Monthly Archives: January 2008

Red Mechanics Needed:Detroit: Totaled by U.S. Capitalism

DETROIT, MI — “There are not enough park benches in the state to accommodate all the homeless people that are being created.” That’s how one worker who faces losing her home described the sub-prime mortgage crisis that is affecting one out of every 21 homeowners here. Another said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black. All working-class people are going through the same thing. We’re all just one step from being on the corner asking for food and money.”

The home foreclosure rate here is the second highest in the country, and eight times the national average. Fifty years ago, when GM, Ford and Chrysler ruled the auto world, Detroit had the highest rate of home ownership of any major city in the U.S., and the highest median income. Today, with those same auto bosses fighting for their lives, and being increasingly challenged on their home turf, Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the U.S., with a median household income of only $35,500. Gambling casinos have replaced closed factories and there is hardly a supermarket or movie theater within the city limits. This is one of the clearest examples of the racism that is built into the profit system, as about 75% of Detroiters are black.

Since 2000, the metro area has lost 126,000 jobs. Many of those affected by layoffs and the recent wave of UAW-negotiated auto contracts are also facing foreclosure. In August, foreclosure notices were served on 260 homes per day. In the fall, the Wayne County treasurer’s office published a 121-page list of foreclosures. According to the Detroit News, more than 70,000 homes in the tri-county metro Detroit area entered some phase of foreclosure between January 2006 and September 2007. In some Detroit neighborhoods, the rate was 1 in 7 homes. This represents more than 250,000 active and retired workers and their children. Another wave of foreclosures will hit in March 2008, when many more adjustable mortgages will reset to a higher rate.


On December 14, hundreds of workers lined up for the “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles Job Fair.” The Army was seeking more than 500 civilian welders, heavy mobile equipment mechanics, production controllers, administrative assistants, supply technicians and quality control specialists. The workers were hoping to earn between $138,000 and $212,000 for working 12-hours a day, seven days a week for 366 days in Iraq!

The deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command said, “When an economy is down, we have more opportunities to get qualified applicants.” The young black worker, who makes $50,000 a year working two full-time security guard jobs said, “…the neighborhood I live in, it’s no different than Iraq. I’m not scared.”

This is a long way from the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, where Army brass was literally under fire, from Vietnam to Detroit, from Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers. It’s also a long way from the role played by young black Vietnam vets and auto workers who rebelled in solidarity with their Vietnamese brothers and sisters. But the collapse of the old communist movement gave the bosses a new lease on life. It opened the door to decades of massive racist attacks with little or no fight-back and very little class consciousness.


This past summer, the Detroit News examined economic conditions that sparked the Detroit Rebellion, and found:
•Detroit blacks had less buying power in 2000 than in 1967,
•In 2000, black median family income was down 6 percent from 1970, while white median income rose 18 percent,
•In 2005, blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than whites – the same gap that existed in 1960.
Overall, there is more poverty in the U.S. now than 40 years ago and the poverty rate is about triple for black and Latin workers than for white workers. What’s more, the level of racist police terror and the rate of incarceration are far more oppressive than anyone could have imagined back then. The schools are much worse.

As with every crisis or “natural disaster,” from sub-prime mortgages to Hurricane Katrina, black workers get hit first and hardest. Racism is at the very core of capitalism, created to justify slavery and the very cord that holds the whole profit system together. And while billions are lost on Wall St., and a few heads roll, millions of workers, children and the elderly are having their lives wrecked by the bosses and bankers. Building a mass PLP and increasing the base for CHALLENGE newspaper is the only way to answer the racist horrors of capitalism.
While this sub-prime crisis is very serious for the bankers and bosses, it is important to remember that the bosses can survive any crisis, even defeat in imperialist war. The only crisis they can’t survive is communist revolution. And the future of that movement is in our hands, not theirs.

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Bhutto’s Party and Musharraf, Two Sides of Capitalist Coin

The recent murder of Benazir Bhutto released the pent-up fury of workers and youth in Pakistan against the repressive and exploitative military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. Workers and youth clashed with the police and army in cities nation-wide. Fifty-eight were killed, 89 injured, 800 shops, 185 banks, 27 railway stations and 13 polling stations burned.

Benazir Bhutto, was a former prime minister and chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). She had recently returned from exile to take part in elections after a deal with Musharraf worked out with the U.S. and Britain. Her assassination blew up that deal. (See Jan. 16 CHALLENGE on how that was a big blow to the U.S.-U.K. “war on terror,” and on the inter-imperialist rivalry behind events in Pakistan.)

But even though Bhutto’s murder sparked the masses’ fury, it was really fueled by a smoldering discontent with the country’s rigid class system, poverty, oppression and a widening gap between the rich and poor. Despite a rapidly-expanding economy, conditions for the working class have worsened as the cost of basic necessities rise and wages fall.

New anti-labor laws strip away previously-won rights to organize. Among 20 million industrial workers only two million have contracts, leaving 18 million who can be fired at any time and paid as bosses see fit. Workers have no social security, health care or pensions. In a population of 168 million, (the 6th most populous country on Earth) 70% are agricultural workers, many of them “housewives” who work without pay, and landless peasants dependent on wealthy landlords for survival. Forced labor and child labor are common.

Privatization is making bosses even richer. The government is handing over the country’s state-owned utilities and major industries to individuals, often army officials. As the new bosses “downsize,” workers lose jobs. Privatization of colleges, which previously received government funding, means that working-class youth cannot afford an education.

Benazir Bhutto was part of the same capitalist class, as corrupt as the generals who run the country and dominate its businesses and banking sectors. In her two terms as prime minister she acquired immeasurable wealth. Her husband, known as “Mr. Ten Percent,” served eight years in jail for extortion. Before the assassination, Benazir was facing corruption charges.

The Bhutto family, among the biggest landowners in the southwest province of Sindh, has feudal-like control over the lives of thousands of landless peasants and sharecroppers and sees the PPP as its personal domain. The PPP’s first chairperson was Benazir’s father; her will names her 19-year-old son as heir to the party’s leadership.

The PPP was founded in 1967 during a fierce revolutionary-type fight-back. In 1968-69, under the influence of a worldwide anti-Vietnam War movement and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, workers occupied factories, peasants surrounded landed estates and youth took to the streets. This anti-capitalist movement cut across ethnic and national lines, uniting around one slogan: “Revolution! Socialist Revolution!” It nearly overthrew the government but failed because the movement had no party with the strategy of taking state power. In addition, many workers joined the PPP, attracted by its stated aim of a classless society, only to be misled into the dead-end struggle of reforming capitalism through electoral politics.

The PPP leadership, acting in its own class interest, deflected the revolutionary aspirations of the masses and never delivered on its promise of ending exploitation. Her government also helped prop up the fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan and led to the Taliban. Yet some workers still look to the PPP as the way forward.

But revolutionary ideas can be embedded in workers’ consciousness. They surfaced in the mass movement of the 1980s and are present again today as Pakistan falls into political turmoil. Revolutionaries of the 1960s missed the historical opportunity to take power. Now the working class is organizing again and learning from its past mistakes, as well as from the experiences of revolutionaries worldwide, that the fight for a classless society is not for socialism but for communism.

(This is the first part of a series on current struggles in Pakistan.)

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Unity With African, Arab Workers Critical to Union Fight vs. French Bosses, Hacks

PARIS, January 9 — Workers are searching for effective ways to fight the government’s continuing attacks on them. The next test of strength will be a public workers’ strike on January 24.

Yesterday President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted he wants to abolish the 35-hour work-week and impose racist immigration quotas. On January 6, Budget and Civil Service Minister Eric Woerth repeated his refusal to uniformly raise public workers’ wages, which fell 6% between 2000 and 2006 due to inflation. Wage negotiations for public workers will begin January 14.

On November 20, some two million public and private workers struck for higher wages. (See CHALLENGE, 11/28/07 and 12/12/07) When Woerth refused to consider an across-the-board wage hike on Dec. 19, six union federations representing public workers called for demonstrations and a strike on January 24. Five teachers’ unions joined the strike call, demanding higher wages and protesting the government’s decision to eliminate 11,200 jobs.

Education Minister Xavier Darcos then announced he will test strike-breaking “minimum service” in public schools in at least four cities that have signed strike-breaking contracts with the national government. Scabs will baby-sit pupils to keep them in school and not disrupt parents’ work schedules, minimizing the strike’s impact.

Scabs will be paid with money docked from the strikers’ wages. The unions denounced “minimum service” as an assault on the right to strike.

These attacks stem from the inter-imperialist rivalry that is pressing the bosses in each country to drive for maximum profits by taking them out of the pockets of the working class, smashing the social contract that has existed since World War II. Only international working-class unity can begin to meet these attacks.

Increasingly, workers here realize that they must meet escalating government attacks with greater working-class unity across public sector-private sector divisions. Responding to this rank-and-file pressure, the FO union confederation called for private-sector workers to join the January 24 demonstrations, but stopped short of calling on them to strike.

The SUD-Education union in northern Brittany issued a sarcastic statement denouncing “an isolated, one-day strike by only public workers,” asking why the major trade unions insist on: (1) pursuing the losing 24-hour-strike strategy, (2) negotiating crumbs while abandoning fundamental demands, and (3) allying with the government’s effort to smash the welfare state. SUD-Education 22 nevertheless backed the strike call.

Several recent developments underlined workers’ and students’ combative mood. The public television union is calling for a strike to oppose plans to merge the five public TV companies and lay off workers.
The CFE-CGC nurses’ union is calling for a strike to protest unpaid overtime hours. Each nurse is owed an average of 70 hours overtime pay from 2007.

Tolbiac University students here voted to strike and occupy university buildings to protest Sarkozy’s “reforms.” Classes were disrupted and cancelled, and access to elevators was blocked. The students condemned “the privatization of the universities, and the axing of some academic departments,” and also raised the anti-racist demand of “papers for all undocumented immigrants.”

This is an important step in making the fight against racism central to workers’ and students’ overall demands. The rank and file must link their struggle to that of African and Arab workers and youth against racist unemployment and police terror. Otherwise, the rulers will have accomplished their goal of dividing and weakening the entire working class.

Nevertheless, as of today, the CFDT union confederation — whose leader was denounced as a sellout and expelled by angry workers from the November 20 Paris march — still wanted to look at government proposals before considering joining the strike.

These pro-capitalist union misleaders will push workers to the bottom. Communist leadership is needed to turn workers’ and students’ growing frustration with the union hacks’ betrayals into an understanding that only communist revolution can abolish the whole capitalist system, with its bosses, reactionary governments and labor fakers.


Battle for Resources Behind Endless Wars in Africa

The bosses’ mass media reports about Africa only when Madonna or Angelina Jolie adopts another baby or when another massacre or tragedy occurs. But they rarely explain what’s really happening there. This series will present a communist analysis of events on that continent.

Kenya is the latest victim of a combination of imperialist super-exploitation of Africa’s workers and its resources and how crooked capitalist politicians use tribal politics to pursue their own interests. For many years, there was little tribal conflict in modern Kenya; people basically got along. U.S. and British imperialists used Kenya as a base to invest, super-exploit and wage their “war on terror” in the region. But amid growing inter-imperialist rivalry and capitalist economic turmoil, the imperialist-created “stability” of Kenya was bound to fail.

The power struggle between President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga sparked an explosion. Kibaki stole the December election and now refuses to give Odinga a piece of the action despite calls by Koffin Annan, Barack Obama (whose father is Kenyan), Gordon Brown (UK Prime Minister) and Condi Rice. Hundreds have died in clashes between supporters of both politicians, and 500,000 now need immediate relief because of this politicians’ dogfight.

4 Million Killed in Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has again erupted into a bloody civil war, particularly in its Eastern region. It’s being labeled a re-play of the fight between Tutsis and Hutus that led to the murder of hundreds of thousands in Rwanda and Burundi over a decade ago.

A front-page NY Times article (1/10) reported: “The recent clashes in eastern Congo…have exacted a grievous toll on a region ravaged by a decade of war. Around 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, thousands of women have been raped and hundreds of children have been press-ganged into militias, the United Nations says….But the fighting is also rekindling the kind of ethnic hatred that previously dragged this region into the most deadly conflict since World War II.”
The rebels fighting the Congo army are Tutsis, who many see representing the Rwandan rulers who aim to control this part of the Congo. But while this conflict is defined as involving ethnic and tribal politics, economic and political factors are really behind this endless war in that country. (Since the 1990s, this war has killed over four million people, beginning with the fall of long-time strongman Mobutu, a rabid anti-communist first installed by the CIA and then propped up in his last few years by French imperialism).

The real fight is over the region’s mineral wealth — gold, diamonds and coltan (used in ballistic missiles and cell phones) are among the many lucrative minerals mined there. Usually, local bosses and generals work as subcontractors for multi-national corporations from Europe, the U.S. and South Africa which buy and trade these minerals.

(Future articles will explore the role of inter-imperialist rivalry in the misery of Africa; Chinese and Russian energy giants’ involvement in the imperialist power game, from Darfur to Nigeria; Pentagon creation of a new command to protect U.S. imperialist interests in the region; and how the powerful working class of South Africa and Nigeria can play an important role — if given red leadership — in helping liberate all of Africa from imperialism and their local capitalist lackeys.)

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Transportation Workers Can Be Key Force for Revolution

For several weeks last fall, French transit workers engaged in a series of strikes to defend their pensions and jobs. Other workers and students also struck. Meanwhile, the cops murdered two youths, sparking an anti-racist rebellion of African and Arab youth. It is inter-imperialist rivalry that is spawning increased racist attacks on our living standards worldwide, attacks which impel these strikes and rebellions.

French bosses are using president Sarkozy to attack industrial workers and youth, shredding the old social contract. The pro-capitalist union leaders refuse to counter these attacks. The bosses have their strategy for the future; what is ours?

The major imperialist powers are freely investing capital globally. New transportation and communications systems are creating rapid, mass migration of workers. The industrial working class is expanding, especially in India and China, where migration is mainly internal, from rural areas to the cities. In Europe and the U.S., migration is primarily from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. In Latin America, workers migrate from poorer countries to those somewhat less poor — from Haiti to Dominican Republic, from Nicaragua and Honduras to El Salvador, from neighboring countries to Brazil and Argentina. The bosses use this mobility to force large pools of unemployed workers to compete for jobs. We can use this greater connection to build an international movement against capitalism.

Transportation systems that move people and commodities are becoming increasingly critical to capitalist profit. The transportation industries can be the Achilles heel of capitalism if we can organize breakthroughs here. This adds importance to the recent transport strikes in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, and the struggle in mass transit worldwide.

Our strategy is to unite the unemployed, immigrant and industrial workers in a movement for communist revolution, bringing workers to power and crushing the racist bosses. With communist leadership, transportation workers can take the lead.

French transit workers were able to draw students and other workers into the struggle, but lacked the leadership to unite with the unemployed and immigrant youth. Communist leadership is necessary to develop the anti-racist class consciousness required to advance at this time.

Among transit workers in NYC, Washington D.C., Chicago and the West Coast, we’re fighting racist attacks and cutbacks that target a mostly black work-force that serves an even larger black, Latino and immigrant population. We struggle to keep the fight against racism in the forefront of contract fights and union elections. We organized support for those left to die in New Orleans during Katrina, and more recently for the Jena 6. We have tried to pass union resolutions and collected money from co-workers.

Mainly, we’re fighting to spread CHALLENGE and PLP literature in our garages, bus barns and workplaces. We’re trying to develop personal and group discussions among co-workers, inviting them to study-action groups and PLP club meetings. Self-critically, we can do much better on this. The better we do, the better we can do. We must fight against getting buried in the daily demands of “union work.”

The transportation unions are shadows of their former selves. Strikes, like the 2005 NYC transit walkout, are seldom used and often broken. This year the rulers will spend over a billion of our dollars in a sucker’s bet on the 2008 presidential elections. Clinton, Obama and Edwards are the bosses’ shell game. Whoever we choose, we lose! No matter who’s elected president, more and deadlier imperialist wars will still rage, racist terror will be used to attack and divide us, and transportation workers will face more cutbacks and attacks. These are the laws of capitalism.

Transit workers, airline workers, railroad workers and truck drivers are the lifeline of modern industrial society. We can be a key force for communist revolution. The current inter-imperialist rivalry is leading to wars that will make Iraq look like a tea party. Slowly but surely, a new generation of black, Latino and women transportation workers will be building a mass international PLP to end the profit system once and for all.

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Lessons of ‘Boston 75’ Crucial to PLP’s Future

The four months between May Day 1975 in Boston and the first day of school there in early September remains one of the sharpest sustained periods of struggle our Party has yet experienced. The anti-racist summer project BOSTON 75 remains rich in lessons and examples.

The most important is that gutter fascists like ROAR can be beaten even when they are protected to the hilt by the bosses’ state apparatus and made to appear invincible by the bosses’ media. The battle of May Day 1975 had already exposed ROAR as a paper tiger. In the ensuing months, the tiger lost its fangs and claws.

The BOSTON 75 volunteers were relatively few in number. Most had little experience in politics or class struggle. They were young, the majority in their twenties. They had to live on a shoestring. They confronted the daily fury of the ruling class’s dictatorship. Between June and September, the volunteers saw the inside of Boston’s jails more than 200 times. Some were arrested twice or even three and four times. A few eventually received prison sentences.

Yet, despite these attacks, they won a clear strategic victory. They proved that a small force of bold, determined anti-racists under communist leadership could at least temporarily thwart a ruling class bent on building a mass-based fascist movement. The numbers tell the story.

The day before the Boston schools opened in September 1975, ROAR led a demonstration of 3,000 people at City Hall, down from the 15,000 in a similar racist mobilization in 1974. Sporadic racist violence characterized the 1975-76 school year, but it never reached the proportions of 1974-75. ROAR’s public activities dwindled to a series of poorly-attended anti-integration “mothers’ prayer marches.” Fascist Louise Day Hicks soon abandoned politics altogether and in time fell into disgrace after her son was exposed as a dealer of illegal drugs. Shortly after BOSTON 75, the ROAR organization was dead in the water. PLP and the Committee Against Racism (CAR) deserve the lion’s share of credit for killing it.

BOSTON 75 therefore belongs to the living history of the PLP and the working class. For four months, against great odds, communists and anti-racists inflicted important political and tactical defeats on the ruling class of a great city and its plans to turn a large portion of the working class into Nazi thugs.

The project nonetheless had serious weaknesses; their lessons remain valid today. The most important was political, which grew out of the Party’s basic line at that time. By 1975, PLP had rejected nationalism — the idea that there were “progressive” bosses, even though they all believed in capitalism and would try to stop the working class from taking the road to revolution. This tied into also rejecting the theory of making revolution by stages, the idea that we could get to communism while still retaining some of the elements of capitalism (such as the wage system) — socialism — because workers “weren’t ready for communism.” But we still believed in socialism. We didn’t come to understand this error until seven years after the adoption of Road to Revolution IV in 1982. (For the full text of this document, see the PL website,

In practical terms, we continued to initiate reform organizations through which we would function, such as CAR — later InCAR. We had founded it in 1973. It achieved much: organized BOSTON 75 and the fight against ROAR; launched militant mass struggle against leading academic racist theoreticians like Richard Herrnstein and E.O. Wilson; and led many battles against attempts to revive the Ku Klux Klan.

But ultimately, with all their militancy, CAR and InCAR were still reform organizations. In creating them, we had committed two serious mistakes. Firstly, we were substituting them for existing mass organizations in which we should have been deeply active and struggling directly for communist ideas and the Party, both during the BOSTON 75 project and elsewhere over the long run. Secondly, related to the first, was the implicit belief that the workers and students we expected to move to communism needed a “half-way house” — a PLP-led militant reform organization — on the way to joining the Party. This was an opportunist error, allowing us to win people to militant reform, something less than the communism we stood for. We thought we had licked this aspect of opportunism, at least in theory. We were wrong.

In the ensuing three decades, we’ve been trying to absorb these lessons, as the pages of CHALLENGE show. In the face of rising imperialist war and the bosses’ advance towards police-state fascism, this task has become increasingly urgent today. We defeated ROAR, a specific manifestation of U.S. fascism, despite working with one hand tied behind our back. It would be sheer folly to think that the experience could be repeated in the present period with an identical political approach and tactics.

We fight to preserve the spirit of boldness, militancy, anti-racism, and class hatred that characterized PLP’s work during the campaign against ROAR. We reject the opportunism of “two-stage” approaches to communist organizing. The victory against ROAR was an important battle, but it was temporary. The war against the profit system continues. The lessons learned in Boston more than 30 years ago should help the Party improve its leadership in the battles and trials ahead.

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Steroids Helped Baseball Bosses Bulk Up Profits

Under capitalism, money ultimately ruins everything, even the games that are designed to divert workers from the wars and fascism rising around us. On December 13, Major League Baseball released the Mitchell Report, which told us what we already knew: that baseball — like the Olympics, the Tour de France, and every other big-money sport — is hopelessly infected with performance-enhancing drugs.

After naming more than 80 players, from superstars like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to average players like Paul LoDuca, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell declared that “everyone” in baseball was to blame for the spread of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (HGH), from club management to the players’ union. But when it gets down to cases, the report essentially convicts individual players and low-level pushers like Kirk Radomski, the one-time Mets’ bat boy, while giving a pass to Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners and executives who have seen no evil as long as their profits and bonuses kept rolling in.

As Dave Zirin notes in his online column, Edge of Sports, the report was stacked from the beginning. Mitchell was appointed by Selig, whose family owned the Milwaukee Brewers until 2005. The ex-senator sits on the boards of the Boston Red Sox and the Walt Disney Company (which owns ESPN), and his law firm has earned tens of millions of dollars by lobbying for Big Tobacco and General Electric. Mitchell is a high-priced mouthpiece for his corporate bosses, first and last. His report gives baseball executives some needed damage control on the steroid front, along with leverage to re-open contracts with the Players Association in the owners’ ongoing struggle to grab a bigger slice of the money pie.

For communists, there is no “good” side in this controversy. In their desperation to gain an edge in the brutally competitive major leagues, the players — from the surly Barry Bonds to the God-fearing Andy Pettite — have been corrupted into liars, cheaters, and hypocrites. They bear responsibility for the countless high school athletes and insecure adolescents who ape their drug-enhanced heroes on the path to torn tendons, liver and kidney damage, diabetes, heart attacks, depression, and suicide.

But as in every enterprise in this society, the owners paint the landscape. As Howard Bryant points out in Juicing the Game (Viking, 2005), baseball’s steroid era was born in 1994, when a player strike led to a cancelled World Series, depressed attendance, and a sharp drop in network television revenues. The owners’ response was to lure back the fans and sponsors with artificially inflated home run totals. They built smaller ballparks, shrank the strike zone — and looked the other way at rampant steroid use. In 1998, when an AP reporter spotted a vial of androstenedione (a “legal” steroid developed in East Germany) in Mark McGwire’s locker as McGwire was en route to his record 70 home runs, “the entire baseball establishment,” Bryant wrote, “crushed…the story.” (In contrast to the media’s racist focus on Bonds, McGwire remained an all-American hero until 2005, when he humiliated himself by dodging questions at a Congressional hearing.) In 2001, the owners renewed their five-year TV contract with Fox for $2 billion, nearly four times higher than the previous contract.
To date, only two middling major leaguers have received 15-day suspensions in the aftermath of the Mitchell report, but no matter how the sport changes as a result of the report, history tells us that baseball will remain business as usual — an enterprise run by capitalists for capitalists, with the next season’s profits the only record that matters.

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Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and subsequent chaos in nuclear-armed Pakistan seriously set back U.S. plans for continuing control of the strategic region, especially of oil’s grand prize, Saudi Arabia. U.S. rulers had hoped that Harvard-educated Bhutto could heal the ruling-class split between her land-holding family’s faction and that of Musharraf’s military and initiate more vigorous attacks on Pakistan-based al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Those who murdered Bhutto — and simultaneously scores of workers — dashed that dream and strengthened the forces of Osama bin Laden, who’s almost certainly hiding in Pakistan. Bin Laden represents the non-royal sector of Saudi capitalists who are using unconventional violence to seize the oil bonanza the princes deny them.

Bhutto’s killers’ uncertain identity further underscores U.S. shakiness in its “ally” Pakistan. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are prime suspects but many blame Pakistan’s pro-Islamist Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and fault Musharraf himself for not adequately protecting Bhutto. In any event, the killing reflects U.S. imperialism’s tendency to create one crisis by trying to solve another.

All the possible culprits sport a “Made-in-the-U.S.A.” label. Al Qaeda and the Taliban grew out of the U.S-led campaign to arm Islamists against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The ISI became powerful by helping run this operation. And the U.S. has built up Musharraf’s military with gifts totaling $10 billion meant to “combat terror” but diverted to the power-hungry generals’ own purposes.

Fight For Oil Sharpens

The grim Pakistan situation represents but one of the many major challenges U.S. rulers will face in the new year. Iraq remains an unprofitable hellhole, despite claims of the surge’s “success.” With the oil majors still afraid to risk capital and personnel there, Iraqi crude production hovers around 2.4 million barrels a day (mbd), far short of U.S. bosses’ goals. Actually, just before the 2003 invasion, the Establishment’s Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and James A. Baker Institute had issued a report foreseeing a six mbd windfall for Exxon Mobil and the rest.

Now Turkey’s bosses, pursuing their own security needs, are making things even worse for their U.S. “allies”: “Crude futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange soared past $96 per barrel…after Turkish warplanes hit alleged Kurdish rebel sites in northern Iraq….[T]raders fear that the rebels may respond by attacking oil pipelines in northern Iraq. (Energy Intelligence, 12/27/07) U.S. troops won’t leave Iraq anytime soon, as Congressional Democrats keep writing the Pentagon blank checks.

Meanwhile, U.S. rivals are stepping up their military influence in the region. Iran almost simultaneously announced delivery of nuclear fuel from Russia and its purchase of a Russian air defense system. Furthermore, “Iran and Russia are in negotiations to expand military cooperation beyond air defenses, including attack helicopters and jet engines for a fleet of indigenous Iranian fighters. There have also been reports that Iran intends to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighters.” (Washington Post, 12/27/07)
China, whose thirst for oil puts it on a collision course with the U.S., is building a naval port for its new oil tanker-shepherding “blue water” navy at Gwadar, Pakistan. Gwadar commands the crucial Strait of Hormuz chokepoint through which virtually all seaborne crude from the Persian Gulf to East Asia must pass.


Both before and after 9/11, CHALLENGE constantly said that the U.S. would launch a war for control of the greater Middle East and its oil. Before 9/11, reporting on the Hart-Rudman commission that foresaw a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, we specifically said such an attack would precede a U.S. invasion of the Mid-East beginning in Iraq. Now U.S. rulers themselves admit as much. Richard Haass, president of the rulers’ CFR — when asked about the next U.S. president’s main task — said, “The greater Middle East represents the greatest collection of challenges that continue to face the U.S.” (Nikkei News, 12/13/07) Haass charged the next president with militarizing the nation for deadlier wars. “[W]e have to expand the size of the U.S. military….[I]t is quite possible that a lot of uses of military will be manpower-intensive….And it now looks more [like] the current Iraq war is going to be the model of future wars.”

Making Bhutto a martyr for wider conflict, White House hopeful Barack Obama called her “a respected…advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people.” Hillary Clinton also glorified Bhutto, “The world is once again reminded of the dangers facing those who pursue democracy.”

But Bhutto was, in fact, no angel. She, like her U.S. backers, stood for nothing more than capitalism’s utterly unprincipled, relentless pursuit of profit (See box below). In the ranks of departed foreign standard-bearers for U.S. imperialism, she joins Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran and countless Latin American dictators, from Pinochet to Somoza to Trujillo to Battista.
Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the liberals praising Bhutto are selling political poison. Far better than following them down the road to imperialist world war would be to join and build the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party. We have the ultimate goal of eradicating the profit system and its endless wars and establishing workers’ rule in their place.

Bhutto Was Workers’ Deadly Enemy

Benazir Bhutto was no friend of the working class. She belonged to the aristocracy of the Pakistani ruling class in particular and to the worldwide capitalist ruling class in general. Under her premiership the Pakistani state apparatus, one of the world’s most repressive, continued its brutal practices of torturing, killing and “disappearing” workers and those who opposed her rule.

Even her younger brother Murtaza was mowed down by the police, which many (including her niece Fatima) believe Bhutto either engineered or tacitly approved. A member of parliament, he was a vocal critic of his sister’s politics and her corrupt government.

She, her husband, mother and other family members became obscenely rich from laundering money, getting kickbacks, customs inspection fees and outright stealing funds from social programs. Her husband and she accumulated a $1.5 billion fortune while over 80 million Pakistani workers and peasants live on less than $2 a day.

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2007: Rival Imperiaists Challenged U.S. –Workers Fought Back Worldwide

World domination by U.S. rulers is being challenged by the bosses of Russia, Iran and China. This sharpening rivalry is displayed in many ways. Pick up a mainstream U.S. newspaper any time and the message you most likely receive is that China is evil. News sources reported all year about the dangerous or poisonous products of China: from pet chow to toothpaste, from toys to sea food. The mouthpieces of the ruling class were determined to paint China as the devil, even though U.S.-owned companies produced the goods in question.

A communist analysis tells us that the bosses’ reason for this is not concern for our safety. They fear China’s growing ability to compete with the U.S. as an imperialist power, and they need to build up anti-China sentiment in workers in anticipation of future armed conflict.

The U.S. rivalry with China and other growing powers drove many of the events of the year, either directly or indirectly. The Save Darfur movement is being built among students and workers in order to oppose China’s interests in Africa. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is able to call George Bush names without much fear, partly because of his ties to imperialists in China, Russia and elsewhere. Over a million people have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waged by U.S. bosses to prevent rivals from gaining access to Mid-East oil.

The year 2007 saw the outbreak of rebellions by Arab and Muslim youth in France and mass strikes in France, South Africa, Peru, Italy and the Dominican Republic and a general strike in Greece. Workers in the United States have fought back with strikes in war plants at Northrop-Grumman in Pascagoula, Mississippi and at Navistar. Although those workers struck for economic reasons, striking war plants shows that they did not fall for the boss’s patriotism. PLP supported these strikers and helped expose the pro-boss union hacks still holding back our class. PLP’ers have also been organizing in the military and in subcontracting plants serving the war industry.

The lead-up to the next presidential election was big news as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton jockeyed for the Democratic Party nomination, each hoping to convince workers of their anti-war stance while assuring Big Oil that they would do a better job than Bush at securing control of the Middle East. Both Obama and Clinton have openly supported pre-emptive strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan and the Iranian rulers respectively.

In mass events, PLP’ers — through chants, speeches and sales of CHALLENGE — have consistently exposed the liberal politicians as more dangerous as they try to win worker support with their lies while deepening the wars their “conservative” counterparts started.

Meanwhile, the current government used the “war on terror” to excuse increasingly fascist tactics in oppressing the workers. We saw a rise in the use of video cameras everywhere, from schools to buses. Police murdered black and Latin young people in every major city like Kiel Coppin in NYC, Francisco Mondragon in LA and Aaron Harrison in Chicago. Brutal crackdowns on immigrants, like the raid at a plant in New Bedford, Mass., separated families through deportation at the same time that immigration “reforms” like the DREAM Act promise citizenship to those who would join the military to fight in the Middle East. The bosses have worked hard this year to build fear and passivity in the workers, but they face a major contradiction: they are attacking the same people they need to be patriotic and fight their imperialist wars.

PL was there to lead militant, multi-racial protests against gutter racists like the Minutemen. We stood up against racist right-wingers like David Horowitz with his Islamo-Fascism week and against military and CIA recruiters on our campuses.

The local courts in Jena, LA, viciously punished young black students who fought back against racists who hung nooses at their school. Since then the media has reported that racist attacks are on the rise. As the NY Times reported (11/25), “…this country has seen a rash of as many as 50 to 60 noose incidents. The level of hate crimes in the U.S. is astoundingly high — more than 190,000 incidents per year.” Masses of black workers and students converged on Jena, LA, to protest the racist events there. PL members brought communist politics to these anti-racist events.

The rulers left workers to suffer in many ways while they struggled to keep control over their imperialist interests. The sub-prime mortgage crisis meant many workers, disproportionately black and Latino ones, lost homes and financial security. Bridges collapsed, miners died in cave-ins, homes and lives were lost to fires and floods, earthquakes from San Diego to Tabasco, Mexico, to Peru, the Caribbean and Bangladesh. The wreckage left in the wake of hurricane Katrina is in even worse shape after two years of the bosses’ “recovery effort.” The bosses have decided to demolish the public housing which were totally livable.

No matter how much the bosses abandon all responsibility for our safety, workers take care of each other. Students, teachers and workers are still traveling to the New Orleans area to lend support to their class brothers and sisters there. PLP contingents made the trip several times during the year, organizing our friends to help in schools, churches, community groups and workplaces.

High school students spoke to the Delegate Assembly of the New York teachers’ union for the first time, demanding that their voices be heard against imperialist war. On the West Coast, high school and college students spent their summer building unity with industrial workers.

Even as the bosses try to beat us down and win us to their nationalist ideas, the workers’ anger is still there. It’s the job of communists to give this anger at the system a revolutionary direction. We don’t want to rebel fruitlessly, but to build a movement that will be able to challenge and destroy capitalism. Then workers will be able to run the world according to our class interests. PLP is leading the way towards that communist future.

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PLP Youth Lead Anti-Racist Campaign At Brooklyn H.S.

BROOKLYN, NY — Students, mainly black and Latino, and teachers at a local high school here — located in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood — have been battling racist attacks inside and outside the school. Every day after school the racist NYPD quickly herds students out of the neighborhood.

Before Thanksgiving, when an underage female student and her friends tried to leave a subway car because they feared a fight was about to erupt, a cop in that car yanked her back in. Her friends defended her, saying she’d done nothing wrong, that the cop’s action was illegal. They wrote down his name and badge number. Seeing students stand up for each other angered this racist cop. When the train pulled into the next station, he ordered the young student out of the subway car.

Her friends, and passengers on the train, told her she didn’t have to go because she’d done nothing wrong. But she went, fearing arrest and further abuse. About a dozen of her friends followed her, which angered the cop even more. He called for back-up; almost immediately a dozen racist cops came running down the stairs. They maced and beat the students, arresting six.

Four were underage and taken to the precinct and then to a juvenile detention center for the night, where they were further harassed and verbally brutalized with racist remarks. Three are CHALLENGE readers, which partially influenced their will to fight back.

When PLP members at the school, heard this story, we responded immediately, first calling the parents of those arrested. Consequently, we were able to accompany the students and their parents to a court hearing. The students, never offered legal aid, were instead offered a “deal”: community service and a sealed conviction! Such is capitalist justice: get harassed, maced, beaten and locked up by racist cops — the “crime” being black or Latino.

PLP members encouraged and supported the parents to fight the case and demand a lawyer. Despite the DA’s scare tactics, and because the parents had a prior relationship with the teacher/debate coach of their children, the parents resisted the “deal” and await a trial date.

Back at school, a PLP youth club took an anti-racist petition to the Student Government Association. It linked the racist attacks on the Jena 6, the NYPD’s brutal murder of Kiel Coppin, the cops’ racist attacks on students to the racist pizzeria owner across the street. Hundreds of signatures were collected the first day!

During the petition campaign, a debate on metal detectors in the school occurred before the entire student body. One side argued safety required having such detectors. The other side exposed the racist nature of these detectors.

They eloquently explained that besides metal detectors being ineffective at catching many metal objects, the main reason to eliminate them was their use to teach control and obedience to authority.

One debater argued, “Although we all won’t get 95’s in all our classes or pass all the Regents exams needed for graduation, we will all leave this school knowing how to “assume the position.” This shows that the main reason school exists is to train us to follow orders, like prisoners.” (This fits in with the bosses’ need for obedient cannon fodder in imperialist wars and for cheap labor.) Another debater used statistics from the NYC Lawyers’ Union website revealing that 82% of students attending high schools containing metal detectors are black and Latino. Hundreds of students and many teachers wore stickers distributed at the debate, stating: “Students not Suspects! Fight Racism!”

This modest increase of class struggle has helped expand our CHALLENGE distribution, though inconsistent, to 75 per issue. Two new students have joined a study group. Since one student’s arrest and our response, she began meeting with a PLP study group again. She will attend the next PLP club meeting and has her mother’s full support. Four PL student members have led the campaign.

Still, we must strengthen our organizing. The anti-racism campaign must include the Apartheid pizzeria owner across the street from the school; he refuses to allow our students to eat there. We’re planning to more vigorously approach the building’s other two schools; the petition is being passed around in one. We’ve also taken the petitions to mass organizations, provoking political discussion that’s changed some of their thinking, increasing our experience in doing this.

The anti-racist campaign has not yet blossomed, but 2008 promises more opportunity to win these youths to the Party while advancing the class struggle within their schools.

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