To Be A Communist, Advocate It!
On January 20, I attended a local NAACP meeting honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It proved to be an enlightening and uplifting experience. I described the rise of racism and the racist prison-industrial complex.
Initially I hesitated to raise the question of communist revolution as the way to end racist oppression. Then I thought, “What’s the point of being a communist if you’re not going to advocate communism?”
I then explained that the only real way to eradicate racism was through a genuine communist revolution that would place the workers in power and attempt to create an egalitarian society. I made the case that it was the capitalist system which breeds racism to enrich the ruling elite and divide the workers.
I also pointed out that groups like the Klan and the Nazis would not be holding rallies in a communist society and that racism would be outlawed. Those who advocate it would be severely punished. Most seemed to agree with these sentiments.
None of those present, a good number being black workers, were shocked or turned off by my comments. I told them I would get them an issue of CHALLENGE, which I said did an excellent job making the case for a communist revolution and always took a strong stand against racism.
I realized that it’s necessary to have confidence in the workers — though they’re inundated with bourgeois ideology and anti-communism — to understand our communist views.
Of course, they wanted to know how this revolution would come about. I replied that there had been successful revolutions of this sort in the past, and that there could be in the future when millions were won to this perspective.
Some seemed skeptical but were open to hearing my viewpoint.
I realized that I would need to be more open about my communist politics. For me, this was a major step forward.
Internationalism Ignites Commitment
I have been involved in international work since I joined PLP. To be honest, it was the international work that brought me into the Party. I was at a May Day dinner and was listening to someone give an amazing speech over the work that was developing abroad. I was captivated and motivated by what I was hearing. Within the next couple of months I found myself participating in an international Summer Project. I found myself more invested in the work but also it was a bit nerve-racking. There is so much potential for growth but also the constant threat of fascism that could cause everything to crumble, with many lives at stake.
Throughout my trips abroad, I developed strong relationships with the individuals who were just as invested as I was. They became my second family in my new home away from home. Our trust was built on the foundation of our decision to fight back against the bosses, in favor of the international working class.
My commitment was not tested until the end of the last Summer Project. The day before we were to fly back home, we were assisting some comrades with a project at one of their universities. It started off as a normal day with nothing major planned. Around noon, we heard that there were some demonstrators in front of the university posing as students to agitate some soldiers.
The students on the campus we were visiting closed the gates and told everyone to remain inside to avoid being associated with what was happening. We heard shouting, drums, and the sound of tanks rolling down the street. An older comrade and I were in the courtyard chatting. Then we saw a student look over the tall fence and start running toward the building. There was much confusion. Then we heard from one of the students that we should get inside as soon as possible because the soldiers were heading to the university.
But before we had a chance to ask why, we heard rubber bullets hitting the fence. Students began running into the building at full speed. I made sure that the older comrade was in front of me so that she wouldn’t be left behind because she could not run as fast as the rest of us. I was also preparing myself in case I got hit. Luckily, we made it into the building without being hurt.
This was a defining moment in the growth of my commitment. I thought to myself, “What if this happens again?” The older comrades — and even the younger ones — aren’t always going to be able to get away from danger so easily. This was when I knew I was in it for the long run. I have shared my commitment with my comrades here and abroad. It isn’t going to be easy, but is bringing us one step closer to getting the type of world that all workers deserve.
Imperialist Rivalry Behind Ukraine Fight
The U.S. actions in the Ukraine are a continuation of a decades-long imperial dogfight over the strategically important states of Eastern Europe. Current efforts to topple the Ukrainian government, which U.S. imperialists deem to be too friendly to Russia, has resurrected some familiar themes in this struggle. In the U.S. press, Russia is depicted as an evil imperial force “bullying” the Ukraine into submission (NYT, 11/19/13). This is juxtaposed with the well-intentioned Americans and Western Europeans who only want to bring “democracy and prosperity” to the former Soviet bloc.
The fact that U.S. diplomats are in the Ukraine publicly calling for the overthrow of a democratically elected government in order to replace it with one more servile to Western interests does not seem to faze leading papers like the New York Times. The history of U.S. intervention in Eastern Europe toppling popularly elected regimes in Bulgaria and Albania is completely forgotten (The Communist, 2012).
Newspapers carefully avoid mentioning fascists such as the virulent Ukrainian anti-Semite Oleh Tyahnybok who paraded around with Sen. John McCain on his recent visit to the country (Counterspin, 12/20). Just as they forgot to mention former Nazi Laszlo Pasztor who became U.S. imperialists’ man in Bulgaria or Albanian fascist Sali Barisha, and so forth.
The current fiasco in the Ukraine is the latest effort by the U.S. imperialists’ to place “the vipers, the bloodsuckers, the middlemen” the people that “make our kind of country click” in charge of the country. These words were spoken by Bruce Gelb, a U.S. capitalist and diplomat, while plotting to undermine the collapsing Soviet republics as head of the U.S. Information Agency in 1990 — and they are as true today as they were then. Whatever happens in the Ukraine, one thing is clear: workers in Ukraine will lose.
The Kennedy Assassination: Conspiracy?
This is a response to the December 11 CHALLENGE editorial “Rulers Use JFK Assassination Anniversary to Fuel War Drive” which argues that the Kennedy assassination was the work of a conspiratorial group of domestic oil interests angry over Kennedy’s threat to end their oil depletion allowance (tax break).
This argument advocates a mechanical view of history that reduces the dynamics of class conflict and inter-imperialist rivalries to the choices of a small group of individuals.
CIA coups and secret meetings of think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations show that the bosses “conspire” on a regular basis. However, as Marx said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please.”
The conspiratorial thinking pushed by the media teaches the working class that the bosses are all-powerful and that we are helpless to stop them. Marx’s dialectical approach teaches us to look at both the necessity of economic laws and the contingent role played by other forces. This helps us see the cracks in the capitalist system and gives the working class the tools to destroy it.
The oil depletion allowance was first introduced in 1926 to stimulate oil production in the U.S. Under this allowance, 27.5% of annual oil revenue was tax exempt. For almost 50 years, the oil industry — from oil industrialists like Rockefeller to newer oil bosses like H.L. Hunt — all profited from this tax break. The Kennedy family was also invested in “domestic” oil and in 1950 purchased Arctic Oil and later Kenoil and Mokeen, all of which drilled primarily in Texas and Louisiana.
Following World War II, there were multiple attempts, both by presidents and Congress, to reduce this oil allowance. In 1950, President Truman proposed to cut the allowance almost in half. None of these individuals were assassinated.
As President, Kennedy faced a balance of payments crisis — more dollars were leaving the U.S than coming in. This crisis was the product of economic attacks by U.S. imperialist rivals. So Kennedy pushed to expand U.S. exports with a more open “free-trade” policy.
Kennedy understood that in the context of the Cold War, “free-trade” was necessary to prevent developing nations from siding with U.S. rivals like Russia. Many in the oil industry favored trade restrictions, specifically on foreign oil imports. However, too many limits on imports might drive large oil-producing nations like Venezuela into the arms of U.S. rivals.
Following the Suez oil crisis, serious debate ensued within the ruling class over the national security implications of oil policy: whether to protect the domestic oil market by taxing imported oil or to encourage imports to preserve domestic reserves. The debate in this period was not split neatly between “domestic” oilmen and “international” finance, as the next example will show.
In 1962, Kennedy began pushing for new trade legislation and brokered a deal with Oklahoma oil magnate Senator Robert Kerr. Kerr is a prominent figure in much JFK conspiracy literature and rubbed shoulders with oil moguls who conspiracy theorists claim helped murder Kennedy. Unlike President Truman who ignored the demands of Texas oil bosses a decade earlier, Kennedy agreed to meet their demands and to increase restrictions on foreign oil imports.
In exchange, Senator Kerr agreed to drum up support for Kennedy’s Trade Expansion Act of 1962. It was this act that led to U.S. participation in the GATT international trade negotiations, allowing the U.S. to knock down global barriers to trade in the name of U.S. imperialist expansion. This Kennedy-Kerr deal demonstrates just how interconnected the interests of “domestic” oil were with broader international goals of U.S. imperialism.
In early 1963, Kennedy proposed a comprehensive tax plan to improve the unemployment rate and to help fix the U.S. balance of payments. His proposals promised to drastically lower corporate tax rates and to cut overall taxes by $13.6 billion. His plan also proposed complex changes that would effectively reduce the oil allowance by 5%. This was the first time as President that Kennedy had attempted to make any changes to the oil allowance.
There was some backlash among the oil lobbies and in the press. Much of the fighting was inside the Kennedy Administration itself, as Kennedy-appointed bureaucrats fought over changes in oil policy (“Note Reveals Split Over Oil Policy,” The Spokesman-Review, 3/14/1963). But his proposal did not “threaten to eliminate” the allowances and the issue died a few months later after Kennedy abandoned the tax proposal.
Facing economic recession, the oil allowance was cut for the first time in 1969 from 27.5% to 22%. And in 1974, the oil allowance was finally eliminated. No one involved in eliminating the oil depletion allowance was assassinated.
The idea that U.S. domestic oil interests assassinated Kennedy because he was going to eliminate their tax break both inaccurately describes the actual Kennedy administration’s policies and distorts the interpenetration of ruling-class interests within the U.S. around questions of inter-imperialist rivalries.
The Progressive Labor Party’s theory that inter-imperialist rivalries drive world events is a critical tool in understanding the development of the world situation. Conspiratorial thinking does not add to this understanding, but limits it in severe ways. We must always struggle to provide the best dialectical and historical understanding of the world to the working class.
A Challenge Reader
CHALLENGE Comment: In response to the criticism, the essence of the editorial was not “who killed Kennedy” but how the finance capital wing of the ruling class is using the anniversary of his assassination to promote the drive towards war. The first five paragraphs deal with this and revive JFK’s militaristic appeals for “sacrifice” and “service.” It details what “sacrifice” means for the working class but also says this “won’t solve all their [the ruling class’s] problems. For U.S. capitalism to survive, they know they must discipline their own ranks.”
The editorial notes this discipline relative to JPMorgan Chase, as it does later on in citing Kennedy’s disciplining U.S. Steel in the Sixties. Both these outfits are part of that main wing. While the ruling class holds state power, it is not monolithic. Overall the editorial pointed out that there is a split among sections of the capitalist class depending on where they make their main profits and who represents the longer-range interests of the survival of their system.
Then, in the sixth paragraph, it cites a similar split in the 1960s related to “JFK’s reported plans to revoke the oil depletion allowance.” Then it says, “According to one theory, Kennedy was killed by domestic oil interests who were unwilling to cut their profits for the imperialist cause.” We don’t say who killed JFK, just that he had many enemies who could have done it. There is plenty of evidence of how — in the weeks before the assassination — Texas oil interests led by H. L. Hunt engaged in a widespread campaign to attack Kennedy. An ad appeared in Dallas newspapers with Kennedy’s picture, saying “Wanted for Treason.” Maybe no one got killed over the oil depletion issue directly, but the Hunts were nearly bankrupted after their failed move to corner the silver market.
Let’s assume these forces were not behind the assassination. But the fact is, some forces were looking to kill him, unless one believes that Oswald — a patsy if there ever was one — did the deed by his lonesome. Later the editorial says, “The dominant wing of U.S. bosses wants to portray JFK’s murder as something other than a fight within the ruling class. Leading Wall Street banker and Warren Commission member John J. McCloy argued that it was ‘beneficial for domestic tranquility to conclude that Oswald acted alone’” (New York Times, 8/20/97). McCloy was a top member of the ruling class. He was picked to oversee U.S. actions in post-World War II Germany and was CEO of Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank. So his views certainly represented the rulers’ main wing.
Obviously McCloy (and at least some of his cohorts on the Commission) seemingly had concluded (or knew?) that some people other than Oswald had conspired to kill Kennedy. However, they didn’t want the general populace to understand that there were ruling forces who had cause to eliminate him, even if conflict over the oil depletion allowance was not a factor.
The editorial, in detailing all the divisions within the ruling class, then and now, and even divisions within the main wing itself, follows the letter-writer’s quote of Marx’s approach that, “Men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please.” It is difficult to get away from the fact that somebody or “bodies” did “conspire” to kill Kennedy. Various representatives of the ruling class conspire all the time, as the letter-writer points out.
The letter says that, “Conspiratorial thinking does not add to….understanding the development of the world situation” and conflicts with PLP’s “theory that inter-imperialist rivalries drive world events.” But the fact remains that various capitalist forces DO have cause to fight each other, and conspire to do so. If the ruling class wants to hide its own behind-the-scene machinations, it will use the notion of “conspiracy” in a way that stigmatizes that idea.
“Conspiracy” is not limited to “thinking” but represents actions by various forces. From a communist point of view, it is important that the working class understands that and uses it to both expose and oppose all capitalists who engage in our oppression. This counters the outlook that “the bosses are all-powerful and that we are helpless to stop them.” To the contrary, understanding that there are divisions among the rulers, and what’s behind those divisions, does “help us to see the cracks in the capitalist system and gives the working class the tools to destroy it.”
To Be A Communist, Advocate It!
Class Analysis Needed on Zionist Kibbutzim
The article in the January 15th CHALLENGE issue on protests against expropriation of Bedouins and ethnic cleansing in Israel was on the mark. However, when calling attention to the Zionist government’s favoring collective farms, or kibbutzim, a more precise class analysis is called for. The article refers to “....dozens of well-off Kibbutzim, Moshavim and individual farms, all exclusive to upper-class Jews.” True, the majority of these Israeli farms have by now succumbed, or soon will, to privatization and other capitalist influences. Like the commune movement in the U.S., establishing islands of egalitarianism in a sea of profits and private property is an impossibility. However, be it in centers like Tel Aviv or the countryside, Israeli workers struggle constantly. Rural workers have much more in common with the urban proletariat than is generally believed.
Workers in Israel/Palestine, nomadic or landed, like those worldwide, share equally in the class struggle.
Court Hits Women’s Birth Control Needs
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction barring the administration from enforcing the Obamacare birth control requirement against an order of Colorado nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor and related groups. An anti-woman ruling coming from a woman in support of a religious group made up of women!
Capitalism will never negate sexism. Women’s bodies are the source of the next generation of workers. Less birth now means less cheap labor later. Some feminists may be surprised that the first Latina female judge would rule this way, but it stands to reason that the bosses’ courts would use religion as the ideological justification to deny birth control for women.
Religion tells the working class that to use birth control is a sin, but in a time of economic instability adding a new member into a working-class family is a decision that is harrowing and personal. The ruling class wants to make that decision of child birth beneficial to them even as they scapegoat black and Latino workers, using the stereotype that they are leeching the system by having children, particularly out of wedlock.
Religious organizations are in existence to mislead the working class ideologically and this latest ruling is an attack on women disguised as religious freedom.
Strike Against Racist Police Terror
This is an excerpt from a speech read at the latest demonstration for Kyam Livingston. She was a black woman who was left to die in prison by the New York Police Department and the city’s prison guards.
We come from St. Mary’s Church in Harlem. We are in support. Support of the Family of Kyam Livingston. Support for the friends of Kyam Livingston. And support for EVERY family that could be victimized by Racist Police Terror!
Our own daughter could wind up dumped in a jail cell. Our own son could be dragged behind bars there. For hours and hours in sickening filth. Waiting, stuffed in with other prisoners. While “the papers get lost.” Hoping not to get sick! Not to DIE. While the racist guards ignore, threaten and disrespect them. All while you are dying! DYING!
Who could this Not happen to. You!? You! You!
It could happen to any of us. It’s so True!! At St. Mary’s we know about dying.
We counted and we discovered the average age when brothers and sisters die is forty-eight years old. This is from a system of racist health care and from the fascist denial of healthcare, that murdered our sister Kyam.
Who is going to fight this? New Mayors? New police chiefs? We will hear promises; we have heard thousand of promises.
Promises from mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio who just promised “I can’t be at war with Wall street. Wall street is our Hometown industry.” Promises from Bill Bratton who arrests workers who have to beg for a sandwich and coffee. Who fires rubber bullets at demonstrators? Bill and Bill. We’re going to make you Pay UP Your Bill!
Because we know who we can trust!
Our sister Kyam could only trust her fellow workers. Sisters who cleared a bench for her, sisters who smoother back her hair, fellow workers who tenderly tended her. Sisters who saw her seizures begin. Working-class sisters who confronted the fascist guards and demanded HELP! Kyam Livingston could rely only on her fellow workers standing up to fascist terror. And so can we.
The barons of Wall Street are paying for fascist terror to protect their staggering system of exploitation and death. Here and worldwide.
They are losing in the profit squeeze struggle with their rival thugs around the world. They must make the U.S. workers ready for their new plans for oppression. And for their new plans for war.
That is why they pay these killer kkkops. They are paid to intimidate us. They are paid to murder us. They are paid to control us! But sisters and brothers we can pay too. We must pay too. We must pay them back. We must push them back!
Since November two years ago police have murdered at least eleven of our sisters and brothers throughout our region. We must act, and act together.
We must continue the struggle for justice for each of our fallen workmates, and for their families. But we must sharpen our message.
We must take our message into every school, into every congregation, into every workplace, into every community and into the hearts and minds of everyone we know.
And we must stir our anger into action. More and more into action.
Protest. Yes. Picket Lines Yes. Marches. Yes
But we must urge and plan walk outs. We must organize strikes. With every racist murder we must hit them harder and harder the only place Wall street cares about: their money. What they steal from us we will deny to them.
Only by going on the labor and student strikes offensive can we push back racist police terror. Many lives depend on this. Our lives in fact!
So as we say at St. Mary’s, Let us join together and fight the good fight.
Capitalist Devastation in the Philippines
Recently one of the biggest typhoons in history devastated the residents of Tacloban and surrounding areas in the Philippines. Thousands have been killed and injured. Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Capitalism created the poverty that condemned thousands to be the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Most Filipino workers barely survive on two dollars a day!
In a communist society, the working class would mobilize to build safe buildings and have a concrete plan to evacuate workers. We have hints of what can be done now. Cuba has a plan to evacuate workers in the event of hurricanes. The China of 40 years ago had far more concern for workers’ lives. When an upcoming earthquake was detected, thousands were evacuated.
In 1989, the city of Baguio in the Northern Philippines suffered a 7.8 earthquake. Like the recent typhoon, capitalism was responsible for many deaths and injuries.
Six months before the earthquake my wife and friends had vacationed in Baguio’s Hyatt Hotel. Speaking of capitalism, when the earthquake hit, the hotel went to the ground and 400 people were killed. What happened to the steel for a stronger structure, which would have saved many lies?
The money “rested” in capitalist pockets! In comparison, my wife’s parents’ house, nearby, had steel supports anchored in cement. The house shook and shook, but didn’t go down.
The lessons of capitalism, especially in places like the Philippines, prone to natural disasters, will continue to be deadly. The only answer to this is a communist revolution and a workers’ society which values equality and our well-being.
Stockton California Comrade
Annual Thanks-for-Fighting-Racism Feast
The 28th Annual Thanks-For-Fighting Racism Feast in the Washington, DC area started with a burst of energy from the younger comrades. Developing such young comrades into leaders is important for our Party to grow. They helped move furniture, mash potatoes (10 lbs) and carved turkeys (2). Most of all they brought many friends.
Our program included a report from the struggles at the Boston meetings of the American Public Health Association against the racist stop-and-frisk policy in New York City and imperialism’s racist exploitation of workers in Haiti. A Metro transit worker told of the ongoing struggle against privatization and racist criminal background checks, supported by public housing residents at Stoddert Terrace in Northeast DC. A leader of the Peoples Coalition of Prince George’s County gave a stirring account of the many struggles against racism carried out by that group over the past year, including the 20-year-old fight for justice for Archie Elliott III and the 10-mile-march denouncing the Zimmerman verdict.
The program also featured students from a Baltimore high school cultural club who sang and gave powerful spoken word against racism. Then a woman from the Peoples’ Coalition performed a dramatic piece about Trayvon Martin and the movement that grew up around his murder that brought tears to the eyes of many. A young comrade delivered a passionate speech about the need for a revolutionary party to defeat racism, sexism, and capitalism. She called on people to join the Progressive Labor Party to help smash the system.
A raffle was won by a woman involved in Stoddert Terrace which is fighting the racist criminal background checks at Metro. Positioning a person at the door meant more consistent donations. We raised over $700 for the End Cholera in Haiti Organization (ECHO). The Party has been working with them since the earthquake devastated the island nation. The comradely, multi-racial, multi-generational crowd bodes well for the future of our Party.
Colonialism At City College
Students, community supporters and local residents took to the streets during a recent protest against the City College of New York (CCNY) administration’s stealing of the Assata Shakur-Guillermo Morales Student & Community Center in October.
But before the action began, students held an open mic session outside the school’s North Academic Center, where they gave the fascists in charge a well-deserved mouthful.
“It is pretty obvious that my college never cared about consent,” said Alyssia Osorio, the center’s director, referencing how the school took the space without consulting any student governments. They violated an agreement between Students For Educational Rights and CUNY that the center remain under autonomous student control.
“It’s a problem of colonialism, and neo-colonialism, when they can take what’s yours, what you deserve as a human being, and tell you that it’s for your own benefit, or not even give you an excuse at all,” said a speaker. “That’s colonialism!”
As I covered the march, I overheard Osorio revealing in an interview that the administration told her to pick up the property it stole from the center the Monday of the attack. That was reportedly her only chance to pick up the items.
Before long, the group began marching down Convent Avenue to spread word about the center. This drew a lone NYPD cruiser, but the group ignored the pigs’ demands to go on the sidewalk, a small example of working-class power! They eventually stopped outside the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr building, where they spoke out once more before dispersing. Though our turnout could’ve been better, it felt empowering. And when we take state power for the working class, it will only get better from there.
Free Speech Fights Are Necessary
The strong front-page article Dec. 11, “No Free Speech Under Capitalism,” is certainly correct that we live under capitalist dictatorship. The only rights we have under that rule are those we fight to get and keep through the power of the workers and students, and even then they will always be limited and often taken away by the state.
“Free speech” in the sense of being able to put forward communist ideas without being beaten, prosecuted, and jailed is, however, necessary to our class and our Party, and “free speech fights” have been part of workers’ struggles and communist organizing from the get go. A famous U.S. example was the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) in the 1920s, fighting for public speaking rights as they organized miners and loggers.
At City University of New York (CUNY) the fight against the Administration’s and the NYPD’s crackdown on political organizing is a classic free speech fight and communists should be (as we are) front and center in that fight. Fighting fascism is often fighting for the public space to speak freely for revolutionary ideas. When they show their contempt for their own laws or change them to fit their needs (CUNY is now doing both), we have to fight that and expose the underlying dictatorship beneath their prattle about the rule of law.
If we call it an attack on First Amendment rights, however, we fall into the liberal illusions about the rule of law. But if we attack it as a crackdown by the capitalist ruling class to prevent anti-war, anti-imperialist organizing on the campus, this becomes a teachable moment and brings to our friends the class analysis of the state that there is No Free Speech Under Capitalism. The article also points out that these attacks on organizers hope to derail the struggle. We should have been picketing ROTC offices all this time, as well as defending the students facing suspensions and criminal charges. Expanding the struggle has to accompany any free speech fight.
When 60% of all university research in electrical engineering in the country is funded by the Department of Defense, they have too much invested in the university as a war machine to tolerate effective organizing against them without a sharp reaction. If we want a chance to speak freely about this we will have to fight for it.
College Bosses Clamp Down on Campus Protest
The City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees is planning to vote on a
set of regulations to control “expressive activity” of students and faculty. On December 3, over 80 people attended a town hall meeting at my community college. They were quite upset to hear the CUNY Board of Trustees is planning to vote on these new regulations. The CUNY Board of Trustees plans to tell us when and where on campus we would be allowed to leaflet and demonstrate, assuming we applied for permission.
During the Question and Answer period, students wanted to know who are these “trustees” and can their decisions be overturned. One professor explained that on our campus we had a history of protesting about many issues, including tuition hikes, run down buildings, the preservation of adjunct health care, the war in Iraq, and the support of cafeteria workers. We had never asked for permission and we never will!
The only way to stop repression is to organize and break the laws.
A student from City College was a guest speaker and explained the militarization of CUNY that was taking place across the city. We promised to support him and other students who had been arrested for fighting back. A number of CHALLENGES were distributed and plans are being made to step up the struggle next semester.
The Common Core: Capitalism Blames the Victim
I recently attended a PLP study group of teachers where we talk about U.S. education reform and World War III. Most of our discussion centered on the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), which reinforces capitalist ideology. When it comes to education under capitalism, ideology is the name of the game. The ruling class needs a working class capable of producing for their needs and fighting their wars. They need us to have enough rudimentary skills to do work that is profitable, they need another smaller group to be more advanced to handle their complex tasks, and then they need a subset of “intellectual” workers to produce the ideology capitalism requires to exist — racism and sexism.
The Common Core reinforces and intensifies racism in the United States. It unilaterally posits a group of standards that are out of reach of the disgusting amount of resources that the bourgeoisie is willing to spend on educating us, and then they blame students for not meeting them and teachers for not getting their students to reach them.
Capitalism lives to blame the victim for their own victimization by obscuring the actual process of that victimization. The intense systemic oppression that the working class is under due to capitalism’s non-stop crisis is not a factor in the assessment of the CCLS. This is primarily an attack on the students and secondarily an attack on the teachers. Black and Latino workers who are hyper-exploited under capitalism are feeling the brunt of the CCLS. Meanwhile, the ruling class and its puppets, including the union leadership, mouth the lie that it is racist to oppose the CCLS. These lying, deceitful parasites and their labor lieutenants, are obscuring that capitalism’s brutal exploitation, where students may not even have food at home, is the real reason why public education isn’t meeting the needs of a declining U.S. imperialism.
The CCLS is being opposed from the right, liberals and the left, but they are not pointing out that it is primarily an ideological weapon that will be used to prepare the workers in the U.S. for the next round of imperialist wars and eventually World War III.
Communists in the PLP stress the ideological aspects of the CCLS and that the liberal wing of the ruling class is the real danger to the working class and the development of fascism. We must oppose the CCLS and counterpoise a clear vision of an education system that actually meets the needs of workers. That education system is only possible under Communism.
Shining A Light on A Public Hell
My visit to the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting was the best in years because of the energy and good politics of a group of young professionals. They established a campus organization called Radical Public Health at my university to bring active anti-racist politics into that otherwise buttoned-down academic setting. They raised issues that almost none of the faculty was mentioning in their courses, issues that have a huge impact on people’s health. Over the past year, their meetings, forums, speaker panels and film screenings have raised issues like mass incarceration, war and homelessness. These events shined a light on what they call “neoliberalism” causing a “public hell” for most people. I would simply call these things the hell of capitalism.
I teamed up with a few of my young colleagues, along with friends in the Black Caucus of Health Workers and with some PLP health fighters to produce a session at the annual meeting showing the devastating impact on health caused by mass incarceration. It is no surprise that locking up millions of working-class people for minor non-violent offenses, the vast majority of them black or Latino, would widen the already big gap in mortality between whites and these groups.
While preparing for and presenting our talks at this national meeting, these young people honed their skills at introducing complex, politically-charged material to an audience of health professionals. More important, doing this project over several months together enabled us to strengthen our ties and have more in-depth conversations about capitalism and how to eliminate it.
I wish I could say that my young friends are ready to talk about revolution. Part of the “dark night” we talk about in PLP is the illusion among most of our dedicated, principled anti-racist friends that revolutionary social change is no longer a possibility. A longer-range political outlook, measured in decades, not months or years, can make talk of revolution into more of a plausible theory and less of a pipedream.
But many friends cling to the hope that some sort of gradual, peaceful process can get us to a future society without racism, sexism and exploitation. History shows clearly that this is the pipedream. Our job is convincing our friends to look historical reality in the face and accept the need for a disciplined revolutionary party. Nothing else has ever successfully taken power from the vicious overlords of public hell.
Why Workers Can Never ‘Buy Back’ What They Produce
I liked the New York City election article in CHALLENGE (11/13) that explained why DeBlasio, like Obama, can never serve workers’ needs over the profit needs of their capitalist employers.
However, the article contained a false theory about the cause of capitalist crises. It stated, “Communists know that capitalism contains a basic contradiction: Workers don’t earn enough in wages to afford the products they produce.”
First, union “leaders” and liberal politicians have put forward this anti-communist “buy-back” theory to support their position that through higher wages capitalism can be reformed to benefit the working class.
Second, besides commodities, a big chunk of what workers produce is the means of production (factories) and the largest portion is the military (50 percent of the present budget) which is used to oppress them. No amount of wage increases could ever allow workers to “buy back” these products.
Third, production for markets and profits rather than for society’s needs (called the anarchy of capitalist production) is what creates regularly occurring crises of overproduction in the midst of scarcity and falling rates of profit.
In the 1930s, every capitalist country in the world was ravaged by deep cuts in production and massive unemployment. But in the Soviet Union, production increased and unemployment was almost non-existent. Under the then-communist Bolshevik Party, production was planned to meet the needs of the working class (including preparing to meet the Nazi invasion), not to maximize profits.
The anarchy of capitalist production and bosses’ rivalries produce unemployment, crises and wars which also serve them by wiping out decades of workers’ gains. Only when communist revolution overthrows this murderous profit system and the means of production is based on workers’ power will our needs be met.