Thursday
Dec242015

Letters of January 13

Anti-Muslim Racism is Anti-Black, Anti-Arab
We the Party in Haiti discussed the last two editorials (11/25 and 12/9) and they are good. We think that we should clarify something for the working class. First, anti-Muslim racism is racism against both Black and Arab workers. Historically, many oppressed workers and youth have converted to Islam. And the imperialists from the eastern hemisphere use them to fight on the side of their own bosses against the Western imperialists. ISIS playing on workers’ alienation and the anti-Muslim racism are both really an attack on the working class.
There is a more than a hint of repartitioning the small capitalist countries, whose rulers take sides, either for Russia and China or on the side of the U.S. and France.
Some oppressed workers, weakened by reformist ideas and the collapse of old communist movement in the last century, enter into the ranks of eastern terrorists against the western terrorists through the ideology of Islam.
We’d like to add something on the question of taking power and the electoral system pushed by the bourgeoisie. Democracy is an alienating doctrine in that it fools workers into thinking they can take power through taking over the government. In reality, the bosses use democracy to pacify and disarm us. They also use elections to push their capitalist ideas on the working class. Elections are also a means of sharing or dividing power among the bourgeoisie. There is a class dictatorship at play among the bourgeoisie for example, in the U.S. and in France among the openly fascists and the liberal bosses.
Here in Haiti, what’s going on worldwide economically and politically really interests us. We know we should be writing more on how to strengthen our communist politics and multiply the number of our members to build a real mass Party. We will conduct inner-Party struggle to guarantee more writing in the coming year and beyond!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Nationalism Hurts All Workers
I recently came back from a trip to Israel, a country built with the myth that it would be of Jews, by Jews, and for Jews where Jewish people could prosper. I know the Israeli state’s existence is only possible because of the ethnic cleansing of workers in Palestine and that it is built on a foundation of anti-Arab racism. So, I expected to see non-Jewish workers and youth living in oppressive (to put it lightly) conditions. Indeed, I found this to be true.
But I didn’t expect to find Jewish workers living in terrible conditions. They were living in apartments barely large enough to sleep in. They were working overtime and barely affording to pay rent and eat. I saw people sleeping in the streets, begging for money. I saw all the same things I see in the United States. Though Arab and African immigrant workers are absolutely the most oppressed and exploited, it is a myth that Jewish workers live in luxury.
Seeing this society reminded me of the conversations I have with friends about creating an “all-Black society.” Many prescribe to the idea that if Black people band together to help each other and create their own society, things will be better for them. My experiences in Israel prove this ideology to be incorrect. Our unity to fight racism must be based on class, not race.
Israel is a society based on their race/religion, and it has only hurt the working class. There is still poverty, exploitation, and racism—lots of racism. Nationalism has been tried and failed many times over. It is a road to failure for the international working class. The only way to build a society that works is to unite based on class and smash capitalism worldwide.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Liberal FDR’s Nazi-Style Camps
In the December 23 issue of CHALLENGE, the letter “Racist FDR No Friend of Workers” did a good job of attacking president Roosevelt’s image as a pro-working class president. However, it did leave out one of his most racist and fascist actions, which is especially important for us to expose in the current political climate. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR issued an executive order to forcefully remove all people of Japanese descent throughout the U.S, from their homes and force them into concentration camps. They were packed twenty-five people to a room built for four, limited to 45-cents of food per day, had no plumbing, insufficient medical care leading to outbreaks of dysentery and tuberculosis, and were kept in by armed guards prepared to shoot anyone who approached the fence.
Trump’s calls for the rounding-up and imprisonment of Muslim workers are no different from Roosevelt’s racist attacks on Japanese workers. But make no mistake: his rhetoric is not just right-wing hysteria. Roosevelt was an epitome of the Democratic Party. Racism and fascism are essential tools of the capitalists to keep workers divided from each other and loyal to their national bosses, to see workers across the world as their enemies. It is all part of a scheme to build for imperialist war.
Therefore, it makes no difference whether a Republican or Democrat is in office, the result is the same: more racism, more exploitation, and more attacks on workers. Whether Trump or Clinton wins the election, they will both follow this long legacy. Fight racism from all of the bosses’ mouth pieces!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Saturday
Dec122015

Letters of December 23

Rally Builds Women as Leaders
As someone fairly new to political activism, participating with my comrades in the Million Student March at Hunter College in November was an excitingly rich and gainful experience.
I left the protest with many lessons on what it means to effectively participate as a member of PLP. I learned that simply being present is not enough, and that understanding how to actively participate is quite difficult when demonstrating side-by-side with other leftist groups. I realized that although we may agree some demands pushed by these groups in principle, our foundational differences keep us significantly apart. While they preach reform within the system, we fight for international communist revolution; while some revolt against the symptoms, in this case, Zionism, we attack the disease: imperialist rivalries in the capitalist system. I learned that these nuances are nothing to gloss over, and that, with a little bit of strategizing accompanied by a bullhorn, even a group of women as small as three people can shift the rhetoric back to class struggle.
The greatest personal lesson I left with came with my first speech over a bullhorn. I started off strong, talking about my opinions and own personal experience with affording college, and I was thrilled at the lively response I received from the crowd. However, about halfway through, I got nervous, lost my train of thought, and handed off the mike. In all my preparation, I failed to realize that the message of my speech should ultimately lead back to the Party line. If I had kept this in mind, I could have easily regained myself. Despite the mild embarrassment, I am eager to use what I learned in rallies, protests, and marches to come!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Analyzing Bosses’ Splits Irrelevant for Working Class?
In the CHALLENGE editorial  of 11/25/15, assertions were made that could lead to misconceptions of the ruling class, its relations with elections and our analysis of the class struggle against the capitalists.  
It was stated that “elections in any capitalist country…are used to discipline bosses ranks, to centralize power…” Elections are not tools used to discipline one ruling class factions by another.  The only functions of these bourgeois elections is to deceive workers through reforms and reliance on the lesser of two evils. Also: Every U.S. president has endorsed military force as long as imperialist rivalry demands it.  From Reagan to Obama, the U.S. has bombed the Middle East since the 1980s.
It’s true that the electoral system was used in Germany and Austria to bring fascism, with the support of reformist-led organizations.  Yet insisting that one set of the ruling class, specifically the Koch brothers, is trying to use the 2016 election to stop the centralization of power is completely inaccurate. The Koch brothers are as imperialist and capitalist as any boss; they own facilities throughout Europe, Canada and Mexico.
On a last note, it’s irrelevant to analyze the U.S. ruling class as opposing factions, with an imperialist wing and a domestic wing. Capitalism is what leads to imperialism.  Military force will always be used to tighten a loosened imperialist grip.  When capitalism is in crisis, the bosses will use fascist actions to increase profits and quell working-class rebellion. Only the working class can defeat the bourgeoisie and its profit system throughout the world.
CHALLENGE response: While all U.S. bosses profit by exploiting workers, they do not have identical interests. Saying so would be misguiding workers. How else do we explain the stark difference between the propaganda of the anti-interventionist Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch (essentially: Don’t waste tax dollars in the Middle East) and the mainstream imperialist Council of Foreign Relations (essentially: The U.S. needs to regain control of the Middle East)?
Yes, the Kochs benefit from aspects of imperialism, and they sometimes buy Iraqi oil. But their international operations pale by comparison to ExxonMobil’s—they do not operate oil wells in both northern and southern Iraq, for example.
As a result, they have less urgency to plant boots on the ground in the Middle East, and less interest in footing the tax bill for the broader imperialist war to come. Finally, if elections don’t reflect inter-boss conflict, why do the factions behind these opposing policies spend so much on them? Understanding splits in the ruling class guides us on how to fight back.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Capitalism Strangles Children
The news has recently mentioned research showing that crib bumpers (that line in baby’s cribs designed to prevent their getting caught between the vertical struts) have been responsible for scores of infant deaths through suffocation over the last few decades. The researchers have found, in fact, that virtually all infant deaths are due to suffocation either from crib bumpers, from parents who roll over on their babies in bed, or other instruments of air blockage.
And now comes a statement by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association that they do “not know of any infant deaths directly attributed to crib bumpers.”  Thus capitalism strikes again. They might as well have said, “Our profits are more important than your baby’s life.”  To the capitalists this is undeniably true. To the working class, the elimination of capitalism from the surface of the earth is a matter of life and death.
As a secondary point, what used to be called SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is now seen to be due to suffocation. Before, SIDS was thought by pediatricians and others — who are all too ready to attribute everything to our genes — to be due to some genetic defect in the infant, which misdiagnosis, among other things, made parents of a SIDS victim scared to have more children. Any statement that attributes health conditions just to our genes should be looked at with great skepticism, particularly since in almost every case, the real cause is subsequently found to be conditions of capitalism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Racist FDR No Friend of Workers
In a previous issue of CHALLENGE, the letter “Deadly Pitfall of ‘Progressives’” mentioned president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. This is expanding on FDR’s critical role in protecting capitalism in that time period.
When FDR became president in 1933, the U.S. was in the midst of the worst depression in the country’s history. The crisis was worldwide. There was only one country that had full employment — the communist-led Soviet Union, setting an example for the international working class. More than one-third of U.S. workers were jobless. Given the threat of uprisings, Roosevelt was determined to save capitalism. And his first move was to the right. He sent General Hugh Johnson to Italy to study Mussolini’s fascist state to possibly use that to fend off any radical threat to the bosses’ system.
But communists were organizing the unemployed, bringing 800,000 workers into a National Unemployment Council, fighting for unemployment insurance. Then the communists led the organizing of the autoworkers in a sit-down strike for union recognition, occupying GM’s Flint, Michigan, plants. Roosevelt called out the National Guard to surround the plants and also used them against strikes throughout the country. The Flint strikers warned GM that if the Guard attempted to enter the plants, they would destroy the company’s billion dollars worth of machinery. This forced GM to give in.
This sparked a mass movement throughout the U.S., which forced Roosevelt to respond with a series of reforms, including unemployment benefits, Social Security, the 8-hour day and 40-hour week. Roosevelt and the rulers used these reforms to win the working class to support the U.S. war effort against fascism. They instituted a military draft of 14 million workers, which wiped out the Great Depression’s unemployment. It should be noted however that the majority of workers were anti-fascist and fighting to defeat the Nazis and Japanese fascists. They greatly supported the Soviet Union’s smashing of Hitler, with the Red Army taking on 80 percent of the Nazi armies.
But Roosevelt was no champion of the working class. He saw to it that the bosses made billions in profits from the capitalists’ war effort. And he sided with the racist Democrats in the Southern states in opposing anti-lynching legislation, and maintaining the Jim Crow oppression of Black people in all areas of life — poverty wages, slum housing and apartheid medical care and ghettoes enforced by police terror.
Unfortunately the U.S. Communist Party, while militantly anti-racist, ended up supporting Roosevelt in his last two election campaigns on the basis of a united front against fascism. The CPSUA failed the working class by disregarding the fact that the U.S. was engaged in an imperialist fight against German and Japanese bosses, and was by no means on our side.

Tuesday
Dec012015

Letters of December 9

On-the-Job Report
Base-Building and Resilience 
 

Patience is the most important characteristic I have learned since joining Progressive Labor Party. Within the current conditions facing the working class, patience will protect us from reactionary ideas and actions.
I work at a bottling distribution company in Texas. The ideas of my fellow workers, like most, are controlled by capitalist ideology. Racism, nationalism, sexism and reliance on the bosses have been persistent. Initially, it was difficult to maintain anti-capitalist conversations. But with patience, I have been able to develop some friendships and trust through constantly taking a pro-worker, anti-profit stance.
We face many struggles on the job. When I began work at the company, free water was provided. But in September, the company began charging us. I explained to the workers how it was wrong to steal our wages during a time of low profits for the company. I exposed how the plant’s bosses got free water, but the workers who produced the plant’s profits—and the bosses’ salaries—did not.
Everyone agreed and many were angry, but there was no agreement on a plan of action. One worker suggested alerting the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). I took charge and called, which allowed me to link capitalism and the government when OSHA told us the company’s action was completely legal.
With this step forward in class consciousness, we took two steps backwards through defeatism. Most of the workers insisted there was no point in speaking out since no one had our back. I asserted that this was why we had to take things into our own hands. We must stand together, since water is the most vital component of human life. No one took up my proposal, but trying to organize a strike after two months on the job is a difficult mountain to climb. We haven’t built that endurance yet.
At a recent human resources meeting, I brought up the common concern for higher wages. The head of human resources, a department most of the guys thought was for us, told us we get exactly what we deserved—a measly $10.40 an hour. Later, when we got together on break, I discussed how what we do is the foundation of this company. But the company thinks we don’t deserve to live like those who own it.
Through small but persistent steps, I have been able to discuss a lot. Sometimes we even joke about going on strike, but no one is as serious as I am, yet. The potential is there, and I will continue the struggle. Two workers were invited to a forum we had on PLP’s trip to Ferguson. Neither showed up, but I’m still a new organizer and can break that barrier through constant struggle.
Tomorrow may not bring the revolution, but with every day that passes we get one day closer. With patience but persistence, my struggle will strengthen.  and with the 2016 elections coming up and the realities of fascism exposing its unfettered free fall presses on urgency on me, and other I hope. I will continue to work on my CHALLENGE distribution, and recently I was able to pass out my first CHALLENGEs to four workers. I have been given the honor of organizing the workers’ club, so I must strive for better results. Hopefully this criticism of my success and failures help you all know we are not alone in these difficult times organizing the people. But we must have confidence in our class, for the potential is there. Here’s to the struggle of the international communist revolution!

 

Inspired by Comrades in Haiti

I recently had the opportunity to visit our comrades in Haiti.  In a few days, I was more inspired than ever to fight against this capitalist system. Before and during the trip I read a book, Red & Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957 by Matthew J. Smith. I was reminded of some important lessons regarding Black nationalism and committing to protracted struggle that might be helpful for others.
Haiti is the best example of capitalism’s failure, with workers here living under the poorest conditions in the Western hemisphere. Most are unemployed and utilities like water and electricity are things the poorest workers in Haiti could only dream of. Many eat only once a day, and many others once every few days. When elections were coming up, bosses and their 54 presidential candidates gave people small sums of money, food and drinks in exchange for votes.
Ever since the slaves emancipated themselves from the French bosses in 1804, the working class in Haiti has been an inspiration. This revolution was not the end tof he fight for freedom. In 1946, a communist student-led general strike brought the whole country to a halt. During my trip, one student asked me, “How can young people change the world?” Luckily for her, students there have already set a great precedent, including our Party’s activity on campuses, in the outer towns, and in the streets.
The old communist movement in Haiti was involved in many sharp struggles. The Haitian ruling class used violence, intimidation and expulsion to try to silence them. The bosses also spread anti-communist propaganda through their media, and used noirisme—Black nationalism—to confuse workers and mount an ideological attack against communists in the Popular Socialist Party. The noiriste and staunch anticommunist François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier, backed by U.S. imperialism, ruled a fascist state through terrorism, rape, and murder from 1957 to 1971, when he was succeeded by his fascist son.
But Communists have continued to find ways to reemerge and unite with the masses of Haiti. History shows that communism belongs to the international working class; the two successful revolutions were in Russia and China, and workers from regions ranging from the Indian subcontinent to Africa to Latin America took up red ideas en masse. Many in PLP know that communism is far from a “white people’s ideological tool.” Our comrades in Haiti know this, too.
Communists worldwide need to expose the lie that communism is an intellectual movement of white people. This is especially important at a time when Black Lives Matter would allow Black racist Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to attend one of their conferences while white workers who fight racism are banned.
Only a PLP-led communist system can put the working class — from Haiti to Syria — in power. On the first night, while sharing our stories of fightback, one comrade acknowledged that our Party’s fight is very difficult but also very important, and that it will take a long-term commitment to smash this system. He is willing to make that commitment. Before leaving, I told him that meeting committed comrades like him make fighting for communism a little bit easier. I look forward to working even harder to make a communist world a reality.

Friday
Oct162015

Letters of October 28

Serve Our Students: Organize
I have always loved working with students and have understood that education is a battleground for anti-racism, anti-sexism and other communist ideologies. After all, the classroom is one of the first places where people learn capitalist thinking. Therefore, I thought City Year, an AmeriCorps education program, would be a great way to spend a year. They send teams of about ten young people to under-resourced schools to provide support in math, English, behavior, attendance and after-school programs.
What seemed like an excellent opportunity to work with kids has turned out to be far different. We work nearly 11-hour days, five days a week, without most government holidays. Only half of this time is spent with students. We are not paid a wage, but a monthly stipend of $1000, which is so low that we are expected to apply for food stamps to help make ends meet. This program is great for the education bosses, because rather than hiring full-time teachers who can get benefits and a salary, they can bring in a team of temporary labor.
What has been wearing us down is not even this exploitation. It is what many call the CULTure. City Year enforces a culture of obedience to authority. They exert control of our actions and thoughts through the kind of discourse we are allowed to engage in. It’s like something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984!
We have relatively no say in who, what or how we teach. We are also subjected to childish time-wasting activities every day. We are treated as juvenile, unimportant and disposable. Some people at the job say that City Year seems more concerned with brand recognition than actually helping students or workers. It is degrading. So many people have quit that some schools are down half their workforce, forcing those remaining to fill in the gaps by increasing the workload of each member.
As bad as it is for the City Year workers, the mainly Black, Latin, and immigrant students are always hurt the most. Every time someone quits, students lose an extra support. Even if workers don’t quit prematurely, these City Year workers have merely three weeks of bogus training and are only there for one year. The high turnover rate and the one-year commitment mean that students lose out on having teachers who gain experience and build strong relationships with them.
Moreover, City Year makes a conscious effort to recruit Black and Latin people who come from the neighborhoods they serve. This builds a blame-the-victim philosophy: “I worked hard and made it out of poverty; you can, too.”
Programs like City Year hurt workers and students. They will never fix what City Year calls the “drop-out crisis.” It is just another way to keep young people busy and make them feel like they are contributing to society. It is just another way to keep people from fighting back. I hope to win co-workers to this outlook and build for what is really going to serve students best: a communist revolution.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Smash Borders: Embassies First!
The world capitalist countries set up their embassies to maintain their capitalist relations. A U.S. embassy in East Africa is one of the good example that shows how capitalist countries maintain their capitalist relations.
I went to the embassy for visa service but what I observed from the embassy is totally a capitalist business similar to selling drugs. The embassy charges 160 USD per visa! In the embassy, these mostly Black people who could afford the charge asked irrelevant questions so as to demoralize them and anger them.  The counselor uses this as a technique of disqualifying workers from getting visa. And so, they have to make a second payment for the visa application.
In this embassy, more than 70 are called for visa interviews per day and more are disqualified to get the visa. These embassies are open for business, not for the “public service.” The inhumane people full of capitalist spirit, these racists and sexists who call themselves counselors, give this oppressive kind of public office service to people. These kinds of inequalities in the offices will continue until we have a global communist revolution that will result in a world communist government.
It is only through communist revolution that we will end the existence of capitalist embassies. There will be no more borders!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Friday
Oct022015

Letters of October 14

Actions (and Buttons!) Louder than Words
Wearing an anti-racist button helps make anti-racism a mass issue and can lead to some great revealing conversations.
I liked a recent letter in Challenge about someone who wore a shirt covered in “No to Racism” buttons at the Unitarian Church convention.
I recently bought three “Oscar Grant” buttons while visiting Los Angeles. Many said they liked the button. I gave away the three I had. I had to twist arms to buy 34 more anti-racist buttons. I am now down to 1! People usually give me a dollar as a donation to the PLP.
I was disappointed that the buttons were not being sold at the Party’s 50th Anniversary dinner. All members and friends should be struggled with to distribute or sell the buttons for $1 to their friends, co-workers and neighbors. Some people do not like to wear buttons, but can put them on backpacks, purses or tote bags. It is a very bold symbol that puts us in the very heart of the struggle against police brutality to say, “I am Michael Brown, Kyam Livingston,” etc.
I wanted to share a good conversation I had with a college student who is Brazilian and has many Black friends. I told him that everywhere I go, people of all races and ages tell me they like the button, sometimes in passing on the street or on a crowded elevator. Sometimes they stop and talk and even buy a button. My husband and I notice that the button can be a great icebreaker. The college student asked me, a white woman in her sixties, whether “white people need a badge in order to let Black people know they are not racist.”
I said because of the racist cop killings of young Black and Latin men, and a long history of racism, some Black workers are wary of white workers in some settings. This is more so since the murders of the Charleston Nine by the racist Dylann Roof. A friend who was Black said, in her opinion, Black people are often suspicious of white people because of their personal experiences with racism and their knowledge of historical racist experiences — like the lynching of Emmett Till, Jim Crow in the South and racist experiences now.
Capitalists use lots to keep us divided and oppressed, Black, white, Latin, Asian, immigrant, indigenous. We must bridge the divide by our actions, not just words. The Progressive Labor Party sees racism as one of the most powerful tools the bosses use to keep us apart. Our principled fight against racism included our role in Harlem Rebellion in 1964. A white cop had killed an unarmed Black man. Harlem erupted. PL printed up flyers “Wanted Dead or Alive, Gilligan the Cop.” We defied the injunction not to have demonstrations in Harlem, and some party members were jailed.
If you are fighting for revolution, you do not hesitate to break the bosses’ laws. The history of PL in the last 50 years has shown us to be leaders in the fight against racist police brutality. In so doing, we have demonstrated how essential multiracial unity is to win our struggle against capitalism.
★ ★ ★ ★
Injury to One = Injury to All
Comrades, workers and youth, Donald Trump and the Republicans’ openly racist attack and scapegoating of immigrants in the U.S., along with the Democrats’ hypocrisy are clear indicators of intensifying fascism in the U.S. The fight against racism is our Party’s top priority. It is absolutely crucial that we organize pro-immigrant, anti-racist fightback within the schools, churches and organizations we’re in. An attack on immigrant workers is an attack on the international working class. We cannot underestimate the importance of this anti-fascist struggle. Opportunities to raise political consciousness and build the Party will abound.
★ ★ ★ ★
Long Live Pittsburgh Commune
In the fine article on the Katrina Genocide (9/16 issue), the statement that the 1892 New Orleans general strike was the first such “strike in a major U.S. city.” was not accurate.  The first U.S. general strike occurred in Pittsburgh in 1877 as part of a national railroad strike that spread across the country in reaction to the rail bosses’ 10 percent wage-cut.
When rail workers in Pittsburgh refused orders to take out their trains, the mayor and ten cops attempted to run one through. Brakeman Andrew Hice stepped in front of them and cried, “Boys, we might as well die right here.” The train didn’t move. Soon all trains were run up on sidings and all freight traffic, East and West, was halted. A New York Times headline proclaimed, “A Blockade Established — A Thousand Loaded Cars Detained.”
Then the Pennsylvania RR bosses called out the Pittsburgh militia.  When the militia commander saw that these troops were “showing their sympathies with the strikers,” with whom the workers fraternized, he wired the Governor for 2,000 Philadelphia troops. That troop train were stoned all the way to Pittsburgh. At Altoona troops were stopped and forced to return, some of them giving the workers their guns. An additional Philadelphia detachment was captured and guarded by a group of Black workers. Only 1,000 Philadelphia troops ever reached Pittsburgh.
When they arrived they were met by several thousand strikers. Word had spread and soon 30,000 men, women and children — one-sixth of the city’s population — stood on the hillside behind them. Two companies of troops were ordered to fix bayonets and move forward into the very bodies of the rebelling workers.
But instead of fleeing, the strikers grasped the bayonets with their bare hands and twisted them around into the onrushing soldiers. The latter then opened fire into the strikers and the Pittsburgh militia and the crowd on the hill, killing 20. The Pittsburgh regiments started back to their barracks, “vowing…not to be parties to the shooting down of their comrades-in-arms,” and handed their guns over to the strikers.
Soon word of the unprovoked massacre spread and thousands of miners and workers from steel mills and factories along with stevedores from the canals gathered in the city’s main squares.  Short meetings were held and workers proceeded to the gun shops where they were given arms and ammunition by the owners. (Many had been bled dry by domination of the Pennsylvania RR.)
Four thousand workers with flags flying and drums beating marched in semi-military order towards the remaining Philadelphia troops. Then twenty thousand workers sent a burning engine into the roundhouse, smoking out the Philadelphia troops and driving them from the city. At 2:35 A.M. on July 22 the Times’ reporter filed a dispatch saying that the workers of Pittsburgh had “taken possession of the city.”
For the next four days the workers ran the city in what later became known as the Pittsburgh Commune. Black and white workers, women and men, united to patrol the streets and provide needed services. The bosses, fearful of a repeat of the Paris Commune six years earlier, began setting up army camps near big cities and organized what was to become the National Guard. They had their newspapers spread anti-communism, referring to the “Communistic element from Europe,” saying Pittsburgh’s workers were “animated by the devilish spirit of communism.”
The workers’ answer came from a Pittsburgh Critic reporter: “You systematically oppress a people and revolution is not only a right, it is a duty….”
[The complete story is available in a PL pamphlet.]
★ ★ ★ ★
Syria: Imperialists On All Sides
In the editorial about migrants in the current issue there is a paragraph that is both factually wrong and politically incoherent. It’s on the second page, right after the subtitle “Imperialism Attacks Refugees Twice.”
The paragraph states:
“In an effort to tilt the balance of regional power and counter the influence of Iran, a Russian proxy, U.S. bosses have financed a brutal rebellion against the state-terrorist, pro-Russian Assad regime. This four-year-old conflict has besieged workers with chemical weapons, routine bombings of civilians, torture and mass imprisonment.”
What’s wrong with this?
1. In the second sentence it’s unclear who’s doing the terrible damage to the civilian population. Is it the “brutal rebellion” or the “state-terrorist, pro-Russian Assad regime”? It should have been crystal clear that it is the Assad regime that is doing virtually all of the bombings, using chemical weapons, and torturing and jailing opponents.
2. However, far worse is the first sentence, which implies that the rebellion against Assad was initiated — and financed — by U.S. imperialism. This is simply not true. CD often falls into a regrettable pattern of ascribing every social movement to one of the competing imperialists, ignoring the agency of ordinary people.
Assad’s regime caters to multi-millionaire cronies at the same time that millions are living in desperate conditions. A class analysis of Syria is important because it shows how the rebellion against Assad was a social explosion following decades of real grievances. It was not the creation of U.S. imperialism and was entirely justified. The recent uprising against Assad began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. There were mass demonstrations in the major cities, which were violently attacked by the Syrian military. As a result, peaceful protesters decided that only armed struggle would overthrow Assad. The U.S. — which had a good relationship with Assad — began to support the Free Syrian Army, but the FSA soon fell apart.
Today, the rebellion is led by fundamentalist Islamist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda franchise), Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and others. They are the best organized, the best trained and best financed of the rebel groups, receiving money from the Gulf States but not the U.S., which is more afraid of these groups taking power than it is of Assad keeping control.
In effect, the U.S. — along with Iran and Russia — is supporting Assad. The CIA has trained fewer than a half dozen fighters! Its firepower is aimed at ISIS, not the Syrian military.
The fact that the major forces in Syria are politically awful should not obscure the class element of the struggle there, or imply that it’s mainly driven by foreign powers.
Editorial response: The writer is no doubt right that Syrian workers hate oppressor Assad and rose up in 2011. But the letter ignores the role played in Arab Spring by U.S. billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, which is active in 37 countries and backs organizations aligned with U.S. imperialism.
Further, the letter fails to mention efforts by both Russia and Iran to prop up Assad. The war in Syria may have started as a homegrown dispute. But the anti-ISIS, anti-Assad campaign, which now involves Britain and France as well as the U.S. (working through both the State Department and the CIA), has clearly become a flashpoint for inter-imperialist rivalry. Anti-U.S. and anti-Saudi ISIS and al Qaeda, both seeking an oil-rich caliphate, are minor but lethal would-be imperialists in their own right.
★ ★ ★ ★
Pro-Fascist Francis: Unforgivable
The press is hyping Pope Francis as a liberal leader for the poor but ignoring his complicity in the mass murders of students, trade unionists, and average citizens, in Argentina during the so-called “Dirty War” of the 1970s.
The Argentinian military unleashed a massive campaign of kidnapping, torture, and murder against anyone who protested government policies. This “dirty war” was approved by the United States. U.S. imperialist David Rockefeller travelled to Argentina specifically to tell the Generals that the U.S. would not interfere.
The main targets were communists, trade union leaders, and student and other political activists who opposed the Argentinian dictatorship. But no one was safe. Police and military kidnapped pregnant mothers and gave their babies to army officers and wealthy families to raise. They kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered whomever they wanted, and an estimated 30,000 were “disappeared.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina at that time. What did he do, in the midst of this fascist terror? Nothing. He did not even speak against it, much less do anything. Priests who supported impoverished workers were imprisoned and tortured but church superior Jorge Bergoglio refused to help them and years later hid priests in his home who were being investigated for supporting the military responsible for the “Dirty War.”
So why aren’t we hearing about this shameful past now? Because the Pope, regardless of who he is, supports the exploiters and they support him.
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No Five-Star Rating for Change
I noticed a change in the way letters to the paper are signed.  They’re not!  They’re all just signed with 4 stars.  I think the reason for not having real names is that we want to focus on the ideas, not the person, and I agree with this.  But, there’s nothing wrong with pseudonyms—after all it is a letter section encouraging individuals to communicate with the readership.  The pseudonyms lend some personality to the letters.  But four stars at the end of every letter?  Well, I don’t like it and I wish you’d go back to the old way.
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