Thursday
Aug142014

Letters of September 3

Class Struggle: Path to Working-Class Liberation
In one of two very encouraging articles on the San Francisco mass transit system (MTA) on p. 4 of the July 2 issue of CHALLENGE, it states at the top right of the page, “We have confidence that the working class can and will fight back. It is our job to make sure that when they do, that more of them choose the road to communist revolution.”  
I often find that sometimes something is phrased in such a way that a new realization comes about, even for something that is not a new concept. In this case it happened to me, and it’s one of the reasons that CHALLENGE is so useful, particularly when we encourage as many workers and students and other members and friends of PLP as possible to write articles and letters for the paper. Everyone has a slightly different take on the situation and expresses it slightly differently.
I happen to be a former physics professor, and with those two sentences I had a flash insight into an analogy with the very common phenomenon of resonance. Resonance happens when an intermittent force is applied with the right timing to a system that has a rhythmical motion, such as a child on a swing. Anyone who has ever pushed a child, or even an adult, on a swing knows that in order to make the swing go higher and higher it requires that we push on the swing every time it returns and reaches its backmost point. That is, when the pushing is in synchrony with the swinging itself. When those two processes — the pushing and the swinging — are in sync, the energy in the swing and the height it reaches continue to increase, until we stop pushing.
It happens, as we all know, that workers cannot possibly engage in class struggle on the job continually for very long periods of time. To do so would rob us of our income, and we are less equipped to weather such periods than the bosses are. So we are forced to temporarily end our struggles at some point and go back to work. Therefore the intensification of class struggle, through job actions and strikes, must necessarily happen periodically — when conditions become too horrible to bear. That’s like the swing. So during such periods of intensified class struggle, if communists push in sync with that swing, more and more workers will, in fact, “choose the road to communist revolution.”  
Communists push all the time, both during and between job actions and strikes, but the greatest effect is during intensified class struggle. Our participation in the class struggle is the only path to liberation of the working class (including ourselves) from the relentless oppression, exploitation, genocidal wars, racism, and sexism of capitalism. Join PLP to help push.
Saguaro Rojo

Massacres in Palestine, South Africa, Ukraine
Having lived through the rise of anti-communist, fascist, racist movements in the 1930s, the images of hundreds of bloody Palestinian babies and children in Gaza brought back the horror of Nazi genocide against all who resisted their occupation. My tortured sense of humanity said do something, speak out.
I pinned a paper sign to my shirt saying Boycott Israel to see if I could learn the reaction of New Yorkers to the Gaza massacre. To my surprise 95 percent of the first day’s response was positive. One black senior center worker I talked to about it caught up to me later to say that the U.S. also committed genocide and had concentration camps for black slaves. I replied that that’s what the capitalist profit system produces.
Another guy pointed to my sign saying, “You’ve got b*lls, man.” I thought for a few seconds and told him that if people can ignore murdered children and keep quiet, they’re missing something more than b*lls. Later I got some smiles and thumbs up from passersby. Going home a black bus driver asked about “Boycott Israel” and I explained that it was part of a worldwide movement in the 1980’s against the white racist South African apartheid government which got 80 percent of its weapons from Israel to commit genocide against black people. I said Israel has also been making war on the Palestinian people for 70 years, using the same apartheid tactics of territorial prisons like Gaza and the West Bank, settlement expansions and slow extermination of people through blockades that denied basic needs. To my surprise as I left the bus, the driver grabbed my hand, shook it and said “thank you.”
Most opinion polls show there is no support for more wars and we need to expose contradictions like Obama being “heartbroken” by Gaza images while being responsible for sending the weapons and bombs used to murder civilians not only in Gaza but worldwide. We should challenge the U.S. government’s demand for a “world outcry” over the downed Malaysian plane that flew over a war zone while for months that same government never said a word about 230,000 East Ukraine refugees who have been bombed and shelled daily by the U.S.-financed fascist Ukrainian military.
Sometimes I can bring a discussion around to how capitalist profits are behind all these wars on people and I always have a CHALLENGE newspaper ready to show how PLP is trying to destroy the disease called capitalism with a communist revolution for a system that unites all workers and provides for their needs.
A Comrade

Teachers: Reform or Revolution?
Teacher union comrades, like many of you, we are thrilled with the possibilities of change opening up in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as teachers’  anger and concern for students butts up against the Weingarten machine. But which direction should a new teacher movement take: reform or revolution? We want to talk with you about that.
Some of you are weary of contrasting the two concepts so starkly. You fight for reforms like winning a raise or changing our union or saving a neighborhood school or defending kids from deportation. You hope that out of such fights a movement will develop that will go much further than such reforms. We think that to go further you need more than hope — you need to aim consciously at a revolution that will replace capitalism with a communist society of sharing. You need a Party like ours that trains us for a lifetime of struggle. And you need to join that Party, learn the lessons of communist history, and help to expand and develop that Party internationally.
Our analysis takes off from the critique of social-movement unionism in the CHALLENGE article on the AFT convention (July 30). You saw at a convention panel how a militant woman teacher from the Black Caucus responded seriously to the call for revolution — and at the same time how excited she is to be running for City Council to carry her radical reform politics into a larger arena. At almost every turn, the new movement is facing choices between reform and revolution, whether we’re conscious of it or not. To run for the council seat or the mayoralty is to run away from a revolutionary movement.
From PLP’s point of view, the appeal of reform electoral politics to the new leadership and the masses of new teacher reformers could seriously sidetrack direct-action politics again as it has in the past. People dropped anti-war work to campaign for Obama, and the result is not only what Obama did as commander-in-chief but the fact that the anti-war movement evaporated. De Blasio’s election took whatever fight there was out of the New York City unions. Campaigning for the first woman president, or for an outspoken black woman strike leader for mayor of Chicago, will have the same effect.
But the main problem with electoral politics is not that radical reformers think it is revolutionary — you don’t. You too think it’s a big step forward, that to make a big difference, we have to work creatively within the system. That appeal is precisely what the system counts on to turn radical teachers away from thinking revolution.
We don’t expect you to agree now, and we want to listen to your arguments. If classroom teachers start running for city council, we will accompany you in the campaign and we will both learn from the experience, but you should know that we think that is not the way “to take power,” as one such new teacher-candidate put it. This is the old argument between socialists, who think we can elect socialists who will abolish capitalism by making new laws, and communists, who believe we will need armed revolution to take power from a capitalist class who keeps it by force of arms. But change is in the air. We can feel a teacher movement struggling to be born. We are engaged in building it together.
Capitalist education is ruinous for us. We both agree the school system is racist to the core. We heard together the testimony of researchers and classroom teachers at the Peace & Justice panel that segregation of schools is now so bad that the research has a new category called “intensely segregated.” All the gains in school integration in the South since the Civil Rights Movement have been wiped out, while New York State schools are among the most segregated in the country. Even new school diversity in residential neighborhoods is not showing up as more integrated, because incoming wealthier white or Asian parents often don’t send their children to local public schools.
The fixes are not working. Black and brown children who are bused to white suburbs are often met by racism. The 320,000 K-12 teachers thrown out of work and the hundreds of schools closed in the last few years are disproportionately black and brown. At the City University of New York, new research shows that new teachers are increasing in numbers, but not racial or gender diversity. In addition, admissions barriers increase the segregation of students in community colleges as compared to four-year colleges (it is now easier for a black student to be admitted to Harvard than to CUNY’s Baruch College).
Can such racism be reformed out of existence? We  think it will take a revolution. So let’s talk more about reform and revolution. The need for communism is newly discussed these days among radical academics (e.g., Jodi Dean’s The Idea of Communism), and some younger poets and writers also see their work as inspired by communism — though, unlike Jodi Dean, they do not agree with the idea of a communist party and look more to Occupy-style forms. PLP would like to invite you to form study groups with us around this new thinking and the best “old” thinking about communism.
Can reformism rise to the challenge of a failed capitalism? If we accept that we need communism, what does that mean for our action as unionized teachers in the short, medium, and long terms? What does it mean to join PLP and be a communist teacher? What do we want education to be as communists? What would a modern communism look like, going beyond the advances of the first great wave of revolutions in the last century?
Retired Professor

Thursday
Jul312014

Letters of August 13

PL Summer Project Hits Obama’s Racist Deportations

I am so grateful to the Party for the opportunity to  have been part of the Summer Project in Los Angeles this year. It was very inspiring. I really got to see Party discipline in action. I enjoyed the study groups and gained more insight into how to engage my friends in conversations about topics such as sexism and immigration.

The study group on immigration was particularly helpful to me, especially in light of the increase in deportations under Deporter-in-Chief Obama. I shared with a friend/co-worker the point that when there is a high unemployment rate, the rulers increase the number of deportations. However, when there is a “healthy” unemployment rate (“healthy” for the bosses, that is), they’re more than happy to employ undocumented workers to whom they pay menial wages for laborious tasks and long hours.
One comrade in the study group thought the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was analogous to the deportations of workers from Central America. After recruiting Chinese workers to build the Transcontinental Railroad, U.S bosses sought to deport Chinese workers and to ban Chinese immigrants once the work was completed. The bosses use and refuse workers at their convenience according to which policy will reap maximum profits.
Making these connections with history will help our friends better understand present events. The Project inspired me to become more disciplined and a better student of history so that I may become a better communist. I plan to learn more about the past so that I can act in the present for a better future.
★ ★ ★ ★
The Summer Project was a success, absolutely. Comrades came together as one big multiracial family, young and old, united and fighting for communism. The march in Murrieta and the visit to the garment center inspired us to continue our work to organize in our workplaces and communities to build the PLP. The young people inspired us to put out our best efforts and veteran comrades assisted in that leadership. We will be looking forward to more Summer Projects.
★ ★ ★ ★
The highlight of the Summer Project was our march and rally in Murrieta. The town has been the center of anti-immigrant racism for the past few weeks. As we marched into the town, the tense atmosphere of racism and fear created by the aanti-immigrant fascists waned. And my own fear of being attacked by the racists also faded as I looked around at our multi-racial Party. The Progressive Labor Party is at the forefront in the struggle for unity and equality, and I am proud to be a part of it.
★ ★ ★ ★
Before the Summer Project, I was feeling pretty unmotivated politically. I forced myself to go to LA because I had confidence that it would be a stimulating experience. I could not have been more right. Seeing all these familiar faces and engaging in political conversations reminded me about why I fight for communism. I hope to continue this enthusiasm and do more work for the Party back home.
★ ★ ★ ★
I learned a lot, had a lot of questions answered, and I still have more to be answered. So, I definitely hope to do this again.
★ ★ ★ ★
For the many years I lived here in California, I have seen many groups living in different streets. In my old hometown in South Gate, there were some black, few white people and many Latinos. But as the time went by, my family and I decided to move to Los Angeles to start a new life. Moving to LA wasn’t bad at all but after seeing that there where less Latinos and a lot more white people I was like, “What”?
It turns out I found many Latin and black workers live on the “ghetto side” and I didn’t understand why we couldn’t unite and have the same system instead of having many Latins and blacks living in a corrupt city.
One day, as I walked in downtown LA, I saw a protest group rallying around to fight against racism. Since I want to fight racism and help one another, I decided to join the group [PLP]. After marching the whole day, I found it remarkable that it’s not just one race but all races were in this protest. Many of these people are just great and work as a team.

Thursday
Jul172014

Letters of July 30

PLP Summer Project 2014

Powerful. This is the word that most describes my experience of today’s march. Seeing our whole group, all different ages and races together, was beautiful. But when we started waving our red communist flags and chanting was when I felt like we could really make a change in the world. I loved talking to people and giving them hope for the kind of world that is possible. A lot of people thanked us for standing up against the racist deportations happening in Murrieta. I was also inspired by how quickly people got right into reading CHALLENGE. They really wanted to know what our group had to say.
★ ★ ★ ★  
It was my first rally.  At times, it is discouraging to think of all the close-minded racists. I ask myself, “how on earth are we going to get them to think differently and join us?” However, by participating in this rally, it was encouraging to see the other working-class people come out of the shadows, mouthing the chants by our sides. The rally has inspired me. I am going to go back home to reach out to those still oppressed by the bosses.
★ ★ ★ ★  
Being a part of the protest definitely exposed me to an entirely new perspective. I’ve always been that person who would peek from the window in a car and wonder why people would act so crazy. It was today where I answered my own question. Being that person people look at wondering “why?” made me feel so powerful — weird at first, but by the end of the protest, I knew my voice was heard. Literally, because I lost my voice.
★ ★ ★ ★  
Today we marched against the fascists terrorizing the immigrant community in Murrieta. Unlike many other marches I’ve been to, this march was well organized and militant. Seeing all my comrades fighting for the working class taught me not to be timid when others are suffering. Although the march was relatively small in quantity, the quality of the people was like no other organization. I am proud to be a part of such a great communist movement. I will definitely do more in the future to organize the working class and have a communist movement.
★ ★ ★ ★  
This summer project is teaching me why it’s important to build relationships with my comrades. We want communism for a lot of reasons, one of them being that communism enables people to have the best relationships possible. Capitalist culture breeds the “me first” mentality in every aspect of our lives. Communists, not being immune, must combat these ideas daily.
 In our Party, we strive to build communist relationships and lasting struggle. One way to build unity among our comrades is to fight these racists. There is no greater feeling knowing your comrade has your back when you are entering a possibly hostile situation.
The racists who terrorize buses of child and women migrants make me angry. But these border cops and Obama who are deporting these kids back to their deaths make my blood boil!
I want a world where kids don’t live in conditions that force them to risk their lives fleeing from one inhumane place to another. I want a world where kids, no matter where they were born, are treated like the precious potential they are, not as commodities or useless labor. Maybe I am getting too romantic because I enjoyed all the red diaper kids running around, but the youth really are our future.
Let’s continue to strengthen our organization with these fightbacks. Murrieta reminded me that PLP is a party that fights racism and sexism — not just with words, but with flags, signs, a bullhorn, and the disciplined determination to win. I can’t wait to brainstorm with my friends when I get back home about what we can do locally to fight mass deportations and link it with mass incarceration.
★ ★ ★ ★  
This is my second summer project since joining the Party. Being around different people, old and young and from many different ethnic groups, was nothing new to me as a communist. But this was definitely new to the community of Murrieta, as we rallied in the town where the fascists turned around the bus with immigrant children from Central America. Too often, the media only shows racists and fascists that give the false impression of Murrieta as a racist place. However, we saw otherwise. Seeing the response gave me so much more confidence. There was a real sense of local black and Latin, and white working class people who were happy we were there! PLP gave me tools and I won’t hold back. I will use them!
★ ★ ★ ★  
Another summer project, another great experience! And it was made all the better as this is my first one in LA. In previous years, the summer projects I participated in did not make immigration the main focal point. Good thing this one did.
I got to learn more about how the racist ICE is creating a hate culture around working class immigrants. We marched in Murrieta, a center of this obscenely shameful, xenophobic ideology. It felt great giving scared residents a reminder they have friends in the antiracist fight!
In addition, I spent much time combating my own sexism. We held a study group where  we all discussed sexism both in society and in ourselves. Though, I still have a ways to go, I’m glad I’ve come this far in that area.
I also became more involved in assisting comrades’ babies. Capitalism teaches us that women are supposed to bear the brunt of child work. It isn’t “natural” to men. I say, to hell with that! We helped make them. We need to start sharing the burden more. I will admit I had a sexist paranoia that the women comrades wouldn’t want the male comrades caring for the kids. I am happy to be have been proven wrong. I am happy that I came out to beautiful LA! Here’s to future summer projects!
★ ★ ★ ★  
Today I was proud to be a member of PLP and glad to see a new generation of anti-racist fighters joining the struggle. A friend of mine who came to the rally was very inspired! This summer project will help us to organize the struggle in our area.
★ ★ ★ ★  
Stop racism and join the fight,
Stop being silent and speak out on what is right.
Being racist is not right
Regardless what nationality you may be.

Thursday
Jul032014

Letters of July 16

Working-Class Pride Over Individual Pride
The June Gay Pride parade is organized as a tribute to the fightback against the abuse suffered by gay people at the hands of the police, restaurant and bar owners and landlords in New York City. The parade encourages pride, freedom and self-expression. The rulers are in favor of this “freedom” as long as it is not an expression of resistance against their class.
The ruling class would like us to believe that the oppression of gay people is totally separate from the oppression experienced by others in the working class. Gay pride is often encouraged by the rulers, who exploit it to win workers to their policies and encourage them to vote for one set of politicians. They sell workers the idea that the bosses “care” about issues of discrimination. In fact, it is the ruling class that is responsible for the sexist and racist ideologies that lead to unbearable conditions for the whole working class.

While seemingly harmless, identity politics such as gay pride, or black or Latin pride, isolate workers by emphasizing differences. The differences are not as important as our similarities. For instance, the working-class gay community is hurt by sexism as much as working-class straight women and men. This is a strategy of our enemy — the capitalist ruling class — that wants us to feel separate from one another, instead of uniting to fight them.
People should be proud of their accomplishments, but capitalist culture encourages people to be proud of their sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, or where they were born — things that occur by chance, that require no action. Oppressed groups have been urged to seek liberation in isolation from others and from the class struggle. They organize around issues for “their people,” thinking this will lead to a more equal society. But by excluding themselves from class war, these groups must rely on the paternalism of the bosses. History tells us that the rulers take back whatever “rights” they were forced to grant as soon as it serves their interests to do so.
Identity politics emphasizes the unity of a self-identified group, regardless of political ideology or class. The truth of the matter is that we are in class warfare. We cannot win the fight against our oppressors if we are divided. Only through a unified, international working-class struggle will we be able to truly overthrow the bosses and celebrate the one true culture: working-class culture.   
Fighting Sexism through Class Struggle
 

Socialism Essentially Flawed
In CHALLENGE (July 2), Saguaro Rojo very correctly writes that human nature is not inherently selfish and that a corrupt leadership in China “forced conditions to deteriorate back to capitalist competition and individualism” in the late 1960s. But I think that he underestimates the continuation of capitalism after the 1949 revolution.
As early as 1926, in his Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society, Mao wrote that “as for the vacillating middle bourgeoisie, their right-wing may become our enemy and their left-wing may become our friend.” This was the theoretical basis for the continuation of capitalism under socialism.
In his 1953 book Clefs Pour la Chine, Claude Roy writes:
No, the united front of four classes is not a decorative façade in China. No, the role confided to the bourgeoisie by the proletariat is not a rhetorical formula.
And he quotes Lee Feng, a big businessman he met in Shanghai, who told him:
The class struggle can be carried on even in the government committees. Who says that the presence of representatives of the national bourgeoisie, of Chinese capitalism in the people’s councils, is not useful…? (303).
Lee Feng went on to say:
Let me talk to you as a businessman. Take a fact: the agrarian reform. What consequences did it have for us industrialists and merchants? First, it opened up an immense domestic market for us. We can satisfy this national market thanks to government aid. Work contracts and the status of private industry relations with the trade unions and workers have been established. The government provides us with loans and raw materials, orients production and stimulates it with a system of orders. … Private industry [in the Mukden region] grew by 30.2% between 1949 and 1950. … One day, all these companies will melt into the socialist economy and will change their character. OK. But until then, there’s work and money to be made for everybody in China (304).
In her 1965 book A Chacun Sa Chine, Catherine Van Moppès describes a member of the bourgeoisie who tried to pick her up in a Shanghai restaurant:
This seductive gentleman … is wearing a red carnation, a plaid waistcoat with a matching hat, and a blue-and-yellow striped suit. He is carrying a cane with a silver pomme (261).
Van Moppès continues:
He used to own ‘his’ business. Now, ‘they’ have taken everything, but ‘they’ give him a private income, an annual interest on his former capital, and he doesn’t seem to be living poorly at all.
While Saguaro Rojo is right about the gains in conditions made by hundreds of millions of Chinese workers and peasants under socialism, it is important to see that the return to full-blown capitalism was facilitated because the worm was in the apple from the beginning.
A friend in France

Memoirs of Antiracist Struggle

The following two letters have been written by a comrade, a longtime member of PLP.
It is part of a memoir of struggles on the shop floor, against the fascists, and in building
 PLP’s fight for communism.

How to Greet A Racist: A Fist to the Face
In October 1999, the Ku Klux Klan came to demonstrate on a Saturday in Foley Square, New York City.  Mayor Rudolph Guiliani gave them the okay to march, but not with their hoods on. Thousands of outraged people came out that day to protest the racists. More than 100 Progressive Labor Party members were in the crowd, selling CHALLENGE and trying to move the barriers aside to enable a large attack. Since my two friends and I realized it was unlikely people would be able to break through the barriers and rush the Klan, we tried to find a more creative way to complete our mission.
We had to find out which part of Foley Square the Klan would come from. As we scouted around, it became clear they would be led from behind one of the courthouses. We went back to an area where no one was gathered.  Pretending to be workmen, we walked down the middle of the street. On one side were barriers to contain thousands of anti-Klan demonstrators. On the other side, where the Klan members would enter, there were three lines of barricades. Police were inside two of them. The Klan was to demonstrate inside the third set.  
The three of us approached the corner and told the police we were there to support the Klan, and that the mayor had announced over the news media that anyone who wanted to support the Klan could come to demonstrate with them. The police didn’t want to listen, but we refused to leave the spot. When they told us to go back with the crowd, we said we supported the Klan and were afraid the crowd would beat us up.
There was a five-minute wait while the five-star commander, who was 50 yards from us, spoke on the phone — probably to the mayor — to get the okay to let us inside the perimeter. They let us in — we could hardly believe it! We were nervous, excited, and very determined to carry out the attack. The cops escorted us through the first barrier, and then the second barrier. The news media began taking pictures of us as Klan supporters. We felt committed to carry out our plan, no matter what.
As we passed inside the third barrier, two skinheads — fellow Klan “supporters” — came out to shake our hands.  It was hard for us to resist punching these racists out, but we had bigger fish to fry. So we swallowed our revulsion and shook these vermin’s hands. Sometimes it’s necessary to use working-class guile.  
Just then the police escorted the Klan directly into our pen, straight toward us. Wasting no time, we started punching the Klan leader, then his fellow-racist.
The newscast of our attack on the Klan was literally a shot heard around the world. The BBC and CNN, among other networks, beamed it worldwide. The three of us had been friends and comrades for a long time. We trusted each other. What we had to do was difficult and we did it together. We were united to make sure this scum would not demonstrate in this multi-racial city without paying a price.
The Polishook Factory
This story started when I had worked in the Polishook jewelry factory in New York, doing mass production. During my six years there a strong base was built. There were 40 factory workers and 10 office workers. I was a shop steward. Many struggles happened during the 6 years. In February of 1969 our union was involved in a bitter, five week strike during which the people in the factory became tight friends. After the strike the workers realized that the increase was too small.
We decided on the job that we would demand that the union ask for an additional 10-cents-per-hour raise. Eighteen of us went to the union office and asked the executive board to reopen the contract for an additional 10 cents. The union polled the shop stewards, who agreed that we needed the money. Within a few weeks, it was agreed to by management. The whole trade got a ten-cent raise, which was a significant amount of money then. Then an article was printed in the union newsletter to say that our shop was the spearhead group.
At the time I was getting out 17 CHALLENGES every issue, bringing some people to demonstrations and Party cultural events, and had close family relationships with some of the workers, and two workers had joined the Party. We had a study group going at work with attendance between one and six people weekly. We also considered ourselves to be a union within the union, a caucus. When Martin Luther King was killed in 1968, we refused to work and the whole factory walked out for a day.
Many of us looked for a demonstration, supposedly in Central Park. We didn’t find it, and spent the day talking revolution. We were not paid for the day. We didn’t care. One of the things we discussed was that the union newsletter should have something about the struggle of black workers for equality. A few days after King’s death, 20 of us went to the union office and demanded they publish a full-page anti-racist article, and they did.
December 7, 1971 was the start of a major struggle. There were always layoffs, but usually after the Christmas holiday. Joaquin, one of the polishers, was laid off four weeks before Christmas. This meant he wouldn’t get his Christmas bonus. This incident led to a wildcat sit-down strike in the factory. That night I was fired and told not to report to work on Monday. I asked my club for advice, and they suggested a picket line. My family came and set up a picket line on Monday. The workers walked on the line for us – knowingly supporting a communist.
The union leaders came down to tell everyone (except me) to go back to work. The Latin leader talked to the Latin workers, the black leader talked to the black workers, and the Jewish leader spoke to the Italians, Jews, and other white workers. The workers eventually went in. That day five additional workers were fired. By this time we were a tough team. The following day, the six of us who had been fired held a sit-in at the union headquarters demanding the union fight for all of our jobs. A group of us from work picketed the boss’s home in Dobbs Ferry, singing him Christmas carols, especially “The Working Class is Coming to Town.” We leafleted the town to let people know he was a “scrooge”.
We petitioned jewelry workers at other factories throughout New York City, and leafleted and talked at union meetings. Some of us sold Challenge wherever we went. The ongoing developments often appeared in Challenge. All the workers got our jobs back through the union’s lawyer. After all this, the executive board of the union voted me out of the union. They attacked me as “a trouble-maker” and “a communist”.
The motion to throw me out had to be brought to the  membership for a vote. We kept leafleting, selling CHALLENGE, and some of my friends spoke on the floor of the union. I lost the vote to stay in the union by a very narrow margin after an exciting fight on the union floor. I had to walk out of the union meeting. My brother and sister workers walked out with me. It was a very difficult moment.
An election for union officers soon followed. Our caucus ran a slate of candidates against the leadership. I couldn’t run or vote because I was out of the union. We got about 20 percent of the vote. When I was expelled from the union, PLP got me a lawyer who wanted to take the case on pro bono because he said it would fill a gap in the law on workers’ defenses on the job. Eventually, after a year of putting pressure on the union by continuing to leaflet and petition union shops, a member of the caucus stood up on the union floor and stated, “We should bring him back. He’s never going to give in.”  
Through the support of my union comrades, my lawyer won the case in April 1973, thus setting a legal precedent which has been used in many cases since. The union leadership never appealed this decision because there was too much pressure on them. This battle was fought not only in the courts, but also in the streets, the factories, and the union hall. This is what basebuilding can do. It is our best and strongest defense, along with winning people to see that the only really effective way to fight the bosses is to join the Progressive Labor Party.

 

Wednesday
Jun182014

Letters of July 2

Seattle Minimum Wage Hike Headed Downward
The Seattle city council voted to be the second city in the U.S., behind SeaTac, to adopt a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Mayor Ed Murray praised the resolution as a “model for the rest of the nation to follow” after it passed unanimously (Seattle Times, 6/2).
This however was all a show. Murray has spent the last six months trying to undermine the push for a minimum wage hike. All of the city council members save one, Kshama Sawant, has been fighting this raise tooth and nail since a mass movement forced it into the political arena a year ago. It was workers in the street participating in fast food strikes and showing up by the thousands over the last two May Day marches demanding $15 now that has forced the hand of the political establishment. Were they not to pass their watered-down minimum wage resolution now, a referendum would have been on the next ballot for an immediate wage hike that has 68% support in the city (The Stranger, 2/12).
And this resolution is heavily watered down. The wage hike will be incremental, taking eight years before it is in effect for all workers. Larger employers will have from 3-4 years to comply and “small businesses” — hilariously defined as any company with less than 500 workers — have 5-7 years to reach the $15 target. Further the process of ratcheting up the minimum wage has been pushed back from January to April. All of this is to ensure the maximum possible depreciation caused by inflation. If we assume the same inflation rate over the last eight years the $15 minimum wage will depreciate by 15 percent effectively making it $12.76-per-hour when it finally takes effect in 2021. And this doesn’t even get into the “training wage” that it allows for teenagers (allowing for hyper-exploitation of child labor) and disabled workers.
While being the face of capitalism in Seattle, Ed Murray, praised the bill through gritted teeth, the business community has already begun to undermine the measure. A business front group called Forward Seattle plans to put its own referendum on the next ballot that would create a Charter Amendment — which would supersede the current resolution and is harder to repeal — that incrementally raises the wage to $12.50 by 2020 (about $11.35 in 2014 dollars). The International Franchise Association has vowed to sue over the wage hike, a tactic that worked to undermine the SeaTac measure earlier this year. And Tim Eyman — a David Koch of sorts for state politics — plans to put an initiative in front of the state legislature that prohibits cities and counties from adopting their own minimum wage standards (The Stranger, 6/4).
But the biggest obstacle to $15-per-hour is the refusal of government agencies to enforce any measure seen as protecting workers against their boss’s total control. An anti-wage theft ordinance was passed last year, but city officials have refused to enforce it. Mandatory sick leave was passed in the city, but not a single employer has been sanctioned, despite 40 percent of companies refusing to comply with the ordinance. The capitalist class is always happy to promise pay that they will never give out.
It took workers in the street demanding a wage hike to get this resolution passed. It will take workers in the street to force the capitalist class to abide by this new resolution. Still, even if we forced Seattle’s capitalists to make good on $15-per-hour they would simply lie in wait picking at the edges until they undermined the reform. Ultimately workers need to ditch this exploitative system altogether. Fighting for a higher minimum wage helps to expose the exploitation of the system, but only revolutionary politics will get rid of the indignities of capitalism once and for all.
Red Beard
GPCR: Inequality, Selfishness Not Part of Human Nature
The fourth entry of the series on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in CHALLENGE from 4/23/14 to 6/4/14 tells of the disintegration of not only the GPCR in the late 1960s, but of the entire revolution that had taken China from the dark ages of colonial exploitation to a socialist society in 1949, one that inaccurately called itself “communist.”  The gains even under socialism made by hundreds of millions of Chinese workers and peasants, not least in the rural areas, were among the greatest and fastest improvements in conditions for the vast majority in the history of the world. Only the Soviet Union in its first few decades matched this record. Illiteracy was eliminated, health care was guaranteed for all, universal education reigned, and poverty, homelessness, and hunger were abolished, all through collectivity.
That article was very instructive in showing how the  reintroduction of private property degrades collective and cooperative social relationships that benefit all. It is much easier to see when actual conditions run from collectivity to individualism, rather than our having to imagine their running in the opposite direction. In distributing previously collectively owned means of production and giving it to various individuals, the by-then corrupt and capitalist-minded Chinese leadership created a small number of increasingly rich at the expense of a vast number of increasingly poor.
In the world’s capitalist societies, it is clear that a very large majority of the working class can barely sustain ourselves and many of us continually teeter on the brink of utter destruction in the form of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, maiming and death in the military — and underlying all these and hindering us from fighting back — racist and sexist discrimination and super-exploitation. The existence of such inequality is always said by the capitalists to be the fault of that majority. Their propagandists get away with this lie through the fiction of “human nature,” in which people are said to be incapable of change and some are simply said to be born more capable than others. Added to which everyone is said to be constitutionally selfish and is always trying to better their own position at the expense of others.
But China is a society that degraded itself in the late 1960s, starting from a position of hard-won collectivity and cooperation in which all workers benefited. Losers, if any, were few and far between. Then with the defeat of the GPCR the corrupt leadership forced conditions to deteriorate back to capitalist competition and individualism (selfishness). This earthshaking experience in China makes it much clearer that the inequality of the revived capitalism there has nothing to do with selfishness and varying degrees of competence, since those did not exist before. Rather it has everything to do with the traitorous actions of the leading party that has the gall to still call itself “communist.”  They do so to attempt to fool the workers of the world.
With competition there are guaranteed losers, while with cooperation it is the absence of losers that can be guaranteed, as each helps all. The capitalists worldwide turn the focus away from the ubiquitous losers and pretend either that they don’t exist or that it is our own fault. They focus instead on the small number of winners to try to attract workers to climbing over their neighbors’ backs to achieve similar status. But it is clear, from the experience of the defeat of the GPCR, that selfishness and competition, rather than being fixed characteristics of a mythological “human nature,” is structurally inherent in capitalism. That is why the PLP fights to abolish it. Join us.
Saguaro Rojo
Soviets Outfoxed Imperialists
Whenever the facts surface of how the Soviet (workers’ councils) Red Army defeated the Nazis in World War II, the imperialist-controlled media is quick to say that the Hitler-Soviet non-aggression pact was a betrayal of the British and French (allies) to the Nazis.
Italian and German fascists’ movements were organized in the 1920s and thirties to destroy the worldwide communist movement of workers inspired by the 1917 Soviet revolution against their capitalist bosses. Fascist movements were supported by the big imperialist powers like Britain and France along with the U.S. where regular pro-Nazi radio broadcasts by anti-communist Catholic labor unions and mass fascist rallies in Madison Square Garden occurred. The imperialist allies’ strategy was to appease worldwide German and Italian aggression and encourage it to attack the Soviet Union whose ideas threatened all imperialists.
The Soviets knew that the Nazis were planning to invade the USSR and pleaded with the allies many times to join in a war against Hitler if he continued to invade other countries. The allies refused because they believed their great empires were too strong for Hitler to attack and they really wanted their two enemies, Germany and the Soviets, to destroy each other while they waited out the war.
Stalin understood the imperialists’ strategy and also Hitler’s fear of another two-front (East and West) conflict like World War I that defeated Germany. So Stalin accepted the German offer of a non-aggression pact to turn Hitler’s drive for empire away from the Soviet Union towards the British and French empires whose “great” armies were demolished by the Nazis in a few months.
The short time won by the non-aggression pact allowed the Soviets to move most of their industries beyond the Ural Mountains, out of range of German bombers, where they built the tanks and planes that helped the Red Army destroy the Nazi invasion.
A Comrade
In Memory of Comrade Steve Carl
On May 10 a dear comrade, Steve Carl, died from extensive lung cancer at age 69.  Steve was much too young to die, but he was yet another victim of profit-mad capitalism.  While he had smoked more than 40 years ago — feeding the profits of the killer tobacco industry — he had also worked at Inland Steel around that time.  Like all workers, he had given them far more in back-breaking labor time than he ever received in wages.  He remembered coming home from work every day and coughing up black junk for an hour, until he could breathe a little more easily.  In addition, most of his fellow workers smoked, and second-hand smoke contributed to his cancer.  After leaving Inland he became a teacher in Chicago.
Steve was the embodiment of the communist spirit.  As a social studies teacher, first at King High School and later at Hyde Park Career Academy, two impoverished black schools on Chicago’s South Side, Steve taught the truth about the capitalist system to thousands of students, over the years.  He was highly regarded by his students and their parents, not only because of his teaching, but because of the respect and care he had for each of them.  In the 1980’s, he routinely brought at least a bus full of students to PLP’s May Day marches.
Steve lived modestly. He preferred good times with friends and family to material goods.  He created beautiful paintings from acrylic and nail polish, which were presented at a show in downtown Chicago titled “Dialectical Expressionism.”  The show’s brochure included a brief explanation of dialectical materialism (the Marxist scientific approach to revolution).  He retired from high school teaching when the school administration insisted he teach from a canned curriculum, implemented draconian discipline policies against students, and emphasized test-prep over deep understanding.  That was not what Steve became a teacher to do!
Steve was very active in the Chicago Chapter of a group called the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR).  On the several occasions when he invited one of the co-chairpersons of InCAR to speak to his high school students, Steve always guaranteed a large turnout. He was able to do this because he fought against racism and was very popular with his black students.  In later years the InCAR chairperson would often run into some of Steve’s students who remembered how he brought them under the influence of multiracial unity, enabling them to remain as progressives, capable of relating to political constituents of all colors.
In later years, after he retired, Steve split his time between his house in Dillon, Montana and the house of his partner (Marylou, called Lou) in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.  He joined various community groups and continued to offer communist analyses of events for his friends and neighbors.  Both he and Lou were painters, in very different styles, but occasionally they would paint a canvas together, with Steve providing an abstract overlay to Lou’s landscapes.  They jointly ran an art gallery in Dillon and were joined by other local artists. 
Steve is survived by Lou, as well as his son and two daughters from earlier marriages.  He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, and the working class has been robbed of a staunch defender and fighter.
Chicago Comrades