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Letters of April 25

Afghan Women’s Fight Rages On

I recently saw film footage of women, waving red flags, without head coverings, marching joyfully on the streets of Kabul.  It was 1978. The People’s Democratic Party, (PDPA) a Marxist party, had just taken power after decades of building an anti-capitalist movement to end poverty and exploitation and to bring workers’ power to Afghanistan. 

Today women have lost the rights they worked years to gain. The rise of violence against women has led to high suicide rates. In the last 30 years Afghanistan has became a battleground between super-powers. The country is devastated; violence, poverty and unemployment prevail. A combination of external forces and internal PDPA mistakes created this situation. 

One glaring internal weakness was the PDPA became divided by the leadership’s personal egotism which focused more on building a power base than on developing a communist ideology. The energy of thousands of dedicated comrades was wasted in this internal struggle.

When the party came to power certain corrupt leaders brought in their own supporters who were interested in personal gain, not building a communist society. They imprisoned and killed those who opposed them and under the banner of communism these leaders and their gangs alienated the unorganized masses, opening them to the anti-communist propaganda of the Afghan ruling class, the imperialists and Arab fundamentalists. 

PLP, an international communist party, is learning from these past mistakes. PLP wants to build that party and link the fight of Afghan workers to their fellow workers worldwide. Join us.

Afghan Red

International Solidarity Marks Minnesota Occupy March

On January 28, in international solidarity with our working-class brothers and sisters of Tahir Square and our fellow anti-capitalists in Athens, London, Paris and Rome, the Minnesota Occupiers held Occupy Space Day in Minneapolis. It was thrilling!

A contingent of 70 demonstrators marched through the Steven Square and Eliot Park downtown neighborhoods protesting income inequality and housing evictions. Minneapolis has one of the Midwest’s highest eviction rates, after Chicago. Our demonstrators were men and women, black, white and bi-racial, union activists, workers and college students. While many were reformist in outlook, many others were anti-capitalists.

The Minneapolis cops harassed us initially but left before the march’s main event. In Eliot Park where the march ended there was an anti-capitalist speech declaring international solidarity with our working-class brothers and sisters in Egypt and with other global protestors against racist, imperialist capitalism.

The speech was in front of an abandoned church that Hennepin County declared county property. An unused church could be used as a workers’ cultural community center. However, the county bosses want to hold onto it rather than give it to workers, so we took it!

One speaker declared, “We take this property in the name of the Minneapolis oppressed!” The doors were forced open and we had a party! We held it until the cops forced us to clear out or be arrested. We all left together, orderly and disciplined.

Despite that outcome it was a small victory because workers are slowly learning we don’t have to take oppression, that we can collectively fight back. Workers took all the CHALLENGES I had. Personally the march and occupation made me think of the 1871 Paris Commune and the 1968 general strike in France.

This is a great time to be alive because the PLP will show millions of workers globally the revolutionary path to communism! 

Minnesota Red

Can’t ‘Wait and See’ While Bosses Close Hospital

Over one thousand  workers flocked to the auditorium at Downstate Hospital, so many that two more rooms had to be opened up to accommodate several hundred more via teleconference.  The administration had finally called a town hall meeting to talk about the proposed closing of the hospital, moving beds to the newly acquired Long Island College Hospital (LICH). Never in memory had so many of the Downstate community gathered for one event.

While nothing definite was announced regarding the closing or layoffs, the bosses proceeded to outline a grim economic situation for the hospitals’ Medicaid cuts, Medicare raids on the hospital, (auditing records and taking back funds paid for care provided years ago), low  patient census (something plaguing all hospitals in the city), and the “high cost of labor.” Earlier in the week Downstate President  LaRosa had fired off an e-mail announcing a hiring freeze, rumors about massive layoffs are rampant. The bosses angered workers by using this as a forum to ask us to sacrifice, work harder and “fill beds” in the hospital.

Three bosses,  LaRosa, CEO  Carey and CFO  Liztnitzer, who make hundreds of thousands per year each, said that one of the problems the hospital faces is a workforce that has pay and benefits that are too expensive!  When they acquired LICH they created a private company called Staffco to employ the workers there, making sure to maintain their lower level of benefits.

LaRosa said the administration wants to keep both hospitals open. But he also said they have many contingency plans. While he did not say this, one plan  attractive to them is moving services to LICH, effectively privatizing the workforce at a much lower level of benefits. Also he claims that a $140-million bequest was used to upgrade LICH plant (though those who work there deny this). LICH is a 500-bed hospital, but only 250 beds are open. As one worker said in the meeting, the average annual salary in Downstate’s neighborhood is $34,000 while the average salary in LICH’s neighborhood is $94,000.

Our response to these attacks cannot be “Wait and see.” We can’t let them pit Downstate workers against LICH workers. The bosses kept saying we are not two institutions, we are one. Well we need to demand of our unions CSEA, PEF, UUP, NYSNA and 1199 that workers at Downstate and LICH be united as one to fight the bosses’ attack on us and our patients.

We need to build a Downstate/LICH contingent at PLP’s May Day march through Flatbush on April 28th to build a movement that will exchange health care for profit for a communist system run by workers for workers.

SUNY worker

P.S. There was an error in last issue’s article about Downstate. The unions did not endorse Cuomo in the last election.

Ex-prisoners Picture A Communist System

Recently I attended a conference on the effects of mass incarceration in the U.S, something receiving great attention in liberal circles since the publication of Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Present were people recently released from prison and were part of a rehabilitation program, community residents, organizers from churches and prisoner-support groups and representatives from drug-reform NGOs.

We watched a film, “Voices of Abolition,” narrated primarily by Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore of Critical Resistance, an anti-prison organization that “seeks to abolish the Prison-Industrial-Complex” (http://criticalresistance.org). Their analysis of the role of drugs in imprisoning large numbers of black and Latino workers indicted capitalism, but although they did discuss eliminating prisons, they failed to mention getting rid of capitalism!

The film featured one prisoner re-entry program — A New Way of Life — begun by Susan Burton, an ex-prisoner herself, who purchased a house and made it a home for women just leaving prison. She’s organized several of these homes in Southern California.

In a workshop with women from one such home, residents were asked to draw large pictures of the kind of community they wanted to live in. They drew pictures of houses, gardens, schools, parks, playgrounds, health care centers, all planned as a community, but not one picture of someone making it rich, opening a business, becoming a movie star, or let alone going off to fight a war against workers in other countries. These women drew pictures of what communities under communism would look like!

I think CHALLENGE should include more articles depicting the structure of communist society. Yes, we must destroy capitalism, but we must also show how a communist society will address the needs of the working class.

In struggle, West Coast Comrade

How to Mobilize for May Day

A few comrades have been working in a non-profit group in our city for the past six years. The contradiction between the reformist Democratic Party politics of the non-profit and the revolutionary communist politics of the PLP and CHALLENGE is becoming clearer to our friends as we continue to participate in various events and campaigns together.

Our study group has grown to between 10 and 15 consistent participants. Our distribution of hand-to-hand CHALLENGEs and networks of friends has grown to 85 per issue. When we discuss and debate the Party’s ideas, our friends have the opportunity to observe how PLP relates to the working class and in the class struggle. They are beginning to understand how imperialist rivalry works and the inevitability of war as it relates to workers worldwide. Our study group’s goal this year is to mobilize 80 to 100 workers and their families for PLP’s May Day march and event.

PL’ers always insist that the working class must rely on itself, led by politically conscious workers who organize power from below. We must not rely on the politicians and their press who always serve the needs of the capitalists. PL’ers fight to put this idea into practice in the fight against attacks on workers on the job, unemployment, budget cuts and racism. Progress is slow, but we are growing, determined and committed.

A comrade

Union Retirees Lead in Honoring Trayvon Martin

The March 27 delegates’ assembly meeting of AFSCME’s District Council 37 was discussing its normal business. As a non-voting retiree delegate, I asked for a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin. The reaction of the other delegates was stunned approval. The leadership must have been embarrassed because I pointed out it was unusual for such a call to be made from a delegate rather than one of its leaders. 

After the moment of silence, I said the retiree executive board had voted to send a letter to Trayvon’s parents expressing our sympathy and outrage at their loss. I urged the leadership of the 110,000 members of DC 37 to do likewise and each of the other 56 locals of this council to also take action. I closed by saying I was sick of the numbers of young black men who have been murdered under similar circumstances.

After I spoke, I was approached my many other delegates and who thanked me (an older white male) for speaking out.

Red Retiree

Fascistic Movies: Thatcher to Shakespeare to Hoover

I want to call people’s attention to the fascist movies that the bosses have been pushing. The  “Iron Lady,” which uses the considerable talents of Meryl Streep to present Margaret “Murderer” Thatcher as a hero. She is shown crushing the miners’ strike, destroying the social network, and starting wars to prevent an uprising. We are supposed to feel sorry for her because she is suffering from dementia. But in the end, the net effect is to feel sorry for her more than the people whose lives she destroyed. 

Another fascist movie is “Coriolanus,” based on a Shakespeare play, in his most reactionary mode. Again, pretending to be a critique of the strong macho warrior, it ends up showing his call for dictatorship in ancient Rome. The masses are shown as gullible fools easily manipulated by the Peoples Tribunes who are shown as corrupt. In the end, his fascist approach is shown to be correct. Though he is brutally killed, his vicious anti-people ideas still live. 

Finally, there is J. Edgar Hoover, starring Matt Damon. Again a ruthless fascist evildoer is presented in a sympathetic light, reflecting KKKlint Eastwood’s ideology that even though the law may be used to do injustice, you can’t have democracy without it. Hoover’s role in allowing the beating and killing of civil rights workers, his vicious framing of members of the Communist Party, his collaboration with the Mafia, and his destruction of the Black Panther Party are all swept under the rug. 

And in the opening scene, the movie perpetuates the lie that Bolsheviks were responsible for bombings and destruction of property. 

As in “The Iron Lady,” fascist repression is presented as the best response to bank robbers, kidnappers, and terrorists. Their view is that fascism is the best alternative to anarchy that will emerge if the revolutionary communists move to organize the masses. But as PLP gets bigger with million of workers answering the call of the red flag during this time of racist imperialist anarchy, all the Iron Ladies, Coriolani, or FBI agents won’t be able to stop us.

Red Movie Buff

Occupiers Shout Down Racist Governor

Occupy American University (AU) took on racist Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona and won! Brewer recently signed into law SB1070, a racist piece of legislation legalizing racial profiling against anyone who may appear to “look” illegal by the police. On February 24, students walking home from their evening classes were supported by forty peers chanting, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay!  Jan Brewer go away!”  

When the College Republicans invited Brewer to speak on campus, Occupy AU responded by organizing around the question “Do I look illegal to you?”  They spilled out of the main building after they crashed Jan Brewer’s speech on “illegal immigration.” As the protest continued just outside of where the governor was speaking, students climbed to the roof of the building and hung a banner as allies told stories about the hardships immigrant workers struggle with in the U.S. 

Chris, a student at AU, reflected on the success of the evening saying that many of his peers “have been pacified and tricked into thinking everyone has equal access to free speech.” Chris was ecstatic because things were beginning to change on campus. “We engaged Jan Brewer and won,” he continued. “For the first time ever, the people shouted down Jan Brewer’s expression-oppression.”  

AU Occupier

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