*Chicago: In August, the police went on a racist rampage and brutally murdered four young black men in cold blood, in four separate incidents. This year the police have murdered at least 31 workers.
*Atlanta: Undercover cops shot and killed a 92-year-old black grandmother, Kathryn Johnston, in her own home.
*Cleveland: In May 2007, police killed three black people - Aaron Steele, Steven Ray and Ira Mitchell - within three days.
*Conneaut, Ohio: On Nov 17, Immigration Customs Enforcers (ICE) arrested an immigrant mother breast-feeding her child.
*North Carolina: Police shot and killed Phillipe McIver, a 23-year-old black man.
*Los Angeles: LA cops murdered Francisco Mondragon a 24-year-old schizophrenic.
* Minnesota: Law enforcement agents have killed five black people in the first half of 2007.
*New York City: Nov. 25 marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old unarmed black man, murdered with 50 shots from NYPD gunmen. On Nov. 7, the same NYPD assassinated 18-year-old Khiel Coppin, shot 13 times (see box). Since then, they have killed at least ten more people.
*Jena, LA.: Six black youth are being legally lynched for standing up against the racism of fellow students who hung a noose under a "whites only" tree. On September 20, over 50,000 people marched in Jena, protesting this racism and supporting the six youth.
*Since then over 60 incidents of noose hangings have occurred nationwide. (NY Times, 11/24)
*Thousands of Muslim workers have been detained in the U.S. and the Middle East and imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps in Guantánamo and "secret" CIA jails.
On the road to waging imperialist wars to control the flow of oil, the U.S. war machine has been tripping over a few roadblocks. Two of the main ones are their troop shortage and the fact that a crumbling economy hits most heavily on the super-oppressed black and Latino workers and youth. On the one hand, they need to win black, Latin and immigrant workers to fight and die in their wars. But since racism is inherent to capitalism, it inevitably shoots and harasses black and Latin workers while using the threat of deportation to terrorize and persecute immigrant workers. This racist terror undermines many of these workers' loyalty to the system.
As a result of such racism, 2.2 million people are imprisoned nationwide, 70% of them black or Hispanic. Every twelfth black male between 25 and 29 languishes behind bars; the figure for whites is 1 in 100 (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Liberal misleaders and reformers have been working overtime to try to solve this insoluble contradiction: the system's inherent racism oppressing black and Latino workers and their need to super-exploit them for super-profits, versus needing to use them as cannon fodder in their wars. They try to divert workers' anger into such reform efforts as "community policing," "civilian review boards" and their election campaigns. But to fight police murders we can't fall into this trap!
The only way to smash the Klan in blue is to smash the racist system -- capitalism -- that uses them to terrorize working-class communities. Communism -- the system of workers' power, a society run for need, not profit -- will sweep away these new night riders and their politician masters, crushing them like the cockroaches they are. To achieve this, we must organize!
That society is communism, and Progressive Labor Party is serious about organizing to make that world a reality. Join us!
VILLIERS-LE-BEL, FRANCE, Nov. 28 -- Black and Arab youth have rebelled against the racism they face every day. Two police stations were attacked and 100 cops were injured in several nights of violent protest that rocked this Paris suburb. Angry youth have shot at the hated cops with hunting shotguns. The rebellion has spread to Toulouse.
The rebellion began after a police car deliberately struck and killed two Arab youth on a mini-motorcycle. The racist cops then fled. When the police failed to investigate the "accident," the neighborhood exploded.
Le Monde, a French newspaper, quoted Younès B., a resident of Villiers-le-Bel: "A second police team came to pick up their colleagues. But they left the two kids without doing anything."
The rebellion followed on the heels of two weeks of labor and student struggle (see page 3). On Nov. 27, while the Socialist Party Student group (UNEF) was trying to sell out the student and teachers' struggle, riot cops attacked protesting students in Nantes. One 17-year-old high school student suffered a serious eye injury when riot cops aimed point blank at his face.
Meanwhile in this Paris suburb where the rebellion began, the father of one of the slain Arab youth, Larami, 16, said his son had been threatened by police last week.
"We're fed up with the lack of respect," said Ikram, 23, who used to live here. He predicted the uprising would continue. "The young people won't stop until they've burned down the Sarcelles police station," he said. Youth anger at the cops and the racist system they serve is very justified.
Meanwhile, on November 22, insurgents dressed as Iraqi Army troops shot to death at least 11 people in a village near Baghdad. The next day, a bomb wiped out 15 more in a busy Baghdad market, while blasts in the northern city of Mosul killed another 21. Any reduction in violence in Iraq had little to do with the surge. It occurred because native Sunnis broke with chiefly foreign bosses, from al Qaeda and Iran. Also, Iran is preoccupied with furthering their nuclear arms program, forced their proxy Sadr militia into a cease-fire.
With Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, al Qaeda and Iranian-backed factions battling one another and the U.S. for a bigger slice of oil revenues, the U.S. has "lowered expectations" of getting its Iraqi national energy law passed. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP had been counting on the law granting them fabulously profitable production-sharing agreements. Washington is now focused on extending its military occupation indefinitely by "renewing the UN mandate that authorizes an American presence in the country." (New York Times, 11/25/07)
In addition to turmoil within Iraq, U.S. rulers face head-on competition with China for Mid-East crude. As China enters the Automobile Age its soaring needs contribute to the $98-a-barrel oil price and impel construction of a Chinese navy that can reach the Persian Gulf. All armed to the teeth, capitalists ranging from Iraqi warlords to Iranian mullahs to Osama bin Laden to U.S. and Chinese generals and oil barons covet Iraq's six-million-barrel-a-day potential. Fighting can only intensify.
The New York Times (11/23/07) reports, "Under the approach, some American combat brigades due to stay behind would slim down their fighting forces and enlarge the teams mentoring Iraqis. Within a 3,000-member brigade, for example, one or two battalions might help train the Iraqis while the rest would be retained as quick-reaction forces to back up the Iraqis if they ran into stiff resistance....Even after President Bush's `surge' of troops is over in mid-July and the number of brigades shrinks to 15 from the current level of 20, American units in some of the more highly-contested areas would continue their combat roles."
Max Boot, a senior fellow at the rulers' influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think-tank, wants to add an imperialist Foreign Service agency focused on "creating governments from scratch." This goes beyond Iraq, to all countries containing U.S. imperialism's most "vital interest": oil. Boot's scheme involves exporting the racist U.S. police state. He envisions a "federal constabulary force -- a uniformed counterpart to the FBI that...could be deployed abroad. Its efforts could be supplemented by municipal policemen....Along with these police officers, we need a deployable corps of lawyers, judges and prison guards who could set up functioning legal and penal systems abroad." (NYT, 11/14/07)
Democratic presidential front-runners Clinton and Obama hypocritically court votes with a war-weary public by promising "phased withdrawal," while vowing loyalty to the war needs of the Rockefeller wing of the ruling class. The CFR's journal, Foreign Affairs, recently ran a series of candidates' manifestos. In it, Hillary and Barack recited virtually identical versions of Jimmy Carter's 1979 doctrine which called the slightest threat to U.S. access to Persian Gulf oil a potential act of war. Clinton: "As president, I will never hesitate to use force to protect Americans or to defend our territory and our vital interests." Obama: "I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened."
This proves that no pro-capitalist party, Democrat or Republican, can bring stability or security, let alone peace, to Iraq. Cutthroat competition is inherent in the profit system. It will only bring death and destruction to workers in the Middle East, the U.S. and worldwide. It's only a matter of time before the dogfight over Mid-East oil becomes a global war. Far better than voting for Clinton or Obama would be joining and building the pro-working-class Progressive Labor Party. We have the long-term outlook of eliminating the profit system and its profit-driven wars through communist revolution.
We distributed dozens of CHALLENGES and flyers to workers getting off the El train and to young high school students who talked about how the cops would stop and harass them and their friends in the neighborhood. We made many contacts and will be talking to them in the future about communist ideas and building a PLP base within the community.
To date, in 2007 the Chicago police have shot 31 people. Community misleaders like the Rev. Ira Acree of the Leaders Network and 28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith want an Independent Review Board to pacify angry workers and let the killer KKKops off the hook, but the protesters at the 87th street rally have some understanding that racism and police brutality cannot be ended by any "independent" board. We in PLP must win more anti-racist workers and youth to our communist politics to build the fight against capitalism, the real cause of racist police terror.
This attack on pensions is the first battle in the bosses' effort to make all workers work longer for smaller pensions. The MEDEF -- the French bosses' association -- wants to force everyone to work 41 or more years to be eligible for retirement. By attacking the transport and energy workers, the bosses hope to break the working-class unity needed to defend and extend existing retirement plans.
The bosses' media, especially television, accused transport workers of "holding passengers hostage" and regularly said the strike was over. Socialist Party leader Emmanuel Valls attacked the special retirement plans as "unfair." In October, labor faker François Chérèque, CFDT union head, said that "a long strike doesn't lead anywhere" and on Nov. 16, the CFDT advocated ending the strike.
Worse yet, hours after the strike began, Bernard Thibault of the CGT union, the leader of the three-week 1995 strike that successfully defended special pension plans, abandoned maintaining the plans intact, offering to "negotiate" their "reform." Thibault -- a top member of the French "Communist" Party -- also stooped to red-baiting, warning workers not to allow "political organizations" to hijack their strike. The CFDT and UNSA unions and the Socialist Party immediately supported Thibault's sellout. Only the SUD union refused to downsize the workers' pensions.
Negotiations began on Nov. 21 after French President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped ending the strike as a precondition.
The union hacks in France and Germany also did nothing to build international solidarity, although train drivers in Germany were simultaneously striking for higher wages.
Despite these attacks, a minority of transport and energy workers held out for nine days. On Nov. 22, Anissa, a Paris rail ticket agent, said "a gulf is opening up between the CGT and rail workers." In Marseilles, a striker declared: "We should have blocked traffic! No trains moving. We know how to play cat-and-mouse with the CRS [the national riot police]."
The bosses' friends made sure that didn't happen. When the strike was announced on Oct. 23, Chérèque declared that "if there is a combination of strike movements between the special retirement plans, civil servants, and I don't know what else," the CFDT would not participate. The UNSA union also insisted that each industrial sector remain separate.
On Nov. 20, Alain Olive, UNSA union general secretary, condemned rail and energy workers for defending special retirement plans, and thus "cannibalizing" civil servants' demands. And President Sarkozy red-baited, saying "the majority must prevail over a very small minority, even if that minority is violent" -- as if 1.7 million workers were "a small, violent minority."
Paris workers refused to let Chérèque demonstrate with them, showing they've seen through that faker. But they allowed Thibault, who's no better, to lead the march.
The leaders of the public workers' unions are threatening another 24-hour strike in early December if the government does not announce measures to increase purchasing power by Nov. 30. But the rail and energy workers' experience shows that only long, earnest strikes have a chance to win some demands.
Although teaching loads will increase dramatically under the Pécresse law, university teachers have been slow to support the student movement. The SNESUP-FSU, the main university teachers' union, and the CGT and SUD-Education unions have finally called for a teachers' strike on Nov. 27 to demand abrogation of the Pécresse law.
But, as Chérèque's and Thibault's betrayals show, exposure's not enough. To avoid the pitfalls of discouragement and cynicism, workers need to build a revolutionary communist party. Only such leadership can move past these traitorous union misleaders and turn these class struggles into schools for communist revolution to eliminate the profit system.
Workers won a 14% wage hike after a strike here last February, in a one-year contract that expires February 28, 2008, but they decided not to wait until then to strike Ford again. This strike follows an August walkout in Togliatti against AvtoVAZ, Russia's largest carmaker, which is owned by the biggest Russian weapons exporter on the world market. Some AvtoVAZ strike leaders were fired while the factory director became Togliatti's mayor.
Auto workers aren't the only ones stirring in Russia. On November 9, the newspaper Nezavisimaia Gazeta reported "a gathering strike movement in the country....For four days, dock workers at the oil port in Tupas [on the Black Sea] were on strike. Currently, the workers at Ford are carrying out a warning strike. Next week, dockworkers at the seaport [here] are threatening to shut down operations."
Fifty percent of Russian families with one child live in poverty. The number grows to 65% of families with two children and 85% with three children. The real numbers are really much higher because the official poverty line is set far below the level that allows people to eat properly and meet their needs. In capitalist Russia there are four million homeless people, three million destitute and five million abandoned children.
The sharpening class struggle in Russia reflects the growing attacks on the international working class by the bosses worldwide as they intensify their competition for markets, resources and cheap labor. Auto workers are in a unique position to build solidarity globally, but this requires communist leadership. U.S and Russian auto workers met together in an international conference last spring and we're attempting to forge that unity, one of the building blocks to communist revolution.
Navistar, encouraged by the massive concessions just granted to GM, Ford, Chrysler and Delphi, is taking a hard line with the workers and the union leaders. As with the other recent contracts, the union is asking for some "guarantee" of work over the life of the new contract, but Navistar is forming a joint venture with a major auto producer in India and is unwilling to grant guarantees.
PLP will be organizing support for, and attempting to build some ties with, Navistar workers on strike against this war profiteer. One good way to solidify ties would be uniting to physically stop scabs from entering the plant.
Building solidarity against super-exploitation can help build revolutionary class consciousness among workers to take on the war-makers with the goal of destroying them.
We decided to start with an anti-racist assembly to be followed by an anti-racist fair. Meanwhile, we produced stickers that said, "Free the Jena 6, Unite Against Racism." Everyone wanted one. We produced over 1,000 buttons with the same slogan. Students are still asking for them weeks later.
On the day of the big rally in Jena, we organized a "wear-black" day. Many students and staff participated. We had an especially large meeting to hear a report from someone who had attended the Jena 6 rally in Louisiana. Clearly many students and staff wanted to take a stand against racism.
When the students went to the principal to present the idea of an anti-racist assembly, a roomful of administrators awaited them, but the students were not intimidated. The idea of the assembly was generally well received, but there was objection to the term "anti-racist." "Tolerance" was proposed. This provoked good discussions about the nature of racism. The students were very clear -- their goal was to fight racism. They did not want to "tolerate" it or have others do so.
A lively discussion began on whether racism could ever be ended. Many students thought "no." Yet many saw that racism is man-made. Starting with the slave trade and plantation slavery, racism had been immensely profitable for the slave-owners. That is still true today as capitalists super-exploit black and Latino workers, and now especially immigrant workers. Additionally, racism divides and weakens the working class. To achieve any improvement, one must confront and fight against racism. As Karl Marx said long ago, "labor in the white skin cannot be free as long as labor in the black skin is enslaved." Thus, you have to end capitalism to end racism.
Such divisions have been evident at some recent anti-war marches. Students and staff who attended noticed the marchers were mainly white and saw almost no signs mentioning the Jena 6 case.
When racist cops shot and killed a mentally ill, 18-year-old young black man recently (see front page) whose brother attends our school, the administration did not even acknowledge this tragedy until a teacher raised it. Although an announcement was read, grief counseling was never mentioned. The dead youngsters' brother is devastated. Several students attended a rally and also the wake for the young man. They said at least there should be a moment of silence at the school.
A more recent meeting discussed the anti-racist assembly with the principal and several administrators. What was its goal? "Education about racism" was the answer. It was suggested that some positive activities come out of this assembly. "Good idea" was the reply. When students asked an administrator for suggestions, none were forthcoming -- but "don't get students mad about racism. They will just get riled up and angry. We have a nice school. Don't get students stirred up. Provide something positive."
This is a challenge for those of us organizing this anti-racist assembly. However, how can one not get "riled up" when racism still exists everywhere in so many vicious ways? Yet getting upset but doing nothing is useless. So we need to do two things. Firstly, we must organize a series of anti-racist activities in which lots of students and staff can participate. Even more importantly, we must commit ourselves to a lifetime of struggle against racism and against the capitalist system that promotes it.
PLP members are participating in all these activities. We have expanded our membership and developed two study groups. Our goal is to increase CHALLENGE sales and recruit students and teachers to our Party as we intensify the fight against racism in the school.
The contractor gave the fired workers some meager compensation, hardly more than the low wages they were already making. They're demanding compensation comparable to the higher Hanes' wage rates in other countries. The fired workers have been holding street protests and other actions for their demands. They've maintained their unity and received solidarity from other workers here and internationally.
Workers are learning, in the midst of class struggle, that a boss is a boss, whether they're Haitian or an international corporation. Haitian workers and youth are tired of being super-exploited by capitalism and imperialism. After the U.S.-Canadian-French military invaded Haiti in 2004 and ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, they left U.N. "peacekeeping" forces here led by the Brazilian army. Lula, elected President of Brazil as a "militant labor leader" but who went on to serve local and international capitalism, continues to support the Brazilian-led invasion force. This U.N. occupation army, like the drug dealers here, has just become another oppressive gang.
These militant workers must learn that capitalism and imperialism will never serve workers. They need to become revolutionary communist leaders and join the international fight for a world without bosses.
Send messages of solidarity to the struggling garment workers at email@example.com
As part of our work, we leafleted at the opening session calling for the APHA to take the small step of eliminating military recruiters from their exhibit. War is killing thousands of U.S. troops, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destroying public health as U.S. imperialists grasp for control of oil. We held picket lines at fascist booths (Army, Air Force, Homeland Security) in the exhibit hall, led by a costumed grim reaper, to applause and thumbs up from spectators. Later, at a session on War and Public Health we managed to turn the discussion from liberal angst to a positive discussion about soldiers organizing against the war led by a young panelist from Iraqi Veterans Against the War. He described organizing at Fort Meade where the National Security Agency operates and at Fort Bragg. All in all, we had some success at linking U.S. imperialists' drive to control Mideast oil with the deterioration in public health all over the world.
In another lively session focusing on public hospitals, the callousness and greed of the Cook County (Chicago) bosses was exposed. They are continually reducing the number of clinics in working class neighborhoods and laying off hundreds of health-care workers. Meanwhile, in the face of increasing numbers of cases of asthma, obesity, type II diabetes, etc., the need for quality health care is increasing! Clearly the needs of the working class are not taken into consideration when these decisions are made. A fascinating exposé of the failure to open Charity Hospital in New Orleans was also presented at this session. The New Orleans bosses want to build a new hospital and so they refused to use the hospital that some physicians and workers had cleaned up within days of the hurricane. To justify their actions, they made up lies about the hospital and how it could not be used. This report made us all aware of the ruthlessness of the ruling class - and more determined to fight back.
The APHA conference presented great opportunities to expose the capitalist system and its supporters. We showed that the APHA and its leadership cozies up to the ruling class and the military, giving them the endorsement of the main public health organization in the U.S. Public health (which is really working-class health) can never be the first priority under capitalism because this system prioritizes profit over everything else. Only under communism will the health of the working class truly be valued. The best thing we can do to improve public health is to destroy the system that keeps us unhealthy.
The reform has sharpened all the contradictions here. The right-wing opposition says it will establish Chávez as a "communist dictator." They have used the right-wing students to lead the anti-Chávez attack and are trying to provoke a military coup against him. It's also sharpened the in-fighting among Chávez's supporters. General Baudel, his former Defense Minister, has now joined the opposition.
But Chávez's reform won't bring in "communism." It will continue Chávez's Bolivarian Socialism -- state capitalism with lots of privatization.
The U.S. and the local opposition say the reform will enable Chávez to be re-elected forever. Of course, they don't level this criticism against Egypt's Mubarak, Pakistan's Musharraf, Saudi rulers or any other U.S. ally actually in power with no real mass support.
The reform, while making some nationalist changes in the army, won't change its class nature, and it will still serve the executive power. The National Guard will become a Territorial Guard and will include "Bolivarian people's militias," but will still be subordinate to the Army. And the latter's main pillars will be discipline, obedience and subordination. So basically, soldiers will be ordered to serve the ruling faction.
The reform will facilitate state expropriation of private companies for the "social interest." But this maintains "just payments" to private owners for their holdings. Recently the government bought Verizon, paying it more than its value on the stock exchange, a good deal for the phone company. This is just a "change" from one form of capitalist property to another. It will guarantee "mixed-capital" ventures like those PDVSA (the state-owned oil company) now has with big international oil corporations -- again another form of capitalism.
The reform will institute a 6-hour work-day and "popular councils," supposedly organs of "people's power." But these councils will be limited to the municipal level. They're similar to Brazilian President Lula's ruling Labor Party (PT) "reforms." Its "participatory budget" (as labeled in Brazil) has even been attacked by PT rank-and-filers as government control of the mass movements.
In Venezuela, these "popular councils" will have no power over national policies, the state budget, the PDVSA, the armed forces or the judicial system.
This constitutional reform fight is one about which kind of capitalism will rule Venezuela, not one about destroying capitalism and putting workers in power under a system based on workers' needs not on profits. It also involves a section of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie wanting a bigger piece of the pie, and not giving the best part to the U.S. imperialists (as the old ruling class did).
Chávez now is making deals with international imperialist companies in China, Russia and even India instead of just with U.S.- or Spanish-owned corporations. (That's why Spain's King shut down Chávez during the recent Ibero-American Presidential Summit meeting in Chile). Brazil's Senate has just approved Venezuela's full membership in Mercosur (the Brazilian/Argentinean-controlled South American Common Market).
In 1989, Venezuela's workers and students rebelled with a mass popular uprising ("el Caracazo") against International Monetary Fund-imposed austerity measures. It was crushed brutally by the then social-democratic President Carlos Pérez, who sent the army to smash it with tanks, killing over 1,000 workers and youth. Afterwards, Chávez and a few other officers, fearing the masses would continue to rebel and eventually topple the whole capitalist system, led a military revolt against the old corrupt ruling class. He was jailed and then released and ran for President in 1999, winning with the support of angry workers and youth.
But revolutionary workers' power -- communism -- won't come from above, from any "savior" trying to reform capitalism, but only through organizing a mass communist-led movement. That movement must be built among the workers and students who have supported Chávez, struggling with them to shatter their illusions in "Bolivarian socialism."
Since 1938 when Mexico's oil industry was nationalized, there's been a tug of war between elements of the Mexican and U.S. ruling classes, seeking to re-privatize it, and other elements of Mexico's elite who adamantly oppose it. This struggle has lasted for decades without major consequences or disruptions.
However, the sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry and relative decline of U.S. imperialism relative to its rivals are rapidly changing this. Wars in the Middle East and other oil-producing areas have endangered energy security for the world's imperialists, forcing U.S. bosses to speed efforts to take over Mexico's energy industry and militarize the country via the Merida Plan. An added bonanza: Mexican oil costs $4 a barrel to produce. But this drive has also sharpened what has become the main contradiction in Mexico: privatization versus nationalization, with its potential of escalating into civil war.
Since 1983, U.S. imperialists and their Mexican allies have intentionally run PEMEX into the ground, to justify privatizing it. Consequently PEMEX is practically bankrupt, owing over $42 billion to private investors despite yearly revenues of almost $100 billion. Of this, the government takes $60 billion in taxes, or 40% of its budget. Very little of the rest is invested in PEMEX or into exploring for, and drilling, new wells. If this persists at its present rate, in seven years, PEMEX will be unable to extract any oil from the ground.
This scenario and the pressing needs of their U.S. masters requires the consolidation of control over Mexico's oil, cheap labor, and a new but growing aerospace industry linked to the one in Southern California. To address this situation and in preparation for global war President Felipe Calderon and his political cohorts are preparing a reform bill to privatize Mexico's energy sector. This has forced those rulers who oppose privatization to move their struggle from the legislative chambers to the streets of every city, town and village.
Heading their efforts, Lopez Obrador is building his Convencion Nacional Democratica with an alternative plan. So far he has traveled to 1,009 municipalities and gathered over 1.7 million signatures of people committed to becoming representatives of what he calls the "Legitimate Government of Mexico." By the end of 2008, he will have visited all 2,500 Mexican municipalities and hopes to have signed up another five million representatives.
Obrador's alternative plan would immediately invest about $36 billion in PEMEX. He claims $20 billion would come from the federal budget by halving the high salaries and perks of top bureaucrats in the three branches of government and PEMEX. The other $16 billion would come from the surplus obtained from selling the oil above the price set by the Mexican Congress. Because of oil's high price, this sum could easily top its $10 billion average of the last three years. Like a true capitalist defender, Obrador wouldn't raise taxes on the corporations or on his billionaire friend Carlos Slim, even though all private enterprises combined pay less than $20 billion in taxes.
Obrador aspires to turn Mexico into a major energy power and use its huge revenues to enrich a few Mexican capitalists and fund some social programs a la Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. The Mexican capitalists he represents are fearful that a U.S. take-over of PEMEX will not only deny them access to its profits but will also destabilize the country by further grinding the working class into poverty and hopelessness. These nationalist capitalists want stability to keep their exploitation of the working class running smoothly. However, U.S. bosses plan to militarize the country to squelch the nationalists' opposition, if necessary, and any potential working-class rebellion.
Only time will tell how this contradiction among these vultures will evolve. But from Oaxaca to Tabasco, workers are simmering with anger over the racist capitalist exploitation they suffer. PLP must win all workers and youth to the understanding that neither Calderon nor Obrador or Hugo Chávez, nor U.S. or any other imperialists represent our interests. PLP'ers and friends must work in factories, schools, neighborhoods and mass movements, like Obrador's, to offer workers and youth the only alternative to capitalism: uniting millions of workers, students and soldiers to build the PLP and smash all capitalists/imperialists. From this we'll build a communist society, where workers will control oil and everything else, serving the needs of the international working class.
The strike of 350 Broadway stagehands entered its second week as they shut down the multi-million-dollar theater district right at the beginning of its biggest money-making season of the year. It was this union's first strike in its 121-year history and is defying its own international leadership's opposition to the walkout.
Broadway is booming now, with ticket prices of $100 and $200 a seat fairly routine. The bosses -- theater owners and producers -- have adopted a hard line, unilaterally imposing new work-rules on members of Local 1 of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, rules that would sharply cut their wages and hours and lead to workers becoming part-timers. They've hired the same $800-an-hour law firm used by the Metropolitan Transit Authority whose intransigence triggered a transit-worker walkout two years ago.
Even though this is a "little strike," it reflects the anger and frustration of many workers who see the bosses making profits hand over fist -- even during periods of a capitalist crisis caused by the sub-prime/credit-crunch/Dow Jones squeeze and war. So these bosses want to "solve" their crisis on the backs of the workers who are told they must tighten their belts even more.
The workers appear well-prepared for a long strike, having built up a $5-million strike fund. Union members will start receiving $400/week strike pay and are offering part of their strike fund to ushers and porters who have refused to cross the picket lines.
But to strengthen its position, the rank and file should call on other unions and workers to support the strike, something the hacks in the Central Labor Council should be doing. But long ago they gave up on organizing solidarity for striking workers.
Speeches covered the Jena 6, recovery from Katrina, fighting against fascist anti-immigration laws, and the fight against the AIDS epidemic. A PLer performed an anti-racist rap written by a high school student, and called on anti-racists to join PLP to smash imperialist war and fight for communism. Other highlights included four youth who spoke for the first time and a film on immigration issues conceived and produced by high school students. The film generated much discussion on the fascist nature of capitalism, and to follow up we will have a special film night to show it again and have more discussion.
Government workers, bus drivers, hospital workers, public health workers, Howard University and University of Maryland students, high school students and teachers from D.C., Prince George's County, MD, and Baltimore public schools attended. The food was plentiful with more food donations than in the past and more helpers with washing and cleanup. Many vowed to come next year and bring more friends. After the speeches, people stayed another 2 hours involved in deep political discussion.
The demise of socialism elsewhere affected us because, although we fought for reforms (socialism), we thought that afterwards we would achieve communism. But it turned out this was only a tactic to maintain our morale while the leaders negotiated an end to the armed conflict.
Today, with my new experiences, I understand there are no short cuts. Struggles shouldn't be hurried, but at the same time we should be bold in entering all struggles in the interests of the working class where we can make inroads among workers with qualitative leaps and fight to massively develop a winning movement.
The current and emerging imperialists can have many contradictions, but that won't do our work for us. We should intensify our organizing efforts and take our accumulated experience and understanding to new members who we need in this no-holds-barred war that sooner or later we'll have to confront. There's no other road. The capitalist system is the worst. It must be eradicated.
Capitalism is destroying the planet. The bosses talk about global warming but aren't doing anything about it. On the contrary, they're preparing for more conflicts over natural resources. Only communist revolution can save humanity from this future cataclysm.
My father gave great help to the past revolutionary process. He introduced me to DESAFIO. When he discovered that I was in the guerrilla war he encouraged me, saying "an army of free and brave men and women is invincible; there's no act more sublime than giving your life for the rest in defense of the most exploited. It's the greatest deed before a just god."
We're in a life-and-death struggle. Only the building of a new communist society will stop the imperialist nightmare and end wage slavery. There's no other road. Many of us have understood things through the theology of liberation, and by being active in PLP we should show that we're the vanguard in putting all our energy and intelligence in spreading our revolutionary message.
An old general said, "A people who are conscious and organized is an invincible beast. There's no bully who doesn't fall in the hands of the coward and the bully is only brave as long as the coward wishes." I like to write in metaphors since I'm a farmworker who learned that only through war and the extermination of the class enemy can we go forward.
I will continue my activity in the international PLP, reading, distributing CHALLENGE to youth and war veterans, and also through my experiences, those I can give and those which I receive. That's what happened at the latest international communist school, where I once again felt the camraderie and solidarity of the international working class.
Farmworker comrade from El Salvador
The other day a co-worker and I were digging a ditch when the man who cleans the port-o-potties came up to us demanding to know where the job site superintendent was. We took him to see the superintendent who refused to talk to him pretending to be on the phone the entire time. The worker then came back to us and told us, "You tell the superintendent, whenever he decides to get off the phone, that if I see anymore racist garbage in the bathrooms then I'm not coming back to clean them. I have to clean shit all day I shouldn't have to read it!" I told him that we would gladly relay the message for him at which point he asked us if we knew who wrote it so that he could "whip his ass."
It was amazing and refreshing after so many weeks in such a negative environment to see a fellow worker take such a militant anti-racist stance. I brought a CHALLENGE for him the next day that he was supposed to be there, but unfortunately true to his word the racist writing didn't stop and he didn't come back. Still it was an inspiring and reinvigorating experience. It helped remind me that while the communist movement may be at a low point it has amazing potential for growth. Our fellow workers will accept communist ideas and leadership. We just need to continue to build the Party so that we can provide these things. This experience allowed me to talk to my coworker more in depth about the nature of racism and how it hurts all workers. He now reads CHALLENGE and is becoming more open to communist ideas everyday.
Red Builder in the Southwest
In the U.S. he opposed McCarthyite anti-communist purges while organizing resistance to the Korean and Vietnam wars and helped raise millions of dollars for ambulances to aid the Nicaraguan people when they were attacked by the U.S.-backed Contras. He organized against the imperialist invasions of Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan and marched in many Veteran's Day parades opposing those wars.
I really never knew Moe's history until now, only just to say hello at anti-war rallies. But I knew he was a volunteer in the international brigades that came from countries worldwide to fight the fascists and capitalists who had united with imperialists to overthrow the working-class movement in Spain. These volunteers were not following the calls of patriotism to their own bosses' flags nor the appeals to racism or religious differences to protect "Democracy" from "terrorists." They were working-class brothers and sisters willing to support and even give their lives to protect the gains of the working class.
Today, when billionaires are making war on billions of workers trying to survive on less than a dollar a day, and when millions die every year for want of a few dollars worth of medicine and water purification, it is refreshing to know there are people like Moe Fishman who devote their lives to answering the call of the international working class and serve as an inspiration to all who come after.
Korean War Vet
To deal with this we felt we needed to address the more fundamental questions of human nature and institutional racism. We argued that capitalism as an economic system needs pools of unemployed, under-employed and jailed youth as pressure to lower wages of those who do have jobs. People asked, "Why do they kill each other?" and asserted, "It's a few `rogue' cops who kill; we need more protection on the bus."
In this struggle, communists explained that "race" and "racial difference" are social, ideological and economic creations of capitalism, not scientific, biological or natural. We say that human behavior is influenced by many things; it's complex, changing and often contradictory within one individual. Young people have the potential for a whole range of behavior: from collective, supportive or sharing and identification with "my group" all the way to anti-social or degrading to parasitic and murderous.
Generally, capitalist-sponsored culture reinforces the individualist side and supports "race" identification and politics. The media uses code words about race as camouflage to justify why one group is "less deserving," or why police occupation of a neighborhood is O.K. When workers accept these ideas, it becomes fertile ground for division among those who should see their common exploitation.
The mass idea that we're from different "races" didn't just appear in our consciousness out of the blue. Using "race" as a biological term is an important source of profits for the bosses. The eugenics movement -- "sterilization to purify the race" -- is but one example of how the capitalist class supported these ideas. Most recently Nobel Prize winner James Watson, ex-Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Labs, trotted out tired old racist statements about black people. Much of the eugenics studies that supported this policy were carried out at this facility.
In the context of police murders and destruction of our community, we presented the communist alternative of production for need, instead of profit, to remove the economic source of racism. We advocate overthrowing capitalism as necessary to change social relations among people. This is a big leap from common anger about a killer cop or a contract fight. Our speech at the union meeting and the Oct. 31 CHALLENGE article are steps in an on-going process.
PLP members put communism on the agenda in this struggle, with more interaction with our friends and co-workers. These are some of the steps in a long process of presenting a communist world outlook while immersed in a battle against institutional racism.
Bay Area Comrades
This past November 24, 150,000 people participated in a huge march in Rome, Italy, to denounce violence against women and a recent "security package" (similar to the U.S. Patriot Act) by the Prodi government.
The marchers attacked the Prodi's government plans to use the recent muderr of an Italian woman by a Rumanian immigrant as an excuse to pass this racist anti-immigrant law. The marchers pointed out that most of the violence suffered by women here are in their homes, at hands of their Italian husbands, boyfriends, etc. A good aspect of the march was the participation of Muslim, Gypsy and immigrant women.
The marchers also expelled from the march women parliamentary politicians from the right and "fake left," saying they are also part of the problem.
Many workers internalized capitalist violence using it against their wives, daughters, etc. These workers just emulate the violent culture of capitalism. The liberation of all workers demands a sharp and constant struggle against anti-women and racist violence.
An Internationalist Reader
"Lenders were like the worst stockbrokers peddling stocks in 1999 saying there is a new dynamic now....Financial institutions have a fiduciary responsibility. They shouldn't be promoting instruments that are high-risk and they know it." (NYT, 11/25)
More than 40 states regard children as young as 14 as "of age" and old enough to stand trial in adult court....
Young people are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile facility. Young people who survive adult jail too often return home as damaged and dangerous people....The rush to criminalize children has set the country on a dangerous path. (NYT, 11/20)
After past disasters, California state officials tried to raise homeowners' awareness of their coverage limits by requiring policies to be written clearly....
"Most Americans still think that full coverage means full coverage, but insurance companies know otherwise." (NYT, 11/13)
This is, at bottom, an argument about capitalism, not law, and Mr. Geoghegan is candid enough to suggest that the lawsuits...are a sort of guerrilla warfare [or] harassment. (NYT, 11/24)
"In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss," she wrote in 1959, "of God not wanting me - of God not being God- -- of God not existing." According to the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closest colleagues, lasted until her death in 1997....
The woman widely known in her lifetime as a "living saint" apparently didn't even believe in God. (NYT, 8/29)
The film charts the 1970's rise of Lucas from small-time Harlem thug to become New York City's heroin kingpin. He out-competes and then buys off the Mafia drug chieftains. Later in the film, he attracts the attention of an honest New York cop Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, who puts together a task force of other honest cops who finally bring down Lucas and his extended drug "family."
The destructive, racist nature of the "true story" in this film is aimed at both white and black viewers. Richie Roberts is clearly offered as the cop hero for white audiences. Roberts is a messy "all too human kinda guy" who sports Hawaiian shirts and aviator sunglasses; a guy who can't keep it in his pants around women. But hey! He's believable and he's got integrity. This cop won't steal a nickel.
Black movie audiences are encouraged to identify with Frank Lucas as a hero who "against all odds" became rich and highly successful outside the Mafia-dominated crime world. This message is doubly dangerous; first, it tries to persuade black viewers to see in Lucas a hero; but his character embodies the major racist stereotypes promoted about black people --- they are violent and criminal. The skillful filmmaking and acting attempt to draw our admiration toward someone who devastated the lives of thousands of black workers and others as well.
Denzel Washington said that he took the role because he didn't want to see Lucas glorified. But despite that claim, the movie focuses on Lucas' unprecedented success, while the victims of his drug trade are invisible in the film. The movie basically did not show the horrible suffering caused by the drugs. There are a few token scenes, involving nameless, faceless junkies. This allows Lucas to loom larger than life while his victims remain crushed and anonymous.
If American Gangster had shown something of the lives of working people, with a major character being ruinously affected by heroin, it would have undercut the portrayal of Lucas as a hero to black audiences. It would have undercut the racist message of American Gangster.
The key element that is completely ignored in the film is the U.S. government's role in the drug trade. Lucas' crimes were small potatoes compared to the CIA's. There is no exposing that the U.S. government has always done business in opium, heroin and cocaine and has helped narco-traffickers bring drugs into the U.S. for profit and social control. During and after the Vietnam War, the U.S. government used heroin traffic to subdue GI rebellions in Vietnam as well as cities stateside. The movie leads us to think that the government is really against the drug trade and that the "corruption" is mainly street-level cops.
This film and its ideas are being marketed aggressively this holiday season. The BET series American Gangsters about all the big-city crooks is on cable almost every night (and for sale) as is Jay-Z's tie-in album to the movie. If you go to see the film, go with friends, co-workers and PL'ers. Any one of them will surely help inject some truth into the movie's "true story."
The Kennedy-ROAR axis pursued its intimidation against the anti-racists. An incident at South Boston's Carson Beach on Sunday, July 27, 1975 provided the excuse. During a record-breaking heat wave, six black bible salesmen traveling to Boston from the Midwest decided to take a swim. They had probably looked for the nearest beach and logically chose Carson, unaware that the racists had marked it as a "whites only" preserve. A mob of bat-swinging racist punks attacked them.
Immediately, the press, the cops and Mayor White began adding grist to the race-war mill. Instead of arresting the racists, the cops and media made the absurd suggestion that a handful of black men had gone to Carson Beach to provoke a brawl. A ROAR mouthpiece told the Boston Globe: "We've always welcomed good colored people on Carson Beach. However, we won't tolerate black militants and communists." He added, however, that no "colored" people ever came and then blamed INCAR and PLP for this incident. The rulers had made the point: Boston in the summer of 1975 might as well have been Mississippi in 1960.
The following Sunday, a similar fascist assault occurred at Carson Beach. An even larger gang of bat-wielding racists attacked first a black taxi driver and then a Puerto Rican family with young children. The next day, the Globe and Herald ran interviews with ROAR leaders, who lied to justify these barbaric acts by declaring INCAR and PLP had distributed a leaflet demanding that white people be denied access to the beach. Once again, no arrests were made.
The NAACP made a few cautious statements but issued no call for action. The union leadership remained mute.
INCAR issued a call for "Beach Liberation Day" and urged masses of black, Latino and white Bostonians to visit Carson Beach the following weekend and assert everyone's right to use it without facing attacks from ROAR's stormtroopers.
Mayor White responded immediately to this leaflet by asserting that although he supported "free access" to the beach, he would not allow "provocative" demonstrations.
INCAR's announcement provoked NAACP head Thomas Atkins to schedule his own "Carson Beach picnic" within two days. Until this moment, Atkins had confined his verbal militancy to diatribes against INCAR and PLP. He had told an INCAR leader several months earlier; "We're going to drive you out of Boston." Despite the NAACP's timing, which ensured that the "picnic" would be ill-organized and at best modestly attended, an integrated group of 2,000 people participated.
As the demonstration assembled, a Trotskyite from the Young Socialist Alliance made a pacifist speech calling on the demonstrators to reject militancy and place their trust in the cops, who he "guaranteed" would protect them. A PLP'er seized the microphone, declaring the fight against fascism was no picnic and that if the demonstrators were attacked, they should defend themselves and reject the politics of placing false hope in the cops. The crowd cheered this speech.
A motorcade of 200 cars proceeded to the beach, met by 1,000 racists whom the cops had allowed to assemble there. Eight hundred riot cops stood between the two groups. The racists began throwing rocks and bottles. The anti-racists returned the volley. The cops tried to force the anti-racists off the beach, but under leadership from INCAR and PLP members, many anti-racists linked arms and shouted militant slogans. The cops allowed some ROAR marshals to charge the anti-racist ranks. Hundreds of anti-racists shouted "Let `em come," and the thugs beat a hasty retreat.
In addition to ROAR and the cops, nationalist provocateurs unsuccessfully attempted to divide the demonstration from within by attacking several white anti-racists and a number of black and Latino people who opposed this crude attempt to cripple the anti-racist ranks.
Mayor White, the NAACP's Atkins, the nationalists, the cops, ROAR and the Trotskyists had all collaborated in organizing the Carson Beach "picnic" as a trap. The message: fight racism, and you'll get killed. Only the courageous, resourceful leadership of INCAR and PLP and the militant solidarity of hundreds of workers and students prevented a catastrophe.
Carson Beach was the last straw for many black working-class youth, who had suffered their entire lives under racism and police terror. The next day rebellions broke out in several sections of Boston.
(Next: Bosses' red-baiting goes into high gear.)
The "REAL ID" law is yet another U.S. ruling class attempt to use terrorism as an excuse for employing fascistic tactics on workers, especially immigrants. The 9/11 Commission proposed national standards for driver's licenses, arguing they were too readily available for terrorists. In 2005, Congress demanded that states convert them into a means to hunt down undocumented workers. When the law is fully effective, the licenses are supposed to be issued only to legal U.S. residents, with tamper-proof features like fingerprints. Moreover, Washington wants to embed a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, enabling the license be read from up to 300 feet away.
The law is a sneaky attempt to claim that Washington is only encouraging, not mandating, what the states must do. States can ignore the law -- but if they do, then driver's licenses from those states cannot be accepted as an ID, for instance, at airports. If a state meets Washington's standards, then people with licenses from that state will be able to cross from Canada and Mexico without a passport; but in non-cooperating states, those crossing the border will need an expensive passport.
Heavily-affected border states are under pressure to cooperate with REAL ID. Big liberal governor Democrat Janet Napolitano is bidding to make Arizona the first state with a secure driver's license. Other states like New York are fighting the law, mostly because it will be expensive to implement and may make it harder to enforce the traffic laws. At the moment, it appears the law will become effective slowly over the next ten years. As they say, bitter medicine goes down easier if fed slowly.
Once the REAL ID is issued, then every local cop becomes a Border Patrol agent. And the cops won't even have to ask to see your license, thanks to the RFID. They can automatically check whether the fingerprint on the license and in the computer data bank match yours, to see if the license is fake. The bosses won't need a formal "national ID" card; they will just make sure that a driver's license is required for everything.
Already the Feds have a small program to train and then deputize local and state police to enforce immigration laws. Virginia is debating a proposal to require that all counties join that program. Once the local cops go through the program, they're fully authorized to detain people just as the Border Patrol does.
These are just a few of the many racist plans for harassing undocumented workers. For instance, there was much publicity about how a court has temporarily blocked the government's plan to force all companies to check the Social Security accounts of all their employees for discrepancies, which might be signs that an undocumented worker is using somebody else's number. But the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (ICE) has long done the same thing under the "voluntary" IMAGE program (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers). ICE threatens companies: "volunteer" for IMAGE or else the ICE agents will show up at the factory to do a mass round-up.
We should discuss with workers the reason for these programs. Some U.S. bosses oppose them because they want a ready supply of undocumented workers to exploit. We must explain that the ruling class wants these undocumented workers, while simultaneously terrorizing them so they don't fight for higher wages or to get government services like public education or emergency medical care.
The Dream Act is another example. Even though it's opposed by gutter racists like Tom Tancredo (a GOP presidential candidate), the Pentagon wants it to help recruit young undocumented immigrants to the military. Already, tens of thousands of immigrant workers are in the armed forces.
The rulers don't want to deport the millions of undocumented immigrants. They just want to use racist terror to impose more fascist social control on ALL workers.