"We could totally run this place without them; they are only here to whip us anyway...."
Workers in basic industry produce and transport cars, tanks, guns, airplanes, steel and more. Despite the fact the bosses tell us we're marginal, workers in basic industry are central to capitalism's march to war. For example, the U.S. bosses are struggling to train more machinists and all industrial workers to make parts for aerospace and ships.
In "peacetime," the bosses steal most of the value we produce, netting profits to enrich themselves. They maximize their profits by super-exploiting workers, driving down wages (Delphi), dividing us by racism (New Orleans), sexism and nationalism (citizen vs. immigrant workers). The capitalist wage system requires inequality. Under capitalism, there will never be equal wages.
Today, this inequality has increased drastically. Intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry with China, Russia and the European Union for control of oil and markets drives these competing capitalists to lower workers' wages to prepare -- and pay -- for wider war. Subcontracting in auto and aerospace plants, racist wage differentials for black and Latin workers, non-union shops with long hours all constitute fascist slave-labor conditions, used to increase production for expanding war, leading to World War III. The conditions imposed by the bosses in these subcontracted plants drag down conditions in the entire industry. Unity between all workers is a must!
The industrial working class is growing worldwide. Today workers globally have been striking back against capitalism's oppressive conditions: auto workers throughout Europe and Russia, shipbuilding workers in Mississippi, teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, miners in Chile, general strikes in Peru and the Dominican Republic (see page 3) and German railroad strikers who paralyzed that country.
When organized, the industrial workers have the potential to lead all workers to unite to destroy wage slavery. Workers produce all value without the bosses. The bosses' profit comes from stealing most of the value workers create. They cannot fight their inevitable wars for profit without working-class soldiers and the weapons workers make. The workers' need to survive stands in direct opposition to the needs of the bosses to maximize their profits.
Communist revolution to destroy capitalism and its wage system is the only way to resolve this contradiction. Then the working class will run society in our own interests, producing to meet the needs of the international working class, not the rulers' profits. Industrial workers have led the way in fighting for revolution under communist leadership. In 1917 in Russia, workers at the Putilov Works (a large weapons factory) used the weapons they produced to fight for the Russian Revolution.
In 1968 in France, students -- influenced by the worldwide movement opposing the U.S. imperialist invasion of Vietnam, China's Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the students' own participation in the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria -- struck nation-wide against repressive government actions in the schools. Tens of thousands marched in the streets, attacking the cops. The working class was watching. Thousands of workers had been striking over the previous 12 months. A protest against wage-cuts led to a sit-down strike in a Nantes aircraft factory. Soon a tidal wave swept France, a country of 50 million with 14 million industrial workers. Within ten days, ten million workers had shut down the country; de Gaulle was begging German bosses for tanks. Students and workers were meeting, supporting each others' demands. A real worker-student alliance was born. (See Progressive Labor Magazine, February 1968.) Unfortunately the struggle was betrayed by the reformist politics of the French "Communist" Party and the country's union misleaders.
Workers and students should organize class struggle in their shops and on their campuses against racism, imperialist war and for their class interests. They should organize for a worker-student alliance to build working-class unity. We can't rely on liberal politicians, all of whom represent bosses' interests.
Revolution for workers' power won't occur spontaneously. A communist party with a revolutionary communist outlook and a deep base among industrial workers, soldiers and students is needed to destroy racism, imperialism and capitalist exploitation for good! When workers are won to communism, no power on earth can stop them!
Communists participate in reform fights to win workers to see that reforms will not end the injustice of capitalism. The ideological struggle is crucial to exposing the bosses' system and to show that the working class and its allies are capable of organizing a revolution to take state power and run society without bosses. Building CHALLENGE networks and groupings among workers, soldiers and students lays the basis for a mass party and a future communist society.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Let's make that step a sure one by bringing communist politics to industrial workers, building the PLP, building an alliance between workers, students and soldiers to achieve communism, a society where we produce and share based on need, not profit.
The wage system forces workers to permanently sell their labor power to the capitalists in order to survive. This wage slavery tells workers they are "free" because if they don't like one boss, they're always "free" to look for another. But in reality workers must sell their labor power to some boss or starve. The bosses decide who works and who doesn't and what the prevailing wage will be. This power forces billions to live on less than a dollar a day and condemns millions of our class brothers and sisters to death by starvation.
The union movement's slogan has been "A fair day's pay for a fair day's work" as well as "equal pay for equal work." But there can be no "fairness" or "equality" when the wage system enslaves, dehumanizes and divides the working class. The internal laws of capitalism force all bosses to maximize profits in order to survive as capitalists. Their choice is: either grow richer and bigger by becoming more competitive or go under. This impels the bosses to super-exploit workers, drive down their working conditions and pay less to some than to others by dividing them using racism, sexism and nationalism. The capitalist wage system is outright thievery. The working class, as Karl Marx said, must fight to "abolish the wage system."
In its place, the working class will build communism, where all workers will contribute their labor for the good of the international working class and share the fruits of that labor according to need, in times of scarcity or abundance. Communism relies on the strength and commitment of the united working class.
The racism behind the capitalist-created disaster in New Orleans is still evident. Two years after Katrina hit, most of the working class has still not returned to the city. In the Lower Ninth Ward the only thing growing is the overgrown grass covering whole neighborhoods destroyed by racist neglect.
Over the week we planned to reach as many workers as possible -- including Mississippi shipyard workers whose earlier strike we had supported (see below). We brought our message of communism, covering much of the city door-to-door selling CHALLENGE to workers who've returned to the city, inviting them to a PL forum. We found that while some of these workers consider themselves "middle class," reality set in after the government, the insurance companies and the rest of the system's leeches screwed them over for profits. We also met a lot of "day laborers" from Latin America at bus stops or who slept under bridges. They recounted their struggles to find jobs and the constant harassment from residents as well as from the state. One worker who was in the FMLN sang us revolutionary-spirited songs from the 12 years he spent fighting in the civil war in El Salvador.
We also helped rebuild the home of the mother of a friend of the Party, which brought our friend closer to PLP. All the workers we met were invited to our forum on the need for communist revolution and were asked to relate their struggles and interaction with the Party.
Our forum was a huge success. Two of the New Orleans workers described how they were inspired from being with a group of young committed revolutionaries. One of the most moving speeches came from the friend whose mother's house we worked on. She said that try as she might to find fault with our Party, she couldn't find a single one. We hope she will continue to work with us.
Many project participants spoke about the comradeship they felt during the week's activities, inspiring them even more to work with the Party in their hometowns. The main speaker analyzed the effects of inter-imperialist rivalry on the working class and especially of the need to fight racism between black workers and Latin workers being pushed by the bosses here.
Afterwards we went for a snack at Café du Monde. When one waiter remarked to our large multi-racial group that wanted to sit together, "Are you Mexicans or something," a comrade made a speech and we collectively decided not to return.
While in New Orleans we were privileged to enjoy a BBQ with the Pascagoula, Miss. shipyard workers who halted the U.S. imperialists' warship repairs in a month-long strike for higher wages. These workers were very appreciative of our support for their strike and thanked us for our continuing efforts to help rebuild New Orleans.
These workers taught us a lot and also learned much from us about their potential -- along with soldiers and students -- to create a new system based on communist ideology.
This summer project re-enforced our commitment as future leaders to take our experience back to our shops, schools, campuses and mass organizations to continue the fight against capitalism for communist revolution.
The liberals understand that the Iraq chaos drains U.S. military capacity to face far greater threats to its control of Middle Eastern oil. Soon-to-be nuclear Iran is openly hostile. Already nuked-up Pakistan teeters on the brink of a fundamentalist Islamic coup, as does oil's grand prize, Saudi Arabia.
Today, however, the oil price hovers above $70, which harms the U.S. economy, increasing the federal defecit and therefore weakening the dollar. Meanwhile, it enriches U.S. oil-producing foes like Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And Iraq averaged only 1.96 million barrels a day in the fiscal year ending July 1, dashing U.S. hopes to use Iraq as a swing producer that could dictate the world price.
Kurdish officials' recent refusal to back Iraq's pending oil law (which hands the lion's share of profits to Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell) tells only half the story. Mimicking imperialists, local capitalist warlords are battling for the oil treasure. The AP reported (7/9): "The Iraqi oil industry was subjected to nearly 160 attacks by insurgents and saboteurs last year, killing and wounding dozens of employees and reducing exports by some 400,000 barrels a day, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Monday. [He] said that 198 Oil Ministry employees had been killed and 124 wounded by violence in the past years."
Odom, who helped make the Mid-East and its oil fields a major U.S. war theatre, advocates a tactical retreat from Iraq, followed by a massive World War II-style allied invasion of the region. Odom warns, "If [Bush] ignores... legislative action...impeachment proceedings will proceed in the House of Representatives. (Harvard University, Nieman Foundation, 7/7/07).
The latest Foreign Affairs, the CFR journal, foresees Iraq leading to a general Mid-East conflagration and, ultimately, World War III: "In addition to waging irregular warfare against insurgents and terrorists, the United States must prepare to deal with several mid-size states that possess substantial conventional forces and will likely soon have small nuclear arsenals. Looking further ahead, China's rapid economic growth and technological progress could eventually transform the country into a genuine peer competitor, able to challenge U.S. military predominance in Asia, if not beyond."
Politicians don't serve the working class. They serve capitalists who benefit from war's murder and destruction. Instead of relying on politicians, we should expose and attack them as part of building a revolutionary communist movement that can put an end to wars for profit.J
In Cuzco, Peru's main tourist attraction, teachers, transport and many other workers blocked the main entry and exit to the city, forcing closure of train service to the Inca city of Machu Picchu (recently declared one of the new Seven Wonders of the World).
Herminia Herrera, a striking teacher, died after being beaten by cops during a July 6 teachers' march. The teachers are striking against a new law making it easier to fire them. Many militant teachers are wary of a sellout by the union leadership, led by "Red Fatherland" (a fake-leftist group). That leadership, which at first supported the candidacy of current President Alán García, calling him a "progressive," is now pleading with José Chang, Minister of Education, to sit down and talk. Meanwhile, President García signed the law and has threatened to replace striking teachers with scabs.
While the angry workers' actions continued after the general strike, President García blamed it on "the buried ideology of communism," ordering more cops to attack them, killing 18, injuring many more and arresting 160. This repression has been very sharp against miners in the economy's key metal industry. In mid-June, cops attacked miners striking the subcontractor silver and lead mines, killing four strikers. Contract miners also struck the Chinese capitalist-owned Shougang iron mine. The strike leader is still under arrest. And area peasants have joined workers striking the Southern Copper Company's three mines, protesting the mine company's poisoning of the water there.
The militant Codelco strikers have blocked scab shipments and fought riot cops. The copper industry is reaping record profits from high prices resulting from the great demand for the metal, especially from rising economies in China and India. But the copper bosses refuse to share more of their profits with the miners. Michelle Bachelet's "socialist" government has joined the attacks on these workers, refusing to recognize the demands of the subcontractor strikers, battling the state-owned Codelco. Meanwhile, the national copper miners' union leadership has refused to organize an all-out strike of all miners, include the permanent workers in Codelco, to really put pressure on the bosses.
Unfortunately, the strike and other protests are usually used by the opposition politicians to win votes for the 2008 Presidential elections. The previous government of Hipólito Mejia, hated by the masses, saw many such national strikes used by the current ruling party to win the 2004 elections.
All these struggles, and many more, across Latin America show that capitalism, in its current free-market format or in any form, is incapable of satisfying the basic needs of workers, peasants and youth. Some politicians try to take advantage of the masses' hatred of the current crop of pro-U.S. free-market governments as a means to take power and seek deals with other imperialist blocs (Europe, China and even Russia). Others claim that "Bolivarian socialism" (with lots of capitalism) is the answer. But even in Venezuela, where Chávez has used the oil bonanza to give workers some small reforms, capitalism and poverty still reign.
In Brazil, Lula, a former auto and steel union leader, promised to rule for the workers when he took power. But he has only served the powerful, rising Brazilian bourgeoisie (like the Petrobras oil giant now hated by workers in Ecuador and Bolivia for its exploitation similar to Exxon-Mobil, Shell & Co.).
The only answer is to turn these conflicts into schools for communism. It's a long, hard fight, but out of these struggles workers and their allies must forge a new revolutionary communist leadership to prepare for the difficult but needed battle ahead to destroy capitalism.J
Volunteers who were here last year were shocked that the Lower 9th Ward still looks like a wasteland. We saw houses that we gutted last year, now boarded up and still uninhabitable. We were angry and disappointed. We put so much hard work into fixing those homes. We realized that the ruling class doesn't want people to return to these neighborhoods and doesn't care about the people they displaced.
During the week, we saw military police and the New Orleans Police Department crawling all over, harassing residents just standing outside. One man told us the cops frisked him because he was gutting his mother's house and couldn't prove he lived there. We said police brutality was one way the bosses attack workers and gave him CHALLENGE. He took an extra one for his mom and gave us $5.
That worker also said the government is mailing his neighbors notices to their homes saying they must attend a hearing within four months to claim their houses, but since most people haven't returned to their homes yet, it's almost impossible for them to know about the hearings. According to this worker, when people miss them, the government seizes their homes. He also told us that a company was buying out some of his neighbor's houses. He felt helpless about the company trying to buy out the neighborhood and putting casinos in place of their homes to "make New Orleans the new Las Vegas."
The working class is under constant attack by the bosses. One college cafeteria worker told us that in her neighborhood contractors would call immigrantration agents on pay day, so that workers would be deported and the contractors wouldn't have to pay them. Even though racism keeps workers divided, this woman said she wished she could do something to help these workers. We want to continue conversations with her and get her CHALLENGE regularly.
We met some migrant workers who live under a bridge. They go days without eating, don't always get paid for their hard work, and send the little money they earn home to their families. They all took CHALLENGE and talked for hours.
Some of us were surprised about how open most workers were to the communist ideas. One migrant worker said, "Workers of all countries need to unite because we're hungry while there's so much food sitting in the supermarkets that we can't afford." Workers are angry not only at the U.S. government, but also at capitalism in general. We must make a plan to be able to maintain contact with these new CHALLENGE readers.
While workers had mostly good ideas, many still have illusions about capitalism and religion. One construction worker told us that "there are a lot of sinners in New Orleans. God had to wash them away." He said the government had bad people and that they didn't respond quickly enough after Katrina but didn't answer why god didn't wash the bosses away.
We saw how religion didn't fix people's houses, lives or families, but rather the exact opposite: how it brainwashes workers, keeping them from fighting back. We definitely saw that capitalism will always screw workers as much as it can, and the bosses will never serve our interests; that a communist revolution is the only way that we can destroy a system which leaves workers to rot and die while tourists sit partying and getting drunk in the French Quarter.
We will continue to struggle with workers and ourselves in the constant battle between capitalist and communist ideas. This project has energized us to work even harder in order to organize as many workers as possible to overthrow capitalism and replace it with communism, a need-based system without money that won't murder millions every year for greed.J
While at the event, the students wore local T-shirts that read "Fight Back Against Racism, Sexism, Nationalism, Exploitation, Imperialism, Torture, and Apathy" and carried signs that read "Guantanamo Bay + Military Commission Act = U.S. Fascism." The students wrote and distributed flyers to their classmates saying more needed to be done than just protesting Guantanamo Bay and the Military Commissions Act. These are just two examples of the U.S. ruling class' drive toward fascism. U.S. bosses -- squeezed by their opponents like China -- need to discipline workers.
The leaflet also warned not to rely on the Democrats, citing that both New Jersey Democratic Senators, Lautenberg and Menendez, voted for the Military Commission Act. The students cited capitalism as the real enemy, because the competition inherent in this system causes imperialist wars and fascist policies at home.
Many students agreed with the flyer and took and read CHALLENGE, but other demonstrators were peace activists from the '60s and '70s who still believe in the Democrats and Barack Obama. The national leadership of Amnesty International, one of the organizing groups for that day's events nationwide, used the slogan "The America I Believe In Leads the World on Human Rights." But the history of the U.S. ruling class throughout the 20th century shows the exact opposite to be true. Capitalism can never allow the ruling classes to put human needs before the pursuit of profit.
PLP has played an important role in exposing these young organizers to communist ideas. With more work and struggle, these students will hopefully become future leaders of the Party and the working class.J
Moore spoke in LA to about 150 people mainly from ACORN, SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, California Nurses Association, and other unions -- many of them paid staff. He said that "Something is fundamentally wrong when we spend more on healthcare than any other developed country and get less back." LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the audience to see SICKO and said that health care is a basic human right. But then he said that the healthcare system is in crisis and that "the burden cannot rest solely with employers."
These comments reveal the real reason why health care reform is on the agenda. It's not because of all the true, terrible stories workers are telling about their situations. It's because major U.S. industrialists, pushed harder and harder by other imperialist competitors, can't maximize their profits while paying health benefits (including for retirees) that were fought for back when the U.S. was a rising power. At the same time "National Health Care" (the illusion of a system where all workers receive some kind of affordable insurance) will be a rallying cry to build patriotism at the very time workers are under sharper attack.
"Because health care expenditures come either out of business' profits or get passed on to consumers as higher prices, U.S. companies put themselves at a competitive disadvantage compared, at least, to every other country in the industrialized world," wrote Jonathan Tasini, president of the Economic Future Group. His example was General Motors, "the once-proud gold standard of American industry whose bonds' credit rating has plummeted to junk status.... GM will spend $5.6 billion this year on health care for its employees and retirees -- more money than it shells out for steel for its cars -- which means every GM car we buy costs $1,500 more because of health care." He quoted GM's CEO Rick Waggoner saying, "Our $1,500-per-unit health care expense represents a significant disadvantage versus our foreign-based competitors. Left unaddressed, this will make a big difference in our ability to compete in investment, technology and other key contributors to our future success."
The biggest imperialists need to discipline the highly profitable health care insurance industry in the greater interest of their class as a whole. Commented Tasini: "Corporate America is shredding its own global competitiveness because it can't shake the death grip of an anti-government ideology. This short-sighted ideology leads big business to shun single-payer national health insurance, which could save businesses hundreds of billions of dollars." A national single-payer system -- for example, extending Medicare to everyone as recommended by Physicians for a National Health Plan -- would get some workers more help with health care expenses but would also be a way of rationing health services for everyone except the rich. It would be a way to shift the burden -- as Mayor Villaraigosa suggested -- from employers to working-class taxpayers, while supposedly building confidence in the government.
So the health care "Road to Reform" will make the capitalist system work better for the bosses at the expense of the workers. It makes no sense to talk about health care as a "basic right" as long as we live under this system hell bent on war and fascism, where the bottom line is the rulers' profits. In this period of intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry we can expect the bosses to continue to attack our standard of living, and then send our youth to their wars. Liberals like Moore, Villaraigosa, the New York Times, and the "Change to Win" unions are trying to use their "Road to Reform" to win workers' loyalty to this deadly system. Workers need to shed illusions in this bosses' road to reform and join PLP's road to revolution.J
Recently, I helped organize fellow workers to attend a city council meeting to fight back against these changes. I was able to explain that the capitalist priorities of war for profits stood in the way of our immediate struggle.
For two hours, workers and riders told about the hardships that would result from the city eliminating 90% of Sunday service and four daily routes. Retired workers said they would be prisoners in their homes on the weekends without public transit. Single parents would be unable to get to work or their kids' daycare. Drivers predicted unsafe, crowded buses resulting from route cuts. Many said the bosses sacrificed the needs of the mostly black and immigrant working class while pandering to the mostly white upper middle class who ride the ferries.
Despite all the evidence, and the fake sympathies of the transit managers and city council members, the "facts" meant that the budget would not allow the city to maintain the services and the jobs.
I was able to put budget-talk in its place. Where were the figures about the budgets of the laid-off drivers or the riders needing to call a taxi to get to work? Their figures didn't account for the budgets of the banks who have stolen millions from this city's workers though predatory, racist "sub-prime" lending practices. Hundreds of workers' homes have been foreclosed. The $600 billion spent on the murderous war in Iraq has helped no workers while profiting oil bosses whose refineries spew filth over this suburb but whose CEOs have not directed any profits to transit.
Finally, I gave out CHALLENGE, commenting that the whole capitalist system was murderous to workers and needed to be replaced by workers' power. I can now follow up with those who organized with me. Continued contact is the "fertilizer" for the small revolutionary seed that I planted with my speech.
I recognized this war could - like Vietnam - be a flashpoint for revolutionary consciousness. There will come a time when we can honor the military for fighting for the working class rather than for the interests of U.S. imperialism, when soldiers become part of the movement to overthrow capitalism.
The Brown decision ended only the legal segregation in the South. The more prevalent segregation, however, that still exists today, is "de facto" segregation based on where people live. If white people, for example, choose to live in a single community, then their children will attend the same community school. No one from the community will be banned from the school but still the school will be all white -- segregated, apparently by choice.
The ruling class, which always benefits by creating racist divisions within the working class, deliberately promoted this type of segregation. One weapon used was the "restrictive covenant." Deeds of sale contained restrictions on who could buy the property. The restrictions always banned sales to black and Jewish people and sometimes included other groups and immigrants. Banks required these covenants before approving mortgages. They were enforced by state and local laws. The U.S. government required them in all sales involving the post-World War II GI Bill that enabled millions of workers to become first-time home-owners. Every arm of the government and financial system enforced restrictive covenants.
The myth of "white flight" -- that white workers raced to leave the cities and live in the suburbs because they are inherently racist -- took hold. The truth is rooted in these restrictive covenants. Many workers wanted to live a nicer life in the suburbs and the "flight" would have been a multi-racial one except that only white workers were allowed to go. Anti-racists fought such covenants, and although the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled them unconstitutional after the Brown decision, by then the damage was done. By the 1960's, suburban housing patterns were entirely segregated, and so, therefore, were the schools.
Restrictive covenants were made illegal and then discarded when blatant government-sponsored racism became an obstacle to U.S. imperialist goals in Africa. When housing segregation wasn't sufficient to maintain school segregation, U.S. bosses turned to providing so many government services to private schools that the real cost of sending a child there became affordable to many workers. Now, even as neighborhoods became somewhat more integrated, the choice became private vs. public schooling. Again, many more white workers could pay the now affordable private-school tuition.
Federal laws subsidized private schools, upholding taxpayers' "rights" to have their money used no matter what school their child attended. Private-school students were bused to school on public school buses. Public school budgets were required to provide private schools with services like school nurses, special education specialists, speech therapists and others. Today we live in a two-tier system of private and public schools where parents pay only a fraction of the true cost of a private-school education. This obstacle to the united fight of the entire working class for better public schools exists almost entirely because of government policies.
The Civil Rights movement led many workers looking at housing segregation patterns to question what kind of education their children should experience. While enormous numbers of workers were misled into a racist desire to keep their school segregated, some launched campaigns to integrate urban and suburban schools through busing plans to defeat the housing patterns by transporting students to create racial balance. Urban parents supported plans for diversity that examined the racial balance of individual schools. But these plans were doomed.
First, they never could address the parallel system of private schools that were exploding in number. Second, such plans relied on government enforcement -- the very ruling-class government that needs to maintain racist divisions and only gives lip service to the fight for integrated schools. The recent Supreme Court case is simply another reminder of this harsh reality. (A future article will analyze the complexity of school busing.)
We can never look to the capitalist system, and its government, to fight for the working class.
"Blockbusting" was perhaps the most vicious of the racist tactics as it encouraged and preyed on the fears of white working and middle class homeowners in the areas where some integration had actually taken place. Realtors spread rumors that black families moving into a previously all white neighborhood would decrease property values (and home ownership was often each family's main asset even if they were usually heavily mortgaged). Well-financed real estate interests would buy the houses from white owners at bargain prices and then resell them to black families at higher prices made possible by the difficulty that black families had in finding any homes that they were allowed to buy.
Banks then completed the rip-off by charging black families twice the mortgage interest rates paid by the previous white owners--a precursor of the "sub-prime" racist banking exploitation reported on in recent CHALLENGES. Racism, profits and capitalism--you can't have one without the others.
While black families were hurt the most by the housing racism, white workers often lost much of the equity in their homes when racist pressures and fears overcame their class consciousness. When racism wins, all workers lose.
However, the city's own statistics lay bare the racist burden of poverty and poor health in Harlem. The death rate is 40 percent higher than in the city as a whole, and the poverty rate is 50 percent higher. Twenty-four percent of Harlem residents do not have a primary source of health care and 11 percent use the ER for emergencies. HIV deaths are more than double the rate in NYC; cancer is the leading cause of premature death.
Clinic visits may have fallen, but two main reasons were cuts in services provided and managed Medicaid. The latter assigns Medicaid patients to a particular provider and does not allow them to go elsewhere. Since many patients never receive or don't understand notices asking them to choose an MD, they are assigned one and never know it. When the need for health care arises, they will be turned away from any other source of care, except in life-threatening emergencies.
Although the racist burden of poor health and health care persists in Harlem, the city has a new plan -- to decrease the population. Columbia University, located below Harlem on 116th St., is planning a massive expansion to 17 acres above 125th St, including a level 3 biotech laboratory. The expansion will dislocate many small business and low-income housing units. They have also expressed interest in taking over the clinic, with their interests, not those of the community, in mind.
Only a militant struggle by the community and allies at Columbia has a chance of limiting the University's expansion and rescinding the health cuts. Hundreds turned out at a Community Board 9 meeting last week, including some of our St. Mary's group. The Church activists are also planning a demonstration on July 26 and mobilizing for the next Board 9 meeting. A group of Columbia students has produced a pamphlet exposing the expansion plan and will work on one about health care. High school students and church members are surveying local residents to document problems with getting health care.
Some liberal and Democratic politicians are also opposing Columbia's plan, but that is not enough. Even though militant community action stopped the University's plan to build a gym in Harlem decades ago, that did nothing to decrease poverty, unemployment, housing shortages or racism. Capitalism's need for a divided working class, low-wage workers, high unemployment to keep wages down, and an ever-expanding army for endless imperialist wars insure that conditions will not improve. That is why we must not only build this struggle, but use it as a tool to expose the system and train new leaders for the fight for communism, where the health care of all workers and their families will be number one priority and racist elitist institutions like Columbia University won't exist.
Two years ago, the government cutbacks attempted to end free higher education. When students protested, the police beat them. This time, the Vice Chancellor Mukandala, who has built lavish mansions around Dar es Salaam, threatened to expel striking students. During the strike, he told Parliament that "higher education should only be for the few -- for those who can think critically." At the same time fewer high school students than ever passed the Form 6 exam, which means they won't be allowed into college. This plan to cut back spending on higher education by letting in fewer students (as well as making it unaffordable) is part of the World Bank's agenda with developing nations worldwide.
As inter-imperialist rivalry intensifies, institutions like the World Bank are using Structural Adjustment Programs to make trade arrangements even more favorable to the world's most powerful capitalist countries. Trying to expand the markets for the imperialists, they are forcing countries like Tanzania to cut government spending. Ending free higher education as well as other services to the working class have become a requirement for foreign investment.
Students told CHALLENGE that they "know what is going on" in their country. Government leaders drive around in expensive cars, they control the media and spend tax money on building new soccer stadiums, all at workers' expense. One student, Bernadetha Rushabu, says the purpose of university education here is to create more such corrupt leaders who serve the rich rather than the "sons and daughters of peasants." Both students interviewed agreed that the strike had radicalized them and most students at the University.
After the country became independent from Britain in 1961, its most prominent leader, Julius Nyerere, tried to impose "African-style socialism." But it failed because he tried to reform capitalism. After 1985, "free market" capitalism began abolishing these reforms. In today's Tanzania, expensive malls are built while millions suffer from malnutrition and unemployment and die unnecessarily from HIV/AIDS. A common theme among the students and working people of Tanzania today is that corruption is ruining their country. Corruption, however, is a direct result of the government embracing the capitalist values of selfishness and greed. Under capitalism, the "free market" gives the bosses the legal right to rob and exploit workers and students.
By fighting back, Dar es Salaam University students are learning important lessons on how the government, the media, the police and the university work together to protect the profits of both the imperialists and the local capitalists. Students and workers everywhere should take the lead from the courage of the Tanzanian students. The building of the communist PLP can help break with the widespread cynicism caused by the failure of trying to reform capitalism and by the collapse of the old communist movement. Workers and students, unite to smash capitalism and imperialism!
This is the most glaring example of what life is like for workers here since the strike ended. Workers have faced a series of firings, demotions, layoffs and other reprisals. The bosses are going back over records to review and scrutinize all claims for medical leave, workers' comp, and past time cards. There have been layoffs and firings. Workers face harassment to make up for production delays caused by Katrina, the strike and the reduced workforce. A week after the strike ended even ten supervisors were demoted, nine of them were black. Workers are now subjected to having their cars searched in the parking lot, including the use of dogs. One Latino worker with over twenty years seniority was fired for allegedly having one marijuana joint in his car. After "winning" his job back through the grievance procedure, the company still refuses to take him back.
But this is more than just retaliation. Behind the strike and behind the latest wave of deadly attacks lie growing military and commercial challenges to the U.S. shipbuilding industry, especially from Europe and China.
About a week after the strike ended, Navy Secretary Donald Winter slammed the industry for not investing in U.S. shipyards. He said the Navy had "eroded its expertise in shipbuilding and systems engineering," and "developed a bad habit of relying too much on contractors." He ought to know. Winter is a former Northrop Grumman corporate vice-president and also served as president of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.
He said the industry must "rethink its production processes... Otherwise, [we] will be stuck with outmoded and inefficient production lines...The current level of investment...is nowhere near adequate to meet our needs today, nor is it sufficient to bring American facilities up to the world-class standards that are evident in a number of European and Asian shipyards." In other words, Northrop Grumman workers are victims of the inter-imperialist rivalry, the struggle between the world's capitalists for markets, resources and cheap labor. And no amount of grievances, contracts or even strikes can smash imperialism and its endless wars.
Workers here must join PLP and help turn it into a mass international communist party, leading millions of industrial workers, soldiers and youth to communist revolution and the seizure of power. The strike last March, against the largest employer in the state, showed the potential power of industrial workers to smash the racist war makers. They shut down a major war contractor in the midst of losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving the Navy unable to move three ships under construction. A growing circle of CHALLENGE readers here will open the door to revolution, here and well beyond.
Multinational corporations like Chiquita Brands, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Drummond Mining have paid death squads to kill militant workers. A landmark trial is starting in Birmingham, Alabama, accusing Drummond of paying paramilitary thugs to kill two union leaders at the company's La Loma coal mine in northern Colombia in 2001. These murders occur alongside massive attacks on jobs, education, health and other past gains workers won through many sharp struggles.
Capitalism considers workers and their families just another commodity to be used, sold and thrown away, reaping huge profits for the bosses. The anti-working class, racist judicial system sanctions these abuses. Now the few working-class students reaching the universities are also being attacked with tuition hikes forced by the government's education budget cutbacks. (See CHALLENGE, 7/18)
The anti-riot cops (ESMAD) have viciously attacked the students' mass protests against these cutbacks with billy clubs, tear gas, rubber bullets, raids of our schools, arrests and even disappearances. The paramilitary has infiltrated our marches. It mirrors killings in Iraq, Mexico, Palestine and El Salvador. Government goons have murdered young fighters like Oscar Salas, Nicolas Neira and Giovanni Blanco fighting to transform society.
But young students, children of the working class, continue with our struggle, raising our fists, fighting alongside parents and teachers during the massive marches protesting the cutbacks. We're showing that the bosses' fascism cannot stop the growing anger and class struggle. PLP members are involved in these actions against cutbacks and privatization of public education. We fight in the schools and the streets, while trying to build our Party as the long-range answer to this murderous capitalist system. CHALLENGE readers and friends are playing an important role. We understand that we are the future of our movement and of the working class, and believe firmly that "those who died fighting live in all of us."
A Student, Colombia
The levee system that was supposed to protect the homes in the Ninth Ward from Katrina was far too weak but has been replaced with one just as deficient. On the other hand, the levee system protecting the French Quarter and the city's business district is much stronger and more intricate.
Under capitalism, profit and property are always put ahead of human lives. In the aftermath of Katrina, more than 1,500 workers lost their lives while 250,000 were displaced from their homes. Today, two years later, the majority of these working families continue to be scattered across the country, with no resources to return or to rebuild their homes and lives.
Adding insult to injury, a new memorial built in the heart of the devastated Ninth Ward claims that the rebuilding is "moving forward as promised." Two erected walls painted red symbolize the supposed rebuilding of the community. In the window, a sign from Liberty Bank reads "I am coming home! I will rebuild! I am New Orleans!" But actually the memorial's two walls seem to be the only rebuilding that's occurred in the last two years. All around the memorial, half-collapsing houses and condemned buildings expose the bosses' lies that "all is back to normal" in New Orleans.
The misery in the Ninth Ward reflects the U.S. ruling class's plan for the entire working class. The imperialist wars for profit and empire the U.S. bosses need to fight rival capitalists will mean more blood and suffering for all workers. Only a multi-racial, international communist movement fighting to end the fascism and imperialism crucial to the capitalist war machine will deliver real change for workers, students and soldiers. PLP is working to build this movement, and our work in New Orleans continues to be crucial.
The summer project allowed us to meet many workers open to our ideas because of the first-hand experience with the effects of racism and capitalism. We must introduce communist ideas and continue to support their struggles against fascist attacks.
West Coast Comrades
We explained that students, teachers and workers from across the country came there to express our solidarity with our working-class brothers and sisters who, after two years of racist neglect by the U.S. government, are still struggling to rebuild their homes. We also shared the Party's analysis of how capitalism puts profits before the needs of the working class, how currently due to an increased inter-imperialist rivalry, the U.S. ruling class is more concerned with funding their wars for oil profits in the Middle East than helping workers.
After Katrina, these day laborers came to New Orleans because they were promised good jobs reconstructing the city. But when they're lucky enough to be picked off the street for short-term jobs, mainly rebuilding projects, they face severe exploitation and anti-immigrant racist abuse. For instance, sometimes they work for weeks, only to be threatened by employers who tell them to leave without pay or deal with the immigration service and possible deportation. The workers said some residents refer to them as "guerrillas" who live in the streets, "taking over the city" and taking jobs from residents who badly need them. The residents making these accusations were black workers, reflecting the bosses' attempt to create a racial division between Latino and black workers as a way of developing fascist control over the U.S. working class that suffers most during times of intensified imperialist conflict.
The day laborers responded well to our communist politics. They agreed with us about the need for revolution, and asked how they could learn more about our Party and how we could help them organize themselves.
These workers are experiencing the worst capitalism has to offer. Many who are homeless also have to deal with loneliness, depression and despair. Some have resorted to alcohol and drugs for comfort. But meeting the Party and learning about our politics of revolution and workers' power seemed to raise their spirits and give them hope.
Several participated in a forum during our project. One worker in particular was reenergized, and spoke to a young, multi-racial audience about his lifelong commitment to communism and how he fought for the FMLN (a national liberation group, now turned electoral) during the civil war in El Salvador. He explained that despite the FMLN leadership's betrayal of the Salvadoran workers' struggle to overthrow the fascist government, he still considered himself a revolutionary communist. After meeting our Party and learning that there's an organization that truly fights in the interest of the working class, it strengthened his hope for a communist future. When an older comrade joked that she was "too old to fight," that it was up to youth to take the lead in building the revolutionary communist movement, the worker quickly responded, "You can still carry a rifle."
We plan to stay in touch with these workers and return in the near future to continue meeting more workers and sharing our communist politics, particularly the need for multi-racial unity among all workers in the fight against capitalism and imperialism.
However, the main reason to watch the interview is for Moore's thinking on which Democrat would best represent the government-paid national health plan he calls for in his movie "Sicko." He mentions Kucinich, who he obviously realizes is a maverick with no major ruling-class support. So he suggests that those favoring national health insurance without private insurance companies write to Hillary Clinton and request her support. Moore says Hillary was "very brave" for raising the issue 14 years ago and hints that she might do so again.
In the film, Moore also presents Hillary Clinton, then the "first lady," as courageous but neglects to mention that her 1993 plan involved employer-based payment to privately-funded HMOs, a far cry from removing profit from health care and from the single-payer system of Canada or Britain. Moore's film is contradictory about Clinton. First he implies that the Republicans and the big insurance companies "shut her up" and killed her plan, but then he acknowledges that she later received large campaign donations from those very same companies.
However, Moore hasn't given up on her or the Democrats. So beyond being an argument for social democracy rather that social revolution, "Sicko" fails as even a strong reformist film, because the party he believes will fight for a decent health care system -- one not run for profit, which covers everyone and provides a high level of care -- shows little inclination to do so.
The difference was that both the mayor and the police chief took part in these events, so the description of "racist indifference fostered by the rulers" in the Oakland article doesn't exactly apply here. In part this may be due to these local rulers being committed to the gentrification of the city, which is further along than in Oakland. They don't want the crime rate to lower property values! That in itself -- together with decades of racist neglect of the public schools, which have mainly black and Latin students even though the city is about half white -- shows their profound indifference toward working-class families who can't even afford to live in this city anymore.
But I think something else is going on. With the decline of U.S. imperialism with respect to its many rivals, the main section of the ruling class understands that it needs to mobilize youth -- including unemployed urban working-class black and Latin youth -- for war production and the military. That kind of violence suits them fine! But the young black men at the community meeting were 100% against the Iraq war and had no interest at all in joining the military. They almost all hate the cops. Such profound alienation among unemployed black youth is actually against the racist bosses' core interests.
So, at least in this area, we are seeing more liberal efforts to involve youth in "stopping the violence." The police chief made a point of disagreeing with those who said the violence was "racial" and pointed out that there were as many "brown-on-brown" and "black-on-black" attacks as cross-racial ones. Maybe, but he and the pastors in charge seem to have missed the several dozen Spanish-speaking women who walked out of the meeting because there was no interpreter. A lot of work needs to be done to build multiracial working class unity here!
Then a Y organizer told the youth to "stop hating on the cops -- we all have to work together." That didn't go over too well: half a dozen youths jumped up to respond to her. There wasn't too much enthusiasm for other bogus suggestions like "restore prayer to the schools" and "get the youth back into church" either. On the other hand, people responded well to the idea that it's the racist war system -- not black and brown youth -- that causes the most violence against workers.
The Challenge article from Oakland is right on target when it points to the murderous nature of capitalism, which considers workers' lives cheap - not only in the USA but in every capitalist society on earth. And it's true that PLP needs to win workers away from passivity and to the understanding that we are a potentially revolutionary class. Whether we and our friends organize anti-racist actions ourselves or whether we participate in those organized by others around ideas like religious pacifism, we need to put forward communist ideas to the workers and youth involved in them.
[Perkins writes] This empire "is as ruthless as any in history....It has enslaved more people and its policies and actions have resulted in more deaths than those under the imperial regimes of Rome, Spain, Portugal, France, England and Holland or at the hands of...Adolph Hitler, and yet its crimes go almost unnoticed.... (NYT, 7/15)
For thousands of evacuees like Ms. Cole, going home to New Orleans has become a vague and receding dream....In bleak circumstances, they...have nothing to go back to. (NYT, 7/12)
They promised me a house, but they say, "Wait, wait, wait," said Mampane. "So I am waiting. But it is not right to come and knock down the house I have before they build me a new one. This is what we expected from apartheid, not from our own government. I think they have forgotten us...."
Hundreds of...protests have spread across South Africa, fueled by anger at the slow pace of change. Thirteen years after the end of apartheid, the poverty gap here remains among the largest in the world....
Where the fault line between the haves and have-nots once ran almost exclusively along racial lines, the ANC's policy of BlackEconomicEmpowerment has created a class of super-rich blacks, many of whom have links to the ruling party....
Smuts Ngonyama, a former spokesman for President Thabo Mbeki, asked to explain why he received shares in a private company while working for the government, said he did not join the struggle against apartheid to remain poor. Tokyo Sexwale, one of the few ANC leaders to have declared that he is running to succeed Mbeki, has also been forced to defend his extraordinary accumulation of wealth. (GW, 7/6)
But when people were asked if they would accept a nuclear waste dump if they were paid a substantial sum each year (equal to about six weeks' pay for the average worker), a remarkable thing happened. Now...only about 25 percent of respondents agreed. The offer of cash undermined the motive to be a good citizen....
The offer of money, in effect, told people that they should consider only their self-interest. (NYT, 7/2)
(Part IX described the last gasps of the movement against the war in Vietnam: the mass upsurge over Nixon's 1970 invasion of Cambodia and the National Guard's murder of four demonstrators at Kent State University, and the ensuing demonstration in Washington D.C. It also highlighted the 1968 racist murders of African-American student protestors at South Carolina State University and then Jackson State -- two weeks after Kent State. The need to intensify the struggle against racism thus emerged as one of the key lessons PLP learned from its participation in the anti-war movement.)
SDS was essentially a single-issue reform organization. It rose to prominence over the war in Vietnam and declined as revisionism (abandonment of communist principles) transformed People's War into armed struggle for tactical advantage through U.S.-North Vietnam negotiations.
Throughout the war, the Progressive Labor Party, which had launched the first mass demonstration against the war in 1964, played a crucial ideological, political and practical role within SDS and the anti-war movement in general. PLP gained experience, advanced its political line and recruited large numbers of students and others to its ranks. Many remain Party members and leaders nearly four decades later. Most importantly, the primary lessons emerging from this historic period of struggle are as valid today as in the 1960's and 1970's, despite many changed circumstances:
*Wars waged by the profit system, whether in Vietnam or Iraq, are neither "mistakes" nor "aberrations" but rather the inevitable products of imperialism at a certain stage of its development. They will rage as long as we allow the profit system to survive.
*The main danger to working-class interests is political and comes from within. Revisionism and nationalism killed People's War in Vietnam, as they destroyed the once-mighty working-class rule in the Soviet Union and China. The only antidote to revisionism is a revolutionary communist perspective, on both long-range goals and issues of the moment. PLP did not fully understand this point during the Vietnam period (we retained an erroneous belief in fighting for socialism instead of directly for communism until the early 1980's). But the experience gained from political and practical struggle during the Vietnam years enabled us to break with nationalism and many important aspects of revisionism and to set the stage for further political advances, notably the document "Road to Revolution IV" a decade later.
*Students can start a movement and can play a vital role within it. However, only the working class has the potential power and the need to transform and lead society. Winning students to ally with workers is thus paramount at every stage of the process.
*A revolutionary communist, pro-working-class perspective requires the constant application of Marxist-Leninist analysis and dialectics, as well as the courageous determination to take initially unpopular positions. Communists are trail-blazers, not camp-followers.
PLP had to fight very hard for aspects of its line during the Vietnam period. Events later proved these ideas to be correct on every major question: opposing the war in the first place, calling for the U.S. to get out of Vietnam rather than to "end the bombing" and "negotiate," identifying Ho Chi Minh and his cronies as revisionists, attacking nationalism, condemning the Paris "peace" negotiations as a betrayal of People's War, etc. This lesson is as important as ever today, symbolized by the current presence of Nike, Ford & Co., invited into Vietnam to profit from the exploitation of Vietnamese workers.
*Class struggle and militancy are inseparable from the battle over correct ideas and politics. As this series has shown, PLP's ideological credibility and strength varied directly with the tactical leadership it provided in scores of battles on campuses from Harvard to San Francisco State. Our success in fighting for our line accompanied our determination to fight the ruling class.
*Liberal politicians and ideologues were then, and remain today, the primary external threat to workers, pro-working class students, and revolutionary communists. The liberal JFK started the Vietnam War. The liberal LBJ prolonged it. Like Bush today, the Republican Nixon justifiably emerged as the politician everyone loved to hate, but the liberal Democrat, "Clean Gene" McCarthy, administered the main body blow to the anti-war movement by successfully channeling student militancy into a dead-end electoral trap. Democratic Party politicians and the bosses for whom they front are setting a similar trap for millions opposed to today's oil war in Iraq. One of PLP's major tasks will be to win large numbers of the war's opponents to break away from Clinton, Obama, Edwards, et al. No capitalist politician is for peace: scratch a liberal and you'll uncover an imperialist butcher.
*Fighting hard over ideas also requires the skill to work with people with whom we have serious disagreements. Everyone, including us, has reformist ideas to a greater or lesser extent. People with bad ideas aren't necessarily enemies. We didn't adequately grasp this concept during the Vietnam period. Fighting the corrupt, right-wing leadership of the SDS National Office was necessary, but in the process, we managed to alienate a significant number of people we could have neutralized if not won over. This may seem like ancient history, but it really isn't. Work in mass organizations is more difficult and complex today than ever, in a period when success is measured by recruits in the single digits. Revolutionary work demands that we perfect the art of struggling over principle while at the same time giving as many people as possible the opportunity to embrace communist ideas and PLP.
*Less talk, more action: FIGHT RACISM!
The film is strong in accurately describing what occurred as a "rebellion" against racism. It graphically portrays the N.J. rulers' brutal response -- the deployment of state police and then National Guard units into the city resulting in the racist murder of at least 24 city residents, the arrest and/or wounding of thousands of others, and the trashing of many black-owned stores by the cops.
The film also exposes the racist mythology pushed by the bosses' press at the time -- including the New York Times -- that there were large numbers of "black snipers" firing at the cops and Guard, in what was termed a "race riot." This lie was used to justify the murder of black people. None of the cops, including one caught on camera by a Life Magazine photographer, were even indicted for these horrible crimes.
That said, the film's main weakness is hiding the truth that the whole capitalist system -- widespread unemployment, cop terror, racist housing segregation, etc -- was behind the diverse causes of the rebellion. Newark's manufacturing bosses, in search of maximum profit like so many others in the North and Midwest, began leaving the city in the late 1940s and 1950s. Large numbers of black farmers and agricultural workers from the South began coming to the city for jobs at about the same time. Some of these "migrants" found jobs; many did not.
Blacks moving north found government-encouraged and bank-funded barriers dividing newly-built suburbs from cities with older housing stock. White workers, many of them World War II veterans, whose parents had migrated to the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s, began leaving Newark and other cities in droves. Once Newark's population was mostly black, city services and infrastructure deteriorated sharply. Banks, slumlords and real estate speculators -- with police violence backing them up -- earned extra profits by collecting mortgage interest and rents while at the same time abandoning any pretense of doing necessary maintenance or repairs. Housing segregation -- the material basis for post-Jim Crow racism -- became the stake in the heart of the black and white unity which had emerged under communist leadership from the titanic struggles of the working class during the Great Depression.
Capitalism created the oppressive conditions that made Newark and other rebellions against racism inevitable. Then, after the rebellions, liberal capitalists helped create and fund misleaders from the black community whose job it was to direct black workers into anything but an attack on the capitalist system that caused these problems. These misleaders convinced black workers that racism could be eliminated through reform. Some of them are interviewed and portrayed favorably. Nationalism was also used to fool workers into backing politicians who would protect "their" interests.
The movie also distorts the role of "white radicals" in causing the Newark rebellion. Tom Hayden, a founder of SDS who left the organization before the rebellion, is shown as a key leader, when in reality the uprising was a spontaneous response to systemic racism. The rebellion, however, did occur in the context of a growing movement against racism and imperialism, which included an SDS increasingly influenced by our Party.
PLP has always made the fight against racism an essential part of our leadership of the working class. We have always said that capitalism's need for profit, and to divide those whom it exploits, made slavery and modern-day racism inevitable. Only a working class united against racism has the potential to seize power from the class which promotes it. And only a communist revolution that destroys the material basis for the exploitation of our class can ever consign the bloody history of racism to a distant memory. Join us!