Friday
Sep152017

Letters of August 30

Chicago Project Helped Me Counter Black Nationalism and other Anti-Worker Ideas
One of the things that I took from the Chicago July Project experience was the idea that we need more multiracial unity in order to fight the system and not be split by identity politics and nationalism. Coming from a Black Nationalist family, I asked a white comrade about his family’s experience with Irish nationalism. He told me about how the British used different religions to oppress and divide and reap maximum profits from the Irish even though they are “white.”
With this knowledge in mind, I was able to talk to a worker who took the paper but was saying how we need Black Nationalism. I countered with the experiences of workers in Africa and the Caribbean to show how capitalism oppresses workers no matter the bosses’ skin color. He ended up giving a donation as well. The enthusiasm of my fellow comrades gave me more confidence to approach workers who I wouldn’t normally and it led to good conversations and more donations.
When I went to Chicago, I was initially apprehensive. I had bad preconceived ideas of how dangerous the working-class neighborhoods were from mainstream, capitalist media. The labor history tour showed me the real history of working class Chicago. It showed me the error of my thought that it is just gangs and violence. It really showed me how capitalism divides the working class immigrant populations and created the gangs.
I hope to take these experiences to help struggle with my family who have these ideas. I hope I can show them CHALLENGE and move them in the right direction. I am excited to attend next year’s summer project.

In Cuba, I Organized to Defend Revolution
I am a communist and was raised in Cuba.  I was four years old at the triumph of the revolution. I was raised during a period when socialism was being built in a country where the communist party led this process.  I was a member of the communist youth and was involved in the revolutionary process until the collapse of the old communist movement due to all the mistakes made building socialism to get to communism.  
Yet, in Cuba mass organizations were created, most of the people were in these organizations.  For example, the Committees to Defend the Revolution, where people organized against imperialist attacks.  Through these committees we would volunteer to take care of the properties on the block, we wouldn’t let any felon do their misdeeds.  
Before becoming law, all bills were discussed in the Peoples’ Power Assemblies and through out the country in mass organizations such as: Federación De Mujeres Cubanas, Federación Estudiantil Universitaria, Federación Estudiantil De La Enseñanza Media And Central De Trabajadores De Cuba.  After discussing the bills, adding or deleting something, after the changes the masses demanded were made, finally those bills were approved by the National Assembly.
The revolutionary committees and other organizations organized the different actions, amongst which was the mass agricultural mobilizations to plant and harvest the different products needed.  

Friday
Jul282017

Letters of August 9

Healthcare Workers Fight to Unionize, Defy Management

Workers at Morris Heights Health Center in the Bronx are celebrating after voting overwhelmingly to unionize and join 1199 today. The organizing drive was initially spearheaded primarily by Black and Latin women at our center—nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and social workers. The struggle only triumphed, though, after they won the support of the most numerous and oppressed workers—the medical assistants, school health assistants, clerical staff, maintenance workers, and others.
Management did their best to defeat the organizing drive, distributing letters and emails urging the workers to vote no, meeting with them in small groups at their job sites, and in a last ditch effort, calling a center wide “town hall meeting.”  After years of disrespect and being underpaid, workers spoke volumes at that management-sponsored meeting, rejecting their claim that we didn’t need a union because “we are family.” On the day of the election, there was a palpable buzz of expectation and empowerment from this struggle. One co-worker who regularly reads CHALLENGE had the issue with the headline “Demolish Racism” boldly displayed on her desk, a response that inspired me to share PL’s ideas even more.
Management further tried to divide the workers by attempting to prevent “professionals” (Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistant, so forth) from participating in the election and joining the union by claiming that they too are supervisory staff. In fact, the ballot of the professional staff had an additional question to vote on, essentially asking if we are willing to be represented by a union with “non-professionals.” The resounding answer was YES.
The point of being organized is to stand together as one and fight for each other. We want one union, and our own union should not have separate divisions. There may be different job functions, but the important issue is that our strength is in our unity. In the end, workers from all categories stood shoulder to shoulder against the administration’s desperate attempts at divisiveness and intimidation. We all understand that the real struggle is about to begin in our fight for a decent contract, and we will carry our solidarity forward to the negotiation phase of this struggle.
At a time when every aspect of workers’ lives is under attack in this country, our solidarity is a breath of fresh air for all. We see the increasing anti-immigrant and racist violence in daily life across the country and globally. We see the worsening poverty and its disastrous effects up close and personal in our community here in the Bronx. We see the disparate healthcare issues in poor communities of color, the pervasive unemployment, and sadly, we see that the future is not bright for the youth in our school clinics. Our unity is an indication that we can overcome the divisions and racism that this country was founded on, and fight together to end this system that is oppressing and exploiting all workers.
It is important that we at MHHC, who are dedicated to serving one of the most oppressed communities in this country, fight back for a better life. Many of the workers at MHHC in fact come from this same community. Our resolve to stand together can be an inspiration for others to fight back in these increasingly difficult times. It gives us hope that some day we can rid ourselves entirely of the capitalist system that is destroying us and our families.

*****

Political Economy 101: Exploitation of Workers
This summer project has been a fantastic continuation of the Progressive Labor Party’s yearlong work! It is fitting that we found ourselves in Chicago, arguably ground zero now for U.S. bosses’ assaults on the working-class.
The racist Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system is cutting $46 million from its budget, which targets mainly Black and Latin students (who make up nine out of 10 CPS students). Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped suppress information about his kkkops’ racist murder of Black youth Laquan McDonald. And recently, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train operators passed a strike-authorization vote—the CTA has forced them to work without a contract in squalid conditions for over a year.
The CTA attacks also have a sexist nature to them. Many CTA bus drivers are Black women, who have no access to private rooms to pump breast milk. All the drivers also deal with disgusting port-o-potties the CTA expects them to use during routes.
We held a strong CHALLENGE sale at one of the CTA bus barns. Most workers were receptive. One woman worker who took the paper noted the sell-out union contract bans any actual strike actions. The bosses and the union leaders work together to stop workers from fighting back! To win we have to break the bosses’ rules. We run the trains and we can shut them down. And we’ll never see revolution if we can’t even defy the bosses’ laws!
At another sale at a train station in the city’s Southside area, we got a chance to put working-class theory into action. One comrade met a 17-year-old homeless Black youth. Even though the sale was over, we stayed until we were able to find him a shelter, buy him some food, and offer transportation money. That’s the spirit of communism—sharing resources equally, and not hoarding them.
But perhaps the most important development came during a discussion on political economy, later that day. We all agree that workers of all colors are exploited to varying degrees, with Black workers being super-exploited. However, while we agreed that white workers are also exploited, are they “oppressed?” We argued back and forth about what that term means to our class. I initially said that white workers are exploited, but not oppressed in the sense of laws passed directly disenfranchising them. Black workers, on the other hand, have lived that reality in AmeriKKKa for ages.
But then I wondered—the U.S. ruling class once passed laws limiting Eastern European immigration. Irish workers dealt with direct discrimination in job hiring during the 19th century. So is that an accurate interpretation of the term? I don’t know, but realized it is an imperative conversation to keep on having, as we fight for communism. I’ll remember this Summer Project for years to come!
*
My First Communist Speech
This Summer Project in Chicago was an eye opening experience. The city has such a rich history of class struggle and worker fight back: from the Haymarket Square Riots to being the blueprint for residential segregation and the birthplace of a 14-year-old boy whose murder spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement [Emmett Till was beaten and lynched while visiting Mississippi in 1955, for supposedly whistling at a white woman, who later recanted her original story. Emmett’s mother chose to have an open casket at his funeral in Chicago, to show the world what racism had done. Tens of thousands attended the funeral or viewed his open casket. Photographs of his mutilated body were published all over the United States and galvanized the young Civil Rights Movement]. Being here with PLP, and the work being done here is adding to that history.
Part of the project was looking into the healthcare industry and its racist oppression of workers. We had a rally outside Cook County hospital, and for the first time I made a speech on the bullhorn. At prior rallies, I have done chants on the bullhorn but not a full-fledged speech. I discussed the racist policies plaguing the healthcare system. For example, I pointed out the lack of treatment for common ailments (diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, and the like). Also how all workers, but especially Black and Latin workers receive subpar care in comparison to the ruling class. The greedy bosses in hospitals, in pharmaceuticals, and other businesses in medicine have turned healing the sick into another way of making profits. As someone who works in health advocacy and equity, this sickens me. But it is this anger I have towards people who exploit the healthcare of workers as well as the optimism I have for the future that drives me to work harder. Talking about healthcare under a communist society will be helpful when I bring that back to my friends and
coworkers. Especially as it is now clearer to me that healthcare is achievable for all workers.  
*****
Hiroshima & Nagasaki: U.S. Bosses Guilty of Genocide
August 6 and 9, 2017, mark the 72nd anniversaries of the two largest terrorist attacks in human history: The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S. military in 1945. In the past, CHALLENGE has well-documented the real reasons behind the bomb dropped on Hiroshima: (1) To warn the then-socialist Soviet Union that the U.S. had an atomic bomb and that the U.S. would not hesitate to use it, and (2) to end the war with Japan before the Soviet Union could become part of the surrender negotiations, even though Japan had already offered to surrender and Truman had rebuffed the very same offer that was accepted following use of the bombs.
But why was a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki? The story behind the second bomb is even more horrendous (if that is possible) than the first one. It turns out that the U.S. military developed two different designs for an atomic bomb. The designs differed in the atomic fuel (uranium vs. plutonium) and the method used to actually detonate the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb had been tested in July 1945 in the New Mexico desert. But the other design had not. So what did the racist, murderous U.S. ruling class decide to do? They “tested” the other design by dropping a second bomb on Nagasaki.
I can’t think of anything that any ruling class has done that even comes close to what the U.S. ruling class has done and continues to do to the world’s working class, both nationally and internationally. I hope that we can use this anniversary to rededicate our efforts to rid the world of capitalism, the most deadly, racist, and sexist economic-political system in history.
*****
March to Commemorate 1967 Newark Rebellion
On July 12, several hundred folks gathered for a march and memorial to the men and women who were shot by the police and National Guard during the 1967 Newark rebellion. People testified as to how there were no roof snipers, as reported, or “senseless rioting.” Many of the scores of victims were shot as they sat in their own apartments.
A Newark cab driver, John Smith, had been arrested for an alleged traffic violation. Cab drivers and Newark residents demonstrated outside the precinct, and five days of fight back began. The reaction followed years of racist harassment and oppression, much like the events leading up to the Ferguson rebellion.
At the memorial, a woman read the ballistic record of the victims, citing the names of 27 killed, one as young as 10, another 73 years old.  All were recorded as having “insufficient evidence as to cause of death,” except for one man whose body contained bullet fragments. The woman explained how her pregnant mother had been shot—a line of bullets running from her stomach to her ear—while she sat by the window of her living room caring for other children.
The rally was organized by the People’s Organization for Progress, a reform group that believes in community oversight of the police and the need for revolution, but without changing capitalism. The main spokesperson referenced how racism has been used to divide and conquer the working class, but without mentioning the necessity for Black/white unity to forge the struggle for progress.
One hundred CHALLENGEs were sold. People showed interest in the recent article on the Harlem
rebellion of 1964. One man, who had come in a wheelchair, noted that he had been a part of the Harlem rebellion. Another man asked for two copies of the paper, and said he knew one of our comrades who had been a leader of Progressive Labor at that time.
*****

Thursday
Jul132017

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].
*****

Sunday
Apr092017

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.

Thursday
Mar232017

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!

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