Thursday
Jul172014

Letters of July 30

PLP Summer Project 2014

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

Thursday
Jul032014

Letters of July 16

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

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

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

Memoirs of Antiracist Struggle

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

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

 

Wednesday
Jun182014

Letters of July 2

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

Friday
Jun062014

Letters of June 18

Religion: Better Life After Death? Communism: Better Life Now!

After May Day, a few comrades and I went to dinner with some of our friends and family. An interesting discussion was sparked by a comrade’s brother. He asked if I saw any connection between religion and communism, after I shared the story of my conversion from Christianity to communism and the Party. Here was an opportunity to put dialectical materialism into practice: No two things are totally alike or totally different.
One thing that distinguishes communism from religion is that religion is a tool used by the bosses to keep individuals subordinate to the ideology, interests and values of exploiters and to the dictates of the exploiter-ruled state. While some religions preach a “liberation theology,” often the liberation sought is encased within the confines of capitalism, urging only for reform and not necessarily to overthrow the system. Marxist philosophy (dialectical materialism) promotes critical, scientific thinking, and encouraging workers to not only analyze our oppression, but to break the chains that bind us.
As for similarities, the comrade’s brother proposed that both religion and communism unite people for a common cause and creates community. We all want to belong; to be accepted; to feel we are a part of something greater than ourselves. I agreed and added that the true sense of community is lost under the culture of individualism (a culture nurtured by capitalism) and it is only offered, superficially through things such as organized religion.
As we marched down the streets of Flatbush, Brooklyn, one of the chanters from the sound truck paused to point out the fact that there were several churches on each block. This, he said, was the hope that capitalism had to offer: a hope that life would be better after you die. The capitalists want us to believe that prayer changes things, but we know that while prayer and meditation may bring mental comfort to suffering, struggling people, it will not change the inhumane conditions that millions of workers suffer under capitalism every day.

There are many things that people find attractive about religion. I remember the days of being in church and feeling a sense of awe and enlightenment. I felt like I had a purpose and that nothing happened by chance; it had been predestinated. I believed that God would hear my cries and answer my prayers whenever I called for help.
Now I am an atheist, a communist, and a member of the Progressive Labor Party. I still feel a sense of awe and wonder when I consider the beauty of nature and my connection to all living things. I may not have a divine purpose, but I have set a purpose for my own life, choosing to be a part of something greater than myself by joining with others in a fight for a better world, a world with no rich and no poor; a world with no masters and no slaves; a world where the workers share what we produce and we all have a chance to develop ourselves to our full potential; a communist world! Now that’s what I call, heaven.
A Dialectical Materialist

Not Just Anderson, It’s the Whole System

Historically, Newark has had a lot of conflict. Whether it is political, racial, or religious, the city has gone through its rough times. Newark Public Schools, the largest school system in New Jersey, has had Cami Anderson as superintendent since 2011. Anderson had launched the One Newark reform initiative, which includes shutting down and consolidating schools. Though masses of parents, teachers, students, and even ministers have been protesting One Newark, little has changed. The One Newark Plan closes some traditional schools, lays off over 1,000 teachers while hiring Teach for America recruits, and creates a single enrollment system for Newark’s 21 charters and 71 traditional public schools.
The effects of Anderson’s plan have already been felt in Newark’s predominantly black and Latino schools. She has effectively put 22 schools on the chopping block since 2013. Each of my classes are filled with 25 or more students (my AP World History class has 30 students). Class sizes are too big and we protested in outrage. Yet, Anderson fails to attend community meetings, budget meetings, and meet any of our demands. Her plan ultimately hurts every facet of the working class of Newark, but it hurts students the most. Her decision to suspend four principals who spoke out against One Newark at a community meeting wasn’t a great move either. Her One Newark Plan simply privatizes Newark Public Schools in order to suck the life out of the working class before they even begin to work. The community will not go down without a fight.
Our teachers participate in Fight Back Fridays. The Newark Student Union organized protests where hundreds of students walked out of school to protest in front of the superintendent’s office. Parents asked her, “Wouldn’t you want the same opportunity for my black baby as yours?” Just last week, 77 local ministers from all over Newark highlighted the needless chaos that the One Newark Plan has left the community in. Everyone but a select few are in outrage and are openly informing Anderson so, but she still fails to tell the community the benefits of privatizing schools, other than making her friends a lot of money.
High School Student

Schools Under Capitalism Serve Only the Bosses

This is excerpted from a speech intended for May Day by a comrade in Newark fighting the bosses’ education reform.
It’s a pleasure to speak with all of you — men and women, workers and children, all passionate for the same shared cause of justice and equality, which is why we meet here today. While we celebrate the message of May Day and the long road to progress set forth by those who came before us, we mustn’t forget the current struggle faced by workers and the other social ills that face the U.S. in politics, the economy, and general society. In the spirit of this and the Progressive Labor Party, I would like to take a moment to talk about a very pressing matter that I believe hasn’t been discussed enough and that has personally affected me, my friends, and millions of others, both in my city and the rest of urban America.
As a Brazilian immigrant, my mother came to this country in search of a better life — not only for her, but for her future children as well. Even in the present day, public education in Brazil is ineffective and lackluster, to say the least. Schools are often overcrowded, stocked with underpaid teachers and lacking the much-needed resources needed to teach students in the 21st century. This and many other problems that face Brazil are often sourced to governmental corruption, an insatiable thirst for greed that has halted the advancement of Brazilian society and only now is being seen with indignation. Although my mother was lucky enough to go to one of the best public schools in Rio de Janeiro, she knew that it was going to be nearly impossible for her to afford a college education while working for a measly wage. This is why she moved to start her life here in New York.
And yet the situation in the United States hasn’t been much better. From inner-city schools in Queens to the suburbs of Long Island and even the West Coast, I have seen how the quality of U.S. education has gone down because of the stifled school funding, both for the curriculum and after-school activities. It has unfairly fired hundreds upon thousands of teachers due to budget constraints. It has completely ignored the voices of an outraged student body, one already crippled by a weak economy and soon to be burdened by massive debts incurred simply from trying to get an education.
The actions of Superintendent Cami Anderson in Newark are only a microcosm of a trend sweeping the country in recent years. As U.S imperialism begins to show its decline against rivals like China and Russia, U.S. lawmakers and politicians have started to resort to any means necessary to stay competitive. For years, the elite U.S. educational mentality has sought to keep the middle- and lower-income classes in subservience, and this is only going to get worse through an oppressive institution that forces you to conform to its discipline, no questions asked. There are extreme examples in my own city, with some charter schools putting impressionable young children in submission through draconian policies, making the school less a place for academia and more like a behavioral facility.
Now it’s the time to fight. Not only do we need unity and will power for social change, but a unity in our message. Everybody affected by the education system must be in the know, for the sake of knowledge and strength in resistance; only through communication can there be power. We don’t want indoctrination of the common people by the whims of an elitist, privileged class that has no care for the likes of me and you. Join me in the fight against intellectual degradation and don’t give in to apathy. Be reactive and proactive to the threats of the capitalists. Seize the hammer and sickle in your work, but bring a pen to the fight; without the brain, the brawn becomes meaningless. Lead the battle with your mind!
Friend of PL

Contract Work in Israel: Legalized Human Trafficking
For the last 14 years, I have been a contract workerclearing office buildings in Israel. The work is both physically hard — I am on my legs all day long, and can sit down only during the 30-minute break — and underpaid. Contractors are paid only the minimum hourly wage (about $7 U.S.), and the benefits are the legal minimum. Many contractors try to give their workers even less, withholding pension contributions and payments for annual leave. Often I have had to fight to get what was due me.
I work with a woman from Eritrea. Although she has a work visa and her employment is legal, she gets paid on the 15th day of each month instead of the 10th. Contract workers who do not know their rights well or do not speak Hebrew can find themselves openly exploited.
Even when employment conditions and benefits are technically legal, contractors try to increase their profits at our expense. In many workplaces in Israel, for example, coffee is provided at the employer’s expense and is readily available at all times. Some worksites even provide subsidized lunches. But at the place I work, neither I nor the security guards (who are also contract workers) get any coffee — we need to beg for it from offices in the building. We must bring lunch from home.
To take our legally required paid leave of one day per month, we have to ask multiple times. Sometimes the contractor “forgets” to pay for it and has to be chased to get what we are owed. This happened to me during the week between the two Passover holidays.
On my current job, my pension payments were supposed to begin three months after I started work. But I received them only after six months, and then only when I went on my own initiative to remind the contractor what he owed me.
I do not get paid for breaks. I work nine hours a day, but get paid for only eight and a half hours. This means that I lose 275 Israeli New Shekels (ILS) a month, or $79 U.S., a considerable sum for someone making minimum wage.
When I started cleaning an office twice a week for an hour each time, the cleaning supplies were at the office’s expense. The contractor only had to pay my salary. My agreement with the contractor was to be paid at an overtime rate for these hours, or about $8.25 U.S. But the office owner paid the contractor $17 U.S. per hour. The contractor made more than I did for this work! After repeatedly having to chase the contractor for my pay for these hours, I made an agreement with the office manager to be paid directly for the work at an hourly rate of $11.50 U.S. And the money was paid on time.
★ ★ ★ ★
I am telling my personal story here, but I am one of hundreds of thousands of contract workers in Israel, in both the public and private sectors. In 1996, with the ratification of the Mandatory Tendering Law, contract employment for government jobs became the accepted norm. The idea was to pass the responsibility for the workers to a third party, namely the manpower contractor. In practice, the contractor gets paid a high sum for each worker, of which only part goes to the worker’s salary, while the contractor pockets the balance in return for trafficking in workers. Neoliberals claim this is “more efficient” than direct employment by allowing the government to deal with governing while the contractors specialize in cleaning the office and other jobs.
In reality, however, this is no more efficient than the old way. The main reason for the contract system is union-busting and circumventing collective bargaining agreements. Contract workers are excluded from any existing agreements, which makes the workers more vulnerable to exploitation and also weakens the union. Moreover, these workers have no job protection and can be fired without cause. The contract system enables the Israeli government to bust the unions and employ workers for starvation wages while enriching the contractors and ducking responsibility for illegal working conditions.
In one case, I was paid in cash, which enabled the employer to avoid making contributions to National Insurance, the Israeli equivalent of Social Security, as required by law.
I am a member of the Coalition for Direct Employment, which fights for the direct employment of all workers in the Israeli market, with the pay and benefits accorded to workers by law, and the freedom to unionize. Eventually we are aiming to create a strong union, a collective contract protecting the workers from harmful employment, and fighting for revolution.
This is what I experience as a worker on a daily basis. I am not a slave, I am a worker!
Two Fighting Workers
Sexist Honor Killings:How Religion Criminalizes Women  
In Pakistan, a pregnant 25-year-old woman was recently stoned to death by her father and brothers for the “crime” of marrying a man her family disapproves of, and violating the tradition that marriages be arranged by her family rather than by herself and her spouse. This vicious murder was committed in broad daylight on a public street with many onlookers. It was justified by her father as an “honor killing,” in which the victim of the crime of murder was accused of being the perpetrator of a supposedly greater crime, adding insult to extreme injury.
Farzana is one more target in this outrageous practice of the oppression of women that in 2013 reportedly took the lives of 869 women in Pakistan. It also reveals a pathological lack of love within families, or at the very least a relative devaluing of love in the face of religious custom. Her father, the murderer-in-chief, stated baldly that he had no regret about killing his daughter.
Honor killings have been a part of many societies over the centuries, and in the modern world they still persist. How can communists change this horrendous practice that is generally accepted as justifiable among large segments of a society — no doubt including segments of the working class?  It is the ultimate in divide-and-conquer when even families produce systematic and justified killings of one member by another.
The Bolsheviks in the early part of the 20th century sent many volunteer women to the Muslim sections of the Soviet Union in Central Asia to live among women there. They encouraged a change in their thinking about commonly accepted practices that put women into fourth-class citizenship. Many women accept this role in the form of head- and face-coverings, walking behind their husbands in public, and other displays, though that is beginning to change. Many women in the Muslim sections of the working class are standing up to these practices in public, but many are also paying with their lives for doing so.
It is vital that communists find ways of transforming entire social practices that are deeply rooted and deadly to the working class as a whole, not just to the women who are directly oppressed.
Saguaro Rojo
My First May Day: Awesome!
My first New York May Day was awesome in every possible way. I never knew so many people from so many different ethnic backgrounds could be so united. As we marched through the streets of Brooklyn, NY, we caught the attention of many people.
Many people began to engage in the march as well. It made me feel so good when people from Brooklyn’s streets began to march with us. PL’ers’ speeches were so heartfelt and touching. I believe they reached into most of the Brooklyn people’s hearts. It was as though the speeches were coming from their hearts.
Going to my second May Day ever and other meetings with my comrades, I now know a little bit more about the PLP. I am against this capitalist system, where these companies and bosses make profit off the working class which suffers while these bosses eat and live well.
I’m also against these imperialist wars for oil, especially against these racist police departments everywhere. Young people are dying all around this world due to racist KKKops while they get off scot free. I’ve learned the only solution is a communist revolution. Fight back! The revolution is on the way!      
An inspired marcher
Tech Companies Behind Racist Murder
On July 16, 2011, Kenneth Harding, Jr. was riding on the T-train in San Francisco. Two cops boarded the train and immediately singled out Harding, a 19-year-old black youth, for the aggressive fee-checks that have become standard in the city. They pulled him off the train at which point Harding tried to flee. The cops gunned Harding down outside the station. While the youth lay dying on the ground the police stood over him, weapons drawn, refusing to allow paramedics or bystanders to render aid, letting Harding bleed out on the sidewalk. Harding had been murdered over a $2 train fare.
Harding’s racist murder has become a symbol of the class struggle in San Francisco. In order to make up for budget shortfalls over the last five years, the city has engaged in stricter fare enforcement on public transportation, complete with police stings which focus on poor black and Latino neighborhoods.
The budget shortfalls plaguing the city were not a natural result of the current depression, but of a conscious city policy to transfer wealth from the urban poor to tech companies as part of the city’s economic development strategy. Massive tax breaks have been given to companies like Spotify, Zynga, and One Kings Lane, with the shortfall then foisted on the working class.
In a particularly glaring example, Twitter was given a $56 million payroll tax break in exchange for a $388,000 donation to city charities and a $60,000 credit for “promoted tweets;” a net loss to the city of $9.259 million per year. (Salon, 2/19/14)
City transit has been under constant attack by the tech industry. “Google buses,” named after the largest supplier of the private bus service, have been operating in the city for the last decade. This private bus service uses non-union drivers (a not-so-subtle attack on the unionized city system) to ferry tech workers from San Francisco to the outlying Silicon Valley.
The Google buses have also helped themselves to the use of public transit bus stops, a crime that is consistently enforced against working people, but ignored in the case of the tech industry. The non-enforcement of the $271 fine has cost the city between $500-600 million over the last ten years while the private buses have blocked bus stops, delaying and congesting public transit.
After a year of growing protest, the city was finally forced last month to charge tech companies $-per-stop along their routes (a plan developed by the tech industry itself). The charge is half the fare that each individual rider is forced to pay on the public transit system and results in a net loss of $270 per stop to the city if they would just enforce currently existing laws.
But that’s the point: the law does not apply to the capitalist class, it only applies to workers. As journalist Julia Carrie Wong notes, “Google and its ilk have always known that they could break the law right up until the day they were invited to make new laws. That is the power of corporate wealth, and in San Francisco as in the rest of the country, it rules supreme.” (Salon, 1/23/14)
Kenneth Harding was murdered over a $2 bus fare. He had to pay so that Google wouldn’t have to. The working class deserves better. The working class needs communism. The ongoing protests against the tech parasites in San Francisco are great, but the working class is going to need revolutionary politics to escape the hell that is capitalism once and for all.
Revolutionary Worker

Thursday
May222014

Letters of June 4

Bosses’ Profits Caused Mudslide, Not ‘Act of God’
After a massive mudslide wiped out dozens of homes in Washington State’s Snohomish County, officials lined up to write the event off as an accident of fate. “It was considered very safe. This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere,” said the head of the county Department of Emergency Management. The County Executive and Public Works Director concurred: “A slide of this magnitude is very difficult to predict. There was no indication, no indication at all.” (Seattle Times, 3/24)
Of course these statements were all lies. County officials had known since at least 1950 that this hill — known in government documents and local lore as “Hazel Landslide” and “Landslide Hill” — posed a constant danger of landslides. Landslides struck the hill in 1949, 1951, 1967, and 2006. Geomorphologist Daniel Miller, who wrote a report on the hill in 1999 for the Army Corps of Engineers, told the Seattle Times, “We’ve known it would happen at some point. We just didn’t know when.” Indeed dozens of reports have been filed with the county regarding the growing instability of a hill whose slide zone had increased dramatically over the last fifty years.
So why did the county keep granting building permits to developers? After the 2006 mudslide, Miller revisited the area and was “shocked” to see a new development being built there, “We’ve known that it’s been failing. It’s not unknown that this hazard exists.” In the last days of the housing boom that came before the current economic depression, the desire of the county to give over land to pad the enormous profits of real estate developers was greater than the concern for any of the people who might live in the homes on Landslide Hill.
Now 41 people are dead and two are still missing. The body count will most assuredly rise as more of the area is uncovered. Why did these people die? To increase the profits of the capitalist class. Yet the lack of class consciousness in this country has forced residents to accept this fate with a cynical fatalism. As one resident whose house was destroyed noted, “Nobody was warning anybody” but it was “an unrealistic expectation” to think the county could have done anything to prevent the disaster.
 “That’s like saying the river is going to flood. If the hillsides are going to slough away, they were going to slough away. That’s kind of what happens around here.”
The working class deserves better. This disaster could and should have been avoided. No homes should have ever been built on this unstable ground. The Snohomish mudslide is proof that capitalism cannot and will not provide for the working class.
Red Beard   

PatRIOTism: Rulers’ Poison that Kills Millions
What gives you a feeling of patriotism?
Patriotism: devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country, national loyalty.
Internationalism: a policy of cooperation among nations.
Internationalism: a policy of cooperation among workers of all nations.
I prefer the latter.
There is a RIOT in the middle of Patriotism.
As an anti-war fighter for most of my adult life, patriotism is not one of my strong points. I always feel uncomfortable standing up in public for the National Anthem. All countries need patriotism in order to fight wars. Bosses need blind obedience from their youth to lay down their lives. Many wars are fought to control the oil or the pipelines. The beneficiaries of these wars are big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, BP and others on Wall Street.
In the beginning of a war, patriotism is a mile wide in all directions but it is only a fourth of an inch thick.  At the sight of hundreds of body bags, the patriotism evaporates quickly. So the rulers of all countries must build up nationalism constantly.
Our children in schools are taught the Pledge of Allegiance very early on. In high school and college, we hear the National Anthem before sporting events. If you do not stand, you risk being ostracized. At professional sporting events, we are subjected to the same things.
Even at the Stockton Symphony, many stood up when patriotic music was played. The song may have been “Stand up for the USA.” Then the performers “The Texas Tenors” wanted to recognize all the veterans who had fought in the wars to make “our country free.”
Many social gatherings are turned into nationalistic propaganda gatherings. There is no mention of innocent workers and women and children worldwide being slaughtered for oil. We are fighting in an imperialist war for the rulers to control the assets of other countries. Imperialism sees the working class, foreign and domestic, as the enemy.
It is very hard for me to be patriotic, to view myself as an american in the same boat with other americans such as bank presidents, Wall street executives, and generals who plan wars executions and evictions every day.
I identify with bus drivers, construction workers, teachers and other workers in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine. I view myself as a member of the international working class.
Veteran