From Ferguson to Flatbush
At 27 weeks pregnant, my partner and I packed up our car in Buffalo and headed to NYC to join in the May Day festivities. A couple of friends new to political activism, but eager to stand up for fellow workers joined us on the trip. Donned in all red, we arose from the subway at Flatbush and Nostrand. We walked towards the chanting and were soon greeted by a few of our PL comrades, who we’ve built quite a strong bond with over the last year, since first meeting during protests in Ferguson.
Our group of four from Buffalo ended up holding the leading banner at the front of the march, which read “Long Live Communism!” We each grabbed one of the custom screen-printed “Revolt Don’t Vote” shirts.
A flatbed truck with over 20 speakers pulled up and positioned itself at the front of the march. We got pumped up when we realized the speakers would be bumping some classic hip-hop and dancehall instrumentals througgout the march, as comrades chanted in unison to the beat. My partner and I absolutely love the idea, and first used music during protest a couple years back in Buffalo to commemorate Fred Hampton. Music is as powerful as the people who create it and can change the entire dynamic of an action, centering and energizing the people.
It was a beautiful sight to behold. With Mom and Dad side by side, screaming “Koupé tet!” [“cut off their heads” in Haitian Creole], my unborn child, right at the front of the march, got his first taste of uprising. With swollen ankles and smile on my face, I pushed on to the end and finished off the two-mile journey at Prospect Park. The crowd remained and listened intently to voices championing the power of the people. The revolutionary spirit was truly in the air.The crowd was rejuvenated by the speeches and at their conclusion all were welcomed to enjoy a May Day picnic in the park.
We were asked to do a quick interview at the conclusion of the march for an upcoming PLP video. We offered our perspectives on first meeting the PLP in Ferguson, growing our relationship with the Party, and how impactful these developing bonds have been in our lives, both personally and politically.
Later that evening, I shared some of the images from the day with friends back home, one of which was a shot of my garishly swollen ankles. One concerned person remarked, “that can be a sign of toxemia!” I assured them I was fine and just needed rest, and that the only thing toxic to my baby’s health was capitalism. Walking a couple uncomfortable miles is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lengths my growing family will go to see the fall of the bosses and the rise of commUNITY.
My Experience at May Day
This year, students and education workers took a bus from the South Bronx to Brooklyn. Our bus ride was spirited and militant as we shared our reasons for coming to May Day and sang songs together. Here are a few reflections about May Day from our group.
My first May Day march was a great experience. I like how people reacted to the march sympathetically. I think it’s great to fight for our rights and against the injustice that is going on.
I had a great experience at May Day. There were so many different groups of people. It was a beautiful experience to see a wide range of working class people come together and fight against the ruling class. In the moment, I felt that me and everyone else felt a sense of invincibility. Before going to May Day, I had my doubts about the working class becoming powerful enough to overthrow the wealthy class. After May Day, I believe that united we can change the system and make a world that works for us.
The march was well organized and synchronized before and during the journey to the park. I liked seeing people of all ages, mothers and parents with their children, young women and men. It was really exciting to see all these people united, chanting, waving flags and their hands to show their lack of conformity with the system.
Moreover, I was impressed how drivers honked and people through windows in the building made signal of support and agreement all the way to the park. At the beginning of the march, I saw people enthusiastic but as it progressed there was more joy! I enjoyed the way people behaved before and during the march.
I loved the sound truck. The group was dynamic and moving as they led chants and beats through the streets of Flatbush. I knew some of the women on the truck and know that they had lost a family member at the hands of the police. It was truly an inspiration to see and hear them on the sound truck!
Salute to the Fierce Women on the May Day Truck
The Brooklyn May Day march this year was inspiring beyond words. On the truck were Black and Latin women whose loved ones—sister, brother, daughter, son—were murdered by the despicable kkkops. These women are living proof that kkkapitalism is a murderous system and that our loved ones deserve communism, nothing less.
This one woman in particular led me to tears. As she screamed the names of each youth murdered, and we responded with “Shut it down!” I felt the anger in her voice. The music paused. Her raw voice echoed down Flatbush. It was the sound of a woman who has to face the fact that capitalism murdered her sister—and no amount of police reforms will bring justice for Shantel Davis. It was the voice of a woman who still dares to fight back.
I salute this working-class woman. She is my hero, as are all the other working-class women in and around the Party who model how to fight, how to respond to crisis, and how to spread the fierce working-class love for a communist world.
I’ve seen many organizations, many countries, and many people. Only in Progressive Labor Party have I witnessed such a staunch example of anti-sexism. Only in PLP did I get a glimpse of what women will be like under communism.
I had joined PLP for many of the obvious reasons—a world without racism and sexism, no borders, no war, and no money. A world where everyone gets what they need and live their lives to potentials never dreamt of in our current material reality.
But there’s another reason that I joined. This reason is one I get to witness in my lifetime. I joined PLP because of the way the Party treated Black workers, especially Black women. I grew up in a capitalist culture where I learned anti-Black racism before I learned to speak English. I was taught to be thankful that at least I am not Black, though I always got hurt for being “too black, too dark, too angry.”
I saw how women are beaten, degraded, and exploited until they have internalized the racist sexism of this society. I’ve witnessed women rise against this sexism, their resolve to continue fighting day in and day out, but still lost without a communist vision. That’s what global capitalism does to the working class.
So to witness an atmosphere where Black workers, Black women workers, give leadership—that’s powerful, to say the least. I am grateful to be part of this international communist movement. Being part of PLP showed me how resilient and inspiring the working-class is. Today reminded me of the PLP song, “Streets of London,” the line that goes like this: “so how can you tell me you are lonely and say for you that the sun don’t shine.” One day, every child, woman, and man in every corner of the earth will bask in the glory of the red sun.
Another Smashing May Day
Another smashing May Day! The workers of Brooklyn welcomed us in grand fashion.
My first May Day march was 70 years ago in 1946 in New York City — 250,000 workers and youth streaming down 8th Avenue in Manhattan from 34th Street to 17th Street and then east to Union Square.
That one was organized by the old Communist Party. But just as they accommodated themselves to capitalism and abandoned the fight for communist revolution, they also abandoned May Day marches by the early 1950s.
However, in 1971 it was Progressive Labor Party that picked up the banners of the international working class as part of the fight for communism and has celebrated and marched on May Day ever since — an achievement to be proud of. PLP truly represents the future. Congratulations comrades!
Fundraiser, A Collective Treat for Budding Communists
Our middle school May Day dessert fundraiser demonstrated that revolutionary politics, creative collaboration, and some sweets are a good mix. Political artists from 6 to 60 worked together to produce some awesome banners and posters for this May Day March (see page 8).
This event was organized by our middle school study group, which has met consistently since the beginning of the 2015 school year. Developing our ideas through friendly political struggle resulted in some great ideas. We had a blast drawing and painting while eating delicious and beautifully designed dessert treats made by our comrades and friends.
The highlights of the day were several speeches presented by our middle-school revolutionary youth explaining why everyone present should join PLP’s May Day march in Brooklyn. These young people also organized over a dozen of their middle school friends, parents, and siblings to attend this event. We also raised funds to help pay the costs of our May Day march.
In contrast to the decadent, frivolous capitalist society around us, we need to experience more of these moments of multi-racial revolutionary celebration, collaboration between young and old, and a sense of unity with the working people of the world.
Fascist Trump, but Need to Attack All Politicians
Our Unitarian church in Indianapolis, Indiana had a forum and presentation on U.S. presidential elections. I gave the analysis and acted as moderator. I tried to incorporate various aspects of PLP’s antiracist line when possible.
My presentation was on Trump and how he is an open fascist running for president. I talked about historical similarities with Hitler. I mentioned how Trump is a ruling-class racist trying to divide and conquer white workers by tricking them into thinking he is their “friend” while painting Black, Muslim, and undocumented workers as “ the enemy.” Trump is a fascist trying to use racist and sexist speech to divide our class from itself. He is America’s version of fascist Marie Le Pen of France.
This racism will hurt white workers in long run. I mentioned white workers need to have multiracial unity to oppose Trump. Also, I mentioned the hate speech by Trump is causing hate crimes against Muslim and Mexican workers. In Fort Wayne, recently, three Blacks Muslim men were executed while Ft. Wayne cops say, “No racism involved.”
Self critically, I should have showed that Clinton and Sanders are just as bad. I told them about how opposing Trump in Chicago was inspirational as it was to see multiracial Black, white, Latin, and Asian do this. We had a modest turnout of Black and white workers. In the short term, these capitalist politicians like Trump are being opposed through protests. What workers need is a communist revolution led by PLP to take down the entire rotten capitalist system!
Debtors’ Jail Hits Home
In school, in history, we learned that in Britain and the U.S. in the “old days” of 19th century, people were put into prison if they couldn’t pay their debts. And we were told that that bizarre practice was abolished. But I’ve learned from recent events that debtors’ prisons do still exist!
After Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson in 2014, the news spread about how small counties in Missouri and elsewhere balanced their budgets on the backs of the Black working class. Workers were fined for the smallest unlawful errors. If unable to pay the fines, they were arrested. Then there would be more fines and jail time—an endless cycle. Many others and I probably thought it was all stuff that happened to other people.
Last year, I got a cell phone ticket, and then a speeding ticket. I paid the tickets, over $300 between them. The end, right? No way. My state’s office of safety sent me a letter demanding another fine, $525 on top of what I’ve paid, in order to keep my driver’s license. They claim it’s for “safety education.”
And finally, a friend of mine was arrested for theft in Maryland. She was sentenced to probation. A good deal, we thought, because she didn’t get jail time. But, she had to pay $207 in court fees and other fines. And, that was only the beginning! Now she has to pay a $175 fee to do her community service and another $50 a month for supervised probation.
What if you don’t have the money? Well, just like in Missouri, it’s jail time for you. This shows that debtors’ prison is very much a practice of U.S. capitalist government today. The bosses and their state find a plethora of ways to steal from the working class and keep us oppressed.
From Ferguson to Flatbush
Build Worker Solidaity from Brazil to U.S.
On Thursday, March 30, I attended at rally at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC protesting the rise of a fascist movement in Brazil against the social democratic government. The government of President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former labor organizer turned politician, are under sharp attack by fascists supported by the U.S. for their imperialist gains. I spoke to the group about how the U.S. ruling class has long installed and toppled governments in Latin America, usually opting for fascist regimes like that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973-1990). After the rally, I hung out with several protesters and discussed the inability of social democracy to defeat fascism, and that only a disciplined communist movement could defeat fascism for good. I distributed Challenge and leaflets about May Day to the group, and hopefully some will join us on April 30 in Brooklyn, NY for May Day, the international workers’ holiday.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
McCain Praises Communist, Spreads Anti-Communism
On March 25 The New York Times carried an op-ed by Republican Senator John McCain praising Delmer Berg, a lifelong communist. Berg was last the known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a military force composed mainly of English-speaking volunteer fighters during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). McCain’s piece, titled “Salute to a Communist,” gets right a handful of facts about the war: that it was a conflict between Fascist rebels (Nationalists) and left-wing Republicans (Loyalists) who were trying to defend the democratically elected Spanish government; that Hitler and Mussolini provided the Nationalists/Rebels with military aid; and that the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was part of the Soviet-organized International Brigades, which were made up of volunteer fighters—mostly communists—from around the world.
Predictably, however, McCain’s op-ed is rife with anticommunist propaganda. He observes, for example, that the Spanish communists were either “cynical” or “naïve,” that communism “inflicted far more misery than it ever alleviated,” and that, ultimately, “the advocates of liberty, and their champion, the United States,” would put an end to the clash of ideologies—communism, fascism, and self-determination—that began in Spain (a reference, it seems, to the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s). In addition, he fails to mention a number of facts about the Spanish Civil War that fly in the face of his anticommunist claims.
Yes, workers from the U.S. sacrificed life and limb to defend the Spanish Republic; yet this was possible not thanks to the U.S. government, which imposed a travel ban on Spain in the spirit of “neutrality” during the conflict. (Some neutrality.) The “freedom fighters” McCain rhapsodizes about, in other words, did not receive any official support from the “champion” of the “advocates of liberty” at a time when the governments of Portugal, Germany, and Italy were unequivocally supporting General Francisco Franco and his fascist regime with precious military gear. In fact, over a decade after the end of the Spanish Civil War, soldiers like Berg were persecuted by the U.S. government for their “premature antifascism”—that is, their involvement in the communist-led antifascist struggles of the 1930s. During the “high” Cold War, this past involvement was presumably a sign that those who opposed fascism in the 1930s were secret communist sympathizers.
But perhaps the most problematic omission in McCain’s op-ed is the fact that, unlike the U.S. military, the International Brigades were fully integrated. Several Black fighters attained positions of leadership in the Brigades and were celebrated war heroes in Spain. Oliver Law, for instance, became the first Black fighter ever to lead a fully integrated military force in U.S. history by rising to the rank of Commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The antiracism that characterized the International Brigades and made possible the ascent of Black soldiers like Law, as well as the organization of a military front against fascism in Spain, happened under the auspices of the international communist movement. These are hardly the doings of a movement and ideology hell-bent on—as McCain would have it—“inflicting misery.”
I am not implying here that McCain, a pro-capitalist warmonger, should have penned a different piece—despite his clear admiration for Berg. Rather, I want to suggest that learning the history of the international communist movement is necessary for us communists if we are to contest anticommunist discourses more effectively. These discourses often obscure and distort aspects of red history—that is, our history—in order to steer fighters towards cynicism and into the bosses’ camp. More importantly, the struggles of the past have the power to inform and energize our present struggles. There is, for example, a clear revolutionary line connecting the sacrifices of communists like Berg and Law during the Spanish Civil War to the militancy displayed by PLP members who recently disrupted a KKK “White Lives Matter” rally in Anaheim, California (see CHALLENGE, 3/23). In short, we must know our history not only to debunk vile anticommunist claims, but also the better to organize, agitate, and fight to tear down this racist capitalist system and build a communist world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
No to Racist Colocation
Teachers, parents, and students in East Flatbush stood up and fought back against the racist agenda of the NYC Department of Education! The DOE is as usual showing who they really serve—the capitalist bosses, not the Black and Latin families in their schools. A proposed colocation of a charter school into a non-charter elementary school’s building was being debated at a public hearing on March 31.
Members of the school community and Progressive Labor Party spoke passionately about the disruption to students’ learning that this colocation would cause—the loss of their media room, their indoor garden, their music spaces, to name a few. The DOE doesn’t care about their mostly Black and Latin students having these essential learning spaces; in fact it’s because of rooms being used for these purposes that the DOE space planners dare to say the school is “under-utilized” and has plenty of rooms to give up to another school. Members of this school are ready to fight!
It was inspiring and heartening to hear many people stand up to speak out about how all parents are looking for the best for their kids, and that all children deserve a quality education, but that the DOE’s decision won’t provide that for any of them. A couple people called out the DOE’s actions as racist. Unfortunately, several parents also yelled at the parents and teachers of the charter school for the proposed move—a sign of the divisive tactics of the DOE.
The charter school is currently in their fourth year of being colocated with the school several PL’ers work at. Four years ago, the staff and students of our school waged a battle against the DOE’s decision to do that then. One PL’er spoke to the crowd about how much our students and staff absolutely need our space back, but that the solution to our problem is not to have it shoved on the backs of others. She talked about how the DOE has used these colocations and charters to divide working class parents and teachers, and has us pitted against each other pointing the blame. The working class can’t allow the school bosses to turn us against each other. Instead, we must to unite fight them back. It was made clear that the DOE is part of a racist system that doesn’t care about the needs of our students.
The purpose of schools under capitalism is to prepare young people to become the next generation of exploited workers and soldiers, and to maintain the extreme systemic racism that capitalism’s profits depend on. As was made clear by the parents and teachers of the soon-to-be reduced school, speaking about the work they had done on their own to develop the school’s special programs, it is the working class that knows best how to build and shape a school that serves our young people. It is only in the fight for communism that the working class can achieve that.
This is the message we need to bring to our co-workers, students, and the families, and to the next public hearing. Our school staff will be meeting this week to make plans for the next hearing. Join PLP and fight for a real working-class education!
Haiti Comrades Weigh In on Iran Deal
Comments from comrades in Haiti for our readers to think about regarding “Iran Deal Signals War Prep” editorial (CHALLENGE, 2/10):
First, nuclear power is an economic asset, a source of profit for the Iranian bosses. It’s also a weapon to inspire fear in other exploiters, who would want some of the profits and benefits of Iranian nuclear energy.
Second, the U.S. seeks to fracture and destabilize the relationships between its main rivals Russia and China and their allies. One way is to enter into pseudo-friendships with the allies of their rivals. The Iran nuclear deal is a kind of pseudo-friendship with Iran, offering relief from sanctions and renewed trade with the U.S. and its European allies as incentives.
Another U.S. destabilization strategy is trying to convince regional bosses like Iran — allied with the Russian and Chinese imperialists — that these alliances will hurt Iran’s bosses in the long run. The U.S. bosses want Iran’s bosses to think they’re getting a better deal by breaking away from Russia and China. That explains why the U.S. and Europe were willing to brave the anger of their allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, to show Iran’s bosses that the deal was serious.
Upon the 1979 Islamist overthrow of the murderous U.S.-backed Shah government, Russia and China developed deep political and economic ties with Iran’s bosses. After 1979, Iran’s new bosses launched a long period of hostility with the U.S. and Europe. The political ties with Iran’s bosses strengthened Russia’s and China’s bosses and included Iran’s membership in the key political and military alliance of NATO’s rivals, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The economic ties include key gas supplies and pipelines.
Third, it is inter-imperialist wars that are responsible for the economic crises, the nightmares of migration, the upsurge in racism everywhere, and the shocking barbarity now haunting the planet. The victim of all this is the working class. The biggest bosses and the capitalist nation-states do not lose at all by this horror. They prepare for the clashes with their rivals on the backs of the working class.
They will try to intensify racism and nationalism among the workers to get them to participate in these barbaric wars. The bosses benefit from this horror: for them the misery of countries which they have long kept in wretched poverty simply becomes favorable terrain for future exploitation — think of Haiti and several countries on the African continent.
Lastly, we can draw some inspiration from the rebellions and uprisings of the popular masses against imperialism, and especially against the illusion of democracy and its farcical elections as a way to win power for the workers in these small capitalist countries. Haiti is an example of such rebellions. PLP is seizing the opportunity of such rebellions to advance our communist political ideas. Soon many of those who have taken part in these struggles will have joined our ranks.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Racist Speech Is the First Punch
Let’s put yet another nail in the coffin of the ruling-class against the concept of free speech. The line that capitalist ideology draws between speech and violence is an arbitrary one. Many well-intentioned and anti-racist people believe this lie.
Let’s face the fact that the punch thrown by anti-racists at Klansmen, Nazis, and other members of that fascist collection is not the first punch. It is actually thrown in self defense and defense of our class. Racist speech is the first punch, whether it occurs in an unorganized context or in the context of a hate rally where the speaker is immediately exhorting others to attack Black, Latin, Muslim, immigrant, gay or any other targeted group.
The imaginary line between speech and violence is a false one. Racist speech in any context is a first punch and is just as violent as a physical punch, and even more so as it strikes millions at once.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Cultivating Communist Middle School Students
We recently held our fourth middle school study group session, which is led by a multiracial group of women. The study group is made up of three PLP parents of middle schoolers and five 11- and 12-year-olds. There are also another four to five students who have been to at least one of the study groups.
So far we have discussed metal detectors in schools, the Islamic State and the Paris attacks, racism and white privilege, and sexism. Six of these youth also recently attended our east coast Cadre School (see previous issue of CHALLENGE). At the discussions, we always have lots of good snacks and plenty of silliness, but I’m always impressed at the ability of these young people to analyze the world.
The following is the way one of the 11-year olds summed up our discussion on sexism: “Sexism is just a tool the upper class uses a lot to make the lower class feel ‘suckish’ and bad. Lots of people don’t really understand what is happening [when they act in sexist ways] but they need to, because when they do, it will be a step towards beating the upper class”
We then made plans for how to fundraise and make banners for May Day. All of these young people always help to remind me that our future in building a communist revolutionary movement is bright!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Comrades Struggle, Learn Together
This past president’s day weekend PLP had a very successful communist school. Nearly 20 comrades and friends from Los Angeles and the Bay Area came together to discuss leadership, criticism and self-criticism, and our political work. Over the course of three days and serious (and at times intense) discussion, we made several advances.
Saturday morning began with a welcoming breakfast followed by a reading and discussion of leadership. Afterwards we broke out into groups and discussed the nature of leadership in the world and in the Party. We concluded that while some comrades might be asked to be leaders, in fact leadership is an active process. The comrade leaders must “step up” to the leadership role. We discussed the role of the leader in a Party club (which is the initial organizing body in the Party) and discussed how a club leader must struggle to understand and help encourage each club member’s work.
That afternoon, we transitioned to a discussion of our work and working in the mass movement. Many of us have not fully embraced working in mass organizations like unions, churches, and community groups. As we discussed the need to fully engage ourselves in our mass organization, some comrades realized that we had treated this work in a mechanical way. Just going to meetings and participating in activities is not the same as being actively engaged in the life and struggles of a mass organization. We need to entrench ourselves in our mass organization in order to successfully wage political struggle. Our main self-criticisms were that anti-communism and individualism were holding us back.
The next day, we discussed a work report from a recent PLP publication. We discussed how to emulate the work of this comrade, who really made his base his family and immersed himself in the struggle over decades. While taking great inspiration from the work report, it was pointed out that there was little discussion of the role of the PL club in the work report comrade’s struggles. Having healthy clubs to struggle with comrades and strive towards objectivity help all of us to succeed.
That afternoon, we discussed criticism and self-criticism, which is a way the members evaluate and learn from their struggles and mistakes. This was an undertone of many discussions. We discussed whether criticism and self-criticism sessions were rare or whether they should be more regular. Some comrades argued that we cannot limit criticism and self-criticism to formal events when leadership is changing or when things go poorly. We should see each club meeting as a time for criticism and self-criticism. We should discuss work, the world and internal party matters and discuss them from the perspective of criticism and self-criticism. Self-reflection, honesty and openness should be the goal in every party struggle.
Struggles inside the Party are necessary for the health and growth of our organization and our readiness to lead the masses.
Monday morning we concluded by discussing our May Day plans and ensured all the actions required to build for our May Day celebrations. In the end we all seemed to leave more motivated to build for a successful communist May Day!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Don’t Fall for Bosses’ Racist ‘Model Minority’ Trap
I normally distribute CHALLENGE every week at a mostly Black college or outside a train station in a West Indian neighborhood. Whenever people hear me say, “Fight back against racism!” they eagerly take the paper with a “thank you!” or fish through their pockets for any money they can muster to donate.
Today was different. Because of the explosion of antiracist fightback at Brooklyn Tech, I distributed the paper with the front-page article about this school’s fightback. Stocked with 350 CHALLENGEs, three comrades and I stood by the train station that many students use to get to the school. Whereas papers normally fly out of my hands, I was lucky to get even one person out of twenty to take it. Some of the mostly Asian and white students even rolled their eyes when I said, “Fight back against racism in our schools!” as though I was wasting their time or exaggerating the racism that Black and Latin students experience every day.
I was enraged by their indifference for their fellow students. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Asian friend at Yale University, where there was a recent eruption of antiracist fightback. I asked her what she thought about everything going on, and she said:
“I was struggling between my sympathy and desire to stand with all the people of color who were protesting their treatment, and the fact that I’ve been brought up to stay out of any such issue. My parents always said to keep my head down, and many other Asians come from similar backgrounds. The weird concept of the “model minority” makes it feel unnatural to step out of line and protest racism, since the racism we experience is covert.”
This conversation with my friend and today’s CHALLENGE sale both reminded me of the way the bosses divide Black and Latin workers from Asian and white workers. They make some white and Asian working class believe that racism doesn’t affect them, or that their struggles are in contradiction with those of Black and Latin workers. They are fed lies that if they keep quiet and don’t fightback, they can get their own piece of the capitalist pie. The bosses push this bogus concept of the “model minority”—the stereotype that Asians, specifically East Asians, are the docile “good” workers that don’t fight back but only work hard and “do well”. The model minority myth is used to further anti-Black racism and divide the working class. It also silences the very real racism Asian workers face in the U.S.
In reality, Asian and white workers are exploited and oppressed worldwide, just like Black and Latin workers. Moreover, as long as we maintain racist divisions, every worker sees lower pay and fewer benefits. Our fight is not against other workers, but against the bosses who impoverish us. There is no doubt that Black workers are the most oppressed and exploited workers around the world, but we all suffer under capitalism. Asian, Latin, Black, and white, workers of the world unite!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Challenge Shouldn’t Use Slang
The recent language used in CHALLENGE articles has caught my attention and it should be changed. I believe that as left-wing militant, scientific, communist members of PLP we should be as professional as we can be. So we should limit the use of slang in the newspaper as much as possible.
“Turnt up” and other slang should be limited or not used at all. It sets the wrong kind of image. While slang is very popular among working-class youth, some people don’t even know what it is saying. I am not saying let’s be all academic so please don’t take it that way. I am just saying we should be careful about slang and limit our use of it.
Editorial response: The problem of audience and language in CHALLENGE is primarily not about professionalism vs. colloquialism. CHALLENGE has the most heterogeneous readership in the world; we try to reach nuclear physicists and the kid who was pushed out of school at age 13. In Talks At The Yenan Forum On Literature And Art(1942), Mao Zedong explains the main problem in the literature/art/cultural front is one of being one with the masses. How well do we know the working class? How well does our literature clearly reflect the language of the masses?
Under capitalism, the language and discourse of the ruling class is considered proper and normal, while what the working class speaks is considered bad. If using “Turnt Up” sets the “wrong” image, i.e. the image of Black and Latin working-class youth, we need to reevaluate what kind of language we value.
We strive to be a mass paper, one that truly reflects the rich, lively language of the masses. To solve this problem, we need more people—from academics to nine-year-olds writing for, distributing, and reading the paper. Our main task is to be entrenched in the masses, and the paper’s content and style will follow. For real.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Anti-Racist Friendship of Boxers Joe and Max
There is an interesting historical sidelight of a point in the excellent review of Black communist writer Richard Wright’s work (CHALLENGE, 2/24). It mentions Wright’s take on the reaction of Harlem workers to Black heavyweight champion boxer Joe Louis’s 1938 victory over Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling, who had two years earlier defeated Louis when he (Schmeling) was heavyweight boxing champion.
It turns out that Schmeling was not only a reluctant representative sent by Hitler to defeat a Black boxer (Louis), but, apparently unbeknownst to them, he was a political opponent of the Nazis. He and his wife had helped hide some Jewish children from the Nazi mass murderers in Germany, at great risk to his life and hers. Furthermore, he and Joe Louis subsequently became fast friends for life, an unusual interracial friendship in those days, at least outside of the Communist Party USA.
Their story is told, as well as any story is ever told in a US production, in a 2002 TV movie titled “Joe and Max,” which I thought was worth seeing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Communist School: ‘One of the Happiest Moments in my Life’
Below is a sample of letters written by participants at a communist school. It was a first for many. Students as young as nine years old to workers in their seventies studied the origin of racism and how build a multiracial movement (see article).
It was very fun. I like the study groups we had and that my group and me made a remix of “Rude” by Magic! and changed the lyrics to be about fighting back. I also like that we learned the history about racism and where and who made it. I liked that people of all ages and races came together and had a great time together, like playing basketball. I really enjoyed this weekend and hope to come next year.
I love to be around other people who believe that we need to fight for a new world. We cook, clean, live, hangout, and eat together. Every aspect of the weekend is a little glimmer of what living in a communist society would be like. I’m a single parent, and through the weekend, many people helped and cared for my daughter as their own, helping me participate more in workshops and activities. I loved seeing my students making friends and participating in workshops. This generation will change the world, and going to communist schools like this help bring us one step closer.
I had quite an experience. I communed with like-minded people. We lived together, cooked together, cleaned and learned together. I loved it. I feel stronger than I have felt in a while. I can see my views clearer with my comrades. I joined the Party!
When a comrade opened this weekend’s cadre school asking what a “cadre” was, the first thing I thought about was our Party in Haiti. I’ve never been to Haiti and never met the comrades there, but I feel like I know them and am close to them through their articles and letters in CHALLENGE.
One of our comrades said that in Haiti, their word for “cadre” translates from Kreyol as “cultivator,” meaning a cadre is a communist leader who job is to “cultivate” comrades and the masses to become revolutionary leaders.
That’s the best definition of cadre I’ve ever heard and the best description of this weekend’s cadre school. Multiracial, multigenerational comrades and friends fermenting on how to wage mass revolutionary struggle for communism—while cooking together, chopping wood for our fire together, and daring to open and trust each other with a bit of our personal lives together cultivated a rich weekend and more nails in the bosses’ coffin.
On the last day, we welcomed several new comrades to the Party. Our comrade who initially asked about what a cadre was gave one of several moving speeches about what the weekend meant to him. We left the weekend planning how to cultivate many more comrades, and hoping the articles and letters they write reach and inspire comrades in other places we haven’t been to, and haven’t met yet.
After joining the Party last November in Ferguson, my commitment to fighting for communism has become primary in my life. With this increased level of work came more responsibility and opportunities to practice leadership alongside fellow Party members.
As a workshop leader at my first cadre school, I learned a lot about how we as Party members must always establish the left in any given situation. This experience also pushed me to better understand the Party’s line and sharpen my analysis. My commitment to the Party, fighting for communism, and identification as a member of the international working class has never been stronger and I would like to thank the PLP and its members for constantly pushing me to be a better comrade. This weekend was inspiring!
I’m convinced. As a fellow comrade who joined the Party in late 2013, it is understood that it takes practice and consistency for one to grow into the movement (working class struggle). Although I joined the Party already, coming to the cadre school has given me the growth needed to gain a better grasp of who I am, who I was before I joined, and where I was going with my fellow comrades.
It is without a doubt that my convictions are stronger and I am clearer about what communism means for my fellow workers and me.
I am clearer about my stand against all of the oppressive forces that exists in this beautiful and terrifying world—I know my stand is our stand and we come together knowing we are as diverse as we are similar and our unity makes us very powerful…I’ve never been with so many genuine people as I am as of this moment.
There is more work to be done.
I thought I knew the actual history of racism, but I only knew bits and pieces. This weekend I completed the puzzle. The only way to fight racism is to come together and fight as a team. Getting together and discussing ideas is a great way to start. I am considering becoming a PLP member; I just need a little more time and reassurance.
As much as possible under capitalism, we try to create a more communal society by cooking together, cleaning together, playing together, and making decisions together. That is by far my favorite part of every cadre school. It gives me hope and confidence in our communist future.
My experience as a high school educator and parent this weekend was one that fills me with gratitude that I am surrounded by such a dedicated and thoughtful band of comrades fighting to make our world a communist one. The anti-racist fight we are engaged in at school is strengthened by the class-consciousness this weekend’s event has helped to build.
This year was so different than any other because I felt like I improved my knowledge on racism more than any other year. I made friends very easily. I was glad because it’s like they accepted me even if I’m in middle school and they were so nice. Overall I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait for next year.
I have learned so much and it gave me a big purpose in life, a goal in life that I am going to chase and catch. I enjoyed talking to a lot of the people about communism and world peace and it’s these conversations I never was able to have with others except for my teacher, who is in PLP. These conversations were intellectual and very fun. One of the happiest moments in life.
I am not a very open person, but I was able to open to these people here. So now I am starting to become a communist. When I go back home, I am going to try to convince a lot of people that I meet and talk to from potheads and suicidal people to philosophical people to understand how to change the world. I really can’t wait until the revolution happens and when it does, I will do whatever I can to contribute or even lead the revolution.
It was inspiring in that it’s showed the ability of the working class to analyze and critique the capitalist system. The discussions showed we workers can see through the capitalist lies.
The cadre school was truly an enlightening experience. We analyzed Lerone Bennet’s “The Road not Taken” and traced the early efforts of the bosses to divide and conquer by enacting laws designed to purposely divide white, Black, Latin, and Asian, and indigenous workers. Identity politics are a liberal ploy used by self-interested leaders in Black, Feminist, and LGBT groups to formally gain a their stake in capitalism. This sick preoccupation with “privilege, and “supremacy” only serves to blur the relationship between race and class.
Identity politics is not only divisive and poisonous, but are also disingenuous, and do not offer any real solutions on combatting racism. Analyzing these pieces gave me tremendous insight and confidence in understanding what racism is and how it hurts the working class. Best of all I had a chance to bond in song, games, laughter, and teamwork with a multicultural and diverse camaraderie. This is my vision for the future and society and I believe that joining PLP gave me a taste of what a progressive anti-racist communist society looks like. No matter what the bosses do to attack and distract they couldn’t kill our multi-racial unity.
Though the opportunity to have fun activities beyond politics is great, I always relish those dialectical discussions. We talked about “white privilege” and “feminist” theory. One high school student not in the Party vehemently disagreed with our line. But though she wasn’t receptive, we must stay tuned in to how the bosses mislead workers into these fake-leftists movements.
One small critique I have though is that we shouldn’t be immediately asking students after the school if they want to join PL before giving them some time to think about it. Becoming a communist is a huge step, one that lasts for life. People shouldn’t make such decisions so fast unless they’ve been around for sometime. Just my two cents. Can’t wait to be back next year!
This retreat was exciting. It’s always exciting to be around comrades. I’m not as active as I would like to be, but coming to events (cadre school, summer project, and May Day), I am refreshed on Party ideas and politics. From this event I learn that being involved does not mean coming to every event or study group. But, spreading the word, introducing students on campus to Party ideas, etc. I hope to attend the cadre school again and spread PLP ideas to the working class.
You can stop translating here.
If you read beyond this point, only translate letters that you think MUST BE IN THE PAPER
As always for me, it was an inspiring, educational, and reassuring experience. Hearing and watching young people take leadership in both organization and ideas reminds me every time that we can and must have confidence in the working class to lead society.
We tackled the sometimes-difficult ideas around white privilege theory. But by grounding our discussion in documents that show the origins of racism, it became clearer to many that the only “privileged” under capitalism are the bosses.
Several students from my school participated and hearing their thinking and learning from this weekend leaves me inspired and excited for the potential back home.
The future is bright!
The cadre school was led by young comrades and brought together middle school, high school, and college teachers and students. We also had young workers. The collective work, and the struggle to understand why we need to work together in multiracial unity to fight racism and to fight for a better world was tremendous.
It was a privilege to be here.
It’s been a very eye-opening experience. I got a glimpse of new perspective that I feel like everybody should be exposed to, to give the sense of understanding or belonging. Despite people’s views on communism, this trip could give them a better understanding because this is a topic that’s very misunderstood. The discussions we had was intellectually stimulating, which could give another person a new outlook.
There was stepping. There were fighters.
There were students. There were workers.
There were children. There were parents.
There was fightback. There was struggle.
We spent a weekend living collectively, the way it used to be. The way it will be again someday. We cooked together, ate together, we played together. We made ourselves believe that what we are fighting for — a world where we live as brothers and sisters — is worth fighting for.
This wasn’t a utopia. We argued. We felt things good and bad. But this was real. So rarely do we have the chance to see ourselves in all of the different people we encounter. Bonded by a common goal—fighting racism—we found hope in each other.
Nothing can be more terrifying for the bosses than workers and students, parents and children, Black and white, Arab and Asian, fighting together. Knowing that they are the same. We still have a world to win, but this weekend reminded us of what victory will look like. Power to the workers!
It was inspiring to see the commitment of a large group of people coming to fight against racism, sexism, and oppression of gay/lesbian workers: the ideological weapons used to separate and conquer the working class. Being surrounded by a diverse group of like-minded comrades has served to reinvigorate my efforts in growing the movement against police terror and all of the byproducts of the bosses’ system. It’s time to fight back!
I spent the weekend with some of the most genuine, kind, respectful human beings who’ve dedicated their lives to fighting for communism. At the end of my stay, I find myself wanting to share this same kindness, morality, and respect for my fellow class that I’ve been shown. I want to be a voice for my community. I want to make a difference. I want real change; not in the form of reform, but one that sparks a revolution in the minds of the masses of the working world. So, with that having said, I have decided to join the fight for communism.
“Nothing to run from is worse than something”
A new young leadership has taken over from the last round of “young leadership” and showed that the idea of communism will continue to advance. The Party continues to inspire me, to grow, to be the calling edge against capitalism, and will be the shovel wielded by us to bury it once and for all. Once again, I am renewed, recharged, and proud to be a communist member of the Progressive Labor Party.
The communist movement and our Party are growing! We were able to see that racism as we know it today has not been around “forever” as the rulers of the world would have us believe. And as one comrade said, “Anything that has a beginning can have an end.”
Also, we worked hard to understand the way that racism is a form of super-exploitation. The bosses exploit the entire working class, but they also deliberately create inequalities inside the working class to divide us from each other and extract a ton of extra profit.
But now they are trying to convince the Black working class that certain workers they want us to call “white” are “privileged.” This is just a cover for them to keep their viciously racist system alive. No one who is exploited is privileged. And only when we unite the entire working class – Black, Latin, Asian, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish – can we truly defeat the racist, exploitive capitalist society they have created.
This weekend was an inspiring advance in the monumental, historic struggle. Long live PLP and the fight for a communist world free of racism!
This was an experience. I feel like we wasted so much time trying to explain why we shouldn’t focus on white privilege and saying we need to focus on the bigger picture instead of the 5 minutes it would have taken to say, “We don’t believe it should be called a privilege but white privilege as we understand it today does exist.”
It really disappoints me that this group is so caught up in the big picture they hardly have a concept of the basic units contributing to it.
I came to the cadre school this weekend to learn more about the PLP. I took away what it means to be an agent of change. To discuss racism is more than theory of what divides us—but it’s about uniting and following through. The solution to ending racism does not end with fixing who leads or is in charge—it ends with an entire overhaul. Change should not be to better just yourself but to better a society. And that is a pretty cool thing to be a part of.