The reason for this mass outpouring is not because Jena is so unique, but because it is so common. Black and Latin youth are the main victims of racist police terror, from the murder of Sean Bell in NYC, to the recent killing of Aaron Harrison, an 18-year old black youth shot in the back by Chicago police in August. The racist criminal justice system, boasts a prison population of 2.2 million, the highest in the world, 70% black and Latin, with millions more on probation, parole, or awaiting trial. This Gestapo terror has spilled over to fascist immigration raids and deportations of undocumented workers, and the fascist Homeland Security roundup and racist harassment of tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants.
It is no surprise thousands of black youth took to the streets against this capitalist racist terror because they know all too well the deadly effects of racism, whether in small towns like Jena, or big cities like New York, Detroit, Chicago and LA. They came from hundreds of college campuses and high schools, filled with great revolutionary potential.
This mass outpouring of hatred against racism shows that U.S. rulers have so far failed to win the loyalty of young black & Latin workers to U.S. imperialism. The rulers need to win over these youth to patriotism, a future of fighting and dying in endless imperialist wars and a low-wage police state in order to maintain their system.
Local gutter racists, like the Jena H.S. KKK, local mayors, prosecutors and the police, aren't making their job any easier because these open racists are attacking the very people the rulers need to wage imperialist war. According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate in Louisiana is 19.2 percent, the highest in the south and the second highest in the country. More than 26 percent of children under 18 years of age live in poverty, also the highest in the south and the second highest in the nation. In Jena, more than 18 percent of the population, and 20 percent of children live in poverty. They are almost all black. In Jena, working-class students, black & white alike, attend the same failing high school. Instead of a multi-racial fight for better conditions, the racist nature of capitalism directs white students' anger against black students.
Misleaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are running to the head of the growing movement to steer black youth into the dead end of electoral politics and the Democratic Party. With big names and bigger bucks, Jackson, Sharpton and the billionaires behind them have a tiger by the tail as they try to pacify and win black youth. At the march, Jackson introduced New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, the racist criminal who left more than 100,000 black people to die during Hurricane Katrina. Congresswoman Maxine Waters from Los Angeles and Congressman John Conyers from Detroit are calling for a federal investigation into Jena. But the federal government will never fight racism. In fact it has always built racism, from slavery to Jim Crow to the funding of the increasing number of killer cops in black and Latin neighborhoods.
Workers supported the youth as delegations of auto workers from Detroit and Chicago, the Teamster's National Black Caucus, postal workers from New Orleans, Chicago and St. Louis, longshoremen from Charleston, S.C. and many more joined them. Autoworkers from the Chicago Ford Assembly plant and the Chicago area UAW Civil Rights Council sent $1,000 with their delegations for the Jena 6 legal defense fund. Resolutions were raised among UAW Legal service workers in Newark, NJ and at the Amalgamated Transit Union convention in Las Vegas. What if the next time the cops killed a black teenager in cold blood, these workers walked out? That type of action could move many workers and youth to see capitalism as the enemy and the working class as having the power to change things.
We can challenge the bosses and their flunkies for the political leadership of the masses by fighting racism where we live, work, and go to school every day. By making political breakthroughs in our main concentrations, we can reach millions. These scenarios become more likely as we deepen our personal and political ties to the masses, increase the readership of CHALLENGE, and fight to lead more anti-racist struggle against the enemy. This is the road to communist revolution.
One of the most disgusting things about the day was the appearance of the racist murderer of New Orleans, black Democratic Party Mayor Ray Nagin. He showed up to `support' these militant anti-racist fighters after leaving hundreds of thousands, mostly black, to die in New Orleans.
In his face we chanted, "Ray Nagin, you can't hide, you left New Orleans to die." Some workers around us got very angry. They claimed that he "did all he could" and told people to evacuate. As we continued to chant, a comrade spoke to a couple of these workers explaining that we must recognize that the racism in Jena and New Orleans all stem from the same source, capitalism. Nagin, like Bush, serves this system. Another comrade was talking to some other workers nearby who were from New Orleans. One of them, a Katrina survivor, said "You know, he did leave us to die." She and the other workers took CHALLENGE.
Our presence is much needed in this growing movement against racism, led by black youth and workers. We are the ones presenting these workers with a real solution outside of the dead-end politics of voting for the Democrats and nationalism.
A Red Worker
U.S. rulers fear losing their position as the world's leading imperialist power. Mounting challenges from regional Middle Eastern rivals like Iran and global ones like China and Russia are provoking threats of increasingly deadly U.S. responses. The same liberal Democrats, whom the leaders of the anti-war movement push workers and students to trust and follow, are rapidly signing on to this concept of perpetual war.
The New York Times reported that "the three leading Democratic presidential candidates refused on Wednesday night to promise that they would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of their first term, saying in a televised debate in New Hampshire that they could not predict the future challenges in Iraq (9/27/07). When asked about Iran, Barack Obama said "attacks" should come after "we have gathered the international community to put the squeeze on Iran economically" (Voice of America, 9/27/07). Hillary Clinton did her part to ramp-up hostilities by voting to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. It indeed terrorizes Iranian workers, but Clinton speaks of its danger to the U.S. ruling class.
But, that doesn't mean U.S. rulers would never attempt one. The huge profit potential of the Mideast--control of the bulk of the world's oil--lures capitalists to make incredibly risky rolls of the dice there. Good examples are Iraq's failed 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the current U.S. fiasco in Iraq.
The Israeli raid into Syria signals a proxy war foreshadowing global conflict. Hired gun Israel, reaping $3 billion in arms a year from Washington, has long guarded the western flank of the U.S.'s Mideast oil empire. Now China, through its client North Korea, is helping Israel's enemy Syria with its nuclear program. China desperately needs Mideast oil, free of Exxon Mobil's dictates, to fuel its skyrocketing economy. This sets the stage for an armed collision with the U.S. war machine.
China's ally Iran cannot supply its needs alone. That is why China must break U.S. control over Saudi Arabia, the cornerstone of the U.S. empire. It is only a matter of time--shortening by the day, according to U.S. analysts--before a Chinese "blue water" navy (ships capable of traveling long distances for military purposes) confronts the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. strategy seems to favor striking the Chinese-led axis at home, before it acquires global reach. Reporting on Pentagon debates surrounding Admiral Mike Mullen's coming appointment as Joint Chiefs of Staff head, the New York Times said (9/30/07), "The most significant possible crisis situations today are conflict with China across the Taiwan Straits, the nuclear threat from North Korea and, potentially, Iran. Military action would require air and naval power to strike at long distances, submarines to guarantee access through choke points, and Special Operations teams to carry out precision missions on the ground..." Should such tactics fail, more drastic plans lie in the U.S. arsenal.
"The Air Force will need to maintain its technology for the most challenging forms of warfare against a `peer competitor' -- code for China or Russia -- or an emerging smaller adversary with sophisticated weaponry (nuclear arms), like Iran." Short of a hydrogen-bomb holocaust, war maker Mullen optimistically envisions a "thousand-ship" invasion armada, suitable for both the Middle and Far East, with 300 U.S. vessels and the rest supplied by "friendly nations."
But the bosses are afraid to talk openly about the most crucial piece of the puzzle, the vast land troops their expanding wars will require. The Iraq mess revealed just how critical boots on the ground are. U.S. rulers must instill patriotism and a sense of national service, eventually restoring the draft. Millions of working-class youth will then be exposed to the profit-hungry rulers' war crimes, like the indiscriminate slaughter of Iraq civilians by U.S. forces, regular and mercenary. This will offer communists a great opportunity to organize workers and soldiers to smash the imperialist war makers once and for all.
After a discussion on the importance of responding to racist attacks whenever and wherever they occur, a group of teachers and students met to write a leaflet and organize other activities in response to the latest racist attacks. They talked about the importance of linking the racism in Jena, Louisiana to the racism the working class faces everywhere. In the end, a leaflet attacking metal detectors in schools, police harassment of students, the attempted genocide in New Orleans, the roundup of Muslims after 9/11 and the murder of Iraqi workers in this latest imperialist war was written. It tied all of these racist attacks to capitalism by explaining the ruling class' need to divide and conquer workers worldwide in order to stay in power. It also called on students to organize an immediate response to all racist attacks.
The following morning hundreds of leaflets were handed out by subway and bus stations near the school in less than half an hour. Stickers with the slogan "Free the Jena 6, Unite Against Racism" were sold throughout the school for a small donation, raising about thirty dollars to send to the legal defense fund. Lastly, more leaflets were made and distributed at teach-ins led by students, held throughout the day in many classrooms. Students got especially angry when they heard about a racist restaurant nearby that refuses to serve the mainly black & Latin working-class students from our school, while it happily serves white children who live in the middle-class neighborhood where the building is located. Although some students expressed doubts about ever ending racism, the excitement of most was felt all over the school as teachers and students proudly wore their anti-racist stickers.
The gutter racists have given us an opening to actively fight racism, but we won't have learned all the lessons needed about how to fight the cause of racism until we learn to direct our fire against the insidious racism of the liberals as well. In the upcoming discussions about whether to remove metal detectors from the school, the open racists will argue that they are needed to secure ourselves against "dangerous" black and Latino students. We want the metal detectors removed because we see it for the racist attack that it is.
But we need to be aware of the liberal higher-ups who will highjack our struggle in their own effort to gentrify the school. They want the school to look more like "better" schools so they can convince wealthier neighboring families to send their children to this school, replacing working-class black and Latin students. It is trickier to identify the enemies in this kind of battle, but even more necessary. Even if the metal detectors are removed, there will be more racism to combat. We will continue to increase the distribution of CHALLENGE amongst students and teachers, while building study groups. We also need to organize anti-racist students, parents, teachers, and community members to confront all forms of racism, while raising the bigger questions of how to end the system that thrives off of racism once and for all!
A rally was held inside during lunch time in one school and a second rally in front of another school right before school started. In preparation, some students made posters, t-shirts and banners. "We went around inside the school with the posters and people were saying `man you weren't scared, that was cool.'" At the school which had the morning rally a half dozen teachers and around 40 students gathered. The students came up with a chant "1-2-3-4, let the Jena 6 go...5-6-7-8, do it now, we wont wait!" A student leader said, "It was the students who knew, understood and supported the Jena 6. People read the signs and honked their horns as they drove by the rally. We were all feeling happy as an organized group of young students who had planned the action."
CHALLENGE/DESAFIO played an important role in the actions. Hundreds were distributed, along with leaflets, on the days leading up to the actions and on the day of the actions, which was the same day as the mass march in Jena.
Students at one school who led an action to support the Jena 6 also made a banner for an anti-war march on Saturday which said "From Jena to Baghdad--Stop Racist Terror!" At that small march, two of the most popular chants were "Jena, Baghdad, New Orleans--Smash the Racist War Machine!" and "¡No sangre obrera por ganancias petroleras!" (No workers' blood for oil profits). We sold hundreds of Challenges and passed out 1500 communist leaflets denouncing racist capitalism from Jena to Baghdad and exposing deportations and the DREAM Act as a draft for immigrant youth who will be faced with the "choice" of military service or deportation. We called for a student-worker-soldier alliance to smash racism and imperialism with communist revolution.
In the liberal-led immigrant rights movement, the main participants are Latino. In the anti-war movement, those involved are mainly white and the mass movement to defend the Jena 6 has mainly involved black supporters. Since we are one working class and an injury to one is an injury to all, we need to fight these attacks as one class. The actions to support the Jena 6 here involved immigrant Latino students and black students, and they fought for multi-racial unity. Anti-racist actions led by bold and militant students can, at this time of widening war, build the unity and understanding we need to put us on the revolutionary road to victory. They can help students see the need to build an alliance with the industrial working class and soldiers, key forces for revolution. J
A speaker talked about how racism and capitalism go together and how building the PLP to fight for a communist world will ultimately free the working class from racist oppression. The mass response to our rally was shown by the fact that 150 CHALLENGES were distributed along with over 700 leaflets titled, "Fight the Racist Legal Lynching of The Jena 6." The racism suffered by the Jena 6 is not the exception but the rule, since it is also rampant against youth here in NYC.
One student we know (discouraged by the lousy capitalist school system and misled by the bosses' media) was thinking of talking to the military recruiters after our demonstration. We in PLP struggle with youth forced to join the military to become political organizers of fellow soldiers against the imperialist warmakers. Vietnam war veterans used their military training to lead the most successful mass armed anti-racist rebellion in the history of the United States (the 1967 Detroit Rebellion). In the middle of World War One, the Bolsheviks (communists) in Russia organized soldiers to join workers to take state power away from the bosses. It is important for any young person today joining the army to learn this history and to understand that the bosses' military exists to protect the profits of oil moguls like Exxon-Mobil and the interests of U.S. imperialism worldwide.
Before speaking with the recruiters the student watched dozens of people cheer as one PLP speaker openly exposed the racist nature of the recruiters, the imperialist war for oil, and the bosses they serve and protect. This outraged one Marine recruiter so much that he challenged the comrade to a fight in the middle of Fordham Road.
In his first public speech, one HS student showed how the schools are racist and feed hundreds of black and Latin youth to these recruiters. He said of the capitalist schools, "It's true, they don't teach us anything in school...my English teacher didn't even know about Jena, Louisiana...I had to teach my class about what happened." Ten minutes later the recruiter started to heckle and pick a fight with this young speaker. These young people (including the student that wanted to speak to the recruiter about joining the military) and the rest of our base got an important lesson on the real motivation behind the recruiters. One high school student responded "That was one of the best demonstrations I've been to because I really saw that what we do can directly outrage the government."
This event showed that the Jena 6 case has become a mass issue. Many workers from downtown businesses joined the picket line. There was also a contingent of construction workers, wearing their hardhats, from the nearby site of the almost-completed Newark arena. Students from Arts High School led chants and were open to going beyond the usual "No Justice, No Peace." About 40 militant students from Arts walked out of their school, despite threats of suspensions from the principal.
Two days before the date of the rally planned in Louisiana, two unions at one workplace endorsed a resolution condemning the criminal charges against the Jena 6 and supporting the rally. At this workplace, we only found out two hours before that the Newark demonstration would be at 12:00 PM. Ten workers, from both unions, took their lunch hour in order to participate.
As POP led the demonstrators into the street for a march to Newark City Hall, hundreds of residents cheered the marchers. At the rally at City Hall, several youth spoke, including Arts High students. This event showed that, despite the lies of the media, youth are eager to engage in positive activities by giving leadership to the struggle against racism.
Several workers distributed 200 copies of a PLP flyer, which called for communist revolution to smash racism. Demonstrators eagerly took the flyers. There is a deep-seated anger, particularly amongst black workers, about this case. For many, the Jena 6 was the last straw in a series of racist outrages in the recent period.
Like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, POP leaders push for reform of a profoundly racist system, which can never change until the capitalists are overthrown. In any demonstration led by POP, these leaders try to limit the politics to the immediate demands of that particular event. They never connect individual abuses to the bigger picture. Many workers now follow these reformist leaders. However, the Jena 6 case reveals that racism is truly the "Achilles heel" of the bosses' system, the main place where they are vulnerable to the anger of the workers.
No matter how they try to cover it up, or smooth it over, the rulers cannot get away from the fact that their racket cannot survive without racism. The capitalists have a dirty secret: they need racism in order to split the working class and to make extra tens of billions in profits off of the lower-paid labor of black, Latino and immigrant workers. Events like the one in Newark show that many are open to the need for revolution to destroy this plague on the working class
* In August, during a school assembly, a black student asked if he could sit
under what was referred to by many as the "white tree". The principal said he
could sit wherever he wanted. The next day nooses were found hanging from the
* In the days after the "nooses incident," fights between white and black students ensued at the school. In an effort to quell the tension, the school asked the District Attorney to speak at an assembly. Pouring gas on a fire, the DA warned the students he could be their friend or their worst enemy. He lifted his fountain pen and said, "I can end your life with the stroke of a pen."
* On Sept 10, black students attempted to address the Board of Education to discuss the tree incident and were turned away.
* In November, a section of Jena High was set on fire in an apparent arson.
* In December, at the Jena Fair Barn, a group of black and white students got into a fight where a white student was arrested. One of the five black youth involved was Robert Bailey, Jr.
* The next day, December 2nd, at a convenience store, Bailey was confronted by a couple of white youth who were at the party the night before. One of the white youth pulled a gun and the black youth wrestled it away. The cops arrested the black youth and charged them with robbing the gun.
* On December 4th, a white student, Justin Barker, got into a fight after supposedly insulting Bailey for the previous weekend's events. Barker was beaten-up and had minor injuries but was able to attend a school event later that evening. Five black youth, Bailey, Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw were charged with second-degree attempted murder charges. A sixth student, Jesse Ray Beard, was charged as a juvenile.
More recently a number of black workers approached the party comrade about an incident of racial segregation at our hospital. A black woman, a nurse's aide, was moved from her normal work area to accommodate the demands of a racist patient. It is significant that these black workers approached the party comrade and not the 1199 C hospital workers union when they wanted to fight back against this flagrant racism. Many of the workers are disgusted with the unions do-nothing policies. When the union leaders were contacted about this racist incident they did exactly that, nothing!
None of these efforts to fight racism led to any clear "victory." No one was fired for the racist neglect that led to a young man's death. The black nurse who was fired did not win back her job. The incident of segregation went unpunished. Our party comrade was feeling down over this inability to get back at the class enemy but many of the black workers were happy and excited over these events. When our comrade approached a friend of his, a longtime union delegate, and asked him why he was happy, the delegate told him "This stuff has been going on for a long time. We all know it's wrong, we all hate it. But you guys are the only people who will come right out in the open and say it's wrong."
What an eye opener this was! In the party we are constantly discussing reform and revolution. In order to bring revolutionary leadership to the workers we must be in the reform struggles but we must not fall into the trap of believing that capitalism can be reformed. Because our comrade fell into the trap of thinking short-term victories against the racist bosses was primary, he was feeling defeated when in fact the party was winning all along. These struggles against racism have built PLP's reputation as a committed anti-racist working class party. Several workers attended our May Day celebration because of these efforts. More workers are reading CHALLENGE and discussing communist ideas with our comrade. A study-action group has been formed and there's a plan to try and guarantee recruitment. There are also plans to build more sustained struggles. This is revolutionary victory snatched from the jaws of the reformist defeat! The party work will continue at our hospital. There will be many more reform struggles with some victories and some defeats. If we keep the revolutionary line of the PLP foremost in our mind we can always be winning something. After all we have a whole world to win and nothing to lose but our chains
Like the nationalism pushed by U.S. bosses, Chinese nationalism supports a drive toward military might, preparations for war and pride in breakthroughs like Chinese anti-missile-missile technology or the submarines of its new blue-water navy. It also prepares for war with rivals like the U.S. and Japan by encouraging racist thinking about workers in those countries (U.S. and Japanese bosses, of course, are doing the same thing against China). Finally, nationalism supports China's emerging imperialist policies. No longer content to be the low-wage "workshop of the world," China is using its banks, largest corporations and military to lock up the natural resources of Africa. Chinese military ties to African ruling classes promise to conflict with older British, French, and U.S. imperialist interests.
This intense culture of nationalism extended even into an obscure academic literary conference. Several papers by scholars with leadership positions promoted a new Chinese nationalism in literary studies. One proposed remapping the world literature curriculum to give Chinese writing its rightful place, and make Chinese "the second-biggest language" in the world. The author rightly said that the accepted "canon" of major works always reflects power relations. But instead of criticizing the cultural imperialists, all he wanted was a seat at the head of their table! Another paper by a dean and party leader argued that Chinese literary nationalism was necessary and good because Chinese culture was harmonious and peaceful, and had an "open nationalism," aware and tolerant of national differences and other cultures. This is a variant of the liberal imperialism of Britain, France, and the U.S., who claim viciously racist cities like London, Paris, and New York as capitals of cultural openness.
One young scholar scared me with his passionate nationalism when we talked. He really believed nationalism and capitalism are what China needs today. Asked about the last organized Chinese nationalists, the Kuomintang, he angrily dismissed them as "fascists," claiming that Chinese nationalism now was liberal and different. Asked about the obvious oppression of migrant workers in the cities and farmers in the countryside, he said that those were merely economic differences, and that even the poorest Chinese should be proud of their culture. This outlook may be his ticket to professional success, but he meant every word. Some other young intellectuals, however, were more open to anti-nationalist, anti-imperialist arguments.
As inter-imperialist war looms, intellectuals in China, the U.S. and everywhere else should ally internationally with the world's workers against all imperialisms. The Chinese "Communist" Party has turned communism into nationalism in its drive for a place in the capitalist sun. To instead build communist internationalism, to fight alongside workers and soldiers against savage capitalist exploitation, intellectuals need a single international party, the PLP. As Marx said, workers have no country. What we have are the same international class interests and the same common enemy: capitalism.
PLP members plan to attend the conference to bring our line that this is an imperialist war, not just one caused by the "wrong" policies of Bush. Another major weakness of the anti-war movement has been that workers, particularly rank-and-filers and black and Latin workers in basic industries, have played a very minor role in the actions against the Iraq-Afghanistan war. The anti-war actions have generally built pacifism and reliance on Democratic Party politicians.
We must build on the examples of April 2003, when anti-war protestors picketed war cargo shippers in Oakland, and the cops fired on the protestors and longshoremen. This past May, when anti-war protestors and the Oakland Education Association also picketed war shippers, longshoremen honored the picket line.
We urge rank-and-file union activists to attend the conference and fight for a worker-student-soldier alliance based on the idea that capitalism makes war inevitable, and that liberal politicians are not the solution but part of the problem. If we unite the black workers and students mobilizing to free the Jena 6, the GM workers who recently went on strike and immigrant workers fighting the virulent racism they suffer to the fight against the bosses' wars, then we will really have the power to stop the warmakers.
For more info on the conference go to http://www.labournet.net/world/0708/awar1.html.
This imperialist rivalry has led to the bloodbath in Iraq, and global auto production that has pitted worker against worker in a race to the bottom. The flag-waving Solidarity House (UAW headquarters in Detroit) gang, is only interested in keeping their billionaire masters on top. We need a revolutionary movement to abolish wage slavery, smash all borders, and establish a communist world with production based on the needs of the working class, not the profits of Wall St.
The new contract:
*Establishes a VEBA trust fund and removes a $55 billion healthcare bill from
GM's books. It will be funded at 70% of the liability and take effect in 2009.
Similar VEBA's went bankrupt at Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel in the
*Maintains health benefits at current levels, until the VEBA is established. Then the UAW will administer our health care cuts.
*Freezes wages for the entire contract, with annual lump sum payments. Current auto wages will never be matched again.
*Establishes multi-tiered wage levels for new hires.
*Will extend buyouts of senior workers and start hiring temps at lower wages and benefits.
*Has very vague wording on job levels and future plant closings. More than a year before the contract expired, Solidarity House agreed to a major restructuring at GM, Ford and Delphi that included health cuts for retirees, wage cuts for active workers, and a buyout plan to eliminate 100,000 jobs and close 40 factories.
*Then there is the fine print and side agreements we will never see or vote on!
Worldwide auto production is shifting away from the U.S. and Europe and towards China and India. China is emerging as one of the world's largest auto producers and markets. At the same time, while GM and Ford close U.S. plants, Toyota, Daimler, Honda and others open new ones. Since 2000, about 15,000 parts plants have opened in the South, almost all non-union, and at a fraction of union pay.
We are up against the contradictions of imperialism and the racist profit system. They cannot be solved at the bargaining table. We should reject this contract, organize a mass march on Solidarity House, and reach out to auto workers around the world for support. Only communist revolution can smash imperialism and abolish wage slavery. Join PLP!J
A few months after this conversation the 1199C union leaders announced the latest pension fund crisis. The older union members that Sam feared wouldn't listen to him are now alarmed and scared. "Damn straight I'm fighting for my pension," declared a middle-aged union delegate, "I ain't eating cat food when I'm old!" A younger union delegate meanwhile argued, "Why the hell should we younger workers give a sh_t! There won't be any Social Security or Pension for us anyway!"
When calm, most workers agree that the division between younger and older workers hurts all of us. But the day to day bombardment of capitalism's anti-working class ideas can infect the best of us. That's why the spread of PLP's communist ideas and Challenge-Desafio is so important.
Communists in PLP fight for working class unity. Class unity is essential for communist revolution. Just fighting for reforms under capitalism requires class unity.
The capitalist bosses spend billions to use racism to divide workers by skin color; sexism to divide workers by gender; patriotism and nationalism to divide us by capitalist country, religious or other bourgeois grouping; and phony age divisions to split older workers from our own children and grandchildren!
These false capitalist divisions also allow the capitalists to make super profits by paying immigrant, women and black, Latin, and Asian workers less than white workers. The introduction of the "two tier wage and benefit" systems into union contracts expanded the bosses' ability to superexploit younger workers by paying them lower wages and benefits than the older union members and the failure to fight the "two-tier" attack on younger workers has also hurt the older veteran union members.
A 2006 federal law now requires the pension fund to maintain higher funding levels than before. This means the union members must unite to fight for the hospital to pay more into the pension fund. If that doesn't happen, the union members' monthly pension payments will be reduced or union members will have to start paying into the pension fund for the first time.
One cause of this crisis is that many full time jobs were lost to layoffs and hospital closings as well as being broken down into part time jobs. The hospital bosses don't pay into the pension fund for part-time workers.
At our hospital the two-tier system began over 10 years ago when hospital bosses in Environmental Services tried to split up the jobs of 300 workers who were all full time and worked every other weekend. The bosses figured they would save money by hiring part timers just for weekends with no benefits like healthcare or vacation and sick time.
The 1199C union delegates at that time organized the union workers to fight against this attack on full time jobs. (It's no accident that these union delegates were regular CHALLENGE readers!) For a short time the bosses backed off.
Then the bosses recruited two Environmental Services workers, one black, one white, to have workers sign a petition for weekends off. In a section of the hospital where the influence of the union delegates was the weakest the petition helped bosses to first begin hiring part-time workers. It was only a matter of time before it spread throughout the whole department. Now the Environmental Services Department has around 120 full-time workers and 120 part-time workers and less and less money came into the pension fund.
This pension crisis must be a wake up call for union members. Because the union movement accepts capitalism, the unions can never give workers the understanding we need to build true class unity or understand that our real enemy is the capitalist system itself. Only communist ideas can do this. Communist ideas show that what workers have in common as a class is far greater than secondary differences like skin color, country of origin or age.
We can't begin to fight such attacks without the multi-racial class unity of all workers. Our union contract reopens in July and one demand that might unite older and younger would be the demand for more full-time jobs with benefits. Full-time jobs with benefits is what most of the younger workers want and would ease the pension funding crisis by increasing its funding.
When several of our local union members drafted an anti-Iraq war resolution to be voted on at a chapter meeting we knew we would be fighting an uphill battle. One of these local members, a communist, proposed the resolution to his activist friends, and together they worked to bring the resolution to a vote. In spite of vigorous opposition from some members, including veterans of the Iraq War, the resolution won by a 2/3 majority.
The chapter delegates took the resolution to the statewide conference, knowing there would be an even bigger battle to gain support for it among the other chapters in the state. It was clear that the state leadership did not want the resolution to pass when the committee analyzing proposed resolutions described it as "divisive" and not an appropriate issue for our union! State leaders refused to approve distribution of our literature at the conference site.
The first three days of the conference were spent preparing speeches to present to the almost 2000 delegates and discussing our resolution with those we met in workshops. The atmosphere at the conference was clearly and pointedly patriotic and honoring union members and families who were serving or had died in Iraq. Pictures of these servicemen and women were projected on giant screens on the first day of the conference and one of the booths set up during breaks in conference business had camouflage t-shirts available.
As the anti-war resolution and the recommendation against it were read, pro and con lines were forming to speak to the resolution. Our first spokesman stated that the war in Iraq is the single most important issue facing U.S. workers. He stressed that as leaders of the labor movement, union activists must oppose a war that was killing not only working-class Americans, but working-class Iraqis, all for the interests of U.S. oil companies and their friends in government.
As delegates came to the microphone, we were not sure what to expect. We thought we would see more workers at the "con" line because of the "support our troops" atmosphere at the conference. However, one of the delegates at the "con" line had meant to be at the "pro" mic. He was a retired Navy man whose son was in Iraq and who wanted him "TO COME HOME NOW!"
When the vote came, our resolution lost by a significant margin. But we had met several delegates and union staff workers who agreed with our position on the war, and we will be working with them to bring this resolution back to the 2008 conference. At the closing session one delegate told those assembled that his son was on his third tour of duty and, "I cannot believe that this group would not vote to bring the troops home."
Fighting for communism in mass organizations like labor unions and churches is hard. In fact, working in mass organizations is hard not only for communists, but for all workers who want to see a better life for themselves and their children. But without our work in these mass organizations and the friends we have made there, our Party could not have made the political advances that CHALLENGE has reported over the years, attacking nationalism and sexism, exposing racist ideology, fighting oppressive regimes. We could not have stopped KKK or Save Our State rallies, we could not have stopped layoffs at factories, and most importantly, we could not have won hundreds of workers and students to join the struggle for revolutionary communism. Because of the struggle we engage in as communists to build a movement that will lead the working class to take state power, we will strengthen ourselves to win more and bigger battles. J
When I began to see the masses of people demonstrating to demand their necessities, I changed. I joined the mass marches and protests led by APPO (Popular Association of the Peoples of Oaxaca) and Section 22 of the teachers' union. I was very active with these organizations and followed the ideas of the leaders.
I participated very actively in the confrontations to defend my people and my rights against the police, the army, and the paramilitaries contracted by the government. I witnessed many of my fellow fighters being killed, arrested and brutally beaten. All these things made me think about true changes.
During the mass struggle I met PLP through their discussions and distribution of literature criticizing the leadership of APPO for politics that did not represent the real solutions to the problems suffered by the people of Oaxaca.
I criticized the PLP for not participating publicly as a party in the mass meetings and actions and for its political positions. I said that I followed the leaders of APPO because they were open in the movement. Time passed and the federal and state governments unleashed their brutality against my people. They won against us physically but not ideologically.
During this time I began to understand what PLP said, "The reformist leaders are part of the capitalist system." These opportunist leaders just seek their own benefits and those of their particular cliques. People who follow these phonies and give up their lives in fighting for a new society based on equality are used by them.
Many people were assassinated, tortured, and disappeared for the benefits of a few reformist opportunists who today parade their governmental posts, including people from the pseudo-Marxist Revolutionary Popular Front. Many of my friends left the struggle because they felt deceived by these sellouts. But a lot of us have stayed, learning that this is a process and that we are sowing the seeds of real change. Today I'm a member of PLP and our struggle is to smash the capitalist system and its reformist defenders, who create hunger, poverty, unemployment, wars and murders. Today, I'm struggling with my friends for them to join us so we can change the system through a true communist revolution.
From Reformist to Communist
The GPS in taxicabs will record every move the drivers make, and will make them more liable for any accident. Drivers will also lose income if any component of the system fails. There is an also a big concern over radiation. This is another step by the fascist Homeland Security police state as it spies on workers on their job sites, communities, schools, etc.
The city bosses used all their power, including the media, to try to make the strike a failure. Mayor Bloomberg even used his flunky Fernando Mateo, the so-called leader of livery drivers, to try to break the strike. Mateo received money from the City to hire young people to distribute leaflets against the strike. The city authorities also created special pick-up zones making riders pay three times the normal fare.
PLP went to the strikers' rallying site with CHALLENGE and a sign saying "Stop Scabs." A major weakness of the strikers (including PLP'ers) was that there was no plan to stop scabbing. PLP should have mobilized for a more massive presence to introduce communist politics among the strikers.
On Sept. 10, a few days after the strike, over 500 strikers met to discuss the outcome; 95% voted to strike again on Oct.1 if the city persists on installing the GPS. At the meeting, a PLP member and taxi driver proposed that the Taxi Workers Alliance call on the TWU Local 100 (representing subway and bus workers) and other city unions to join a massive solidarity work stoppage or slowdown. This kind of joint militant struggle will go a long way in fighting the bosses' growing attacks on all workers.
The MTA has just announced that the subway and bus fare will go up to $2.25 a ride, which will be a racist attack on the mostly black, Latin and immigrant riders. Workers must not accept the growing fascist attacks on our class to make us pay even more for the capitalist economic crisis and its endless oil wars.
A Red Taxi Driver
Active throughout the strike, PLP members stressed that the real victory was that we had remained united throughout the struggle and had realized our power as workers. At a BBQ the following day, we took the opportunity to remind the workers of the very important lessons learned during the strike. The very first day of the strike Cygnus called the mixers back to work, some say with higher pay. Without the mixers, production would have been completely stopped. The strikers realized that we had to build deep friendships with all who have the power to stop production should the need for action arise again.
We also learned the importance of working class unity. We made a point of fighting racism from both sides. A nationalist misleader from the Workers' Collaborative, an immigration rights group, told the strikers they would win because the replacement workers were black, and therefore, "slow and lazy." We said it was no coincidence that all the replacement workers were black and that racism is the bosses' tool. We won the strikers to reach out to those crossing the line, and to expose and fight the racism of the bosses and nationalist sellouts. Many who crossed the line expressed support for the strikers while trying to explain that they didn't know about the strike and just wanted to feed their families. It was clear for all to see how the bosses use wage slavery and racism to pit workers against each other.
In the weeks following the return the work, we have continued to meet with our friends at Cygnus and even one of the replacement workers. It is unclear whether the union that spoke to the workers has made any contact with Cygnus.
The Workers' Collaborative held a fundraiser that raised $1,500. They have yet to give any money to the workers, saying that the strike ended, even though these workers who make between $6-$7-an-hour missed five weeks pay. Their actions made it easy for us to point out the limits of reform work within the system and how it always falls short of meeting the needs of the working class.
Our presence, in contrast, has been very consistent and much appreciated. The distribution of CHALLENGE to our new friends has sparked conversations about how the immigration issue is connected to the larger problems of capitalism. In fighting back, we have learned lessons and built relationships with workers to win them to the Party and plant the seeds for future struggles and eventually a communist revolution.
Friend of Cygnus Workers
For years, residents of Compton had no medical center nearby and the hospitals where they sought treatment were racist. The death of Deadwyler and the mass rebellion that followed resulted in the building of King Hospital and the Charles Drew Medical Center that would train mainly African American doctors to treat the patients in the area.
Over the years funding has always been a constant battle, and the recent death of Edith Isabel Rodriguez, who bled to death on the floor of the ER there before being seen by staff, exemplifies why many call this hospital "Killer King."
My own experience at King was certainly negative. After I had dental surgery at the hospital, the doctor gave no post-surgery instructions or a prescription for pain killers. When I called to ask about a prescription, the nurse was hostile as if I were to blame for the pain. Later, the same nurse called to tell me that they may have damaged a nerve to a tooth near the surgical site!
King is plagued by understaffing, due to under funding. Another problem is the racism of the management system towards the black population and a growing Latino population. The racism that African Americans have fought so hard against is now also practiced against Latinos.
People who remember the days before there was a hospital, and who see more and more hospitals closing, fight to keep it open while we also worry about the hostility of a staff that is supposed to help the patients. The racist media paints this as a failure due primarily to the incompetence of African American administrators. But this hospital never had a chance. Dr. Charles Drew, the developer of blood transfusions, was not lush with money. The teaching component was named to honor him just as the naming of the hospital was supposed to honor Dr. King. What keeps most teaching hospitals afloat are government funding and a rich and influential alumna. King/Drew had neither.
From the closing of the King/Drew medical center, we should learn that reform is a very temporary and partial solution to the systemic failure of racist capitalism in serving the working class. We should fight to reopen King/Drew with more staffing and funding. And we should commit ourselves to fight to destroy a racist system that treats so many workers as expendable.
The face of Che has become an icon worldwide, not only as a revolutionary symbol but even as a commercial one, on T-Shirts, scarves, and berets. Even a beer was named after him in Europe. The recent movie Motorcycle Diaries--recounting his pre-revolutionary years when as a young medical student he and a friend toured Latin America and saw first hand the poverty and racism suffered by millions from the Andes to Caracas--became a worldwide hit. A new movie is on the making staring Bernicio del Toro as Che as a figure in Castro-led Cuba.
Che was a contradictory figure as far as revolutionary communist politics are concerned. Indeed, he gave up what could have been an easy middle class life as a doctor to become a revolutionary. He was one of the leading commanders of the Rebel Army that defeated the well armed pro-U.S. army of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He became Minister of Economy and fought for political incentives instead of economic incentives for workers. He pushed for building a "new man/woman" to fight for the well-being of the entire revolutionary society instead of for his/her self interests. He had sharp criticisms of the Soviet-style of socialism, even hinting that it was leading to capitalism. Some say that his disagreements with Moscow-Fidel alliance made him leave Cuba to fight for his idea of a guerrilla movement overseas. First he went to the Congo to help the Lumumba-led movement against the pro-imperialist forces that eventually brought Mobutu to power and turned the Congo into a pro-U.S. ally and in the later years a more pro-France ally. Then he went to Bolivia to lead a small group of guerrillas to try to inspire the peasantry to rise up against the reactionary government. That was his major weakness.
His military-guerrilla tactics were based on the belief that a few committed guerrilla fighters could inspire the masses to rise up and fight their exploiters (this strategy was called the "guerrilla foco"). He ignored the role of building a revolutionary communist movement to build a mass political base. He even trusted the revisionist (sellout) pro-Soviet "Communist" Party of Bolivia for mass support for his guerrilla group. Of course, the "C"P of Bolivia didn't lift a finger since it firmly believed in reforming capitalism peacefully, plus it really didn't trust Che because of his criticisms of the Soviet rulers. The guerrilla foco strategy was easily defeated in Bolivia and in other countries where it was tried. Many honest revolutionary workers and youth were killed because of this wrong strategy.
Today, many so-called progressive rulers in Latin America -- Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador and Chávez in Venezuela -- praise Che in order to win mass political support for their nationalist reforms of capitalism (their so-called "Bolivarian socialism"). They are not real anti-imperialists and look for a better share of the capitalist pie for their "reformed" capitalism from the European Union, China, Russia and any other imperialist rivals of the U.S. bosses. Revolutionary communists must win workers and youth falling into the trap of supporting the "Bolivarian capitalists" to forge a mass internationalist movement to fight for a society without any form of exploitation -- communism -- and end the capitalist hell of endless wars, racism and the superexploitation of millions.
...."Sooner or later, there will always be another urgent need." NYT 9/25
On December 4 a group of black students attacked a white student, Justin Barker, after they heard him brag about a racial assault committed by his friend. Barker, 17...spent a few hours in hospital and, on his release, went to a party where friends described him as "his usual smiling self." The six black students were then arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder....
These incidents...suggest that a racial scandal in America happens when the scandal of its continuing racism is laid bare. The outrage is not that this happened in Jena, but that similar things happen everywhere, every day in America, and almost nobody takes any notice....
Add racism to poverty and the magnifier effect is stunning...the 10 states with the highest discrepancy between black and white incarceration include Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York... Jena's problem is not that it has proved itself more racist but that it has manifested its racism with insufficient subtlety. GW, 9/21
...."do as we say, not as we do." Norman Solomon 9/8
In 2003 Bernard Kouchner, now French foreign minister, was commissioned as an independent consultant by Total to write a report on the group's involvement in Burma. He did not call for it to leave the country, but said the company "must come out clearly in favour of democracy".
Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch said: "The Yadana project is probably one of the biggest revenue raisers, if not the biggest revenue raiser, for the Burmese government, so it gives them the ability to do the things they want to do."
He added that there was a similar responsibility on Thailand, which buys most of the Yadana gas, and other Asian countries that have been investing in Burma.... ONGC of India and CNPC of China, both state-controlled, have been building up their investments. Burma's gas resources are sizeable, if not enormous. Proved reserves were 540bn cubic metres at the end of last year, according to the BP Review of World Energy (FT, 9/27/07).
(Part II described the successful 1975 May Day march PLP organized in defiance of ROAR, Boston's gutter racist organization, and its pals in the Boston Police Department and City Hall. The Party and its friends in the International Committee Against Racism (INCAR) then began organizing a nation-wide summer-long drive, "BOSTON 75," directly in the eye of the storm. Its goal: to smash the most virulent racist movement in the U.S. since the heyday of the KKK.)
In the early spring of 1975, INCAR flooded college campuses nationwide with tens of thousands of brochures calling on students and others to join the "Freedom Summer Anti-Racist Action Project." Students had already demonstrated during the Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam war periods that energy, creativity, militancy and political commitment can more than compensate for inexperience. Could the same hold true in Boston, even if most of the volunteers came from the outside? Given the stakes, there was no other choice.
The first wave of young volunteers arrived in early June. Eventually their numbers would reach 150, coming from California, Texas, the Midwest, Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York and elsewhere.
The project's organizational blueprint envisioned several overlapping areas: a Freedom School in Roxbury bringing black and white students together in a friendly atmosphere, helping them compensate for the havoc of the previous year in the Boston public schools; the formation of committees to canvass in South Boston, Hyde Park, Roxbury, Dorchester, Cambridge and other greater Boston neighborhoods; an outreach committee to win support from churches, unions and other mass organizations; and an area-wide petition drive to popularize INCAR's program for better schools and opposition to the racists.
From the start, the politicians, cops and ROAR made clear that they considered BOSTON 75 a threat and would use any tactic to crush it, from harassment to open terror.
The racists began in early June. When a group of INCAR volunteers were conducting street agitation, ROAR thugs overturned their table and vandalized their truck. The cops made no arrests. On June 7, 60 INCAR members picketed the new ROAR office in Fields Corner, an integrated section of Dorchester. Cops immediately arrived and blocked the picket line, as well as a planned neighborhood march.
This coercion didn't deter the anti-racists. They successfully circulated a petition calling for ROAR's ouster from Dorchester. When cops attacked an INCAR rally at Boston State College, 25 INCAR members invaded the president's office.
These opening skirmishes proved that the rulers' stake in Boston's fascist movement was bigger than their desire to maintain illusions about "free speech" for anti-racists. The initial battles also hardened the resolution of INCAR and PLP to stand up to intimidation.
A week later, the bosses and their agents decided to try to wipe out the Project before it reached full strength. On June 14, 25 INCAR members held a street rally at Uphams Corner. The cops watching the rally soon disappeared. Then, as if on cue, ten thugs carrying bats, a hockey stick and a sawed-off oar arrived and began assaulting the anti-racists, all of whom were weaponless.
The INCAR members fought back. The police suddenly reappeared. An INCAR worker courageously addressed the 100 onlookers who had gathered by now, explaining that the attack was a partnership between ROAR goons and the cops and that the anti-racist movement would not be cowed by these tactics. He was immediately arrested. The ROAR attackers went scot-free.
The INCAR volunteers refused to yield an inch in the face of this racist bullying. Two days later, they were back on the streets, this time picketing City Hall to expose the complicity between ROAR and the Boston City Council, eight of whose nine members proudly acknowledged their ROAR membership. These racist Councilors were brazen enough to plaster the letters R-O-A-R on the windows of their City Hall offices which passers-by could see from the street.
The "right" to strut this racism had been upheld several times in court as an exercise in "free speech." However, on June 16, it was unceremoniously challenged from an extra-legal source, when several INCAR members infiltrated the offices and ripped the hated letters off the windows. The struggle was sharpening.
(Next: Reaching the masses.)
It details the transformation of the American population from American isolationism to an acceptance of the need to kill and die for "democracy." Even though it's about the U.S. during WWII, its message is clearly aimed at today's young adults. In order to push patriotism among workers in the U.S. it distorts the true nature of what happened over 60 years ago.
Burns frames the war as one in which an "innocent" American people came to realize the U.S. "had to fight" fascism. He disregards the world-wide anti-fascist movement begun years earlier in Spain and carried on in China, Russia, Ethiopia and ultimately all of Europe. This sleight of hand turns what was in fact a mass heroic working class movement into a crude attempt to get today's population to overcome its aversion to imperialist war.
Burns completely sanitizes the U.S. ruling class interests that affected Roosevelt's policy on the war, namely the reluctance to enter so long as it looked like the Germans would try to finish off the Soviet Union before expanding the war and the allowing of Pearl Harbor to happen once it became apparent that the Germans would not limit themselves. Hiding the class interests of U.S. rulers in regards to the war was necessary to overcome the revulsion of imperialism that sometimes expresses itself as pacifism.
This pacifism, is the ultimate target of "The War." Taking this on is no easy task. The anti-war movement in this country (started by PLP) grew during the Vietnam War. Also the shellacking the U.S. took in Vietnam was the worst setback the U.S. bosses have ever suffered one that even after 9-11 they have still not recovered from.
But this doesn't stop Burns from trying. The documentary focuses on the U.S.'s efforts to get people to accept the deaths of hundreds of thousands as necessary. It talks about the transformation of normal people agonized by killing into soldiers who become "professional" in a term used by the show, and the footage of dead American soldiers is shown over and over as a sort of preemptive strike against shock at mass U.S. casualties in the next "War."
Ironically Burns's ability to get away with this distortion rests on an ironic and truly unfortunate fact. The old communist movement also hid the class nature of WWII in an effort to build the United Front against fascism. This mistake turned the heroic movement of literally hundreds of millions of workers to defend some form of socialism and workers power into a war for "democracy" that left the U.S. running half the world (the Chinese and Soviets did control the other half). But more importantly it politically undermined the workers movement and led many to believe that kinder capitalism was possible and the best that we could hope for. Burns takes this a step farther even by virtually disregarding the international nature of the war and the fact that the USSR played the major role in defeating Nazism and turning it into "an American" experience.
Clearly this documentary is about rewriting history to affect the future. The efforts of Burns, PBS, and their supporters from the various ruling class foundations are driven by concern that today's youth won't die for this country in large numbers. That said, we must also recognize that as the bosses prepare for the next World War we have the opportunity to build on the great efforts of the old communist movement and the chance to avoid repeating their mistakes.