Communism, Not Black Capitalism
At the invitation of a young Black resident friendly to PLP, members and friends of PLP from Chicago and Indiana traveled to Ferguson on April 18. We were a multi-racial group of women and men — white, Latin, and Black workers. We arrived at a Community Center for Ferguson youth, formerly a school. The Ferguson workers were a multi-racial group, including white workers. Workers are still angry over the outrageous institutional racism that led to the death of Mike Brown at the hands of racist cop Darren Wilson. At the Center, Party members got into a discussion with a Black entrepreneur advocating the worn-out idea of “Black capitalism” as the key to Black workers’ freedom. This guy exposed himself to be an agent of the ruling class.
We were invited by our Ferguson host to attend a demonstration in nearby Jennings at the police station. Jennings Police Department was the former employer of killer cop Wilson. It has a reputation for racist terror. Several hours before we arrived, another young Black worker named Thaddeus had been killed by police in Jennings under dubious circumstances. The demonstration was for Thaddeus.
Our protest was multi-racial with many white workers from the local St. Louis metro area participating, including church members. There were Black and white motorists honking their horns in solidarity. We got out 95 CHALLENGES, plus Party leaflets publicizing our communist politics. We got on the bullhorn and called for communist revolution and armed struggle to abolish racist capitalism and its hired thugs, the cops. The Jennings cops, led by a Black sergeant, were so upset by the sight of multi-racial workers and communists openly calling for revolution, that they came out of their station five times to harass us. The last time they emerged was as the PL members were getting ready to leave. A Black woman protestor told us, “look! There’s a lot of pigs all coming out the station doors! They are up to something!”
The Party stayed to support our fellow workers. If the cops’ plan was to intimidate us, it failed! No protestor backed down and left! Our friends stayed in front of police station all night. PLP will be making more trips to Missouri this summer!
★ ★ ★ ★
May Day Celebration
PLP members in a Midwestern city had a May Day dinner for members of the Unitarian Church celebrating the workers’ international holiday on April 25. Our gathering was multiracial. We had good food and lots of discussions before our program began. We had three main speakers, including PL comrade recently in Ferguson who gave a report on PLP organizing there.
The second report was on “Communist Organizing in the Age of President Obama,” and the final report was on the all-out fight for a communist revolution to establish an anti-racist, egalitarian and classless society. We opened up the floor for open discussion of the reports. Some agreed with us, others didn’t. Special mention was made that capitalism not only is destroying the international working class from Ferguson to the Middle East, but also destroying the environment with climate change.
Either we get rid of capitalism, or capitalism will ultimately get rid of us all. CHALLENGES and leaflets were distributed. We concluded with the singing of the Internationale. We will keep fighting to win the international working class to see the necessity of communist revolution as the way forward out of the hell of capitalist imperialism!
★ ★ ★ ★
Workers Gear Up for Strike, Union Leaders for Sellout
“We are facing real challenges. There is a world economy.” That’s how UAW President Dennis Williams tried to temper workers’ anger and expectations as he addressed the two-day Special Bargaining Convention (SBC) here in Detroit, Michigan. More than 2,000 delegates took part in the gathering before negotiations start on the Ford, GM and Chrysler contracts
At the UAW convention last June, delegates voted for a dues increase that would go entirely into the strike fund. International leaders warned that the 2015 talks were going to be a war, and with 60 percent of our membership now in Right-to-Work states, we could expect a big campaign by the Right-to-Work movement to get workers to quit the union when these contracts expire. But this was not a War Council.
Detroit Mayor Duggan laid out his plan to clear the area around Detroit City Airport for a 12-year tax-free zone to build 10 new factories. This is after tens of thousands of Black families have been evicted or foreclosed on for owing back taxes!
UAW Financial Secretary/Treasurer Gary Casteel said, “The sun is shining as we enter the 2015 contract talks,” referring to the billions in profits made by the auto bosses since the Obama-UAW-Wall St. bailout in 2009. That bailout cut starting wages in half, eliminated pensions for new hires, and created a second tier of health care. The bailout also exempted GM from billions in damages from the companies past defective cars.
Each International VP reported on how great things are going. The Ford report took center stage. The Chicago Ford Assembly plant now has over 2,300 workers, an increase of 60 percent since the 2009 economic collapse. Two-thirds of these workers are at entry level wages, making under $15/hr. with a cap of $19/hr. First-tier workers make about $28/hr. Work is coming back to U.S. Ford factories due to high productivity and cheap wages throughout the U.S. .
Unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford did not declare bankruptcy in 2009, and will likely be the target company in the 2015 negotiations. Ford has gone from 36,000 workers in 2011 to 54,000 today, surpassing GM. Seventeen thousand Ford workers are second tier. Huge profits allowed Ford to invest over $8 billion in plant improvements since 2011, to create even higher productivity from a growing low-wage workforce. And this doesn’t include the parts-supplier plants, also on two-tier, a 70 percent of assembly plant wages.
Many of the delegates are angry and the loudest cheers came at any mention of a strike. Senior workers haven’t had a wage increase in almost 10 years, and young workers are tired of making half-pay. One young worker said, “90% of the workers in my plant are second-tier. Our plant just got a new contract, and new hires get no pensions. We are exposed to dangerous chemicals [which she rattled off] and health and safety violations. We all need equal pay and healthcare.”
The spirit of Ferguson was also in Cobo Hall. One delegate said, “My local and our Sister locals marched against the failures of Grand Juries to indict the killers of Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in NYC. The fight against racism on and off the job must be at the heart of who we are.” Delegates cheered. Earlier that morning, the local news released video tape of a racist beating of Floyd Dent, a Black Ford worker with 37-years seniority, by the Inkster police (a Ferguson-style suburb of Detroit).
We work in the unions to fight for the political leadership of the workers, to break them away from the dead-end treadmill of reformism and the Democratic Party. We have been at it for a long time in the UAW, and even though progress is slow, the workers continue to encourage us.
★ ★ ★ ★
Communism, Not Black Capitalism
When Auto Workers Fought Racist Police Terror
On April 17, 2015, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the racist police murder of 10-year-old Clifford Glover in Queens, NY. Clifford was walking to work with his Dad on a Sunday morning. His Dad had just been paid the day before and had a lot of cash in his pocket. An unmarked police car pulled over and a plainclothes cop got out and told them to stop. Fearing they were being robbed, they ran and cop Thomas Shea shot Clifford in the back, saying the five-foot tall, 100-pound 10-year-old fit the description of a robbery suspect. He also said Clifford turned toward Shea and pointed a gun at him. Clifford never turned, never had a gun and was shot in the back. This was in 1973. Sound familiar?
At the time, I was working at the Ford Assembly Plant in Mahwah, NJ. Our small PLP club had a regular CHALLENGE readership among our co-workers and 1973 was a contract year. We were trying to organize for more militant action against Ford and the UAW union leadership since Ford had us working tons of overtime in order to build up a huge stockpile of cars so they could sit out any possible strike. There was a Black caucus in the plant, loosely tied to DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit. They were trying to address racism in the UAW, hoping to elect more Black union officers (there was only one at the time).
Then the NYPD murdered Clifford Glover. We brought that issue to the factory floor. We distributed a flier about the racist murder and circulated a petition, demanding that our UAW local union take a public stand against the police and in support of the family, and demanding that Shea be indicted for murder. The workers’ response was electric. It far surpassed their response to all the contract and “bread-and-butter” issues we’d been organizing around.
We literally circulated the petition on the Ford assembly line. We placed the petition in the frame of the car and as it went down the line, workers would take off their work gloves, sign the petition, and send it to the next person. We did this in a few departments. Even among those workers who didn’t sign, no one ratted us out to the bosses. (Or if they did, it was after the fact.) In a couple of hours we’d collected over 350 signatures. The mood of the workers and our relationship to them had made a qualitative change for the good.
The May union meeting had an overflow crowd as the union leadership, the Black caucus and PLP mobilized our respective bases to attend, each group either advancing or sabotaging the fight against racist police terror. The union leadership was outnumbered but had more of a plan and maneuvered to successfully adjourn the meeting with no action taken. We had no Plan B to take over the meeting after it was adjourned, to plan action with the workers who were there. But rather than being dejected and cynical, the workers were even angrier.
The struggle in the plant accelerated. PLP members were targeted. I was suspended for three days for having CHALLENGE and PLP literature in my locker. But by early June, when the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees in the plant, we were able to lead a wildcat strike that shut down Ford for a week. This was big news, and it helped our comrades in Detroit to organize the Mack Ave sit-down strike against Chrysler just two months later. Workers seized the plant, the first such auto strike in nearly 40 years.
There’s a lot to be learned from these struggles, positive and not so positive, but mainly that we have to take the fight against racist police terror to our shop floors and inside our unions. The fight over the racist murder of Clifford Glover helped workers to see things more clearly. Many of them knew it could have been them and their children. And that raised political consciousness, making them more willing to take bold action against Ford and the union misleadership.
Bringing the fight against racism and police terror to our jobs and unions will help steel us, help build a mass PLP and make us a Party worthy of leading the working class to power.
★ ★ ★ ★
Ayotzinapa: Your Struggle is Our Struggle
On March 25, Lili, a new member of our PLP club here in Chicago, received a text that a caravan from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico would be here April 3—6. Very little to none was mentioned in the Latin and English media. Two other caravans were already hitting the Pacific and East coasts the earlier part of March. These three caravans, representing students friends and family members of the 43 Normalistas (students attending the teachers college) who were attacked and disappeared on September 26—27, were coming to cities throughout the U.S. and ending in Washington, DC.
The purpose of the Caravana 43 was to expose the lies of the Mexican government and to seek political support from workers in the U.S. and finally from president Obama himself. Obama is no friend of these families. Only the international working class can show solidarity with workers in Mexico.
The 43 young men attended college in Ayotzinapa to become teachers with the sole purpose of going back to teach the kids in the towns they came from. The students were on their way to the town of Iguala, Guerrero to raise funds for their college when armed military local, state and federal cops stopped their bus. Six students were killed and some injured — two of whom are still in a coma. One student had his face cut off!
The story is that the 43 students were handed over to a drug gang in Guerrero, Mexico. There are still rumors that the 43 disappeared students were killed and their bodies burned, or that the students are still alive and are being used to pick crops somewhere in the mountain region.
The Caravana 43 committee, made up of several lefty community organizations and four Roman Catholic Churches in the Spanish-speaking communities, organized the activities here. The first one began with a folk dance until the visitors’ arrival at the plaza. A student visitor Beto spoke. He survived the attacks back in September. He and the two other visitors, Esperanza and Lolo, were taken to a nearby restaurant to be interviewed by a local TV station. Esperanza is the mother of one of the 43 disappeared students. Lolo is a teacher and uncle of one of the 43 students.
On Saturday, April 4, a rally was held in front of one church. It was here that I gave a DESAFIO, CHALLENGE’s Spanish counterpart, to the three visitors. We then marched through the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago.
We chanted, “Alive you took them. Alive we want them back.” A comrade and I took turns distributing 120 CHALLENGEs and holding two posters (see photo). The posters (the Spanish versions) read “Brothers/Sisters — your sadness is our sadness, your anger is our anger, your struggle is 100 percent our struggle. Fight for Communism” and “From May Day to Ferguson, MO. to Ayotzinapa: Fight to Destroy Capitalism.” Esperanza, Lolo, and Beto marched with a contingent of nearly 100.
At the community forum, Esperanza spoke first. She and her family are poor farm workers, as are the rest of the Ayotzinapa families. She spoke of watching a TV soap opera at the time her son and others were attacked. “Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought of such a horrific thing happening to my son. And me, [I was] watching a soap opera. Can you imagine that?!”
The mothers are no longer watching soap operas. They are in the thick of the struggle giving leadership to find their loved ones. One of the slogans of the Ayotzinapa struggle is, “They took everything from us. They even took away our fear.”
More residents participated at the evening forum. Because of their struggle to get the disappeared students back, 600 more families joined the fight. Beto spoke. He felt that before trying to change the “macro” (the system), the “micro” had to be changed. He identified the “micro” as the children that aspire to be either drug-traffickers or soap opera stars when they grow up. Since 2006, the racist U.S.–fueled drug war in Mexico has led to the disappearance of more than 30,000 people. From 2007 to 2012, there were officially over 121,000 homicides, with over 50,000 under the current government under president Enrique Peña Nieto.
Terrorism, disappearances, and murder of youth are an everyday occurrence for working-class families throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, 1.5 million Black men (this includes only ages 25 to 54) are missing due to death or jail. On top of unemployment, sexist and racist working conditions, this is what capitalism means for billions of workers!
A press conference at the Workers United Hall on April 6 concluded with a protest in front of the Mexican Consulate down the street. Esperanza and Lolo spoke. As the Chicago police moved in to defend the front doors of the consulate, Esperanza and Lolo were whisked off. I found out later that Beto had received threats and didn’t make it to Monday’s protest. I circulated about another 45 CHALLENGEs to the protesters and those going in and out of the Consulate.
I spoke briefly with Esperanza, Lolo and Beto at the weekend events. Self-critically, I should have been much bolder in getting to know them. Lili has family members in Mexico who are involved in the struggle to bring justice to the disappeared students. Our club has been in contact with them.
The committee organizers weren’t able to get as many residents out as I expected. Most of those involved that weekend were young political organizers, several of whom I had known when we were involved together in the La Casita sit-in about three years ago. (Working mothers occupied La Casita, an elementary school field house, for 43 days to protest its demolition.) I had also seen three women friends who used to be in PLP, one who participated in the Boston Summer Project along with her (now deceased) 17-year-old sister and me in 1975! I will make it a point to renew our friendship.
The struggle in Ayotzinapa is an international one. It is up to PLP to link the mass terrorization and disappearances of youth in Mexico to youth in the U.S. and worldwide as part of this destructive capitalist system.
★ ★ ★ ★
PL Communist Youth School: ‘Amazing’
The following letters are from PLP’s communist youth school.
Something that really stood out this weekend was the workshop discussions. The readings and questions chosen were engaging and laid bare the way capitalism fails the working class and how communism is the only system that can address that and win. Discussions among young and old, Black, white, Asian, Latin, new and experienced really deepened those conversations.
It was so exciting to discuss and debate our visions of communism in a real, materialistic way.
★ ★ ★ ★
It was great interacting with young and old and the idea of what communism would look like in the future. All doubts were answered in our community where children weren’t discouraged, but encouraged. A multiracial group of people partook in contributing their ideas to shape a better future and demolishing individualism, racism, nationalism, sexism, and any injustices which the system tries to make us blind to.
★ ★ ★ ★
My weekend went great. I’m glad that I learned new stuff, such as communism. And I would love to learn more. I love the fact that everyone was friendly. It took me out of my comfort zone, but I loved the atmosphere here. I’m really shy and just to know that people don’t judge here makes me more comfortable. I still have a lot of questions to ask about communism. But I’m really sure I will become a communist when I’m older, maybe even now (if I can). Everything I learned this weekend was very interesting. And I would love to be a part of this fight to make our world better. And that fight is for communism.
★ ★ ★ ★
I’ve been around the Party for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to come to the communist school until now. It exceeded expectations! It was amazing to see people of all ages, races, and genders getting along and treating each other as equals. Seeing people living communally makes me confident that a worker-led world under communism is possible! I am re-energized for May Day and can’t wait to bring all my friends and see my comrades again.
★ ★ ★ ★
I really enjoyed this communist school. Working together, preparing meals, cleaning, and participating in discussions really shows the potential that workers have to transform society.
As a single mom, it was refreshing to have so many people help with my daughter throughout the weekend so I could participate in the political discussions.
The youth, as always, are so inspiring. Seeing them embrace the Party’s ideas is refreshing and gives me both confidence and hope in the future.
★ ★ ★ ★
I’ve been here three times and this was the best one so far! I loved both workshops but the first one was the best. It was very exciting to learn about surplus value and how slavery is basically still happening but in a more secretive way.
★ ★ ★ ★
I enjoyed this weekend because I got to see some familiar faces and also meet new people. I always enjoy hearing people’s ideas and viewpoints on communism, capitalism and other topics that relate to it. This was my first retreat and I enjoyed myself.
★ ★ ★ ★
The communist school was amazing, not only because of the communist content but the people. They are genuinely good people and it felt amazing to meet and connect with comrades. The workshops were beautifully led. Living together went smoothly because we all took responsibility. And most importantly we had fun. Whether it was playing games or dancing, we had fun. I love everyone here, and I am looking forward to building this Party and getting ready for May Day. It’s going to be lit [exciting]!!
★ ★ ★ ★
As a teacher and communist, the most wonderful thing to see is when our young people get serious about changing the world for the better. At this communist school, one of my former students did an excellent and exciting job of leading one of the discussion groups. And another student, active in the school club for which I’ve been an advisor, loved the weekend and is now seriously thinking about joining Progressive Labor Party. These are profound and heart-warming developments!
★ ★ ★ ★
This weekend was another great experience for me because every year I come, the learning gets better and it opens up my thoughts. Communism has and will have such a great effect on the communities.
As a student I will invite a few of my friends to May Day. And also give them a quick look on my experiences about attending May Day in the past.
★ ★ ★ ★
I had my doubts about coming to this retreat but I am very grateful that I was given this opportunity. Instead of spending another weekend at home alone, I spent my time gaining knowledge about a topic I was still somewhat unclear about — communism! It was amazing to see how a common struggle among workers could bring so many people together. Everyone, young and old, took part in our discussions (which were led by young students) and helped out with work that had to be done (cooking, cleaning, etc.). This weekend showed us all that if we can live as a community for 3 days then we can do it for even longer (forever).
★ ★ ★ ★
My weekend at the Spring Retreat was AMAZING! I got the opportunity to reconnect with old comrades and meet some new ones. The workshops were very insightful and allowed us to expand our minds. I had an awesome time here and I will definitely do this again! It gave me a taste of what a communist society would be like and I like it a lot.
★ ★ ★ ★
Like every year, this PLP youth camp was amazing. Learning, cooking, cleaning, dancing, was done collectively. The participants ranged in age from eight to decades upon decades old, and everyone participated. The discussions ranged from how bosses make surplus value from exploiting workers’ labor to how health care under communism would be figured out collectively for the benefit of all. The youngest group could not believe that the American Girl dolls they love so much only cost $3 to make but are sold for over $100!!! The best part of the weekend was hearing plans for how to make this year’s May Day March the biggest and best yet.
★ ★ ★ ★
I had the best weekend ever! There were amazing workshops that consisted of amazing content. I was lucky to have been a workshop leader and have such an engaging discussion with my group. The knowledge each individual had was shared amongst the group; everyone was enlightened! The best part of the retreat was that there was a natural connection between everyone. There was no outsider here. There is no outsider in the Progressive Labor Party EVER. Join PLP and fight for what’s right. We are strong when we are unified. Be a part of the unification.
★ ★ ★ ★
This weekend like every other Communist School has been an experience in communist living and learning over the course of the weekend. The most inspiring thing was the level of understanding and analysis that our youngest elementary and middle school students showed. This young future leadership, even myself, really shows that we will continue to fight strongly for an egalitarian world. A communist world.
★ ★ ★ ★
The Communist School was without a doubt one of the most inspiring and enlightening experiences of my life. To discuss communism in an environment full of some of the most insightful people I have ever met was a privilege and a pleasure. Before coming, I was full of doubt. Although my rational mind had already accepted communism as the only real solution to our ailing world, I had no experience on which to base my beliefs. Now, I believe. In the Communist School, I see a future worth believing in, worth fighting for, and I cannot wait to continue the fight.
★ ★ ★ ★
Seeing the young new faces at this weekend’s camp was exciting — working with them and getting to know them was a privilege!
In two days’ time, we saw shy young women transform from believing they had nothing to say to articulate, assertive leaders. By the end, watching them volunteer to stand up and explain their vision of communism and their reasons for fighting for it were inspirational.
This is just a glimpse of how communism transforms lives. If we can do this in three days, imagine what we will do when the working class has power.
★ ★ ★ ★
Everyone was friendly and helpful. The event was very organized and the readings were interesting. I am looking forward to the next Communist School.
★ ★ ★ ★
I was excited to come to this year’s Communist School because of my experience during the one we had last year. And indeed, I wasn’t disappointed. My happiness was on fleek [in the state of perfection] this weekend.
I was amazed at the level and depth of the conversations that took place among comrades of every age. The kids and high schoolers in particular blew me away with their ability to understand what’s happening around the world. The future of communism looks bright when we look at the younger generation. As usual, I was amazed at the collective nature of the school.
★ ★ ★ ★
My favorite thing about this weekend was meeting new people and learning new things. This was a great experience for me and I learned a lot of new things. It really helped me see how bosses and companies are. To change the way things are, we are just going to have to take this really seriously. I feel like one day the company and bosses won’t be so mean and we will finally be able to live happily and peacefully.
★ ★ ★ ★
This retreat was something amazing. I had a lot of fun and a grand time understanding how this world works. I had always said, “Who wants to go to school all day every day until 7 pm for 16 years. Then for the rest of their lives after school work till they die to keep food on the table to keep a house over their head to ‘survive’. That’s crappy. I don’t want to survive, I want to live.” But I never fully understood why things were the way they are until this school. And you know what, I’m happy I did it. People need to learn about what communism is and that it isn’t what the bosses make it seem. I was one of those people that thought, “communism is bad.” But that is not what it is. Its focus is to further human lives, enjoyment, and further knowledge. The system we live in now where we all compete against each other instead of working together isn’t working for us. It’s just filling the greed of people who have more than enough.
★ ★ ★ ★
Transit Workers Need Unity with Riders, Not Cops
The 3/25 CHALLENGE bus driver article exposes the fact that operators are charged for accidents that kill people while cops walk away from racist murders. This is hypocritical because when cops murder working-class youth, such as Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, the bosses label these incidents as accidents.
In 2013, 176 pedestrians were killed in traffic “accidents.” Now the Transport Workers Union (TWU) misleaders are equating bus drivers with cops by demanding that drivers — “just like cops” — should be exempt from charges in pedestrian deaths in traffic “accidents.” But bus operators who drive “often with faulty equipment” are completely different from the cops who murdered Gurley and Eric Garner. Racist cops who kill Black and Latin workers and youth are definitely “doing their jobs,” making their arrest quotas and terrorizing the working class. However, when transit workers are forced to “play by the bosses’ rules,” it means ignoring safety laws in the rulebook, safety that workers fought for and won after many workers and riders were killed.
The bosses’ exemption for cops means not charging them for racist murders. If bus drivers are forced to ignore safety laws in the rulebook leading to traffic “accidents,” it is the bosses who are guilty of these deaths, not the bus drivers.
Transit workers should not be looking for unity with cops — who are not part of the working class — but should be organizing to refuse to operate unsafe vehicles and drive at unsafe speeds in crowded streets just to keep to a schedule. Most transit workers killed and injured on the job were playing the bosses’ cross-cutting game of ignoring the rulebook to prevent being harassed by management. The only time the safety rules are enforced occur during rare rulebook slowdowns used by the sellout union to pressure the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Older transit workers remember conductor Joe Carnegie and the Rank-and-File transit committee and their newsletter which fought for Black and Latin representation in the TWU. The Rank-and-File demanded that the Wall Street bondholders who created the MTA be responsible for all fare increases and to remove that issue from politics. The MTA however pitted the riding public against transit workers.
PLP should be organizing transit workers towards unity with the riding public like opposing the four percent fare hike on 3/22/15 which will increase the 40 percent New York City poverty rate of mostly Black and Latin workers. Demand that billionaire bondholders, real estate and department stores pay for the transit system, without which they wouldn’t make any profit. And PLP should unite with transit workers who resist the bosses and the TWU.
★ ★ ★ ★
CHALLENGE Readers Correct Political Error
I wrote a letter in the 2/11/15 issue of CHALLENGE that contained an important error. I want to thank the authors of the two responding letters in the 2/25/15 and 3/11/15 issues, who both corrected my error. I also want to apologize for my carelessness in making that misstatement. Here is what I said:
First, [an article in the 1/24/15 issue of CHALLENGE] implies that whatever capitalism needs it has the ability to create. While this is true of many ruling class policies, such as imperialist military efforts or racist and brutal police forces that are uncontrollable by the communities they patrol, unemployment is not a policy [my emphasis].
With the help of the two responders, I now see that unemployment is indeed a policy of the ruling capitalist class, at least in part. When unemployment gets too low (i.e., when too many workers have jobs), the Federal Reserve (the Fed), which is a government-appointed institution, is able to increase the unemployment rate deliberately through manipulation of interest rates and/or the money supply (monetary policy). I missed that point.
However, just to clarify for other readers what has now become clarified for me, there were two independent points in my original letter. The first point was that there are unintended outcomes of decisions made by individual capitalists, over which they have little or no control and that occur despite their wishes. This point was affirmed by the two responders. The second (erroneous) point was that unemployment is one of those unintended outcomes. While the unemployment rate is still partly the unintended result of individual capitalist decisions, that rate can also be deliberately manipulated to some extent by the Fed, a capitalist institution.
It is vital that all of us understand the first point (i.e., there are outcomes over which the rulers have no control) and not let it get lost in the debate. It is vital because it underscores the fact that the capitalist ruling class is not all-powerful. That is, while it controls the state at every level, there are limits to its power. We need to understand its total control over the state to know what we are up against and to avoid falling into the ruling-class-fostered myth that power lies in the hands of the “people.” But at the same time we need to understand that there are limits to its control over our class, because if we think that together we are powerless to change this system, we are lost before we begin.
Marx and Engels first noticed, and made the point a century and a half ago, that the state is wholly the instrument of ruling classes throughout the history of class-divided societies. The rulers, on the other hand, push the myth that the state is neutral in the face of disputes between bosses and workers in order to hide their (the bosses’) control over it. But Marx also made the point that, among other outcomes, the capitalists unintentionally create their own grave diggers in the form of the working class. For example, there are things that result from the very workings of capitalism that are against the interests of the capitalists. Both aspects are vital for us to understand if we are to succeed in ridding ourselves of the most vicious and exploitative system in the history of the world.
Together, once millions are organized under communist leadership, the working class of the world will not only be able to challenge the capitalist classes for power, but we will also be able to ultimately succeed in this challenge. The Soviet and Chinese revolutions of the 20th century gave a glimpse of this collective power of the working classes, even if inevitable errors led to their reversion to capitalism — for the time being. Errors, like my own, are inevitable, but we often learn more from our errors than from our successes.
★ ★ ★ ★
Kingsman Secret Service: So Bad
I walked out of the film Kingsman: The Secret Service after 30 minutes, it was so bad.
The film is simply a marketing appendage for a video game. Every scene in the film resembles a scene from a game. At regular intervals there are scenes where the “hero” has to make a choice — evidently places where the player has to push a button.
There are continual in-your-face sequences that are bewildering and aggressive, like something out of the Guantanamo torture camp.
The ideology of the film is thoroughly fascistic, from the opening scenes, where an Afghan prisoner is tortured with death threats, to the scene where the “hero” is interrogated in a bare gray underground interrogation cell. There were other fascist scenes, such as when the “hero”‘s stepfather tortures him. The stepfather threatened to cut his throat with a meat cleaver to obtain information about the secret order, funded by the wealth of bourgeois and aristocratic World War I “martyrs” and dedicated to maintaining British imperialist “peace and order.”
On top of all this, the “hero” is caught up in an Oedipus complex (“sanitized” by his wanting to kill his stepfather instead of his “martyred” biological father) in order to give the film emotional punch.
★ ★ ★ ★
Profits Over Lives
I attended a co-worker’s funeral several months ago. It’s a very sad story because it may have been preventable. She went to an Emergency Room (ER) for abdominal pain and was sent home the same day. She returned the next day with trouble breathing, so she was put on a ventilator. She died the next day.
It was very shocking because it happened so fast. It is obvious that my co-worker should never have been sent home when she first went to the ER. Another co-worker said she experienced a similar event when her husband was complaining of abdominal pain, but tests in the ER did not show anything wrong. He was going to be sent home too.
My co-worker knew something was wrong with her husband and insisted on a CAT scan. The doctors made light of her suggestion, but ordered the scan in spite of their “better judgment.” It turned out that his appendix was on the verge of bursting and he was scheduled for surgery on the same day. My co-worker had to go home to care for their children, and in the meantime, the operating room called her and informed her that they could not go ahead with the surgery because there was a problem with their insurance. Luckily my co-worker was able to correct a paper work error through Human Resources at work in time for her husband’s surgery. The surgeon told her after the surgery that it was the worst appendix he’d seen in thirty years of practice. My co-worker saved her husband’s life. Can you imagine the consequences if she had not insisted on her husband’s behalf?!
If you recall, one of the first people to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. was also sent home from an ER, only to return a few days later and eventually die. The practice of medicine is like all other institutions under capitalism. It’s a business that is more interested in saving money than lives. ERs are understaffed and overwhelmed. Waiting times are usually long and in trauma centers, traumas must be attended to first. In many hospitals, available beds are in short supply, due to cutbacks and cost-saving policies. Efficiency “experts” have advised hospitals to cut the number of beds and keep the remaining bed capacity full.
I once saw a former leader of PLP hold up a dollar bill and say that is what the ruling class worships. The dollar represents their God, he said. Communist revolution will sweep them away into the dustbin of history.
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No Worker Privilege under Capitalism
I was happy to read the front-page article about the anti-racist university teach-in (3/11). However, I think the subject of identity politics and white skin and male privilege needs more amplification. I, at least, have become involved in some very heavy and lengthy discussions about this lately, especially with other white middle-class friends.
There is a very common perception that being less subject to racist or sexist discrimination gives one “privilege” in society. What is missing is the understanding that racism and sexism are consciously created in order to divide workers against one another. This is manifested by not just encouraging prejudice, but by making non-racist or non-sexist workers feel separate from their coworkers because they may suffer less immediate concrete attacks in terms of wages, services or police brutality.
If one lacks the understanding that these differences in treatment by the bosses are tools to hurt the working class as a whole, then a frequent response is to accept a measure of guilt for the bosses’ segregation and step back from multi-ethnic struggle or leadership. This is different from encouraging women or Blacks or immigrants to take leadership and making sure that whites and men can accept that leadership. But we must all participate together if we are to build bonds as a class and have the power to overthrow this system. We cannot adopt this guilt that is laid on us by those truly guilty of destroying the lives of millions around the world.
This issue also frequently arises when involved in international organizing, when workers from imperialist nations are discouraged from struggle over ideas emanating from oppressed nations. It’s as if the millions of workers in the wealthy countries were not suffering, nor had valuable experience in fighting capitalism. This form of nationalism elevates the ideas of the oppressed nationality to incontrovertible even if those ideas are based on ethnicity as opposed to class.
The history of the many failed “national liberation” movements of the last century to improve the lot of most workers is the sad consequence of this approach, which serves only to change the color or language of the local exploiters. There is no country in the world today where workers hold power, so no country where we do not have to fight the ruling class, be it imperialist or imperialist lackey. Workers of the world unite! Fight for your class, not the bosses’ flag!
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