Saturday
Mar112017

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.

Friday
Feb102017

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?

Thursday
Jan262017

Letters of February 8

Israel: I Won’t Let Mall Bosses Get Away with Wage Slavery
I am a contract worker in Israel who earns minimum wage of 24.88 shekels (6.48 US$) an hour, which is less than 1,300 US$ a month. This is not enough even for basic living expenses like rent and food despite hard work as a housekeeper at a shopping mall. The mall bosses prefer to hire manpower contractors, who receive a large sum per work-hour and pocket most of it, paying only a starvation wage to the workers.
For each dollar I earn, the contractor pockets another dollar, earned by my work, without him doing anything at all. In our mall, this is how they employ the housekeeping and security workers. The contractor gets rich at our expense, and the mall bosses gets “flexible employment”—that is, workers they can fire at a moment’s notice.
The contractor also skims our pay, sometimes refusing to pay us for our lunch breaks or for overtime.
I am a member of the Coalition for Direct Employment, a group of workers fighting back against contractors and their clients (such as the mall bosses). As part of my coalition activity, I underwent a leadership training program. Part of the program involved learning how to organize actual struggle.
Through the coalition, I organized a contract workers’ block at the Tel-Aviv Mayday march last year. This year, we are taking on the mall bosses. I prepared a video showing how contract work is exploitative and even economically expensive for the boss (a price the bosses are willing to pay for “flexible employment”). We sent it with a letter to the mall chain’s management with a letter demanding a transition to direct employment with rights and job security.
As expected, the bosses ignored our letter and video. We are now moving to the second stage—organizing picketing and leafleting at the malls to tell the public they are shopping at a place employing contract-slaves. The bosses will not get away with their blatant exploitation of housekeeping and security workers.
Winning this struggle will allow us, the contract workers, to breathe more easily and earn a living wage. However, even with direct employment, we will still remain wage slaves. Wage labor, in its most basic essence, means being exploited economically and being robbed of our basic human dignity. To change that, we will need to do far more than our current struggle—we will have to fight further towards revolution.


Fightback on Campus: March, Sit-In
On my usually conservative college campus in California, people had a rally of several hundreds on Inauguration day to protest the racist, sexist, nationalist Donald Trump. I was energized to see this multiracial crowd and some speeches that talked about class and profits as the source for our problems.
Other speeches were limited by divisive identity politics that urged white people to look inside themselves and reject “white supremacy.” The problem is not white people but our racist system that turns workers against each other. In fact, white workers were not the only ones to vote for Trump. More Latin workers voted for Trump than for Romney, the presidential candidate four years ago. Three times more Muslim workers voted for Trump than for Romney, too. Nobody is immune from racism. The real problem is not the working class but the capitalist system that feeds us racism instead of food when workers go hungry.
As we marched, people chanted fairly liberal chants like, “No justice, no peace!” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” When there was a break in the chants, I started chanting, “Racism means we got to fight back!” The crowd picked it up enthusiastically and soon, many people were chanting these chants louder than the liberal chants. I started sharing the bullhorn with one of the march leaders to lead more chants. It was so energizing and I was able to meet some cool people this way.
After the march, a multiracial group of students invited me to have a sit-in in front of the Wells Fargo Bank on campus. They are calling for my school to divest from Wells Fargo because it supports private prisons and the Dakota Access Pipeline. During the sit in, many students talked about capitalism as the source of our problems. We successfully challenged administration (one of whom had the nerve to tell us, “I’m a fighter from the 60s! I know how it is!” right after telling us that protesting is not the way to get what we want). We are excited to plan more direct actions, and I am excited to build better relationships with these students and fight back with them.

PL Studygroup Generates Debate, Fightback
As members of our PLP club participate in a mass organization, one of the many things we do is persistently build our PLP study group. Following is a report of the study group we had after the election of Donald Trump.
We have been having study groups for the past ten years throughout the time of our work in the mass organization, with lots of ups and downs and ongoing debate within the club. Twenty-three workers attended our last study group, most of whom were friends. The response was a bit greater than usual because our base wanted to discuss Trump, the Party’s analysis and fight back. We covered a range of topics: fear, imperialism and the inevitability of war, the power of the working class, religion, fascism and capitalism versus communism.
We spoke about Fidel Castro’s death, the history of Cuba and while acknowledging the advances in healthcare and education, we emphasized that the Party and the working class need to learn from the errors of the old movement. We must destroy the profit and wage system, money and the difference of so-called “value” of different kinds of work.
One comrade said we jumped around too much while others said it was good because everyone participated. In the club meeting that followed, we debated how and if to work with religious people, whether we are being “opportunist” or in fact are putting forward the Party’s ideas and confronting anti-communism.
A couple of new people at the study group said they’re in PLP, so our club will welcome them and begin the process of consolidating them to the Party.
At our next study group, we will talk about the history of building the international PLP in a couple of areas in Latin America.

Women’s March: Our Challenge Selling Experience
Two of us distributed Challenge at the Women’s March on NYC. We were short of papers from the current issue. I brought along 50 English and 10 Spanish from the current issue and 30 from the previous. We discussed the front-page headline “President Trump Will Carry On Obama’s Racist Legacy”  before we started distributing. I said the headline correctly described Obama’s racist policies. My friend did not disagree, but thought that people might misread the headline. I talked about Obama’s racist policies, including deportations and the targets of imperialist war. She said she would distribute the older issue.
We both got a good response from the marchers. But a few people did not take the current issue because of the headline. I decided to open up two other papers, one to the second page which said, “It’s not just Trump, it’s Capitalism” and another to the page that had an article about the women’s march, while still holding up the front page headline. By this time, my friend was also distributing the current issue.
As people walked by, I said in a loud voice that the Obama administration had dropped over 26,000 bombs last year alone, and had deported 2.4 million immigrants between 2009 and 2014. Not one person disagreed or said anything negative during the half hour or so that I kept it up. Quite a few enthusiastically agreed. My friend got into good conversations with several people. We also encountered a woman who told us her father used to work on CHALLENGE 30 years ago, and another friendly former comrade with a sign attacking racism and sexism.
Going into the sale, I thought anticipated a lukewarm response because of the headline. But I decided before the distribution that I had to be aggressive and creative in order to combat my doubts. In retrospect, however, I think we should have asked for donations from the marchers. I think we would have collected a good amount of money.
In conclusion, comrades and friends, be bold when we sell the paper, give the working class and others a chance to hear us out, and ask people for money for our common cause. We have a world to win!

Thursday
Oct132016

Letters of October 26

Student Distributes Challenge, Fights Cynicism
I just started my first year at an elite college on the west coast. I expected people to be fairly apathetic about racism and sexism. But already I have found so many who are open to hearing about communist politics. Just today, I gave CHALLENGE to two people! Here are a couple anecdotes:
I was watching Pulp Fiction with about ten people. One guy really loves Quentin Tarantino movies, like I do, so I struck up a conversation with him. I brought up that some people call Tarantino racist for using the n-word a lot. We talked about how it factors into capitalist culture. I introduced the idea of communism, and how we don’t need to reuse such terrible racist and sexist words. We can just get rid of them!
This small exchange sparked a two-hour conversation where we talked about everything from elections to internationalism to human nature. In the middle of our conversation, he stopped to tell me that coming here, he had a lot of ideas about how “white people are.” He thanked me for showing him that not all white people are the same, and that if I am antiracist, he knows there are other white people who are, too. After talking for such a long time, I gave him the paper. He said he would read it and tell me what he thought.
Another exchange I had today was at brunch. Someone brought up that they went to Brooklyn Tech high school. I asked if she was involved in the antisexist, antiracist dress-code protests. It turns out, she was and has seen CHALLENGE, and knows a comrade at the school! We talked for an hour and a half about what kind of society we fight for and some of the successes and failures of the Soviet Union. I’m going to give her the paper every issue now.
Coming here, not knowing anyone, I was worried about being so open with my communist politics. I thought people would reject them for various reasons. I feel so energized and excited to help wage the antiracist, antisexist fight out here. May those who read this feel emboldened to bring these ideas and CHALLENGE to their coworkers, classmates, and friends!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
APHA: Overcoming Racism One Button at a Time
On September 8, the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) held its annual conference. This year the focus was on Health Equity and Overcoming Racism. The all-day conference had about 80 students and young professionals who were excited that “Overcoming Racism” was the theme although there had been considerable debate about the theme prior to the conference. Two PLP communists raised issues of police violence, background checks and environmental justice.
During the conference, one PL’er spoke about the fight against racist white supremacy groups in California and mentioned the   protest against the KKK in Anaheim, CA in February. She explained that we were collecting $1 for the No Racism buttons for the Anaheim Legal Defense Fund and said that her son-in-law was beaten by the Anaheim cops.  After that, one woman donated $5 for the button and the Fund.
It is important to show the personal side of the political struggle. It helps folks focus on how capitalism affects individuals and how to help concretely. This is true more than ever; cops are still shooting unarmed Black and Latin men and women without consequences. People get overloaded and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the struggle and need to be able to contribute to building the movement.
The conference led to over 20 people signing up for our Health Equity Committee and we are making plans to expand our outreach and advocacy around HIV and Hepatitis C. There is also interest in issues of police violence and mass incarceration with a focus on elderly prisoners and returning residents from other countries.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
 No Revolution in the BeyHive
Don’t judge, but I attended the Beyoncé Formation concert. Bey has been getting credit for being “woke.” But, there’s no radical politics here—just fake liberation submerged in profit making and cult-making.  
In addition to her new album’s hits, Bey performed some throwback songs like “Bootylicious.”  During that song, she lifted her golden shirt to reveal her clothed backside. And the crowd was in an uproar.
This obsession with the buttocks is firmly grounded in scientific racism. At the beginning of the slave trade, “scientists” had used the posterior as one borderline between “savage” African women and “civilized” European women. The most famous example of this was Saartijie Baartman, a khoisan woman stolen from South Africa who was paraded as a freak show exhibition throughout Europe for her body. She would come out of a grass hut and dance and sing for the audience. Many in the audience would grab her behind. For many, Baartman today represents imperialist exploitation and racism. The bosses’ media and culture make racism and exploitation normal by sexualizing it—forcing us to internalize these racist and sexist images.
Empowerment for Bey is still about selling capitalism through Black female bodies and sex—that’s nothing new. As I witnessed her toned legs in a Victorian leotard, I thought, “Is this supposed to be empowering?”
Communists have a different standard for young beauty and women’s leadership. Our role is to speak up against racism and sexism in our schools. We derive confidence from fighting back, and from our contribution to the working class—not from slayin’ while dressed in antebellum Southern regalia.
In fact, Bey’s true role as a ruling-class instrument is apparent in the song “Formation.” She sings, “I’m a Black Bill Gates in the making…always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.” Tools of polite politics and competition to get to the top belong to the bosses.
By using images of Black mothers who lost their children to police terror, of the environmental racism unleashed in the form of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Bey appropriates working-class culture for her own agenda—churning images of rage into ones of Black capitalist success. (Beyoncé and Jay Z’s combined network is $1 billion (CNN Money, 2/8).
But, Beyoncé, in addition to feeding into an industry that lives off the shaming of women’s bodies, profits directly off of sexism. I found out about her new clothing line at the concert. The stated goal of her label Ivy Park with the British company Topshop is, “Celebrate every woman and the body she’s in while always striving to be better.” Of course that motto didn’t include the women in Sri Lanka making 64 cents per hour for a company with a net worth of $6.7 billion (Huffington Post, 5/26). So much for female empowerment.
But I’m not for female empowerment either. Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and I are not in the same class. I’m part of the class that works, and my empowerment is through liberating my class’s labour from bondage.
Beyoncé is thriving because she is the best capitalism can offer young women, especially Black, Latin, and South Asian women. At a time of such low class struggle, is Bey the best working-class women can hope for? Not at all! Music is an expression of the human experience. When class struggle rages again, when communists have an international influence over the masses, the rhythm of human experience will be melodious, liberating. Don’t believe me? Listen to Nina Simone—the content and form of her music will make you woke. No slayin’ required. Hopefully that will inspire us to create music that voices the working-class struggle and fightback.
So for anyone part of the Beyhive, next time you hear “6 Inch Heels,” just remember, “She works for the money.” Beyoncé is no sister of mine. And I ain’t sorry to admit that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday
Sep012016

Letters of September 14

No Way Around Boots on the Ground
“Russian Imperialism Strikes Back” (CHALLENGE, 8/31) leads with a quote from a Russian official regarding modern warfare that minimizes the use of ground forces. Opening the editorial with this quote created the impression that the major imperialists can avoid having to put large numbers of troops on the ground. It reinforces the misleading idea that technology is more important than politics.
Warfare is continually changing—long-range missiles, cyber attacks, and drones are all ways the major capitalists have of killing people from long distances. The thing that hasn’t changed is the need for boots on the ground to hold and consolidate power.
The last major war the U.S. won was World War II. When I was in West Germany as an Army private in the early 1980s, there were approximately 500,000 U.S. troops in a country the size of Oregon, nearly 40 years after the war. We would go on maneuvers with columns of armored personnel carriers, tanks and artillery pieces across the German countryside. We’d set up in farmers’ fields and along country roads, basically wherever the U.S. wanted. We drove freely through thousand-year-old towns without fear of being shot, as the Army would “compensate” property owners for damage caused by our vehicles that plowed through. That is what winning a war looks like.
Since WWII, the inability of the U.S. military to win the fight on the ground has defined the U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—every major war the U.S. has fought in the last 60 years. Losing a lost ground war means giving up half the country (Korea) or being forced out (Vietnam). Same for Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. was mainly contained within its compounds, venturing out on fewer and fewer missions because of the inability to win working-class soldiers and Marines to willingly die in the numbers it would take for the U.S. bosses to prevail.
Winning ground wars requires an army with a relatively high level of political commitment, at least higher than the other side. As the CHALLENGE editorial points out, the Russian chief’s hope that they can succeed with asymmetrical warfare reflects wishful thinking in the face of the Russian rulers’ political and strategic problems, a fact the U.S. bosses are also struggling with. The editorial would have been better if that point had been made clearly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Big Terrorists Fund Little Terrorists
In “Capitalism in Crisis,” (7/27) CHALLENGE said, Hillary Clinton is “leading the charge for a more aggressive U.S. intervention in Syria.” Whenever the proxy war in Syria is mentioned, let’s be clear that all the Turkish and U.S. backed rebels that were vetted are aligned with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al Nusra, the Turkistan Islamic Party, or Jaish al Islam. The Civil War in Syria basically boils down to four sides:  The Kurd’s and their allies to the north, the Syrian government, Islamic State (ISIS), and a hodge podge of group the Western press dubs “the rebels”.
These rebels either tactically coordinate with, organize attacks with, strategically plan with, share weapons with, fight side by side with, and all around depend upon organizations considered terrorists by the big terrorists like the U.S.’s NATO and Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Cooperation Council. These groups are responsible for crimes as horrible as filming and uploading themselves beheading a ten-year-old Palestinian boy who they accused of being a spy or soldier. They attempt to impose their fascistic religious rule wherever they conquer land and are vehemently anti-working class. One carefully vetted group gave a high tech Russian T-90 tank that they had captured to Jabhat al Nusra,  because their religious court legally ordered them to do so!
The U.S. relies upon the myth of a moderate opposition when they discuss regime change in Syria because they don’t want their working class knowing that they same organization that killed thousands in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 are now being directly and indirectly supported by their imperialist ambitions. Al Zinki, the group responsible for beheading the child, was a carefully vetted group that left the umbrella of the U.S. with all the weapons they were covertly provided with and have fully aligned with the jihadis fighting the Syrian Government. These groups routinely shell the Kurds with their artillery and have killed hundreds of Kurdish civilians since they hate the Kurds as much, or possibly more than, they hate the government. They have wiped out whole villages in northern Syria and transplanted various other Sunni groups to take them over in a new form of colonialization.
There are no good sides in the proxy war that is the Syrian Civil War. Whoever wins, the working class there will still lose. The Kurds espouse left ideas, and still make deals to buy oil from ISIS and have never discussed the need to abolish capitalism. Whenever we discuss Syria, we need to hit home the point that the U.S. is so hypocritical that they are actually arming, funding, and helping al Qaeda because it is geostrategically opportunistic to do so now. Hillary wants regime change there which means that she wants these Jihadi groups to take over and murder countless Yazidi, Christian, and Alawite workers. We need to expose these imperialists for what they are, murderers for the highest bidder.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaming Capitalists Out of Profiteering? Not!
Under the headline, “Advocates hope that shaming drugmakers will stop price hikes,” major news corporations like PBS recently reported that a law is being considered in California to require drug companies to announce planned price hikes in advance. As though drug companies have a sense of shame that will inhibit their tremendous profit grabbing if they are forced to make them public.
Corporations claim that they are people in order to obtain legal protections that people theoretically enjoy. But companies are not people, even though people run them. If they were, they would have not only the “rights” that people are supposedly entitled to, but they would also acquire the responsibilities and obligations that are forced on people. As it is, corporations do enjoy the rights and privileges that people actually rarely do, but have none of the responsibilities and obligations that are said to go with them. For example, corporations are not required to pay to rescue banks from failures or clean up rivers they pollute with toxic chemicals. It is the working class who is forced to pay with our taxes and bear the health effects.
The drug companies, naturally, oppose the “shaming” bill, and declare, “It would lead to dangerous drug shortages.” That is, the drug companies will hold for ransom medicines that many people need if the legislature requires them to publicize their outrageous price hikes.
And that is the way capitalism works. Either the capitalist government is allowed the drug companies to make unconscionable profits, or they can try to force them to make smaller profits and, as a result, cause patients to suffer who need the medicines to stay alive.
A system built on the foundation of profits, along with the myth that everything good for the working class will follow from that, is a system that cannot do anything but protect profits. Even if there were legislators who really did try to represent the interests of the working-class public, they would be completely helpless in the face of the way the system works every day.
On the other hand, if drugs were created and distributed by a workers’ government made by and for the working class that’s based on meeting our needs, then and only then could this problem be solved. That system is communism. This is but one example of the way the profit system kills and that communism would provide life and health.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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