The fact that marchers took up that chant while simultaneously waving U.S. imperialism's flag represents both danger and opportunity: we cannot underestimate the danger of the bosses winning workers to patriotism and imperialism, but we should not underestimate the opportunity to win them to communist revolution to destroy these evils.
Workers began assembling at 7 A.M. for the 10 o'clock march. Downtown was jammed. The march was built by the Spanish-language radio and TV stations, by the Catholic and other churches, the unions and by the English all-news radio as well. Many garment bosses encouraged workers to march, paying for buses and even marched themselves, since the Sensenbrenner bill would limit their access to immigrant labor, especially the low-wage undocumented workers, thereby reducing profits. Mayor Villaraigosa called for Congressional passage of the McCain-Kennedy bill (see "Liberals' Legalization = More Exploitation" box page 3).
A worker we'd never met took the bullhorn to explain to his fellow marchers the importance of the chant, "No sangre obrera por ganancias petroleras" ("No workers' blood for oil profits"), saying the bosses wanted us to die for their empire.
The anger of Latino workers overflowed in the streets, part of nationwide mass marches against the Sensenbrenner bill. But we should have no illusions -- the march was organized by the bosses and their agents who championed the McCain-Kennedy bill.
There was a wonderful and enthusiastic response to PLP's entire point of view. Using bullhorn rallies, we noted the importance of immigrant workers to the capitalists' economy, especially to its war machine. We said workers must reject not only the Minutemen but also the Republicans and Democrats and both HR 4437 and the McCain-Kennedy bill that would legalize slave-labor conditions. We called on workers to renounce as well the sellout union leaders who push confidence in the Democratic Party. We called on workers to fight for power through communist revolution, uniting with black and white workers and soldiers.
Their response to the truth that workers create all value and should run society in their own interests was electrifying. They eagerly grabbed over 9,000 communist leaflets and literally demanded all the CHALLENGES we had (unfortunately only about 900, including some older issues). They bought red communist T-shirts and asked to carry red PLP flags. This should give us confidence that in the factories, schools, barracks, unions and churches we can fight for the Party's communist line and that workers will respond -- more than we think.
When our PLP contingent joined the march, others helped carry our bullhorn and led chants. We continually linked the racist attacks on immigrants to the war. Young PLP'ers and their friends tirelessly led chants for four hours. When the leaders chanted "Si se puede," these youth added "destruir racismo...destruir imperialismo...destruir fronteras...destruir capitalismo." One worker we just met who helped then came to the PLP May Day Dinner that night.
Other comrades and friends marched in union and church groups and some in the general crowd took the initiative to lead chants. Some gave speeches. Other workers gladly helped lead chants, carry bullhorns and distribute literature. One worker said we were marching not just against the Sensenbrenner bill but also in honor of the thousands of workers who have died trying to cross the borders and the millions of workers worldwide fighting oppression and imperialism.
Then hundreds joined this speaker in the chant "las luchas obreras no tienen fronteras!" ("Workers' struggles have no borders!"). They also added to the leaders' chant of "Si se puede": "Contra muros y fronteras" ("Against walls and borders").... "Contra la migra y patron" ("Against the Migra and the boss").... "Contra la Guerra imperialista" ("Against imperialist war"). Workers exchanged phone numbers to stay in contact.
The liberal imperialist bosses are fighting for the hearts and minds of immigrant workers and all workers -- with U.S. flags, patriotism, demands to have supposedly less racist laws (which are equally racist -- see box right). No capitalist law will end racism because capitalism survives on racism. But it's also clear that these angry workers are open to our Party's line.
PLP has a unique opportunity now. Taking advantage of it means bringing CHALLENGE and all our ideas into the shops, schools and barracks. We should have had more leaflets and printed more CHALLENGES to reach out to angry workers hungry for answers. But to be decisive, that fight must be carried out in the workplaces.
We intend to ensure that the many workers who, in the last weeks, helped the Party fight the bosses' patriotism, racism and pro-war propaganda, regularly receive CHALLENGE. These workers and students can become the leaders who will help guarantee that our presence in future marches is more organized and bolder still. They can help build more CHALLENGE networks and a mass PLP.
The fight against the racism suffered by immigrant workers is full of opportunities as well as dangers (since it is being led by liberals and the churches). But PLP can win many of these youth if we put forward our politics boldly, attacking racism in general and the liberals who are attempting to mislead masses of workers and youth into the rat hole of poverty wages and as cannon fodder in their oil wars.
More than one combat veteran said the Gulf Coast's devastation reminds them or Iraq. Months after the storm; houses are flattened and crushed in the lower 9th ward neighborhood.
In many poor areas, especially black, Latin, and immigrant communities, working-class people and church volunteers were reopening schools, clinics and small businesses against police orders and with no help from the government or corporations. Some veterans visited sub-contracted relief workers -- immigrants mainly from Mexico and other Latin American countries -- forced to live in the company compound surrounded by armed guards. They pay $150 a month for a tent on a plot of dirt. The company pays workers in coupons which are only good at the company store. They're supposedly paid $10 an hour but receive $100 a day even if they work 14 hours. The company calls the immigration bloodhounds on those who challenge inhuman housing conditions or confront bosses about their pay. "It's slavery," said one Latino vet.
In one housing project, the mostly black residents returned to find the doors and windows on the lower floors locked behind steel. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told people they erected steel doors to "protect the apartments from looters." But residents said the housing authorities have been trying to move them for years, and these doors might discourage them from returning. Still, most have returned and are planning to stay. FEMA handed over the keys but hasn't removed the barriers.
The first neighborhood marchers visited was a Vietnamese immigrant community. The streets are filled with trash. FEMA said they would collect the garbage but six months later, it's still there. Thirty years ago these Vietnamese immigrants came here searching for "the American dream." Now they're finding out that capitalism exploits workers the world over.
Wealthier communities affected by Katrina have largely returned to normal. In the French Quarter signs read, "Luxury Condominiums for Sale. Only 10 left."
On the last day protestors rallied in front of a high school taken back by community activists. Marchers, led by Iraq Veterans Against the War, chanted, "Make levees, Not bombs!" while pumping clenched fists in the air. At one point a military family member tried to get a few young Iraq vets to chant, "Stop Bush! Stop Bush!" They didn't. Instead they talked about how it was bigger than Bush, how it's about a whole system that only cares about money. One of those vets received his first CHALLENGE on the march.
Many displayed militancy but most participants flashed peace signs and anti-Bush slogans. Most of the organizations involved want to stop the war and rebuild the Gulf Coast by pressuring Congress to stop funding the war. One military family and a peace group urged their Congressman to back a bill calling for withdrawal in writing. The politician's statement supported the bill but made it clear that the military would be in the Mid-East indefinitely to protect U.S. rulers' interests. Still the group felt they could change his mind. PLP'ers and CHALLENGE pointed out that there is a capitalist ruling class and that this war is a neccesary part of this system, ideas otherwise largely absent from the event.
While many tied the war in Iraq to the situation in New Orleans on various levels, many veterans and survivors had racist and confusing attitudes towards Iraq's working class. One vehicle had a sign that read, "Abandon Iraq, Help the Gulf Coast." A college student summed up her feelings, "Iraq for Iraqis, America for Americans." A resident from the lower 9th ward said, "The Iraqis don't want our help. Fine. But we need help here." Two young survivors and college students disagreed. "Why can't we do both? Oh, but wait. That would mean we care about all people, not just Americans," one sarcastically remarked.
The fact is U.S. rulers are not in Iraq to "help Iraqi workers" but to seize the oil and murder tens of thousands of Iraqis who get in their way. The same Exxon Mobil and Halliburton bosses exploiting workers in the Middle East are the very ones profiting from the victimization of New Orleans workers.
One powerful event was a series of short talks by U.S. vets from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, the clandestine cold wars in Latin America, the Persian Gulf War, and the latest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many still clung to the idea that Bush is exceptionally bad but many also clearly saw that wars for money preceded Bush. One vet was ten years old when the Korean War started and said the U.S. has been at war somewhere all his life.
On one level, the liberals are trying to use their hypocritical anti-terror crusade as a smokescreen for a purge. They seek to rid the Pentagon and White House of Rumsfeld-school "cheap hawks," who think U.S. imperialism can continue to function without a general militarization of society.
On a deeper level, liberal humanitarian hype reflects a broad effort, led on the academic side by Harvard, to make the U.S. war machine ever more lethal. In 1999, with the Clinton gang preparing the shift from air raids to ground warfare in Iraq, Harvard founded the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Its mission statement reads in part, "the means of military intervention have dramatic implications for the security of civilians in the target country, the security of intervening forces, and the effectiveness of the intervention itself....The project aims to affect the way nations intervene militarily, making the use of military power more consistent with humanitarian principles."
Though completely committed to mass murder and inflicting unspeakable pain, Harvard's warmakers understand that highly-publicized atrocities like Abu Ghraib can sidetrack U.S. imperialism. Liberal strategists have said that securing the Middle East and its oil could require five million troops, perhaps soon. (See CHALLENGE, 2/1/06). But revelations of torture have damaged U.S. rulers' ability to undertake such an effort by boosting anti-U.S. sentiment in the Arab world, alienating potential allies, and, most importantly, weakening public support for the military at home.
Headed by Sarah Sewall, a deputy secretary in Clinton's Defense Department, Harvard's Carr Center works closely with the Pentagon to portray war criminals as missionaries. Last November, the Carr Center and the Army's War College co-sponsored a "human rights" conference in Washington that involved dozens of high-ranking killers from all four service branches. To help ensure that future atrocities will wear a humanitarian fig leaf in the media, Harvard invited representatives from the Times and the Wall Street Journal.
But despite its name, "human rights" is only a temporary concern of the Carr Center. Its ultimate, purpose, vows Sewall, is "to make U.S. use of force more effective." As a longer-term goal, Harvard, just as the Nazis did in Germany, is trying to win the public to value imperialist bloodshed over humanitarianism. The Carr Center and the War College have jointly revised the Pentagon's counter-insurgency doctrine in a document that awaits official approval. Anthony Cordesman spoke at Carr's November meeting about the home-front aspect of the new outlook: "It is critical that we honestly prepare the American people, the Congress...for the real nature of the war to be fought and prepare them to sustain the expense and sacrifice through truth, not spin."
The profit system itself, with its constant exploitation and endless wars, constitutes the greatest human rights abuse in history. As the atrocities unfold, we must not side with the liberals, who would manipulate our revulsion to serve the capitalists' war needs. We call on all workers and youth to repel the warmakers, from Harvard to the Pentagon, by marching with PLP on May Day to build the revolutionary communist movement that will destroy this nightmarish capitalist system.
The U.S. and European bosses claimed victory in the Cold War. It was "the end of history" according to State Department scribbler Francis Fukuyama-- U.S. capitalism would rule the world unopposed. Some said it was the first time in modern history where a ruling class surrendered power peacefully.
We in PLP disagreed. We saw it as a result of a section of the Soviet state-capitalist class deciding to go capitalist openly, ending whatever gains Soviet workers retained from the old socialist era. Long before 1991, the Soviet Union had become state capitalist (see PL Magazine, ROAD TO REVOLUTION 3 AND 4, 1971, 1982), given the concessions to capitalism like wage differentials, privileges for the elite, etc. (See CHALLENGE, 3/15, article on the 50th anniversary of Khrushchev's slanderous anti-Stalin speech).
The standard of living of Soviet workers plummeted. Civil wars erupted in many former Soviet republics. Soviet state capitalists stole the huge enterprises built by Soviet workers, and a mafia-style capitalism emerged. An alcohol-ridden Yeltsin tried to please the whims of NATO and Washington. He abandoned Russia's allies in Afghanistan, and the Russian army was humiliated in Chechnya.
The U.S. and NATO responded by surrounding Russia with military bases in the former Soviet republics. The final embarrassment came in the former Yugoslavia when NATO-U.S. forces declared war on Serbia, angering Russia, whose tanks seized the Pristina airport in Kosovo when the war was ending, beating NATO there. Putin was now in power and things were changing.
China's rise as a major capitalist power and India's growing energy needs, plus the U.S. quagmire in Iraq combined to escalate energy prices and turn around Russia's oil-and-gas-based economy. Increasingly Russian rulers, led by Putin, began flexing their muscles. They jailed Russian bosses who wanted to sell the country's energy giants to ExxonMobil. Now it's revealed that "Russia provided intelligence to Iraq's government on U.S. military movements in the opening days of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003." (Reuters, 3/24)
Although not necessarily on a par with the U.S., the Russian military remains the only force capable of matching U.S. military technology, with a system able to neutralize U.S. rulers' dream of a so-called Star Wars program. Russia's emerging power, its alliances with China, Iran and others, has driven U.S. bosses (the torturers of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, etc.) to use the "human rights" weapon, a Cold War tool.
On March 5, the influential Council on Foreign Relations released a 94-page report entitled, "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do." It concluded that Russia's foreign and domestic policies were harming U.S. global interests; that a U.S.-Russian partnership was no longer feasible; and that the U.S. should lead a coordinated Western policy of "selective cooperation" with Russia, a variant of the policy of detente during the Cold War years.
A week later, the U.S. State Department's annual "human-rights" report roundly criticized Putin for authoritarianism by "virtually stripping parliament of power...; continuing media restrictions and self-censorship...; continuing corruption and selectivity in enforcement of law, political pressure on the judiciary, and harassment of some non-governmental organizations," all of which has eroded "the accountability of government leaders to the people."
The next week a White House blueprint -- the National Security Strategy -- distinctly hardened its tone toward Moscow not only calling on Russia to respect freedom at home, but specifically warned that the Kremlin's "efforts to prevent democratic development at home and abroad will hamper the development of Russia's relations with the U.S., Europe and its neighbors."
The same day, March 16, while visiting Australia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told a town-hall audience in Sydney she saw "a very difficult and shaky path" right now for Russian democracy, and expressed the hope that the Russian people "will find their voice to demand accountable, transparent institutions and to demand the ability to organize themselves to petition their government and, if necessary, to change their government." (Next issue: Russia flexes its energy muscles, sharpening the imperialist rivalry and exposing a too costly aspect of the U.S. Cold War victory.)
More than 38,000 students were sent home. One parent said, "If it's a choice between giving money to the principals or the teachers, I say give it to the teachers." Teachers have not received a cost-of-living increase in more than three years and their contract expires June 30.
That's about the same time the City finance department expects Detroit to run out of cash. About $74 million is owed to the city's pension fund. On April 12, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will announce a restructuring of city government with even deeper attacks on workers and youth to pay for a $300-million deficit. The key is getting major concessions from city workers, as is occurring in the auto industry. Some in the Mayor's office are pushing to cut whole departments, like recreation and health.
During last fall's mayoral election, Kilpatrick blabbered about Detroit's "rebirth" and "renewal." Happy days were here again. Just last month, Detroit hosted a two-week long Super Bowl party for the rich, that had Kilpatrick and the media squealing like pigs about over $300 million being added to "our" economy. Kilpatrick, the City Council and the auto bosses that own them turned downtown Detroit into a millionaire's playground while the homeless were swept off the streets for a few days. Now the party's over.
This city of almost 900,000 mostly black workers and youth has been ravaged by the retreat of GM, Ford and Chrysler on the car-wars battlefield. And things are about to get a lot worse as GM and Ford close 30 factories and abolish 60,000 jobs (half of the GM workforce is in Michigan). On top of that, Delphi bosses continue to try to cut jobs and wages by two-thirds at the country's largest parts supplier. All this is added to the rulers' trillion-dollar failing occupation of Iraq, which has cost Detroit's workers and youth a racist surcharge in blood and budget cuts, and 100,000 Iraqi lives.
Detroit, like GM -- whose world headquarters towers above downtown -- is in critical condition. The "official" unemployment rate is 15%, more than 2_ times the national level. One-third of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate in the U.S. Of the 150,000 public school students, about 80% are black and 70% of those black students live in poverty. Hundreds of city workers have been laid off, fire houses closed, transit and sanitation services slashed and nine recreation centers boarded up.
One teacher in an alternative high school said that the dropout rate on the city's southwest side is 87%. She said, "I live on the East Side, which probably has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and I teach high school dropouts on the Southwest Side. My students have horrific problems, many of which stem from these economic and social conditions. It's disgusting."
Detroit's workers and youth need revolutionary communist leadership. Organizing a group to march on May Day is a way to begin to provide it.
GM, which lost $10.6 billion last year, will offer buyouts and early-retirement packages ranging from $35,000 to $140,000 to all 113,000 unionized U.S. workers. GM will also pay 13,000 UAW members $35,000 to leave Delphi, which was spun off from GM in 1999 and became the country's largest parts supplier. Another 5,000 Delphi workers who are former GM workers will be allowed to return to GM through the end of September 2007, and be offered a retirement package. That means that Delphi could eliminate as many as 18,000 of its 24,000 union workers, with GM footing the entire bill and with the UAW's blessings. Delphi has another 9,000 non-union hourly U.S. workers.
GM has about 36,000 workers who are eligible to retire with full pension and benefits. Another 27,000 nearing the 30 years needed to retire will be offered up to $2,900 a month, on top of their regular pay, if they agree to retire when they reach the 30-year level.
About half of all U.S. GM and Delphi workers live and work in Michigan. The elimination of tens of thousands of factory jobs, and its ripple effects, will only add to the racist tsunami that has devastated cities like Detroit and Flint.
The GM and Delphi buyouts, along with $15 billion in health care concessions last year, were accomplished without the union leadership formally reopening the contract which -- for what its worth -- expires in 2007. Whatever hasn't already been given back by then will certainly be on the table.
This is a major part of GM's plan to cut 30,000 U.S. jobs by 2008 and Delphi's emergence from bankruptcy. Delphi was still demanding 60% cuts in wages and benefits by the end of March. Otherwise, it's threatening to have a bankruptcy judge void the contract and impose the lower wages. This scenario is less likely, given this agreement.
With more than 60,000 GM and Delphi workers either at or near retirement, and most workers not trusting the union as far as you can spit, the bosses and their union leaders are likely to get away with throwing money at their problems, for now. But they are not making any friends, and not winning the loyalty of the workers. This "most dramatic restructuring" is similar to the "restructuring" done by Hitler and the Nazis. Our job is to build an international PLP, led by industrial workers, to make sure that GM's restructuring ends up like the Führer's.
Most threatening for the government is the many workers in the private sector who walked off the job, especially the industrial workers. There were 740 strikes in the iron and steel industry, and six Total oil refineries were hit, as were the telecommunications and banking sectors.
One-third of public sector workers struck. The schools were hardest hit, while one-fourth of the rail workers and one in eight electricity and gas workers also went out, as did postal workers and social workers.
During previous protests, the newspaper "Libération" reported, Paris riot police stood quietly by while thugs beat up high school demonstrators. They were rescued by union security marshals. Interior Minister Sarkozy used the incidents as a pretext to order the police to crack down.
But now the workers and students are answering. The main danger is a deal between the union leaders and the government. Suspicions were fueled by memories of the 1968 Grenelle agreements, when the unions and the fake left parties (mainly the Socialists and "Communists") sold out that general strike. That betrayal fed cynicism among workers and youth about the possibility of revolution. But they must overcome this and realize that without a fight for workers' power, with the goal of destroying the system that spawns all this exploitation, the bosses will continue to attack them, even if the anti-CPE forces win this battle.
The liberals are wringing their hands and worrying that an entire generation of young people is losing confidence in bourgeois democracy. They are calling on President Jacques Chirac to intervene - in other words, to fire his Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
Meanwhile, Villepin continues to fiddle, declaring today in the National Assembly that he will not withdraw the CPE and sending a letter to the trade union confederations inviting them to meet on March 29 to discuss "adapting" the CPE. Under rank-and-file pressure, this transparent attempt to split the trade union united front was turned down flat. The university and high school student unions didn't even deign to answer him.
Right-wing support for Villepin is becoming shaky. His arch-rival on the right, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, said that as a result of today's strikes and demonstrations "the government is going to have to budge."
But Villepin hopes to cling to power for two weeks, when Easter holidays will begin on many campuses, and in particular in the Paris area. He hopes that will defuse the crisis.
Workers and students need to continue and intensify their struggle. Student leaders have already called on the trade unions to launch a general strike on April 4. Broad sections of the population are learning that the bourgeois political system is stacked against them, and they are striking and demonstrating to get what they need and want outside that system. As communists point out, bourgeois democracy can only be done away with by doing away with the capitalist system that it serves.
Today, holding a job is more important than ever for women. Changing attitudes to marriage and new marital contracts have made separation and divorce more common. A jobless woman -- especially a mother -- can be plunged into poverty from one day to the next. In 2003, 80% of French women either had a job or were looking for one.
Under capitalism, however, "women's work" is not steady. Most often, women's jobs are temporary, part-time, unskilled or semi-skilled, with crazy working hours. The hard working conditions and low pay result in jobs with high turnover. Women enter and leave the job market more frequently than men -- not simply when they have children, but also because of intolerable working conditions.
Their insecure jobs include cleaning ladies, home helpers, checkout clerks and temporary sales staff. Government employment involves school canteen workers or being behind a post office counter. Women on these jobs do a few hours at a stretch and have work schedules that change all the time.
Eleven percent of women have a temporary work contract, almost twice the rate for men (6%). In 2003, of four million part-time workers, 82% were women, and 890,000 wanted full-time work. Of five million semi-skilled workers, 61% were women. Of two million unskilled workers, 78% were women. These women face an additional hardship in their work schedules -- only 15% of unskilled factory workers (mostly men) work on Sundays, compared to 30% of unskilled pink collar workers (mostly women).
In addition, 80% of the workers in the low-wage category are women. Male factory workers make 44% more than their female counterparts. This combination of low wages and part-time work not only means women's take-home pay is inadequate but leads to an inadequate pension upon retirement.
Large numbers of French women are stuck in this unsatisfactory situation because there is a "glass ceiling." Their part-time jobs don't lead to full-time ones; temporary work doesn't lead to a permanent job; and unskilled jobs don't lead to skilled ones. Often, the only choice for women is "take it or leave it"-- that is, withdraw from the job market altogether -- and doing that only increases their insecurity.
The precarious labor market for women robs them of their dignity and independence, and may force them to stay in bad relationships (10% of French women suffer from wife-beating). This scandalous situation only benefits the capitalists who profit from the low wages they pay women -- low wages that drive down men's wages as well. The CPE law would bring still more insecurity to women workers. It's no surprise that women of all ages have participated massively in the anti-CPE demonstrations. But the only way to eliminate job insecurity -- for women workers and for everyone -- is to destroy the capitalist system that produces insecurity.
"My mother told me how the brutal Italian army crushed whatever little independence Ethiopia had and how that S.O.B., Hailie Selassie, ran off to his masters in Britain while the working class and others fought the fascists."
His mother had been a teenage servant on a farm in 1936 when Mussolini's modern army came from Italian Eritrea in the west with 20th century weapons and airplanes against people with 19th century rifles, and annexed Ethiopia. She, like many others, slipped into the forest to become part of the somewhat disorganized resistance against the fascists. Later, during the Second World War, while the Italian army retreated, the British army put Selassie back on his throne.
B.R. described the repressive nature of Selassie's regime when he was the Emperor of Ethiopia. Most people viewed Selassie as being above the common man, and so did B.R. But one day when he was at work, he saw Selassie in the post office, surrounded by his armed guards. Now he could plainly see that Selassie was just a man like everyone else, and a very frightened one, at that.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had many client states. In the mid-1970's, a military council staged a coup de'etat and placed Mengistu (a Soviet client) as head of state. It was later reported that they poisoned Selassie and created an even more repressive dictatorship in Ethiopia. A number of groups opposed it, and often the army would drag young people out into the middle of the street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, and kill them. One day, Mengistu's soldiers banged on B.R.'s front door. He exited from the back and, through many twists and turns, arrived in the U.S.
One might think that all these events would make him cynical. But he believed in the working class; he believed in the struggle against the ruling classes. However, there seemed to be nothing but sellouts. He came upon CHALLENGE and was changed, both by his own experience and the understanding that he gained. He became a CHALLENGE seller and one day bumped into two working-class Rastafarians, who view Selassie as a god. Hearing that B.R. was Ethiopian, they asked him about the glory and magic of Selassie. He gave them a few home-grown truths, about how coward Selassie ran to England while the young stood and fought. The two, though not convinced, walked off with the paper.
His final remark in our conversation was, "Those sons of bitches, the ruling classes. We must smash them. They have us all enslaved."u
A Brooklyn comrade
When I arrived, an hour-long political discussion began. My friend was an avid CHALLENGE-DESAFIO reader but hadn't seen it for over a year. He had moved and we had lost contact. His brother-in-law knew me as a communist but we had never discussed politics because my friend had told me his brother-in-law was an anti-communist and had been a soldier in his native country. My friend was frantically trying to finish his sign so was too busy to participate in the conversation.
We started talking about the upcoming march and how these bills, Sensenbrenner and the McCain-Kennedy, were racist, but that the latter was more dangerous because while appearing "humanitarian," it sought to win immigrant workers and their children to fight and die for U.S. imperialism and to slave in their industries for low wages and no benefits.
I explained that the power of the working class lies in strikes and class struggle, not in electoral policies, and with communist leadership we could learn how to organize a revolution,. The sister said immigrant workers work hard and are exploited but white workers aren't. I noted that everyone who received less in wages than what he or she produced was exploited. Later when someone repeated that white workers were not exploited, the mechanic pointed out that it had already been explained that "exploitation was receiving less in wages from the capitalist than what one produces."
On war and the draft, the mechanic said that most countries have the draft, that it's a soldier's duty to defend the motherland. This led to defining "motherland" as a capitalist concept that chains the working class to its national bosses -- explaining that workers have no nation and that our goal should and will be the abolition of borders. All bosses are enemies of the working class.
Then we said that the bosses' plans for immigrant workers in their war industries and in the army should be seen as an opportunity to lead the whole U.S. working class in a fight against racist working conditions and imperialist war, that these struggles could be turned into one for workers' power.
This touched off a discussion on capitalism, socialism and communism. The workers said that communism was not an option because it had failed. I explained that what failed was socialism, and why. The mechanic said that exploitation had always existed and no matter who took state power they will become exploiters. This led to a discussion of primitive communism and the material basis that gave rise to exploitation. We then ended the evening on a friendly note and agreed to continue the discussion another time. They all took CHALLENGE and the Party leaflet about the march.
In a short time we covered a lot. This ruling class racist immigration debate has politicized Latin workers. As the above experience shows, this issue is so political that it provides a framework to put forward many aspects of PLP's ideas.
In trying to attract youth, this center had a black Humvee akin to the ones used in hip hop videos and was blasting reggaeton music. The black and Latin recruiters were wearing their Army fatigues and black berets while handing out flyers to passers-by.
When we appeared, they quickly vacated the premises and locked up the center. The militant youth chanted, "Workers of the world are under attack; cops out of the 'hood, troops out of Iraq!" The police used a flatbed truck with a large sign to try to hide our picket line. But comrades holding banners were chanting directly across the street so the cops eventually moved their sign.
The working-class youth from the inner city at this rally expressed lots of rage at the police and the recruiters. They see Army recruiters on their campuses trying to convince them to die for this wage-slave plantation called the USA. They're quickly learning they need only one loyalty -- to their class -- and that they must organize to fight for communism. Such youth possessing communist consciousness are a real threat to U.S. rulers.
After the rally, the PL'ers led a march to another location to watch an anti-war movie. Several comrades directly linked the war to the U.S. ruling class's need to increase profits and its threat to wage war with Iran. Some at the march advocated a "moral argument" against war. But the bosses in power will never feel guilt about those they exploit. Confidence in the working class and rage at injustice -- class hatred -- not guilt, will fuel the drive to communist revolution.
Today's action only temporarily closed down the bosses' recruiting center, but realistically the "economic daft" (and an eventual conscription law) will force many of these youth into the military where we must win them to smash the imperialist warmakers.
Next step: move these marches a little farther south, to the neighborhoods around Ft. Lewis, to meet even more military families. Many people have grown weary of the same old pacifist rhetoric at these peace marches. Fortunately, we have CHALLENGE to draw the lessons of the struggle. We need to get it to these families and invite them to May Day.
The dinner opened with an historical slide show about May Day. The first speaker explained the contradictory aspects of yesterday's march. While representing the mass anger of immigrants against racism, it mainly was an attempt by the liberal rulers to win workers to patriotism and the military (contained in the McCain-Kennedy bill).
A short skit acted out these ideas: an immigrant escaped from a Minuteman, only to be helped by a friendly capitalist, who gave her a green card and then army fatigues!
Some comrades reviewed their experiences in past May Days. We all signed up for various committees to ensure that this year's May Day will be even better. The final speaker connected inter-imperialist competition to the realities of current and future wars, budget cuts and the McCain-Kennedy bill.
He concluded by noting that political economy and dialectics explain how capitalism creates its own gravediggers: to fight their wars the ruling class gives guns and tanks to the most oppressed and exploited group of workers. They arm their own class enemies! We must arm them with communist politics.
The spirited night closed with the singing of the CHALLENGE song and Pass the Hat" from the old PLP record (now in a CD) and then the traditional Bella Ciao and the Internationale. The dinner was a powerful event that bodes well for the future of PLP here.
The city didn't order mandatory evacuation until the day before Katrina hit, and didn't give people like us without cars any way to leave. So we sat it out. The hurricane itself wasn't that bad. There was some water, but mostly it was windy. The water got pumped out. Then the flood came. But we stayed, and eventually the water went down.
Seven days later, we were on the front porch, raking up -- it was completely dry then -- and I saw army trucks approaching. "I hope they're not coming to mess with us," I said. Sure enough, the Guard came over and asked if we were leaving. I said no. They didn't come to help us a week ago, what did they want with us now? They said we had to leave because the place was contaminated. But we knew what happened at the Superdome and the Convention Center, so we figured wherever they'd take us would be contaminated, too. We said we'd just stay and deal with it, but they kept ordering us to leave.
Finally, my 87-year old uncle told them to stop bothering us. They told him to shut up; it "wasn't his business." He said, "Yes, it is my business. This is my family." One of them punched him in the face. Then they grabbed my husband who wasn't even saying anything. I was doing all the talking. They threw him up against the wall, grabbed his arms and handcuffed him, saying they were arresting him for "child abuse," because the place was contaminated. So finally we agreed to leave.
They only allowed us to take a few clothes. We have four babies and a three-bedroom house. We said we just can't leave all our property here, but they kept saying it would be safe; that we had to get in the truck. They followed us from room to room, with guns in their hands, big guns. The children were scared and crying. I asked them to please put the guns away, the children were screaming. They refused. I asked them where they were taking us. They kept saying, "Somewhere safe."
They dropped us near the Convention Center where we boarded buses going to the airport. Many people were there. They said we could get on a bus or an airplane, but didn't know to where. What kind of choice is that?
So we chose an airplane. They took our names and searched our bags, but still wouldn't tell us where we were going. Finally, after we were in the air, they announced we were coming here.
When we arrived it was so different. People met us with open arms. We ended up at a shelter, and they had everything ready. The rooms were pretty good, but they had cots in them. I said, "Cots? We've got babies here; we need beds." Pretty soon we had beds.
The agencies that are supposed to help us haven't given us anything. Everything we have came from the residents; all the furniture, clothes, everything. But we don't know what we're going to do. The government isn't helping us. Everything you see in this temporary housing, the volunteers got for us. But how will we pay our utility bills? We can't find jobs. The volunteers are helping us now, but that will end. We got evicted from our house in New Orleans because we couldn't get back down there to take care of anything. One of my relatives went by the house, and found it all cleared out. All of our belongings are gone. We have nothing, and we don't know what we're going to do.
This story is one among tens of thousands. The government doesn't want poor black workers returning to New Orleans. First they left them to die in the hurricane, then took the survivors and flung them all over the country. They did everything except send them to concentration camps and gas chambers. This is fascism.
Like this woman, most Katrina survivors know the government is our enemy. Capitalism has nothing to offer us! The only way to defeat fascism and racism is by workers taking over and running the world ourselves. When we can share everything according to everyone's needs, we'll be like the people sharing what they have with the evacuees. That's a communist idea.
We need to do more for our brothers' and sisters' right to return home, to help them fight wherever they are, however we can. Let's discuss what we can do in our unions, churches, schools, neighborhood associations and other mass organizations, and those of us who can should go to New Orleans this summer to fight racism and help the survivors re-organize their lives.
We were housed at a church facility in an area that hadn't been severely damaged. At our first meeting the team leader asked us to introduce ourselves and tell a little-known fact and a recent experience. When my turn came, figuring this was the right time and the right place, I said I'm a communist and that a week earlier a group from my Party including myself helped disrupt a recruiting meeting of the racist Minutemen at Valley Forge, PA. It sparked a lot of discussion that wouldn't have occurred otherwise.
At the final get-together one man said he was especially interested in my politics and frankness. He and I spent most of the return trip discussing communism and religion. He had lots of reasons why communism "can't work," but it's clear he hates the way he's treated on his job and thinks it stinks, echoing what others said that week.
One home we cleared out, in a black neighborhood near Lake Ponchartrain, had been flooded up to the roof. The interior was covered with mold, and furnishings were still soaked. The owner, 84, is retired after working many years as a steward on a cruise ship line. He had escaped death by leaving well ahead of Katrina, and now lives in a trailer in his front yard. He was furious at the city and U.S. governments for neglecting his home and the people but said it didn't surprise him one bit. His insurance company has denied his claim, so he's suing them. His next door neighbor, who'd tried to ride out the storm, was found drowned in his house.
We arrived at another home at 4 PM after working on other houses all day. It was too late to start but the team leader still wanted to put in an hour. I disagreed, saying we were exhausted and might get hurt. He flew into a rage. But I proposed that everyone should give their opinions. Nearly everyone said we should go home, and so we did. The team leader apologized. Later, when we discussed all this, I said I thought it was ironic that people think communism is a "Do-as-you're-told" society, yet that's really capitalism!
We ended the week with dancing to zydeco music and having a few drinks. Trips like this are terrific for bringing people close together and helping to get to know and trust each other.
A Common Ground Collective leader and experienced activist, Lisa, had our full attention as she explained the details of why this particular group of volunteers had gathered away from the others. The next day's optional gutting and clean-up would not be at a residence in our usual stomping grounds of the lower 9th ward, but at a school that the state of Louisiana had taken over; a school where the certified teachers, like at many other schools, had been fired; a school that according to local parents, turned out wonderfully prepared students; a school, also like other schools in the hard-hit area of the 9th ward, that remained closed six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
The 9th ward residents grew anxious for their children to continue their education. After six months of asking the state when the schools would re-open, community groups and their leaders asked Common Ground Collective -- an all-volunteer group that works gutting and cleaning homes, providing needed supplies and offering a range of support to hurricane victims -- to stand with them in re-opening schools. Martin Luther King, Jr. school would be an opportunity not just to clean up, but to restore an important piece of infrastructure to the 9th ward and give residents a sign that conditions could improve.
Lisa's instructions were not about how to stay safe when dealing with the toxic debris we would find there; we were long since aware of that. Her comments were all about preparing to encounter the New Orleans Police Department. The NOPD is notorious for its racist treatment of black residents and we were advised to choose our TYVEK clean-up suits carefully. White suits would indicate the individual's readiness to be arrested for cleaning up the school without state permission, an act of civil disobedience. Blue suits meant we would hang back and lend support to our comrades in white.
The notion of being arrested in an unfamiliar town and detained by a police department known for its brutality and ill-treatment of black residents hung heavy for many of the volunteers. This was especially true for black volunteers from historically black colleges and universities and majority universities showing support for the mostly black residents. Despite the potential dangers involved, when the volunteers met the next morning to head to the school, there was a great sea of white suits as well as many blue ones, each accepting a different responsibility but both so important to, dependent upon, and respecting of one another.
We were "greeted" at the school by the NOPD, the fire department and of all entities, Homeland Security. We were also met by residents who came to thank us and speak with the press, as well as by countless motorists driving by and "honking for justice!" The police never approached us and only watched as we cleaned the school, bringing wheel barrel after wheel barrel of damaged and destroyed books to the curb from the school's once magnificent library. The outside of the school was still stately. Many awards and banners were recovered and brought out into the sun.
Who knows if the school will re-open or if the neighborhoods of the 9th ward will be rebuilt, but I'm proud to be a part of an effort to show my brothers and sisters that I care. All poor, disenfranchised, displaced and besieged people deserve a chance to live peacefully and are my brothers and sisters. I'll be honored to work with them again this summer and next spring and next summer until we can see progress.
Alternate Spring Break Volunteer
The march leaders (read Democratic Party) pushed U.S. nationalism very forcefully. This differed from the customary nationalism, of "my country" or "my flag." This nationalism, imposed through oppression and psychological terror on immigrant workers, helped the ruling class win some of the most oppressed, exploited and terrorized workers to chant, "USA, USA" several times during the march.
All nationalism is reactionary, hurts the working class and undermines the fight for communism. While chanting "USA" is no worse than chanting "Mexico" or "La Raza," still the nationalism of "my country" is based on a sense of belonging. The nationalism of "USA" is imposed through fear and terror, on workers facing poverty-wages and the constant threat of deportations, especially with Homeland Security terrorizing all immigrants. And unlike the attacks on immigrants in the 1919 Palmer Raids, when a Soviet Union existed and an international communist movement was being forged, there is none of that today to give confidence and leadership to the workers, except for PLP, in the infancy of building such a movement.
That doesn't mean that our struggle is psychological; it's an ideological one that needs to be understood in order to be won. A young woman marcher said, "They're trying to destroy the little class consciousness immigrant workers have." The U.S. ruling class, aided by the immigrant media, is trying to replace class consciousness with a more dangerous nationalism than the one we've known up to now. Ideas accepted under psychological terror are more difficult to fight against.
PLP's participation in this march was so important. Most people around us joined our chants like, "Las Luchas Obreras No Tienen Fronteras" ("Workers' Struggles Have No Borders); or "The Workers, United, Will Never Be Defeated." People were asking us to lead chants even though we had no bullhorn. The march leaders tried to drown us out with the generic chant of, "Si Se Puede" "Yes, we can do it").
PLP brought hope to the march. Without our presence, workers wouldn't have heard or joined our chants. This is why it's so important for us to participate in -- and bring our ideas of a communist revolution to -- the mass movement.
The bosses used nationalism, reformism and religion to build for the march. We must understand what about those ideas appeal to our friends and co-workers and how they respond to the rulers' message.
The rulers really don't want to deport the 12 million undocumented workers; they want a guest worker program that "welcomes" immigrants to the bottom rung of the labor force and the front lines of their endless oil wars.
On my job I interviewed some of my co-workers who marched for the first time. I asked them, "What motivated you to march?" "Did you go with a group, or family and friends?" "What do you think about immigrants serving in the military for 'legalization?'" "If you had the power, how would you fix the problem?"
One of my last questions stems from comments made by Congressman Luis Gutierrez, one of the march's main organizers. When asked about his plan for immigrants he said, "We should fingerprint them, bring them out of the underground economy so they can pay taxes and enrich our national treasury." I asked my co-workers if they marched for fingerprinting and taxes.
Two workers said we should just destroy the border. Another said she marched for equality. None supported young immigrants fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan for a chance to become citizens. In fact, one cited an example of a young worker losing his life doing just that. None had any support for fingerprinting
However, workers did show support for some of the Democratic politicians who gave lip service to amnesty. Most mentioned it as the solution to the challenges immigrant workers face. Workers can grasp our ideas if we engage them in the context of struggle. On the other hand, they also can be won to the bosses' ideas. This is the constant struggle.
Rojo de Chicago
* "During the 2000 campaign...anticipat[ed] the `Bush Doctrine' of pre-emptive war," calling for "overthrow...[of] regimes" that "posed no...threat to the U.S."; "still thinks the war was a good idea"; "rejects any attempt" to withdraw; calls for "an increase in American troop levels in 2006." (All quotes from NY Times, 3/13)
* "Voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains...benefiting people with very high incomes."
* "Would have signed South Dakota's...new anti-abortion law" which would ban abortions for women victims of incest and rape.
* Favors "policy positions and Senate votes [that]...place him in the right-wing of the Republican Party"; "at the recent...Republican Leadership Conference...effusively praised...Bush"; and is ranked "as the Senate's third most conservative member."
How could such a pro-boss warmonger help immigrant workers, or any workers?
Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein....
Two senior British officials confirmed the authenticity of the memo, but declined to talk further about it....
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found....
When a deputy warned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger two days after the coup to "expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood," Mr. Kissinger was unfazed and ordered American support for the new military junta.
"I do want to encourage them," Mr. Kissinger said, according to the documents. "I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States." (NYT, 3/25)
MetLife refused to consider the applications of three black veterans who sought apartments. When these veterans sued the company, a group of Stuyvesant Town residents, including my grandparents, united to support their cause....
Although MetLife eventually offered to admit a few token black families, the company refused to change its tenant selection policy. The company also informed 35 families who belonged to the tenants committee, my grandparents among them, that their leases would not be renewed....
Nineteen of the families decided to fight to keep their apartments....
The city marshal ordered the targeted tenants to be out of their apartments by 9 o'clock on the morning of January 17, 1952, and hired a moving company to drag their furniture onto the street. In response, the families barricaded their doors. They sent their children to stay with relatives and passed baskets of food from window to window with ropes....
As word of the evictions spread, civic groups and labor unions called for a demonstration of support for the tenants. Hundreds of New Yorkers picketed....Protesters held a round-the-clock vigil that lasted three days.
Fifteen hours before the city marshal's deadline, MetLife...agreed to negotiate...and on Jan. 20, MetLife agreed to drop the eviction proceedings....
[Recently] MetLife declined to provide statistics on the number of black tenants currently holding leases....
Many members of the tenants committee were, in fact, Communists, and Councilman Davis, a sponsor of the [ensuing] anti-discrimination bill, was the Council's Communist Party representative. (NYT, 3/26)
That was the myth. It evaporated in practice....You cannot earn an engineer's or an accountant's pay if companies are not hiring engineers and accountants, or are hiring relatively few and can control the wage, chipping away at it. (NYT)
This is not to say that V for Vendetta isn't entertaining. It has an intriguing plot and flashy special effects as well as some attractive political statements that could win over many left-leaning youth, making this movie very dangerous. It was produced by the Wachowski brothers (who also did The Matrix movies) and directed by their protégé, Jim McTeigue. The movie also makes very real the terror and paranoia of the fascist world it represents.
Vendetta is set in England in the future. A fascist regime has ruled for some years after winning the national elections based on the fears of a chemical attack supposedly set off by terrorists that kills almost 100,000 people. Curfews, henchmen, surveillance cameras, propagandists and police are used to quell any dissent. A mysterious masked superhero named "V," armed with swords, bombs and historical references, is out to topple the government and to inspire the British working class to rebel against it. "People should not fear the government. The government should fear its people," is V's rallying call.
In the process, V saves a young woman named Evey who he tries to convince that his actions are correct, and why the rest of society should do the same. Evey has been orphaned by the government's repressive tactics because her parents helped expose the government's poisoning of its own people, later blamed on terrorists. V, himself is a victim of a government concentration camp that performed experiments in cahoots with pharmaceutical companies. His vendetta against the government is personal and political.
The original story of V for Vendetta was written in the early 1980's, satirizing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her regime's ride to power. The movie version is more about Bush and Blair. As in the book, the movie omits any kind of political or economic reasons leading to this fascist regime's seizure of power and how imperialism impels a ruling class to choose between the carrot ("democracy") and the stick (fascism).
The book essentially blames the masses for "choosing" the fascists in the first place. The book even attacks Stalin (of course!): V makes his speech in front of pictures of Hitler, Mussolini and Uncle Joe himself.
Workers and youth must reject this movie as anti-working class. The original book basically labeled the masses stupid for believing in these government leaders. Fascist regimes like Hitler's Third Reich or U.S. Liberal/Republican "Democracy" are imposed either to discipline the sections of the ruling class who don't toe the line set by the big bosses, to prepare for war against competing imperialist rivals and to oppress and super-exploit workers, especially black and immigrant workers. (Suspiciously, none of this is mentioned in the movie, while currently racism is running rampant in Europe, signified by the rebellion of Arab and African workers in France). The repression in the movie is mostly against homosexuals, Arab workers and political activists.
Spontaneous actions of a few individuals will not produce working-class revolution nor send capitalism into chaos. This strategy has never worked; if anything, it has attacked the real work of revolutionaries. For the anarchists, with no organization, no planning and no base-building, somehow a brighter future will exist.
Workers and youth need a Party comprised of themselves and millions of others, to organize a revolution. It won't happen out of thin air after Parliament buildings are blown up, as V for Vendetta leads you to believe.
The letter refers to a NY Times article (3/3) on a study of chimpanzees in Germany. Based on it, the letter states that cooperation is natural and selfishness and greed are unnatural.
It's correct that people are not naturally selfish, but it is incorrect that they are naturally cooperative. People are not naturally either one. Rather it's the social circumstances and the organization of society, and classes within the society, that promote either selfishness or cooperation. "Human nature," in terms of particular complex behaviors, is a longstanding myth, and we should not be misled into battling with liberals or right-wingers over what that "nature" may be.
The letter agrees with the Times' article that chimps and humans may have inherited the trait of cooperation from a common ancestor millions of years ago. But there is absolutely no evidence that complex social behaviors like cooperation can be inherited at all. These are learned behaviors, even in chimps. There's not even been a mechanism proposed for how genes could possibly produce complex behaviors, other than through providing sufficiently complex and flexible brains that permit learning.
There are more discoveries every day that behaviors thought to have been instinctive, and therefore inherited, are in fact learned. For example, Frans de Waal, a leading primatologist (a scientist who studies non-human primates), has shown that certain monkeys and apes change their behaviors when put into social circumstances to which they are not accustomed. It has been found that whales learn new songs from outsider whales that join their schools, and so on.
The letter says uncritically, "Psychological tests have shown that humans tend to cooperate with people who have cooperated with them in the past, and avoid offering help to those who have not helped." This idea contains its own contradiction, since if that were true cooperation could never get started. Besides, each of us knows of countless instances in which we've offered cooperation without such prior experience with a person, and countless others have done the same for us. Most psychological writings are based more on the prejudices of the investigators and are not warranted by their observations.
Like humans, chimps also cooperate only under certain circumstances and not universally. After all, they also kill other chimps under other circumstances, belying, incidentally, liberal claims that "only humans kill other members of their own species."
The letter's main point, however, is correct -- workers armed with communist theory will, as they have before, fight to overcome the capitalists and organize a communist world. Not only is communism possible, but it is necessary to provide the social organization that will universally foster cooperation and selflessness, and discourage competition, greed and selfishness. Since selfishness and greed are not "human nature," the seeds of that cooperation already exist within the working class under capitalism.
However, only under communist leadership can it be strengthened enough to lead to revolutionary change for communism. That is PLP's goal.
Part 1 (CHALLENGE 3/29) showed how capitalism got its start through centuries of massive theft and murder. Inequality continues to intensify, resulting in worldwide poverty, starvation, sickness and misery. But it wasn't always so. There is overwhelming anthropological and archaeological evidence that for tens of thousands of years humanity survived through sharing and cooperation and through everyone's contributing to the well being of all. Prior to the development of class societies, inequality was unknown.
On the surface, it would seem that if initially theft created inequality of wealth, redistribution of wealth should be the solution. But recent history has shown this doesn't work. Why is this so and how then will the working class be able to re-establish equality?
Firstly, there are two completely different types of wealth: (1) productive wealth -- items that can be used to create more items, such as tools, machinery, factories, mines and land; and (2) consumable wealth - items that are used to satisfy personal needs or pleasures, such as food, clothing, houses, cars, yachts and bank accounts. Some items, such as land, can be used in either way, but the important thing is how it is used.
Under capitalism, virtually all productive wealth is privately owned by capitalists and is used not only to create other items, but also to exploit the labor of the working class and to make profit at our expense. Under communism, factories, mines and farms would be owned collectively by the entire working class worldwide and made as safe as possible for manufacture, ore production and agriculture. The work-day would be rescheduled to include time for study. Production would be centrally planned based on people's needs, not on the profit needs of the rich capitalist owners.
However, the communist parties in the Soviet Union and China had no prior experience to draw on and didn't believe that peasants would accept collective ownership of land. Peasants comprised the vast majority of these societies and had less experience working collectively than factory workers and miners. Therefore, following the revolutions, large packets of land were seized back from rich landlords and redistributed in small parcels to landless and poor peasants, to own and to farm. But redistribution was unstable, and inequality quickly returned.
The reasons for this instability? Diseased livestock or poor crops forced some families to borrow from luckier families and go into debt. One family's indebtedness to another is a major form of inequality. Inequality led to more inequality, since the borrowing family then had to earn not only enough to survive, but make even more to repay the debt. So the borrowers became poorer and poorer and the lenders richer and richer -- from interest on the loan, from lending to more and more luckless families, and from taking over the borrowing families' land as payment for the loan.
The central principle of communist equality -- from each according to her/his commitment, to each according to her/his need -- can only be achieved when productive wealth is owned by the working class as a whole. So land redistribution was reversed and reassembled into large parcels, under collective ownership. The land was then more easily cultivated; poor crops one year in one area could be compensated for by transporting produce from one area to another.
But even collective ownership of productive wealth proved insufficient to stabilize the working class in power, as the reversion to capitalism in the Soviet Union and China shows. (Part 3 will discuss the need to abolish wages and money.)