Friday
Jan262018

Letters of January 24

Cuba today, an eyewitness account
I recently traveled to Cuba to participate in a program sponsored by MEDICC, Medical Education in Cooperation with Cuba. They were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the organization that promotes communication between healthcare workers in Cuba and the United States.
As a communist myself, I thought of what it means to be in a country that claims to be communist. It would be easy to dismiss Cuba as the product of a revisionist false ideology of Castro and Che Guevara. However, something can be learned from the Cuban experience, starting with the 1959 revolution to the present.
Initially Cuba did not claim to have had a revolution. But shortly after the overthrow of the brutal capitalist gangster regime of Fulgencio Batista (who was backed by the U.S.), Cuba allied with the Soviet Union, which under Khrushchev turned state capitalist. That said, Cuba under Castro went about building a country with new management. Property of the rich, including industry, was confiscated. Most Cubans were suffering badly without any healthcare to speak of under Batista. Cubans with money who had something to lose left for Miami if they could.
Given this background, here are some positive observations about Cuba. Cuba has built a health system that is the envy of Latin America and much of the world, with health outcomes comparable to much larger industrialized nations. Maternal/infant mortality is better than the U.S. average. Doctors and other staff take care of patients in primary care neighborhood clinics. They either live above or within walking distance of the clinic. They know their patients because they too are part of the community. There is health care for all and the focus is prevention. Pregnant women often live in group homes where close monitoring of the pregnancy is provided and good nutrition is guaranteed.
Cuba has monuments to the leaders, with an obvious reverence for Fidel and Che. There are other monuments too. We visited a museum and large monument with statues commemorating the 1843 rebellion led by an enslaved woman named Carlota Lucumí. Carlota led a slave rebellion that started in her sugar cane plantation and then moved onto several others. Unfortunately the army crushed the revolt. It struck me that monuments like this should replace the ones in the U.S. South that commemorate the slave-owning Confederacy. The Carlota monument should be emulated in the U.S. with one to Nat Turner or John Brown. In fact, the Cuban army under Castro intervened in support of the rebels in Angola and named their mission Operation Carlota.
The Cuban health system exports itself to other countries in terms of providing healthcare, including Venezuela and Brazil. We heard from a woman physician that led a relief mission in Pakistan after the earthquake several years ago. Another doctor described leading a mission to assist in the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. There is a medical school in Cuba that trains doctors from dozens of countries, including the U.S. Some students pay tuition. Others, including the 20 U.S. students, do not. Castro agreed to train students from the U.S. in a six- to seven-year program tuition free in exchange for the promise of returning to the U.S. to practice in underserved areas. One speaker stated, “we are a communist country.” It is rare to hear that word used.
Wages are very low in healthcare (including for doctors). Often those working in service or tourism industries make more money. However, healthcare and housing is virtually guaranteed. The condition of housing varies, from the beautifully maintained home (helped by remittances from relatives sending back money from the U.S.) to the broken down. There is a false claim that racism does not exist in Cuba; more lucrative jobs go to lighter-skinned individuals. Many LGBTQ rights are not recognized in Cuba.
There is much more that could be said, but the Cuban experience regarding basic needs such as housing, food, and health care is positive. Interestingly, areas of Cuba lost power with some major damage in the recent hurricane season, but it was restored within a few days (unlike Puerto Rico).
There is a certain level of cooperation and solidarity within the population that enabled the Cuban people to somewhat overcome the long-standing embargo with very limited resources. I recommend a visit there. It is humbling to witness the residue left from workers’ fightback. Although not a communist country, much can be learned from the workers in Cuba and their 60-year struggle for a better life.
*****
Workers fight tax cuts for the rich
Along with 14 others, I was voluntarily arrested as part of a larger demonstration of hundreds of people who are furious over a tax give-away to the huge corporations and the ultra-wealthy. The union I am part of, Professional Staff Congress, played a major role in organizing the protest. Chants of “Tax the Rich, Not the Poor, We Won’t Take It Anymore!” and “Kill the Bill!” filled the plaza.
The richest 1 percent of the U.S. population already has $33 trillion in wealth, and they will receive 83 percent of the bill’s tax benefits. By raising the deficit, tax cuts for the rich will trigger automatic cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs. The capitalists couldn’t care less about the elderly who rely on their social security checks to pay their rent and eat, or the sick poor who will be cut off Medicaid.
We talked politics for five hours while waiting to be released:
• Although the Democrats opposed this particular tax bill, they do not oppose tax cuts for the big corporations. Obama had wanted to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 28 percent. He established the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles commission, with nine Democrats and nine Republicans. The commission proposed cutting $341 billion in Medicare spending and $268b in spending for Social Security by raising the retirement age to 69 and lowering benefits. Obama was ready to accept the recommendations, but the GOP killed the deal.
• More significantly, the Democrats protect capitalism, which allows a sliver of the population—.01 percent (one out of ten thousand people)—to own   $6 trillion in wealth. This is the U. S. ruling class. The Democrats are every bit as guilty as the Republicans in propping up a system that inevitably produces racist and sexist inequality and countless imperialist wars to expand their profits.
• There is no way to reform the system so that working people have a secure, decent life free of exploitation, racism and sexism and other ills. We have a ways to go before we can smash capitalism, but struggles like these and conversations with our friends take us one step closer.
*****

Friday
Jan262018

Letters of January 10

Greetings from Comrade Camacho
On the day of the centennial celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution in Brooklyn (see page 4), coincidentally, I received a package from our comrade Epifanio Camacho giving revolutionary greetings. He was a leader in the National Farm Workers Association. He led struggles that led up to the famous farm-worker strikes in the 1960s and 1970s and his subsequent expulsion from the UFW by Cesar Chavez for organizing farm workers for something much more profound and important than reforms. In the mid 1970s, Camacho joined the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and has helped organize many workers into the ranks of international communism through his efforts as a party organizer.
Today, reading what he sent, I was struck by the parallel lessons we have learned from farmworkers here as well as by the valiant comrades in the Soviet Union. If it were not for the Soviets leading our path, we might as well be fighting for socialism today—stopping short at a better wage system.
Farmworkers here have shown us courageous struggles and the necessity to go beyond reforms, uniting immigrant workers and citizen workers to smash borders. Camacho’s politics were beyond that of the more publicized “leader” Cesar Chavez of the NFWA. Long before joining the union, Camacho fought the rose-production bosses against their thieving practices. For example, the bosses promised a bonus of $2 per thousand rose grafts IF the grafts proved 90 percent successful the following year! Though the plants survived, year after year, the bosses never followed through. Camacho led this fight alongside a handful of workers. For his efforts Camacho was blacklisted not only from rose fields, but all agricultural bosses’ crops. In the spring of 1965, he had to steal food from the fields at night so that he and his wife and their two daughters could eat. For more on the life struggles of Epifanio Camacho, read Autobiography of a Communist: Communists are Made, not Born. Available at www.plp.org.
Later, hundreds followed his leadership in a strike demanding a contract for the NFWA giving wage increases. He had confidence that the skilled grafting workers would never scab, but Chavez cut the strike short to three days. Chavez also betrayed the fight by settling for a promise of higher wages without a contract.
Camacho was undiscouraged. He wasn’t even disappointed that the blacklist against him in the roses remained in effect. He told his friends, “be prepared because strikes are contagious.”
There were more than 63 “labor disputes” in California in 1965. Despite these hard-fought efforts, official wages during these years rose from an average of $1.33 an hour to only $1.50! We are encouraged by the history of workers here who have fought for unions. But we will never forget the need to point the way from a slave wage system to communism.
*****
The Story of the Chicken
While building the party there are steps or events we leave out or don’t realize are part of base building process. We don’t noticed our communist morals playing a role in our everyday life. Is it base building or is it your working-class morals that are at play on any given day? I would like to think they are one and the same.
We develop theories on how to win people in our base to fight the good fight and not just reform. Yes, CHALLENGE is a good base building tool but what practice leads up to introducing a person to CHALLENGE? I would would say it’s chicken! Yes chicken is what leads to CHALLENGE being introduced to another person. Please let me explain.
It’s past the hundred-year anniversary of the great October Revolution. The Bolshevik comrades that led the way didn’t do it by publishing a newspaper. Their newspaper might have been the twitter of their time, but neither waving the paper nor tweeting will lead to revolution. The pre-twitter comrades got their hands dirty, as should we. They broke bread with the same workers they wanted to win over. They shared dinner, difficult working conditions, stories, and traditions with their base.
They didn’t lead how the rich lead. They were not standing on the hilltops winning people over. They were in the trenches. We need to be in the trenches. We need this, and everything else we write and say, to be discussed in the trenches.
I’m not just talking about the trenches of some war the bosses make us fight for their profit. The trenches are the streets, your job, your school, your hospital, your fightback, and everywhere else you have been building a base.
In the trenches of my current transit job, the rules (traditions with a more aggressive approach) are you buy chicken under three occasions: if you’re new to the location; if you break a jerry (sledgehammer); and if your work anniversary comes up.
Now I could have just said no. However, what would that do for me? It’s the workers’ tradition. Am I not a worker? Do I not want to build with my fellow co-workers?
I saw first hand how they talked about the one worker who didn’t buy chicken. That worker was not “in.” In order to build with my co-workers; I needed to be in. They needed to know that I could come through for them. I bought that chicken and some sides. Did it improve my base? Will this lead to the CHALLENGEs for everyone? Only time will tell but workers gave me an opportunity to relate. If I can relate then maybe so can my fightback. Let’s build this movement but let’s not downplay the small things that can lead to workers relying on each other and future victories.
*****
Oakland Celebrates Bolshevik Centennial
Some comments from participants at the celebration of the hundred-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Oakland:
After learning about the Republican tax bill passed in the dead of night, it felt like good medicine to dine and discuss fight back with a hall full of people dedicated to a better society. Shout out to a disabled comrade as they played your track, “I’m a worker” in which you spit hot fire for disability justice!
After a great discussion against racism, sexism and fascism, we listened to Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. It seemed appropriate after the short film, “Fight like Ferguson.”
*
At the time when capitalism is robbing the poor to give to the rich, it is beautiful and hopeful to see more and new faces, especially young people recognizing the need for communism to destroy capitalism. The PLP celebration of 100 years of the Bolshevik Revolution was a gain and I hope to see the party growing to achieve our goal, smash capitalism.
*
Thanks for including us. It was a great program. I think the idea of discussing how workers can run the economy and guide the society towards a common goal of taking care of all, uplifting those oppressed, and preserving the ecology should be a topic of further discussion in future meeting, in my opinion.
*
The Progressive Labor Party’s celebration was a wonderful and educational event. We examined the past and the present history of class struggle through a diverse set of lenses. We shared these stories through pictures, songs, and speeches. I learned a lot that night and had a fantastic time!
*****
Welcome to Therapy: Fighting Mass & Individual Cynicism
Capitalist blues. The daily terror campaign from that orange Hair Führer. Lack of confidence combined with deep cynicism. Whatever you call it, we live in profoundly subjective times.
One answer the bosses provide, a Kool-Aid I drink, is therapy. I’ve been going to a nice liberal shrink for longer than I’m going to admit and still manage to be miserable. Capitalism is a cesspool of hypocrisy, lies, and dispossession. The system chips away at our class and individual ability to make change and own our destinies. So, we develop maladaptive behaviors to stay sane, some more than others (like me). But no one is truly sane in an inhumane and insane system. (Under communism will we begin to fathom what we are capable of doing, thinking, and creating.) In reaction, we choose the comfort of individualism, which proves to be just a Band-Aid anyway.
Therapists are not your friends. They will be useful ruling-class tools under growing fascism. Therapy sells you the dream that happiness is an inside job. Isolate yourself in the Redwoods or Green Mountains to find inner peace. (Yea, that doesn’t sound lonely at all.) Self-actualization, they call it. Understand your deepest darkest parts, and stay confused of the dark times around you.
Therapists will openly admit their concern is your health—not your friends’, co-workers’, or wife’s. And they definitely don’t care about the health of the class struggle. Stressed? Don’t go to so many protests; take a bubble bath instead. Do you, boo. Unable to commit to a relationship? It’s your mother’s fault.
Joy is a collective job. It lives with the working class. Growing through sh*t is part of the capitalist package—some more than others because of racism and sexism. The system isn’t just about wage slavery. Marx and Engels had a name for it: alienation (it covered both the economic and political condition. Yea, your subjectivity is a political thing.)
So what does this mean in a time when our class is beaten down? To be honest, I don’t have the answers. That’s why I read CHALLENGE. But I do know my attitude and mood have a relationship with my involvement in the class struggle.
The kind of confidence we need as a class happens in a process where we fight together and stretch outside the borders of what the ruling class finds manageable. If we fight the false comforts, and confront our shortcomings in an honest, collective way, we stand a chance to be useful to our class, our kids, and ourselves. We got to weather this unstable climate.
Communists are not immune from this toxic system. We can’t let the bosses win by becoming toxic ourselves. “The revolutionary must destroy the rut or the rut will destroy the revolutionary.”
Open yourself up to those around you. A shrink is a poor substitute for the real therapy of class struggle. There is no glorious short cut; it’s an ordinary and protracted process. We can choose comfort. Or we can have struggle, connection, and a little bit of courage to put our ideas and our flawed selves out there. We can get cozy with a beer and a binge on Stranger Things. Or we can learn to face discomfort, change ourselves, and contribute to a fighting atmosphere in this turbulent climate.
*****

Friday
Dec082017

Letters of December 20

Healthcare Worker and Marie Fired In Retaliation
Marie Trinidad, a respiratory therapist, was fired from Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. She worked there for seven years and was active in a petition drive demanding more staff and equipment, which she helped present to the board of directors at their annual meeting. This struggle resulted in a temporary improvement in the number of staff and more equipment was purchased by the respiratory care department, as well as some staff members getting a raise. But the reforms won under capitalism (i.e. the dictatorship of the bosses) are temporary. Working conditions have deteriorated; heavier assignment loads are regularly piled on fewer workers.  When bosses are faced with economic crises they attack workers, and especially workers who fight back against oppressive working conditions.
Marie was given an especially heavy assignment one night. Her assignment was to cover the 5th and 6th floors, as well as the busy emergency room of a trauma center on a hot Saturday night. She called the supervisor to complain, because the shift had been left short staffed. Management had switched another therapist’s weekend and had not replaced her, which left the shift with four instead of the customary five therapists. During her busy night, Marie was occupied working amongst the three areas, and notified the charge therapist that she was unable to respond to several calls because she was occupied on the various floors.
The supervisor came in from home and sent Marie home without explanation. The next night, Marie came to work but was almost immediately sent home again without explanation. The next day a group of workers confronted the president of the hospital to find out why. All he offered was a weak promise to “look into the matter.”
Following this, the respiratory manager demanded to know why she went to speak with the president, but assured Marie that she would be paid for the time she was sent home. But instead, the following Monday, Marie was fired for “refusal to perform assigned duties.” In reality, she was fired for complaining about working conditions and retaliation for going over the manager’s head and complaining to the president.
PLP is organizing to help Marie get her job back. Several workers have questioned why she was fired and have written letters of support. The manager has tried to silence workers by telling them not to talk about what happened.
This is an example of how workers have to stick together and fight for our class, the working- class. We are the class that produces all goods and services, and the ruling-class is the class that exploits and oppresses us. What side are you on? Join PLP and build the fight against the racist and sexist bosses!
*
DC: Thanks for Fighting Racism Dinner
Today November 18 makrs  the 32nd Thanks-for-Fighting-Racism Feast was held in the Washington, DC – Baltimore area. This celebration is a PLP answer to Thanksgiving, which unfortunately celebrates the genocide of Native Americans.
This year, over 70 anti-racist fighters—Black, Latin, Asian, and white--assembled to report on their struggles and share a spectacular feast. Students from Howard University’s HUResist reported on their battles against former FBI Director James Comey and on their engagement with the working-class members of the community surrounding the University. A Baltimore activist in the struggle for justice for Tyrone West, who was murdered by racist cops, reported on the ongoing, weekly actions against police brutality in Baltimore.
A worker who participated in the PLP contingent at the Charlottesville anti-Nazi protest reported on our successful activity there, while another comrade gave a stirring speech about the need to build the PLP as a revolutionary party in order to have the means to make a communist revolution, the solution to all aggressions by capitalism.
A highlight of the night’s event was the report that we had raised $900 towards the legal defense of the Anaheim 3 who had boldly confronted the knife-wielding Klansmen and were arrested instead of the Klan. Invigorated by the strong ties made at this event, the anti-racists pledged to re-double their efforts against racism in this increasingly dangerous time for the world’s working-class.
*
Howard Student Continue to Resist FBI Director Comey
The students in HUResist at Howard University in Washington, DC, USA have continued their activism this semester. After shutting down former FBI Director James Comey at the university’s opening convocation (see CHALLENGE, 10/11), they have continued to bird-dog him as he continues his year-long Howard University appointment as the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy.
The University has tried numerous dodges to limit student access to Comey, but the students have succeeded in challenging him at every event where he speaks. Comey shows both his arrogance and ignorance when challenged by the students.
When asked why, under his watch at the FBI, the reward for the return of Assata Shakur doubled, he said he didn’t know anything about that. When asked why he supported the racist “Broken Windows” theory of policing and the phony “Ferguson effect,” he claimed he didn’t know about those things either.
In short, he refused to respond to the tough questions the students asked, further clarifying that the University had no business honoring this ruling-class jackal by appointing him to a prestigious position. Brushing Comey aside, the students are continuing their efforts to build an alliance with working-class members of the surrounding community who are threatened by gentrification and poverty.
They are engaged in developing a local food pantry and surveying local residents to determine what the next steps should be for HUResist. At their recent food distribution to the homeless, they witnessed a case of police brutality. Stepping up, they filmed it and joined in a formal complaint to the police department. The struggle never ends!
*
Hurricane Maria and Access to Meds
Hurricane Maria, that devastated Puerto Rico, is not just a catastrophe for our Puerto Rican working-class sisters and brothers, but also directly for workers in the mainland U.S.
Many pharmaceutical companies, to reap the benefits of extra-low wages, had located themselves in Puerto Rico, in order to 1) pay the lowest wages possible, 2) enjoy weaker, if any, regulations against pollution and worker safety hazards (that are rarely enforced anyway), 3) decrease their corporate taxes—in short, to enhance their profits off the labor and endangerment of the working class.
In addition to the devastating destruction of homes and lives faced by our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers, the drug factories in PR also suffered significant direct storm damage. And just as the working class there is experiencing storm-caused shortages of electricity and clean water, so are the drug factories, though theirs will undoubtedly be restored sooner.
One vital medical product is saline, in which all sorts of medicines are dissolved and administered particularly in hospitals. But manufacturers of saline were among those encountering damage, resulting in a shortage of saline in mainland US as well as Puerto Rican hospitals.
No doubt there are many other medicines that are in short supply as well. This is one way that the working class suffers from the bosses’ globalization.
Capitalism truly kills, and not just our fellow Puerto Rican working-class mates. The old International Workers of the World (IWW) slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” is not just an attitude that can unite the working class and not just true through indirect pathways, but is literally true in many situations.
All workers need to come to understand that when one portion of our class anywhere in the world, including in the same country, suffers, we all suffer, often directly as well as indirectly. The main thing blocking that realization is the very same racism that the capitalists resort to when they aid Puerto Rican storm victims even less than they aid mainland working-class victims. Racism is the enemy of us all and the friend only of our capitalist exploiters and oppressors.

Friday
Nov242017

Letters of December 6

Texas: Anti-Racist Movie Night
About 65 Unitarian Universalists and friends came together at a local movie house to screen the documentary film PROFILED. After screening the three-part series Race: The Power of Illusion earlier in the year, the UU Social Justice Committee has made a commitment to educate and engage church members in fighting racism. We have scheduled regular film screenings, small discussion groups, and have taken on the responsibility of preparing a service dedicated to fighting racism.
Unitarian members and guests responded well to PROFILED. They remarked on the powerful stories of the racist violence that is still woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.
One viewer noted how racism divides white against Black workers, intensifying racism and forming a major obstacle to worker solidarity. Several viewers and committee members decided to continue discussing the historical roots of racism in the U.S.
They chose to read Lerone Bennett’s The Road Not Taken, a work specifically referred to in the documentary. In addition, proceeds from the screening were sent to UU members in Santa Monica for their legal relief fund, along with a letter of support and solidarity for the UU members who fought the KKK in 2016.
 While many Unitarian members still see themselves as “allies”—not directly impacted by racism and involved in class struggle—with each action and discussion, we are showing how the fight is one and the same for an antiracist society. We will continue to fight alongside our fellow UUs, winning them to multiracial unity and the fight for communism.

*****
‘I am For It’— Reflections of College Conference
The following are reflections shared by some students and professors from campuses in the South Bronx who attended the College Conference (see page 5).
The diversity of folks was great. I was really impressed. I am a college student who works the night shift as a cleaner at a local college. Although I had not slept, I made it my business to attend the meeting so I could learn more about these ideas. It was an awesome experience.
*
I really enjoyed my workshop. Students from community colleges and private colleges attended. They exchanged ideas and talked more about how to organize on their campuses. We talked about the worker-student alliance and its historic significance.
*
I have been thinking about what a world without a class hierarchy would actually look like. I am very new to the ideas of communism, but am definitely interested. I found myself engaged in the workshop and want to learn so much more. If communism is a world where we are all equal, I am for it.
*
My workshop gave me the chance to share my personal experiences about fighting racism. As an immigrant student and worker, I have dealt with a lot of hardships and discrimination, and this was a great place to reflect and talk about my experiences. I got to meet new people and hear their ideas as well. I am so glad I went.
*
It was a great experience to see many new young leaders come forward. The welcome address was given by a new student leader from the Bronx who was electric. The workshops were led by some new student leaders and they did a solid job. The panel touched on some really good points and was pretty interesting. We ended the evening with a lively Cuban dinner and got to know each other better. Power to the working class!
*****
PLP leadership at APHA
The struggle at the American Public Health Association over police violence was inspiring, as many young activists were engaged from across the country. Working with the Black Caucus of Health Workers in a forum on police brutality in 2015 started the ball rolling as several new militant young public health students jumped into the resolution process. Last year a young PLP member suggested having a rally, which was a great success and contributed to the temporary passage of the resolution. This year there were no questions about having a rally at the convention and new fighters played a leading role while a seasoned PL member diverted the convention center security and police’s attention. At the opening session, the APHA plays the Star-Spangled Banner. Like at the NFL football games, PLP members and friends took a knee, much to the delight of those around them! During the preliminary hearings on Haiti and police violence resolutions PLP members sharpened the audience’s understanding of the barriers raised by the Joint Policy Committee in moving progressive resolutions forward.
In the Governing Council hearings the APHA leadership resorted to lies and innuendos to discredit the resolution to the larger membership. One member of the executive council said that the police violence resolution contradicted 21 other APHA policies. When challenged by a PLP member he could not name a single policy and the PLP member encouraged him to go back and do his homework before talking further with the activists. We also struggled with liberals, both Black and white, who disagreed with the resolution. Mostly though, they want to continue to work closely with the police and not antagonize the Trump racists. PLP will continue to expose the role of the police under capitalism as agents of social control for the ruling-class. For four years we have put out a special “Challenge” explaining more about capitalism, the anti-racist struggle and the need for communism. We have an expanded group of public health students and workers meeting with the party around these ideas. Winning more students and professionals to understand this analysis will move the struggle forward even more and open the door to revolutionary action.  
*****
A Visit to a Friend in Prison
This weekend, some comrades and I went to pay a visit to a young friend in prison. Micah is skinny man in his early twenties who was attending college and always full of jokes. Across the cafeteria table on his designated seat, he looked like a uniformed student whose peace was stolen from him. We talked over sour candy and Sun Chips.
I have never been to this prison before, but the atmosphere was familiar. We were greeted with metal detectors, a morning dehumanization process Black and Latin students go through daily before class. From the interrogation lights, the tiles and lines across the floors, chairs, colors of the walls, to the rules and behavior, prison felt like school. The too-young Black, Latin, and white faces in the cafeteria could easily be mistaken for a high school cafeteria. Both schools and prisons are ruled by intimidation, laws and violence. Schools prepare a section of working-class kids to be prisoners and de facto slaves—to assume the position. Both attempt to rob the potential of fightback, militancy, and working-class creativity. If youth are willing to break the bosses’ racist laws for individual motivations, do they pose a higher threat to the bosses’ system? Are they more likely to break the bosses’ laws for the whole working class? How threatened the bosses must feel, that even when they have our youth locked up, they continue to tear away at the prisoners’ dignity.
Micah said, “We watch over ourselves. We don’t need the guards. I thought I had to be scared of the inmates. In reality, it’s the correctional officers.” Even in the grimmest corners of capitalist decay, working-class collectivity prevails. The prisoners do not tolerate stealing from other inmates. When PLP says the workers will rule society, it just means we will have the decision-making power, and we will choose what’s best for our class as a whole. Inmates watch out for each other against the threats of the guards.
Don’t get me wrong. Class-consciousness today is low and prisoners are no exception to the dark night. Micah gets harassed for not being “Black enough” and for his high literacy skills. But he has learned to stand up for himself, make friends, and still keep his sanity. Someone stole his copy of revolutionary poetry by Langston Hughes. He saw that as a good thing. He is sharing his copy of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
Justice will be restorative under communism. To say the least, the working class, through collectives, will seek to rehabilitate and reincorporate offenders into society. We live in a world where the president rob families of their livelihoods by deporting them back to deadly conditions like in Haiti and El Salvador, yet it’s our class who are called derogatory names like “criminals” and “convicts.”
Next time we go visit, we’ll bring Micah another copy of Langston Hughes’ revolutionary poetry.
*****
NFL Protests, Olympics, and Need for Multiracial Unity
In the article “NFL Take-a-Knee Protests,” about NFL players protesting racism, an important part of the description of the current and historical struggle in sports was left out:
Currently, various white athletes have taken stands in support of their Black brothers’ actions. At the 1968 Olympics, on the medal stand, silver medal sprinter Peter Norman—a white Australian, in solidarity with sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos-wore a badge in support of  the Olympic Project for Human Rights. After the final, Smith and Carlos told him what they were going to do. He said, “I’ll stand with you.” Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes. He didn’t: “I saw love.” Norman attached the badge, as a symbol of anti-racism, to his tracksuit before mounting the podium.
Both Smith and Carlos were punished by the U.S. Olympic Committee, under pressure from the International Olympic Committee and its pro-Nazi American president Avery Brundage. Norman, although his medal was not stripped, suffered ostracism and severe criticism in his native country, still engaged in its ‘White Australia” policy discriminating against aborigines. When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral and spoke eulogies. As is often the case AFTER the death of a fighter against racism and injustice, in 2012 the Australian government recognized Norman for his athletic achievements and Olympic protest with an “Apology” passed by the Australian Parliament.
Norman is an example of an individual white person standing in solidarity with his Black brothers, against racism. Progressive Labor Party has participated in and led countless multi-racial actions against racism. When describing such fightback, whether current or historical, we should always emphasize multiracial unity as it is the only way to defeat racism.
*****

Thursday
Nov092017

Letters of November 22

Trigger-happy Cops Fear Workers’ Revenge
The Howard University article (CHALLENGE, 10/11) correctly rejects the racist “Ferguson effect” – the false claim that cops are “fearful of...public criticism for being too violent and therefore [are] avoiding confrontations with criminals” (Washington Post, 9/22). However, cops do fear being killed in confrontations that they provoke, through stop-and-search, traffic stops, and other harassments.
Cops kill workers – Black, Latin, and white – at an annual rate four to six times the rate they are killed, and the death rate among cops has fallen by more than 2/3 in the last 30 years (BBC, 7/18/16). Moreover, more than twice as many cops are killed by white than by Black working-class men, a fact hidden generally by the mass media (NY Daily News, 5/11/16). Fear makes cops trigger-happy—shoot first, investigate later – and shoot not to disarm but to kill, for fear of missing the target.
Capitalist rulers and their armed state, particularly police departments, should be filled with fear—fear that masses of workers whom they exploit and oppress will rise up and send our wage-slave masters to well-deserved graves.
During the centuries of U.S. slavery, countless revolts by enslaved Africans kept the slavocracy paralyzed with fear, producing vicious attempts to terrorize their forced laborers into submission. Extreme violence and terrorism is the usual response by rulers to the real, and often actualized, threats of overthrow and executions invited by subjugation to savage servitude. Many laws were passed in Virginia and other slave states in a race to out-terrorize those who kept the slavocracy terrorized—in addition to extra-judicial and unpunished killings of their rebellious victims.
Cops’ fears, combined with racist attitudes that consign Black workers to subhuman status, is a deadly mixture that leads to the judicially sanctioned shoot-first-investigate-later approach. Prosecutors and judges usually exonerate cops for ostensibly defending themselves when cops claim they feared for their lives. Cops even get away with planting guns on their dead victims to support those claims.
Given the extreme exploitation under capitalism, and equally extreme oppression to make that exploitation possible, it is no wonder that cops and their masters are fearful of the working class, and not just of Black workers, but of white and all other workers as well. There is fear on both sides, but only the cops are allowed to kill without fear of punishment, and generally without fear of public criticism.
Can there be any doubt that in this tense standoff between our exploiters and our class, the only solution for the working class is to end the standoff by terminating the existence of the capitalist system that demands exploitation and oppression, as well as state terrorism, for its survival. We invite all workers to join PLP to hasten the day of victory for our class.
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Capitalism: An Unnatural Disaster
The editorial (9/27) correctly identified the issue that the flooding in South Asia, West Africa and the U.S. is caused by capitalism’s uncontrolled growth and the anarchy of capitalism. Another aspect of the anarchy of capitalism is the  catastrophe of climate change, caused by hundreds of years of anarchistic capitalism. The floods and hurricanes are from warming oceans creating much greater rainfall from hotter oceans. The fires are caused by years of drought due to global warming.
Climate change is a class issue. Working class folks, and those who are targets of racism are the first and most severely impacted by drought, hurricanes, floods and fires, in part because of racial and class discrimination in housing. The contradictions of capitalism mean that the system cannot stop, slow down or reduce the burning of fossil fuels, which is the main cause of climate change. The profit system requires exploitation to the hilt, or is replaced by competitors. The capitalists must be overthrown by force to stop climate change.
The consequences of burning fossil fuels are palpable today; millions are displaced and killed. In the longer-term future, the habitability of the planet is in doubt. It is certain that capitalism cannot solve the problem; communism is the only answer.
The bosses have tried to take over the environmental movement and claim, “we’re all in this together.” The bosses always try to get in front of movements as they did with Black Lives Matter to mislead the fight against racism. We see the trick the bosses are trying to pull. Climate change is a class issue as highlighted by the movement led by indigenous-led workers against the Dakota Access Pipeline. That movement is an example of the power of multiracial unity against racism and capitalist exploitation.
The Progressive Labor Party’s responsibility is to overthrow the rotting capitalist system. One of the contradictions caused by capitalism is climate change. We must lead that fight.
H H H H H
Two More Battles Before the Spanish Civil War
The editorial (11/8) about Catalonia refers to the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) as “the opening battle of World War II.” It was the opening battle within Europe, but two earlier armed conflicts, one in Asia, one in Africa, also led to World War II: The Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria (Sept 1931) and the Italian invasion and annexation of Ethiopia (Oct 1935).
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Individual Heroes Do Not Make History
When we describe the history of our communist movement, we should avoid slipping into the error of the “cult of the personality”, just as we avoid it in describing PLP’s own history of struggle. The backpage article on Bolshevik history (CHALLENGE 10/25) was the cult of the personality personified and contradicts our opposition to the “cult.”
Lenin and Stalin are made the “heroes” of the pre-revolutionary working class and Bolshevik struggles, with the rest of the Party and the working class just the supporting cast. This kind of cult approach leads to the capitalist historians’ mistaken “great men make history” which in practice is just as sexist as the name implies, as well as being a gross insult to the mass of workers who in the end were the force that smashed the rulers of imperial Russia and established working class rule.
Leadership is important in all struggles—those who are at the moment most dedicated and disciplined and who have the greatest understanding have an obligation to lead the way. The greatest obligation of that leadership, though, is to continually be developing more communist leaders, particularly among the youth who are our future.
From our earliest days, we have been committed to collectivity and confidence in the power of the working class to understand and lead the fight for communism. We as a Party collectively move our understanding and practice forward. Workers learn from communists and communists learn from the working class how to struggle for and win a new egalitarian world of workers rule.
Any individual glorification detracts from a commitment to and reliance on the working class to rule. We struggle for a mass party of millions, for the idea that every worker will become a leader of the revolution.
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