foreigners will come under a national-security microscope. By labeling the Dubai bosses as less trustworthy than their British predecessors, the liberals give a big boost to the anti-Arab racism the rulers need to motivate troops and the home front. They're also working to keep important military supply lines in friendly hands. P & O, the firm Dubai wants to buy, runs piers not only in Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, and New Orleans, but in Corpus Christi and Beaumont, Texas as well. These Texas harbors ship more than half the heavy arms (tanks, etc.) bound for Iraq.
Hoping to enlist working-class support, Clinton & Co. have turned to the utterly corrupt, Mafia-ridden, pro-imperialist leadership of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). In conjunction with Democratic politicians, these hacks are holding flag-waving "Goodbye Dubai" rallies that recall ILA boss Teddy Gleason's role in advising the Pentagon on port efficiency in Vietnam during the genocidal U.S. war there.
Immediate concerns, especially the war in Iraq, roped Bush into blessing Dubai's purchase in spite of U.S. imperialism's long-term requirements. Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is providing the U.S. military with bases for the Iraq occupation. At any given time there are tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the UAE. Furthermore, the UAE is currently taking delivery of $6.4 billion worth of U.S. military equipment, mostly state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. For the moment, Bush can't afford to offend Dubai's ruler.
Geopolitics underlies a host of global takeover squabbles. France is vigorously protesting Mittal Steel's buyout of Europe's Arcelor, which would make Mittal the world's biggest steel producer. Mittal is run from London by a newly-rich Anglo-Indian family and the U.S. establishment. Along with those family members, U.S. investors Wilbur Ross and Lewis Kaden sit on Mittal's board. French bosses worry about Mittal's allegiances.
Ross ensured the existence of the U.S. steel industry, essential in future wars, by buying up bankrupt companies like Bethlehem, while lowering costs by eliminating workers' pensions. [Ross did the same with coal, gobbling up failing mines that might be needed in case arms demand spiked. He owns the Sago pit that murdered 12 miners in January.] Ross then "sold" his International Steel Group to Mittal.
Kaden is an old Bethlehem exec, who belongs to the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. imperialism's top think-tank. While Europe's bosses rage at Mittal, they raise only token opposition to German Eon's bid to become the world's largest gas supplier, and thus a European champion, by acquiring Spain's Endesa. And, closing ranks on another front, the U.S. Congress, alarmed at Beijing's growing military threat, helped Chevron thwart a Chinese attempt to take over Unocal.
Lenin got it right. When capitalists hash out international business deals, they are often sharpening their swords for war. In the U.S. today it's the liberals who lead the death march. The working class can answer these attacks by building an international communist movement. Here, a step on that road is winning workers and youth to participating in PLP's May Day marches on April 29 in New York City and Los Angeles. That process can lead them to joining the Party to lead the struggle for workers' power.
In a widely-publicized article in Foreign Affairs Magazine (published by the CFR, the top U.S. imperialists), entitled "Is Washington Losing Latin America?," Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, stresses the importance of U.S. immigration policy: "Latin Americans see immigration as a solution both to their own high unemployment and low wages and to the huge demand for workers in the U.S. They argue that the U.S. should accept larger numbers of immigrants. Instead, Washington has stiffened enforcement measures at its borders, an action that has not reduced illegal immigration but has raised the costs and risks of entering the United States and kept many immigrants in the underground economy where exploitation is common. Worse, state and local governments in the United States are increasingly implementing harsh anti-immigrant initiatives, and armed civilian volunteers occasionally take it upon themselves to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border to keep immigrants out."
"For many Latin American countries, especially Mexico, U.S. immigration policy has become the most important issue in their bilateral relations with the United States....U.S. and Latin American policymakers largely agree on the basic principles that should guide a new U.S. approach to the issue -- including a substantial increase in the number of temporary workers granted lawful entry to the U.S., the development of some procedures for some undocumented immigrants to earn legal status, and the effective enforcement of any new legislation." The roadblock to this lies within the Republican Party, whose right-wing favors deportations and the Minutemen.
The introduction described why we study dialectical materialism, noting that everyone subscribed to a philosophy even if they don't realize it. The presentation featured four points of view, ranging from the religious to scientific, and mixtures of both. Participants were asked to choose which one most closely represented their view and why. As people responded, a comrade asked how one would assess a situation and gain the truth, stemming from their point of view. The discussion centered on a young woman who had been arrested at a college fair (see CHALLENGE, 12/01/04).
The first workshops focused on philosophy and science, and materialism vs. idealism. The first discussion examined the question of where do ideas and inventions come from, such as the creation of the automobile and the idea of someone or something being "cute." One high school student said ideas come from the need for a solution to a problem and daily interactions among people. The groups then considered the scientific method and why we should study philosophy. A method is needed in order to analyze/prove the correctness of an idea. Then we focused on how to determine the truth. That discussion was livelier because it involved opposing philosophies: belief in a god vs. a dialectical materialist outlook. Many defended religious beliefs quite sharply, even though they saw the correctness of a scientific approach to understanding and solving problems.
We were then asked if one can be a communist and still believe in god since these were two contradictory ideas. Some were very critical of the church and believed that a personal or individual relationship with god was the way to go, while others still believed in church teachings. It was a healthy debate on how to determine which ideas are correct, which ideas oppress the working class.
In these debates, we reached an understanding of idealism and materialism in the philosophical sense. This segment ended with the questions, "can humans change history and under what circumstances?" Most people agreed that humans can change history but we must agree on the correct philosophy and then take action on it.
The evening session dealt with the first law of dialectics, contradiction, explored during a discussion of sexism. Some of our friends realized it wasn't a personal "man-vs.-women" issue but one of one class dominating another; that men didn't benefit from it. A false contradiction was created between sections of the working class, preventing them from uniting against the real enemy - the capitalist leeches. The primary contradiction related to sexism is not man vs. women but workers vs. bosses. Similarly, racism was also discussed in these terms: not white vs. black but class vs. class; white workers don't benefit from racism but, in fact, racism hurts them also.
Finally, one comrade said we must study theory to analyze what went wrong in the Soviet Union and China, where working-class state power reverted back to capitalism. (For further analysis, see page 8.)
We in PLP intend to learn from their mistakes and pick up the torch to carry out the violent overthrow of capitalism with revolutionary communist theory to guide our class to defeat our class enemy.
A group of 30 counter-demonstrators picketed outside to alert the public about the racist event inside. We held signs and shouted pro-worker chants. Young comrades led this protest, maintaining the spirited picketing and were greeted by approving honks from passers-by.
Another group went inside to interrupt their gathering, chanting "Smash racist deportations, working people have no nation!"
While the racists pushed us back out of the hallway, the cops -- protecting the fascist Minutemen -- arrested four protestors. The approximately 50 people attending the meeting were now aware of the racist nature of the group they were checking out. They heard us, and our disruption may have caused some second-guessing among those inside the room, putting the Minutemen leaders on notice that their views are being opposed. Without any interruptions or protests, they might have felt they're being accepted.
It's important that we fight the racists in every way possible when these scum try to openly recruit to their anti-working class filth, letting them know militant anti-racist workers and youth will unceasingly oppose them. We learn from each experience. Next time we'll be even better prepared.
Three weeks earlier, Vincent became another victim in the war between cops and workers when he was shot in the back of the head by Officer Levi Randolph. Randolph, seven years on the force, claimed Vincent reached for a gun while fleeing a burglary at his cousin's house.
Vincent, however, was unarmed and shot in the back of the head while running away, as reported in the corporate media. But they failed to mention that Randolph reportedly shot someone in a similar manner several years before enlisting to protect the bosses. The Gary police force has a number of cops who were apparently convicted of felonies and then were "pardoned" so they could become the kind of cops the bosses like.
Not an uncommon story in Gary or many other cities. But this time a rally was organized by a local campus group and joined by students from Chicago State University, members of the community, including from Vincent's family, and some PLP members from Chicago, showing there are people willing to fight against the racist, anti-working-class oppression ravaging the city.
Some residents were afraid. "These people are scared," said one. "They know if they stop and join [this rally], the police will recognize them and make them pay later." But undaunted, others did join the chants that were heard four blocks away, shouting in front of the police station, "Capitalism Means -- We Got To Fight Back!" The protest was a success and many local workers bought CHALLENGE and agreed with PLP's revolutionary outlook.
The following Saturday, some local anti-racist students circulated petitions in the community calling for the indictment and jailing of cop Randolph. Dozens of people are now circulating petitions throughout the area.
However, racism and capitalist corruption are not limited to this cop! It's time for action in one of the country's most notoriously racist cities. Gary's workers are ready to step up, but unless we fight to win workers, students and youth to PLP's revolutionary communist politics, local activism will just lead to liberal reforms that maintain the system of oppression which has made Gary a racist wasteland of closed factories, unemployment, failing schools and police terror. Building a struggle against this racist terror can be an important step in building this revolutionary movement.
The UAW Local 651 leadership tried to use a snowstorm to call off the protest, spending all day in the factory telling workers it was cancelled, even though schools were open and the sidewalks around the plant were shoveled and clear.
The real reason behind the sabotage was a call to the Local leadership from UAW Headquarters asking them, "Are you with us or with them," referring to the Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) reform movement. This didn't sit well with the picketing workers or the Local 651 members who organized the protest.
GM, Delphi and their UAW partners are working hard on a concession contract while they play out their bankruptcy court drama. They're hoping that a series of postponements and delays will give them time to settle things while wearing us down. The delays also give the bosses time to build up inventory and give GM time to line up other suppliers should a strike shut Delphi.
As in previous protests, American flags were in abundance. This attempt to make the workers' struggle "patriotic," and the bosses "unpatriotic," reflects a serious political weakness in the SOS movement. It's a far cry from the militant, anti-racist, pro-revolutionary movements that rocked the auto bosses in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Groups like DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement), the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the PLP-led Workers Action Movement (WAM) and others led mass violent actions, wildcats and sit-down strikes, fighting the bosses, cops and union sellouts. Then, carrying an American flag meant you were on the other side. It wasn't our flag then, and it's not our flag now.
As the Delphi struggle unfolds and May Day is on the horizon, "Save American Jobs" must give way to "Workers of the World, Unite" for GM and Delphi workers to have a fighting chance.
The president of ATU Local 689, the transit worker's union, is a member of PLP. He addressed the rally, saying, "The bosses here are the same as the bosses in Tehran. In Tehran, they jailed workers for going on strike. In New York, they imposed millions of dollars of fines on the workers, and showing their true racist nature, called the strikers `thugs.'"
Throughout this speech, listeners cheered our message of solidarity and anti-racism. Afterwards, the Metro workers led the rally in chanting, "Same enemy, same fight, Workers of the world must unite!" We distributed about 30 CHALLENGES.
Conversations afterwards centered on the importance of communist leadership. Metro workers know that without a communist president, the union wouldn't have been there. They see the stark difference between communist leadership and the opportunists who seek union office for personal gain. Workers saw the difference between the AFL-CIO leadership's speeches and chants and those of PLP. The rally re-energized communist work at Metro.
The need for international solidarity was evident to all the Metro workers at the rally and many more who couldn't attend. The fact that actions occurred worldwide was also inspiring to all of us. However, without communist leadership, rallies and actions will be only as powerful as the AFL-CIO's bullhorn: barely a whisper.
The AFL-CIO hypocrites say they support transit strikers in Iran, but Transport Workers Union international president Mike O'Brian, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, ordered striking NYC transit workers to return to work and scab on their own strike!
The AFL-CIO called this rally to back U.S. imperialism in Iran and the rest of the Middle-East, not to support striking bus drivers. They're adding their voice to the growing ruling-class chorus attacking Iran's growing influence in the region. The New York Times (2/16) reported, "the Bush administration, frustrated by Iranian defiance over its nuclear program, proposed...to spend $85 million to promote political change inside Iran by subsidizing dissident groups...to destabilize the...current Iranian government."
The labor-fakers didn't lift a finger to support transit strikers in NYC, Sweden or Nicaragua. Known as the AFL-CIA throughout Latin America, it has a long, bloody history of serving U.S. imperialism and smashing pro-working class, anti-U.S. rulers' movements.
The AFL-CIO always sides with U.S. rulers' war plans. PLP fights for international workers' solidarity and to overthrow the war-makers, from Washington to Tehran.
Both she and her son later took part in the January 30th one-day strike in which 200 of 225 students were held out at John Swett Elementary. Officials say "declining enrollment" is the "reason" for the closings. After years of racist cutbacks, we must move beyond appeals for mercy or such officials' rationales. The trend in schools here closely matches Oakland's and other districts nation-wide. As teachers in the Bay Area's two largest cities prepare to strike, the lack of a teacher-parent-student alliance as active as at John Swett is becoming painfully obvious.
"Financial concerns and educational policy sometimes are at odds," the S.F. School Commissioner Sarah Lipson told an angry crowd of parents protesting the District plan to close 26 schools. They're all in poorer and mostly African-American neighborhoods. Her neutral language hides the real issues driving both the cuts and the opposition to them.
The immediate factor underlying the attack is the war economy. The Federal government's latest spending plan continues military expansion that drains money from two-thirds of Federal Agencies. The Federal deficit will far eclipse the previous record, reaching $423 billion. Military spending (not counting the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan) will top $439 billion -- a 45% increase over five years.
The immediate effect underlying these attacks is intensified racism. With 60% of white students in private schools, S.F. already has the highest percentage of children in private schools nationally. Yet a public school like John Swett is being closed despite its location where the school age population will continue to rise. Meanwhile, the capitalists blithely talk about raising over $100 million to finance a new football stadium.
As bad as this is, these attacks will intensify as the U.S. capitalist class mounts more wars to cope with a deepening economic crisis and fiercer competition overseas. More imperialist war is not in workers' interest anywhere.
These contradictions enhance the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of communism. Slowly parents and teachers are in motion, resisting the effects of capitalism, its wars and sharpening racism. Reaching out with the ideas in CHALLENGE today can lead more and more teachers, parents and students to understand the need to organize for workers' power -- communism. Tomorrow, that militant parent quoted above will be telling us: "The greatest lesson our kids can learn is how to fight the system and replace it with a better, classless one!"
PARIS, Feb. 28 -- The anti-CPE movement continues to grow. A dozen universities are now on strike. Demonstrations are taking place here and in the country's major cities today, responding to a call from the university and high school unions.
On February 16 demonstrators in Rennes attempted to enter the prefecture, breaking windows, but were dispersed with tear gas. They continued demonstrating in the city center until 1 a.m. That day in Brest 400 students occupied a McDonald's restaurant, a symbol of job insecurity.
On February 23 there were widespread protests: 5,000 people demonstrated in Paris, chanting "C comme chômage" (as in unemployment), "P comme précaire" (insecurity)] and "E comme exploité" ( exploited); 2000 people protested in Rennes; in Toulouse, students blocked entry to two universities, welding the doors shut to some buildings; and 1,000 students took to the streets there, attacked by police using tear gas and riot sticks; 1,000 demonstrated in Bordeaux and 400 in Brest; 250 protesters stopped traffic on the main highway near Lorient and spoke to motorists before letting them drive on.
These young people want a steady job enabling them to live independently of their parents and start their own families. Capitalism requires a workforce disciplined by job insecurity. It cannot satisfy the needs of young people here, or anywhere.
An official study found that youth 15 to 24 constitute 9% of France's working population, but in 2002 accounted for 14% of the unemployed -- 25% of those who were laid off that year -- and 27% of the job-seekers. (The unemployed are those who have lost a job; "job-seekers" include those who've never had a job.) "For people under 25, alternating short periods of unemployment and temporary work has practically become the rule."
Job insecurity hits young blue-collar workers harder (see chart page 6) and is even worse for minority youth in the housing projects, whose unemployment rate ranges from 25% to 37%.
Passage of the CPE law will worsen this insecurity. Unfortunately, the political machines of the Socialist and Communist Parties largely control the anti-CPE movement. Their goal is not to destroy the capitalist system that creates job insecurity. They are limiting the movement to a single-issue approach that allows them to pose as a left-wing alternative to the government in the run-up to the 2007 presidential and legislative elections.
Most of the leaders of the main university student union, UNEF, align themselves with one of three Socialist Party (SP) factions, while high school student leaders belong to one of two SP factions.
Recent French history shows that following these Socialist misleaders is a dead-end for workers, young and old. In 2002 the Socialist government adopted measures forcing workers to work longer for smaller pensions (a move which lost them the presidential and legislative elections that year). In 2005 one SP mayor called on the right-wing government to use the Army to crush the rebellion in the housing projects. Lately they have been praising the U.K.'s Tony Blair and "New Labour."
Now the Socialists and their Communist Party allies are ferociously attacking the CPE. Laurent Fabius, who jumped on the anti-European constitution bandwagon (see CHALLENGE, 5/25/05), advocates creating a special temporary work contract for young people -- a watered-down CPE.
Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister for Employment, has portrayed the CPE as an answer to minority unemployment. He's able to pose -- hypocritically -- as a friend of minority youth by telling the truth: the fake leftists have no plan to counter racist unemployment in the housing projects.
In reality, the CPE will not create new jobs for minority youth or for anyone else. Two French academics, Pierre Cahuc and Stéphane Carcillo, have just published a study which predicts the CPE would create 70,000 jobs and reduce unemployment rolls by 95,000 over the next two years. This in a country where over 2.3 million people are unemployed! The report says "this [CPE] reform is going to cause an increase in hiring in the short term, but at the same time we will see an increase in lay-offs." Cahuc was named to the Council of Economic Analysis by Prime Minister Villepin.
Having passed the French National Assembly, debate on the CPE bill began in the French senate on February 23. The government intends to pass it before March 3 in order to undercut the March 7th demonstrations. The Socialist and Communist Parties are trying to delay the vote, notably by introducing 600 amendments.
Since Chirac's government party, the UMP, doesn't have a majority in the Senate, it needs the support of the centrist UDF (Union for French Democracy) to enact the CPE bill. The UDF has tabled amendments to reduce the 24-month trial period, and has said its support will depend on acceptance of these amendments.
Thinking workers can easily see that the positions of all these parties only differ on how far and how fast to go in increasing job insecurity here. Polls show public satisfaction with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has fallen to 43%, the lowest level since he took office.
The CGT trade union confederation has called for "powerful demonstrations" on March 7 opposing the CPE. However, it left strike decisions to its member federations. The CGT's public services federation -- France's main public sector union -- has called for a strike on March 7. The Force Ouvrière trade union confederation has called on all its member federations to strike on March 7.
But all the efforts of students and workers in the anti-CPE movement will be to no avail if they do not reject the sellout leaders of three sets of organizations: the fake left political parties and their allies in the student and trade unions.
Situation of young people aged 15 to 29 on the job market in 2003
holders of a vocational holders of a university training certificate or degree technical school certificate worked at temporary jobs 19.2% 8.8% all year combined work and 20.8% 14% unemployment were unemployed all year 8.7% 6% total suffering from 45.7% 28.8% insecurity(Statistics from the INSEE, a French government agency)
Everything the government has done pours from Chavez's mouth during his epic speeches; ideology is directed from the top, to a profoundly fragmented mess of loosely-coordinated social/community/labor groups below, uniting only on the streets and only to protest some new threat Bush makes to Chavez. There's no coherence, class consciousness, or unifying cause to the "Bolivarian" movement, except a vague but fierce "opposition to U.S. imperialism." There's not a single group that can be considered even a socialist (let alone communist!) vanguard force for the workers and majority poor (80%) that has roots in the working class.
As reported in CHALLENGE, Chavez follows a tradition of populist regimes (a la Argentina's Peron) that virulently opposed the ruling feudal oligarchy through "siding" with the working classes and campesinos. For the feudal landowners, both forces are dangerous threats to be resisted. To the new bourgeois class (Peron, Chavez), while the oligarchs are a force to be overthrown, the workers and campesinos are forces to be disciplined and brought under control. Peron once said that his reforms doled out to the working class were the best defense against communism. For the workers and campesinos, it all spells FASCISM.
Peron, overthrown in 1955, was returned to power in 1973 by the ruling class to placate a wave of workers' mass uprisings. It had begun with the 1969 El Cordobazo, a rebellion in the industrial city of Cordoba, led by autoworkers. Peron and his wife Isabel, who succeeded him in 1974 after he died, launched a reign of terror through the AAA death squads (Argentina Anti-Communist Alliance), killing many militant workers and youth who believed in his populism. This paved the way for the fascist military dictatorship which ruled from 1976 until 1983, and which launched a dirty war that killed 30,000.
In the case of Venezuela, let's consider:
The Venezuelan economy has seen the ninth consecutive quarter of sustained growth. At 9.4% growth in the past year alone -- largely in construction, commerce and communications -- Venezuela's GDP is expected to double in less than ten years. On July 4, 2004, Chavez inaugurated a roundtable with U.S. businesses, signing deals totaling $624.5 million in less than 48 hours. He paraphrased JFK, calling for an "Alliance for Survival," a partnership between the U.S. and Venezuela based ideologically on Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, a horrifying blank check for renewing and entrenching U.S. imperialism in Latin America.
Chavez touts nationalism since if he internationalized the struggle and put class warfare into materialist terms, he would awaken the working classes and nail the door to his own casket. Nationalism will guarantee the workers' militant, yet loyal subservience to his administration. He uses the UNT -- his pro-Chavez union federation -- as the outspoken advocate of state intervention and monopoly in the nation's basic industries, as the state extends its reach merging with industry. Historically, fascist rule legitimizes private entities into arms of state power. Nationalism will guarantee the growth of the "corporate state" (fascism) in Venezuela.
In the international context, the changing social relations Chavez represents is interwoven with China's strength as a growing imperialist player. Since the Iraq invasion effectively nullified China's 1997 oil agreements with Saddam Hussein, China's need for oil and the need to control the sources of oil will reach cataclysmic proportions. What makes Chavez such a threat to U.S. imperialism is not his flirtation with Fidel Castro but his cleverness in playing off two major imperialist rivals. Should Chavez bail on the U.S. and deal exclusively with China, the U.S. economy would be heavily affected. That's why, as CHALLENGE has indicated, the U.S. must keep China purchasing oil from U.S. companies in the short term, while facing inevitable war with it in the long term.
(To be concluded next issue)
Rank-and-file hotel workers -- black, Latin, Asian and white -- have poured a huge amount of energy into unionizing their co-workers into UNITE-HERE, Local 11. Some have union experience on other jobs and in other countries. Others are new at union struggles. Their main concerns are wages, hours, health benefits, workload and harassment from supervisors.
But union leaders, together with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, tried to turn the march into its opposite. Their signs, leaflets, chants and speeches were almost all about their "Coalition for a New Century." Its goal is to turn the area surrounding the airport into a convention center and tourist attraction. Leading the rally was LA City Councilperson Janice Hahn. UNITE-HERE organizing director Kurt Peterson explained, "We want to partner with the city and industry."
So while rank-and-filers are angry and want to fight the hotel bosses, their so-called "leaders" want to "partner" with them. "UNITE-HERE leaders have participated in ground-breaking labor-management partnerships," trumpets the union website.
R. Palme Dutt explained this strategy, known as "social fascism," 70 years ago in "Fascism and Social Revolution." Europe's Social-Democrats advocated class collaboration of the working-class organizations with the capitalist State in the 1920's and 1930's. They "prepared the way ideologically" for fascism and "assist[ed] fascism to power."
The same treachery continues today within the immigrant-rights movement. United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta and UNITE-HERE leader Maria Elena Durazo (a leading candidate to head the LA County Federation of Labor) urged immigrant workers to join with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in backing the Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill. (See article, front page ) Interestingly, the Growers Association also supports the same bill. When workers unite with the bosses, they'll be defeated every time.
Attendees at a recent pro-immigrant rights event were sharply divided over Huerta's call to support Kennedy-McCain. "They tell us it's about family reunification and a path to citizenship," one activist commented, "but that's only one quarter of it. The other three-quarters is more border control and law enforcement."
PLP will continue to bring the message to angry hotel LA hotel workers that workers must unite with our class brothers and sisters here and internationally to fight the bosses and their class-collaborationist allies. Ultimately we'll triumph through communist revolution.
This idea is heard almost every day during lunch throughout our transportation company. We build consciousness in our co-workers by showing them we can perform whatever job necessary, belying the bosses' contention that we're only good for the most laborious jobs. Meanwhile, we're subjected to the most intense speed-up. And, if that isn't enough, video cameras film us through special glass windows that blur the threatening silhouette of the boss as he watches to make sure you're working hard.
While not tied with chains and shackles, we must recognize that the chains of ignorance hide our unparalleled potential power as the only source of value.
The supervisors threaten us to work harder and faster, not miss work and obey all their orders because in this crisis, "you won't get another job like this." We suffer such harassment daily and haven't had a wage increase in five years.
But a worker is like a sleeping lion -- you only have to wake him up with PLP's communist ideas. This occurred when the workers demanded a wage increase.
Even though the boss had been warned and his abuses denounced, it wasn't until then that he began trembling like a wet rat. The boss listened to all the workers listing their most pressing needs. Then he said the company had many problems; that we should be grateful to have a job; and that the company hadn't made a profit in years, but still continued investing so we could keep our jobs.
This confused many workers, who became fearful and lowered their guard. This strengthened the boss's position. Then a comrade spoke and with a simple but significant example, told the workers:
"Let's suppose that Pedrito collects 5 bottles and Juan washes them and Luis paints them and another worker goes door to door selling them for 2 pesos each. After collecting 10 pesos, another person who did nothing, who didn't leave his family, who didn't get sick inhaling paint fumes, who didn't get tired going door to door selling bottles then tells us, "Give me 8 pesos and the rest is for all of you." Fellow workers, who did the work? Who generated the wealth?" The workers then flexed their muscles and forced the boss to give them a wage increase.
With this explanation of surplus value, it became clear that communist ideas and PLP's leadership can organize the workers to ultimately destroy the capitalist system.
Despite some comrades being fired, the seed of communism continues to grow.
"Comrade, keep sowing your seeds. One day we'll reap the harvest."
Capitalism has destroyed the dreams of millions of workers like Maria Alvarez and her brother. According to the International Labor Organization, 15,000 miners die each year in coal mines worldwide due to the rotten working conditions stemming from the owners' drive for maximum profits.
This May Day we in PLP will honor all these miners and all workers murdered by capitalism from Coahuila to Baghdad to West Virginia (where 14 miners were murdered recently under similar conditions) by redoubling our efforts to end this vicious system.
U.S. and European bosses reveled at the spectacle. Here was Khrushchev, Stalin's successor and the head of U.S. imperialism's mortal enemy, condemning the supposed "crimes" of the leader who had done more than anyone in the second half of the 20th century to champion workers everywhere in their fight to overthrow capitalism.
The bosses' media, in both Europe and the U.S., have highly publicized this anniversary of Khrushchev's notorious diatribe. From our class's point of view as well, the event remains important, because it contains valuable lessons for future revolutionary struggle.
The rulers indeed hated Stalin but not for the reasons announced in Khrushchev's speech or in volumes of CIA-sponsored lies about Stalin as a mass murderer. They hated him because he represented the specter of communism and the violent end of the profit system, and he symbolized the Soviet Union as the international center of the communist movement. It was those "crimes" that led the big bosses of every imperialist power to label Stalin as "worse than Hitler."
The PLP has written extensively about Stalin's achievements and errors. The history of the old communist movement is far too rich and complex for us to attempt a summary in one article. Nonetheless, this occasion calls for a general summary.
Young workers and PLP comrades can learn much from studying Stalin's successes and failures. On the positive side, he led the Soviet Union in its transformation from backward nation to modern industrial giant. He built socialism, which saw the greatest pro-working class economic and political reforms in human history. He championed anti-racism and the emancipation of women. Under his leadership, the Soviet Union proved beyond a shadow of doubt that workers could rule society in their own interests and in service of their own needs.
When U.S. and European imperialists rearmed Germany and pushed Hitler to destroy both the USSR and socialism, Stalin bought enough time to prepare for the eventual onslaught, stood steadfast through the havoc of Hitler's invasion, and despite tens of millions of casualties, led Soviet society and the Red Army until the Nazi beasts had been ground to dust.
Even Stalin's principal enemies recognized that he had no peer as a statesman and political leader. Winston Churchill, for example, admired him for taking "... a backward country with an illiterate population and turn[ing] it into a global powerhouse with a nuclear bomb" (New Telegraph, Feb. 25, 2006).
But Stalin also committed grave errors. They were not his alone. He followed the line of Marx and Engels, the giants who founded the communist movement, and of the great Lenin, who led the Bolshevik revolution. The PLP has extensively analyzed these errors elsewhere, and once again, we urge all workers and Party comrades to study them. Stalin and his predecessors believed in "two-stage revolution." They didn't think that workers could be won at the outset to the politics of communism, and so they advocated socialism, which had a foot in both camps.
On the one hand, it unleashed torrents of working-class energy and creativity, producing the achievements sketched above. On the other hand, it maintained the wage system, material rather than political incentives and, inevitably, social inequalities. Infected with these poisons, the Soviet Communist Party inevitably turned into its opposite.
Although he spoke on both sides of his mouth about nationalism, Stalin basically promoted it. Nationalism is a disguise for all-class unity and therefore fatal to the principle of working-class internationalism. Stalin mobilized Soviet society to fight World War II for "Mother Russia," rather than for the international working class. The deadly results became evident shortly after Hitler had gone to his grave.
Closely related to nationalism was the fatal flaw of uniting with "lesser evil" bosses and imperialists, justifying the alliance with the illusion that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend." Communists from post-World War II Europe to Indonesia paid for this error with rivers of blood, as the so-called "lesser evil" bosses pounced on them the moment an opening presented itself.
Khrushchev's infamous speech did not cause the death of the old international communist movement. The errors committed by the movement's champions and heroes, including Stalin, had made this death inevitable. Khrushchev's disgraceful performance was merely the sign that the Soviet Union had become an imperialist country in its own right.
The rulers are celebrating Khrushchev's speech because the spirit of communism continues to haunt them and because, despite Stalin's faults, he remains the greatest leader the old communist movement produced in the 20th century. The bosses can never do enough to lie about him and discredit him. We in PLP should strive to emulate his class hatred, his tactical brilliance, his resoluteness in the face of overwhelming odds and his courage. We have a long way to go before we reach hailing distance. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Marx, Lenin, Stalin and the millions who fought for a world without capitalism. But we also recognize Stalin's mistakes and continue struggling to avoid them. It isn't easy. Opportunism -- the temptation of capitalist ideas -- is the prevailing ethic in a world ruled by the values of the profit system.
But we can eventually win. Despite the obstacles we face today in the absence of a communist center with state power, dark night must have its end. Stalin, the Soviet working class, and the Red Army crushed Hitler. Inspired by that example, we can continue to build a new communist movement, which will sooner or later obliterate the profit system and replace it with a worker's dictatorship and a decent society.
The flood had been expected for days, and whites had fled town. But the black and poor had no escape route. As the waters rose, desperate families hacked through their ceilings and clung to rooftops. The National Guard herded blacks at gunpoint into squalid refugee camps, where they were imprisoned without food or fresh water. The Red Cross became storm troopers. An indifferent President refused to visit the flooded regions, while local and state authorities bickered...
Sound familiar? The year was 1927, the president Calvin Coolidge, and the town was Greenville, Mississippi. To know the road that led to Katrina, you must read this book. Although written in 1997, it foreshadows Katrina with eerie accuracy.
The Mississippi River was human-engineered for disaster. For decades it had been reshaped for profits, by scouring a deep-water shipping channel to the Gulf. Effective flood prevention would provide natural outlets; instead banks were protected only by levees. These misguided policies made the river unstoppable in floods. Over time, loss of sediments caused New Orleans to sink into a fragile bowl surrounded by water.
In 1927, New Orleans was a national center of finance capital, and the Mississippi Delta was ruled by cotton and timber kings. Their plantations were worked by black sharecroppers, in debt slavery. So dependent were Delta planters on black labor that they resisted the Klan out of self-interest, because it might induce blacks to migrate north.
After a year of monster storms, the river burst its levees and flooded seven states. Thousands were drowned, and one million (1% of the U.S. population!) became homeless. Greenville was the worst. Refugees lined the levees for eight miles. Government boats arrived to evacuate them, but Greenville's planters feared the permanent loss of their workers. At bayonet point, the National Guard forced refugees back and sent the steamers away. One ship, built to hold thousands, left with 33 whites.
Greenville's entire black population was forced into Red Cross camps on the levee. Such prisons, literally called concentration camps, were set up across Mississippi. Black men wore ID tags indicating work status and plantation of origin. They were forced to work as slaves, sandbagging levees and loading barges; if they resisted, they were whipped and their families denied food. White overseers with guns patrolled the camps. No one was free to leave.
According to a memo, "Plantation Owners desiring their labor to be returned from Refugee Camps will make application to the nearest Red Cross representative" who "will issue passes to refugees." Blacks approached the brink of armed rebellion after a cop murdered a black man who refused to return to the levee after working all night.
Ironically, New Orleans was never in real danger, because broken levees upstream spent the river's force. However, city bosses didn't understand this and feared financial panic among investors. For those who doubt the existence of a ruling class, what happened next is revealing. City bankers met in a smoke-filled room and conspired to dynamite a levee, flooding neighboring St Bernard's parish, home of working-class descendants of immigrants. To cover their butts, they called in favors, from Washington to Chase Manhattan. Herbert Hoover, disaster czar, approved the plan. (Hoover, who manipulated and betrayed black supporters, vaulted to the presidency on his "success" in flood relief, while Huey Long rode a wave of populist reaction to become Louisiana's "Kingfish.")
Despite its exposé, the book is flawed by paternalistic racism. The author dwells in dramatic detail on the ruling Percy family of Greenville planters. Will Percy, the boss's son, is portrayed sympathetically as a poetry-writing liberal; his father is praised for resisting the Klan. The reader is blindsided in Chapter 25, when Will emerges as a despicable racist thug, the boss who restores slavery. Barry does not give comparable weight to African American sources, though these are plentiful: the events happened within living memory. Although black leaders from the NAACP to the black-owned Chicago Defender denounced the outrages, blacks remain relatively voiceless throughout this book.
From the Chicago Defender, May 7, 1927: "The ugly specter of Race hate has reared its head above the angry waters in the flood area... Men, women, and children of our group, who were conscripted, forced to leave their homes to top levees and prevent, if possible, a flood in their respective cities, are now refugees in `Jim Crow' relief camps. This vast army of destitute persons, nearly 100,000, the majority of them farmers and laborers from 75 villages and towns of seven flood-torn states of the South, are experiencing worse treatment than our forefathers did before the signing of the emancipation proclamation."
Under communism, children probably will spend most of the day in a collective situation, under the supervision of many caring adults. They'll learn cooperation from an early age, and competition will be discouraged. (As a past example, Soviet children were given blocks that were too large for one child to move around, requiring others to help.) Students will not be ranked, and there will be no such thing as failure in any school subject. This will encourage classmates to help each other to learn, rather than trying to outdo each other.
Some classic theories, even under capitalism, resemble communist principles. For example, Stephen Glenn in his book "Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World" says that children need to develop (1) perceptions of their capabilities, (2) the feelings of contributing meaningfully, (3) the ability to work well with others, (4) the knowledge of limits and consequences, and (5) the use of strong judgment skills. Glenn emphasizes awareness of children's own power or influence over life. He apparently doesn't realize that only under communism will working-class children have the ability to influence society.
Alfred Adler (the 19th-20th century Austrian psychiatrist) taught that (1) children are social beings and behave as they see themselves in relation to others, (2) behavior is goal-oriented, toward belonging and feeling significant, (3) maladjusted behavior stems from discouragement, (4) children and adults need to contribute to society, based on concern for others, and (5) children and adults both require dignity and respect. But youth have a vague understanding that a profit-based system is interested only in sorting them for different forms of exploitation, through forcing them to compete with each other and then ranking them.
To prepare them, capitalist schools train children to take tests rather than to think creatively. As a result, many drop out or rebel. Then dealing with rebellion becomes a primary task of teachers and parents.
Under communism, the basis of education will be vastly different. Whereas children's books today emphasize fantasy, under communism they will teach real working-class history and how to run society for the benefit of the class. Whereas today books are racist and sexist, under communism they will teach why the capitalists needed these divisive horrors and how the working class overcame them once it seized political power.
Under capitalism, even young children feel the stress of inability to achieve a fulfilling life through competition. Under communism, fulfillment will come from contributing to everyone's welfare. Is it any wonder our children exhibit anger, self-destructive behavior and depression? And then they're drugged for invented psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which mainly results from the contradictions between what they learn in school and what they learn from their own, and their parents' real lives.
In a communist society we will experience some of the same joys and problems we face today in raising our youth. But families will not be left to fend for themselves. While children may develop various abilities, these will enable them to contribute in various ways. Working-class children worldwide will become more than capable of running the future communist society. (This column welcomes thoughts on this and other subjects from all our readers, including youth, parents and teachers.)
The use of "fascist" in this newspaper is so rampant it's almost to deduct the power of the word, and ignore political science. It's highly imperative we appeal to intellectuals, and anyone with fairly simple political knowledge will flag the absurd use of "fascist" immediately. Fascism is a specific government system in which one nationalist, totalitarian ruler with militarist tendencies makes all decisions. He almost always incorporates highly religious and mystical viewpoints on world matters. Fascism also directly supports capitalism with the belief that there is an elitist, grandiose corporation that makes the country's goods. The products of capitalism favor the fascist leader and his corporate beneficiaries greatly, as it was easy to see in Nazi Germany's extensive use of IBM, Volkswagen and Audi in their war effort.
Yes, the fascists are the communists' greatest ideological enemy in many ways. But by simply calling fascist anything that is racist, nationalist, or capitalist, we're undermining our audience, political science, and jeopardizing CHALLENGE'S reputation. It's crucial we remain politically intelligent and credible to appeal to one of the most important groups to persuade: the teachers and other highly-intellectual and integral relayers of Marxist ideology.
Many elements of fascism already exist in the U.S., even before 9/11, including Clinton's increase of 100,000 cops, welfare repeal and immigration "reform," and have been accelerated since -- the wholesale round-up of Middle Eastern and South Asian workers; the readiness to allow thousands of casualties related to Katrina; the institution of torture as a principle of the U.S. military; the attacks by racist cops in the big cities; the smashing of trade unions; the virtual illegalization of strikes; the concerted attempt to drive masses of workers into poverty; and so on.
On the other point: it is important to win teachers and others like them to Marxist ideology, but it is even more important to win workers, soldiers and students to it. The working class is the key force in fighting fascism and imperialist war and in the struggle for a society without any bosses: communism.
We discussed the scientific method and application. The high school students explained the application of scientific method/process using experiences from their classes. We figured out that this method was not isolated within science. One HS'er exclaimed, "You use it every day!"
The longest discussion involved philosophy and religion. Interestingly, religion emerged as a key part of the development of personal philosophies. Religion dictates how one should believe and behave; such rules can conflict with one's own personal view. Members discussed how they disagreed with the church's condemnation of people who are gay and with gay marriage, saying that sexual orientation was irrelevant to being a good person, providing a healthy family life, or being a good communist. Though one can be religious and a Party member, it's important to analyze the contradictions between the two!
Religion teaches people to be passive participants in the world by accepting their lot in life, not fighting against oppression, because God has a "plan" for every individual life; to go against God means not entering Heaven after death. PLP reasons that the life we're living now is worth fighting for, against the exploitation, or "our lot in life." Understanding that the ruling class historically and currently uses religion as an "opiate of the masses," all workers must unite and fight against the bosses, against ideas that remove power from workers' hands -- as if we don't know exactly what we need.
I gained insight from this experience and a better understanding of materialism. Not only will I apply the principles better but I'll be able to discuss and explain them with friends. I look forward to future workshops.
The company has devised new schemes to lower wages, tricking workers into believing they're now "strategic partners" in Bavaria. This has led workers to push a labor "co-op" plan (instead of a real union), using temporary inexperienced labor to handle the machinery. This is increasing industrial accidents in the plant.
The remaining workers are being terrorized -- punished for any simple mistake, suffering arbitrary firings and speed-up. One worker lost a finger because of being sped up. Another worker may lose his legs after being run over by a forklift. Stress is causing heart problems among many workers. This also affects those laid off after many years in the plant, and given miserable severance pay. Now they can't find jobs in this high-unemployment country and live in poverty.
We in PLP must step up our efforts to rebuild our forces among these and many other workers here. We must show them they're not alone, that there is a solution. DESAFIO must be brought to these workers.
A Red Worker, Colombia
A university student added, "Then workers from other countries can realize the struggle for communism is international. It would also help to organize more people."
The work to build the fight for communism is ceaseless. Recently we had a very important meeting with a good group of farm workers, city workers and students to continue studying how to write for CHALLENGE.
We discussed the world and national situations, along with reading and criticizing an article in the paper that reviewed our last cadre school. One youth said, "It's the first time I really feel good about coming. I want to write, but first I'd like to do a draft of the article and then bring it to a club meeting to improve it."
"I like to read the paper, but I can't write," said another. "You have to change the `I can't' to `yes I can,'" commented another comrade. "You learn to write by writing."
Bourgeois education gives us a mechanical understanding. It stops us from thinking. CHALLENGE helps us to think fully, especially to strengthen our critical understanding of capitalism. We agreed to begin writing articles to use for May Day in our local edition of CHALLENGE.
After the meeting we toured the area to enable the groups of youth from different areas to socialize. This helps consolidate the communist camaraderie between rural and city youth.
Writing and collectivizing the planning of CHALLENGE articles is an important job of the leadership here, along with developing youth leaders so they can take the fight for communist revolution into their hands.
Comrades in El Salvador
We sympathize with the reader's attempt to guard against such misinterpretations, but disagree that the possibility of misinterpretation necessitates a title change. The column's editors, along with the editors of CHALLENGE, take great pains to see that all articles clearly demonstrate that any separation of "experts" from the people has no place in a communist society.
There is, however, a sense in which communism is indeed "over the people." The term "people" in this context can mean one of two things - either a group of individuals or a class, in this case the working class. The latter has a collective existence that is more than just the sum of the individual workers. Shared exploitation and oppression, and general cooperation among members of the class, often produce collective resistance that unites those involved into a single entity and not just a loose group of individuals.
In an organizational sense, the class is "above" the individuals. Therefore, the communist society will be run collectively by the working class "above" the individual workers and their families, but in their class interest. Communism will not be "above" the class as a whole but will be the Party enmeshed IN the working class. Collectively, the Party, and workers not yet in the Party, will make decisions on the organization of society in which they live. They will dictate the manner of housing, food, education, medical care and the laws by which they rule - "over" the remaining members and supporters of the old ruling class. They will forcibly prohibit attempts to return to capitalism.
As such, for the foreseeable future both classes will live according to and "under" communist principles. It remains for us communists today to show workers that this in no way resembles the way the capitalist bosses and their government are now above the workers.
Editors of "Under Communism" Column
Fifty-three years ago, British and American intelligence officers conspired to help bring about the overthrow of Iran's prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh...and his plans to nationalize the Iranian oil industry....Power was then effectively concentrated in the hands of Shah Mohammed Reza Pehlavi....
By January 1980, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had driven the shah from the Peacock Throne, President Carter made absolutely clear in his final State of the Union address that one aspect of our foreign policy remained unchanged:
"An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
The Reagan administration announced its intention to continue defending the free flow of Middle East oil, by whatever means necessary...
Subsequently, the United States began establishing military bases in Saudi Arabia...The defense secretary at the time, Dick Cheney, laid out Washington's concerns:
"We're there because the fact of the matter is that part of the world controls the world supply of oil...
What Mr. Cheney said was correct then and remains correct now. (Ted Koppel, NYT, 2/24)
Even if the probability that the purported terrorist profile is accurate were an astonishing 99 percent...most of the hits would be false positives.
...Let's...assume that one out of a million American residents has terrorist ties -- that's approximately 300 people -- and the profile will pick out 99 percent, or 297 of them. Great. But what of the approximately 300 million innocent Americans? The profile will...pick out 1 percent of them, "only" three million. (NYT, 2/12)
The Pentagon, however, says that such items are too costly, so soldiers wanting them must get them on their own...
Paychecks for soldiers are as low as $14,000 a year -- why should their safety be a matter of personal affordability? (Jim Hightower)
The two main things he learned in the Bronx, Hayes says, are that "most of the time, law is about power," and is less concerned with justice than with money, and that "everything works the same way as the crime business" -- meaning that there is always a way around the rules. (NYT, 2/15)
If you want your child to compete in skiing in the 2022 Winter Games, plan on spending $295,449. That includes $149,100 for private lessons, $114,000 for travel-related expenses -- "by the time he's 14, he'll be jetting to Switzerland for summer competitions" -- and $21,153 for clothing....
Training a figure skater for the Olympics will cost you a bit less. The total for private lessons, travel, skates and clothes, including "a seamstress to sew thousands of sequins into several costumes" : $232,178. (NYT, 2/18)