This page contains draft articles on the history of Progressive Labor Party. We are seeking comments on the articles as we put together a written history of PLP.

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Chapter 1: History of PLM/PLP

For nearly four centuries the capitalist system has destroyed the lives of billions of workers. It has caused unceasing wars for profit; merciless exploitation in its factories; mass unemployment; racist attacks on the super-exploited; a huge death toll from malnutrition, curable diseases and the lack of health care; massive destruction of the environment; special oppression of women and outright slavery of tens of millions, among its many evils. All this has created the worst mass poverty in world history.

To combat these horrors, communists have put forward certain fundamental principals, beginning with the Communist Manifesto published by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1848 which launched what has become a 160-year-old communist movement. The Progressive Labor Party did not materialize out of thin air. We have drawn on many of these principles and have combined them with a critical analysis of that theory and practice, to advance them to a still higher level (see “New Principles” below).

The fundamental principles PLP has taken from the past communist movement include: the necessity for a revolutionary party, guided by the science of dialectical materialism*; Marx’s analysis of capitalist exploitation through his discovery of surplus value**; armed revolution to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and destroy the dictatorship of the old ruling class; the open advocacy of communism (“communists disdain to conceal their aims” stated the Communist Manifesto); internationalism; anti-racism; democratic centralism*** guides the party; class struggle is the motor force of history; the working class is the revolutionary class; the state (government) is not neutral but represents the interests of the ruling class; and abolition of the wage system.

Marx put forward the concept of “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat” — the “proletariat” meaning more narrowly the industrial working class, but more broadly the working class as a whole — as the antidote to the nature of society under capitalism, “The Dictatorship of the Capitalist Class.” To establish workers’ rule, the capitalist state must be smashed and a new ruling class be established, a dictatorship of the working class, a workers’ state, until such time as all remnants of capitalism are eradicated.

* Dialectical Materialism is a science explaining the laws of development of nature, society and thought. It maintains that things are always in motion, interconnected and interdependent, enabling us to examine their reality. It is a philosophy that is a guide to collective action that can emancipate the working class. (For a detailed analysis see the PLP pamphlet Jailbreak.)

** Surplus value refers to the following: In production the workers create all value but much, if not most, of that value is appropriated by the capitalist. That is, the latter pays the worker a wage (as little as possible) equal to only a small part of the value the worker creates. For instance, the value a worker produces in the first two hours of the work-day may equal whatever wage he or she may receive; the value created in the remainder of the work-day goes to the capitalist, that which Marx called surplus value. From that the capitalists derive their profit, as well as payments to other sections of capitalists: to banks for interest on loans — the banker’s profits; to landlords for rent — the latter’s profits; for raw materials, the supplier’s profits, and so on. Thus, most of the surplus value created by the worker becomes the profits of all the capitalists involved.

*** Democratic Centralism is the principle which guides the Party and eventually communist society. Lenin defined it as “the freedom of discussion leading to the unity of action”; once the majority collectively decides on a course of action, everyone is duty-bound to carry out that decision, to test it in the real world. If it is found wanting, the group can then re-evaluate it and decide on a better course of action, but all in the interests of the international working class. (For a more detailed understanding of democratic centralism)


Grounding itself in many of these previous fundamental principles, PLP was born from the understanding that the international communist movement — including the U.S. communist party (CPUSA) — had abandoned nearly all of them and essentially accommodated itself to capitalism. Reacting to this development, over five decades of experience, PLP has developed some new communist principles, including:

There must be one international communist party leading the world’s working class which has one universal class interest, not individual parties representing capitalist-created countries and pursuing their “own road to communism,” one espoused by the CPUSA as “the American road to socialism.” Building that one international party is the key to making a revolution to emancipate the working class.

The Party and the working class must fight directly for communism rather than moving first through what Marx and others defined as a “transitional” phase of socialism. That society, developed in the Soviet Union and China, retained much of the bag and baggage of capitalism, with its income differentials and maintenance of a higher-paid class of managers, administrators and cultural figures.

These two parties did accomplish tremendous feats — including the Soviets’ under Stalin developing a modern industrial society and smashing the Nazis in World War II; and the Chinese defeating the Japanese fascists, wiping out starvation, Yangtze River floods and prostitution, among other reforms. But eventually they both reverted back to a full-blown profit system, initially state capitalism and eventually privatization of the means of production. They believed that workers and peasants could not have the understanding to “jump” directly from capitalism to communism and the abolition of money and of the wage system.

 • The concept of class, of two opposing classes — workers against bosses — is fundamental to destroying capitalism and establishing communism. All societies — slave, feudal, capitalist — are divided primarily into two classes, the oppressed and the oppressors. What unites workers as a class is their relationship to the means of production. Workers produce all value; the bosses appropriate that value and pay the workers as little as workers let them get away with. All workers — no matter what their color, gender, “race,” ethnicity, religious beliefs or capitalist-created nationality — to various degrees are exploited by the profit system. This is our one all-embracing, unifying characteristic. Anything that negates this class concept, that puts workers in alliance with “their bosses” against another set of workers and bosses, weakens the struggle to combat and overthrow the entire ruling capitalist class.

Internationalism trumps the concept of nationalism, which divides the working class. Workers must unite across all capitalist-created borders and not defend its “own” bosses against workers in other capitalist countries. There is no such thing as “progressive nationalism.”  “National liberation” movements merely exchange one set of bosses (the colonial ones) for another set (local bosses) and retain the profit system, working with world capitalism in one form or another. The working class cannot share power with nationalist bosses. Such “sharing” means, by definition, the continuing existence of capitalists and their system, as occurred, for example, in Indonesia where the capitalist rulers murdered a million communists and workers who were “sharing power” with them.

The rulers use nationalism also to divide the working class within a capitalist country. Black nationalism attempts to win black workers to unite with black bosses and separate them from white workers. It turns the struggle of oppressed vs. oppressors into a struggle of black against white. “Black capitalism” is based on the same exploitative foundation as capitalism in general and will oppress black workers in similar fashion. Black nationalism is also used to win black workers to demand more black cops, more black school principals or more black supervisors, as if this would ease their oppression. But the role of these groups is the same as white cops, principals or supervisors: to enforce the profit system, and further divide black and white workers. All of the above holds true as well for Latino nationalism.

The fight against racism is of strategic importance in the fight to overthrow capitalism. Separating black workers from white workers denies the entire working class the potential of black workers’ leadership in the fight for armed communist revolution. Drawing from their super-oppression historically in the U.S., black workers have been in the forefront of the battle against slavery, in rebellions against the bosses, in strikes, in the fight for jobs and in other attacks against the system. Similarly, ever since black slaves were first brought over from Africa right through to their use by the capitalists as a pool of low-wage labor, both for super-profits in the hundreds of billions as well as a tool against white workers — acting as a drag on the latter’s wages — racism has become the foundation stone of the capitalist system. Its ability to divide the working class and thereby weaken our class in the battles against the bosses, as well as enabling the capitalists to amass huge profits, makes racism crucial to maintain the bosses’ system. Racism devalues human life: it says one group of workers is “inferior” and another is “superior.” No revolutionary party can grow, nor can a communist revolution be mounted against the capitalist class, without placing the fight against racism and for multi-racial working-class unity front and center.

The communist party must be a mass party — based on the concept that every worker can be won to being a communist — not a “cadre” party in which a small group of “communist leaders” leads the rest of the working class.

Communists will not permit the existence of any “cult of the individual” — the glorification of individuals (as built around Stalin and Mao), which leads to slavish followers rather than the leadership and critical thinking practiced by the masses of workers.

 • A communist society should not separate the party and the government. The party, composed of tens and hundreds of millions of workers, will govern society based on democratic centralism and practice communist principles at the workplace and in workers’ communities, following the example of the Cultural Revolution in China.

Communists must smash the capitalist state once and for all — no “independent” judiciary, no ballot box elections, no lesser-evil bosses or politicians.

Communists must make revolution primary over reform. Capitalism cannot be reformed. Communists must work in the reform movements in order to turn them into “schools of communism.”


To understand what brought the Progressive Labor Party into existence, one needs to examine the nature of the communist movement that preceded it. By the late 1950s, the CPUSA had abandoned virtually all of the principles outlined above. It had given up on the necessity of armed revolution, advocating “peaceful transition to Socialism” via the capitalist ballot. Its constitution said that private property could be abolished by an amendment to the U.S. constitution, using as an “example” the 13th amendment abolishing slave property. It ignored the fact that chattel slavery was ended by a violent Civil War in which 600,000 died.

The CP also discarded the idea that the ruling class controlled the government — the state apparatus — so in the U.S. urged its members to “push the Democratic Party to the left.” It no longer viewed it as one of the two parties representing that ruling class, completely adopting class collaboration with the bosses.

Rejecting “open advocacy” of communism, the CPUSA told its members, especially those in the basic industries, not to tell their co-workers that they were communists, on the “theory” that doing so would “isolate them from the masses.” This, of course, among other things, made it impossible to recruit new members, revealing a complete lack of confidence in the working class.

Probably the single event that triggered a movement among Left members of the CP to challenge the latter’s abandonment of basic communist principles was the 1956 speech of Soviet prime minister and communist party chairman Nikita Khrushchev to that country’s 20th Party Congress. In it he attacked Stalin’s role in leading the Soviet Union through its defeat of the foreign imperialist invasion of the 1920s; the massive industrialization of the 1930s which prepared the Soviet people for the inevitable Nazi invasion; and the routing of the Nazi hordes in World War II that witnessed the biggest military battles in world history. (Even the arch imperialist Winston Churchill was forced to admit that a society that could move from “the plow to the atomic bomb” in barely 30 years was remarkable.)

That speech was marked by the revisionist Khrushchev’s advocating “the state of the whole people,” abandoning the Marxist-Leninist idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the revolutionary class. He also advanced the concept of “peaceful transition to socialism,” ignoring the fact that no ruling class ever surrendered its power peacefully. He thereby abandoned the principle of armed revolution which prepares the working class to defeat the old ruling class’s inevitable armed defense of its system.

This speech sparked tremendous turmoil throughout the old international communist movement. In the U.S., Marxism was “up for grabs.” The CP’s newspaper, the Daily Worker, was filled with anti-communist apologies for capitalism and attacks on 40 years of socialism in the Soviet Union, as well as attacks on most fundamental communist principles. Many “leaders” quit, implying or saying outright that they had “wasted their lives” in the communist movement.

This left a huge vacuum in the party’s leadership. In Buffalo, Milt Rosen, an industrial worker and leader of the party’s industrial section there, emerged as the Upstate NY organizer. In 1957, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the infamous HUAC, descended on Buffalo to try to finish off the party’s left-wing industrial base. The reactionary union leaders cooperated fully with HUAC. Many party members lost their jobs, especially those who had hidden their communist views from the workers. However, those who were known to their co-workers as communist fighters were defended by them and, in most cases, did not lose their jobs. Milt Rosen was elected to head the NY State party’s industrial section.

All this taught a profound lesson — that communists must rely on and trust their fellow workers. It was out of these kinds of experiences that a vibrant left force was emerging. It was this industrial section that was to form the basis for the eventual birth of the PLP.

When Comrade Rosen and the Erie County (Buffalo, NY) CP leader Mort Scheer and others began circulating Chinese CP documents such as “Long Live Leninism” and “On the Historical Experiences of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” — both of which exposed Khrushchev’s rejection of a class analysis of the state — they were immediately attacked by the revisionist CPUSA leadership which completely supported Khrushchev. This reflected the schism that had developed in the international communist movement, with China’s CP opposing the Khrushchev revisionists

CP Chairman Gus Hall saw to it that comrades Rosen and Scheer were excluded from the 1960 party convention, although those two represented the heart of the Party’s industrial work in a state that held half the national membership. It was at this convention, during the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign, that Arnold Johnson, head of the NY State CP, rose to say that, although the party was not endorsing either presidential candidate, he himself was “voting for Kennedy.” This was an obvious signal to the membership to do the same.

The CP was completely capitulating to the capitalist road, supporting a bosses’ party which represented the main Rockefeller-led wing of the ruling class. The very fact that a “communist” party would even contemplate supporting a ruling-class party exemplified how low it had sunk.

One of the crassest examples of CP’s accommodation to capitalism occurred during the NY-NJ railroad strike in January of 1961. When militant CP members organized to shut down the railroads’ waterfront operation to save the jobs of 660 railroad tugboat workers, Hall called in comrade Rosen (leader of the NY State industrial section) and ordered him to tell the railroad comrades to “stop the strike”! Taken somewhat aback, he asked why. Hall replied that the ruling class knew that “communists were behind the strike” and that if it continued he and the leadership would be thrown in jail.

Comrade Rosen told the railroad members no such thing. The strike continued until the Kennedy Administration was forced to re-start negotiations and allow the tugboat workers back on the job.

These kinds of attacks convinced the Left group it was hopeless to fight to reverse the revisionist trend within the CPUSA. Accordingly, they called together a small group of CP members to begin organizing a true communist party. The Hall leadership soon expelled many of these industrial party members who had taken the lead against the revisionists.

In the fall of 1961, first a group of 12 and shortly afterwards a larger group of 30 met to discuss launching this new movement. At a December 1961 meeting, Milt Rosen gave a political report advancing the perspective of building a new communist party in the U.S. with a working-class base. Towards that end we decided to publish a new magazine, Progressive Labor.

In this period, the Hall leadership suspended the railroad section organizer for his association with the Left group. When the remaining nine railroad members (of the 65 who originally constituted the section prior to Khrushchev’s speech) demanded to know why they were not consulted about this suspension, three members of the seven-member CP Executive Committee were sent to “explain” that the leadership had decided the section organizer was following a “left-sectarian, right opportunist, social-democratic, Trotskyite line; the decision was made and the railroad members had no say in the matter.” At that point the railroad comrades voted 8 to 1 to quit the CP and join the new group, thus depriving the party of one of its few remaining industrial sections.


The first issue of PL Magazine, a 12-page publication, appeared in January 1962 and was distributed in NYC, San Francisco, Buffalo and a number of other cities. During its first six months of existence it began drawing in workers and students which became the basis to call for a conference in New York City in July where 50 workers and youth from 11 cities met to launch a new organization: the Progressive Labor Movement (PLM).

The PLM stood for anti-imperialism, anti-racism, based itself in the working class and supported China’s CP, which, at that time, was exposing the Khrushchev leadership and was still a vanguard in the fight against U.S. imperialism. There were millions of workers to be won. The new group vowed to become involved in workers’ and students’ struggles, to draw in new members from those struggles, and not look for new members by “raiding” the CP.

PLM members felt that by gaining experience around the fundamental communist principles abandoned by the old CP and much of the international communist movement, it could look forward to the formation of a new communist party. However, because it still had to develop this experience, it did not base itself on democratic centralism. It still had to attain enough experience and commitment to warrant the kind of communist discipline in which once the organization’s line was decided, the members were duty-bound to carry it out, to test its correctness.

Soon the new organization hit the streets with public rallies, opening community headquarters in working-class neighborhoods and developing struggles against slumlords, racist police brutality and unemployment. It directed its main fire at the liberal bosses and the Kennedy Administration. Between 1962 and 1964, PLM played a leading role in five national campaigns as well as directly confronting the rulers’ anti-communist attacks, all of which reflected its line of anti-imperialism, anti-racism, open advocacy of Socialism and immersion in working-class struggle, especially in the basic industries.


In the winter of 1962-63, rank-and-file black and white miners in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia were engaged in a bitter wildcat strike, rebelling against inhuman working conditions and starvation wages (the average weekly wage was $25). The mine owners, police and local officials had initiated a campaign of terror and scabbing to break the strike. Five hundred miners armed themselves, roving from mine to mine, dynamiting bridges and blowing up scab mines. This was a working-class battle in which PLM decided it had to become involved, despite not having a base among these miners.

It organized the Trade Union Solidarity Committee to Back the Hazard Miners, led by one of PLM’s railroad comrades, a local union official. The TUSC collected food, clothing and funds in working-class communities across the country, raising the issue in union locals, and workers responded enthusiastically. Truckloads of food were shipped to the miners, along with PL Magazines exposing the strikers to communist ideas. A mass meeting in New York City drew nearly a thousand workers and students in zero-degree weather to hear the miners’ rank-and-file leader, Berman Gibson, and the TUSC chairman speak.

The bosses went crazy. Their local rag, the Hazard Herald, announced in a front-page, 8-column banner headline that “Communism Comes to the Mountains!” The Kennedy liberals realized they had a dangerous situation on their hands: armed miners, black and white, were uniting with communists to fight the bosses. They launched a huge red-baiting campaign backed by big bucks to break this unity and used the social-democrats to take over the Solidarity Committee.

Initially the miners resisted the anti-communist attack but, as it mounted Gibson, and others retreated and turned to the liberals. The strike continued for many months but ultimately petered out. However, vital lessons were learned from this campaign:

 • Workers will arm themselves to defend their fundamental class interests when they deem it necessary;

• Strike solidarity is a crucial issue for all workers and they will respond enthusiastically when bold leadership is given;

• The bosses never hesitate to use violence to break a strike or rebellion, but anti-communism is their key weapon, especially when racism fails to break the fighting unity of black and white workers and,

• Red-baiting cannot be defeated without a solid communist working-class base within the ranks of the workers, not from the outside. Such a base can only be established through protracted class struggle in which communists give active leadership. This will enable workers to shed their boss-fed anti-communist notions and see that communist ideas are in their best class interests.


Although Cuba was eventually to turn into a state capitalist country, in the early 1960s the Cuban Revolution had great appeal to youth in the U.S., especially to black and Latino workers. U.S. imperialist rulers feared it would spark similar uprisings throughout Latin America and radicalize U.S. workers and students. Kennedy’s CIA-directed Bay of Pigs invasion had failed miserably.

Prior to that invasion, PLM distributed tens of thousands of leaflets and held streets rallies warning about Kennedy’s plans. It even unfurled the first “Hands Off Cuba” banner in the galleries of the United Nations during the UN debate over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, a crisis with overtones of nuclear war.

After Cuba confiscated a billion dollars worth of U.S corporate property, the Kennedy Administration instituted an economic boycott of Cuba and established a ban on travel there. While other pseudo-left groups merely reprinted Castro’s speeches, PLM boldly announced it would break the travel ban, even while it was still active in the struggles of the Hazard miners.

Over 500 students applied to the PLM-led Ad Hoc Committee to Travel to Cuba to defy the U.S. State Department. Seventy-five were selected. After receiving an invitation from the Cuban Federation of University Students, they entered Canada to fly on a Cuban plane but the Canadians blocked its landing.

Then, in the summer of 1963, the Committee publicly announced it would fly to Havana via Mexico while the real plan was to fly to Czechoslovakia and then back to Cuba. The trip went smoothly and 50 students broke the “Kennedy curtain.”

Upon returning to New York, immigration inspectors began marking their passports “invalid,” but the students refused to turn them over. Within weeks, over 50 PLM leaders and Committee members were either cited for contempt or indicted for “conspiracy” to break the ban, despite the fact that they had publicly announced their intention for more than a year.

Some faced 20-year prison terms, but the government’s attack failed miserably. A national campaign to defend the students won widespread support. Most of the young PLM comrades and friends held firm and grew stronger in their commitment to fight the rulers. And then the answer came: organize another trip to Cuba! Almost a thousand applied, and 84 were selected and again broke the ban.

After a fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the charges were dropped. The ban had been beaten. Many students joined the PLM, which emerged as a vigorous force in the emerging new Left in the U.S. This struggle’s lessons proved that:

• It is necessary to anticipate the ruling class’s attacks and develop alternative plans to defeat them;

• Many different avenues of struggle must be employed to smash the bosses;

• Be bold. Dare to struggle, dare to win! Always be guided by the principle of acting in the best interests of the working class;

• Grow stronger only through struggle. Ruling-class terror will never destroy the communist movement.

Exposure of the Warren Commission Whitewash of the Kennedy Assassination.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, his successor as president, Lyndon Johnson, appointed a “blue ribbon” commission to investigate the murder. The rulers were frightened that the slaying might expose the killers as representatives of one section of the ruling class battling its main imperialist wing as well as expose any conspiracy that reached into sections of the government itself. So the commission — headed by the “respected” liberal former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren — set at its task to pin the crime on one “lone deranged assassin,” Lee Harvey Oswald.

Within five days after the killing, PL magazine published a special eight-page supplement that shot holes in that “lone gunman” theory — under the headline, “History’s Biggest Frame-up?” and exposed the assassination as “A System in Crisis.” The crisis was revealed in two aspects: Instability and Ruthlessness.

INSTABILITY: an “apparently well-planned execution”; “The complete breakdown of the bourgeois democratic process in dealing with the alleged assassin”; “The obvious complicity of the local police and the national officials…to turn the slaying into a red-baiting circus”; undermining “the U.S. ruling class…effort to portray itself…as a symbol of stability and ‘freedom.’”

RUTHLESSNESS: “The vicious attempt…to use the assassination in whipping up an anti-communist hysteria” by linking Oswald to Cuba; “mounting pressure on…working people…to halt their demands for progress…in this crisis”; a “campaign of violence and terror against black people, especially in the South, to quell rising demands for jobs and freedom; “The resort to open counter-revolution…in Cuba and Vietnam”; and “conversion of the assassination…into [a] third-rate spectacle by the ruling class” indicating “their fundamental cynicism and utter contempt of the American people.”

It pointed out the intensifying violence against black and Puerto Rican people, murder after murder both in the North and South, as well as CIA assassinations abroad (Lumumba in the Congo), invasion of Cuba and support of Nazis in Germany and fascists in Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Iraq, the Dominican Republic.

It linked these policies to the assassination as the work of open fascists in Dallas whose District Attorney claimed that Oswald was “part of a communist international conspiracy to kill Kennedy.” Only two days later, when Oswald was being transferred from one jail to another, he was himself killed while in the hands of the cops escorting him to a waiting police wagon. So he never got to defend himself and his constant claims that he had nothing to do with killing Kennedy. The rulers attempted to link Oswald to the Soviet Union (where he had lived for several years) and to Cuba (having supposedly distributed pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans, leaflets which were written by an anti-Castro fascist group setting up Oswald as a “patsy”). Thus, it was an “extremist,” whether of the Left or the Right, who was abroad in the land and must be put down.

While PLP had no experienced “investigation team” to analyze the event, it used all the information reported in the media which were publishing contradictory descriptions almost hourly. It proceeded step by step to demonstrate that Oswald could not have possibly gotten off three shots from a bolt-action rifle in five seconds and hit both Kennedy and Texas Governor Connelly in a limousine moving 25 miles per hour!

Much of which PL magazine revealed was later substantiated, especially by the chief pathologist who examined Kennedy at a Dallas hospital and verified that the shot that killed the president entered his throat from the front, not the back from where Oswald was allegedly shooting. Scores of books appeared over the years proving in detail that the Warren Report was hogwash. When the Warren Commission issued that report, it dismissed the doctor’s anlaysis and managed to contrive a scenario that had a single bullet entering from the back, “coming out the front” and then going on to hit Connelly in two different places — the “magic bullet” that shoots around corners!

To this day, poll after poll in the U.S. has indicated that an overwhelming majority refuse to believe the official story that a “lone, deranged gunman killed Kennedy.” But President Johnson and the main section of the ruling class were determined to stick to that story in an attempt to persuade people to view the assassination as a freakish occurrence, not as a reflection of the instability besetting U.S. capitalism.


In 1963, when the first group of students returned from Cuba after breaking the travel ban, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) launched an anti-communist attack by summoning many of them to hearings in Washington in an attempt to intimidate and possibly jail them. Heretofore, the Committee had hauled Hollywood stars, leaders of the Communist Party and others to “hearings” to ask them if they were communists. Virtually all took refuge in the 5th Amendment, using their “constitutional right” to refuse to answer. HUAC’s strategy was to then cite them for contempt and threaten jail terms. The famous “Hollywood Ten” were imprisoned for up to a year.

The “C”P leaders, in “taking the 5th”, posed as great “defenders of the Constitution and of democracy.” No one had ever actually answered the question directly. If they said “no,” the Committee would haul some stoolpigeon to testify that they were communists. If they said that had been communists, but had quit, the Committee would then ask them to name others who they knew to be communists. PLM members changed all that.

While hundreds picketed outside, PLM’ers took the stand and answered by declaring that “Yes,” they were communists and proud of it! This set HUAC back on its heels. They had never expected anyone to say they were proud to be communists. This was the first nail in HUAC’s coffin. And it represented PL’s principle of openly advocating Socialism (the term used prior to PLP’s later proclaiming its goal of communism).

Then in April 1964, HUAC descended on Buffalo (where PLM had established an industrial and campus base) prattling that there was a “threat of a new communist movement” which “needed to be dealt with.” The Buffalo Courier-Express left no doubt about whom HUAC was after, under the headline: “New Communist Operation Here A Prime Target.”

But in sharp contrast to the “C”P’s defensive stance, PLM launched an all-out offensive; 1,500 pickets “greeted” the anti-communist red-baiters. The Univ. of Buffalo Student Senate appropriated funds to support the protest. Buffalo was in an uproar. Front-page headlines screamed: “Red Probers in Buffalo Hear the Sound of Fury”; “Witnesses Spark Uproar, Grapple With Marshals”; “UB Instructor Ridicules HUAC”; “Rain-Soaked Pickets’ Chants Echo Outside HUAC Session.” The demonstrators were supported by various mass groups, some printing full-page ads in the Buffalo paper. Clerics joined the picket line.

The hearings were completely disrupted. The Committee abruptly ended the witchhunt. PLM had driven them out of town. With similar protests down the road, it didn’t take too long after that for HUAC to disappear as an official Congressional committee. PL’s principle of confronting anti-communism directly — and organizing mass support rather than hiding behind the bosses’ Constitution — proved decisive.

The Harlem Six.

In 1964, PLM was fast becoming known as a crusader against the racist atrocities perpetrated by the fascist police force of New York City. As part of this anti-racist campaign, PLM became involved in organizing a mass struggle against the police frame-up of six Harlem teenagers in a case that became known worldwide as The Harlem Six.

On April 17, 1964, some school children overturned a fruit stand in Harlem. As author James Baldwin was later to write, “This would have been a mere childish prank if the children had been white….But [they]…were black, and the police chased them and beat them and took out their guns.” One older youth, “Daniel Hamm…tells us that ‘we heard children scream….I saw this policeman with his gun out and with his billy in his hand. I…put myself in the way to keep him from shooting the kids.’

Hamm “was arrested, along with Wallace Baker, carried to the police station, beaten — ‘six and twelve at a time would beat us. They got so tired beating us they just came in and started spitting at us….’ This went on all day….Wallace Baker and Daniel Hamm were taken to Harlem Hospital for X-rays and then carried back to the police station where the beating continued all night. They were eventually released, with the fruit-stand charges pending” despite the fact that “This fruit-stand owner had…told the police that neither Baker nor Hamm had ever been at this store and that they certainly had had nothing to do with the fruit-stand incident.” (“A Report from Occupied Territory,” by James Baldwin, July 11, 1966)

Meanwhile, a hysterical campaign had been mounted against a mysterious group that the bosses’ press had labeled as “the blood bothers.” Then 12 days later an attempted robbery of a small Harlem clothing store resulted in the killing of one of the owners. Soon the cops, having “known” Baker and Hamm, and four of their friends, Ronald Felder, William Craig, Robert Rice and Walter Thomas — the six of whom the cops had once confronted on a Harlem roof as they played with their pigeons but were stopped from arresting them by a crowd on the street — now arrested them for the murder of the fruit-stand owner. They were soon indicted for murder and were convicted at a trial a year later and sentenced to life imprisonment.

When the Harlem PLP club first heard of this case, it went to interview the mothers of the six youths. They told us their sons were held in solitary confinement awaiting trial. They had repudiated any “confessions” beaten out of them by the cops who had threatened to kill them. They refused their court-appointed lawyers but the judge did not allow them to choose their own lawyers, even though four well-known civil rights attorneys had offered to defend them free of charge. The cops tried to “turn” one defendant, promising him a term of two to five years but he refused.

PLM then launched a mass campaign to free the Six. A fight-back rally was organized and held on June 13, 1964, addressed by the mothers. It raised thousands of dollars for their defense. Challenge printed a series of articles exposing the frame-up and re-printed them as leaflets in thousands of copies. Soon the case was becoming well-known. The author Truman Nelson wrote a book about the case several months later, “The Torture of Mothers.”

When the trial finally began, Challenge gave detailed descriptions of the contradictions in the cops’ testimonies (“Cops Trip Over New Lies”) which never were highlighted by the bosses’ press. The judge refused to exclude the “confessions” although there was no forensic evidence linking the defendants to the crime. All six were convicted, but the conduct of the trial was so prejudiced that the State Court of Appeals was forced to reverse the verdicts and ordered three new and separate trials.

Rice was retried and convicted again five years later. In April 1971 Hamm pleaded guilty to lesser charges. The trial of the remaining four ended in a hung jury. Still another trial was held in January 1972 and produced another hung jury. On April 4, 1973, the torture ended when the four pleaded guilty to manslaughter, sentenced to time already served and finally set free after nine years of imprisonment.


In March 1964, a conference on socialism was held at Yale University attended by many pseudo-Left organizations, including the “C”P and various Trotskyite groups. PLM was also invited and accepted.

The conference was geared for a “scholarly” debate on theory, without practical proposals. Only PLM broke through these bourgeois academic ground rules which separated Marxist principles from working-class action.

PLM spokesman Milt Rosen electrified the audience of 500 students and faculty by focusing on the efforts of U.S. imperialism to crush the revolutionary movement in Vietnam. He proposed that the conference support a nation-wide mobilization on May 2nd to protest U.S. aggression there.

The proposal was approved overwhelmingly and a May 2nd Committee was organized under PLM leadership. On May 2nd thousands of students and workers marched and rallied in many cities all across the country demanding that “U.S. Get Out of Vietnam Now!” It was the first national demonstration against the U.S. imperialist invasion and the forerunner of millions of protestors marching against U.S. rulers in the years ahead.

To maintain this momentum, the Committee decided to become a national membership organization called the May 2nd Movement (M2M). Hundreds joined. Many Cuba travelers became its leaders. M2M played a major role in popularizing the struggle against U.S. imperialism’s war against Vietnamese workers and peasants. It issued hundreds of thousands of leaflets, buttons and pamphlets; initiated numerous university teach-ins; organized rallies and marches; and developed “Free Universities” as an off-campus alternative to the rulers’ educational system.

However, M2M was infected with several fatal weaknesses preventing it from emerging as a powerful anti-imperialist mass movement: drugs, sectarianism and racism.

(1) DRUGS: It was no accident that the drug culture developed rapidly in the 1960s. Drugs were especially pushed by the U.S. ruling class then to divert young people from struggling against them. The bosses’ media told youth to “tune in” (to bourgeois culture); “turn on” to drugs; in order to “drop out” of the anti-war and civil rights movements. Billed as “anti-establishment,” it was just the opposite.

PLM vigorously opposed drug use, which was widespread inside M2M and even penetrated some in the PLM. Many fine young fighters degenerated politically by becoming drug users.

(2) SECTARIANISM. Reacting to the Johnson Administration’s stepped-up aggression in Vietnam, many new anti-war forces and organizations flourished, alongside M2M, including the newly-organized Students For A Democratic Society (SDS). However, instead of seeking unity with these forces, many in M2M and some in PLM developed a sectarian attitude towards them because “they aren’t as radical as we are” or because “they’re influenced by phony liberals and revisionists.”

Following SDS’s massive Washington, D.C. anti-war rally in the spring of 1965, it had become the major center of radical student activity. PLM’s leadership fought inside M2M and within its own ranks against sectarian isolation from the new, vast anti-war forces developing nationwide. Out of this struggle, the overwhelming majority supported dissolving M2M and joining SDS. A small group of PL’ers quit PLM over this tactic and tried to maintain M2M as a viable alternative to the actual mass movement, but rapidly evaporated.

(3) RACISM. M2M’s most serious weakness was a failure to develop the struggle against racism and to link the anti-racist struggle with the anti-war movement. We failed to understand the class nature of racism, that it was a life-and-death question for white workers as well as black workers.

Racism weakens the working class in two ways: (a) it divides our class and therefore dilutes our strength in battles against the rulers, enabling them to pit one group against the other; and (b) it allows the bosses to use the lower-paid black and Latino workers as a club over the head of white workers when the latter attempt to fight in their class interests, threatening them by saying they have this pool of black and Latino workers ready to work for less and “take their jobs.” Thus, it works to influence white workers to “hold back” from fighting the bosses all the way and to accept lousier conditions.

In this way, racism reaps super-profits from the victims of racism who are forced to settle for lower wages and conditions. The difference in family income of black and Latino workers as compared to white workers nets the bosses an estimated $250 billion a year. Plus the bosses reap greater profits from white workers’ labor since they end up accepting less than they might win from a militant, united fight.

This weakness also stemmed from PL’s wrong line at that time on nationalism. We failed to understand that all nationalism is bad for the working class.  There are no “good bosses” since the ones who were fostering “Black Liberation” struggles in the formerly colonial world were not fighting for the working class in those countries but for the right to exploit “their own” workers, to gain a piece of the pie that the imperialists were monopolizing for themselves all along. These “anti-imperialist” nationalists were still capitalists and were aiming to maintain the profit system, even to rely on the former colonial powers to put down “their own” working class if necessary.

This lack of a class understanding permeated the growing anti-war movement and our own weakness on these questions worked against winning a united working class to use its power to fight the ruling class’s imperialist wars. Therefore, the anti-racist (and anti-nationalist) fight was never a central part of M2M. Consequently it could not build any base among black youth nor any unity with the growing militant black student organizations, such as SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), much less with workers fighting the same ruling class that both oppressed workers in the U.S. and in imperialist wars abroad.

However, M2M played a vanguard role in opposing U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam, breaking with the old pacifist “peace movement.” That “C”P-dominated movement was never anti-imperialist but rather championed ruling-class collaboration behind slogans like “Ban the Bomb”; “Peaceful Co-existence”; and “For A Sane Nuclear Policy.”

M2M helped move the new emerging anti-war forces in a Left, anti-imperialist direction, especially in SDS. Many youthful fighters joined PLM, coming out from their mass struggles in M2M. We also learned that:

• The Left must never isolate itself from the mass movement, content to be mere agitators. We must be an integral part of the mass struggle, give it leadership from within and raise our communist ideas as we fight alongside those who disagree with us.

• No mass organization can sustain a progressive course without making the struggle against racism a top priority.


On February 1, 1960, black students sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, challenging the ban on black people in “white-only” establishments. Within a month there were 33 sit-ins across the South. This bold confrontation with racism was followed by the 1961 Freedom Rides, wade-ins at beaches, swim-ins at public pools and lie-ins at construction sites.

In the 10-week period during the spring of 1963, following massive demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, the U.S. Department of Justice reported 758 different mass demonstrations and 13,786 arrests. No figures were given on the killings, beatings, bombings, police dog attacks, fire hosings and other brutalities. In August 1963, 200,000 people came to Washington, D.C. to hear Martin Luther King’s “I-have-a-dream” speech.

Two main tendencies dominated this eruption of struggle against racist oppression: the integrationists, led by King, and the nationalists led by Elijah Muhammad and later by Malcolm X. The latter two criticized the integration movement’s collusion with racist liberal politicians and its “turn-the-other-cheek” philosophy. King’s advice had been, “If there is blood to be shed, let it be our blood.” The nationalists believed in self-defense units and fighting back when attacked by the cops.

Both movements reflected the anti-racist mood of the masses. They seemed like opposing forces — integration with whites vs. a separate state for blacks. But in reality both movements were devoted to capitalism. The integrationists wanted to join the capitalist structure on a par with whites, a pipedream; the nationalists wanted black bosses. For the black masses the “choice” was exploitation by white bosses and black lackeys vs. exploitation by black bosses.

Early on PLM held to Mao’s two-fold understanding of nationalism: “revolutionary” (if it attacked the bosses of the imperialist nations) and “reactionary” (if it attacked the workers of the imperialist nations). While PLM sided more with the nationalists than the King forces (who were openly allied with the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations towards whom we directed our main fire), we were critical of both, believing that ultimately only communist revolution could end racism.

It was within this rising anti-racist movement, despite a weak class analysis, that the young PLM was to play a leading role in the historic Harlem Rebellion of June 1964. The year before we had established a PL center in Harlem and were holding weekly street rallies, exposing case after case of police brutality and organizing demonstrations in front of local precinct headquarters.

Amid this activity, on June 11 a Lt. Gilligan murdered a black youth, 15-year-old James Powell, in cold blood. The anger of the black masses boiled over and erupted in open rebellion. Thousands of militant black youth took to the streets, directing their anger at the cops and at price-gouging store owners protected by the cops. Molotov cocktails were hurled at police cars and stores. Thousands of cops were rushed to Harlem to quell the revolt but it continued to spread. Thousands of shots were exchanged.

The Mayor and Police Commissioner put the community under virtual martial law, outlawing demonstrations, rallies and marches. All the civil rights leaders called on the masses to “cool it,” but were ignored. The revisionist “C”P backed these reformist leaders. The only force that had the guts to give political direction to the spontaneous rebellion was PLM.

Thousands of posters declaring, “WANTED FOR MURDER, GILLIGAN THE COP!” were circulated throughout Harlem and beyond. Thousands of Challenges were distributed (its first issue had just been published a few weeks before the rebellion). Rebels marched down the streets holding up the paper’s front page as their flag. Hundreds of young rebels came to PL’s Harlem center for leaflets and posters.

PL pointed out that the rebellion was also directed against Harlem’s racist conditions: triple the unemployment rate of the rest of the city; half the family income; triple the sub-standard housing; nearly twice the infant mortality rate.

The bosses’ media violently attacked PL for “inciting riots.” The “C”P attacked us as “adventurists.” PL’s leaders’ lives were threatened and they were tailed by the cops’ Red Squad 24 hours a day. They were arrested for defying the rulers’ bans on demonstrations and for “inciting to riot,” facing 20-year jail terms.

PLM was specifically enjoined from organizing marches between 110th St. and 155th St. and from river to river in Manhattan. PLM defied the ban, organizing a demonstration in the heart of Harlem. Bill Epton, then the leader of the Harlem PL chapter, was convicted and jailed for “inciting a riot.” The PL printers who made the Gilligan poster were jailed. Dozens of PL’ers were subpoenaed before a Grand Jury and threatened with contempt citations. Several were convicted and served prison time. An international defense campaign was launched and Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre, among others, spoke out on behalf of those convicted.

PL’ers choosing jail rather than cooperate with the bosses’ courts exemplified the fighting spirit that attracted many to PLM and later to PLP. In the course of this witchhunt, those imprisoned for contempt exposed the abominable conditions in the jails, especially in the Greenwich Women’s House of Detention, widely known as the “House of Horrors.” These exposés and the mass picket lines outside this jail helped lead to its eventual closing a number of years later.

While the rebellion itself subsided after a few weeks, PL’s prestige soared in the black communities. In San Francisco, where PLM was virtually unknown in the black neighborhood, nearly 500 black militants turned out to hear a PLM black leader give an eyewitness report of the Harlem struggle. However, we were unable to maintain a leading position because:

• Swept up in the organizing of the immediate struggle, we ignored the fundamental task of getting names, addresses and phone numbers of hundreds of youth who had come to our Harlem center and joined our rallies and marches. Although we did recruit a few of the rebel fighters, we didn’t really organize for the long war ahead to destroy capitalism. It is not enough to organize the immediate tasks and seize the moment to give leadership to an immediate battle, no matter how sharp. Out of such struggles we must organize study-action groups, sell Party literature, and involve the new forces in collective political discussions on the strategy and tactics of the fight to help train them, as well as ourselves, as revolutionary leaders.

• We were influenced by an incorrect understanding of nationalism. We even had white comrades working among white workers and black comrades among black workers. This made for disunity in the fight against racism and undermined the collective responsibility to develop the strategy and tactics to lead all aspects of the class struggle.

As a result if these errors, we failed to raise the revolutionary consciousness of hundreds and thousands of young militants who admired PLM for daring to give some leadership to the rebellion.

But given these weaknesses, our experience proved to us that we were correct in understanding that revolutionaries must rely on the masses, not on alliances with class enemies who sell us out. We dared to give leadership and created the potential to emerge as a real workers’ revolutionary vanguard.

The Harlem Rebellion marked a new stage in the fight against racist oppression, raising it to a new level, exposing the role of the black reformist leadership. Following Harlem, more than 100 cities nationwide felt the torch of rebellion, not content with “cooling it.”  Many of these uprisings saw members of the soon-to-be-founded Progressive Labor Party as participants.


 After the Harlem Rebellion, PLM broadened its attack on racism when it exposed one of the more blatant racist frame-ups in the city’s history.

On August 28, 1963, two white professional women, Janice Wylie (a niece of the novelist Philip Wylie) and Emily Hoffert, were found viciously murdered in their Manhattan upper East Side apartment. There was an hysterical outcry from the rulers’ press to “catch the killer.” Hundreds of detectives were assigned to the case.

Soon the police announced that a 19-year-old unemployed black youth, George Whitmore, Jr., had “confessed” to the murder, “uncovered” during police “investigations” of two other crimes which they said Whitmore had committed, the murder of one woman and mugging of another.

The press again went wild, pronouncing the black youth “guilty” before he was even indicted by a Grand Jury. This was the same Grand Jury that had acquitted Gilligan the cop for the murder of 15-year-old James Powell which sparked the Harlem Rebellion. However, it was soon afterwards that PLP’s newspaper CHALLENGE cracked the case, based on the testimony of a law researcher John Lawrence.

Lawrence, a civil rights activist, had deliberately strode down a busy thoroughfare in broad daylight, openly holding a rifle to test the city’s “stop-and-frisk” law, in order to provoke his arrest and then use his court trial to expose that law. The judge immediately sent him to Bellevue Hospital for “psychiatric examination.”

It turned out he was held in the same hospital ward as Whitmore. They became friends and the youth told Lawrence that his “confession” had been beaten out of him, that on August 28, when the Hoffert-Wylie murders had been committed, he had been at his girl-friend’s house in Wildwood, N.J. watching the Martin Luther King “I-have-a-dream” speech on television.

Lawrence took detailed notes and when he was released from custody took the story to every major NYC newspaper and TV station. They all rejected it as “fiction” and refused to publish it. Lawrence then consulted the yellow pages, found a listing for Challenge and came to our office. He related what Whitmore had told him and Challenge immediately printed it.

Even then the press and the D.A.’s office buried it, refusing to neither question Whitmore’s girlfriend nor give any credence to a communist newspaper. But soon it was too blatant to ignore as other witnesses came forward to cast doubt on the police story. At his trial, Whitmore testified that he “confessed” when the pressure became too much to bear. “I was…the only Negro in that precinct house,” he said. “Every time I denied I’d done any of those things, they’d punch me in the back or chest. They beat me whenever I said ‘no.’” (NY Post, 7/14/64)

But the cops used forged evidence to successfully offset Whitmore’s testimony and the DA suppressed other evidence which would have cleared him. The court had to absolve the police and DA or it would expose the entire criminal Injustice system. Whitmore was convicted and sentenced to death row.

However, not long afterwards a new suspect emerged and the evidence was too overwhelming for the “authorities” to ignore. Whitmore was then cleared but the DA turned around and indicted him for the murder of the woman whose case had led the police to set up Whitmore for a “confession” to the Hoffert-Wylie crime. This led to three trials, as each successive one was overturned because of manufactured “evidence.” Eventually the cops were forced to admit their “evidence” was “faulty.”

Finally, after 28 months behind bars, Whitmore was released, without any compensation for his being beaten, framed and jailed. His case led to the establishment of the “Miranda warning,” allowing an arrested person the right to a lawyer during police questionings.

The entire affair was dramatized as the pilot program of the TV series “Kojak, although with no mention of the role of Lawrence or Challenge. However, it was another chapter in PLP’s exposure of the capitalist state’s racism and attack on black working-class youth.


 On October 1, 1964, 60,000 longshoremen — members of the International Longhsoremen’s Association (ILA) — struck all ports from Maine to Texas in a fight against the shipowners’ demand that dock gangs be reduced from 20 to 11. Although the PLM had no base among the dockers, it was to become so involved in the struggle that the ruling class was to blame it for the prolongation of the walkout, which was to stretch out until February 13, 1965.

The effect on U.S. trade was drastic enough to force President Lyndon Johnson to slap a Taft-Hartley injunction on the ILA and force the strikers back to work under the law’s 80-day “cooling-off” provision. The government demanded that any settlement be “within the national interest,” but the result was a contract containing enormous loopholes in job security. Anthony Scotto* (a “made” member of the Mafia’s Gambino family*) head of the Brooklyn, NY Local 1814, the ILA’s largest, called it the union’s “best contract ever.”

From the beginning, the entire New York City press corps — eight daily papers at that time — lauded the contract. Only PLM and its newspaper CHALLENGE opposed it, exposing the sellout and calling on the workers to reject it. The paper was distributed during the “cooling-off” period up and down the docks. Many workers asked for extra copies to distribute, this in a union whose leadership — dominated by the Mafia — had saturated the rank and file with anti-communism.

One article particularly angered the ILA Mob. PLM had one friend among the working longshoremen. He revealed to CHALLENGE that the government had convened a Grand Jury which was set to indict many of the ILA gangster-ridden leadership for racketeering and for having taken payoffs from union officials in exchange for jobs. The government promised the ILA officials that if they persuaded the rank and file to ratify the contract, any indictments would be dropped.

CHALLENGE ran this exposé on its front page, and printed the story in thousands of 4-page flyers — which included a detailed analysis of the pending sellout — to hand out to the workers. That’s when the shit hit the fan.

At a meeting attended by over 2,000 longshoremen in the large Brooklyn Local to discuss the “best” contract, Scotto decided to read the entire flyer to the assembled members in order to “expose” it as “red lies.” It backfired. The workers, many of them hearing the contract details for the first time, became so enraged that they voted overwhelmingly to reject the contract and go back on strike.


Immediately the press “reported” that “communist influence was swaying” the dockers to reject the contract. ILA president Teddy Gleason blamed “communists” for the rank-and-file rebellion against the contract. Scotto pointed to “outside agitators.” The World-Telegram ran a front-page headline: “Red Hand Seen on the Waterfront.” The notorious anti-labor columnist Victor Reisel ranted that “Chinese revolutionaries” were “spreading unrest on the docks,” warning that “Mao-Tse Tung [was] taking over our great urban centers.”

CHALLENGE ran its own headlines: “Reds Under Their Beds?”; “Dockers Resist Sellout, Bosses See Red!”

Then Johnson’s Asst. Secy. of Labor James Reynolds ordered the FBI to “investigate communist influence on the New York and Baltimore docks.” Soon another contract was drawn up with a few more crumbs added and a big push ensued to win ratification. With much maneuvering among the voters, this contract “passed.” While a majority of the working longshoremen voted it down for the third time, the misleaders got enough of the other trades in the union along with retired members to insure ratification and the long struggle ended. Containerization was ushered in and thousands of jobs were lost over the coming years.

Lessons. PLM’ers learned that when workers are engaged in class struggle against the bosses and understand what the real issues are from their own experience, there’s a lot less chance they will fall for red-baiting. Moreover, once they feel their class power and strength in mass unity, even in this struggle where mobsters ran the union, they will not succumb to threats from outright gangsters. And in this instance, it should be noted that multi-racial unity played an important role, with black and white longshoremen working together on the job and in the strike. The bosses could not play “the race card” to split and weaken the workers.

However, this was another instance which helped the PLM to understand the absolute necessity of being embedded in the working class, rather than only “working from the outside.” While our literature played a role in the strike, because we had no members on the docks, the ability to come out of the struggle with recruits, to actually build the organization, was extremely limited. This was another experience which helped develop the bedrock principle that communists must “build a base in the working class” in order to win workers to revolution.

* Anthony Scotto, son-in-law of former ILA boss “Tough Tony” Anastasia, controlled the Brooklyn waterfront and was not only well-known as a leading Mob figure, but also had intimate ties to the Democratic Party hierarchy. He was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention, was a friend of Robert Kennedy, raised money for Mario Cuomo’s 1974 campaign and was named as a possible candidate for Secretary of Labor by President Jimmy Carter. When he was later convicted of bribery and racketeering in 1979 and faced a 20-year prison term, at sentencing the Judge said he was “influenced” by requests for leniency from New York mayors Wagner and Lindsay. He received a five-year sentence and served only 39 months. Early on he had been billed as a “new breed” among mobsters, having been sent to college and studied law. After release from prison he became a lecturer at Harvard.


On the one hand, we exposed and attacked union sellouts, especially in the basic industries, the Hazard miners, railroad workers and longshoremen being three important examples. We participated in rank-and-file struggles that opposed the union misleaders. However, we viewed unions as the only workers’ organization capable of winning immediate gains for the working class.

So, while advocating rank-and-file caucuses, in the first issue of PL magazine we also called for a “new alliance” in the labor movement to combat the Meany-Reuther AFL-CIO. This would be composed of Hoffa’s Teamsters and the old communist-led left-wing unions — i.e., Harry Bridges’ West Coast longshoremen, the United Electrical Workers, etc. — as a possible “non-sellout” organization. We didn’t yet see that all unions work within the system and by definition must defend capitalism, even if some individuals might be “progressive.”

On the political front, we noted that both the Democrats and Republicans served the ruling class and exposed the liberals as dangerous for the working class — “evil, yes, lesser, no” — as reflected in the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater election. We continually blasted the Kennedy administration as enforcing racism and oppression of workers in general, as distinct from the old communist party (which endorsed Kennedy). Challenge particularly ran some devastating cartoons on these liberal politicians.

Yet, we also favored putting “working-class candidates” on the ballot and ran several in local NYC elections (“on the PL line”), on the basis that we could use the campaigns to influence workers in a leftward direction and spread PL’s ideas. We didn’t see that by the very notion of “running candidates” we contributed to the belief that change could result from participating in the bosses’ electoral system. And, in fact, we supported “Puerto Rican representation” in NYC and gave non-critical support to Malcolm X and some other black “leaders” who were not quite anti-capitalist.

One thread that ran through all our activities was the necessity to fight racism in all its forms. We exposed the liberals unmercifully on that score and constantly organized anti-racist actions, uniting black, Latino and white workers and students.

Finally, we did champion the open advocacy of communism (which we identified at that time as Socialism). We sold Challenge openly on the streets and during weekly (and sometimes daily) rallies in New York’s garment center, as part of an industrial concentration we mounted in what was then the city’s leading industry. Alongside members who had gone to work there, we were selling 500 Challenges a week to garment workers.

Challenge also ran a continuing series entitled “Without Exploitation,” composed of two columns side by side, one explaining why capitalism could not serve the working class and the other explaining how Socialism would be a system that freed the workers from the horrors of the profit system. We spoke out on college campuses, indicting capitalism and extolling socialist revolution.

 Within all our activities as reflected in our participation in widespread class struggle — against the Vietnam War, breaking the ban on travel to Cuba, support for the Hazard miners and the rank-and-file longshore strikers, the only group backing the Harlem Rebellion, the defiance of the bosses’ Grand Jury and HUAC, championing anti-racism and fighting police brutality in the Whitmore and Harlem Six cases — we were planting the seeds to grow the next step: organizing a revolutionary party.

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you guys are pussies

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChico De Gallo

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