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

Thursday
May082014

Letters of May 21

Rulers Allow Racist Murderer to Roam Free
When white racist Frazier Glenn Miller murdered three innocent people in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 13 the media generally described him as a “mad, lone-wolf gunman,” but he was anything but. While the ruling class spends millions spying on innocent Muslims, infiltrating Mosques, moving against participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement, setting up police Red Squads to attack communists in PLP and placing tens of thousands on no-fly lists, somehow they missed racist Miller. But with Miller’s history, he would be hard to miss.
According to Kathleen Belew, a history fellow at Northwestern University, writing in the New York Times (4/16), Miller was “a central figure of the white power movement…outspoken about his hatred of Jews, blacks, Communists and immigrants.” That movement “forged…strongholds not only in the South, but also in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania.”
Miller served 20 years in the Army, including as a Green Beret, and in 1979 “took part…in a deadly shooting of Communist protesters in Greensboro, N.C.” The next year “Miller formed a Klan-affiliated organization in North Carolina…known as the White Patriot Party….paraded his neo-Nazis, in uniform and bearing arms, up and down streets….[and] also burned crosses. By 1986, Miller’s group claimed 2,500 members in five southern states.”
Miller “received large sums of money from…a white power group in the Pacific Northwest to buy land and weapons to put his followers through paramilitary training….[and] paid $50,000 for weapons and materials stolen from the armory at Fort Bragg, N.C., including anti-tank rockets, mines and plastic explosives….”
“The leaders have robbed armored cars, engaged in counterfeiting and the large-scale theft of military weapons and carried out or planned killings.” Yet somehow the FBI, Homeland Security, big-city police departments spying on Muslims and anti-war protesters and the State Police never went after Miller and his racist, fascist movement. Of course, now they are forced to prosecute him for his recent open murders in Kansas.
Obviously Miller was no “mad, lone-wolf gunman” but rather a neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacist organizer of hundreds, if not thousands in his racist movement. Imagine if some Muslims or Black Panthers or communists had been organizing paramilitary training using anti-tank rockets, mines and plastic explosives! The bosses’ state apparatus would have come down on them like a ton of bricks. But somehow Miller “fell through the cracks.”
Is there any doubt that the ruling class will look the other way and allow — if not encourage — neo-Nazis like Miller to roam free to spread their racist filth while going all-out to attack, prosecute and jail opponents of their system?
Old-time Red

Heroin: Bosses’ Medicine for Capitalism’s Misery
On top of the myriad of problems this crisis-ridden capitalist society breeds, there’s now a heroin epidemic, and it’s not confined to distressed cities like Detroit. In fact, it has spread to the coalfields of Western Pennsylvania. On May 2, according to a Johnstown news story, a dozen people overdosed on heroin in 72 hours in the Johnstown area. Considering the relatively small population, that’s a lot of people, and didn’t include the number of people who used heroin but didn’t overdose.
Counselors and doctors were interviewed and gave their views on what was wrong. However, none mentioned the fact that the Johnstown area is severely economically depressed. When the mines closed and the steel mills shut down, this area went into a tailspin and today there are hardly any decent-paying jobs. Actually, there are barely any jobs of any sort and there is a growing number of permanently unemployed.
The existence of a heroin epidemic is certainly no surprise, given that desperation is rampant and people are searching for an escape from all the crap the system is throwing at them on a daily basis. Also, it’s not surprising that the crime rate is rising. People’s backs are against the wall and some respond by robbing a bank (which is infinitely less criminal than the billions the bosses steal from workers in profits made off our labor).
Of course, the capitalist ruling class would rather see people using heroin than developing class consciousness, let alone communist consciousness. Capitalism has nothing meaningful to offer workers, and some, faced with this hopelessness, unfortunately become drug addicts.
Only a communist future can free the workers from this dark night and usher in a society where the workers will rule and there will be decent and meaningful jobs for all. If a worker might fall and for some reason begin to use drugs, every attempt would be made to rehabilitate this person and find a place for him or her in the communist system.
PLP is working to win workers to communism when such afflictions as heroin abuse will become things of the past.
Red Coal

May Day ‘A Joy’ — PL’s Ideas Key to Workers’ Problems
For the last couple of years I have read CHALLENGE and some of the Party’s literature. Even though I agreed with the concept of communism, I was skeptical due to what I had learned from history about communism and its leaders. Since I was angry at society and its misleading ideas, I thought I had to lean towards black nationalism, which I never really agreed with, because I knew it was just another form of racism.
I finally attended my first May Day this year, and I have to say, it was a great experience. The march was great, everybody chanting out of joy and disgust, plus it was great exercise. Mostly joy that it’s May Day and disgust because of the capitalist society that we still have to deal with. I’ve always had my qualms about the government and the injustices that go along with it, long before my friend introduced me to CHALLENGE and the Party. In fact, I was a victim of some of those injustices, so I can definitely identify with the Party’s ideas. I’ve lived in this neighborhood where the march was held my whole life, and I can see the changes due to gentrification and how people are just struggling to live here.
The May Day feast was great, the food was delightful, and the entertainment was very informative. People playing music, reciting poems, acting, speeches, it all had a very positive message to it and was just amazing. I would definitely attend next year. I just like the unity and strength that’s involved. Before that, my friend usually had given me issues of CHALLENGE, and that is a gift in itself. It is filled with great information and vast perspectives, and I will definitely continue reading it. I’m also interested in attending study groups to learn more about the Party’s analysis on world politics. I also want to learn more of how communism can fix the problems of the working class in an egalitarian society.   
Friend of PLP

Saturday
Apr262014

Letters of May 7

GI Rebellions Turned Guns Around in Vietnam War
Eleven people — teachers, a nurse, two EMT workers, and a professional actress — watched, discussed, and were motivated by “Sir! No Sir!”, the terrific film about how soldiers organized against the Vietnam War. This was an unprecedented period of GI resistance and rebellion, a time when the U.S. generals could no longer count on soldiers to fight their imperialist war.
All of us were inspired by the brave acts of rebellion, including the Presidio Mutiny in which 27 military prisoners in the San Francisco stockade held a sit-down protest over prison conditions. The soldiers were sentenced up to 16 years in prison. Other soldiers announced their refusal to serve in Vietnam and were also sent to prison. Entire units in Vietnam refused to fight.
The film showed how rebellious soldiers put out underground newspapers and established antiwar coffeehouses, which became centers of antiwar organizing. Entertainers like Pete Seeger, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Country Joe McDonald and others performed free antiwar shows to tens of thousands of enthusiastic soldiers and sailors.
Since the history is kept hidden from most people, here are some of the facts:
Between July 1, 1966 and December 31, 1973, there were 503,926 “incidents of desertion,” (U.S. Department of Defense).
A thousand Vietnam veterans, some in wheelchairs and on crutches, marched in Washington, DC in 1971 against the war. Many threw their purple heart medals and bronze stars at the Capitol building. Hundreds spoke at campus forums and rallies, countering the lie that soldiers supported the war. In fact, a 1975 survey revealed that 75 percent of veterans opposed the war.
Sailors sabotaged the engines of ships destined for Vietnam. Antiwar sailors on three huge aircraft carriers — the USS Constellation, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Kitty Hawk — formed an organization called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors). Thousands of crew members signed antiwar petitions, published antiwar newspapers and supported crew members who refused service.
There were 551 reported incidents of “fraggings” — grenade attacks by soldiers on their officers. This number didn’t include rifle attacks on unpopular officers.
We then discussed the contradiction facing military planners: a volunteer army tends to have more motivated and gung-ho soldiers, but there aren’t enough to fight a major imperialist war. A draft gives them the numbers bosses need, but at the risk of having many more disgruntled and rebellious soldiers and sailors. “Sir! No Sir!” shows it’s possible to win large numbers of soldiers to rebel against fighting imperialist wars.
People often ask how it’s possible to have a revolution in a country where a powerful military and police force exist to suppress it. “Sir! No Sir!” shows that soldiers can and will reject the roles that have been assigned to them, and they can turn the guns around and fight for what’s in their class interests.
We invited our friends to PLP’s May Day celebration.
A reader

Minimum Wage and Maximum Exploitation
My son is an organizer for a major union out here in Western Pennsylvania. Currently, he’s very involved in the “Fight For Fifteen” campaign, which is a reform struggle to win a raise in the minimum wage to $15/an/hour for fast food workers and others. I’ve discussed this question with my son and others.
It appears that many workers support this raise, which itself is barely enough to survive on. I think we should be involved in this struggle, while putting forth our communist analysis. I think it’s clear that raising the minimum wage will do next to nothing to eradicate wage slavery and we must explain this to fellow workers.
I would use this analogy. Suppose a plantation owner in the south reduced the hours slaves were forced to work from 14 to 12. Would this mean the slave system would become more humane? I think not. Would the lives of the slave have improved due to this? Hardly at all. Some may think this analogy doesn’t hold water, but I think it contains a kernel of truth.
Then there is the question of the cost of living, which will inevitably rise alongside the minimum-wage increase, negating the raise for the low-paid workers. In fact, due to inflation the current minimum wage is actually worth less than 50 years ago.
As we know, it took a bloody Civil War to overturn the slave system and it will take a communist revolution to uproot capitalism and wage slavery, the only real solution for very exploited low-wage workers, as well as for all workers. I would be interested in hearing other views on the minimum-wage question.
Red Coal

Expose Nazi Lies about Katyn Massacre
April 13 is Katyn Memorial Day. This is the day that Polish nationalists and anticommunists commemorate the alleged murder of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war by the Soviets and Stalin in1940. Problem is that it did not happen!
This is an anticommunist lie. It was invented by the Nazis in 1943, and taken up by all the capitalist powers during the Cold War. In 1990-1992, two fanatic anticommunists, Gorbachev and Yeltsin “admitted” Soviet guilt. I myself, a researcher, believed it for a few years. Then, for a longer time, I was agnostic, believing that we just can’t know; there’s too much conflicting evidence.
But now we know this story simply cannot possibly be true. I published the reasons why in the journal Socialism and Democracy last August in the article titled, “The ‘Official’ Version of the Katyn Massacre Disproven? Discoveries at a German Mass Murder Site in Ukraine.” (See http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/furr_katyn_preprint_0813.pdf for a copy.)
It wasn’t me who made the discoveries that utterly disprove the Katyn story. Polish and Ukrainian archeologists did that. They found things they never expected to find, and certainly hoped no one would ever find. And now they are keeping quiet about it. Yes, the Poles, the Ukrainians, and the Russians too, are keeping this secret. This — the biggest World War II-related discovery of the past several years — is simply hushed up. It is a real “conspiracy of silence.”
Katyn Memorial Day, April 13, is a good day to tell the world: “Stalin Is Innocent! The Soviets Are Not Guilty of Killing 22,000 Polish Prisoners of War!” This isn’t going to stop the anticommunists. Of course not!
Since when have anticommunists cared about the truth and evidence? Capitalist Poland has spent at least $500 million on hundreds of memorials all over Poland, and three of them in Russia. They aren’t going to allow a little thing like historical truth spoil their wonderful anticommunist orgy!
So we should do our best to spoil it for them. Today is a good day to tell the world: “The ‘Katyn Massacre’ Is An Anticommunist Fraud!” Spread the word!
Soviet History Researcher

Thursday
Mar272014

Letters of April 9

Plea Bargaining A Ploy in U.S. INjustice System
In the U.S. criminal injustice system, plea bargaining is far more common than convictions based on evidence.
Two articles in CHALLENGE (3/12) described struggles at Chicago Transit and DC Metro, respectively, against the firing of, or failure to hire drivers and mechanics who were convicted of a felony. The pretext given by the two transit systems is “protection of passengers.”  But PLP in both cities have exposed the falsehood of this claim by showing that there is no evidence that they pose any such danger.
PLP has also shown that the transit policies are extremely racist, since the number of people convicted of felonies among black and Latino workers is disproportionately higher than for white workers. This is due to the outrageous racism in the injustice system in which far more black and Latino workers are arrested and convicted of felonies than are white workers, though the same injustice also affects many white workers, and indeed others.
However, one vital point must be added to these otherwise excellent articles. The DC article stated, “...more black and Latino workers...are arrested and convicted at higher rates [emphasis added].” It is important to recognize that to be convicted of a crime does not mean one was found guilty by either a judge or a jury based on evidence presented in a trial. The technical legal definition of conviction includes plea bargaining, in which the accused is coerced into confessing to a crime of which they were actually innocent.
Some day the international working class, under communist leadership, will make this criminal system pay for their outrageous “crimes against humanity.”  But we should never assume that someone who has a record as a felon was ever convicted based on evidence in a trial — as they will be the first to tell you, and in most cases truthfully so. The odds are overwhelming that they were coerced into a confession — almost 20 or 30 to 1.
How does this coercion work? It arises from an indication by the prosecutor that the accused is going to be charged with an even greater crime that carries a much longer sentence, if not the death penalty. This is done frequently, even though the prosecutor knows fully well the person is innocent of this greater crime. This vicious ploy is used to force a confession to a lesser crime, in order get it over with quickly without the need for a time-and-money-consuming trial.
Of course, even in the course of a trial many innocent workers are convicted because of a combination of false evidence planted by police, prejudice on the part of judge and/or jury, and/or an incompetent or uncaring public defender or other defense lawyer, among other possible reasons.
Convictions by trial are, in fact, very rare in the making of felons, on both the federal and state levels. A majority of prisoners turned into felons are put in that position not on the basis of trials, but rather of plea bargains. In fact, an article in the Wall Street Journal (9/23/12), titled “Federal Guilty Pleas Soar As Bargains Trump Trials,” reports that in 2011, 97 percent of federal cases were resolved through plea bargains rather than trial convictions. The Bureau of Justice Assistance states the same approximate percentage applies at the state level.
Plea bargains are a trick used by prosecutors all over the U.S, who — with impunity and without fear of retaliation from the working class (in the absence of a revolution) — can accuse arrested workers of any crime they choose to invent, with punishments that involve many years in prison. When caught red-handed, they claim that they do this to unclog the overstressed court system in the face of huge numbers of arrests by cops. But they mainly use such methods to increase their numbers of convictions in order to advance their own political careers. They even use false accusations and plea bargaining against their political rivals for office. Civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate’s 2009 book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, fully describes this unstoppable criminality by prosecutors.
We are well aware that cops plant evidence all the time in order to obtain convictions or, more often, to promote fear-inspired plea bargaining. Funding of police departments is proportional to the number of arrests and “convictions,” which is falsely taken as a measure of need — the more arrests the more money allotted. But the equally criminal behavior of prosecutors is less known publicly.
It is futile to expect justice from a racist system. The racist courts clearly do not function in the interest of the working class. There will come a day when the working class will demolish the bosses’ injustice system.
Saguaro Rojo

Bosses Stamp on Food for Workers
We have to be aware that the problem of food stamps has been cooking for some time now. The principle ingredients are government privatization and government politicians.
The end result is a stew in the form of reduction of resources for families of low income while, at the same time, the rich and their politicians line their pockets and fill bloated stomachs. They are not in our shoes and will never comprehend our necessities.
I believe that we shouldn’t wait any longer. We have to defend our rights day in and day out and support the less fortunate. We are people and not animals and that as part of the working class, we have the right to demand respect.
Enough with abuse of power: we want a real change, not the usual lies. We will not stumble over and over again with the same false promises. We are fighters and as fighters, we will continue to fight fascism here.
Red Cook

Get Off Rulers’ Treadmill
September 13 will forever be remembered as when Mexico’s corrupt parties such as the PRI, PAN, PRO and PT, the number one loyal servants of the capitalists, showed us once again the kind of politicians we have here. This is the future that awaits us and our children of the working class unless we rebel.
The teachers are not intimidated because they have confronted this problem with sharp struggle that has given them the force and courage to face this and raise their voices for their rights.
If we don’t fight to make a change we will continue on a treadmill  from one generation to the next. All of us exploited by capitalism need to leave as an inheritance to our children the defense of our rights in this country.
Let’s make a call to the working class worldwide to always unite in support of each other in the fight for social equality and for communism .
Where there is unity, there is a solution!
Internationalist

Forward to Clean Up the Garbage of Capitalism
Re: “The Mass Fight Against Public School Privatization in Mexico,” Oct. 16, 2013:
I am a mother involved in the fight for a better education for my kids and other students who have suffered from a mediocre education filled with obstacles keeping them from advancing.
The government complains about the reaction and protests from the teachers and community but because of their lack of respect they leave us no other option. They want to keep us as puppets and take away the right to our opinions. They defend privatization not just for the schools but for everything that affects the working class. Now is the moment to act and unite our forces.
We know that the political parties in Mexico are self-serving and corrupt. They ascend their throne without caring that the poorest and hardest workforce of their country should suffer from hunger and lack of medical attention while the bosses and their politicians enjoy the profits stolen from all the citizens.
I invite every person that is suffering all this — do not stay quiet! Everyone can raise their voice to be heard because there will always be someone to support you and together we can clean up all this garbage. Don’t surrender. Let’s continue forward.
Anticapitalist Reader

How Racism Spoils Baltimore Food Market
Recently, the Baltimore Sun has been writing about the Lexington Market, which is a large public marketplace that’s been there since 1782. The Sun’s recent coverage about the market has been one-sided, and borders on being racist. The reportage about the Market has focused almost exclusively on negative things, talking about “middle-income shoppers who abandoned” the Market, and “hoped-for” shoppers who currently avoid it “whether because of discomfort with the setting, dissatisfaction with the offerings or both.”
But that’s not how the Lexington Market seems to me and many of our friends.
I am a teacher at one of our city’s public high schools. Each year, for more than three decades, I have taken my English students to Central Pratt Library for a full day kicking off the work on their research papers. For many of those years, at lunchtime, we have walked to the market. Just last month, we conducted one of these scholarly field trips, with about 100 students, and, as usual, we had a really nice lunchtime experience. In fact, students from another school happened to be there at the same time, officially on stage, performing in honor of Black History Month. Many diners enthusiastically watched the performances from the second-floor seating area.
Of course, like all things, the Market could improve. It would be nice, for example, to be able to buy unsweetened iced tea, not just the sugary variety, as part of the delicious “half-and-half” beverages which are locally unique and mixed-to-order at one of the Market’s customer-friendly stalls.
I went to Lexington Market recently for lunch with a former teaching colleague, now retired.  While waiting for at a stall, I got into a conversation with the gentleman in front of me.  He recruits  at local high schools for Hampton University.  He joined us for lunch. The Market was bustling, and we had to look hard to find a table for three.
A young man passing by noticed our grey hair, tapped one of us on the shoulder and, with a sincere and respectful smile, said, “There’s a lot of wisdom at this table!”  It was quite a tribute. The young man was black; we three elders were a multi-racial group, two black and one white.
 It seems to me that what the recent Sun articles are really saying is not that too few people go to Lexington Market, but that too high a percentage of the diners and shoppers are black. It reminds me of the racial make-up of the teaching force in Baltimore City. When I began teaching in the 1970s, the vast majority of public-school educators in Baltimore were black, serving as great role models for our predominately black student population.
Now, however, utilizing large numbers of teachers from Teach-for-a-Minute (the program’s real name is Teach for America, but the nickname is more accurate) and by other means, the forces controlling our city have significantly reduced the percentage of black teachers, who have dwindled to being a minority of the staff.  This unfavorable transformation has been engendered purposely even though 84 percent of our students are black.
Are The Sun and its owners now seeking to racially transform Lexington Market? Is that what this is really all about? If not, why are stories like mine, about years of good experiences at the Market, largely absent from The Sun’s coverage?
Baltimore PL’er

Lack Valid Criticism on Syria
In the letter (3/26) entitled “Syria Editorial Misleading,” the two comrades seem to have overlooked or misunderstood most of the points made in the 2/12  Editorial.
First, the letter says that the word “capitalist” is not mentioned even once in the article when, in fact, it appears twice, and in the very first paragraph.
Second, in the next-to-last paragraph, the letter says the article is weak in pointing out how shifting imperialist alliances only aided the needs of the ruling classes. However, the article’s title, “Syria: Centuries of Repression, Division and Exploitation” and most of its content are devoted to how colonial and imperialist powers have done exactly that.
Finally, in the last paragraph, the letter says the article omits an explanation of internal class conflicts in Syria or any other Middle East country. On the other hand, the article discusses the role of the “Communist” Party in the internal politics of Syria and the region and how nationalist, religious and ethnic divisions have led to workers fighting other workers against their own class interests.
The letter makes a correct point that it would have been better if the article had said “The French rulers” instead of “The French,” but that doesn’t negate the lack of validity in most of the criticism. Our Party’s growth depends on our ability to promote criticism and self-criticism. More collective discussion by letter writers and editors is needed.
A Comrade