Rally Builds Women as Leaders
As someone fairly new to political activism, participating with my comrades in the Million Student March at Hunter College in November was an excitingly rich and gainful experience.
I left the protest with many lessons on what it means to effectively participate as a member of PLP. I learned that simply being present is not enough, and that understanding how to actively participate is quite difficult when demonstrating side-by-side with other leftist groups. I realized that although we may agree some demands pushed by these groups in principle, our foundational differences keep us significantly apart. While they preach reform within the system, we fight for international communist revolution; while some revolt against the symptoms, in this case, Zionism, we attack the disease: imperialist rivalries in the capitalist system. I learned that these nuances are nothing to gloss over, and that, with a little bit of strategizing accompanied by a bullhorn, even a group of women as small as three people can shift the rhetoric back to class struggle.
The greatest personal lesson I left with came with my first speech over a bullhorn. I started off strong, talking about my opinions and own personal experience with affording college, and I was thrilled at the lively response I received from the crowd. However, about halfway through, I got nervous, lost my train of thought, and handed off the mike. In all my preparation, I failed to realize that the message of my speech should ultimately lead back to the Party line. If I had kept this in mind, I could have easily regained myself. Despite the mild embarrassment, I am eager to use what I learned in rallies, protests, and marches to come!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Analyzing Bosses’ Splits Irrelevant for Working Class?
In the CHALLENGE editorial of 11/25/15, assertions were made that could lead to misconceptions of the ruling class, its relations with elections and our analysis of the class struggle against the capitalists.
It was stated that “elections in any capitalist country…are used to discipline bosses ranks, to centralize power…” Elections are not tools used to discipline one ruling class factions by another. The only functions of these bourgeois elections is to deceive workers through reforms and reliance on the lesser of two evils. Also: Every U.S. president has endorsed military force as long as imperialist rivalry demands it. From Reagan to Obama, the U.S. has bombed the Middle East since the 1980s.
It’s true that the electoral system was used in Germany and Austria to bring fascism, with the support of reformist-led organizations. Yet insisting that one set of the ruling class, specifically the Koch brothers, is trying to use the 2016 election to stop the centralization of power is completely inaccurate. The Koch brothers are as imperialist and capitalist as any boss; they own facilities throughout Europe, Canada and Mexico.
On a last note, it’s irrelevant to analyze the U.S. ruling class as opposing factions, with an imperialist wing and a domestic wing. Capitalism is what leads to imperialism. Military force will always be used to tighten a loosened imperialist grip. When capitalism is in crisis, the bosses will use fascist actions to increase profits and quell working-class rebellion. Only the working class can defeat the bourgeoisie and its profit system throughout the world.
CHALLENGE response: While all U.S. bosses profit by exploiting workers, they do not have identical interests. Saying so would be misguiding workers. How else do we explain the stark difference between the propaganda of the anti-interventionist Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch (essentially: Don’t waste tax dollars in the Middle East) and the mainstream imperialist Council of Foreign Relations (essentially: The U.S. needs to regain control of the Middle East)?
Yes, the Kochs benefit from aspects of imperialism, and they sometimes buy Iraqi oil. But their international operations pale by comparison to ExxonMobil’s—they do not operate oil wells in both northern and southern Iraq, for example.
As a result, they have less urgency to plant boots on the ground in the Middle East, and less interest in footing the tax bill for the broader imperialist war to come. Finally, if elections don’t reflect inter-boss conflict, why do the factions behind these opposing policies spend so much on them? Understanding splits in the ruling class guides us on how to fight back.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Capitalism Strangles Children
The news has recently mentioned research showing that crib bumpers (that line in baby’s cribs designed to prevent their getting caught between the vertical struts) have been responsible for scores of infant deaths through suffocation over the last few decades. The researchers have found, in fact, that virtually all infant deaths are due to suffocation either from crib bumpers, from parents who roll over on their babies in bed, or other instruments of air blockage.
And now comes a statement by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association that they do “not know of any infant deaths directly attributed to crib bumpers.” Thus capitalism strikes again. They might as well have said, “Our profits are more important than your baby’s life.” To the capitalists this is undeniably true. To the working class, the elimination of capitalism from the surface of the earth is a matter of life and death.
As a secondary point, what used to be called SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is now seen to be due to suffocation. Before, SIDS was thought by pediatricians and others — who are all too ready to attribute everything to our genes — to be due to some genetic defect in the infant, which misdiagnosis, among other things, made parents of a SIDS victim scared to have more children. Any statement that attributes health conditions just to our genes should be looked at with great skepticism, particularly since in almost every case, the real cause is subsequently found to be conditions of capitalism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Racist FDR No Friend of Workers
In a previous issue of CHALLENGE, the letter “Deadly Pitfall of ‘Progressives’” mentioned president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. This is expanding on FDR’s critical role in protecting capitalism in that time period.
When FDR became president in 1933, the U.S. was in the midst of the worst depression in the country’s history. The crisis was worldwide. There was only one country that had full employment — the communist-led Soviet Union, setting an example for the international working class. More than one-third of U.S. workers were jobless. Given the threat of uprisings, Roosevelt was determined to save capitalism. And his first move was to the right. He sent General Hugh Johnson to Italy to study Mussolini’s fascist state to possibly use that to fend off any radical threat to the bosses’ system.
But communists were organizing the unemployed, bringing 800,000 workers into a National Unemployment Council, fighting for unemployment insurance. Then the communists led the organizing of the autoworkers in a sit-down strike for union recognition, occupying GM’s Flint, Michigan, plants. Roosevelt called out the National Guard to surround the plants and also used them against strikes throughout the country. The Flint strikers warned GM that if the Guard attempted to enter the plants, they would destroy the company’s billion dollars worth of machinery. This forced GM to give in.
This sparked a mass movement throughout the U.S., which forced Roosevelt to respond with a series of reforms, including unemployment benefits, Social Security, the 8-hour day and 40-hour week. Roosevelt and the rulers used these reforms to win the working class to support the U.S. war effort against fascism. They instituted a military draft of 14 million workers, which wiped out the Great Depression’s unemployment. It should be noted however that the majority of workers were anti-fascist and fighting to defeat the Nazis and Japanese fascists. They greatly supported the Soviet Union’s smashing of Hitler, with the Red Army taking on 80 percent of the Nazi armies.
But Roosevelt was no champion of the working class. He saw to it that the bosses made billions in profits from the capitalists’ war effort. And he sided with the racist Democrats in the Southern states in opposing anti-lynching legislation, and maintaining the Jim Crow oppression of Black people in all areas of life — poverty wages, slum housing and apartheid medical care and ghettoes enforced by police terror.
Unfortunately the U.S. Communist Party, while militantly anti-racist, ended up supporting Roosevelt in his last two election campaigns on the basis of a united front against fascism. The CPSUA failed the working class by disregarding the fact that the U.S. was engaged in an imperialist fight against German and Japanese bosses, and was by no means on our side.
Rally Builds Women as Leaders
Base-Building and Resilience
Patience is the most important characteristic I have learned since joining Progressive Labor Party. Within the current conditions facing the working class, patience will protect us from reactionary ideas and actions.
I work at a bottling distribution company in Texas. The ideas of my fellow workers, like most, are controlled by capitalist ideology. Racism, nationalism, sexism and reliance on the bosses have been persistent. Initially, it was difficult to maintain anti-capitalist conversations. But with patience, I have been able to develop some friendships and trust through constantly taking a pro-worker, anti-profit stance.
We face many struggles on the job. When I began work at the company, free water was provided. But in September, the company began charging us. I explained to the workers how it was wrong to steal our wages during a time of low profits for the company. I exposed how the plant’s bosses got free water, but the workers who produced the plant’s profits—and the bosses’ salaries—did not.
Everyone agreed and many were angry, but there was no agreement on a plan of action. One worker suggested alerting the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). I took charge and called, which allowed me to link capitalism and the government when OSHA told us the company’s action was completely legal.
With this step forward in class consciousness, we took two steps backwards through defeatism. Most of the workers insisted there was no point in speaking out since no one had our back. I asserted that this was why we had to take things into our own hands. We must stand together, since water is the most vital component of human life. No one took up my proposal, but trying to organize a strike after two months on the job is a difficult mountain to climb. We haven’t built that endurance yet.
At a recent human resources meeting, I brought up the common concern for higher wages. The head of human resources, a department most of the guys thought was for us, told us we get exactly what we deserved—a measly $10.40 an hour. Later, when we got together on break, I discussed how what we do is the foundation of this company. But the company thinks we don’t deserve to live like those who own it.
Through small but persistent steps, I have been able to discuss a lot. Sometimes we even joke about going on strike, but no one is as serious as I am, yet. The potential is there, and I will continue the struggle. Two workers were invited to a forum we had on PLP’s trip to Ferguson. Neither showed up, but I’m still a new organizer and can break that barrier through constant struggle.
Tomorrow may not bring the revolution, but with every day that passes we get one day closer. With patience but persistence, my struggle will strengthen. and with the 2016 elections coming up and the realities of fascism exposing its unfettered free fall presses on urgency on me, and other I hope. I will continue to work on my CHALLENGE distribution, and recently I was able to pass out my first CHALLENGEs to four workers. I have been given the honor of organizing the workers’ club, so I must strive for better results. Hopefully this criticism of my success and failures help you all know we are not alone in these difficult times organizing the people. But we must have confidence in our class, for the potential is there. Here’s to the struggle of the international communist revolution!
Inspired by Comrades in Haiti
I recently had the opportunity to visit our comrades in Haiti. In a few days, I was more inspired than ever to fight against this capitalist system. Before and during the trip I read a book, Red & Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957 by Matthew J. Smith. I was reminded of some important lessons regarding Black nationalism and committing to protracted struggle that might be helpful for others.
Haiti is the best example of capitalism’s failure, with workers here living under the poorest conditions in the Western hemisphere. Most are unemployed and utilities like water and electricity are things the poorest workers in Haiti could only dream of. Many eat only once a day, and many others once every few days. When elections were coming up, bosses and their 54 presidential candidates gave people small sums of money, food and drinks in exchange for votes.
Ever since the slaves emancipated themselves from the French bosses in 1804, the working class in Haiti has been an inspiration. This revolution was not the end tof he fight for freedom. In 1946, a communist student-led general strike brought the whole country to a halt. During my trip, one student asked me, “How can young people change the world?” Luckily for her, students there have already set a great precedent, including our Party’s activity on campuses, in the outer towns, and in the streets.
The old communist movement in Haiti was involved in many sharp struggles. The Haitian ruling class used violence, intimidation and expulsion to try to silence them. The bosses also spread anti-communist propaganda through their media, and used noirisme—Black nationalism—to confuse workers and mount an ideological attack against communists in the Popular Socialist Party. The noiriste and staunch anticommunist François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier, backed by U.S. imperialism, ruled a fascist state through terrorism, rape, and murder from 1957 to 1971, when he was succeeded by his fascist son.
But Communists have continued to find ways to reemerge and unite with the masses of Haiti. History shows that communism belongs to the international working class; the two successful revolutions were in Russia and China, and workers from regions ranging from the Indian subcontinent to Africa to Latin America took up red ideas en masse. Many in PLP know that communism is far from a “white people’s ideological tool.” Our comrades in Haiti know this, too.
Communists worldwide need to expose the lie that communism is an intellectual movement of white people. This is especially important at a time when Black Lives Matter would allow Black racist Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to attend one of their conferences while white workers who fight racism are banned.
Only a PLP-led communist system can put the working class — from Haiti to Syria — in power. On the first night, while sharing our stories of fightback, one comrade acknowledged that our Party’s fight is very difficult but also very important, and that it will take a long-term commitment to smash this system. He is willing to make that commitment. Before leaving, I told him that meeting committed comrades like him make fighting for communism a little bit easier. I look forward to working even harder to make a communist world a reality.
Serve Our Students: Organize
I have always loved working with students and have understood that education is a battleground for anti-racism, anti-sexism and other communist ideologies. After all, the classroom is one of the first places where people learn capitalist thinking. Therefore, I thought City Year, an AmeriCorps education program, would be a great way to spend a year. They send teams of about ten young people to under-resourced schools to provide support in math, English, behavior, attendance and after-school programs.
What seemed like an excellent opportunity to work with kids has turned out to be far different. We work nearly 11-hour days, five days a week, without most government holidays. Only half of this time is spent with students. We are not paid a wage, but a monthly stipend of $1000, which is so low that we are expected to apply for food stamps to help make ends meet. This program is great for the education bosses, because rather than hiring full-time teachers who can get benefits and a salary, they can bring in a team of temporary labor.
What has been wearing us down is not even this exploitation. It is what many call the CULTure. City Year enforces a culture of obedience to authority. They exert control of our actions and thoughts through the kind of discourse we are allowed to engage in. It’s like something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984!
We have relatively no say in who, what or how we teach. We are also subjected to childish time-wasting activities every day. We are treated as juvenile, unimportant and disposable. Some people at the job say that City Year seems more concerned with brand recognition than actually helping students or workers. It is degrading. So many people have quit that some schools are down half their workforce, forcing those remaining to fill in the gaps by increasing the workload of each member.
As bad as it is for the City Year workers, the mainly Black, Latin, and immigrant students are always hurt the most. Every time someone quits, students lose an extra support. Even if workers don’t quit prematurely, these City Year workers have merely three weeks of bogus training and are only there for one year. The high turnover rate and the one-year commitment mean that students lose out on having teachers who gain experience and build strong relationships with them.
Moreover, City Year makes a conscious effort to recruit Black and Latin people who come from the neighborhoods they serve. This builds a blame-the-victim philosophy: “I worked hard and made it out of poverty; you can, too.”
Programs like City Year hurt workers and students. They will never fix what City Year calls the “drop-out crisis.” It is just another way to keep young people busy and make them feel like they are contributing to society. It is just another way to keep people from fighting back. I hope to win co-workers to this outlook and build for what is really going to serve students best: a communist revolution.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Smash Borders: Embassies First!
The world capitalist countries set up their embassies to maintain their capitalist relations. A U.S. embassy in East Africa is one of the good example that shows how capitalist countries maintain their capitalist relations.
I went to the embassy for visa service but what I observed from the embassy is totally a capitalist business similar to selling drugs. The embassy charges 160 USD per visa! In the embassy, these mostly Black people who could afford the charge asked irrelevant questions so as to demoralize them and anger them. The counselor uses this as a technique of disqualifying workers from getting visa. And so, they have to make a second payment for the visa application.
In this embassy, more than 70 are called for visa interviews per day and more are disqualified to get the visa. These embassies are open for business, not for the “public service.” The inhumane people full of capitalist spirit, these racists and sexists who call themselves counselors, give this oppressive kind of public office service to people. These kinds of inequalities in the offices will continue until we have a global communist revolution that will result in a world communist government.
It is only through communist revolution that we will end the existence of capitalist embassies. There will be no more borders!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Actions (and Buttons!) Louder than Words
Wearing an anti-racist button helps make anti-racism a mass issue and can lead to some great revealing conversations.
I liked a recent letter in Challenge about someone who wore a shirt covered in “No to Racism” buttons at the Unitarian Church convention.
I recently bought three “Oscar Grant” buttons while visiting Los Angeles. Many said they liked the button. I gave away the three I had. I had to twist arms to buy 34 more anti-racist buttons. I am now down to 1! People usually give me a dollar as a donation to the PLP.
I was disappointed that the buttons were not being sold at the Party’s 50th Anniversary dinner. All members and friends should be struggled with to distribute or sell the buttons for $1 to their friends, co-workers and neighbors. Some people do not like to wear buttons, but can put them on backpacks, purses or tote bags. It is a very bold symbol that puts us in the very heart of the struggle against police brutality to say, “I am Michael Brown, Kyam Livingston,” etc.
I wanted to share a good conversation I had with a college student who is Brazilian and has many Black friends. I told him that everywhere I go, people of all races and ages tell me they like the button, sometimes in passing on the street or on a crowded elevator. Sometimes they stop and talk and even buy a button. My husband and I notice that the button can be a great icebreaker. The college student asked me, a white woman in her sixties, whether “white people need a badge in order to let Black people know they are not racist.”
I said because of the racist cop killings of young Black and Latin men, and a long history of racism, some Black workers are wary of white workers in some settings. This is more so since the murders of the Charleston Nine by the racist Dylann Roof. A friend who was Black said, in her opinion, Black people are often suspicious of white people because of their personal experiences with racism and their knowledge of historical racist experiences — like the lynching of Emmett Till, Jim Crow in the South and racist experiences now.
Capitalists use lots to keep us divided and oppressed, Black, white, Latin, Asian, immigrant, indigenous. We must bridge the divide by our actions, not just words. The Progressive Labor Party sees racism as one of the most powerful tools the bosses use to keep us apart. Our principled fight against racism included our role in Harlem Rebellion in 1964. A white cop had killed an unarmed Black man. Harlem erupted. PL printed up flyers “Wanted Dead or Alive, Gilligan the Cop.” We defied the injunction not to have demonstrations in Harlem, and some party members were jailed.
If you are fighting for revolution, you do not hesitate to break the bosses’ laws. The history of PL in the last 50 years has shown us to be leaders in the fight against racist police brutality. In so doing, we have demonstrated how essential multiracial unity is to win our struggle against capitalism.
★ ★ ★ ★
Injury to One = Injury to All
Comrades, workers and youth, Donald Trump and the Republicans’ openly racist attack and scapegoating of immigrants in the U.S., along with the Democrats’ hypocrisy are clear indicators of intensifying fascism in the U.S. The fight against racism is our Party’s top priority. It is absolutely crucial that we organize pro-immigrant, anti-racist fightback within the schools, churches and organizations we’re in. An attack on immigrant workers is an attack on the international working class. We cannot underestimate the importance of this anti-fascist struggle. Opportunities to raise political consciousness and build the Party will abound.
★ ★ ★ ★
Long Live Pittsburgh Commune
In the fine article on the Katrina Genocide (9/16 issue), the statement that the 1892 New Orleans general strike was the first such “strike in a major U.S. city.” was not accurate. The first U.S. general strike occurred in Pittsburgh in 1877 as part of a national railroad strike that spread across the country in reaction to the rail bosses’ 10 percent wage-cut.
When rail workers in Pittsburgh refused orders to take out their trains, the mayor and ten cops attempted to run one through. Brakeman Andrew Hice stepped in front of them and cried, “Boys, we might as well die right here.” The train didn’t move. Soon all trains were run up on sidings and all freight traffic, East and West, was halted. A New York Times headline proclaimed, “A Blockade Established — A Thousand Loaded Cars Detained.”
Then the Pennsylvania RR bosses called out the Pittsburgh militia. When the militia commander saw that these troops were “showing their sympathies with the strikers,” with whom the workers fraternized, he wired the Governor for 2,000 Philadelphia troops. That troop train were stoned all the way to Pittsburgh. At Altoona troops were stopped and forced to return, some of them giving the workers their guns. An additional Philadelphia detachment was captured and guarded by a group of Black workers. Only 1,000 Philadelphia troops ever reached Pittsburgh.
When they arrived they were met by several thousand strikers. Word had spread and soon 30,000 men, women and children — one-sixth of the city’s population — stood on the hillside behind them. Two companies of troops were ordered to fix bayonets and move forward into the very bodies of the rebelling workers.
But instead of fleeing, the strikers grasped the bayonets with their bare hands and twisted them around into the onrushing soldiers. The latter then opened fire into the strikers and the Pittsburgh militia and the crowd on the hill, killing 20. The Pittsburgh regiments started back to their barracks, “vowing…not to be parties to the shooting down of their comrades-in-arms,” and handed their guns over to the strikers.
Soon word of the unprovoked massacre spread and thousands of miners and workers from steel mills and factories along with stevedores from the canals gathered in the city’s main squares. Short meetings were held and workers proceeded to the gun shops where they were given arms and ammunition by the owners. (Many had been bled dry by domination of the Pennsylvania RR.)
Four thousand workers with flags flying and drums beating marched in semi-military order towards the remaining Philadelphia troops. Then twenty thousand workers sent a burning engine into the roundhouse, smoking out the Philadelphia troops and driving them from the city. At 2:35 A.M. on July 22 the Times’ reporter filed a dispatch saying that the workers of Pittsburgh had “taken possession of the city.”
For the next four days the workers ran the city in what later became known as the Pittsburgh Commune. Black and white workers, women and men, united to patrol the streets and provide needed services. The bosses, fearful of a repeat of the Paris Commune six years earlier, began setting up army camps near big cities and organized what was to become the National Guard. They had their newspapers spread anti-communism, referring to the “Communistic element from Europe,” saying Pittsburgh’s workers were “animated by the devilish spirit of communism.”
The workers’ answer came from a Pittsburgh Critic reporter: “You systematically oppress a people and revolution is not only a right, it is a duty….”
[The complete story is available in a PL pamphlet.]
★ ★ ★ ★
Syria: Imperialists On All Sides
In the editorial about migrants in the current issue there is a paragraph that is both factually wrong and politically incoherent. It’s on the second page, right after the subtitle “Imperialism Attacks Refugees Twice.”
The paragraph states:
“In an effort to tilt the balance of regional power and counter the influence of Iran, a Russian proxy, U.S. bosses have financed a brutal rebellion against the state-terrorist, pro-Russian Assad regime. This four-year-old conflict has besieged workers with chemical weapons, routine bombings of civilians, torture and mass imprisonment.”
What’s wrong with this?
1. In the second sentence it’s unclear who’s doing the terrible damage to the civilian population. Is it the “brutal rebellion” or the “state-terrorist, pro-Russian Assad regime”? It should have been crystal clear that it is the Assad regime that is doing virtually all of the bombings, using chemical weapons, and torturing and jailing opponents.
2. However, far worse is the first sentence, which implies that the rebellion against Assad was initiated — and financed — by U.S. imperialism. This is simply not true. CD often falls into a regrettable pattern of ascribing every social movement to one of the competing imperialists, ignoring the agency of ordinary people.
Assad’s regime caters to multi-millionaire cronies at the same time that millions are living in desperate conditions. A class analysis of Syria is important because it shows how the rebellion against Assad was a social explosion following decades of real grievances. It was not the creation of U.S. imperialism and was entirely justified. The recent uprising against Assad began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. There were mass demonstrations in the major cities, which were violently attacked by the Syrian military. As a result, peaceful protesters decided that only armed struggle would overthrow Assad. The U.S. — which had a good relationship with Assad — began to support the Free Syrian Army, but the FSA soon fell apart.
Today, the rebellion is led by fundamentalist Islamist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda franchise), Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and others. They are the best organized, the best trained and best financed of the rebel groups, receiving money from the Gulf States but not the U.S., which is more afraid of these groups taking power than it is of Assad keeping control.
In effect, the U.S. — along with Iran and Russia — is supporting Assad. The CIA has trained fewer than a half dozen fighters! Its firepower is aimed at ISIS, not the Syrian military.
The fact that the major forces in Syria are politically awful should not obscure the class element of the struggle there, or imply that it’s mainly driven by foreign powers.
Editorial response: The writer is no doubt right that Syrian workers hate oppressor Assad and rose up in 2011. But the letter ignores the role played in Arab Spring by U.S. billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, which is active in 37 countries and backs organizations aligned with U.S. imperialism.
Further, the letter fails to mention efforts by both Russia and Iran to prop up Assad. The war in Syria may have started as a homegrown dispute. But the anti-ISIS, anti-Assad campaign, which now involves Britain and France as well as the U.S. (working through both the State Department and the CIA), has clearly become a flashpoint for inter-imperialist rivalry. Anti-U.S. and anti-Saudi ISIS and al Qaeda, both seeking an oil-rich caliphate, are minor but lethal would-be imperialists in their own right.
★ ★ ★ ★
Pro-Fascist Francis: Unforgivable
The press is hyping Pope Francis as a liberal leader for the poor but ignoring his complicity in the mass murders of students, trade unionists, and average citizens, in Argentina during the so-called “Dirty War” of the 1970s.
The Argentinian military unleashed a massive campaign of kidnapping, torture, and murder against anyone who protested government policies. This “dirty war” was approved by the United States. U.S. imperialist David Rockefeller travelled to Argentina specifically to tell the Generals that the U.S. would not interfere.
The main targets were communists, trade union leaders, and student and other political activists who opposed the Argentinian dictatorship. But no one was safe. Police and military kidnapped pregnant mothers and gave their babies to army officers and wealthy families to raise. They kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered whomever they wanted, and an estimated 30,000 were “disappeared.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina at that time. What did he do, in the midst of this fascist terror? Nothing. He did not even speak against it, much less do anything. Priests who supported impoverished workers were imprisoned and tortured but church superior Jorge Bergoglio refused to help them and years later hid priests in his home who were being investigated for supporting the military responsible for the “Dirty War.”
So why aren’t we hearing about this shameful past now? Because the Pope, regardless of who he is, supports the exploiters and they support him.
★ ★ ★ ★
No Five-Star Rating for Change
I noticed a change in the way letters to the paper are signed. They’re not! They’re all just signed with 4 stars. I think the reason for not having real names is that we want to focus on the ideas, not the person, and I agree with this. But, there’s nothing wrong with pseudonyms—after all it is a letter section encouraging individuals to communicate with the readership. The pseudonyms lend some personality to the letters. But four stars at the end of every letter? Well, I don’t like it and I wish you’d go back to the old way.
★ ★ ★ ★
Ferguson: Sick of Capitalism
“We are sick of living in fear!” said a resident in Mike Brown’s neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri, to a PLP comrade distributing CHALLENGE during our recent summer project there. Recently my Texas comrades and I arrived in a Ferguson immersed in struggle. The first night we engaged in a rally set up by a local group of Black rebel youth, Lost Voices. We marched to the police station, gave speeches, and led a couple chants. The next day we sold CHALLENGE in the neighborhood and did some of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of.
One morning we went to a church held workshop on civil disobedience. We not only learned new tactics to defend ourselves from the police, but ALSO learned just how fed up the working class is with racist police terror. The multiracial group of workers who came to the workshops were from the community. While there was disagreement about particular passive tactics used in civil disobedience, there was widespread agreement with the need to fight back with militancy. This shows just how far the fight against racism has come. Communities of workers are now turning towards violent action, instead of the passive silent marches. The workers understood that passivity will not change racism or capitalism. The church wanted to take the workshop group to the streets and demonstrate in front of the federal building in St. Louis, but my comrades and I thought the demonstration would be more effective if they had decided to march to the Ferguson police station. The church holds major influence over the community. This disagreement taught us a lot about our need to build political bases in community mass organizations, and build deep ties with workers in them. Over time, these ties expand the limits of what’s possible in certain situations.
Later on, we distributed CHALLENGE in Mike Brown’s neighborhood. Many residents came out to have conversations with comrades about racist police and violence. I walked in to a conversation a fellow comrade was having with two women who knew Mike Brown. One woman started to cry, saying, “We were afraid to leave our homes, my daughter wouldn’t even come out to talk with anyone. We are afraid of being shot for nothing.” Just like the communities in my hometown, or in Boston, Baltimore, and all over the U.S., workers are sick of being afraid, are tired of capitalist oppression, and fed up with racism. Ferguson has been an example and a learning experience for the Party and myself. Workers are poised for fightback not only in Ferguson, but all over the world. Multiracial unity is the cure to capitalism. We shouldn’t have to live in fear! We should engage in militant action among mass organizations to smash the system. United with a communist vision, we workers will eliminate the disease of the ruling class!
★ ★ ★ ★
Why I Quit the Israel CP
Why did I leave the Israeli “Communist” Party (Maki-Hadash) and join PLP?
The Israeli “Communist” Party, Maki-Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), is a revisionist party with no ideological basis. It is a counter-revolutionary party and is old in multiple meanings of the word. It is no place for a 17-year-old revolutionary who is only at the very beginning of his revolutionary road.
Maki-Hadash itself is undergoing an internal ideological crisis- its members fighting each other and semming that it will fall apart at any moment. Sometimes it feels that without its branch in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) it would have ceased to exist a long time ago. It proposes unity with the other bourgeois Arab parties in order to get more votes and stay in the Knesset.
Two months ago, a fascist scumbag called Yoav “The Shadow” Eliasi (a racist and nationalist two-bit rapper who in the past organized thugs to beat up leftist demonstrators) decided to create a fascist militia to “patrol” southern Tel-Aviv, in order to attack the African refugees and Arabs who live there and publicly spread racist filth. So I organized a counter-group of youth to help protect the refugees, Arabs and other non-Jewish residents from racist attacks.
To this group I recruited several people from the Anarchist group “Unity,” several independent Anarchist and Communist comrades, one Libertarian and several Maki-Hadash comrades. This enraged many Maki members so much that it was raised to the Central Committee where the subject was discussed and it was decided that I will be removed from the party because I “solicited party members to illegal activity” and gave a bad name to the party and its members. From this response you can see that this so-called “Marxist-Leninist” party is actually a revisionist counter-revolutionary party which believes in rotten parliamentary politics, rather than revolution.
Afterwards, PLP invited me to its convention in NYC. I was really impressed with the comrades in New York and I liked the activity and the ways of action. The thing I was most impressed with was the number of international comrades. I enjoyed seeing so many people of all ethnicities and languages working together, unlike in Maki where almost everyone is Ashkenasi (European Jewish).
I hope that PLP will continue to grow internationally and continue its good work. Onwards!
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The September 16 issue of CHALLENGE attacked the EU Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. It addressed how this event is designed to falsely equate communism with the horrors of fascism and also to cover up the hypocrisy of the Western capitalist rulers who appeased Hitler as long as they felt he would go east and attack the Soviet Union. Western capitalists, like Henry Ford, did deals with Hitler backers Krupp and Farben before and during World War II, including selling the Nazis the unmarked poison gas used in the Holocaust genocide.
The article then jumps to an uncritical defense of the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union as a necessary step to buy time for the Soviet Union to prepare for the coming war with Hitlerism. Leaving aside the questionable argument that forcing the Nazis to go across the extra 300 miles of Polish territory to attack the Soviet Union played any significant role in the Nazis; defeat, this argument ignores the many devastating negative results of the Soviet policy (before and during WW II) of making deals with world capitalist rulers.
Starting in the middle 1930s, the Soviet communist leadership abandoned any reliance on the international working class to defend the Soviet Union and instead appealed to Western capitalists in an attempt to form a “united front” against the German fascists.
The Soviet-led Communist International (Comintern) advised Western communist parties to hold back from fighting for a workers’ revolution, and even discouraged any sharp criticism of “liberal” capitalists in the U.S. and France other than pushing for a capitalist-Soviet alliance. Later on, during WW II, the CPUSA carried these reformist politics to the extreme of opposing a Black workers’ strike against racism because it would “detract from the war effort”!
The 1939 non-aggression pact was a top-down Soviet zigzag maneuver between struggles for a united front with the Western capitalists. The article defended that pact without analyzing the devastating impact it had on the morale of the international working class.
In Brooklyn, New York at that time, the CPUSA had as many as 20,000 members, a high percentage of them impoverished Jewish workers. Several thousand resigned after the pact was signed to protest the new friendship of the Soviets with Nazi Germany. This loss of membership was never overcome in Brooklyn and other areas where there were a large concentration of Jewish members. During this period the Soviets were uncritical of Nazism in their press and instead attacked the Western imperialist nations of France, U.S., and Great Britain.
For many years, PLP has criticized the pact as an opportunist weakness that reflected Russian nationalism within the CPSU and a mistaken policy of uniting with one set of international bosses against another.
By arguing that the pact was crucial to defeating the Nazis, the article did a disservice to the millions of brave and resourceful communists who moved factories across the Urals and fought hand to hand at Stalingrad to defeat the fascist monsters. Millions of Soviet communists gave their lives in that struggle, along with millions of communist-led resistance fighters in countries all around the world.
The Soviet communist leadership was the symbol for that heroic, successful struggle, but their reformist politics led to the temporary defeat of communists and the working class all around the world. Within ten years, capitalist forces seized state power back from the Soviet working class and communist parties (except for China) completely abandoned revolutionary struggle.
Soviet leaders relied on “Mother Russia” non-class nationalism and the development of a commandist bureaucracy within the Central Committee and Politburo. They restored the gold braid and privilege to the officer corps of the Red Army and privileges and pay differentials that undermined the role of the army as a people’s militia per Paris Commune standards. Income inequality in the Soviet Union actually increased after World War II.
The Soviet’s leadership role during and after World War II was too often based on pragmatism and not on communist principles. The Yalta agreement with Roosevelt and Churchill denied the opportunity for revolution by the Italian communist party, which was armed and ready for insurrection. Deals with one imperialist to oppose another always lead to disaster for revolutionary communism.
PLP has always opposed any alliances with “lesser”-evil bosses. We owe the working class a clear and sharp analysis of the dangers of those compromises, which this article did not provide.
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