Brooklyn , NY, February 8 — “Healthcare, Not Profit Care!” rang out in downtown Brooklyn as around 100 nurses and other hospital workers picketed demanding that Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and Interfaith Hospitals remain open. The day before, hundreds of nurses, patients, doctors and community people had angrily confronted the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees to fight the closing of LICH. At the end of the demonstration word came down that the Trustees had just voted to close LICH. Hearing this, picketers chanted even louder.
NEW YORK CITY, February 9 — Today, despite freezing temperatures and snow, at least 75 Columbia University (CU) students rallied in defense of underpaid Faculty House workers. They were joined by about 25 workers, members of other unions and seven members of St. Mary’s Church in Harlem. It was a loud and militant procession, a unity which has not been seen in decades.
The Student-Worker Solidarity (SWS) group was formed last fall, composed largely of freshmen, many of whom had had ties with Occupy Wall St. Their first action supported Barnard’s (CU women’s school) clerical workers who were threatening to strike over pay and benefit cuts. Students leafleted several alumni events and demonstrated on campus, becoming an important factor enabling Barnard workers to win.
SAN FRANCISCO, February 6 — Four hundred students, teachers, school workers and community members streamed into today’s meeting at San Francisco City College (CCSF) to protest the cuts and reorganization plans ordered by the State government-imposed Special Trustee. She already forced an additional 8.8 percent teacher wage-cut after teachers unfortunately agreed to a 2.5 percent wage-cut last year. This trustee also ordered the layoffs of 49 classified workers, 25 part-time instructors and 18 part-time counselors.
WASHINGTON, DC, February 5 — Today transit workers in Local 689, Amalgamated Transit Union, took a big step against the racist Metro system by opposing the bosses’ rule against hiring former prisoners. Thousands of workers are returning to the District of Columbia from incarceration every year, desperately needing jobs. Metro, like other bosses in the city, are blocking them. “I paid my debt to society,” one worker declared, “and now I need to work. I don’t want to be going back to prison anytime soon.” But background checks and former criminal convictions are keeping them jobless.
BRONX, NY, February 2 — Three hundred people gathered outside the house of Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old black youth who was murdered by the NYPD when they broke into his house one year ago. The cops had no warrant and Ramarley had no gun.
Various politicians including city comptroller John Liu who is running for mayor spoke at the memorial rally. They all tried to steer the masses into believing that electing better politicians and legislating more laws was the answer to the harassment that black and Latino youth face on a daily basis.
However, as we left the house and marched towards the police precinct chants such as, “We don’t need those police, those racist police” rang out. It is not just a few bad apples but the entire system that has to go. CHALLENGEs were sold and a PL flyer was distributed which explained that the role of the police is to protect the capitalist class’s profits stolen from the poverty and racist unemployment of black and Latino youth. Justice for Ramarley Graham and all of the other victims of capitalism will only be achieved when we join together and revolt against capitalism and establish communism.
Because PLP has been active in building and sustaining the Ramarley’s Call movement during the last year, a comrade was invited to speak at the last stage of the day’s memorial inside the local church. He related the struggles of workers around the world against unemployment and war and explained how PL believes that capitalism was built on racism and used racism to maintain itself by dividing the working class. He recounted how striking school bus workers had eagerly received leaflets about the Ramarley Graham struggle and understood that Bloomberg and the police were the common enemy.
The Ramarley’s Call movement has made important steps in uniting several families who lost love ones due to police brutality. PL members must step up their efforts to convince these militant anti-racists to ally with communists, not politicians and capitalists. Together, we can challenge the entire system to build a better world devoid of racism and oppression.
MEXICO, February 12 —Workers living in the Lakes Xico-Tlahuac area, southeast of Mexico City, who are already threatened by flooding, now must fight the bosses’ plans for a grand-scale hydro project that will increase the danger. There are 120,000 families living in 12 residential colonies in the state of Mexico and the Federal District that could be affected.
Faced with the threat of flooding and later eviction from our homes, members and friends of the communist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) have begun to organize meetings with our neighbors to denounce these actions of bosses and politicians against workers. Over two years ago, we began discussing the problem of flooding that results from unrestrained over-extraction of underground water that is sinking the area.
Tunis, Tunisia, the springboard of the Arab Spring in January, 2011, recently witnessed the eruption of mass demonstrations and a general strike to protest the assassination of a leader of the opposition party challenging the Islamist government. However, two of the key factors that led to the 2011 uprising, mass unemployment and poverty, are as prevalent as ever, essentially because their cause, capitalism, still rules. These conditions have sparked violent protests, which is why the government’s state of emergency remains in force.
All this exposes the hollowness of liberals in the U.S. and elsewhere labeling the Arab Spring a “revolution.” Revolutions occur when an oppressed class overthrows the oppressor class.
The General Union of Tunisian Workers called a one-day general strike on February 8, although the country’s universities were shut down until the 11th. However, the ruling class was taking no chances. Soldiers were deployed outside the main government buildings in Zarsis, Gafsa and Sidi Bouzid where masses of workers and youth marched, chanting “Assassins,” accusing the Islamist governing party of being behind the assassination.
Following the funeral at which tens of thousands assembled, taking “on the air of a demonstration against” the government (El Wonton newspaper, 2/9), army helicopters began overflying Tunis and military trucks were deployed on the city’s main avenue. But all of this did not prevent young demonstrators from occupying the street, clashing with police using riot clubs and tear gas.
CHALLENGE pointed out in 2011 when uprisings spread across the Middle East that they were limited to challenging the region’s dictatorships by calling for “free elections.” They weren’t aimed at overthrowing capitalism so the system’s exploitation of the working class would continue. No elections will change this, as workers and youth are discovering in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.
Capitalism’s ruling classes still hold state power and use it to clamp down on mass rebellions in Tunisia. Only the leadership of communist ideas aimed at completely destroying the profit system and its bosses can free the working class of the hell wrought by that system.
Fascism is the response of a ruling class in crisis. U.S. bosses are preparing for such a crisis, composed of a critically unstable financial system along with increased competition from imperialist rivals such as China. A dominant section of the ruling class recognizes that the future includes wider and deadlier wars, perhaps a world war. Their response is increased militarism and internal discipline necessary for the bosses to wage and win wars.
In addition to intensifying racist attacks, the rulers are remaking criminal law and processes on the grounds that the “war on terror” requires special laws, and then applying the new procedures to all workers.
During the recent U.S. presidential campaign, Obama and Romney competed with each other to see who could be tougher on terror. This posturing occurred even though the main threats to U. S. capitalism come from rising powers like China, not from small terrorists.
Thousands of multiracial moviegoers across the U.S. lined up for hours to see Quentin Tarantino’s Christmas blockbuster Django Unchained. Django is a slave-narrative revenge flick done in a style that combines spaghetti westerns and 1970s Blaxploitation. With so few Hollywood films about slavery and fighting back, how this story is told matters to the working class.
Some have called Django a “liberation” narrative. But to what extent is the capitalist Hollywood industry able to tell a story of true anti-racist liberation? Hollywood has historically been the main manufacturer of racist and sexist ideas. Films that are truly anti-racist or anti-sexist rarely make it to the silver screen. So is Django an exception to the rule? And what are the consequences to the working class of Tarantino’s take on racism and slavery?
Liberals are celebrating President Barack Obama’s lifting of the ban on women in combat as a “triumph for equality” (New York Times editorial, 1/25/13). But the reality is just the opposite. Obama’s move is actually aimed at strengthening U.S. imperialism, which depends for its existence on racist and sexist exploitation and Pentagon-planned mass murder. Putting women on the front lines expands the war-makers’ supply of working-class cannon fodder. And it builds nationalistic support for a war machine that now pretends — as the Times deceitfully claims — to honor “fairness and equal opportunity.”
The U.S. ruling class wants people to buy the illusion that capitalism can defeat sexism. In fact, capitalism is the root cause of sexism. The interconnection between the two can be seen on several levels:
Given the fact that 75 percent of the victims of U.S. imperialist wars are civilians, women in combat — soon to be full-fledged members of the war machine — will take a lead role in the mass killing and brutalization of other women. Exhibit A is ex-General Janis Karpinski, the first woman to lead U.S. troops in a combat zone. She was the commander of 17 Iraqi prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib, where both female and male prisoners were routinely tortured and abused by male and female soldiers.
The rulers are using Obama’s initiative to mask the historical truth that women are victimized by the special oppression of capitalism. Women are disproportionately among the most poverty-stricken workers. They generally get paid lower wages — or none at all in raising children as the next generation of future workers for the bosses to exploit. Bill Clinton’s vicious welfare reform threw hundreds of thousands of women and their children into poverty and homelessness.