Letters of April 28, 2010

May Day Social Crosses All Borders

The importance of social occasions never gets enough credit. We had a pre-May Day party with 23 people from six different countries, the majority NOT born in the U.S. We had planned to focus on the centuries of attacks on the working class in Haiti. Some people didn’t know that the only successful slave revolution occurred there 200 years ago, which provides both inspiration and lessons for us today.

People arrived at various times due to different work schedules, including overtime and Saturday work, now mandatory for some in schools and for all day-laborers. People introduced themselves one by one, relating their countries’ conditions, their parents’ stories, their own history, why they came here and how they arrived.

In Ecuador, the phony land reform divides property among people who already own some land and gives little to those in dire need. The father of one person fought the 1965 U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic because it was obvious to everyone there that U.S. rulers weren’t invading to improve the lot of working-class people.

Another spoke of fascism in Hungary which appealed to nationalism and “bettering” conditions by deporting “undesirable” immigrants, Jewish people and dividing workers. One man from Pennsylvania talked about the recent deaths of 29 miners because of safety violations.

We discussed the limitations of corrupt unions. Several people from Haiti wanted us to understand that the revolution that ended in 1803 with national “independence” went backwards, subject to the imperialists’ profit needs. We agreed that attempts at reforming conditions don’t deal with the reality of class society and capitalism’s profit requirements.

The best part of the discussion dealt with how communism would be the best system. We all agreed that borders only serve the wealthy. We would use houses already constructed instead of building new ones. Someone pointed out, therefore, that most people might need to work less to produce what we need, giving us more time to create a healthy, beautiful environment.

There were many topics we didn’t have time for — like linking the social-service and education cutback fights in our unions to the need for communism — so we decided to have a post-May Day BBQ!

A Comrade

Immigrant Workers Need Red Flag, Not U.S. Flag

I attended the March for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” in Washington, D.C. True to capitalist U.S. history, immigrants were called on to prove their patriotism by waving the American flag, bowing down to Democratic Party politicians and chanting U.S.A.! (led by SEIU president Andy Stern.) Many of the participants, documented and undocumented, and citizens, mostly Latino, complied. But many did not. A group of PLP members who participated distributed several hundred CHALLENGES and led chants, such as “We are workers, we are not illegals!” and “Workers struggles have no borders.”

The liberal wing of the U.S. ruling class clearly controlled the event, politically and organizationally. But things are not always as they seem. The marchers are working-class families whose lives contradict the hype, manipulation and glitter of politicians and the call for sacrifice and patriotism. These workers have families and friends in desperate conditions in the countries of origin. They are workers and youth who gravitate to the call for a communist revolution for a world without exploitation, racism, imperialist war and national borders.

As PLP members continue to build a base in the working class, with confidence and patience, as we recruit new PLP members and expand CHALLENGE networks, organize study groups and forums, unite the working class internationally and intensify the class struggle our communist political influence will grow. Not overnight, but definitely. Not only in the future, but now.

Pro-immigrant Red

‘Alice in Wonderland’ Fairy Tale About Capitalism

I went to see the new movie Alice In Wonderland. The story unfortunately makes it seem like fighting sexism can only happen by ignoring racist imperialism and embracing capitalist fairy tales. In the story, Alice is the daughter of a businessman in Victorian England. She is 19 when she travels back to Wonderland, a place she visited as a small child and thought she had only imagined. The people of Wonderland believe Alice is the champion they’ve been waiting for to slay a dragon and defeat the evil Red Queen.

I was excited to see a fantasy story with a female hero, and, more importantly, I was happy that no one in Wonderland questions whether Alice can do it because she is female. They simply accept her. Through her adventure, she gains the self-confidence to take charge of her own life in the real world. But the script has her do this by learning to “believe in the impossible” — like her deceased father, who was known for his risky business deals.

All I could think of were the risky deals cut by traders at investment banks like Goldman Sachs and bankers pushing sub-prime mortgages on low-income workers who could not afford them. These capitalists also believed in the impossible, and encouraged the workers they exploited to do the same. We’re all suffering from their reality check now.

At the end of the movie, Alice asserts her right to choose her own life. She refuses a marriage proposal that her family was pressuring her to accept. That’s great. But instead of being the wife of a man she does not like or respect, she decides to take over her father’s business. It is only at the end of the film that we find out that this British business’s goal is to open up markets in India. There’s nothing in the movie to remind the audience of the nature of the violent, colonialist British regime in India. Instead, we’re encouraged to cheer Alice’s triumph, which is really just her successful transformation into a capitalist, exploiting workers in a faraway country.

I hope everyone who sees this film will read up on the history of India and capitalism, and talk with their friends and families about why this ending is unacceptable.

Red Critic

Editor’s comment: PLP has plenty of openings for revolutionary women to lead the struggle. Too bad Alice didn’t check us out!


Letters of April 14, 2010

Palestine: Communism Only Answer to Refugees’ Plight

During the 1948 war, the racist Israeli bosses forced 750,000 Palestinians to leave their homes which were confiscated, along with their land. Mostly workers and peasants, they were forced to become refugees, many in refugee camps.

Today these refugees and their descendants, totaling 4,618,141, live in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Of them, 1,373,732 are trapped in refugee camps in horrible living conditions, super-exploited by the local Arab bosses, and suffering from substandard housing and infrastructure and huge unemployment rates.

These villagers’ Right to Return to their pre-1948 lands is a basic right, the right to live where their families had lived for generations. However, even worse is their plight in these refugee camps, which capitalism has caused and maintains.

The Israeli ruling class does its utmost to prevent these refugees from returning to their lands, stolen from them by the Israeli state and used to enrich local and foreign capitalists. The Palestinian nationalist leaders pay lip-service to the Right of Return, but cannot solve — and in fact contribute to — the basic hardships faced by these refugees.

However, even if some of them were allowed to return to their lands, under capitalism their suffering will continue. Their villages have been ruined for sixty years. On many of them the Zionists established “Jewish Only” settlements. The capitalists will have no interest in ending their impoverishment with adequate and affordable housing, education, healthcare and infrastructure, or with jobs that can provide a decent living. In fact, if the refugees will ever return to Israel-Palestine while capitalism still reigns, their current refugee camps will simply be replaced by new ones there, and they will become nothing but a source of cheap labor for the Palestinian and/or Israeli bosses.

Only communism — a society run by the workers under the principle of “to each according to need, from each according to commitment” — can provide a real solution to the plight of Palestine’s refugees. A communist-run workers’ state will be able to satisfy their needs, wherever they live, enabling them to contribute to the construction of communist progress in the entire Middle East in particular, as well as in the world in general.

A communist in Israel/Palestine

Class Analysis Links Ancient Rome
to U.S. Now

I am a first-year NYC public school teacher. It becomes more clear to me daily that the education system is set up to make a certain large group of students fail, in order to keep the rulers’ system of exploitation viable. I do not know how so many great teachers survive in schools without a class analysis to explain why there are so many kids below the level they should be at. As a member of PLP, I feel that it is my job not only to try and expose students to communist ideas and recruit them to the Party, but also to give them the skills and knowledge they should have.

I teach Humanities and recently finished a unit on the Roman Empire. Because my students are at so many different levels, I try to use different materials and media in the classroom. For this unit, I spent some time teaching them about the Punic Wars and the Roman expansion.

The first film clip briefly showed the war in Carthage, and how Roman soldiers completely wiped out a town, stole all their valuables and enslaved the survivors. After the battle, we see the army return to Rome, where the plebeians (95% of the population) lived in misery. We then see a discussion between members of the Senate and the army’s generals. The Senators warn the generals that they need a new enemy for the plebeians to fear so they will stand up and support the “great” Roman Republic.

In Rome, not only did the rich create enemies out of people they wanted to conquer, they used disgusting tactics to keep the plebeians “occupied” or disillusioned about their power as a class. The coliseum was a prime example of this as up to 200,000, rich and poor, watched gladiators (slaves) fight to the death.

The rise of Christianity kept masses passive then and continues to do so today, along with other world religions. This same type of media and entertainment exists today and keeps millions of workers “occupied” and ignorant about who the real enemy is.

After watching the movie clip, my class had a great discussion about the similarities between the ruling class in the Roman Empire and the ruling class that exists today. Although, I am part of the system and unfortunately have to teach my students to the Regents exam, I always try to teach using a class analysis. Also, I always try to remind them and myself that the working class has the power to change the world and put power into our hands.

The Roman Empire fell, the U.S. and the other empires today will fall. That is why we need to bring communist ideas to the masses, so that we don’t replace one empire with another. Let’s break the vicious deadly cycle of class society.

NYC Teacher

Hospital Speed-up Helps MRSA Spread

The “Red Eye On The News” item “Antibiotics= farm profit; people die” hits me personally.

I have a MRSA infection that undermined a major surgery last year and forced me to retire from my job. The memory of standing in my shower and watching the six-inch surgical incision in my abdomen open up like a scene from the movie “Alien” still haunts me. The medications I take daily have side effects like diarrhea — truly a pain in the ass!

Farm antibiotics are not the only contributor to MRSA infections however. Short staffing and speed-up in the capitalist healthcare industry is a primary cause. Simply, if a healthcare worker is rushing from patient to patient or room to room, they are more likely to not practice the effective hand-washing which can prevent the spread of infection. Healthcare custodial workers moreover, should allow disinfectant to sit on surfaces from 5 to 15 minutes so the disinfectant may penetrate the layers of bacteria. After working 25 years in a major hospital’s housekeeping department I can tell you, ain’t no supervisor allowing any housekeeper to let anything sit 15 minutes without a fight!

I’ve spent years of being a union delegate and sitting on several contract negotiating committees fighting for more staffing to improve patient care and combat racist unemployment. Several times we actually won some jobs. But as U.S. fascism deepens with the increase of imperialist rivalries and wars, U.S. bosses have even less leeway to allow reform victories like more staffing.

The inadequate staffing of healthcare under capitalism guarantees the continued spread of MRSA and another killer infection, Clostridium Difficile or C-Diff as it’s known.  Our PL club was correct to make the need for communism primary in all those reform struggles over the years. Communist revolution is truly the only lasting cure for infections like MRSA and C-Diff.

A Comrade

Immigrants’ March

On March 21, over 200,000 people — Latino, black, Asian, white — from countries all over the world turned out to support immigrant reform.  Millions of dollars were spent by Catholic churches and government agencies for free buses to guarantee a big turnout.  On the buses, people were handed papers stating that police have every right to stop you if they have a “good reason to believe that you are involved in criminal activity.” If you are searched, you are to say clearly “I do not consent,” but to always be polite, respectful and calm.  

As we were gathered on the mall and handed little U.S. flags, one of the first speakers talked about Jose Sucuzhanay, the Ecuadorian immigrant whose murderers are still free because the intent of their motive has not been judged a hate crime.  

While most people who attended had illusions that reform would bring better conditions, the video of Obama continued the theme that the rights of immigrants were second to the demands of a capitalist system, “effective strategies to protect our borders and enforce the law while offering a path to citizenship for hardworking people who register, pay taxes, pay a fine, and agree to play by the rules.”  Reforms were promised by every speaker, but none went further than the Dream Act that offers two roads to citizenship:  college or the army.

One CHALLENGE-DESAFIO seller opened the paper to show the fight backs against education cuts in colleges across the country and how, with the cuts, classes were dropped, summer school eliminated and teachers laid off.  With tuition hikes every year, the only future open to most youth was certainly the army, Afghanistan or Iraq. Many of the families who were shown CHALLENGE-DESAFIO had come with two or three young children to the rally.  Their faces showed quick understanding of these issues as they saw the article about the liberal mask of CIR and  bought a copy.  Over a hundred papers were easily sold within a few hours.

New Jersey comrade


Letters - 31 March 2010

‘Human Rights’ Panelists Spout Bosses’ Line

The Roosevelt House is the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, the largest college in the CUNY system in New York City.

Last month, a class of mine went to an all-day forum on the New Deal (Roosevelt’s attempt to save capitalism by making concessions to the working class in the 1930s) and how its policies have held up more than half a century later. 

The specific section we attended was an analysis of how Barack Obama has dealt with “human rights issues” within his first year of his U.S. presidency.  Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, and several Hunter College faculty gave the analysis. It also appears in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, a newsmagazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations – one of the bosses’ main think-tanks.

Not only did Roth not address the inevitable and indefinite occupation of Haiti (see CHALLENGE editorial, March 3), but his suggestions for Obama were solutions for the oppressive ruling class to adopt certain “policies,” not for workers around the world to demand their “rights” (…or take power?). The most potent of Roth’s suggestions was to stand up to inter-imperialist rivals Russia and China, a rivalry PLP has consistently said is the main contradiction in the world today.

If the oppression of workers is fought by giving money to international aid, fighting for policy through crap NGOs, or by voting for this president or that, then workers around the world will continue to suffer.

Pointing out these contradictions in the ruling class is important for building May Day, 2010.  Obama and his cohorts are no class friends of ours, and we need to continue the fight for international workers’ power, the real struggle for
human rights!

Red Student

9/11 Truth Movement: A Right-Wing Creation

Responding to letters in CHALLENGE regarding the 9/11 Truth Movement: After having dealt with people in this Movement for six years, certain things have become clear.

The Truth Movement (TM) is not just about denying Al-Quaeda’s role in the 9/11 attacks, but is about bringing an elaborate and reactionary conspiracy theory into the mainstream. Immediately after “proving” that 9/11 didn’t happen as the government said it did, a counter-story was needed to explain these events.

This story, largely provided by Alex Jones and his modest media empire in Austin, TX, doesn’t focus on important details the press omitted, like the U.S. role in the Soviet/Afghan War or the U.S. occupation of Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Rather it recasts the tired, old Protocols of Zion myth, designed to attack the Russian Left prior to the Russian Revolution, with a new façade featuring Illuminati, “Socialist” bankers and “Globalists.” The further you dig into this ideology the more the “Zionist conspiracy” myth begins to show its ugly head again.

Borrowing heavily from the Protocols and from the racist novel “The Turner Diaries” (regarding the fantasy of a Globalist-inspired U.S./Mexico border war among other things), it’s no surprise that these “Truther” websites have become favorite hangout spots for Holocaust deniers, John Birch Society members and other right-wing nuts. There is no good, bad, and ugly side of the TM, only an ugly and uglier side with many innocent people caught in the middle.

Another side to the TM is that 9/11 was “an inside job.” Like those who claim a Roosevelt conspiracy in the Pearl Harbor attacks, the need seems to come from an underlying belief in U.S. invincibility. People in the TM constantly state that it’s inconceivable for the military to have been caught off guard, unable to scramble fighter planes to the defense, or that it’s crazy to believe U.S. intelligence agencies could be outwitted by Arab terrorists.

But we’ve learned from the past decade that the U.S. military really isn’t the invincible fighting machine Hollywood would have us believe, and U.S. intelligence agencies really aren’t all that efficient.

Fortunately for a communist party that believes in revolution, the U.S. is not run by an omniscient X-Files-style cabal of men in the shadows able to maintain a decade-long conspiracy of silence involving thousands of people. Rather these are mortal men and women who, because of their own internal weaknesses, were caught with their pants down that day. Promoting the idea of an invincible, omniscient ruling class can only breed cynicism and is not historically accurate or scientifically sound.

In CHALLENGE (3/17), a letter noted there was no longer a debate over 9/11 because “reputable experts” have claimed the events could not have happened as described. This is a misleading, unscientific approach to this event. The author fails to note that while a few people adopt this view, the vast majority of experts agree with the official version of events: planes flown by terrorists brought down the Twin Towers and crashed into the Pentagon. Evidence of this is in the “Popular Mechanics” book, “Debunking 9/11 Myths” as well as in a shorter article on their website and in the internet film “Screw Loose Change: Not Freakin’ Again Edition.” It’s available on a google video debunking the TM internet film “Loose Change.”

Yes, there are some experts who question the 9/11 story, but there are also some scientists who deny global warming, some historians who deny the Holocaust and some doctors who deny smoking is bad for you. In all of these cases, these “experts” represent an extreme minority and should be treated with a bit more skepticism.

While there are some honest people caught up in the TM, we should recognize that the TM is not your standard social movement with a right, left and center. Rather it’s a group overrun, and led, by right-wing extremists with an agenda to act as a Trojan Horse to bring their ideas into the mainstream. Their front group represents a minefield of potential pitfalls for anybody seeking to get involved and should be approached with only the clearest sense of what these people are about and how they operate.

Red Beard

Unite to Fight Charter School Attack

The son of one of our comrades has had a basically good experience at his elementary school which is now being taken over by a charter school that’s been given space in the same building. Our student’s school has less and less space now: Each class is confined to one room all day. There’s no room for private special-ed sessions. The guidance counselor is forced to work in a closet. Children only get phys-ed one day a week; the gym teacher has been excessed. Class size is already rising — 30 students per teacher in one room.

Non-charter schools are being forced to compete with the charters for resources that are shrinking because of massive budget cuts. Teachers and parents are taking the lead in outreach to keep enrollment high to prevent closings. This unity is good, but this strategy takes the heat off the system. The bosses fear that city-wide parent-teacher unity could lead to general demonstrations and a strike that could end the Department of Education’s union-busting, divide-and-conquer strategy.

Three of our comrades are working with 12 other parents and two teachers. We will help, with open houses for new students and outreach to current families for a rally backing the school. But the most important thing we are doing is sharing CHALLENGE one-to--one, especially the article indicting charter schools as a racist strategy to enforce cutbacks for most students and to train a small elite in the technological skills needed by expanding U.S. imperialism.

We want to win parents, teachers, and students to an outlook of city-wide struggle against all closings and a fight for resources to meet all children’s needs. But the main victory will be to get to know as many parents and teachers as possible, sharpen political discussion with them, and bring many of our new friends to May Day. This will help them see more of the big picture, of how communist revolution is the only way to ever meet the needs and aspirations of all the world’s workers.

A Comrade

‘DREAM Act’ A Trap for Immigrant Youth

In a further effort to build support against fascist attacks on undocumented workers, I attended a screening of the documentary “Papers.” It is about students who are in high school, or have graduated high school, without documents. They arrived here at a young age with their parents, who were hoping to create a better life for themselves and their children, but now the students can’t apply for federal loans or get a legal, good-paying job. They graduate from high school and have no place to go.

Unfortunately, the conclusion of the movie is to fight for the DREAM Act, which includes the fast track to U.S. citizenship of having students go into the military and fight the bosses’ wars. A neat way for the bosses to trap young immigrants into their war machine!

About 30 people attended the screening. I passed out fliers, “Stop Racist Attacks on Immigrant Workers with Multiracial Unity,” to those in attendance.

The documentary was made by Graham Street productions ( I think we should look out for these types of movies. We could easily give a short speech, and pass out fliers or CHALLENGES to the audience before the show starts. These days there are no ushers and the screens are very isolated from each other. These types of movies will generally attract a group of people who will mostly be pro-immigrant and against racism.

D.C. Red


Letters - 17 March 2010

Another View on Jackie Robinson and Paul Robeson

A letter in CHALLENGE (3/3/), commented on an article in a previous issue (2/3) on the busting of Jim Crow in U.S. baseball and on one line in a letter (2/17) describing the article as “awesome.” The March 3 letter writer felt that, “Jackie Robinson’s career was [not] a positive anti-racist development of the civil rights movement,” saying that in writing about this topic “we should choose fighters who devoted their lives to the working class,” such as Paul Robeson.
This raises two points: the content of the article itself and the relationship between Robinson and Paul Robeson.

Firstly, the article itself was not about “choosing” Robinson as a “fighter who devoted his life to the working class.” Its theme was the major role of communists in cracking baseball’s Jim Crow. It described the intense campaign the Communist Party, and especially its Daily Worker sportswriter Lester Rodney, waged in making it a mass issue: picket lines at ball parks, 150 Daily Worker articles, forcing tryouts of black ball players by major league teams (generally ignored by the racist owners) and spreading the issue in the trade unions. The fact that Robinson became baseball’s first black player was incidental to the article. It certainly did not paint him as an anti-racist hero like Paul Robeson.

However, Robinson’s signing led to hundreds of black (and also Latino) players playing before — and being cheered by — millions of black, Latino and white fans and, I think, contributed to feelings of multi-racial unity throughout the working class. It helped break Jim Crow barriers in Southern (and Northern) hotels, restaurants and stadiums.

Obviously, this did not end, or even appreciably reduce, racism in capitalist society as a whole. Only communist revolution can destroy racism.

However, while it was true that Robinson succumbed to the pressure of Dodger-owner Branch Rickey and black misleaders in testifying against Robeson at a HUAC hearing, Robinson had two sides. Most of his testimony condemned racism (a fact ignored by the racist capitalist press). He declared that “racial discrimination is not “a creation of Communist imagination.” (“Journal of Sports History,” Summer 1979).  “The fact that it is a Communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality and lynching when it happens doesn’t change the truth of their charges…”

“Lynchers Our Chief Enemy Jackie Tells ‘Red’ Probers,” was the front-page headline in the black newspaper, the Philadelphia Afro-American.” HUAC didn’t want to hear that.

“While in military service in World War II,…stationed at…[Fort Hood, Texas], Robinson was court-martialed…for challenging the Jim Crow tradition which dictated that blacks should sit in the rear of a military bus.” (Journal of Sports) This was long before Rosa Parks.

Two years after the hearing, in the Dodger dugout before a game, a Daily Worker sportswriter showed Robinson articles reporting the KKK-type attack on Robeson at Peekskill, NY. “Jackie read the articles all the way through and then…—where other players and sportswriters could hear—…he said. ‘This is a damned shame and I don’t care who knows it….Paul Robeson is a great man and they should respect him.’ (“Press Box Red”)

In his 1972 autobiography, “I Never Had It Made,” Robinson wrote: “I would reject such an invitation [to testify against Robeson] if offered now….I have grown wiser and closer to painful truths about America’s destructiveness. And I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson, who…sacrificed himself [and] his career…because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people.”

Yes, in 1947, when “the chips were down,” Robinson criticized Robeson. But that was not the whole story. Robinson was part of a sequence of events that, due to the efforts of communists, made a dent in Jim Crow racism. And I think, in that sense, his career was a “positive anti-racist development.”

Red Baseball Fan

911 Truth Movement: A Chance for the Left?

The 911 Truth Movement, like all mass movements, has a left, center, and right. Over time, the contradictions between these segments will increase as decisions about the direction of the movement narrow. For instance, now that it has been shown by reputable experts in their fields that the events of 9/11, as explained by the official voices, could not have possibly happened in the manner that we have been led to believe, the investigation of this mass murder can take on a more concrete appearance. There is no longer the choice between “What happened?” and “What to do about it?” Now there is only “What to do about it?” Our choices narrow, and as they do, we are pointed in certain directions.

We can expect the right to develop around ideas designed to stunt and divert the growth of the movement. The center, as always, will be fluid. The left will become increasingly preoccupied with destination scenarios, and the differences between factions will grow, in time, fierce.

This has been the growth cycle of political mass movements. In the U.S. We should look at the history of those movements, for what they reveal to us about ourselves. In my youth in PLP, we were involved in those mass movements.

If PLP wishes to participate in this new mass movement, it has a chance to have an influence. If not, the Party will lose the opportunity to develop and grow within that movement to unearth the truth about what happened that day.

Skeptical engineer 

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