Thursday
Oct132016

Letters of October 26

Student Distributes Challenge, Fights Cynicism
I just started my first year at an elite college on the west coast. I expected people to be fairly apathetic about racism and sexism. But already I have found so many who are open to hearing about communist politics. Just today, I gave CHALLENGE to two people! Here are a couple anecdotes:
I was watching Pulp Fiction with about ten people. One guy really loves Quentin Tarantino movies, like I do, so I struck up a conversation with him. I brought up that some people call Tarantino racist for using the n-word a lot. We talked about how it factors into capitalist culture. I introduced the idea of communism, and how we don’t need to reuse such terrible racist and sexist words. We can just get rid of them!
This small exchange sparked a two-hour conversation where we talked about everything from elections to internationalism to human nature. In the middle of our conversation, he stopped to tell me that coming here, he had a lot of ideas about how “white people are.” He thanked me for showing him that not all white people are the same, and that if I am antiracist, he knows there are other white people who are, too. After talking for such a long time, I gave him the paper. He said he would read it and tell me what he thought.
Another exchange I had today was at brunch. Someone brought up that they went to Brooklyn Tech high school. I asked if she was involved in the antisexist, antiracist dress-code protests. It turns out, she was and has seen CHALLENGE, and knows a comrade at the school! We talked for an hour and a half about what kind of society we fight for and some of the successes and failures of the Soviet Union. I’m going to give her the paper every issue now.
Coming here, not knowing anyone, I was worried about being so open with my communist politics. I thought people would reject them for various reasons. I feel so energized and excited to help wage the antiracist, antisexist fight out here. May those who read this feel emboldened to bring these ideas and CHALLENGE to their coworkers, classmates, and friends!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
APHA: Overcoming Racism One Button at a Time
On September 8, the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) held its annual conference. This year the focus was on Health Equity and Overcoming Racism. The all-day conference had about 80 students and young professionals who were excited that “Overcoming Racism” was the theme although there had been considerable debate about the theme prior to the conference. Two PLP communists raised issues of police violence, background checks and environmental justice.
During the conference, one PL’er spoke about the fight against racist white supremacy groups in California and mentioned the   protest against the KKK in Anaheim, CA in February. She explained that we were collecting $1 for the No Racism buttons for the Anaheim Legal Defense Fund and said that her son-in-law was beaten by the Anaheim cops.  After that, one woman donated $5 for the button and the Fund.
It is important to show the personal side of the political struggle. It helps folks focus on how capitalism affects individuals and how to help concretely. This is true more than ever; cops are still shooting unarmed Black and Latin men and women without consequences. People get overloaded and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the struggle and need to be able to contribute to building the movement.
The conference led to over 20 people signing up for our Health Equity Committee and we are making plans to expand our outreach and advocacy around HIV and Hepatitis C. There is also interest in issues of police violence and mass incarceration with a focus on elderly prisoners and returning residents from other countries.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
 No Revolution in the BeyHive
Don’t judge, but I attended the Beyoncé Formation concert. Bey has been getting credit for being “woke.” But, there’s no radical politics here—just fake liberation submerged in profit making and cult-making.  
In addition to her new album’s hits, Bey performed some throwback songs like “Bootylicious.”  During that song, she lifted her golden shirt to reveal her clothed backside. And the crowd was in an uproar.
This obsession with the buttocks is firmly grounded in scientific racism. At the beginning of the slave trade, “scientists” had used the posterior as one borderline between “savage” African women and “civilized” European women. The most famous example of this was Saartijie Baartman, a khoisan woman stolen from South Africa who was paraded as a freak show exhibition throughout Europe for her body. She would come out of a grass hut and dance and sing for the audience. Many in the audience would grab her behind. For many, Baartman today represents imperialist exploitation and racism. The bosses’ media and culture make racism and exploitation normal by sexualizing it—forcing us to internalize these racist and sexist images.
Empowerment for Bey is still about selling capitalism through Black female bodies and sex—that’s nothing new. As I witnessed her toned legs in a Victorian leotard, I thought, “Is this supposed to be empowering?”
Communists have a different standard for young beauty and women’s leadership. Our role is to speak up against racism and sexism in our schools. We derive confidence from fighting back, and from our contribution to the working class—not from slayin’ while dressed in antebellum Southern regalia.
In fact, Bey’s true role as a ruling-class instrument is apparent in the song “Formation.” She sings, “I’m a Black Bill Gates in the making…always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.” Tools of polite politics and competition to get to the top belong to the bosses.
By using images of Black mothers who lost their children to police terror, of the environmental racism unleashed in the form of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Bey appropriates working-class culture for her own agenda—churning images of rage into ones of Black capitalist success. (Beyoncé and Jay Z’s combined network is $1 billion (CNN Money, 2/8).
But, Beyoncé, in addition to feeding into an industry that lives off the shaming of women’s bodies, profits directly off of sexism. I found out about her new clothing line at the concert. The stated goal of her label Ivy Park with the British company Topshop is, “Celebrate every woman and the body she’s in while always striving to be better.” Of course that motto didn’t include the women in Sri Lanka making 64 cents per hour for a company with a net worth of $6.7 billion (Huffington Post, 5/26). So much for female empowerment.
But I’m not for female empowerment either. Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and I are not in the same class. I’m part of the class that works, and my empowerment is through liberating my class’s labour from bondage.
Beyoncé is thriving because she is the best capitalism can offer young women, especially Black, Latin, and South Asian women. At a time of such low class struggle, is Bey the best working-class women can hope for? Not at all! Music is an expression of the human experience. When class struggle rages again, when communists have an international influence over the masses, the rhythm of human experience will be melodious, liberating. Don’t believe me? Listen to Nina Simone—the content and form of her music will make you woke. No slayin’ required. Hopefully that will inspire us to create music that voices the working-class struggle and fightback.
So for anyone part of the Beyhive, next time you hear “6 Inch Heels,” just remember, “She works for the money.” Beyoncé is no sister of mine. And I ain’t sorry to admit that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday
Sep012016

Letters of September 14

No Way Around Boots on the Ground
“Russian Imperialism Strikes Back” (CHALLENGE, 8/31) leads with a quote from a Russian official regarding modern warfare that minimizes the use of ground forces. Opening the editorial with this quote created the impression that the major imperialists can avoid having to put large numbers of troops on the ground. It reinforces the misleading idea that technology is more important than politics.
Warfare is continually changing—long-range missiles, cyber attacks, and drones are all ways the major capitalists have of killing people from long distances. The thing that hasn’t changed is the need for boots on the ground to hold and consolidate power.
The last major war the U.S. won was World War II. When I was in West Germany as an Army private in the early 1980s, there were approximately 500,000 U.S. troops in a country the size of Oregon, nearly 40 years after the war. We would go on maneuvers with columns of armored personnel carriers, tanks and artillery pieces across the German countryside. We’d set up in farmers’ fields and along country roads, basically wherever the U.S. wanted. We drove freely through thousand-year-old towns without fear of being shot, as the Army would “compensate” property owners for damage caused by our vehicles that plowed through. That is what winning a war looks like.
Since WWII, the inability of the U.S. military to win the fight on the ground has defined the U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—every major war the U.S. has fought in the last 60 years. Losing a lost ground war means giving up half the country (Korea) or being forced out (Vietnam). Same for Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. was mainly contained within its compounds, venturing out on fewer and fewer missions because of the inability to win working-class soldiers and Marines to willingly die in the numbers it would take for the U.S. bosses to prevail.
Winning ground wars requires an army with a relatively high level of political commitment, at least higher than the other side. As the CHALLENGE editorial points out, the Russian chief’s hope that they can succeed with asymmetrical warfare reflects wishful thinking in the face of the Russian rulers’ political and strategic problems, a fact the U.S. bosses are also struggling with. The editorial would have been better if that point had been made clearly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Big Terrorists Fund Little Terrorists
In “Capitalism in Crisis,” (7/27) CHALLENGE said, Hillary Clinton is “leading the charge for a more aggressive U.S. intervention in Syria.” Whenever the proxy war in Syria is mentioned, let’s be clear that all the Turkish and U.S. backed rebels that were vetted are aligned with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al Nusra, the Turkistan Islamic Party, or Jaish al Islam. The Civil War in Syria basically boils down to four sides:  The Kurd’s and their allies to the north, the Syrian government, Islamic State (ISIS), and a hodge podge of group the Western press dubs “the rebels”.
These rebels either tactically coordinate with, organize attacks with, strategically plan with, share weapons with, fight side by side with, and all around depend upon organizations considered terrorists by the big terrorists like the U.S.’s NATO and Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Cooperation Council. These groups are responsible for crimes as horrible as filming and uploading themselves beheading a ten-year-old Palestinian boy who they accused of being a spy or soldier. They attempt to impose their fascistic religious rule wherever they conquer land and are vehemently anti-working class. One carefully vetted group gave a high tech Russian T-90 tank that they had captured to Jabhat al Nusra,  because their religious court legally ordered them to do so!
The U.S. relies upon the myth of a moderate opposition when they discuss regime change in Syria because they don’t want their working class knowing that they same organization that killed thousands in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 are now being directly and indirectly supported by their imperialist ambitions. Al Zinki, the group responsible for beheading the child, was a carefully vetted group that left the umbrella of the U.S. with all the weapons they were covertly provided with and have fully aligned with the jihadis fighting the Syrian Government. These groups routinely shell the Kurds with their artillery and have killed hundreds of Kurdish civilians since they hate the Kurds as much, or possibly more than, they hate the government. They have wiped out whole villages in northern Syria and transplanted various other Sunni groups to take them over in a new form of colonialization.
There are no good sides in the proxy war that is the Syrian Civil War. Whoever wins, the working class there will still lose. The Kurds espouse left ideas, and still make deals to buy oil from ISIS and have never discussed the need to abolish capitalism. Whenever we discuss Syria, we need to hit home the point that the U.S. is so hypocritical that they are actually arming, funding, and helping al Qaeda because it is geostrategically opportunistic to do so now. Hillary wants regime change there which means that she wants these Jihadi groups to take over and murder countless Yazidi, Christian, and Alawite workers. We need to expose these imperialists for what they are, murderers for the highest bidder.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaming Capitalists Out of Profiteering? Not!
Under the headline, “Advocates hope that shaming drugmakers will stop price hikes,” major news corporations like PBS recently reported that a law is being considered in California to require drug companies to announce planned price hikes in advance. As though drug companies have a sense of shame that will inhibit their tremendous profit grabbing if they are forced to make them public.
Corporations claim that they are people in order to obtain legal protections that people theoretically enjoy. But companies are not people, even though people run them. If they were, they would have not only the “rights” that people are supposedly entitled to, but they would also acquire the responsibilities and obligations that are forced on people. As it is, corporations do enjoy the rights and privileges that people actually rarely do, but have none of the responsibilities and obligations that are said to go with them. For example, corporations are not required to pay to rescue banks from failures or clean up rivers they pollute with toxic chemicals. It is the working class who is forced to pay with our taxes and bear the health effects.
The drug companies, naturally, oppose the “shaming” bill, and declare, “It would lead to dangerous drug shortages.” That is, the drug companies will hold for ransom medicines that many people need if the legislature requires them to publicize their outrageous price hikes.
And that is the way capitalism works. Either the capitalist government is allowed the drug companies to make unconscionable profits, or they can try to force them to make smaller profits and, as a result, cause patients to suffer who need the medicines to stay alive.
A system built on the foundation of profits, along with the myth that everything good for the working class will follow from that, is a system that cannot do anything but protect profits. Even if there were legislators who really did try to represent the interests of the working-class public, they would be completely helpless in the face of the way the system works every day.
On the other hand, if drugs were created and distributed by a workers’ government made by and for the working class that’s based on meeting our needs, then and only then could this problem be solved. That system is communism. This is but one example of the way the profit system kills and that communism would provide life and health.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Friday
Jul292016

Letters of August 10

To End Racist Crimes, End Capitalism

The shooting in Dallas, Texas, on July 7 is an event the working class should take very seriously. The shooter, Micah Johnson, was apparently avenging the assassination of two Black men that same week by white police. Johnson wanted to kill white cops as a response to racism. We disagree with isolated attacks against police and white workers. While isolated attacks express a certain level of rage, they never build a movement. We are building a mass communist movement for armed revolution.  Our movement understands the political necessity for mass revolutionary violence against capitalism and imperialism, and is not afraid to call for it and use it against our class enemies.
Yet, Obama, who spoke of the serious “problem in the U.S. justice system,” brought little light to the politics of what happened. He spoke only of the U.S. bosses’ fear of radicalization of Black people in the U.S. Meanwhile, Obama leads a country where Black workers are murdered everyday, one way or another—quickly by outright murder by police, or in wars for profit, or more slowly by rotten healthcare and schools and housing.
We fight against racism, but we don’t lead a fight against white people. We know that all white workers are not racist. Those who are racist buy into the bosses’ lies, against their own class interest. Racism is fundamental to capitalism. Capitalism requires the exploitation and domination of billions of workers around the world. It divides workers to the profit of the exploiting bosses and their politicians. We build multi-racial unity to fight against racism because all workers are hurt when one worker is hurt. We expose racism and struggle to win them to fight for their class. Furthermore, racism is not only a question of color. It is political, cultural and economic.
We fight racism alongside Black, Latin, Asian, Muslim, indigenous, immigrant, and white workers—all who are the victims of capitalism. Black workers are the first victims of racism, and are in a decisive position to lead the fight to expose racism as one of the strongest tools in the bosses’ arsenal against the working class. Race itself a social construct of capitalism and imperialism to justify its domination and its exploitation, and has no scientific merit. We know that there are millions of white workers today who live under similar conditions as Black and Latin workers. And we know that there are Black bosses who exploit Black workers just as viciously as white bosses do—that is the nature of capitalism. Historically, white workers have also given leadership against racism and for revolution—like the first working class rebellion against capitalism, the Paris Commune of 1871.
If we build deep ties in the working class and win workers, students and soldiers to PLP’s revolutionary outlook, that fusillade can transform itself into a mass fightback among workers—not fighting for the crumbs of the capitalist system, but fighting to build a new society that smashes the racist profit motive and unites our class around the world under the red flag of revolutionary communism. We call on all those who fight against racism to join us in the revolutionary communist fight to end the inequalities invented by capitalism.
Communism is the only alternative to the injustices of capitalism. Communism will end all forms of discrimination, racist and sexist in particular, on which capitalism thrives in order to maximize profits. Our international Progressive Labor Party continues to organize workers of all “colors” and “nationalities” for communist revolution. Workers of the world have only one color—red, one flag—the red flag, and one nation—the world!

*****

Baton Rouge: Black Woman Stands with Communists
I would like to clarify some details in the article (7/27) titled “Women Lead in Baton Rouge.” The protest was inspiring because it was not entirely due to the speech that a Black woman PL’er made. Our chants inspired and emboldened a local Black woman who had been going to all the protests leading up to that day. She gave a speech that incited and inspired the crowd off the church parking lot and into the streets.
This brave woman who had brought her son to the protest, met with the Party afterwards and agreed to distribute CHALLENGE; she is now a friend of the Party. There were attacks and accusations online from the rotten and racist Nation of Islam misleaders and Internet warriors accusing “outside agitators” of inspiring workers to march and be “violent.” Such accusations are used to divide workers. We commend the fact that she stood up to them, fought for the PL’ers that she had just met, and led the crowd to protest.
Her actions illustrate that Black Workers, especially Black women workers, are the key revolutionary force against capitalism. She was from a multiracial family and knew that the very same racist police that had murdered other young men would not hesitate to murder her young son. She saw through the passivity being pushed by the misleaders who only impede the class struggle. In her speech, she said she is tired of being pent up and passive. Upon her call for the action of taking the street, the working class, Black, white, women, and men. Without her, that march may never have happened.
Later, the phone call we received about the pigs getting ready to move in and attack the protest came from a contact that we had just met a few minutes earlier. She saw the attack getting ready to happen and called us because she was worried about our safety. She had just met us, we were from out of town, and she trusted us enough to not only give us her number, but to periodically check in and give us warnings about what the cops were doing.
The final point that needs to be made is that it primarily was women at the front of the march leading the whole rally and taking the streets. Due to the mass incarceration in Louisiana, with some towns having an arrest rate as high as 70 percent, many men are hesitant of protesting since they have arrests on their record and could get incarcerated. The mass incarceration of the Black working class is profitable, and functions as modern day shackles to inhibit protests against exploitation and injustice.
Participating on the ground of Baton Rouge and how the bosses are using the Nation of Islam and Black Lives Matter to push racism and passivity onto the working class illustrated the urgency of developing our ties there.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Communist Training in Cleveland
The trip to Cleveland was most outstanding summer project (see page 4). Despite our small collective, we used communist centralism [the governing system that enables us to collectively investigate, evaluate, and execute the practice that’s in the best interest of the international working class] to bring communist politics and culture to workers.
I’m proud of our collective decision to focus on the workers and youth at Cudell Commons, the site of the racist kkkop murder of 12-year-old Black child Tamir Rice. This decision reminded me that we truly are a Marxist-Leninist party; that we know that building revolution involves creating roots in the working class, not just in protests.
These summer projects are key for our development as leaders of PLP and of the international working class. It’s encouraging to know all the comrades involved are going to return to their local PLPs clubs as more effective and passionate communist organizers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
PL Chant Leads Protesters
The project in Cleveland showed me how communism could work. There was a combination of bold action against the RNC and community building in the Tamir Rice neighborhood.
The bold action included chants like “Republicans Democrats all the same, Racist Terror is the name of the game.”  The very next day, another group was using this chant. A group was “walling off Trump” with large banners. We joined the protesters, chanting boldly. Dozens took our lead with our chants.
The real action for me when we “occupied” the gazebo memorializing Tamir Rice. We talked to friends and neighbors of the Rice family. Working together as a collective makes me want to come back here!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
‘Revolutionary Experience’ at RNC
This has been quite a revolutionary experience! The first day, we called out racist Republicans at a “Forum on Poverty in America” hosted by a CNN moderator at Cleveland State University.
Among the racists verbally attacked by the Party was Jack Kemp (Housing Secretary under former president George H. W. Bush in the 90s) and a representative from Trump campaign.  
Getting the CHALLENGE out does count, as the workers I got the paper to participated at the study group. Challenge is an ideological way out of this hell called capitalism with its racism, sexism, and imperialist war. When the party comes back to visit Cleveland, count me in!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday
Jul142016

Letters of July 27

Chicago Workers Reject Segregated Fightback
In response to the killing of two Black workers by the kkkops within 48 hours, a number of comrades and I showed up at a solidarity demonstration here in Chicago. The 200-plus protestors present were justifiably outraged about having to add the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling to the list of workers snuffed out by the racist capitalist state.
Although I have been involved in numerous demonstrations in Chicago in recent years, this one was definitely one of the best. Unlike some of the protests in the city last year (provoked by Laquan McDonald’s killing by the racist cop Jason Van Dykkke and the city’s attempt to cover the murder up), there were no suggestions beforehand that this be a “blacks-only” protest. Nor were there any sell-out politicians or church leaders there to try and water down the militancy and anger.  The workers there were truly heterogeneous: Black, Latin, Arab, Asian, white, women, men, young and old. Young black women led the march, but everyone appeared to be given the chance to contribute to the energy and outcome of the event.
The multiracial and militant approach paid off. The larger number of protestors made it possible to disrupt traffic at a number of intersections, even shutting down the busiest interstate highway in the city for at least fifteen minutes.
It was exhilarating to stand arm in arm with my fellow workers, flexing our collective muscle to defy a system that routinely destroys people’s lives. It was also uplifting to have Challenge received so enthusiastically as we passed them out, and to hear PL’s antiracist chants being shouted so passionately.I plan to use the inspiration I took from this event to intensify the struggle here in Chicago, and to win more of these bold workers to the fight for communism!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
India: CHALLENGE Gives me Confidence to Fight
I am a worker at a tissue factory in West Bengal, India. Recently I have come across a few issues of your paper CHALLENGE. In this time of utter confusion and surrender, CHALLENGE’s voice and thoughts are giving us a glimmer of hope.
In the aftermath of scientific and technological revolution, workers were able to consolidate themselves into a class. As a result they could resist the onslaught of the torturous oppression by the bosses. One glorious example of such class resistance is the historical struggle of the May Day.
Today the workers across the world, for varied reasons, are scattered and do not have a Party of their own. Right now, the centuries old struggle and sacrifice that has resulted in the achievement of the working day of eight hours is almost lost. Violence in the name of development, market driven super profiteering, the chameleon character of the capitalist state as guard of capital are forcing us into a condition of defeat. In a retrograde manner, workers are being forced into a working day of 12 to 16 hours. And we are conceding defeat.
After reading these issues of CHALLENGE, there is a growing feeling that the conditions are changing worldwide. Workers are once again preparing the ground for an ensuing upheaval. They can, indeed, get organized into a working class Party. The organized workers would be able to resurrect themselves in the light of the historical Haymarket rebellion. The working class across the world shall once again join in singing:
“...We are summoning our forces from
Shipyards shop and mill
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will...”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Strength through Struggle
Like most people, seeing the footage of the murders by kkkop of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling traumatized me.
 I avoided watching the footage for a few days, knowing I was not in a strong enough mind-set to both hear about these tragedies and see them. I relented after thinking that the families of these people don’t have the benefit of pushing away from these horrors. I watched 3 videos of the killings, one right after another, while I was alone. The experience was nothing short of devastating and alienating. Again, like most people, I became very depressed after having this experience. I withdrew from people because I couldn’t bear talking about it, and avoided the internet. I could not perform work assignments because I literally didn’t see the purpose.
It wasn’t until I got together with comrades that I began letting myself hear others talking about having the same reactions I did. Hearing about the anger, anguish, and grief, all of us talking while holding back tears, let me know that I was not alone.
Seeing the brave actions of the working class, from Chicago to Minneapolis to Cleveland, let me know that it’s with action that I’d find healing and affect change.
Participating in a rally and march in Brooklyn (see page 1) and planning to participate in actions elsewhere strengthened my resolve. We can’t help being affected by the images of women, men, and children being murdered by this racist, sexist, capitalist system.
But we can find strength in fighting back with each other in an organized way to smash this system and create a system where lives mean more than profit.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Bob Leonhardt, Lifelong Communist
Great obituary (CHALLENGE, 5/4) for a great leader of our Party who needed no title to show us how to study, learn and act as a communist! Bob was an intellectual, fascinated by the world of ideas, but also knew that without action and engagement in class struggles, those ideas would have no meaning.
He was also a great and loving husband, father of two and grandfather of five. He strove to have communist values lead in all his family relationships and provided an example of egalitarianism for us.  He was a great friend to a very large and diverse group, giving principled support and struggle, as we must all do.  He was a complex person who upheld and contributed to the ideas of communism and understood that the personal is political and the political is personal.
Thanks for reminding us that commitment to the Party fulfills our life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Learning from a Comrade I Never Met
I never met Bob Leonhardt. After hearing all the stories at his memorial, I deeply wished I had. The only deaths I have mourned in my lifetime are those of Party members, first Milt Rosen, the founder of Progressive Labor Party, and now Bob.
People talk about him, and all he taught them, with such admiration and love, that I too feel the loss secondhand. I know he told lots of fables, he made crude jokes about the ruling class, and was loved and admired by all people in and out of the Party. Bob taught the generation after him, and that generation is teaching me. In that way, communism not only keeps you young, it keeps you alive well past your death. In these volatile times, what better way to live your life than being part of the worldwide fight for communism?
Hearing his voice on the tape recorder at the memorial brought me to tears. Here is a man who went to Harvard and spoke multiple languages, who could’ve been a real big shot. He could’ve had the money, fame, and status—but he said the best thing he did with his life was join the Party. That he learned how to think from ordinary people. The capitalists can’t even fathom the kind of success Bob had. Indeed, there are more things in communism and the Party than are dreamt of in the bosses’ philosophy.
Capitalism has done a magnificent job in alienating young people and workers—from the mentally ill that go on a killing rampage, to the college students who commits suicide, to the everyday hustle of trying to make ends meet, to finding out your job isn’t about helping people but bringing order/discipline to the working class. It’s easy to get cynical about the possibility of change. But how could I say that I am alone in this fight—there are countless who came before me and countless who will come after me. Thank you Bob for filling me with confidence in our class, and our potential to make revolution.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Remember Victims of Imperialist Slaughter
On July 1, 1916, one hundred years ago, British commanders ordered the Newfoundland Regiment, 780 men, to charge German machine guns. There was no cover at all. They first had to cut through or go around barbed wire defenses. They were slaughtered. There is no other word for it.

The next day only 68 men—8.7% of the regiment that had charged the day before—reported for roll call.

Why were they ordered to charge? There was no specific objective. British commanders showed little concern for colonial troops. Newfoundland was a British colony at that time.
World War I was a brutal imperialist war. It was fought for the redivision of territory among the big imperialist powers: England, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the U.S., and Japan.
I am sure that today in Newfoundland there will be solemn memorial services.
But the imperialist, exploitative aims of the war, the fact that, like the Newfies, millions of other men and civilians were killed for nothing except to enrich the imperialist bosses—this will not be remembered. Not officially. But we the working class need to remember it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Friday
Jul012016

Letters of July 13

Salty Anti-communist Novel Full of Historical Lies
In an attempt to discredit the contributions of the Soviet Union during World War II and communism in general, the June 13 New York Times gloriously praised Ruta Sepetys’s inaccurate depiction of the Soviet Union in her novel “Salt to the Sea.”
While the capitalists claim communism is dead, they’re bent on killing it again and again. Once more the bosses’ media are confirming what the first communist collective of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote in their1848 Manifesto: the spectre of communism haunts the rulers.
In this novel the main characters are trying to flee to Hitler’s Germany to escape the advancing Red Army. The main “heroine,” for example, is “a young Lithuanian nurse fleeing from East Prussia.” The Red Army, however, was about to liberate East Prussia, the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Poland from Nazi occupation.
Ignoring this fact, the Times — the leading U.S. imperialist mouthpiece — declares that the novel’s young heroes’ “only hope of survival is to gain passage on one of the German ships ferrying people across the Baltic Sea.” The implication is clear: the Red Army is going to kill them; the Nazis won’t.
The novel’s heroes eventually board the German military transport ship “Wilhelm Gustloff,” which the Soviet Navy sank on January 30, 1945 — during the war. During the attack more than 9,000 died, including more than a thousand German officers. Sepetys considers the sinking of this ship a war crime because there were thousands of civilians on board. But it wasn’t a war crime:
According to primary source documents at The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, while the ship had been fitted with anti-aircraft guns, the Germans — following the rules of war — gave no indication that it was operating in a hospital capacity. And as it was transporting military personnel, under international accords it did not have any protection as a hospital ship.
Many anticommunist writers repeat the lie that the Soviet Union was the same as Nazi Germany and communism was like Nazism. But Sepetys goes further by implying that the Soviet Union was worse than Nazi Germany. She says the Soviets were guilty of “genocide” in the Baltics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Her assertion is false. The Soviets deported the pro-Nazi elite of these countries. The three Baltic countries and Poland were in fact more viciously anti-Jewish than Nazi Germany. The “nationalists” in these countries raped and massacred Jews without any urging from the Nazis. Unsurprisingly, none of this was mentioned in the novel or the review. The Times’ review even goes as far to say, “The novel’s climactic moments include brutal scenes,” depicting “a young woman being dragged off by Russian soldiers who plan to rape her.”
After World War II the U.S. and its capitalist Allies saved thousands of Eastern European Nazis from getting what they deserved: trial and execution by the Soviets. Now these same people and their followers are running the post-Soviet states. Sepetys has been awarded a medal by the pro-fascist government of today’s Lithuania.
Let’s remember this when reading the New York Times and other capitalist media outlets. Naturally, the capitalists will choose fascism over communism every time.
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Chris Hedges: CIA Dupe or Stooge?
The CHALLENGE report on the Left Forum (6/15) correctly called out journalist Chris Hedges as “just another faker posing as a revolutionary.” But the case against Hedges runs deeper than his contention that it is “not our job to take power.”
Hedges was a speechwriter for Ralph Nader’s 2008 presidential run and an active backer of Jill Stein and the pacifist Green Party in 2012 and again this year. While paying lip service to Marxist theory, he promotes “outsider” politicians and the big lie that capitalism can be reformed to serve the international working class.
Hedges showed his true colors toward the end of his 15-year run as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, the number-one mouthpiece for U.S. finance capitalism. He served as Times bureau chief in two inter-imperialist hotspots, the Middle East and the Balkans. On November 8, 2001, the Times published on its front page the first of three Hedges stories based on accounts from Iraqi military defectors. Hedges’ top source, described as a former general and “once one of the most senior officers in the Iraqi intelligence service,” claimed he had trained “Islamic radicals…to attack installations important to the United States”—even to hijack planes without guns! “The Gulf War never ended for Saddam Hussein,” the defector said. “He is at war with the United States.”
Hedges’ reportage enabled George W. Bush and his band of genocidal liars to substantiate the alleged link between Saddam and the 9/11 attackers, helping to pave the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But Hedges’ story was a fraud. The former general was in fact a former sergeant who’d made it all up. He’d been steered to Hedges by the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress and Ahmad Chalabi, the politician-in-exile who’d spent years on the payroll of the CIA and the U.S. State Department (Mother Jones, March/April 2006). Chalabi’s bogus accounts of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, as reported by the Times’ Judith Miller, were also instrumental in the run-up to the U.S. imperialist oil war that has killed more than half a million Iraqis.
How did Chris Hedges—a seasoned, savvy journalist—get hoodwinked by the notoriously unreliable Chalabi? We can only speculate, but it seems pertinent to note that the Times was a charter participant in the CIA’s “Operation Mockingbird,” a secret Cold War campaign to plant and recruit CIA operatives in top U.S. media outlets, from the Associated Press to ABC News. In the 1950s and 1960s, according to investigative reporter Carl Bernstein (Rolling Stone, 10/20/77), the Times allowed “about 10 CIA employees” to pose as clerks or part-time reporters in the newspaper’s overseas bureaus. In addition, high-profile journalists like C.L. Sulzberger, the Times’ foreign affairs columnist, regularly shared information with the CIA. While these people generally rendered their services free of charge, the bosses considered them CIA operatives nonetheless.
In February 1976, CIA Director (and future U.S. president) George H.W. Bush announced that the CIA would no longer contract with accredited news correspondents. Bush added, however, that the Agency would still “welcome” the voluntary, unpaid cooperation of journalists (Mockingbird: CIA Media Manipulation, Mary Louise, 10/17/05).
Where Hedges is concerned, there are only two possibilities. Either he was an unwitting dupe of the CIA and the imperialist rulers he now lucratively scorns, or he was an active collaborator with the most deadly war criminals of our time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Dispute: Anti-Fascist or Anti-Capitalist?
The June 1 article “Fascism: Define it to defeat it” continued CHALLENGE’s misleading explanation of fascism and its growth in the U.S. Our literature should not emphasize “the coming of fascism.” Capitalism uses different forms of rule and oppresses segments of the working class differently depending on its internal contradictions and external pressures. All these forms of government, capitalist “democracy,” state socialism and fascist dictatorship are relative. What is absolute is capitalism, which puts profit ahead of working-class lives. Capitalism must be destroyed, not fascism.
We often imply that fascism means untold destruction and suffering. Let’s not forget the bloody history of U.S. capitalism, which was built on the enslavement of Black workers and genocide of indigenous workers. For centuries, Black workers have been lynched and terrorized, whether by the KKK or the kkkops. U.S. imperialism has plundered the world for decades, causing unspeakable suffering, poverty, disease and death. It was U.S. imperialism that dropped the atomic bombs. Will “coming fascism” be worse than that?
Fascism developed in the last century in Germany, Italy and Spain in response to the threat of communism in the Soviet Union. This situation, unfortunately, doesn’t exist today. What we frequently refer to as “fascistic” is just everyday capitalism. For example, Ferguson was not fascism; it was plain old U.S. capitalism — bloody, murderous, racist.
The mistake that life under capitalism was better is a reformist trap: “Let’s take the rough edges off of capitalism and go back to when life was better.” Life for the international working class was never “better” under capitalism. Certain segments of the working class may have had relative prosperity and peace for a short period of time, but always at the expense of another segment of the working class.
We need to express our ideology clearly. We fight for communist revolution to smash capitalism and imperialism. In this statement, there is little need for the word fascism. PLP should not build an anti-fascist movement that obscures what we all fundamentally oppose—capitalism. We should not forget that the communist-built anti-fascist movement during World War II contributed to the demise of the worldwide communist movement. CHALLENGE would express our line more clearly if the word fascism is minimized.
CHALLENGE Response:
Fascism is not the same as every-day capitalism—true! The brutality of slavery and genocide of the indigenous people was at a different phase of capitalism. That was capitalism on the up and up. Now what exists is capitalism in crisis: the defining element of fascism.
We cannot let our fear of reformism stop us from understanding different phases of capitalism. It’s true that capitalism is always brutal, racist and sexist. However, in capitalist “democracy,” illusion is primary over violent repression. This is not to say that the police do not violently attack workers. Fascism arises when the bosses can no longer rule in their old ways, and must discipline both themselves and our class for a system in perpetual crisis.
The response to the racist murder in Ferguson was a fascistic practice — a moment where repression became primary over ideology. It was a training session for both the rulers and the workers on how to respond to the fractures of this intrinsically brutal system. There was some disciplining of the local bosses through the main ruing-class wing, and some disciplining of the working class to accept the bosses’ response as normal. But Ferguson was a flash, not a change in the era.
To think that by saying we fight fascism will deter workers and the Party from defeating capitalism is essentially an anti-working-class idea. Communists fight and defeat fascists and turn imperialist wars into class war; that’s our proud history! Workers are capable of understanding what fascism is and how to defeat it. That’s part of our job of winning workers to this analysis.
The old communist movement failed not because it fought fascism, but because it didn’t fight directly for communism as the solution. Its internal weaknesses led to its defeat. Yes, let’s not confuse everyday capitalism for fascism, but we all need more confidence in the working class’s ability to understand and fight for these complex ideas.
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