Around 500 workers, students and soldiers gathered in Brooklyn following the demonstration. It was to be the best annual May Day celebration yet! Many young comrades played leading roles in organizing, speaking and performing at this event. Though exhausted from marching, traveling from cities as far away as the Midwest and preparing food for the standing-room-only crowd, we were energized by the well-organized program. By putting communist politics into practice, the group collectively arranged tables, chairs, decorations, food and sound equipment.
The event opened with the crowd on its feet, fists in the air, singing the Internationale in English and Spanish. A single glance around the room depicted PL's dedication to building a mass communist party and promoting leadership among black and Latin youth.
A powerful "State of the World" speech by a young Latin woman laid out the main political events of the last year including the spread of imperialism in the Middle East, growing fascism in the U.S. through targeting immigrant workers, the election of reformist parties in South America and the racist neglect of victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Personal testimonies of these struggles were given by a super-exploited Latin day laborer; a young woman arrested for disrupting a Minutemen meeting; a young man's travels through Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, leading him to reject these nationalist, capitalist movements and instead join PLP; a Harlem church parishioner's story of organizing Katrina support; a riveting anti-racist talk by a hurricane survivor; and a community organizer calling for comrades to provide political leadership and support to the suffering workers in New Orleans.
There were new reports from communist organizers on building work in industry. Through stories of labor struggles in mass transit and auto assembly plants, two black workers brought to life the revolutionary potential of the industrial working class and why it is crucial to communist revolution. These reports marked an important qualitative advance in PL's work, after many long years of dedicated struggle in these industries.
An analysis of sexism under capitalism revealed it as another bosses' tool to divide the working class and described how PL'ers are combating it. This was followed by a moving story of a struggling working-class family who equally divide the labor in the home and on the job in order to survive. The diverse crowd was challenged to increase the fight against exploitation on the job and sexism in society in their daily lives.
A longtime unionist from Chicago related her experiences working with a reform group of "reform leaders" in her local. She explained the big picture of rejecting the accommodating reformists who are all too willing to sell out workers' struggles and the necessity of winning workers to PLP's communist understanding.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this evening was the effort of black, Latin and white workers, young and old, men and women who worked to make our celebration a demonstration of communist unity in action.
Filled with inspirational stories of success and set-backs, the crowd was left with the powerful reminder that as members and friends of the Progressive Labor Party we have an important duty to continually fight for communist revolution, not reform. We must make communist politics primary every hour, every day, everywhere, with everyone. No doubt, struggle is hard work, yet every year on May Day we take the time to celebrate our successes and watch the Party grow. So start building for next May Day, today!
A very militant group of youth marched against the racist bosses, their borders, their war and their terror. We proudly and boldly put forward the need for a mass communist revolution to end capitalism's racist exploitation and inevitable imperialist wars. We sold 1,000 CHALLENGES and distributed 4,000 leaflets to the many workers who lined up to support the march. Some of those watching later told friends how impressed they were by both its message and its multi-racial character.
Afterwards, we held a spirited dinner with a great skit by high school students about fighting racism against immigrants and how the bosses plan to use immigrant youth in expanded wars in the Mid-East. One speaker related the fight in his union for a resolution to make May Day a holiday celebrating international workers' day, and to support the fight against anti-immigrant racism. He warned about the danger of the liberal bosses building a patriotic pro-imperialist "reform" movement and of the opportunity for PLP to grow into a mass party of the working class.
A young woman described the great response she got when selling CHALLENGE and talking to garment workers about why PLP was marching independently as well as participating in the big Monday immigrant marches. She urged marchers to dedicate their lives to serving the working class by building PLP to spread revolutionary communist ideas and practice, to build workers' international unity and loyalty to the red flag, not the bosses' flags.
Three people at the dinner did just that, and others signed up for CHALLENGE subscriptions and to sell the paper to their friends. The speaker also invited everyone to join the Summer Project to learn from -- and bring the Party's ideas to -- industrial workers.
The following are excerpts from speeches at the May Day dinners:
An industrial worker recounted his experiences in fighting for his union to support immigrant workers and May Day. He received significant backing, especially from black workers who are regular CHALLENGE readers:
"What have I learned from all this struggle over the last three weeks, other than I better bring my own lunch to work since I haven't had time to buy it? Well, first, our job is not to be the most popular guy on the block, or in the factory. Our job is to fight like hell for the working class. That means fighting for the Party's line.
"Second, CHALLENGE networks count. They're no magic bullet, but it's from among these networks that we can build and expand our political base and the numbers in our Party.
"Third, when the chips are down the internal political struggle is primary. There are objective political limits on what we can do. But make no mistake about it; our communist politics are the only ideas that can serve the working class and we can move significant numbers of workers -- in this case key industrial workers -- inspired by that communist vision.
"We'll have to build on these small victories through many years of devastating imperialist wars, intensifying exploitation and racism. But never...forget, the political development of our class will eventually determine everything. Long live communist revolution!"
A young industrial worker explained that the U.S. imperialists face increasing competition with China and the other imperialists, that the war in Iraq has no end in sight, and that the future of the entire working class depends on winning industrial workers and soldiers to communism. He spoke of one dividing into two and the danger and opportunity present in the immigrant struggle: "Our role in these huge reform struggles is to strengthen the side of revolution and communism. This means, in the current immigration struggle, to fight against the bosses' nationalism used to divide our class. We must fight for the idea that the working class has no nation or border.
"Imagine," he said, "if black, white, Asian and Arab workers were marching in huge numbers together with Latino workers, imagine the power of the entire working class fighting for power -- not for an illusory reform that the bosses are pushing.
"There are only two sides in every struggle and our side must always be the side of revolution and communism. We have to enter the contradiction of reform struggles, unite with workers, and fight for communist ideas.... "Building a base for communist revolution isn't quick or easy. It requires patience and a long-term plan. We should aim to concentrate in every factory and barracks....The world we need for our families and our class won't arrive by itself. A communist society in which collectivity defeats individualism has to be fought for worker by worker. But this society has its roots in every one of us, and with the Progressive Labor Party it will become a reality."
This May Day clearly shows the development of young working-class communist leaders. They point the way forward to victory.
Other marchers and onlookers welcomed an openly communist "red" contingent of over 250 workers and youth under the banners "WE NEED COMMUNIST REVOLUTION NOT LIBERAL POLITICANS" and "WORKERS, STUDENTS, SOLDIERS UNITE TO SMASH IMPERIALIST WAR." We sold over 5,000 CHALLENGES and distributed over 4,000 leaflets.
Many new marchers and passers-by were ecstatic to seize the opportunity to condemn racist cops; all politicians for keeping our class on the reform treadmill; and all wars for being imperialistic and profit-driven.
While the U.S. ruling class is having a hard time meeting its military recruiting goals, the very people the bosses want to use as cannon fodder in their wars were leaders and becoming leaders in the fight to put the leeches in their grave.
We had one study group about turning imperialist war into class warfare for communist revolution and how the road to communism is filled with destruction and triumph for our class. Another study group analyzed the anti-war movement and why joining PLP and fighting for communism is the only solution to ending wars and racism.
We're fighting for recruitment with a higher level of commitment and understanding the revolutionary process. Everyone at these meetings came to May Day and led various aspects. Some are now meeting with a Party club and organizing in their schools around the rise in fascist attacks on students (see page 7).
We heard a rousing opening speech exposing U.S. capitalism and the fact that the Dream Act and the McCain-Kennedy or Sensenbrenner bills attacked ALL workers, especially immigrant workers. While attacks on the international working class grow more acute, we don't yield. Instead, we take increased pride as we honor the communist heroes who opened this era of working-class revolution while we continue to struggle against the revisionism (phony "leftists") that reversed the great victories of these past giants.
May Day 2006 contained the seeds of a new future, a communist future. We need many millions more to achieve this goal. The creativity, boldness, persistence and comradeship among working-class brothers and sisters displayed on this May Day, and in the organizing for it, made a lasting impression on many new and old friends. Our ideas resonate deep in the minds of thousands now and will in millions more we've yet to meet. Our potential remains earthshaking. Each May Day is a step in our march from the potential to the actual. We'll continue to build international working-class solidarity. Fight for communism! Power to the workers!
PLP marchers tried to counter that poison. We sold over 500 DESAFIOS/CHALLENGES and carried a bilingual banner reading, "Workers' Struggles have no Borders." Many workers loved it and read CHALLENGE on the spot. Our presence at most of the recent marches in the immigration rights movement showed that our Party is the light that shines for the working class to see through the rulers' lies.
Skyrocketing gas prices bring a flurry of finger-pointing and proposed solutions. But liberal Republican Lugar, a top strategist for U.S. imperialism, cuts straight to the point. The intensifying rivalry among the world's imperialists over control of oil underlies the latest spike. Lugar's warning indicates the rulers will try to solve their energy crisis with wars far deadlier than the slaughter in Iraq.
U.S. policy-makers' long-term oil worries center on China. Ethanol and better fuel efficiency in the U.S. have no chance of offsetting its huge oil thirst. Last year, China alone accounted for 31% of global growth in oil demand. Lately, Chinese officials have been making oil and gas deals in dozens of countries, all at Exxon Mobil's and Chevron's expense. President Hu just spent three days chatting up royalty in Saudi Arabia, Exxon's number one source of crude. In a December 2005 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Senator Joe Lieberman, an imperialist Democrat, echoes his colleague Lugar's bluntness: "China's drive to lock up energy supplies could put it on a collision course with the United States and other nations....Wars have been fought over natural resources."
The Senators' threats are not idle. The Telegraph (U.K.), commenting on Hu's Saudi trip reported: "The United States has begun a significant strengthening and revamp of its forces in case growing tensions -- fuelled by the struggle to secure oil supplies -- spill over into military confrontation. The radical, but little hyped, review of U.S. deployments in Asia is part of what Pentagon and White House officials have dubbed their `hedge' strategy towards China. The U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific is the hub for the new plan, where the Pentagon will spend $5 billion to upgrade facilities for attack submarines, ships and new long-range strategic bombers. U.S. Marine forces will be transferred there from Okinawa, in Japan, to put them out of immediate range of a Chinese attack.
"China has been increasing its defense spending by 10% a year for a decade, and American analysts believe its annual military budget could be at least twice the $35 billion Beijing admits to. Of particular concern to the U.S. is China's pursuit of a powerful `blue water' navy, based around a fleet of sophisticated submarines."
The theatre of potential military action stretches from the China Sea to the Persian Gulf to Central Asia, where the U.S. has already suffered a big setback. According to the CFR website, 4/5/06):
"[China and Russia] staged joint military exercises in 2005 for the first time, and are working together closely on Central Asia security issues.
"They're using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to try to edge the United States out of Central Asia, both militarily and politically." In July, the SCO called on the U.S. to set a timeline for withdrawing from military bases in Central Asia. Soon after, Uzbekistan decided to evict the U.S. from its military base at Karshi-Khanabad.
U.S. military failure in Iraq is the biggest single cause of the current price hike. U.S. rulers had planned to make Iraq a "swing producer" of oil, one with enough surplus capacity to significantly affect oil prices. They predicted a possible output of 6 million barrels a day (mbd). But the Bush team botched the job by sending in a force too small to secure the oil infrastructure. Today Iraq pumps 1.6 mbd, less than half its pre-war peak of 3.5 mbd. This 4.4 mbd shortfall, equivalent to the combined output of Kuwait and Venezuela, drastically tightens demand. The U.S.'s troubles have emboldened Iran's ayatollahs, who now rattle the nuclear saber and threaten to block oil shipping lanes, thereby sending further tremors through oil futures markets.
Many loyal servants of the U.S. war machine, like the phalanx of retired generals who recently demanded Rumsfeld's head, urge that the U.S. regroup and build a massive international coalition, in order to invade and effectively occupy any of the Mideast's major oil producers. Gen. William Odom wrote (Foreign Policy, May-June 2006):
"Only with a rapid withdrawal from Iraq will Washington regain diplomatic and military mobility. Tied down like Gulliver in the sands of Mesopotamia, we simply cannot attract the diplomatic and military cooperation necessary to win the real battle."
Capitalists always try to make the working class pay for their problems, in this case, both at the pump and on the battlefield. But workers must not let the bosses have the last word. It is in the interests of the international working class to fight ALL the bosses, no matter what side they're on in this rulers' dogfight. Uniting the working class worldwide behind the communist ideas of Progressive Labor Party is the beginning of the long march to eradicate this hellish profit system. That's the only way the resources workers produce can be shared according to our class's overall needs. Building the PLP is the key to that goal.
Earlier, PLP'ers had distributed thousands of flyers and CHALLENGES and made well-received speeches to crowds among the 750,000 people marching for immigrant rights downtown on May Day. Then one young comrade had spread the word that a church on the North Side had volunteered to be a soapbox for the Minutemen and that local Nazis had already promised their solidarity and vigilante security.
After the march, young PLP leaders planned how to shut down the event, to prevent Pulido from presenting her hate to local workers and students. Three days later, almost 40 PLP members and friends attended the event to end it quickly. The young comrades had planned to interrupt Pulido when she spoke. But a seasoned comrade guided them to attack the source of the entire racist event, the church that organized it.
When the preacher presented a hypocritical message, ordering the audience of almost 200 to respect the building they were in ("a house of God"), one indignant comrade yelled back, "How can you have Minutemen in here and say you're respecting God?"
Before the police had arrested our comrade, more people were on their feet to expose and denounce the Minutemen as racists, Nazis and domestic terrorists. As more joined in, the preacher's reprimands were drowned out.
Moments later, the people in the church were chanting and stomping, making so much noise that the event's organizers' calls for "respect" for racists could not be heard. This unified stance against the Minutemen made it impossible for the police to single out any more individuals for arrest or even continue the event, canceling it before Pulido could even speak!
After marching to the police station to protest the unfair arrest of our comrade, the protest leaders discussed the need for more young organizers to overcome hesitations and lead events that we've never before experienced. Young members must follow the example of the respected veteran comrades and renew our dedication to stopping racist groups granted de facto sanctions by the bosses to build fascism nation-wide. We learned that it's important to expose all aspects of racism, especially the more subtle ones, at these events. Clearly the Minutemen are racist, but we need to reveal how the bosses validate these vigilantes by giving them platforms from which to speak, while protecting their racism under the guise of "free speech."
Overall, this event taught lessons to many. Chicago workers came face to face with, and supported, the uncompromising stance PLP takes against all racism; young PLP organizers realized the importance of exposing racism inherent in the rulers providing a platform for Nazis and Minutemen; and the Minutemen learned that when they come to Chicago, their nationalist, divisive ideology won't be tolerated by PLP-led masses!
Contingents of workers militantly chanted and rallied against the bosses and their anti-immigrant racism and imperialist wars. They exposed the U.S. rulers' flag -- which was very prevalent in the marches -- as the symbol of mass murder for the profits of the most deadly imperialists, telling a group of youth carrying it that the bosses soon wanted to put guns in their hands and send them to Iraq.
The U.S. flag was more prevalent than in the previous marches, a sign that the liberal rulers and their union and church leaders who built them pushed hard to have workers believe that carrying the bosses' flag was the way to have "better" immigration bills passed, bills which will force more immigrants into the military. On the other hand, workers literally lined up for CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets. Many workers took up chants against the war and for workers' internationalism. A multi-racial group of young PLP'ers and their friends enthusiastically shouted communist chants for several hours in the afternoon march, chants which were taken up by many workers.
There's an army cadence that's part of training soldiers to kill that goes, "Down by the river, took a little walk. Ran into Alpha, had a little talk." From there Alpha -- or whoever the bosses' enemies are at the time -- get beat up and thrown into the river until they drown. Some Drill Sergeants do this cadence non-stop in basic training. One IVAW member got on the bullhorn and changed the chant from the bosses' enemy to the workers' enemy:
Down by the river
took a little walk
Ran into War Pigs
had a little talk
I kicked them, I punched them, I threw them in the river
Held them down
Bubbles all around
Laughed as they drowned
No more war pigs
Some of the pacifists in the march gasped and hesitated but most of the vets were really into it, so eventually they joined in too. Briefly the contingent even chanted "Democrats mean, we got to fight back!" It was a small step forward from some who pin their hopes for ending the war on the Democrats.
Months ago, some IVAW members argued that getting Congress to stop funding the war should be their main strategy. Most in the vets and family groups still believe in that strategy. But for a few Iraq vets, that's changing.
The day before the march, IVAW held a "Soldiers Speak-Out" event. Of five speakers, all mentioned profit, greed and oil as causes of the war. One said he was glad the march wasn't in Washington, D.C. because we need to take the movement to the streets, not to politicians, and added that we need to get rid of this system. Many applauded; two other speakers who shared similar views.
One older Korean War vet spoke from the audience and said to stop profit wars we must fight imperialism and capitalism. While he received loud applause, especially from the younger vets, many in the anti-war movement are far from this view. Pacifism and anybody-but-Bushism is still strong among the vets and military family groups. But PLP members are working to unite vets and military families with workers and students into an international revolutionary communist movement.
PLP youth distributed over 600 copies of DESAFIO and 5,000 PLP May Day flyers. PLP's banners read, "Long Live the International Working Class!"; "Communism is alive"; "You don't talk with the capitalists, you destroy them." Our banners displayed the international communist symbol, the hammer and sickle.
To build for our contingents we collectively visited workers, teachers, students, friends and DESAFIO readers in their homes, trying to raise their political consciousness and asking them to march with us. These efforts paid off as more people joined our contingents. Some comrades and friends had to leave their homes at 2:00 AM from distant towns and even the mountains to reach the march.
The marchers from outside the capital city had to overcome police check-points set up to try to intimidate people. But our friends and comrades, and our literature, made it to May Day and many marchers asked for extra copies to bring back to their jobs.
The Tony Saca government (the only one in Latin America which still has soldiers supporting the U.S. imperialist war in Iraq) sent anti-riot and regular cops to intimidate the marchers. They also issued threats through the mass media, but May Day prevailed.
At the march itself workers chanted with us: "Workers' Struggles Have No Borders"; "Communism is coming and nothing can stop it"; and "Workers who keep quiet will not be heard." It was indeed a great day for the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only way out of the hell the bosses' dictatorship is forcing workers to suffer worldwide.
Our PLP group distributed 8,000 leaflets, inviting the workers to organize in our non-electoral workers' party instead of voting for any boss. We denounced the bosses' murders of steel workers and miners (see CHALLENGE, 5/10) in collaboration with all the rulers' parties. As the title of one of our leaflets proclaimed, they all have the blood of the workers on their hands.
We also distributed literature in a mobilization led by the Zapatistas at the U.S. embassy.
The Party's presence was modest but significant for the thousands of workers who received our ideas. While the capitalist politicians call on workers to elect their oppressors or "resist" capitalism without destroying it, our message was to organize in an international communist party to fight for and build a new communist society.
The demonstration itself emphasized support for the deposed corrupt leader of the Miners' Union, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and promoted the election of Lopez Obrador, the PRD candidate for President of Mexico. These mobilizations were orchestrated by Francisco Hernandez Juarez, leader of the UNT and for 30 years of the telephone workers' union. He's been supported by fascist killers of workers like Luis Echeverria who has been directly responsible for the oppression, persecution and death of workers since the 1970's.
Last October, the leadership of the social security workers union led by Roberto Vega Galina (who switched to the PRD from the PRI) joined the bosses and corrupt leadership of the Social Security system to cut workers' pensions, opening the health care system to private investment while laying off thousands of workers.
These union leaders' supposed "fight" against the federal government, with their demand for union autonomy, is only a smokescreen to ally with the bosses -- represented by the PRD -- in the presidential election. In no way do these hacks represent workers' interests. We must not be fooled! For many years these blood-suckers have lived off the sweat and blood of the workers.
Unfortunately we underestimated the number of workers who would participate and ran out of leaflets. We also underestimated the number of youth and women workers from our base. Learning from this will help improve future actions. As one young comrade said, "Today we learned a great lesson. Dialectically we'll learn from our errors and next year we'll do much better!"
The Party continues alive and well and in struggle despite the bosses' attempts to stop us here. We've developed a more collective leadership. As one PL'er commented, the presence of these youth and women comrades assures the future of the Party.
But the lack of a revolutionary perspective meant that it was not so simple to win people to the next reform on the union agenda: opposition to the CNE decree which, since last August, has extended job insecurity among workers employed by companies with fewer than 20 employees. Some doubtless felt that the struggle is over because the CPE has been withdrawn, while others felt betrayed because union leaders didn't win the movement's other demands: abandoning the whole racist "law on equal opportunity" and the Interior Minister Sarkozy bill on limiting immigration.
If workers and students had been convinced of the need to build a movement based on fighting capitalism as the root cause of their problems, this year's May Day demonstrations might have been more successful. But don't count on the reformist union misleaders to win people to that revolutionary outlook. This year's demonstrations only equaled last year's, and were only half as big as 2004's demonstrations.
The only bright spot was the relatively large contingents marching to oppose Interior Minister Sarkozy's fascist bill on "selective immigration," which aims to have Parliament set an annual quota depending on the economy's employment requirements. It will also make it more difficult for the spouses of French citizens to obtain French citizenship, and harder for family members to join "legal" immigrants in France. Some of the repressive measures in the selective immigration bill come straight from an immigration report by Malek Boutih, the "Socialist" Party's national secretary.
On April 29, about 10,000 people marched in Paris against the anti-immigrant bill. The president of the Representative Council of Black Populations (CRAN) said, "When they talk to me about selective immigration, I can see very well who they want to choose and who they won't choose!" The vice-president of the League for the Rights of Man (the French ACLU) said the bill "presents immigrants as a dead weight, as intruders ... it is truly a xenophobic bill."
On April 21, Sarkozy said that, "If some people don't love France, they should feel free to leave," echoing the "Love it or leave it" slogan of the fascist National Front. The marchers responded with a banner saying, "I love France, give me a chance to live here!" This sort of nationalist, patriotic slogan is a dead end for all workers, both immigrant and native-born. It creates the illusion that workers and bosses have something in common -- and the bosses are only too happy to turn workers who "love their country" into cannon fodder. Similarly, the "Socialist" front-runner for the French presidential nomination, Segolene Royale, suggested during last Fall's rebellion in the housing projects that putting immigrant youth in the army would "teach them discipline"!
After a collective reading highlighting thoughts on dialectics, lessons learned through struggle and poems by Langston Hughes, participants shared anecdotes over dinner about events that politicized them and others they met in the class struggle.
These included an inspiring account of a young man who gave a transit worker CHALLENGE after the recent transit strike and then the next morning seeing it posted at his station, and then his wife seeing it that evening still posted with a different worker on duty. Another teacher said that when she was a student she was arrested at a PLP demonstration against anti-communists on her campus, freeing her of illusions about justice under the Constitution when experiencing the court system.
Over the last year there have been some small, but encouraging developments in our group. Our small club began as a group of friends having mainly theoretical discussions about communism and politics. But by virtue of our jobs and membership in different organizations, we've been directly involved in several significant struggles in the city.
Our meetings have focused on raising the Party's ideas in these struggles and bringing people we know at these places around to PLP. It's not been easy but at the anti-war march we were actively involved with several contingents and had some effect on the chants, while distributing quite a few CHALLENGES and PL leaflets.
Earlier about 200 students, faculty and workers marched through their campus, distributing leaflets and making speeches about the history and importance of protesting on May Day. Workers and students spoke about anti-immigrant racism, about its connection to neoliberal policies in Latin America and the super-profits of U.S. imperialism, about the racist outsourcing and super-exploitation of workers on their very campus and about the need to build a multi-racial movement of workers, students and soldiers to fight capitalism and its imperialist wars.
One speaker said that while gutter racists like Lou Dobbs and the Minutemen call immigrant workers "criminals" and "illegals," the only real criminals are the bloodsucking bosses, who live off the sweat, blood and suffering of workers worldwide. Workers and students need to fight to make these criminals and their capitalist system illegal, for good!
At the downtown rally, U.S. flags and white shirts were everywhere. Union hacks passed out flags and liberal misleaders spoke against HR 4437 and about the "American dream" being the immigrant's dream. Pushing nationalism and liberal lies, they didn't mention how racist attacks on Latino and Arab immigrants hurt ALL workers, spreading the bosses' racism and dividing the working class at a time when workers from Delphi to Boeing are facing massive cutbacks in wages, benefits and jobs. The misleaders ignored the bosses' need for more cheap slave-labor in all industries in order to compete with rivals in China and Europe, nor did they utter a word about immigrant youths being used as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism's profit wars in the Middle East. But we did!
Some students, realizing the contradiction between protesting racism and waving the U.S. flag, composed a chant on the spot: "Abajo con banderas, afuera con fronteras!" [Down with flags, out with borders!]. Some stressed the importance of not carrying the flag, how it was a symbol of U.S. imperialism and its racist super-exploitation of workers across the globe, including in Latin America.
One young woman, who was invited to speak on stage, challenged the bosses' hacks, telling protesters that patriotism and nationalism isn't the answer to racism and exploitation; instead, workers need to smash all borders and everything they represent.
Marching with workers, the group chanted, "La migra, los patrones, los mismos cabrones!" ("The immigrant service, the bosses, the same enemy") and "No mas sangre obrera, para guerras petroleras!" ("No more workers' blood for oil wars") while distributing leaflets linking racism, capitalist exploitation and U.S. imperialism's oil war in Iraq.
These actions didn't happen over night. They've developed out of a long year of sharp political struggle against outsourcing on campus. A group of the students who participated are long-time CHALLENGE readers and some get the paper to their friends. In the weeks leading up to May Day, many of these students participated in demonstrations and forums on campus, including a students-of-color conference. At these events, PLP's politics led the way in fighting the reformism and political misdirection being pushed by liberals and revisionists (fake leftists) alike.
At one conference workshop, these same students fought against the U.S. patriotism and Latino cultural nationalism being promoted within the mainstream pro-immigrant rights' movement. They advanced a consciousness of the bosses' attempts to manipulate the legitimate anger and claims of immigrant workers and youths. While most workshops were focused on HR4437 (the Sensenbrenner bill criminalizing immigrants), these students linked the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the liberals' plan (in the McCain-Kennedy bill) to implement a guest worker program and make military service the "path toward citizenship" for most immigrant youths. Most students at the conference were open to PLP's ideas.
Continuing to build networks of CHALLENGE readers is crucial to the success of future struggles on our campuses and in factories and barracks. We must continue to spread communist ideas at every opportunity. Workers and students are open to communist politics, but they won't get it anywhere else. Bringing these ideas to workers, students and soldiers is our most important job.
Having just returned from our Party's May Day events in Los Angeles, we were determined to bring that spirit to the march today. An older farm worker from east of the Mountains, who we didn't know, shouted "Desafio! Desafio!," pushing his way through the crowd when he spotted one of our sellers. The value of our politics precedes us. Both danger and opportunity abounds this May Day. (More on the effect on Boeing workers in following issues.)
At about the same time, UAW Vice-President for Organizing and Independent Parts Suppliers (IPS), Bob King told a conference sponsored by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank that the union "made a conscious choice to put aside the adversarial approach. We believe adversarial relationships drive manufacturing jobs out of the country." (Detroit News, 4/20) Next month, King will become union VP for Ford and Visteon and will "put aside the adversarial approach" to lead the 2007 contract negotiations.
Shoemaker's right. The contradictions of capitalism and imperialist rivalry cannot be resolved at the bargaining table. Ultimately, they are resolved by imperialist war. The union leaders want to deliver us to the Democrats so they can lead us to bigger and deadlier wars. For the international working class, the only solution is communist revolution.
More than 56,000 manufacturing jobs were lost last year, and more than three million since Bush took office. At the same time, the U.S. auto market sold almost 17 million vehicles in 2005. Despite a five-year streak of high sales, GM and Ford market share has dropped and UAW membership has sunk to one-third of its former peak. While GM and Ford close plants, Honda, Toyota and Mercedes are opening new non-union shops in the U.S. Closing plants won't increase sales, but GM and Ford need to cut their overcapacity to profit as smaller companies. In the U.S., Ford is running at 79% of capacity and Toyota is running at 111%. In 1950, the Japanese produced no cars. Today, Toyota is about to pass GM as the world's leading auto manufacturer.
Black workers and youth in cities like Detroit, Flint, Toledo and others have been devastated by the retreat of the U.S. auto bosses, leaving behind crumbling schools, few if any public services and even less hope for the future. Workers and youth in St. Louis, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and more than a dozen other cities will join the list. More than 100,000 black workers were hired into the auto industry after the 1967 armed Detroit Rebellion against racism. But that reform has been all but wiped out by the layoffs of the past 20 years since these black workers were the "last hired" -- because of the companies' racist hiring practices -- and therefore the first to be let go. Still another example of how reforms always get reversed under capitalism when the bosses shift their crises onto workers' backs.
But it doesn't have to be this way. PLP is fighting for the political leadership of the workers. We fight under the red flag of the international working class, under the banner, "Workers of the World, Unite!" We fight to overthrow U.S. imperialism, not serve its needs. Slowly but surely, the voice of revolutionary communism is re-emerging among auto workers. Some are reading and distributing CHALLENGE, marching with us against the Iraq war, participating on May Day, waging a political struggle in the shop and in the union, among friends and against enemies.
In the current crisis it may sound like a whisper, but should there be a Delphi strike, it will be louder. And by the 2007 contract talks at GM and Ford, we will have our say, if not our way. That emerging voice will rest on a foundation of CHALLENGE readers and distributors and layers of class struggle and personal ties. In previous crises we suffered serious setbacks. As this storm approaches we are set to grow.
But the bosses still held power. It took barely 10 years for the ruling class to turn things around. They launched the anti-communist Cold War at home and abroad, ousted the communists from leadership in the UAW and installed the anti-communist, pro-capitalist Reuther leadership in the UAW, and eventually in the entire CIO. The process has now reached the logical conclusion of the bosses' lieutenants in the UAW cutting the workers' throats in the name of "saving jobs."
Despite mass heroism and communist leadership, industrial workers were not won to communist revolution, to destroy the dictatorship of the bosses and establish the dictatorship of the working class. And as long as the bosses hold power, imperialist wars are inevitable and any reform is temporary. Reformism and not fighting for revolution eventually did in the old communist movement. Even red-led unions can't reform capitalism.
We learned much from the earlier walkout and tried to improve or organization and role in this march. Party members and friends gave both tactical and political leadership to the march.
Several students had participated in PLP's May Day march, the May 1 immigration rallies and a few study groups. This won them to the importance of the action and to help other students make the connection between the NYPD taking away their cell phones, treating them like criminals in scanning them every morning, and linking this to anti-immigrant attacks and the war in Iraq.
The need to fight growing fascism every step of the way was in the forefront of these students' minds as they marched down Brooklyn's streets. This was evident in the change of the signs from those carried in the walkout ("We Want Our Cell Phones") to this latest march -- "It's Not Just Cell Phones, It's Fascism!"; and "We're Not Criminals, [Chancellor]Klein, [Mayor] Bloomberg and Bush Are!")
Our marchers joined with two other Brooklyn schools at a rally downtown where many onlookers cheered our chants of "Racism Means Fight Back" and "More Books Not More Cops." PL's influence in several mass organizations is steering the anger these students rightfully have about the cell phone issue to one opposing the whole capitalist system.
The film's best parts are the amazing interviews with the aging veterans who detail their anti-war activities, including demonstrations and rebellions inside military stockades. (They trashed the Presidio prison in San Francisco.) One vet, Dave Cline -- a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- describes how he was shot by a North Vietnamese soldier while simultaneously shooting back. Later he was dragged wounded from his foxhole and shown the Vietnamese soldier he had killed. He started thinking about the insanity of one working-class guy killing another, and said that his decades of anti-war work have been to honor the memory of that Vietnamese soldier.
The film contains footage on anti-war coffee houses, the 144 underground newspapers, racism and the resistance of black soldiers, the Winter Soldier hearings, participation in mass anti-war demonstrations and fragging. Each of these activities was met with fierce repression by the military brass.
Anti-war coffee houses were declared off limits to soldiers, local cops arrested and jailed organizers, and some coffee houses were shot at or trashed. Soldiers were court-martialed for distributing underground newspapers; black soldiers were targeted for arrest and beatings for organizing against the war. Yet nothing could stop the growth and increasing militancy of anti-war soldiers.
Even soldiers with desk jobs did their best to subvert the war effort -- those whose job it was to electronically eavesdrop on North Vietnamese radio conversations refused to supply information, knowing it was being used to target sites for aerial bombing.The film makes clear there were mass desertions -- the Army recorded over 503,000 -- and refusals by entire units to follow orders to fight. It also depicts fraggings -- the attempted killing of officers by throwing grenades into their quarters -- as a frequent occurrence. It reviews the famous court case of Billy Dean Smith, the black activist soldier falsely accused of fragging his commanding officer. His trial spotlighted the militant GI opposition to the war. Smith was acquitted but the pressure of the trial and his long solitary confinement took its toll; he ended up unemployed, homeless and eventually imprisoned.
Another fascinating segment shows anti-war soldiers and civilian activists organizing an "election" among sailors and marines on the USS Constellation, an aircraft carrier due to return to Vietnam, on whether or not it should stay in port. The servicemen and women and residents of the town voted 6 to 1 to keep the carrier at home. It became national news, leading a general to call a press conference to announce that the carrier would return to Vietnam regardless of the vote! [At one point 5 of 6 Navy carriers were docked in San Diego, having been sabotaged by rebellious sailors.]
GI testimony at the Winter Soldier hearings about the brutality of the U.S. military toward Vietnamese civilians is riveting. On a lighter side, the film shows the FTA ("Fuck the Army") tour headed by actors like Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. It played to audiences of soldiers nationwide, an anti-war alternative to the pro-war USO-Bob Hope tour. The skits shown are politically pretty good. Fonda is interviewed today (in her mansion!) talking fondly about the tour. The right-wingers have never forgiven her for her anti-war activities and for going to North Vietnam and standing in solidarity with the "enemy." She deserves much correct criticism, but her anti-war efforts then were the best moments of her life. It's refreshing to hear her describing them enthusiastically and without any apology.
The film's biggest weakness is its failure to tie the Vietnam War and the anti-war activities of those who were supposed to fight it to the current imperialist war in Iraq. It refuses to analyze the roots of the Vietnam War and the wars that have followed involving either direct U.S. intervention or proxy wars (Angola, Central America), all of which have killed millions.
The film's unwillingness to name the capitalist system that causes workers in one country to kill or maim workers in other countries to boost corporate profits. This contributes to building a movement that opposes particular war policies but leaves the underlying causes of war untouched. This only guarantees more wars and more death and destruction. This narrow, liberal-inspired view is reflected in the director's use of the film to "get rid of the Bush crowd" rather than destroy imperialism which creates the wars.
At one point it shows soldiers throwing away their medals onto the steps of the Capitol building in Washington. Before heaving his own medal, one soldier announces to the crowd, "We don't want to fight a war, but if we have to fight one, it will be to take these steps!" Unfortunately the film doesn't follow up on this worthy sentiment.
One comrade told them not to smoke pot around us because it posed a security risk. We pointed out that as revolutionaries, it's both pointless and detrimental to use drugs, that we'd rather get arrested for attacking Nazis than for smoking pot. Also, there are enough problems workers must deal with already every day because of capitalism; drugs harm our health and our ability to face other problems.
Although open to discussing these issues and agreeing that drugs are an escape mechanism, our friends were committed to smoking pot; we lost the struggle. While they were on the fire escape, we sharply criticized ourselves as a group. Despite our intense struggle with them, they still got high after our most important day of the year.
We decided that had we not been drinking, maybe the pot would never have emerged. Could we have done something to win them to not smoking that night? How do we wage a general struggle with our friends about these issues?
We debated the merits of social drinking or alcohol consumption: how is alcohol different from pot except that the latter is illegal? These are issues many PL members, young and old, must combat within ourselves and with our friends and must be taken seriously. Drugs and alcohol are weapons the ruling class uses to make the working masses docile or incapable of effectively fighting back. We have lost strong fighters to these things.
Although we did not resolve these questions, we determined that communist workers, like most workers, feel the same frustrations and anger caused primarily by capitalism; rage against this system resides in us as well as in non-communist workers.
Many workers use drugs or alcohol as a means to ignore or escape their troubles, but as communists we must rid ourselves of these ruling-class weapons and channel anger into productive struggle against capitalism. Fighting back is our outlet to release this rage and the way to actually confront our problems, not using controlled substances to ignore them. We suggest that comrades and friends discuss these questions in their clubs and study groups.
(There have been some criticisms of this column -- not dealing enough with the difficulties of achieving a communist society in the face of powerful violent opposition from the world's capitalists. With this issue we're changing the column's name from "Under Communism" to "Forward To Communism," to emphasize the the struggle to be made from capitalism to communism, in addition to the ultimate goals.)
In her 1935 autobiography, "I Change Worlds," the U.S. communist journalist Anna Louise Strong (photo above) described her experiences in the early USSR.
In the 1920's, many millions of Soviet workers had already been killed in World War I (1914-1918). Then, following the 1917 Bolshevik-led seizure of power by Soviet workers, 14 capitalist countries sent their armies to crush the revolution, resulting in the 1917-1920 civil war. Despite 4.5 million more deaths, the capitalists failed.
The political problems of building a socialist (not yet communist) society were compounded by two years of drought, 1920 and 1921; and the transport of food and people was ground to a halt by horrific winters.
When Strong arrived, she wrote, "there was no enthusiasm; that emotion was long since worn down into a grim war with ruin. In place of the united country of convinced socialists defying the world...I found grumbling, ill-fed folk..." But there were people here and there "who quietly, doggedly and even cheerfully disregarded their own lack...most of them, I began to see, were communists."
But many of the leading people were dead following the intense civil war and imperialist attacks. "It was not only goods of which the intervention robbed us. It robbed us of our comrades. Whenever we Bolsheviks planned the revolution we always thought that we should be there afterwards to run things. Now we know that most of us do not survive the revolution; the communists were first to be slaughtered on every front." Those remaining and the trained new forces "seemed drowned in the chaotic, disgruntled masses; but their common purpose kept them moving forward and enabled them to move those inert others forward [the "common purpose" being the vision of communism -- Ed.]. The class struggle, then, was not over under this workers' dictatorship; it was, if anything, more open and bitter."
Strong's first impressions come in the chapter, "My Utopia in Ruins." From the USSR "which I so eagerly entered, Polish peasants were fleeing, panic stricken, from pestilence and hunger. They said it was true that there were no more bosses or landlords; nobody ran things but workers. Yet the factories were broken down, the machines worn out; there was no food, no clothes, no oil, no raw materials. Their wages, they said, had been a pound of bread daily till the famine. The famine had stopped even the daily pound of bread, so they were fleeing...
"A barefoot boy collecting for famine relief came into our train at Minsk. With fewer and worse clothes than any American beggar, he held himself with dignity and presented a paper with the seal of the city showing that he was a member of the Young Communist League, entitled to collect for the Volga famine. It was clear that he did not consider himself in need; he was helping others. For the first time I knew, what the propaganda outside Soviet Russia obscured, that this hard-pressed country was collecting help from the poor to feed the starving."
(Future columns will illustrate Strong's early immersion in the struggle against the famine and disease and include her meeting with Stalin about gross mismanagement of the Moscow newspaper which she edited.)
For hours they chanted, "Workers Unite -- Healthcare is a human right!"; and "Papers are not needed -- Our patients will be treated!"
When we arrived at the park with those chants, in all those white coats and a big bilingual banner, the crowd cheered. On one side our banner read, "Health Workers and Students Say: Destroy All Borders!" On the other side, "Trabajadores y Estudiantes de Salud Dicen: Destruir Todas Fronteras!"
A step in the right direction for these students. Now we need to help them take the next step in their medical education -- help them understand why capitalism must be destroyed to make good health possible for the mass of humanity.
Then a woman sitting near me took the mic and told her story. "My mama and daddy were sharecroppers in Mississippi. When we moved to the West Side of Chicago, I was four years old. I had to share a mattress on the floor of my Auntie's apartment with my two sisters. My parents were working real hard so we could finally get our own place. Sometimes when I talk to my black friends they talk about `these people' coming up here, living like animals all cramped up in little apartments -- like we didn't go through the same damned thing! I don't get it. Aren't we really talking about the same thing? Aren't we all in this together?"
People clapped and cheered. That definitely made 32 hours on the bus worth every second. That woman needs to join our Party. We are definitely all in this together!
I noted that the 1917 October Revolution was the first successful workers' revolution in history and a major historical event of the 20th century. Using information from the CHALLENGE article on the long road to communism, I described the obstacles the workers' state faced, but that despite this it was able to achieve major advances in economic development, in science, women's rights, and against racism. I pointed out that the success of the revolution gave hope to workers and oppressed people worldwide.
I made clear that the world's capitalists could not rest until the Soviet Union was destroyed and helped the Nazis try to do just that. But the Soviet workers courageously beat back the Nazi aggressors and eventually their Red Army crushed the invaders.
In the discussion period, one person asked what the Revolution meant for us today, since Russia was now capitalist. I replied that it proved the old ruling class would fight desperately to destroy a workers' state, noting that 14 countries invaded the USSR in an attempt to strangle it. This tells us today that a workers' revolution in the U.S. can never occur peacefully or through elections, which is what the Socialists believe.
This led to a discussion of Venezuela and Bolivia. Some sincerely believed that Chavez and Morales would bring change for the workers there. I responded by saying there would be no real change until the capitalists' property and factories were expropriated and their state destroyed, replaced by a real workers' state. But I stressed that internationalism had to replace nationalism in this effort, explaining that the Soviets had made a major error in embracing nationalism.
I said that Marx's slogan, "Workers of the World, Unite!" still rang true today. National boundaries, along with racism, had to be destroyed. U.S. bosses were pushing nationalism now, attempting to win the support of U.S. workers for the rulers' imperialist wars and for fascism.
Many in the audience were interested in these views. Afterwards, some approached me and asked for more information about PLP. I said the latest issue of CHALLENGE hadn't arrived yet but if they gave me their names and addresses, I'd send them copies. Four people did so. I gave them some PLP buttons I had brought with me.
The next day, at a May Day celebration, one Socialist Party member reported on its history and the rulers' attempt to hide it from U.S. workers. Another speaker described his first-hand experience at the killing of the Kent State students on May 4, 1970, protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, also mentioning the murders at Jackson State in Mississippi.
After a report on the Socialists' plans to run people for various elective offices, I offered that elections in a capitalist society were a sham and that no matter how sincere an SP candidate might be about changing things for workers, there's no way the ruling class would allow fundamental change through peaceful elections that would threaten their rule. I declared that such illusions are dangerous when the capitalists' regime was moving towards fascism, while waging imperialist oil wars. I noted that while the recent struggle by workers and youth in France scared the bosses and forced them to back down somewhat, communist consciousness was needed to break workers and students away from the road of reformism and towards workers' revolution.
Being the first from the audience to speak, I told of the 50,000 GI's and millions of Koreans killed in what was labeled a United Nations "peace action" at that time. I said what helped me overcome the horror I was part of was trying to make some sense of the war and how to stop it. Some years after the war I started to realize what we soldiers had risked our lives and died for. I noticed that many store products were manufactured in Korea. I declared that it was a misconception to believe that military-industrial war profiteering was the main cause of U.S.-led wars. I cited the book "Overthrow" by Kinzer (which I read about in CHALLLENGE, 5/10)). It describes 110 years of imperialist murder by the U.S., detailing how this country's rulers have forcibly overthrown many governments for profits from cheap labor and resources like oil. And all that had followed the U.S. government's genocide against Native Americans to steal their land, and the murder of millions of black people to force them into slavery.
I said their only "exit strategy" from Iraq will be to invade Iran, Korea, Venezuela and China if we allow this capitalist-imperialist murder to continue.
I praised the GI's in Vietnam who had turned their guns around rather than continue the slaughter, and the black and white sailors' rebellions which forced a number of Vietnam-bound aircraft carriers to return to U.S. ports. I concluded by stating that no matter how difficult or how long it takes we have to organize our brothers and sisters in the factories, schools and especially in the military to overthrow this murderous imperialist system.
Korea war vet
On May 1, I marched in the Immigrant Rights march in Chicago which was also huge. Again we were waiting for hours to feed into the main march, which stretched for up to three miles down Randolph Street, past the monument to the Haymarket martyrs, then to Grant Park. The next day's New York Times had a big photo of thousands marching through downtown Chicago on page 1, with the crowd estimate in the hundreds of thousands featured prominently.
Funny how two marches of hundreds of thousands can occur within 48 hours of each other and get reported so differently. This confirms CHALLENGE's estimate of the degree of ruling-class control of these movements. I would also conclude from the difference in spin that the rulers are still interested in building the immigrants' movement while their focus is on deflecting and co-opting the anti-war movement. Of course, if the immigrant rights movement takes on a more multi-racial and anti-capitalist tone, expect the pictures to disappear from the front page, if not altogether.
We all must learn to read between the lines in the capitalist press. Plus we must get our friends to see why they need CHALLENGE -- so they can decode the Times and NPR (National [Public] Propaganda Radio) from the workers' perspective.
The speaker gave a four-part presentation on the history of May Day, the importance of participating in this year's May 1 immigration rally, the Sensenbrenner bill that would make undocumented workers felons and those who help them criminals as well, and the short- and long-term solution to anti-immigrant racism. Some of the laws being proposed are historically similar to the fascist Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany which made Jewish workers "felons."
Short-term solutions include putting pressure on our union to demand an end to anti-immigrant racism. We drafted a resolution endorsing May Day and Immigrant's Rights to be presented to our local president. But mainly we waged the struggle in the union to enable us to expand the base of CHALLENGE and recruit more workers to PLP. Communist revolution is the only solution to racist terror.
The bosses tried to spy on our forum, but a young black worker saw him coming and quickly changed the subject of the conversation to protect everyone. This indicates the importance of having a base of friends who will politically support and protect the Party under all conditions.
We should have struggled harder to win more workers to the forum. We should learn a political lesson from Nazi Germany. All workers paid a heavy price for not stopping Hitler early on.
The workers who did attend understood that the new anti-immigrant laws are fascist and are an attack on the whole working class. But even more dangerous are the liberal politicians and union hacks who will be leading the May 1 demonstrations. They're hoping to mislead this movement into the voting booths, and immigrant youth into the army and low-wage factory jobs, all to provide cheap labor and cannon fodder for their growing wars.
"We don't track this group of people, and they are very vulnerable...."
...Statistics do not begin to convey their fears and anguish.
More people work in jobs without health coverage, including temporary or contract jobs that may offer no benefits or even access to unemployment insurance. Medicaid is offered to fewer adults. . . . (NYT, 5/8)
Since the frigid days of late December, Doctors of the World, a French organization that helps the homeless, has been distributing nylon tents to the growing number of people who sleep on the city's sidewalks and beneath its bridges....
There are thousands of people living on the streets of Paris, many of them newly arrived immigrants from European Union countries... (NYT, 5/4)
In India...the share of children who are undernourished dropped by only six percentage points since 1990, leaving a staggering 47 percent of children under 5 underweight... (NYT, 5/3)
The tank men's skill was not just a matter of knowing where to put the wrench. The other quality that Max Simon observed among these sons of the factory was their determination. "An added factor," he wrote, "is that the Russian worker usually is a convinced communist, who, having enjoyed the blessings of `his' revolution for decades will fight fanatically as a class-conscious proletarian. Just as the Red infantryman is ready to die in his foxhole, the Soviet tank solider will die in his tank, firing at the enemy to the last, even if he is alone in or behind enemy lines." (Quoted From "Ivan's War," a recent anti-communist book!)
Organised money has something else in mind: the destruction of many of those communities and permanent removal of those who lived in them, a city that follows the gentrification patterns of racial removal and class cleansing that have played out elsewhere in the US.
Only this time no one is watching....It's as though corpses have to be floating down the street before racism is once more worthy of note here....The organised people of New Orleans keep trying to move to higher ground: the organised money keeps trying to sell the land from under their feet. (GW, 5/4)
....In the upcoming issue of the Harvard Latino Law Review, Francine Lipman, a professor at Chapman University's law school in Orange, Calif., writes that the widespread belief that undocumented immigrants cost use more than they give us is "demonstrably false."
...There are 7 million undocumented workers....They cannot access or easily access many public services, yet in 2003 alone the labor of undocumented workers poured $7 billion in taxes into Social Security even though they cannot legally claim those benefits.
Often ignored by anti-immigration forces is that undocumented workers pay sales taxes and real estate taxes--directly if they are homeowners, indirectly if they are renters. (NYT news service)