Progressive Labor Party on Race & Racism



Progressive Labor Party (PLP) fights to destroy capitalism and the dictatorship of the capitalist class. We organize workers, soldiers and youth into a revolutionary movement for communism.

Only the dictatorship of the working class — communism — can provide a lasting solution to the disaster that is today’s world for billions of people. This cannot be done through electoral politics, but requires a revolutionary movement and a mass Red Army led by PLP.

Worldwide capitalism, in its relentless drive for profit, inevitably leads to war, fascism, poverty, disease, starvation and environmental destruction. The capitalist class, through its state power — governments, armies, police, schools and culture —  maintains a dictatorship over the world’s workers. The capitalist dictatorship supports, and is supported by, the anti-working-class ideologies of racism, sexism, nationalism, individualism and religion.

While the bosses and their mouthpieces claim “communism is dead,” capitalism is the real failure for billions worldwide. Capitalism returned to Russia and China because socialism retained many aspects of the profit system, like wages and privileges. Russia and China did not establish communism.

Communism means working collectively to build a worker-run society. We will abolish work for wages, money and profits. Everyone will share in society’s benefits and burdens. 

Communism means abolishing racism and the concept of “race.” Capitalism uses racism to super-exploit black, Latino, Asian and indigenous workers, and to divide the entire working class.

Communism means abolishing the special oppression of women — sexism — and divisive gender roles created by the class society.

Communism means abolishing nations and nationalism. One international working class, one world, one Party.

Communism means that the minds of millions of workers must become free from religion’s false promises, unscientific thinking and poisonous ideology. Communism will triumph when the masses of workers can use the science of dialectical materialism to understand, analyze and change the world to meet their needs and aspirations.

  Communism means the Party leads every aspect of society. For this to work, millions of workers — eventually everyone — must become communist organizers. Join Us!


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A Brief History of 'Reds at the Blackboard'

As school returns to session for parents, students, and teachers across the northern hemisphere, readers of CHALLENGE and millions more aim to make the fight against racism a central part of the coming year. Donald Trump’s embrace of Nazi and KKK scum in the wake of Charlottesville is the most open show of support for racism from the White House since Woodrow Wilson screened the pro-Klan film, “Birth of a Nation,” a hundred years ago.
Teachers = Education Workers
Teachers and others determined to bring the struggle against racism into the schools today have much to learn from the efforts of communist teachers in New York City in the 1930s-1950s.
The NYC city school system expanded at breakneck pace in the early twentieth century, as the NYC ruling class absorbed millions of economic refugees migrating from Southern and Eastern Europe, and later, Black migrants from the Southern U.S.
In contrast to the majority of their students who faced mass racist unemployment, underemployment, incarceration, or the military, teachers’ salaries provided a decent standard of living.
Irrespective of salary, however, teachers remained, and are, exploited workers, alongside their students and all other workers. Teachers in the 1930s fought back on this basis, and as they did, two tendencies in teacher unionism emerged. One tendency in teacher unionism involved organizing teachers as professionals and pursuing collaborative relations with administrators and the Board of Education, with the aim of persuading school bosses to make incremental improvements to teacher working conditions. It was argued that the ripple effect of these improvements would also serve the interests of students. This tendency lives on in the leadership of the two major U.S. teacher unions: the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA).
The other tendency in teacher unionism was led by communists to organize teachers as workers. Teachers would fight for school improvements alongside students and parents, and organize entire neighborhoods to feel the strength of collective action by demanding changes at their local school. Rooted in the working class masses, a citywide teacher’s union movement grew: New York City Teachers’ Union (TU).
From its inception, the TU launched mass antiracist campaigns in Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and the South Bronx against abusive school principals, for repairs to dilapidated school buildings, and for the staffing of Black and Latin schools with experienced teachers.
Communist Call to Teachers: Serve the People
In the 1930s and ‘40s, the communist-led Teachers’ Union (TU) was the leading teachers’ organization in the city. The city bosses were careful to never recognize this union as the official bargaining representative of the city’s teachers. Nevertheless the TU launched fights to reduce class size and ban gender discrimination in teacher hiring (which lost and won fights to make statutory racial segregation illegal in New York State), due process for probationary and licensed teachers, and the establishment of nursery schools under existing boards of education statewide.
The TU struggled to win teachers to join antiwar, antifascist, social and unemployment committees. Beyond filing grievances, teachers were struggled with to join labor history, academic freedom, educational policy and finance committees. All communist-led efforts worked to deepen the commitment of teachers to the working class in general and the Black working class in particular.
A featured column by Howard University professor Doxey Wilkerson in the March, 1938 edition of the TU newspaper, New York Teacher, laid out the stakes of the fight against segregated schooling in New York City:  

“Wilkerson argued that the New York City educational system assured that blacks [sic] would remain locked in America’s caste hierarchy. Despite the lack of de jure racial racism in the North, racism nonetheless was still a reality, and the institution where it reared its ugly head the highest was the school system…Wilkerson declared that a deliberate ‘mental crucifixion’ of black children was taking place. In schools in Harlem black students were not allowed to use the swimming pools, were assigned seats in the back of the classroom and were excluded from extracurricular activities and social events. Thus, the Negro child is made to realize that he is not an integral part of the social group with which he is thrown, but rather, that he is a thing apart, isolated, ostracized, somehow not quite like his classmates
—Reds at the Blackboard, Clarence Taylor

As World War II approached, the TU characterized Northern Jim Crow as American Nazism and overt acts of racism as actions of a fifth column—a domestic force committed to the victory of Hitler’s Germany.
Fascists Light the Fires; Liberals Bring the Fuel
From the moment the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 achieved communist victory, the U.S. ruling class kicked into overdrive a long tradition of vicious anti-labor warfare that included repeated state-directed massacres of striking workers. Alien and Sedition Acts revoked legal protections of suspected revolutionaries. The Schenck v. U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing imprisonment of anti-imperialist street speakers and the raids organized by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, resulted in the largest mass deportation of political radicals in U.S. history.
This anticommunist crusade continued in NYC schools, crossing Democratic and Republican city governments and peaked in the 1950s. Loyalty oaths for teachers imposed during World War I were updated with anticommunist language. The early ‘40s saw the assault of the NY state Rapp-Coudert committee, tasked with rooting out communist teachers, which resulted in the removal of over 40 professors from CUNY’s City College in Manhattan. Emboldened, in 1948 the bosses migrated their purge into the NYC public schools, and widened into documented investigation of over 1,100 teachers with over 400 being dismissed/retiring/resigning by the mid-1950s. The Teachers Union would hang on, with declining membership and influence until it disbanded in 1964.
Not a single teacher charged was found to be ineffective in the classroom or of indoctrinating students. On the contrary, these teachers tended to be highly regarded by colleagues and parents as especially dedicated to the mission of quality education for all. Parents, teachers, and community groups protested the first eight suspensions of communist teachers in 1948 with letters and meetings. Forty-eight teachers in Alice Citron’s Harlem school wrote to Jansen that Citron had “worked tirelessly on behalf of the children”; a parade of Harlem mothers testified to the same effect during the subsequent administrative trial of Citron and the seven others.
The national union leadership of the AFT assisted the ruling class in purging the school system of communist teachers in every phase. They even launched their own six-year effort to strip the TU of its charter for the offense of electing communists to union leadership, imposing it in 1941, against the wishes of thousands of NYC teachers who voted for a communist leadership. The AFT’s quiescence in the campaign to turn teachers into informants against each other through the ‘40s and ‘50s in NYC laid the basis for the emergence of the UFT in 1960-61.
Despite this deteriorating situation, the Teachers Union did not immediately disband. Instead, it launched campaigns to eliminate racist and bigoted textbooks from classrooms, hire more Black teachers and promote Black History Month. The TU remade itself into a leading voice in the New York City civil rights movement, by challenging the racially discriminatory polices of the Board of Education.
Weaknesses in the Work of the CPUSA in the Schools
After World War II, a lethal notion arose that the working class did not need a revolutionary communist party any more, that there could be “peaceful coexistence” between the Soviet Union and U.S. imperialism. The reasons for this retreat are discussed in numerous PLP documents, including Road to Revolution, I to IV.
The U.S. bosses were encouraged by the communist retreat, and launched another wave of anticommunist witch hunts in the 1950s. While communist teachers never let these purges derail mass antiracist organizing, these communists followed the international movement’s lead and retreated even further from revolution. Worldwide, the collapse of the international communist movement was underway.
Meanwhile, revolutionary communists formed the PLP and rose to inherit the strengths of the old Communist Party USA (CPUSA); this time, to fight all the way to communism! PL’ers knew then and new generations know now there can never be any “peaceful coexistence” with capitalism. As in the past, today’s communists are working to organize uncompromising struggle against racism and segregation in NYC schools. As the NYC Department of Education pursues a new effort to purge communists from the schools, the closing passage of Marx’s Manifesto of 1848 remains our guide: “The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.”
Friends of PLP may view the ruling class’ attacks on communism as an absurd throwback to the 1950s. But capitalism’s failures are endemic: the drive toward war, compounding inequality, rising racism and fascism—these crises cry out for solution, and millions seek a way out. Communism remains that way out. The rulers know communism remains a threat, no matter how few in number the communists may be. Help lead society toward the day when workers like the brave members of the Teachers Union are in power—answer the bosses attacks by joining the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party!

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