Letters - 18 August 2010

Airport Workers Fight Nazi ‘English-only’ Law

This is a follow-up letter in regards to copycat fascist attacks on Latino immigrant workers (CHALLENGE 8/4). On July 27, a metro area suburb passed a racist vindictive law prohibiting Spanish-speaking in immigrant dealings with city government. This is pure anti-Latino racism because new immigrants applying for city jobs, public housing, public schools for their children, and city services will find themselves marginalized by the English-only law.

Many states and cities like Fremont, Nebraska have followed the lead of Apartheid Arizona. This is historically similar to fascist Germany’s Nuremburg Laws.

This local racist law was passed 4-1, angering many anti-racists. One white anti-racist was thrown out of the city council meeting by the police. 

The multiracial airport workers are responding to this latest racist anti-working-class attack by taking extra copies of CHALLENGE for family and friends. Also, we will pressure our union to respond to this fascist law and work in collective mass struggle to overturn it.

Only communist revolution can liberate the international working class from fascist capitalism. Capitalism needs racist nationalism to guarantee super-profits for the bosses by super-exploiting Latino workers, which lowers the wages of all workers. Communism will eliminate divisions like nationalism and borders. WE HAVE A WORLD TO WIN!

Airport Red

AFT Backs Rulers’ Latest Ploy to Keep Afghan Bases

Gareth Porter, in “CounterPunch,” reports that Richard Haass — president of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2003 — has written a Newsweek article on Afghanistan entitled “We’re Not Winning. It’s Not Worth It.” He has concluded that the insurgents cannot be defeated and it would be better for the U.S. to allow the Taliban to run southern Afghanistan and for U.S. forces to withdraw to the north (where it can work closely with the Northern Alliance warlords and the corrupt Karzai regime in Kabul).

This view is apparently gaining support among ruling-class thinkers, and may gain even more traction with the recent release of thousands of pessimistic reports from the military and popular despair over the war. Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he withdraws troops next year, and the Taliban and other insurgent groups gain ground, he’ll be blamed for “losing Afghanistan,” even though influential ruling-class thinkers say Afghanistan is already lost (barring a favorable deal with the “enemy.”) If he continues to keep roughly 100,000 troops (plus tens of thousands of intelligence agents, state department functionaries and contractors) in Afghanistan, and another 50,000 in Iraq, he won’t have enough troops to occupy Iran. Iran, with its huge reserves of oil and gas, has gained tremendous influence in Iraq and is an important supplier of Chinese energy needs.

Obama will likely draw increasing fire from both sides — those who think U.S. resources are being wasted, and those who think failure is unacceptable. Groups like U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) take a side in this ruling-class debate by stressing that a military victory is not possible while saying virtually nothing about U.S. imperialist aims in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, or how withdrawal from Afghanistan wouldn’t mean peace, but only preparation for more war.

At the recent AFT convention, USLAW representative Michael Zweig went so far as to introduce and support the AFT leadership’s resolution on Afghanistan. It takes the Haass position that a military victory is no longer possible. It calls for a timetable for withdrawal, but also supports the “defeat of terrorist conspiracies” with the “limited, careful and precise use of armed forces.” This endorses continued U.S. bombing and missile attacks on villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and many other countries of strategic importance.

Pro-worker Resolution Defeated

What was particularly vile about the USLAW role at the convention was that another local had submitted a resolution declaring the occupation “not a war in the interest of working people.”  They argued that the “war on terror” was a cover for “the real reasons for the war, which include control over wealth and resources,” and told delegates that the U.S. military had killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. USLAW reps opposed that resolution and supported the leadership motion that contained no criticism of U.S. actions or its imperialist aims.

USLAW works with that section of the Democratic Party (including the AFT leadership) who worry that Afghanistan is a quagmire that will bog U.S. forces down and prevent it from carrying out the tasks necessary for its coming conflicts with China, Russia and other rivals to U.S. world dominance. USLAW will claim that the AFT endorsement of a resolution calling for withdrawal is a “victory” for the anti-war movement, when in fact it is a victory for U.S. capitalists who want to keep teachers and all workers in the dark about the truth that capitalist rivalry always leads to war.

In Afghanistan, the only profitable way out for U.S. imperialism is to strike a deal with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The insurgents would be given a lucrative share of profits from mineral concessions, foreign aid and transit fees from the TAPI gas pipeline. In return they would approve the U.S. permanent bases and large garrison force, would help the U.S. effort against Iran, and would provide security for the TAPI pipeline. Will the Taliban hold out for a larger share or accept the deal? Neither outcome offers a better life for the Afghan people.

Anti-imperialist teacher


Letters - 04 August 2010

Oscar Grant: A Brother to Us All

I sometimes wonder if the conversations I have with people at work in transit; the sale of CHALLENGE and discussion of articles; the arguments with hacks at my union meetings; really have any effect on my fellow workers.

I was deeply moved when, a few days after the trial of the cop who murdered Oscar Grant, I received a poem as a text message from a young transit worker in L.A. I think it puts the murder of the 22-year-old black worker in a context we can all understand. And proves to me that workers are listening, are interested in our ideas, are angry at what they witness. 

Here is an excerpt:

100 and One

“You have 100 and One

ways to kill my brother;

With your rabid-dog police force and

your endless wars for capitalist gains.

You have 100 and One

ways to erase him from my sight.

Your son, my brother, Oscar.”

Oscar Grant was murdered New Year’s day 2009, by the BART Transit Police, shot in the back while he lay face down on an Oakland train platform. City officials and the attorneys moved the cop’s trial to Los Angeles because they feared public outrage in the Bay Area.

But there is really no place to hide. Here in Los Angeles, there were demonstrations outside the courthouse and people were not at all surprised when the cop who killed him was convicted only of involuntary manslaughter, a slap on the wrist.

After all, who was Oscar Grant? A young black man who worked in the butcher’s dept. of a market in Oakland; father to a young daughter; a much beloved son.

LA Transit Worker

Arizona to Metro Airport: Same Enemy, Same Fight

For the past month a few airport workers have been involved in an antiracist campaign against the fascist Arizona anti-immigrant law due to go into effect shortly. We have written letters to fascist Arizona Governor Brewer’s office condemning this move toward Apartheid-like conditions which is an anti-working-class racist attack on all workers. We have also written to Obama condemning this law and demanding that there be humane, comprehensive immigration reform which is not linked to getting more military recruits to defend U.S. oil interests. 

This campaign is reformist, but one of its purposes is to show airport workers that any kind of mass anti-racist reform struggle can be turned around and taken back by U.S. bosses because they have state power and we don’t. In the face of Arizona’s fascism and many other states wanting copycat racist anti-Latino measures, it’s important now more than ever that we intensify the entire multiracial international working-class fight for a communist revolution to liberate workers globally from capitalism and its evil helpers, imperialism, racism, and sexism.

Our efforts at the airport have involved immigrants and citizens, with Ethiopian and African-American workers helping to distribute copies of the letters to our fellow airport workers. This is extremely important because there have been a few backlash incidences of racist anti-Latino verbal harassment by airport supervisors. In the metro area racist cops target Latino-looking motorists. Recently the Metro Transit Police carried out a police operation at a train stop in a predominately Latino neighborhood.

This train station serves mostly Latino, African immigrant, and black workers. This is the second busiest train station in the city. There were 16 transit cops harassing mostly Latino workers, asking to see their paid train tickets before they could board trains, making some miss trains and be late to work. The transit cops called this Apartheid-style harassment “saturation,” a military term used as if they are looking for an “enemy,” in this case Latino workers! This is nothing but Apartheid-like racism and all workers must fight this fascism with multiracial unity and a communist revolution against our fascist, racist oppressors from Arizona to Kyrgyzstan to France!

Airport Red


Letters - 21 July 2010

Slashed Workers’ Wages Line
Greek Bosses’ Wallets

I’ve been working for almost a year now at a pizzeria after the work contract for my previous job expired. It is not that great, thanks to too many hours and too little money, but at least I am certain of the day’s wages in my pocket.

This country is going downhill, if it hasn’t already hit the bottom. Everybody who cares to be involved in the government does so only because they want to put some millions in their wallets and then quit like chickens.

These past years we lost a lot to capitalism, and now they are trying to make this country stand without feet! So we are forced to pay for their debts and their pleasures, as if we haven’t already paid enough! They’re even cutting our salaries! Salaries have been cut from workers employed by private companies as well as state workers. We know the money cut from our salaries will line the pockets of the bosses rather than helping other workers through social services. That’s why we’re on strike all the time, even though nothing has changed yet.

A friend from Greece

‘Prisoners of Liberation’

Is a revolution for communist equality possible? What about a society based on working-class collectivity instead of the crass Individualism of capitalism in the U.S. today?

We feel that the Communist Revolution in China accomplished some of these goals, but we still have a whole lot more to learn and to put into practice.

In their book, “Prisoners of Liberation,” Allyn and Adele Rickett describe the effects of the Communist Revolution in China. They were imprisoned for four years during the Korean War. While in prison they experienced a rehabilitation method of criticism and self-criticism.

“’Prisoners of Liberation’ is one of the best available analyses of the process by which people are made to confront their social roles.”

We hope that you will read this inspiring book!

Stockton, CA Book Collective

Demonizing N. Korea Keeps U.S.
Bases Aimed at China

For those of us who tuned in to watch Brazil’s first match of the World Cup we were treated to a surprisingly competitive performance from the first North Korean team to play in the World Cup since 1966. But beyond the action on the field there was a steady stream of commentary regarding the “insane machinations” of the “evil” North Koreans. We were treated to fantastic stories of invisible phones, Chinese actors pretending to be North Korean fans, and pirated game footage being taken from South Korea and replayed in the North. The latter story has already been confirmed as a fraud and it is likely the others are too.

The U.S.-led Western media has spent much time developing the myth of a totalitarian North Korea. While it is true that North Korea is a military dictatorship with a fully-developed cult of personality around the Kim family, the depictions of a hapless population controlled by an all-knowing police-state is simply a myth.

The totalitarian ideal was developed in the West under the burgeoning new academic field of political science to defame the Soviet Union in the 1930s. By claiming total state control the totalitarian ideal removed the agency of workers themselves, turning them into hapless simps incapable of action or change.

Representing the capitalists’ ideal of the working class rather than the material reality, the totalitarian model rose to prominence alongside the individualist great-man theories of capitalist philosophy. The reality is that no state can function without the cooperation of a critical mass of the working class which believes in the state’s legitimacy.

True, North Korea is a military dictatorship and the Juche (theory of self-reliance) ideal at the center of their political philosophy is about as far from communism as one gets, it is equally true that due to the extreme trauma of the Korean War (four million deaths in three years of fighting) and the continuing tension on the 38th parallel that the people of North Korea are committed to maintaining their state.

Defense Department planners are keenly aware of this reality. They estimated in 1992, before it was known that North Korea had a nuclear bomb, that a new Korean War would lead to one million casualties in Seoul, South Korea in the first 24 hours alone. This estimate was re-affirmed in 2003.

So the question is why the constant stream of antagonism and fabrications about North Korea in the U.S. and Western press? The reality is that the U.S. needs to demonize the North Korean regime and maintain the tension on the 38th parallel in order to justify the continued presence of 30,000 U.S. troops at strategic bases in South Korea.

It should be noted that typically there were 40,000 troops in South Korea, but 10,000 were shifted to Afghanistan by Obama. These bases serve as staging points for attacks against China and Eastern Russia, something that China has complained about for decades.

The U.S. has repeatedly denied North Korean offers to open up and ratchet down tensions and has been duplicitous in most of its interactions with the state. The real reason for U.S. media attacks against North Korea is plain and simple imperialism and not, nor has it ever had anything to do with, concern for the plight of workers in N. Korea.

Red Beard

PL/InCAR’s Internationalism, Anti-racism a Hit in South Africa

International solidarity is a beautiful thing.

In my recent trip to South Africa, I brought along the anti-apartheid International Committee Against Racism (InCAR) t-shirt from the 1980s.  I showed it to our tour guide in Johannesburg and Soweto, and when we went to the Hector Petersen Museum (Hector was the first student killed during the 1976 student uprisings in Soweto), I saw Hector’s sister and asked if I could meet her.

The guide asked what contribution to the struggle we had made in the U.S., and I explained not only about our anti-racist and anti-apartheid work but also our work in my union. He said, “Good, unions are very important here in South Africa” and introduced me to Antoinette Sithole. I told her about how U.S. workers and students had engaged in the fight against apartheid and showed her the t-shirt. She agreed to a photo of her holding the t-shirt with the tour guide, who had lost many family members during the Uprising. (see CHALLENGE, 7/7)

After that, the InCAR t-shirt was my calling card. The workers at the Ritz Backpacker Hostel where we stayed in Johannesburg loved it. A young Swedish woman who is in South Africa studying human rights and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions also took a picture of it.

I brought the t-shirt along when we went to tour Robben Island, where Mandela had been a prisoner for 27 years. When the guide on the tour bus mentioned Sharpeville, a woman spoke up saying she had been at Sharpeville where hundreds of South Africans were protesting the pass-book laws and were gunned down by the fascist police. She was also moved by the t-shirt and we exchanged addresses.

The guide who showed us the prison cells where the political prisoners were kept was a former political prisoner. Upon seeing the t-shirt, he recognized the contributions U.S. workers and students made in supporting their fight against apartheid while the U.S. government supported the racist government.

Showing the t-shirt was a way of connecting with the workers of South Africa and their struggles. It became a symbol of solidarity. No matter to whom I showed it, immediate recognition of the anti-racist actions in the U.S. were noted and approval was expressed. Everyone wanted the t-shirt. Now I have to make copies and send them to the workers!

The symbol of our internationalism decades ago has laid the foundation for new international relationships for our Party today.

D.C. Red


Letters - 30 June 2010

Capitalism Produces Food for Profit, Not for Health


I was happy to read the article on health care “reform” in the last issue of CHALLENGE. It explained why health care can’t be guaranteed for all people in a capitalist system. (See 6/09/10 issue) We also need to understand that what makes us healthy isn’t just being seen by a doctor. Our whole lifestyle — including stress at our jobs, satisfaction with our relationships, exercise and diet — determines how healthy we are. Capitalism doesn’t allow workers to choose a life that will be happiest and healthiest.

We don’t have to wait for a communist revolution to start living better. I would like to see my friends and comrades look into the scientific evidence about the benefits of a plant-based, vegan diet. I became a vegan over ten years ago for ethical reasons. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and how to eat healthfully.

In the book “The China Study,” Dr. T. Colin Campbell presents an overwhelming body of comparative studies that show diets high in animal products (meat and dairy) are correlated at 95% or higher with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autism and Alzheimer’s. Our likelihood of suffering something like breast cancer, which we commonly think is determined by genetics, actually has much more to do with our diet and physical fitness level than genes. But, as Dr. Campbell discusses in the book, if we can master our own health by changing our lifestyle, we don’t need expensive surgeries or medicines.

The pharmaceutical and medical industries stand to lose profits, not to mention the meat and dairy producers whose interests are represented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other government bodies. We need to find good science to expose these lies, and show others why capitalism just doesn’t work.

Healthy Red

The Capitalist ‘Oil Curse’ in the Niger Delta Exceeds the Gulf Spill


After Katrina came the murderous BP exploding oil well. Some people in the Gulf region must be mad enough to think about revolution! Meanwhile, because of media racism, few know that the oil spills and degradation in the oil-producing Niger Delta in Nigeria are even larger than this new Gulf spill. Residents there have been living with and protesting them for 50 years. They, too, need the revolutionary PLP.

Some economists speak of the “oil curse,” so terrible are the normal effects of capitalist production on oil workers and residents. The media focus on a few disasters that affect U.S. or Europe, ignoring the chronic racist oil curse and making us think the oil industry’s pursuit of profit and power is basically fine. Not true! And that’s in “peaceful” times. The other curse of oil under capitalism is that it breeds genocidal imperialist wars.

An article by John Vidal in The Observer, May 30, 2010, spells it out. More oil has been spilled in the Niger Delta every year than has been leaked in the Gulf of Mexico. On May 1 a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than a million gallons into the Delta in seven days before it was stopped.

“We are faced with incessant oil spills from rusty pipes, some of which are 40 years old,” said a resident. A community leader in Ibeno said: “Oil companies do not value our life, they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen cannot sustain their families. It is not tolerable.” 

With 606 oilfields, according to Vidal, the Niger Delta supplies 40% of all the crude the U.S. imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy has fallen to 40 years over the last two generations, and half the population has no access to clean water. Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth says that oil companies in Nigeria largely ignore their spills and cover them up.

Writer Ben Ikari says: “When I see the efforts being made in the U.S. I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards.” Bassey continues: “The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.”

Judith Kimerling, a CUNY professor, writes in her book “Amazon Crude” about similar effects of the oil curse in Ecuador. The Jayne Cortez poem “U.S./Nigerian Relations” sums it up in two lines: “They want the oil/But they don’t want the people.” In a marching song, Bassey wrote of the “gallows called oil rigs/Drilling our souls,” then went on: “We know our dreams/Won’t burst like crude pipes.” The Delta rebels know our revolutionary dreams mean we’ve got to fight back.

Community groups, NGOs and rebel bands fight the oil curse daily, ignored by the media, but they can never plug the leak at the bottom of all this: the profit system itself, which, as Bassey says of the oil companies, is indeed “a danger to the planet.” Communists everywhere need to join and spark these struggles until our Party builds an international revolutionary movement out of our class’s daily battle to survive.

African Studies Teacher


Letters - 23 June 2010

PL Study Group Stirs Up ‘Plenty to think about…’

Our Pennsylvania CHALLENGE study group contains spirited and sometimes combative workers. Recently we discussed whether fascists should have freedom of speech. The discussion grew from the fact that the Neo-Nazi Aryan Nation is holding a rally at the Gettysburg battlefield in June.

One group member said he thought they should have this right, but added that a large protest should confront these fascists. Another member declared that the Aryan Nation is devoted to Hitler and genocide and should not have this right, but should be confronted and smashed by an integrated workers movement led by the PLP. A member who works as a waitress agreed with those sentiments.

Another member, a teacher, asked if the current government should be encouraged to pass laws barring these hate groups. But another felt this wasn’t the way to go. He said the current government is a capitalist one, and is more likely to pass laws against communists, that only the workers can stop these types of groups.

Then we discussed a recent newspaper column which advocated that the current government could be reformed to serve the interests of workers. This is just a classic liberal position, said one member, and will never happen since the current government is controlled completely by the ruling capitalist class and can never be reformed. It will take a workers’ revolution and establishment of a genuine workers’ state to fundamentally alter conditions for all workers. Except for one person, most agreed with this assessment.

The waitress said the discussion group gave her more than enough to think about, stating she was glad this group existed, along with CHALLENGE, since the mass media told nothing but lies.

Next year we hope to attend the May Day march.

Red Coal

Angry Workers Slam Pols for Racist ‘Non-Decision’

An angry crowd of 400 workers and youth filled City Council chambers on May 28 in Worcester, MA, to blast the racist Council members, shaking them up with cries of “Shame! Shame!”

After having confronted the Tea Party and their racist friends the previous week (see p. 1), the group returned here to expose the Council’s racist decision to not even discuss a boycott of Arizona and its racist laws. This was not the first issue from the Latino community the Council refused to discuss. It also voted against a livery service in Latino neighborhoods and against keeping swimming pools open.

After a short rally at City Hall, during which Progressive Labor Party along with community leaders spoke, almost the entire rally marched up the steps to City Council Chambers. Some organizers of the second action had the youth tape their mouths so they’d “be polite” while people were told to stand silently. But the workers were very angry and refused to be silenced. They soon started chanting “shame, shame” and “vote them out!” at the City Councilors, while the youth chanted “ No more hate.” Some of our comrades and friends led the chant, “Asian, Latin, black and white, against racism we must unite!”

The councilors were shaken. Some called for “defusing” the anger. One councilor said if the city didn’t do something it would explode. The local newspaper did not cover the rally, although a City Council reporter was present. So far, the newspaper has refused to print any letters about the action. It e-mailed one person, saying Councilor Barbara Haller was not a racist. Her actions have proved differently.

PLP members were in the leadership committee and others sold CHALLENGE.  We pointed out how racism hurts everyone by dividing the working class. We called for a workers’ society that we, not the bosses’ politicians, would run and how it will meet the needs of our class.

Anti-Racist Red

Make an Opportunity — and Work
Your Butt Off

A few months ago the political action committee of our local organization passed a resolution supporting immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now more than 80% of the 100 or so members who attended the annual meeting of the full membership have voted in favor of the resolution. The three months prior to the meeting were rich in ideological struggle, with articles for and against appearing in the group’s newsletter.

We had to convince those who supported the resolution to attend the meeting and to be prepared to sit through discussion of organizational business.  A number of people in the political action committee wrote articles and helped with the get-out-the-vote campaign, but too much was done by too few of us.

After the meeting a friend and fellow member of the political action committee took us out for a drink. We showed him CHALLENGE and will talk to him about continuing to receive the paper and about joining our monthly readers’ group.

PLP’s 2005 statement, Dark Night Shall Have Its End, talks about the importance of seizing every opportunity during this difficult period to bring about a new period in which the movement for communist revolution can grow even faster. We see two kinds of opportunities: those we create and those that arise independently of our efforts.

We created this opportunity. Prior to our campaign, there was no groundswell of active opposition to the wars among the group’s members, who were preoccupied with other issues. In fact, probably about 90% of the people who voted for the resolution had voted for Obama; our linking of Afghanistan to Iraq was initially very uncomfortable for most of them.

We had to prove that the U.S. wanted to “secure” Afghanistan in order to build the TAPI pipeline and that the U.S. had supported the Taliban and might even do so again if they could cut a pipeline deal with them. The Karzai regime is hopelessly corrupt and similar to the Taliban in its oppression of women. We argued that it was absurd to believe that the U.S. is invading Afghanistan to help build infrastructure and support “human rights.” The U.S., state and municipal governments are so broke they can’t even maintain infrastructure here and are conducting assault after assault on workers’ rights, liberties, and standard of living.

Now another opportunity has come along, this one independent of our efforts. There’s a big rally and march May 29th in Phoenix in opposition to Arizona’s racist law attacking undocumented workers.  We are working hard to mobilize members of the group to go to Phoenix where we can expose both the local fascist scapegoating of immigrants as well as the liberal Dream (Nightmare) Act fascism documented on the back page of the May 26 CHALLENGE.

Determined Comrade

Captured By The Israeli Military

My niece in Greece has been a political activist since she was 16 years old. One of the causes she has been involved in is the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza. She has gone there several times to do humanitarian work as a doctor.

She was on the last boat in the flotilla captured by the Israeli military. Because the boat was in international waters, the captain would not surrender until receiving instructions from the Greek government. When he refused to surrender, Israeli soldiers beat him badly with their rifle butts. Everyone on the boat was arrested.

In jail, the captives were not allowed food or water for a day and a half and were repeatedly strip-searched. Sixteen people were eventually released but thirty-five still remain in jail and the Israeli government has not released information about their condition and what will happen to them.

The boat my niece was on was carrying medical supplies and books. The brutal actions of the Israeli government will not stop the international effort to break the blockade of Gaza and assist our brothers and sisters who are suffering there.

New York City Comrade