Thursday
May172018

Letters of May 30

Israel May Day

Two hundred people marched in southern Tel-Aviv to mark May Day and to show the ruling class that we, the workers, refuse to be invisible. In the bosses’ society and media, we who build everything and provide every service are invisible while the rich dominate the media. We marched to show otherwise.
The march was small and led by liberal and fake-left misleaders. But, it was multiracial— including Israeli Jewish, Arab, and Black migrant workers. Some slogans included “the answer to privatization—revolution!” and “invest in the [slum] neighborhoods and not in prisons and deportations!” We marched as part of the Coalition for Direct Employment, a multi-racial, women-led organization fighting to smash exploitative contract bosses.
One PL’er spoke about how she’s fighting contract bosses and mall bosses who employ her in deplorable conditions in housekeeping.
As the brutal crisis on our sisters and brothers in Gaza worsen, as this apartheid state crushes Black, Arab, and Jewish workers alike, we need communism more than ever.

*****

PL shuts down politician at Haymarket Square
The “official” labor movement in the United States truly is in sorry shape. This fact was crystal clear at the May Day kick-off rally this year at the Haymarket workers memorial in Chicago.
The union hack misleaders had the gall to invite gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker, a capitalist politician whose family has profited in the billions from their exploitation of workers, to speak on the international workers’ holiday.
As soon as Pritzker was poised to address the workers, a comrade from our Progressive Labor Party contingent boldly took to the bullhorn to shout him down. “Workers died on this spot fighting for their rights and their liberation! You don’t get to be here! Get the fu*k out of here!!” At first Pritzker tried to deflect what was going on and spew some of his lies, but the confrontation proved too militant and he was forced to make a hasty retreat.
After Pritzker bailed, various union hacks responded to our action with verbal attacks and got in the comrade’s face. The union was even successful in getting some of the workers that they brought around to start chanting “JB! JB! JB!” in defense of that capitalist scum.
But on the other hand, various workers came up to us after the confrontation settled down, thanking our comrade and the Party for saying what needed to be said and taking an issue of CHALLENGE.
It was another clear lesson on the need to continue taking bold actions as a Party, as well as the need to continue being involved in the unions in order to build class consciousness among workers, winning them away from the idea of a capitalist political “savior” and instead towards real workers’ power through communist revolution.
*****
May Day dinner: Korean Peninsula a hotspot for rivals
Our small May Day dinner in the Midwest was a success. The main speech was on ‘What the Korean peace talks mean, and why PLP fights against all forms of imperialism.’ This speech focused on North Korean boss Kim Jong-un as a capitalist dictator, and South Korean boss Moon Jae-in as a lackey of U.S. imperialism, and how the working class in the Korean peninsula should reject all bosses. I remember a saying by German anti-fascist playwright Berthold Brecht: “When rulers talk peace, you better get your helmets.”
The U.S. imperialists might gain a short-term geopolitical advantage on the Korean Peninsula,  but China and Russia will benefit in the long term against weakened U.S. imperialism. U.S. trade wars led by fascist-in-chief Donald Trump are a flashpoint that could lead to world war.
Only communist revolution led by PLP can give the international working class a fighting chance against a nuclear world war. One multiracial international working class, one party, PLP!
****

Friday
Mar232018

LETTERS OF APRIL 4

Janus case shows splits in the ruling class
On February 24, I joined several thousand workers at Foley Square in NYC to protest the attack on unions represented by the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, which is expected to end the collection of “agency fees,” the money non-members pay to unions to represent them in bargaining and contract enforcement. This is part of a decades-long project to weaken unions through “right-to-work” laws and other obstacles to union representation. The targets in the Janus case are public sector unions, because 34.4 percent of government employees are unionized, compared to only 6.5 percent in the private sector. Right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, the Walton and Coors families, and Richard Uihlein are paying the legal expenses of the Janus plaintiffs. The capitalists want to:
1. Weaken public unions in order to reduce wages, benefits and job protections of members. The median earnings for a two-income, non-union family are currently $400 a week less than that of a union family. Reducing the pay, health benefits and pensions of government workers is part of a larger plan to reduce taxes on corporations and the very rich.
2. Reduce the influence of public unions in lobbying for more money for education, health care and other social services.
Two days later, I traveled with members of my union to demonstrate on the steps of the Supreme Court. Hundreds of unionists from AFSCME, SEIU, TWU, CWA, AFT and NEA chanted  “The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated,” drowning out the small group of college Republicans and Heritage Foundation staff who chanted “Stand With Mark” (Mark Janus is the right-wing worker whose name is on the suit). The pro-Janus crowd was almost all-white, while our group was multiracial. It’s significant since Black workers are 30 percent more likely than whites to have a public sector job. So the Janus attack on public unions is also racist.
Everyone in our union group realized that our rally was too little, too late. For months, the leaders of the major public unions failed to mobilize their members for militant action. Many unions didn’t even organize members to come to the last-minute rallies. What if millions of public workers had walked off the job like the West Virginia teachers did? Then the conversation at the Supreme Court would have been a little different.
A section of the U.S. bosses want to cripple the labor unions. This has been their aim for decades. The Koch family helped form the Tea Party. In 1955, Koch was one of the founders of the National Right to Work Committee, one of the anti-labor organizations bringing the current Janus suit.
Other capitalists worry that crippling unions will make it harder for labor leaders to maintain “labor peace” and persuade their member to accept “no-strike pledges.” The AFSCME lawyer presenting the anti-Janus argument at the Supreme Court was explicit: “Union security is the tradeoff for no strikes. And so if you were to override Abood, you can raise an untold specter of labor unrest throughout the country.”
The New York Times, and capitalists like Warren Buffet, are worried that weakened public unions will be less able to support the Democratic Party, which derails social protest and rebellion by offering false hope that capitalism can be reformed. Beneath this is their worry that millions of workers could reject capitalism and embrace communist leaders, who led many of the unions in the past.
These rulers are worried not only about the “specter of labor unrest,” but about the “specter of communism” that continues to haunt them 170 years after Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto. As communists, we are active in unions because we know Marx was right, that workers’ revolution offers us the only viable future.
*****
The Supreme Court is not your friend
Most working class youth are lied to and taught that the court is a fair part of the state apparatus—the government of the capitalist class—unlike squabbling congress, filled with bought-and-sold sleazy politicians, or a presidency occupied by a racist fool. We are told that the court rises above both the legislative and executive branches as the judge of both.
Beneath the veneer of impartiality, the Supreme Court historically and consistently serves the interest of the capitalists who own all the means of producing economic value. The function of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate important disputes about the set of rules that guarantee capitalist class control over both the economy and government. Some of those disputes are between different wings or different policies competing for dominance within the ruling class; others are disputes between capitalists and workers.
The history of the Supreme Court is one of protecting the interests of the wealthy owners. That was clear in 1857, when the Court protected the interests of wealthy slave owners in the Dred Scott case, when it ruled that any of the four million slaves brought to a “free state” (one that had abolished slavery) remained the property of his or her owner. In the 2010 Citizens United case, the court ruled that corporations could not be limited in how much money they donated to political campaigns, making it even easier for billionaires to maintain control over who’s elected to congress and for the presidency.
All of the current Supreme Court Justices are graduates of law schools at Harvard, Yale or Columbia, universities that have trained generations of executives of major U.S. corporations and leading members of the U.S. political class. Before being named to the court, most of the Justices served as corporate lawyers and are naturally friendly to business. The Roberts Court (named after Chief Justice John Roberts) deepens this tradition. A study published in the Minnesota Law Review that rigorously examined 2,000 decisions found the court to be “far friendlier to business than those of any court since at least World War II.”
In the Janus v. AFSCME case, the Court is poised to hand a victory to the wing led by the Koch Brothers and the Walton Family. They would prefer to see unions demolished, as opposed to the Rockefellers, Morgans and other families, who would keep unions in their tame and controlled state.
Whatever the decision in Janus, it’s important for workers to realize how all three branches of government are used against us.
It is we, the workers of the whole world, who will hold the key to which class rules. We have nothing to lose but our chains, and the majesty of the Supreme Courts of the world will go the way of the divine right of kings when workers led by the communist PLP break the chains of the wage and profit system!


Friday
Mar092018

Letters of March 21

Racism at a restaurant
I always knew there was racism, but I had never really seen it up close until that day. I was coming from my middle school orientation to learn everything I needed to know for sixth grade next year. My mother’s boyfriend and I were heading home when Ma called and suggested we go out for some food at Cooper’s Hawk. I LOVE it there since they let me sit in the Grown-Ups side. Then the usual, we ordered drinks and food. I ordered the angel hair with a side of a fruit cup.
But something caught our attention. Three cops surrounded these two Black ladies. The cops were asking one of them to leave or she would be arrested, and then they escorted both of them out of the restaurant. We walked out to see what was going on and we saw the two women standing there. My mom talked to them and said “F*ck this shit, it is just fu*king racism” and the two ladies said “Yeah, f*ck this shit” and then apologized for their language around me.
I said “It’s ok, I have heard worse.”
Then my mom asked who they were and why did they get escorted out by the police? They said they did not even know. They were at the bar  just getting a birthday tasting. A stranger gave them his tasting and that is when someone complained about them.
As we were talking, one of the women said “ You know what, I want to go find out why I was kicked out.” So she went in to ask the bartender why was she kicked out. We followed her. She asked why and the bartender  said nothing. Then the manager came and said “I thought the cops escorted you out.” My mom was trying to talk to him but he deliberately ignored her.
That day in school we had just learned about people’s rights. When they are arrested, they must be read their Miranda Rights. But the manager called the cops and they arrested her without blinking. She kept asking, “Why am I being arrested?” But they ignored her and did not even read her Miranda Rights. You might be thinking maybe they read it in the car, but you would be wrong.
When my mom said you need to read her the Miranda Rights, they said “We don’t do that. We don’t know what you are talking about.”
Then my mom started screaming her butt off, saying the woman needed to know why she was being arrested. The woman was all calm and my mother was shouting, but they arrested the Black woman. They took her away to the Oak Lawn police. As we drove my mom said how this world is messed up and cops don’t care about your rights.
She said this is a good lesson to learn. Racism is everywhere and the cops are racist. I didn’t think I’d see it or they’d treat women that way. It was very upsetting, but it reminds me why we always have to fight back.
*****
Four women preceded Rosa Parks
Claudette Colvin grew up in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. On March 2, 1955, when she was 15 years old, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith did the same and were arrested, as was Colvin. When Rosa Parks was arrested, the NAACP considered her most suitable for a test court case. But Colvin, Browder, McDonald and Smith have largely been left out of the history books.
Also largely missing from the history books is the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott where the riders were 80 percent Black. For eight days Black workers and students rode in free taxis or private cars or walked to protest the segregated busses. Not only was the segregation law significantly weakened, bus the Baton Rouge action inspired and was a model for the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
Similar to Baton Rouge, in Montgomery over 75 percent of the bus ridership was Black. Parks refused to move on a Thursday. That weekend members of the Women’s Political Council stayed up all night mimeographing (old fashioned photocopying) 35,000 leaflets calling for a bus boycott on Monday. Sunday morning the word was gotten out to all the Black churches. By Monday morning the boycott was on and lasted for 381 days.
In February 1956 attorney Fred Gray filed a landmark federal lawsuit (Browder v. Gale). The Parks lawsuit was bogged down in state courts. On December 17, 1956 the U. S. Supreme Court ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama. Claudette Colvin was a star witness. On December 21, 1956 the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended.
Rosa Parks got experience from the anti-racist struggles of the 1930s led by the Communist Party. The biggest was the worldwide fight to free the Scottsboro Boys, eight young Black men falsely accused of raping a white woman. Parks attended some Communist Party meetings. According to Black historian Robin Kelley “the infrastructure that was laid forward becomes the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, was laid in many ways, …by the Communist Party” in the 1930s (NPR, 2/16/2010).
*****
U.S. orchestrated Iran Coup
The March 7 issue of CHALLENGE reports, “in 1953, the U.S. backed a coup in Iran that brought the murderous Shah into power.” Actually, the CIA orchestrated the coup.
Prime Minister Muhammad Mossedegh had nationalized the oil industry which had been controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company The British asked senior CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (a grandson of Teddy Roosevelt) to lead a covert operation to force out Mossedegh. The go-ahead was given by a committee composed of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, CIA director Allan Dulles and Secretary of “Defense” Charles Wilson.
In 1946, the Shah had fled to Iraq. On August 19, 1953, Roosevelt picked up the Shah — bribing him with $1,000,000 to carry out the coup to overthrow Mossedegh — and drove him to the palace, covered in the back seat with a blanket. Pro-coup gangs in the streets — financed and organized by the CIA — took the Shah from the basement where Roosevelt was hiding him and carried him upstairs to return the Shah to power.
In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said, “In 1953, the U.S. played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister Mossedegh.” (FAS.org archives July 7, 1915)
Just another example of the U.S. overturning of an elected government on behalf of U.S. and British oil interests.
*****

Thursday
Feb082018

Letters of February 21

Rallies vs. Bosses’ Slaughter of Muslim Workers in Yemen
Nothing exposes the vicious, racist brutality of imperialist rivalry like the genocidal civil war in Yemen. The U.S. is supporting Saudi Arabia to keep Yemen and its oil out of the hands of Iran. Meanwhile, over 100,000 children have been killed, famine is widespread, and there is the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.
On January 30 there were two demonstrations in New York City protesting these murderous acts by the U.S. government against Muslims. About 50 people, outside the offices of Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, demanded an end to US complicity with the Saudi Arabian bombing campaign in Yemen. There were members present of the NYC Action Corps, the United Auto Workers union, the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY, Jewish Voices for Peace and other organizations, but thankfully no politician’s representative deigned to speak to the crowd. We don’t need politicians promoting themselves and voting as solutions to these imperialist wars. We need more and more people building a mass movement against these imperialist wars that are leading us ever closer to a world war, likely with nuclear weapons.
An hour later, about 100 protestors, including the Arab-American Association, gathered in Washington Square Park against Trumps Muslim ban, where speakers told tales of family separation and inability to find sanctuary from oppression.
Challenges were distributed at both rallies and a few new friends were made. Let’s get more of our friends to turn these wars between imperialist powers into a revolutionary class war for communism, a system run by and for the working class.
*****
Disagreement over Union Leadership
I disagree with the CUNY article (1/10). The article presents the Bronx rally as being opposed to the leadership that called the December 4 event.
The author makes a big deal out a tactical issue: whether to have rallies on individual campuses or have a city-wide demonstration of hundreds of members and supporters that marched to the CUNY Board of Trustees hearing. The union leadership is not “leading us to passivity and to accepting, rather than fighting, the terrible conditions that we face.” Passive leaders don’t call for rallies and marches at all. And passive leaders also don’t call for $7,000 a course for adjuncts, which would more than double their salaries and would be unprecedented at a public university.

It is true that one speaker in the Bronx raised the issue of striking, which would be a violation of the Taylor Law and subject the PSC to massive fines. The article’s implicit suggestion that it’s only the leaders preventing a strike is misleading.
The article is so intent on lambasting the union “bosses” that it neglects to say a word about the main obstacle to obtaining better conditions at CUNY for both employees and students: the capitalists and the politicians who work for them. Although NYC is the home to more billionaires than any other city on earth, CUNY is starved of funds and the PSC is confronting the following reality:
• The Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently vetoed a bill that would have provided millions more in funding for CUNY, and he has engineered a state budget deficit of $4.5 billion, so he’ll be able to say he has no money to raise the salaries of adjuncts.
• Trump’s federal tax bill and budget will result in serious losses of revenue to NYS.
The author might have provided a serious critique of the leadership strategy, but chose to make unfair accusations instead, even ludicrously suggesting that PSC leaders are “capitalists of one stripe or another.” This is sectarianism at its worse.


CHALLENGE RESPONSE: You’re correct in criticizing the emphasis placed on tactical disagreements. The article would’ve been stronger had it described how PLP is building a strategic alternative for communist revolution, and how that informed their tactical criticism of the PSC.
However, the point of the article is that PLP is building the only alternative to capitalism—not how “active” the PSC leaders are in calling for this and that. Why take such offense to an attack on union bosses? PL’ers are hardly the only people to criticize the union for being passive—just ask CUNY adjuncts and students. Our criticism comes from a place of understanding a hard lesson from the old communist movement: liberal bosses, which include union misleaders, are the working class’s main danger.
PLP fights to earn the mass leadership of students, workers, and faculty on the road to communism. PL’ers organize on campuses and in unions like the PSC, join antiracist fights against budget cuts and tuition increases. We use CHALLENGE to build communist ideas like workers’ power, and the necessity of strikes and breaking the bosses’ laws to train our class for revolutionary struggles.
Class struggles sometimes result in important, but temporary, gains like reforms and liberal unions. But only a mass PLP can lead our class to communism. Struggling for that isn’t sectarian. On the contrary, it would be dishonest to sell CHALLENGE readers the false idea of PSC union exceptionalism.

Friday
Jan262018

Letters of February 7

Los Angeles: the struggle to march at MLK parade
Every year around January 15 in Los Angeles, there is a parade in South Central in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. With many political weaknesses, King at the very least did believe in open confrontation with the government and police. Despite this legacy of fightback, the powers that be have depoliticized the parade. Bands and step squads perform, politicians wave from luxury vehicles, and people give away beads and candy to spectators.
This year was different. There was a glimpse of antiracism.
A coalition of different groups throughout the city decided that it was about time to stop treating MLK day as just another holiday without acknowledging the continued fight against racism and its manifestations today. Some unions, anti-racist groups, and student coalitions banded together in one section of the parade with signs that addressed racism, poverty and police terror. They chanted antiracist slogans through the length of the parade route.
The Progressive Labor Party has been pushing for more left politics within these groups for a number of years. The group was created as a result of a PL’er demanding that a union take an official stand against racist police terror. The organization organized forums of hundreds of Black and Latin youth who discussed the racism in their schools and community. When the idea to organize fightback was raised, the campaign to end random search in schools was born.
Since then, there have been many steps forward and some steps backwards. A disagreement arose in the organization about attending the MLK parade at all. Initially, they planned on walking with a banner.
After some struggle about being too complicit with the air of political pacifism the parade has had for so many years, the group decided not to participate at all.
Then, some put forward the idea of having a political march within the parade, with signs and chants. About 200 or so people marched, armed with these ideas. Not everyone in the group attended.
This goes to show that a struggle, no matter how small or how long, has the potential to be intensified towards its most progressive elements. A struggle takes time and you can take steps backwards at times. Any time we can ratchet up, and sustain, a fight outside of the boundaries and rules that the bosses are comfortable with, we are progressing.

We must continue with the work because that is the only way we can advance towards a world without racism and capitalism, a communist world. And we must win.
*****

Hypertension: a matter of racism and capitalism
Recently, the two major heart associations in the U.S., the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, and nine other societies have released new guidelines on the management of high blood pressure.
The management of hypertension is important to workers and revolutionaries, as it is one of the main causes of disability and death, not just in the U.S. but also around the world. It is not possible to be effective in building the Party and fighting for communism if one is seriously ill from one of the consequences of hypertension including peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.  
Hypertension is a disease of racism, capitalism, poverty, and stress. It is not common in indigenous societies that have been isolated from the psychological and socio-economic stresses of class society.
Income and capacity to afford healthy food, including where one lives, are the major drivers of cardiovascular risk seen in people who do not have access to a healthy diet. People who live in what is called a “food desert” are disproportionately working class and Black. The problems are not just poor access to healthy food due to availability and cost, but the stresses of unemployment, racism, poor housing and healthcare. All are results of a capitalist society where the unhealthiest foods are the least expensive and the most profitable (Alternet, 8/21/13).
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) replete with fresh fruits and vegetables and low salt meals is much more expensive than the junk food with which we are bombarded. Junk food is loaded with salt so that we consume more than we need. Food portions at fast-food joints are much larger than we need. This is deliberate on the part of the purveyors of fast food. Junk food includes food that is packaged in plastic bags such as potato chips, pretzels, etc. Even when the package says, “No added salt.” it does not mean there is no salt. Processed foods are also bad for our health, especially processed meats (NYT, 1/2).  
Eating healthy is something that can be done with our working-class sisters and brothers. It is a way of showing that we care about our comrades and co-workers. It should be presented in terms of staying healthy so that we can focus on revolutionary activity and taking care of our friends and family. It is political. It will help build the Party as it focusses on the fact that capitalism is bad for our health.

*****