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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Housing crisis unsolvable under capitalism

As sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry leads to larger wars and fascism, the U.S. capitalist rulers are trying to solve the crisis of their failing profit system by attacking the working class. Over the next several issues of CHALLENGE, we will be writing about how these attacks are affecting workers—and how a communist-led revolutionary movement can fight back.

On June 10, New York City settled a lawsuit brought by Federal Prosecutors by admitting that New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) bosses had lied about performing lead paint inspections and directed their building managers to hide dangerous conditions from inspectors.
The problems included rat- and roach- infested buildings, rampant mold from leaking pipes and a winter in which over 300,000 residents went without heat for at least part of the season.
At least 19 children have confirmed lead poisoning and that number is expected to soar as more families have their children tested (NY Daily News 6/11). The settlement includes a court appointed monitor to oversee NYCHA and a minimum of 2.2 billion dollars to be spent by the city over the next five years to make repairs on NYCHA buildings.
NYCHA was built as part of the New Deal to provide affordable housing at the height of the Depression in 1935 while NYC was the largest industrial concentration in the U.S.
Today the local and federal bosses have left the public housing system in a state of disrepair, on the verge of ruin. The decline of public housing shows the limits of reforms under capitalism and the inability of capitalism to meet the long-term needs of the working class.
Built in an industrial city
NYCHA is a series of public housing developments spread across New York City. At the time, New York led the country in building well-maintained, affordable housing for the working class.
NYCHA represented, along with programs like the WPA, Social Security and Unemployment Benefits a social contract modeled after European capitalism’s response to mass uprisings by the working class. In 1941, the over 1 million manufacturing jobs represented 60 percent of the city’s workforce.All this housing was segregated by race or excluded Black families altogether.
Public housing was built with great fanfare. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia proclaimed in 1936 at a public housing construction site “Down with rotten antiquated rat holes…let in the sun…a new day is dawning, a new life, a new America.” (Guernicamag.com 10/1/2014)
But, NYCHA did not solve the city’s housing problems. Most notably, tenants had to have a job to be eligible for an apartment. For those who could get in, it was a huge improvement.
Today, NYCHA is the largest public housing system in the country with between 400 and 600 thousand residents. The promised $2.2 billion will hardly make a dent as the system has $25 billion in unmet capital needs, “after a decades long decline in federal funding left it unable to cover investments in critical infrastructure”(WSJ 3/6/17).
Two forces of NYCHA
The rulers supported public housing because it served workers’ needs in an era of expanding capitalism. With the City limiting rents to only two thirds of the neighborhood average, it took some pressure off the bosses to raise salaries.
Public housing replaced poorly maintained tenements for the mainly white working class families that made up NYC. “The Lower East Side known as the ‘Lung Blocks,’ notorious for their transcendently high rates of tuberculosis, diphtheria, and cholera” (Guernica, 10/1/2014).
The first NYCHA housing was all white and in the Lower East Side. The second NYCHA housing was opened in Harlem in 1937, which was for Black families only (Bedford and Bowery, 1/2/2015).
Attempt to integrate
The working-class movement was able to have a big effect on the early culture of the projects. NYCHA began as purposefully segregated all-white housing. A strict selection process and minimum income requirements limited the number of Black families who were eligible.
While most of public housing was lawfully segregated in the country, NYC had one of the few examples of housing integration. The left-wing, often communist inspired collective politics of the time, also played out in day-to-day life in the developments.
 “A Tenants’ Association had been established and threw regular parties; residents took trips to the theater and held forums to discuss contemporary social and political issues. There was a daycare center, a sewing group, and a Mothers’ Club” (Bedford + Bowery, 1/2/2015).
Even as late as the early 1970s, NYCHA provided many resources to tenants. A resident of the Red Hook Houses, in Brooklyn, described growing up there.
“We had a stadium, where schools from all over the city would have track meets. We had a baseball field. We had a serious swimming pool. We had a center where we could learn martial arts and play ball (Narrative.ly 4/15/13).
In the late 1960s (influnced by the fightback of the time and white flight),NYCHA announced that tenant selection would no longer “deal with the morals of the applicants” and that it would abandon previous requirements of employment, stability, and orderliness. Single-parent black and Puerto Rican welfare recipients replaced white, middle-class tenants.”
Deindustrialization hurt workers
But the “New America” turned out to be relatively short lived. Industrial jobs moved out of the City along with white workers as part of post-war development of the suburbs. Between 1969 and 1976, New York City lost 600,000 jobs, majority of them in manufacturing. Racist housing laws forced Black and Latin workers to stay in the City.
Between 1950 and 1990 the city’s white population went from 6.7 million to 3.1 million. Along with the flight of industry and white workers went the tax base and the city responded by cutting services, putting many public workers on the street as well. The jobs that were left for the working class were mainly low paying service sector jobs. (Monthly Labor Review February 1993)
Instead of maintaining NYCHA at the same level they had been, the city, state and federal governments began to cut back on staffing. There were the first signs of basic maintenance delays. In that period, the projects were almost all Black, Latin and older white residents. Abandoned by the City’s bosses, the strength of the relationships among the tenants showed some the possibilities of a workers led society. “The housing authority’s projects were anchors of stability and safety. They were places that you wanted to get into as the neighborhoods were deteriorating around you” (NY Times 6/25).
Response to Crisis? Gentrification
The ruling class responded to the economic crisis in NYC with gentrification. Without a need to support large numbers of industrial workers, and political pressure to put falling tax dollars into schools and services for the new wealthy white residents, the City all but abandoned the projects financially.
“By the turn of the century, the idea of government as landlord went out of fashion. Suddenly, NYCHA became a victim of disinvestment as all levels of government steered billions of dollars away from the agency” (NY Times 6/25).
In one of the most blatant examples under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “the New York City Housing Authority and its board members…failed to spend nearly $1 billion that it [had] been hoarding since 2009 to make life more livable for the … residents of its 334 developments” (NY Daily News 8/1/2012). The residents have been paying the price for the resulting extreme deterioration of conditions and services.
“The housing authority’s operating deficits and mounting costs to maintain and renovate its aging 2,462 buildings quickly impacted living conditions. Hurricane Sandy’s wrath and last winter’s frigid temperatures further exposed the buildings’ vulnerabilities…and the authority admitted in June to lying, covering up missed lead inspections and deceiving federal inspectors.”
Residents have been fighting back. The federal lawsuit was the result of tenant protests that forced news media to publicize the horrific physical condition of many of the buildings.
Mayor de Blasio’s response to the conditions in NYCHA has been to intensify the program begun under previous Mayor Michael Bloomberg of selling off project playgrounds and parking lots to private real estate developers. The new buildings are allowed to have 50 percent of the apartments go for market rates, i.e. extremely expensive, the remaining “affordable” units will require a minimum family income of over $50,000, twice the average income of public housing residents.
Most major U.S. cities have leveled their public housing. New York now seems to be following a similar script of letting the buildings decay to the point of being unlivable and then use the residents of the new for-profit private developments as a political battering ram to get rid of the projects.
The tenants are continuing to fight (see page 3). Wherever you live, this is a cause that needs your support. There is no affordable place to go. Beyond this immediate issue, the bigger question is how long will we continue to put up with a system that continually solves it problems on the backs of the working class.
Many white workers who followed jobs and new houses out to the suburbs are now themselves the victims of deindustrialization. Racist divisions built by the ruling class over many years have kept white workers in the suburbs and Black and Latin workers in the city divided.
But we are one class, not just in one city but also around the world, with a united interest in getting rid of this system that has failed. Progressive Labor Party is building a revolutionary communist movement to fight for a society that serves the working class. Join us.

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