Letters of July 26

The following letters hail from participants of the Summer Project in Chicago. Over 50 students, parents, teachers, transit workers, and community organizers gathered to learn to fight against capitalism, and to fight to learn about communist consciousness. This multiracial, multi-generational, and multi-gendered group came from all corners of the country. These are reflections from the first day of a communist boot camp. See more next issue!
I was so excited to participate in the 2017 Summer Project in Chicago where I met so many people committed to fighting for the working class.
During our first study group session, I shared my experience as a working-class student within the Brooklyn Public School System.
Sharing my experiences with fellow party members helped me to acknowledge how my high school is preparing me to face what the reality is for workers under Capitalism.
For example, School Safety Officers are posted at my school. Whenever I enter my school, in the morning or after a fire drill, I am treated like a prisoner. My school bag is searched. I feel like a criminal at my school because it is a place where I’m being taught to obey authority.
Many of the teachers in my school do not agree with security guards having a presence in our school. But the bosses at the DOE, who really run the schools, decide that students in working class neighborhoods should be treated like criminals.
I realize that the police presence in my school is only one part of a complex system that at every point mistreats and exploits workers, when I think about the poisoned food we’re given for lunch and the poisoned ideas we’re taught in the classroom.
It was important for me to share my experience with the comrades and friends in the room today because it allowed me to remember that I’m not the only one and my school is not the only school facing these issues.
The workers of ATU local 241 voted in favor of the pre-strike authorization. It has been forty-eight years since they went on strike. PLP came out to do agitational work and support our working class brothers and sisters in transit. With the combination of rail and bus workers on strike, they have the potential to shut the city down. One worker came from the bus barn, walked across the sidewalk where the party was giving leaflets, and crossed the street to get a coffee before his shift at Dunkin Donuts. Before he went up the driveway to clock in for work, holding his coffee in one hand, he held out his other hand and said, “you guys can’t cross the line but I can because I work here. Give me a stack of the flyers to pass out.” Overall, the workers were responsive to the paper and realized we have their backs. The Chicago cops showed up multiple times only to be ignored as workers continued to take CHALLENGE.   
Later that day, a study group was held about Political Economy. It consisted of rich deep dwelling political ideology and the understanding of the capitalist wage system. During one part we discussed how the capitalist school systems teach false pseudoscience economics. They don’t talk about exploitation, workers as a commodity, exchange and use value, but we worked to understand the importance of those ideas. We also discussed how commodities would be produced for and by the working class under communism—for need, not for profit. Under capitalism the driving force is profit. Commodities are produced with little regard for use value. This results in alienation between the workers and their production, as well as overproduction and capitalist crisis. Other examples of economics under capitalism we discussed were how the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent millions for the purpose of destruction of food because if it can’t be sold then it must be destroyed.
The next time we go to talk to transit workers, we will bring back the ideas of political economy.  We know that political economy is a tool our class needs to destroy this system of exploitation and oppression. Workers striking is a great start! Class struggle has the potential to teach lessons that prepare us for revolution and show us the power of our class.
It is just a start though. No matter what reforms are passed because of the strike, no matter who becomes president—white or Black, man or woman—nothing will fix this rotten capitalist system. Asian, Latin, Black and white, workers of the world must unite to smash capitalism and this dark night.
The summer project was lit! To start off the project, we woke up mad early at 3:00 in the morning to sell CHALLENGE to the Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers at 4 am. It was hard getting up that early but it helps us understand their struggle. My team had conversations with many workers who expressed their frustrations about low wages, long hours and lack of sleep. Imagine—we woke up at 3 am just one day, but these workers have to do this every day!
It was really great to connect with the workers and to ask questions and learn more about their struggles and their ideas about what needs to be done. Our comrades were aware that their contract is coming to an end and they might strike.
At our bus barn location, we decided to walk right into the building to the breakroom where the workers were, until the manager came out and told us we could not be there and had to move. When she left, we stormed right in to get to the workers as they were clocking in for their shift. That’s when we met a bus worker who is trying to organize his coworkers. We told him we gotta fight back, with multiracial unity, and sometimes break the rules of the union to fight back. He agreed.
He told us how he believes in supporting other workers, which is why he flew out to support the teachers’ strike in Ohio. It’s nice to know that many of our communist principles are still very much alive within the working class. My team and I got over 50 papers out and made some contacts—and we were just getting started!

Frederick Douglass: July 4th Celebrates Criminals
U.S. rulers’ outpouring of patriotism for July 4th, with its band-playing parades and flag-waving, only serves to cover up their history of slavery. While the Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal” [though not women, much less Black people], Frederick Douglass, the great anti-slavery abolitionist leader, spoke to a July 4th gathering of the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society asking “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?”
“I answer; a day that reveals…more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice to which [they are] the constant victim(s)….
“Your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery;
“Your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are [to them]…mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
“There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are…these United States, at this very hour.”
To this day, the celebration of “freedom” on July 4 lays bare the attempt by the ruling class to build blind patriotism and support of the U.S. war machine, in the face of mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Black workers, rampant police murder of Black women and men, mass deportations of workers across the bosses’ borders, and the capitalist exploitation of the entire working class. What freedom?
Racist Clinton Debased Medgar Evers Students
On June 8, almost 54 years after Medgar Evers was assassinated for fighting segregation in the South, especially in higher education, his contribution to the struggle was debased when Hillary Clinton spoke at the commencement of CUNY’s Medgar Evers College and was given an honorary doctorate. Given Clinton’s support for her husband’s mass incarceration bill that put hundreds of thousands of Black workers and youth in jail, and his neo-liberal policies that undermined the few welfare programs that supported Black working-class families, I found the irony too outrageous to bear.
I wasn’t alone. Komokoda (a Haitian community group in New York) along with Peoples Power Assemblies organized a small protest outside the Medgar Evers graduation ceremony. I joined them, and we alternated between chanting and conversing among ourselves and with passersby. Several members of Komokoda were survivors of the 2010 earthquake. They were outraged by Clinton’s interference in the relief efforts—redistributing charity from the poor in Haiti to the Haitian, and multinational, ruling class. The protesters argued, rightfully, that Clinton’s commencement speech was just another step in her return to the public spotlight. We all recognized that there was no contradiction in opposing both Trump and Clinton.
Chants included “No resurrection for Hillary Clinton!” Slogans on protest signs addressed her dehumanizing, racist accusation in the 1990s that some black youths are “super-predators” with “no conscience, no empathy.” Other signs targeted Medgar Evers President Rudy Crew for allowing an important milestone in the lives of CUNY students to be twisted into a publicity event for Clinton’s resurrection as part of “the resistance” [against Trump’s presidency].


Letters of April 19

Racist Deportation Over a Turnstile
We were already angry at deportations and other fascist attacks against the working class, especially against Black, Latin, and Asian workers.
Now it’s happening to one of our members at our church. Our dear friend has become a victim of the fascist directives that started with former “Deporter-in-Chief” Obama and are continuing with Trump.
Our friend came to the U.S. when she was seven years old. Both her and her father are green-card holder (a permanent resident). As an adult, she became hooked on drugs while seeking escape from a horribly abusive marriage. A drug dealer in her housing project falsely identified her as also a drug dealer. Terrified by the cops’ and prosecutors’ threats of a long imprisonment, she pleaded guilty. Our racist criminal justice system uses this tactic to incarcerate millions of our mainly Black and Latin sisters and brothers.
Our friend was fortunate to find a devoted lawyer who obtained a pardon for her previous conviction and proceeded with the process for citizenship. In 1998, desperate to get to her low-wage job on time so she could support her family, the cops stopped her for jumping a turnstile and she was eventually convicted of “theft of services.”  What hypocrisy!  The bourgeoisie steals our services every day.
In the summer of 2015, she learned that the government was going to deport her for the “crime” of jumping the turnstile! Her first appearance before a judge was postponed when a blizzard hit NYC.
We remain committed to fighting for our friend. Twenty-six members of our church have signed on, along with the pastor and church board to stand with her and her family to fight against her racist deportation. The chief regional pastor commended our member’s actions and pledged his support for the thousands of members throughout the region who face the same threats.
We will fight our dear friend’s deportation and build solidarity with our sisters and brothers worldwide. But only with communist revolution, will we once and for all, put an end to the racist and sexist attacks on working people everywhere.

Evaluating Cultural Revolution with Workers in China
When PLP was founded over 50 years ago, the main source of our ideological support came from the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP. In 1967, a few years after its founding, PLP disagreed with the actions taken by the CCP leadership (including Mao Zedong) during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, more than 40 million Red Guard workers, students and farmers were in open rebellion, attempting to defeat revisionism in the CCP and move toward a fully equal, communist society.  Initially encouraged by Mao to defeat the more open right wingers in the CCP, Mao then branded them as “ultra-leftists” and used the Peoples Liberation Army to suppress them. PLP criticized the CCP and warned against the restoration of capitalism should the Cultural Revolution be defeated. The CCP broke off fraternal party relations with PLP over this disagreement in 1970.
PLP’s analysis of events in China, and our break with nationalism as a sometimes “progressive” ideology, was published in the document “Road to Revolution III” in 1971. Our criticism of the CCP as becoming a revisionist party shocked many “Maoist” parties around the world.
Fast forward a half century. China is a fully capitalist country which now has some 250 million industrial workers, the largest industrial proletariat in the world. The CCP is still the ruling party, which says they preside over “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” an absurd claim that is mocked inside China.
It turns out there are still communists in China; they just don’t run the government. Recent contacts with communists, inside and outside China have been encouraging. Some have shown an interest in PLP’s analysis from 1971, and Road to Revolution III was recently translated into Chinese so that it can be read and evaluated by more workers there.
One young worker recently described a study group discussion of Road to Revolution III. Mao is still considered a great revolutionary leader, as opposed to the current capitalist class that occupies the CCP, so criticizing him is controversial in leftist circles. However, this worker wrote:
“Mao is a great leader. But he failed in the fight against revisionism. We have to draw some important lessons to accomplish this task. If we cannot tell Mao’s achievements and mistakes, we cannot step further on the road to revolution.”
“The road is long and tortuous but the future is bright.”

Movie More Anti-Racist Than Given Credit
The review in Challenge of “I Am Not Your Negro” made a good point about how racism oppresses white workers as well as Black. But the review contained some factual errors.
Many of the images in the movie showed integrated groups of people fighting racism and many people standing up to very brutal attacks by the police at demonstrations. It also had scenes of Baldwin being very well received by groups of white students when he speaks against racism. The movie also says racism was created to have cheap labor, though it doesn’t go into detail about how that works and showed images of Black workers picking and processing cotton. In a segment mentioned in the article, Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry (a communist writer) confront Robert Kennedy and expose him as unwilling to fight racism. That’s good!
Baldwin put forward the position that the fate of all of us in the United States is tied together. That was the main position of the movement as the time. It reflected an acceptance of nations, something Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Medgar Evers all accepted.

Iron Heel Relevant to Today’s Fascism
Following the inauguration of fascist demagogue Trump, the sales of George Orwell’s 1984 and Sinclair Lewis’ Can It Happen Here? Skyrocketed on Amazon. 1984 deals with a totalitarian society ruled by Big Brother, which we can call Big Trump, and Can It Happen Here? Discusses fascism coming to this country waving the American flag. It is clear that many workers are becoming aware that something is desperately wrong and are looking for answers. One U.S. novel that is seldom mentioned and which is extremely relevant today is Jack London’s classic The Iron Heel. Written in 1907, some have claimed that it was a prophetic novel about the rise of fascism in the world.
London is best known for his adventure novels such as Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf, but London had been a left-wing socialist for many years. The Iron Heel grew out of his socialist convictions and his belief that a kinship of working people would become a reality on the planet. The novel is told from the standpoint of Avis Everhard, the daughter of a wealthy man and is unaware of the human suffering that is caused by the capitalist system. She meets Ernest, a revolutionary socialist agitator and theoretician. She falls in love with him, later marries him, and he shows her the realities of life for the workers in capitalist America. She, to put it in her words, began “to see through the appearances of the society in which I had all was lived, and to find the frightful realities that were beneath”.
Ernest also argues passionately against capitalist ideologues, who are totally out of touch with the realities of life under capitalism and the Middle class, which Ernest claims, want to return to an imaginary past. He calls them “Machine Breakers” or Luddites. Ernest claims that labor saving machinery will be used for the liberation of the working class. Of course, the middle class, as we find out, is doomed by historical development as the trusts or oligarchy gain more and more power. It is this group of capitalists that would usher in the iron heel, London’s term for fascism.
The real target of the rulers was the working class and the socialist movement that was making strides at the ballot box. This leads to a discussion of voting vs. armed struggle and eventually the resistance to the iron heel picks up a gun. Also, the Iron Heel attempts to buy off a segment of the workers or labor castes, while the majority of the workers face grinding poverty. It becomes clear that the goal of the ruling class is to save the capitalist system and prevent a worker’s revolution.
The capitalist class also shuts down the socialist party printing presses, disappears worker-fighters, murders scores of workers and uses agents provocateurs to undermine the workers movement, while rounding up and jailing workers and socialists in the congress, including Ernest. The workers do not take any of this lying down and begin to resist through revolutionary violence. At one point, they are able to free some of their comrades from prison. Ernest is one of them, and he is reunited with Avis.
The conditions that London describes facing the workers exist today, as does a powerful capitalist ruling class. This novel, if read, might alert workers to the growing fascism in this country while providing an interesting read.

Review Wrongly Attacks the Man, Not Content
The review of I Am Not Your Negro (CHALLENGE, 4/5) was one sided and under researched. The claim that Baldwin lacked class analysis in his works is incorrect. Baldwin often talked and wrote about his experience as a young Black man living in poverty and how those Blacks that had “means” treated him.
Examples are in Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) and “Another Country” (1962). His literature uses social class as one of the lenses through which characters analyze their realities. In his essay, “Negroes Are Anti-Semetic Because They’re Anti-White” (1967), Baldwin discusses the exploitation suffered by poor Black people in Harlem at the hands of Jewish slum lords and store owners, as well as Black and white social workers, teaches, postal bosses, and the military. This essay ends with Baldwin addressing the very real tension between Black workers and Jewish owners and his own refusal to hate a person or even a group for the ills of an exploitative system that is less vicious to some than others depending on the time.
There are valid critiques of Baldwin’s outright refusal to officially join social movements. This review went from criticizing the movie to trying to discredit Baldwin and his work entirely. How can we totally dismiss someone for their own analysis of their reality? Who does that win, other than those made uncomfortable by Baldwin’s existing anti-racist stance on things like education, nationalism, patriotism, militarism?
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is putting it lightly when comparing what this article tries to do with Baldwin’s legacy of literary investigation of social problems in the U.S.


Letters of April 5

Mexico: Gasolinazo Fight Continues
In Mexico, there continues to be a struggle over the increase in gasoline prices. The majority of people here don’t know how to deal with this situation. Jobs continue to be tough and pay poorly, if jobs can be found at all.
There are millions of families that are living bare bones. This problem brings frustration, anger, and sadness.  Many workers have needed to change from a gas stove to firewood or charcoal to cook because our wages don’t go far enough to buy a tank of gas.
The wicked business men and women are bringing the country to the ground for working people. The gasoline price surge affects different aspects of the economy, but in reality, the ones most affected are the workers.
But we keep on fighting and uniting, more workers in states throughout Mexico to stop this damn capitalist system, which by analyzing the situation carefully, we know to be the number one enemy of the working class.
This useless cabinet of President Peña Nieto has already had the nerve to raise the cost of a liter of gasoline from $12.00 to $16.95 pesos, and a tank of gas from $400 to $500 pesos. And this does not stop here—this August, gas prices are expected to rise yet again.
For this, we are out and we will continue fighting, uniting more and more workers day by day to one day take out this pack of thieving bosses and politicians.

Cancer, A Disease Fortified by Capitalism
“I am sorry to tell you this, but you have lung cancer.”
These are words that no one wants to hear, and that I never expected to hear, especially when eating right, exercising and never smoking was a way of life.  However, living in a system where the environment around us is polluted and contaminated, all for profit, it is no surprise that 40 percent of all people living in the U.S. will be personally affected by a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.
Since many rich people also get cancer, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to find a cure, including millions in workers’ tax dollars.  But even here, the profit motive is a driving force. New cancer drugs are commonly priced at $100,000 a year or more, making gigantic profits for the big pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of cancer patients either delay care by cutting pills in half or skipping treatment entirely. Whichever company patents a drug that can cure cancer will have struck oil, and will make an astronomical amount of profit from cancer patients.
In addition to the drug companies, hospital bosses are also reaping large profits. Early detection tests for certain cancers can run in the thousands of dollars.  For most workers, this becomes cost prohibitive.
For people that never smoked or worked with hazardous material, there is no early detection test for lung cancer. Insurance companies will not approve tests that could be potential indicators for this disease, making it difficult to detect its early, asymptomatic stages.
In my case, there were no warning signs or symptoms? So, how did my diagnosis come about? A close family member in PLP worked in a hospital lab for many years. He was a union delegate and participated in many struggles on the job. His political base and personal ties to his coworkers may have literally saved my life.
Lab workers run all chemistry tests on blood drawn (not only what the doctor ordered), every 6-8 months. The CEA test (carcinoembryonic antigen), which is an indicator for potential colon cancer, came back slightly elevated, by only 2 points. A chest x-ray was done, and again, the lab workers got the results out in a quick and timely fashion. That same evening, I got the call that there was a shadow on the left upper lobe of my lung.  And so, my unexpected journey began.
On hearing the news, we decided to reach out to our friends, co-workers and family members, who have given us tremendous support. So far, we are on the road to controlling this disease.
When the working class runs society, we will have a better understanding of how to confront and conquer this disease. And our motivation will be serving the international working class, not the profits of the drug companies.

Hidden Figures Unmasks and Denounces Racism
The Challenge review of the movie Hidden Figures makes some correct points about the role of the civil rights movement in the fight against racism, but it could have been better in some important ways.
The overall one-sidedly critical tone of the article mischaracterizes the antiracist struggle shown in the movie. The three Black women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, featured in the movie are shown fighting racism on a daily basis.
The movie takes place in 1962 at NASA, a period where Black women and white male scientists had almost no interaction because of segregation, many things we take for granted now had not yet been won and the mass line of the movement was about making America a better democracy. To work in an environment like that and stand up to the racist structures and attitudes those structures reinforce is fighting racism.
The article is critical of the characters for not organizing against racism. But, in the movie Karen Johnson confronts the racism of her co-workers; Dorothy Vaughan fights to get the other Black women computers out of the basement where they’ve been literally hidden; Mary Jackson demands the right to attend an all-white class, to name just three of the several scenes that depict the fight against racism.
The article also dismisses the scene where the white supervisor tears down the racist bathroom designations as a “white savior” moment. But that was a good scene (though it probably didn’t happen that way) that showed a white person fighting racism.
The supervisor also gets won over by Katherine Johnson’s demands to be in the meetings where her work is being discussed. A third example of whites overcoming racism is shown when John Glenn, who was a supporter of the civil rights movement, disregards the NASA officials and goes over to meet the Black women workers when the astronauts arrive at NASA and demands that Katherine Johnson check the figures before he agrees to take off. As we all know, when you are in a very racist environment it is difficult to go against the grain on a daily basis. The movie depicts people doing just that.
Additionally, the review could have said more about the accomplishments of the women who worked at NASA. The movie correctly highlights the reality that Black women were essential to the accomplishments of the space program. In this current environment of the mass acceptance of a racist school system that refuses to fully serve the vast majority of Black children in this country it is a very important point for the movie to make.

Abolishing Sexism, A Class Question

In the Bay Area, we recently had our first study group. Six friends come to learn about the Party’s line on sexism, and Party members learned how to better break things down and lead discussions. By having these study groups, we hope to win people closer to the Party and sharpen ourselves on the line and on explaining it to people.
We read a feminist manifesto from the 1970s because one of our friends wanted to discuss the problems with feminism. We contrasted the feminist manifesto with a Party flyer about sexism. The feminist manifesto said that there is a male class and a female class, and that all of the female class is oppressed and needs to unite. Men should give up their male privilege (though it was unclear how they can do that) to help in women’s liberation. By contrast, the Party says that there is a working class, with men and women workers, and a ruling class with men and women bosses. We tried to explain that economic exploitation and class society is the root of sexist oppression, and that women shouldn’t be uniting with women across class but with all workers to smash capitalism.
We made some good headway on the topic but conversation focused a lot on identity politics and all-class unity. People thought that it’s important to see that bosses like Hillary Clinton suffer from sexism too, and that she would benefit from ending capitalism because then she would not suffer from sexism. One person said CEO of Goldman Sachs, a white man, is oppressed by sexism because he must fall in line with gender roles, so he would also be liberated by communism. Similarly, people thought that Barack Obama and the Black ruling class suffer from racism, and so they should have a stake in ending capitalism too.
Party members tried to show that being rich wins from using sexism and racism to get there. Even if the sexism and racism these ruling-class figures perpetuate comes back to bite them, they profit off of these divisions. The root is exploitation and money. It is in their class interest to maintain racism and sexism. After all, if everyone had an interest in ending racism and sexism, we would be able to do it far more easily!
This was our first of many study groups to come. Though we had trouble explaining and overcoming ideas of all-class unity, feminism, and identity politics, it was good practice for us. We are energized here to continue to fight and grow the Party!


Letters of March 2

Thanks for the Communist School
Thank you to all the members and leaders who had made the communist school in LA possible [see page 5]. I found it to be very educational, inspiring, and encouraging. I still hold my reservations that communism is the political ideology that could sustainably solve the crisis we face today, which I agree is the faults of a capitalist system. However, I am definitely coming away with a better understanding of the Party’s mission and methods, and where they do align with my own. I have been greatly inspired to increase my efforts to be a fighter in this common struggle.

LA Retreat ‘Lit as Hell’
West Coast party was lit as hell [see article page 5]. Got me to thinking about the Bolshevik revolutionary structure, the principle of democratic centralism and autonomy, and clarity on the political lines of the Progressive Labor Party.
As a rank and file educator, I dove into arguments about reform vs. revolution, identity politics, dialectical materialism in my other groups throughout the weekend. I got feedback on my frustrations and to key questions to ask them and myself.
Overall, the discussion was a very fruitful conversation and I would like to have more. PLP told me from jump street what they stood for and they showed it through their actions across the “united snakkkes” this past year.

Hawaii, Where There’s No Money
A local TV station, Khon2, recently carried a story headlined “Less money for the state means tough decisions for education.” Quotes from the story, which was broadcast statewide:
“The state is working with less money. That could mean important programs will not be getting the money they want. That’s because the state will not collect as much taxes as it thought it would. . . Lawmakers say that equates to $155 million less to spend this year. . . . The question now is just where the cuts will be made.” The story goes on to explain why the Education Department will be getting $40 million less than expected. (Oh well, our new president will ensure that wealthy capitalists, the people who count, will be given assistance to place their kids in private schools.)  
   In “unrelated” news on the same day, and not reported by Khon2, the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism projected a 4 percent growth in visitor expenditures in 2018.
The tourist industry employs approximately 150,000 blue collar/service workers. The average wage is $20/hour. Doing the math, there is roughly $10 billion in gross profits for the industry. The Waikiki district of Honolulu sits on land stolen from native Hawaiians.
An ex-carpenter friend, who helped build some of the Waikiki high-rise buildings points out that Eminent Domain is a legal principle inherent in U.S. and English Common Law. Accordingly, every inch of land in the U.S. ultimately belongs to the public, and can be taken by the government without compensation, as long as it is used for the good of the public. Pointing out the annual rise in homelessness, particularly among people of native background, he suggested: “Why don’t we start by claiming Waikiki?”
A better and more practical response from several of my friends: Let’s strengthen our group, which we call Hawaiian Friends of the Progressive Labor Party.

It Is Noh Mystery—We Makin’ History
I enjoyed the article “Black and Red: The Untold History” (CHALLENGE, 3/8). I wanted to mention a Red-inspired musician, inspired by the writings of Black communist W.E.B. DuBois, United Kingdom-based dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Johnson was born in Chapelton, in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, in 1962. After immigrating to the UK at the age of 11, attending university and being briefly involved with the British branch of the Black Panther Party, Johnson became a renowned poet. Johnson credited his turn to poetry to Dubois’ writings, which provided him a class analysis of racism in the UK.
The situation for Caribbean immigrants in the UK was intense in the 1970s. Following World War II, waves of immigrants in search of jobs from British-held Caribbean colonies settled in neighborhoods like the south London district of Brixton. Black immigrants endured constant racist terror and murder by the London police. One form that racist police terror took in London were the “Sus laws.”
“Sus laws,” short for “suspected person laws,” were the predecessors of today’s “stop and frisk” laws. Enacted in London in 1824 to justify imprisoning unemployed British military veterans, the Sus laws remained on the books for over a century, and were used with ferocity against the newly-arrived Caribbean immigrants in the 1970s.
It was against this background that Johnson composed his first poems. When he began performing with a reggae band in the background, he created the genre of dub poetry and became one of the precursors of modern rap music.
Life for the Black working class, and Johnson, took a sharp turn in 1980, when antiracist rebellions of Black youth against the Sus laws first exploded in UK city of Bristol. The rebellions spread over the following years: Brixton (London), Toxteth (Liverpool), Handsworth (Birmingham), Chapeltown (Leeds), among many other uprisings.
Johnson’s dub poetry and music evolved into celebrations of mass antiracist resistance and militant calls to action.
In “Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)”, Johnson movingly recites a letter in Jamaican patois, written by a young Black worker to his mother from prison, imploring her to have courage. Other dub poems- “Di Great Insohreckshan,” “All We Doin is Defendin,” and “Fite Dem Back,” celebrate armed struggle against the police and neo-Nazis. “Reggae Fi Peach” is a powerful memorial to Blair Peach, a white antiracist schoolteacher murdered by the police, an instance of multiracial unity that profoundly moved Johnson and many Black workers. “Forces of Viktry” is an homage to the heroic masses fighting back “to defeat the state;” “Reality Poem” calls on workers to accept “science and technology” over “religion, antiquity and mythology;” while “Making History” furiously attacks anti-Black racism while embracing Asian immigrant workers in the neighborhood of Southall, London, who “formed up a human wall against the fascists and police shields” in solidarity with Black immigrant workers.
Johnson’s dub poetry is as catchy as it is politically sharp. Communists and antiracists would be hard pressed to find more inspiring calls for multiracial working class unity, or such heartfelt encouragements to draw our strength from the struggle, among the masses. The revolution may not be televised, but it already has a soundtrack—to remember past struggles of the international working class and to inspire new ones.

Nazis Emboldened by Trump, Antiracists Driven to Fight
Following the election of fascist Donald Trump, the struggle heated up in western Pennsylvania.
On December 28, 30-some spirited workers marched, chanted and rallied at the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh demanding that Martin Hernandez be released from prison. Hernandez, an immigrant worker from Mexico, was unjustly charged with a felony and faces possible deportation. At the rally, his wife and three children were introduced and a young woman fighter read a letter from Hernandez. The rally ended with another young woman singing a song of struggle.
In Johnstown, the local unity coalition organized a rally in central park to protest racist acts by a gang to local Klan types. These scums had been driving through the city, in a pick up truck flying the flag of slavery, a noose hanging from the tailgate and bearing a sign praising James Earl Ray, Dr. King’s assassin.
No doubt these vermin were emboldened by Trump’s election victory.
On the week of January 20, there were actions in Pittsburg. There was a rally to protest unemployment, a rally for sanctuary churches to defend immigrants, a women’s march, an anti-Trump action and an anti-racism conference.
Meanwhile, there have been numerous marches and rallies to protest Trump’s travel bans. Some copies of CHALLENGE were distributed at one of these actions.
None of these events called for an egalitarian workers’ state. But they open the doors for communists to intervene with revolutionary ideas.

Explain Both Continuity & Change in Trump Gov’t
CHALLENGE does an excellent job of stressing the continuity between Democrat and Republican administrations regarding the racist-fascist terror experienced by our immigrant sisters and brothers. They are all fascist butchers sending untold numbers to their deaths by deportation!
But, with Donald Trump, there is a qualitatively new ideological factor that we must relentlessly expose. The overt fascist that Trump has appointed to daily call the shots for his White House policy is Stephen Bannon. This racist ideologue, in turn, swears allegiance to Julius Evola. Evola was one of the master ideologues who powered the fascism that developed in Italy and Germany with genocidal result, from 1920 to 1945. Read the article “Steve Bannon Cites Italian Thinker Who Inspired Italian Fascists,” Jason Horowitz (NYT, 2/20). “Evola eventually broke with the Italian fascists because he considered them overly tame. Instead, he preferred the NAZI SS officers [who] shared his anti-Semitism!”
The U.S.  bosses may dump Trump because  he is an unreliable “loose cannon.” But he is doing their bidding consistently in a vital regard: building overt racism broadly and deeply, particularly anti-Muslim racism. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to expand the vicious, mass imperialist-racist consciousness desperately needed to fuel a huge U.S. fighting force that might prevail in World War III’s redivision of the profit-generating territories of the earth.  Trump is dong this. We must expose him and fight him.

Stress and Cuban Babies
A letter in the March 8 CHALLENGE made a good point about how life stress, including the stress of racism, is bad for workers’  health. Besides heart disease and stroke mentioned by that writer, premature birth and infant deaths have also been linked to stress, especially
stress during pregnancy.
On a recent tour of health facilities in Cuba I learned something about how that country, with a fraction of the United States’ per capita income, managed to achieve a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. (Cuba has had a lower infant death rate
than the U.S. since about 2003.) Cubans all still have access to high quality medical care. I have seen their newborn units and they are high quality. But that is not the way they outperform the U.S. in infant survival.
Our group toured a maternity home where any woman with an increased risk of going into premature labor can go and live free of charge, together with other expectant mothers from her community. Women with any situation that might increase their risk of premature labor—high blood pressure, anemia, social stress at home, being under 20 or over 35 years of age or having ever had a premature or low birth weight baby in the past—any such condition means she is free to move into the Hogar Materno where there is a nurse 24 hours a day, a doctor on call, and all the cooking and housework are done by others. Her family can visit her whenever they want and she can leave if she chooses. But the amazing fact for me was that there are enough maternity home beds in Cuba so that on average every woman giving birth in that country could have about two weeks in a home if she wanted or needed it.
Since most pregnancies are low risk in Cuba, those who do need such a low stress often end up staying there for months. And then they give birth at term, instead of having a premature baby who might die or have handicaps.
However, Cuba is changing fast, moving into full-blown capitalism from the state monopoly capitalist system established in the 1960s. That system still provides certain socialistic features, such as free health care and education. The Cuban birth rate for very small (under three pound) babies is about two thirds as high as the U.S. rate. Will the focus on stress prevention that achieved this remarkable health outcome soon end? It is hard to see how such expansive preventive care will be maintained as the profit system takes firmer hold on Cuba, but it is also not clear that the Cuban people will see their world-class health system—and population health statistics—be destroyed without some serious pushback.

Response to Berkeley: No Free Speech for Fascists
I was interested in the CHALLENGE article (2/22) about the antiracist upheaval in Berkeley against the fascist speakers there. I have never thought that fascists should have freedom of speech and I was uplifted to hear that this speaker was shut down.
Back in the 1990s, when the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi skinheads were attempting to colonize the coalfields of western Pennsylvania, the Coal Country Coalition (CCC) organized anti-fascist rallies at the site of the racist rallies. We were never concerned with freedom of speech for these fascists. Instead, we attempted to shout them down and disrupt their gatherings.
On one such occasion, an anti-fascist sang “Light My Fire” by The Doors over a sound system while another burned a confederate flag. One of the lines of the song went, “Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.”
 This drove C. Edward Foster the Klan leader, into frenzy while the rest of these racists seemed to be dazed and confused. The CCC always attempted to be creative in their approach to the Klan.
Concerning the situation in Berkeley, I read that anarchists played a role in silencing the fascist speaker. The anarchists make a major error by attempting to substitute themselves for the working class in the fight against fascism. It is only the working-class led communist party that can defeat fascism.
Finally, the CCC always distributed a leaflet at the antifascist rallies connecting the Klan and racism to the entire capitalist system. It also called for an egalitarian workers state. I’m glad the Party was able to do the same thing at the Berkeley action. In some ways, this might be more important than slewing the fascist scum.


Letters of February 22

Yemeni Bodegas on Strike
Last week a couple of my women ESL students from Yemen told me about a protest by Yemeni bodega and deli small business owners in NYC. So I went. More than 1000 deli owners shut down their stores for 8 hours across NYC and more than 5000 headed to downtown Brooklyn to protest against the Trump ban forbidding entry to the US from 7 mostly Muslim countries. Yes, there were a lot of American flags, a mass prayer observance and the usual Democrat politicians. But things are not always as they seem.
After the prayer service the crowd (men) got energized, chanting “Justice now” and “No ban , no wall, US for all.” My comrade circulated and distributed 65 Challenge newspapers. I carried my sign “No ban, no wall. Refugees and immigrants, welcome here. Don’t blame for refugees for imperialist wars!” Many stopped to take a picture. As they did I said, “It’s not about terrorism, it’s about imperialism. I was born here, but I don’t carry that flag. A flag that stands for bombing countries like Syria and Yemen off the map for control of oil.” Serious faces. “Yes, that’s true.” “Thank you lady.” “We need more like you.” I also said, “This is a big protest. Imagine if the women were here, it would be twice as big.”
Later my students sent me my picture with my sign that was circulating on Facebook. One texted me, “Good job, my teacher!” That evening in the housing committee in the organization I work in, I taped my sign to the wall of the meeting room and reported about the protest, the sign and its meaning. The Latino immigrants clapped. Next up, big fight against deportations and suspension of DACA. And of course the crucial, ongoing, long term effort to spread PLP’s ideas and build the Party.

Solidarity with Muslim, Refugee & Immigrant Workers
I am a member of a church, and I’m happy to say that our church had a swift response to Trump’s fascist travel ban! Four activists from the church went to the NYC Battery Park protest on January 29 which drew tens of thousands of outraged antiracists. Most important, one of us distributed 125 CHALLENGEs indicting capitalism as the root cause of this upsurge of fascist terror. Another carried a poster proclaiming, “Unite in solidarity with our Muslim, refugee, and immigrant sisters and brothers,” with contact information for the church. Scores of people photographed our sign and took flyers describing six different struggles we are leading or involved in. Some people we met promised to contact us further.
Another member of the church went to the antiracist rally in his town with his family. His son carried a poster comparing the American Empire with the Roman Empire and predicting a similar end for American fascism. His granddaughter made her own poster decrying the unfairness of a law that victimizes her Muslim friends at school. Many of his relatives and friends saw these pictures on Facebook.
Massive social media protest turnouts are very encouraging. However, by themselves they will not build the vital revolutionary communist movement essential to doom the ruling class once and for all. This vital task challenges PLP to bring our politics to the actions. Then we must bring the energy of our experience and the contacts we make back into the mass organization in which we are daily building a base for communism!

Inspiring Antiracists at JFK
My wife and I went to JFK airport on January 28 to join the mass rally against the detention of eleven travelers —all with green cards or visas—from Muslim countries that are on Trump’s travel ban list. There were many thousands of people there, both native and foreign born, young and old. The protest pulsated with defiance and anger, with deafening chants of “Let Them In!”, “Resist!, Fight Back!, This Is Our New York!”, and “[epithet] the Wall, We’ll Tear It Down!”
Other chants were “Say It Loud, Say It Clear, Immigrants Are Welcome Here!”, “Refugees In, Racists Out!”, “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees Are Welcome Here!”, “No Borders, No Nations, Stop Deportations!”, “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!”, and “Here to Stay, Here to Fight!”. I think we should use some of the above chants for May Day on April 29.
We also learned that NYC taxi drivers were joining the protest by refusing to work at the airport. If CHALLENGE readers get a chance to attend any of these rallies in support of Muslim immigrants, take it! They’re occurring all over the country. They’re really important, the spirit of resistance is exhilarating and it’s going to spread to campus, without a doubt!
In the words of the communist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, “Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.”

Not Just Racist DeVos
DeVos is that high-speed train wreck for public education that many feared but few wanted to admit was coming. This racist path towards the destruction of public education, the criminalization of our students and the ruination of unions and pensions started a long time ago. Remember No Child Left Behind? Duncan? King? Vouchers? Charter Schools? These people and policies do nothing for us, the working class. They are unable to. They are part of the system-the capitalist system-that only seeks to enrich itself. Under Clinton it was ‘zero tolerance’. Our children were criminalized and incarcerated. Under Bush’s NCLB a single test determined the future of our children and tied the hands of our teachers. Obama accelerated the move towards Charters. In fact the latest education bill, ESSA has provisions for moves towards more privatization and the enrichment of testing companies like Pearson. Do not forget! All of these administrations carried out racist and anti-student policies.
At every opportunity, both Republican and Democratic administrations chipped away at public education. Insane regulations have been imposed on public school teachers, tying our hands on innovation and just plain good teaching while Charter schools continue to get a pass. They get the freedom to profit off the backs of (predominantly Black and brown) students while we are denied the freedom to teach.
DeVos has to go but that is not enough. We have to do everything to put the power back in Workers’ hands. As history shows us, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can do this. The capitalist state will never do for workers what we can and must do for our class. Every time there is a minor change, we accept it as ‘enough for now’. History shows us that until we, the workers control society, those crumbs will never be enough. History shows us that a vote for students must mean a vote for communism.

New Student Fighter vs. Racism
I attended the San Francisco Airport protest, my second protest ever (the women’s march in San Francisco was my first). It was really refreshing to be in an environment where everyone truly was there because they cared for the cause. It was so spur of the moment, so people had to make a decision to prioritize it really quickly. People weren’t there to take pictures and show off.
I was really surprised at how many people were there and how united everyone was. I thought there would be people with their own separate agendas that would complicate things, like some people deciding to be more violent, which wasn’t what I signed up for. I was really glad that people were united and made the victims of the racist oppression the focus, and not Donald Trump. There were some anti-Trump chants, but I thought it was more important that people focused on uniting people with their families and getting their human rights secured.
In a weird sense, I truly realized how terrible Trump’s policies are. It’s not like I thought it was no big deal when I heard his policies on immigration, but seeing all those people made it real. The fact that there were so many other people who were willing to show up and protest shows that it’s not something we can brush off. I felt like, “This stuff is happening and there is something to be done. I’m not crazy to think this is a big deal because other people do too.”

College Student: Lessons for the Struggle
Alongside strangers, friends from my college, and comrades, I demanded the release of the refugees being held at San Francisco Airport after Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. We chanted, discussed politics, and listened to speeches. The time my comrades and I spent in the international arrivals was as invigorating as it was necessary.
I began thinking of truisms to remember in the coming months: Inaction places you on the side of the oppressor. Compliance is a crime. There is nothing better than being united for a single, just cause. In this current political sphere, it it imperative we unite and fight. Unite and fight or become the one being fought. There is no victory if one controls all. Do not accept this as normal.  Support your comrades and yourself. Esoteric language helps no one. Whose side are you on?

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