Monthly Archives: February 2008

21,000 Teachers On Strike in Puerto Rico against Privatization

Teachers’ Strike Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25—
Teachers are waging a very important struggle for teachers and workers, here an
d in the U.S. They are fighting the governor and education authorities, the cops who have attacked their picket lines and AFT and SEIU hacks who have tried to raid their union. The 42,000-strong FMPR (Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico)—the island’s biggest union—went on strike on Feb. 21 against the union-busting Law 45 (a combination of the federal Taft-Hartley and New York State Taylor Law) which bans public workers from striking. The teachers are also fighting for better working and teaching conditions and against the plans to privatize about 1,000 schools, turning them into charter schools. The average annual wage of teachers here (most of them women) is $19,500, lower than any in the U.S.

The school bosses and cops have tried to push scabs to break the strikes. On the first day of the strike, riot cops viciously attacked striking teachers. On Mon., Feb. 25, cops escorting scabs attacked striking teachers at the Republic of Colombia school in Río Piedras. But in spite of the barrage of attacks facing the striking teachers, their struggle has mass support. Most of the 500,000 students are staying away from schools even though the government is urging them to attend classes. On Sun. Feb. 17, a few days before the strike, chanting “La huelga en educación será la mejor lección (The strike in education will be the best of all lessons) and “lucha sí, entrega no” (Fightback, no sellout), some 25,000 teachers and other workers and youth marched in San Juan in support of the teachers. There were huge contingents of workers from the UTIER (electrical utility union) and UIA (water workers unon), who are also negotiating new contracts.

But while these workers are fighting mad, the sellouts of the AFT (AFL-CIO) and the SEIU’s Change to Win Federation are behaving like colonial masters, trying to stab the teachers in the back. Both are conniving with the local government to decertify the FMPR. There are rumors that Dennis Rivera, former head of NYC’s 1199 and now a top honcho in the international SEIU and the NYS Democratic Party, has offered governor Vila a huge contribution to his re-election campaign (the governor is facing charges of campaign irregularities in his previous election) in exchange for decertification.

Workers shouldn’t have any faith in these hacks and in any electoral parties, including the pro-independence liberal PIP, which is offering its legal aid to the strikers. All these politicians serve capitalism.

PLP teachers are internationalist and always support our militant brothers and sisters fighting back anywhere against the same enemies we all face (education authorities, cops and union hacks). The striking teachers in Puerto Rico are an example we should all follow, fighting back in a period where teachers and workers all over face major attacks from the bosses trying to make us pay for the bosses’ economic crisis and imperialist war. Our slogan should be: teachers and workers of the world, unite!

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Castro Resigns From State Capitalist Rule as U.S. Bosses Continue With Torture, War and Exploitation

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro’s resignation as Cuba’s chief of state was no surprise. Since he fell ill in the summer of 2006, his brother Raúl has been in control. Bush, McCain, Obama, Hillary and the usual suspects have issued the usual hypocritical statements about the need for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba, playing to Florida’s powerful Cuban right-wing exile leadership. But none of this can hide the fact that the U.S. base in Guantánamo, Cuba, has become a synonym for torture and violations of human rights. (Of course, capitalism’s “democracy” means various sections of the ruling class control all political parties and give the working class the “choice” of which bosses’ agents will exploit them, lead them to war, abolish social services, push racism and cut wages and jobs.)

Despite all the anti-communist rhetoric by the U.S. bosses and their media, the reality is that the top Cuban leadership is already making changes that are more openly capitalist. Cuban rulers are following the Chinese or Vietnamese “road,” where the old party bureaucracy remains in political control but encourages more and more capitalist investments. Even when Fidel was in full control, there were many more imperialist investments in Cuba’s tourist and energy industries from Europe, Canada and Asia.

There even are many U.S. politicians and capitalists who want to end the embargo on Cuba — which has been a total failure — and allow U.S. companies to invest there, particularly in newly-discovered oil deposits off Cuba’s coast. Even with all that, it’s doubtful that the right-wing Cuban exiles and U.S. imperialism will again control Cuba as occurred before the 1959 revolution.

Already, the Cuban government is allowing open discussions of problems facing their economy and political life. Recently a CNN video showed young students demanding of Raúl Alarcón, a top leader, more access to foreign traveling and the internet. Even though Cuba doesn’t suffer the extreme poverty prevalent in the rest of Latin America, there’s still a lot of inequality between those who have access to foreign currencies and those who don’t.

For Cuban workers and youth, these changes from the top might offer a few consumer crumbs, but they won’t bring freedom from capitalist exploitation. Capitalism worldwide is a system in crisis, which only offers imperialist wars, mass unemployment and fascist/racist terror. A new communist movement is needed, learning from the errors and achievements from the revolution here and worldwide. That is the only road to real freedom for workers and youth.

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Financial Crisis Puts: SCHOOLS ON BOSSES’ CHOPPING BLOCK

When we think schools, we think children, and when we think children our minds turn to the future. CHALLENGE readers know Progressive Labor Party’s view of the rulers’ plans for our class and our children: more fascism and more imperialist war.

Within this context we must examine the budget-cut attack launched against New York City’s schoolchildren. These cuts are racist, plain and simple, following the already existing fundamentally racist patterns in the city’s failing schools. Immediate cuts include “extras” — after-school, summer school and tutoring programs. It is precisely black and Latino youth — comprising 72% of the student population — who are most in need of such “extra” services. Their “future” is expendable.

These cuts are universal and across the board: $504 million over the next two fiscal years (NY Times, 2/1) — the worst in NYC in the last dozen years. Perhaps due to New York’s position as the capital of U.S. finance capital, this city may not have been reduced to Detroit’s school system, the most massively slashed in the country. But the sub-prime mortgage crisis combined with the economic downturn and the hundreds of billions poured into military expenditures put the Big Apple on the chopping block.

However, a broad-based movement opposing these cuts can emerge in the coming period. Several PLP’ers made a call at the last Delegate Assembly for a February 14th demonstration against the cuts. Despite local union leader Randi Weingarten doing all she could to torpedo it, networks and mass organizations across the system have taken up that call. This could be an important first response to “Kleingarten’s” cuts (Chancellor Klein + union president Weingarten).

PLP members will be active in any movements opposing these cuts. Where no movement exists, communists must spark one, within which we can advance our revolutionary ideas front and center.

These movements hold many dangers. The present status quo has been a school system filled with racist patterns of underachievement and widespread indoctrination, especially of anti-communism. The main political content of public education is the myth that “we all get a chance to make it in America” and “if you don’t make it, you only have yourself to blame.” This message is central to the ruling class’s use of public education.

The bosses need teachers and schools to produce future soldiers, future workers and — when that fails — future prisoners. But above all else, the rulers need passive ones in their pursuit of fascism at home and imperialist war abroad. The passivity engendered by this “blame-the-victim” mentality is even more important to the ruling class than the shallow patriotic platitudes history courses push on youngsters, many of whom tune out, and rightly so.

Communists must raise this general critique of education among the broad masses through our literature and among our close friends in long-term political struggle. This necessitates a discussion of communism as the only solution.

Phony leftists and reformists will come out of the woodwork and attempt to lead mobilized masses of students, teachers and parents into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party, swallowing up an anti-budget-cut movement into Barack Obama’s contribution to the rulers’ politics — mobilizing a new generation of (mainly young) folks to “believe in America” once again. They want millions in motion for “justice” while marching behind Democratic war-makers like Hillary Clinton. Throw in a terrorist “emergency” and we have a mass base for fascism. This is the grave danger we face.

Yet the opportunities are even greater. The bosses need budget cuts in their current crisis. Tens of thousands can be introduced to our communist ideas in liberal-led movements against these cuts. Amid a passive period, the simple act of organizing a contingent of students, parents and/or teachers to attend a rally can be an important political step forward, but only if communists, fighting side-by-side with these masses, seize the opportunity to make communist politics primary. We can expose the misleaders and train new communist leaders.

Confronting police goons and administration apologists, we can expose the naked force and racist neglect that saturates the schools and the capitalist system itself. We can point out the need for revolution when we show how the bosses will grant reforms when forced to, but take them away as long as they hold state power.

Yet the masses will only draw these conclusions if communists are active. As the communist leader Lenin asserted, communist ideas come to the working class from the outside. PLP dares to follow this road today. There is much work to do and a world to win. Join us!

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Obama Checks Out While Chicago Workers Die


CHICAGO, IL February 8 — “My patients are dying! My patients are dying because of your racist cutbacks,” declared a Latino health care worker who treats TB patients. “You’re a murderer and I charge you with genocide!” was her “greeting” to fascist Dr. Robert Simon, interim health chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services (CCBHS). She stormed out as he, a guest of SEIU Local 20, began to speak at their Town Hall meeting.

Simon said, “I’m not a politician,” but another worker shouted from the floor, “You’re a racist murderer.” Simon, who once said, “To me, society wastes enormous energy, money and resources on [the homeless],” announced that the County health system was “on the verge of collapse if any further cuts are made.” He was supporting SEIU’s push for a tax increase.

The commissioners who approved over $100 million in racist cutbacks during last year’s budget crisis sat on SEIU’s stage then and now. With Simon wielding the knife, they closed half of the 26 neighborhood clinics and laid off 1,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, as Barack Obama tours the country with hypocritical calls for “change” and “healthcare for all,” he has done nothing against the racist cutbacks that are killing patients and closing public hospitals in his own neighborhood.

More cuts are threatened for March 1. County Finance chief John Daley said he was proposing 13% cuts ($108 million), closing Provident and Oak Forest hospitals, all remaining clinics and a center that treats one-third of the area’s HIV patients. Only Stroger Hospital and the Cermak clinic that treats County Jail inmates will remain.

A young worker yelled, “Are you saying we have to raise taxes on the poorest people, our patients, in order to give them health care?” “That’s right,” Daley replied.

Over 1.2 million people are uninsured in Cook County. Our patients are 85% black and Latino. No one knows how many patients have died, but last year’s cuts cost almost 2,000 jobs. Stroger patients aren’t getting discharge medications and the pharmacy is down to one shift.

Less than 100 people attended the meeting, with only a few from Stroger, even though it’s nearby. Most workers couldn’t come because cutbacks have generated outrageous workloads. Many who could weren’t interested because they have no respect for the union leadership and the local politicians it serves.

PLP members at Stroger organized some workers to confront the racist budget-cutters face-to-face. The bosses and union leaders got a small taste of the workers’ and patients’ hatred for them. Most important, we and our co-workers distributed hundreds of leaflets at work, showing how racist terror and cutbacks are financing the two-BILLION-dollar-a-week war in Iraq.

While we can’t stop the current slaughter in Iraq or Chicago with reforms, by fighting back we can expand the base for CHALLENGE, strengthen our ties to workers and patients and build a fighting PLP that will eventually lead the working class from fascist terror and war to communist revolution.

Charity Hospital in New Orleans and King Hospital in Los Angeles are CLOSED! Grady Hospital in Atlanta is in critical condition. The CCBHS is already more than half closed, and Bush’s Medicare and Medicaid cuts will mean another $60 million cut on July 1! We’re in a fight for our lives. Build PLP and a mass May Day!

RACIST BUDGET CUTS MURDER BLACK AND LATIN WOMEN

Because of budget cuts and staff reductions, almost 1,000 women with abnormal Pap smears, unusual bleeding, pelvic masses and other symptoms are waiting months to see gynecologists in the Cook County health system. The longer they’re forced to wait, the greater the risk of severe pain, cancers and life-threatening emergencies. A May 2007 report from the Chicago Foundation for Women reports more than 450,000 women in this area are uninsured, and many depend on county hospitals and clinics. The vast majority are black and Latino.

A young West Side black woman had a Pap smear performed at a clinic last April; learned in June it was positive, suggesting possible cervical cancer; and has been unable to get an appointment at Stroger Hospital for follow-up tests and evaluation. Another patient had a positive Pap smear in September and just got word she could see a Stroger gynecologist in April.

Last year, half of the community and urgent-care clinics were closed, leading to even longer waits, patients being harassed by bill-collection agencies and rumored threats of immigration raids. As a result, there were 100,000 fewer patient visits last year than in 2006, when there were 101 doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants providing basic medical services at the clinics. Today there are only 44 medical providers working longer hours, to serve hundreds of thousands of patients.

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Imperialists’ Wars Worsen Rulers’ Financial Woes

Imperialist war takes a serious toll on the domestic economy. In fact, as U.S. imperialism enters a period of “persistent” and escalating conflict a chief task of the next president will be forcing economic sacrifices from workers (as usual) but also from capitalists.

Bad “subprime” loans based on the bursting housing bubble only partly explain the current U.S. economic crisis (see CHALLENGE, 2/13). True, the unfolding mortgage fiasco drastically curtails lending and spending. But even while a handful of corporations like Haliburton grab enormous profits, the skyrocketing costs of U.S. rulers’ ever-widening wars act as a brake on profits. Government bonds to pay for the war machine — production for destruction — draw investors away from investing in production for consumption since the government bonds are more secure. That makes it harder for consumer-goods capitalists to find money to invest in their industries, out of which they reap profits from their workers’ labor. Thus, it limits their ability to increase, or even maintain, profits.

The New York Times (2/4/08) reported that the Pentagon’s proposed 2009 budget of $515.4 billion “when adjusted for inflation, will have reached its highest level since World War II….Yet those demands for money do not even include the price of refocusing the military’s attention beyond the current wars to prepare for other challenges.” Nor does it include the $200+ billion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not a penny of this colossal waste finances productive investment. The rulers’ war spending only destroys. U.S. bosses, meanwhile, seek to make workers pay for both recession and war through massive cuts in jobs, wages, health, education and other vital services.

Rivals Took Advantage of A U.S. Weakened by the Vietnam War

While U.S. capitalists were devoting 9% of gross domestic product (GDP) to genocide in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, their Asian and European rivals were modernizing factories and consolidating financial structures, putting the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. U.S. bosses lost global dominance in auto, electronics and other key sectors and began a permanent, one-way trend of mass destruction of manufacturing jobs. German and Japanese banks became the world’s largest.

Trade and war-related budget deficits ballooned. This, combined with pressure in the early 1970s from French banks that demanded payment in gold rather than paper money (which was losing its value because of war-caused inflation), officially ended the dollar’s “good-as-gold” status. The U.S. had to abandon gold payments because of insufficient stockpiles, so French capitalists and others demanded even more paper money payments to compensate for devalued dollars. This further weakened U.S. economic prestige.

“Stagflation” (negligible growth combined with inflation) took hold. Working families’ incomes, which had more than doubled between 1946 and 1973, now grew less than one percent per year against inflation. Today, the income of a young man in his thirties is 12% below what it was for a worker at that same age 30 years ago, working two weeks more annually and “putting in 350 more hours per year than the average European.” (Robt. Reich, Financial Times, 1/29)

Democrat Carter Began U.S.Build-Up For Mid-East Wars

The military component in today’s money crunch stems directly from the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. Emboldened by the 1975 fall of Saigon, foreign rivals started assailing the cornerstone of U.S. imperialism’s economic empire, its Middle East oil racket. When Islamists (who later befriended Russia and China) seized Iran in 1979, Democrat Jimmy Carter threatened war against any nation with designs on United States’ “vital interests.” Having lost both a major source of crude and a military ally in Iran, Carter vowed that the U.S. would deploy its own armed forces in the region.

Carter launched the Rapid Deployment Force which soon expanded into the Pentagon’s Central Command that has now invaded Iraq twice at enormous expense. The U.S. effort to oust the Soviets from strategic Afghanistan in the 1980s has backfired into an open-ended, cash-burning war against the U.S.’s former Taliban allies and their al Qaeda protégés. Even with only 55,000 troops in Iraq by 2013, U.S. rulers admit they will have thrown away $3.5 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2017. (“War at Any Price?” a Congressional Democrats’ report, November 2007)

For the foreseeable future, U.S. rulers’ need to control the Mid-East will saddle them with costly, protracted, Iraq-style wars of occupation. The Army’s newly-revised operations manual “describes the United States as facing an era of ‘persistent conflict’ in which the American military will often operate among civilians in countries where local institutions are fragile and efforts to win over a wary population are vital.” (NY Times, 2/8/08) The report on the manual is filled with phrases such as “long, grueling struggles”; “blueprint to operate over the next 10 or 15 years”; “how to prepare for future conflicts.”

Eyeing a laundry list of potential hot spots, the liberal Brookings Institution calls for vast expansion of U.S. armed forces. “Even greater increases in the size of the ground forces [than the 65,000 added soldiers and Marines already approved] may be prudent. Highly plausible scenarios involving Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other large countries (such as Indonesia, Congo, and Nigeria) illustrate the need to provide the next President with the capacity to muster large new forces without delay” (Brookings, Independent Ideas for Our Next President).

Growing threats to U.S. rulers from China and Russia, however, stand to push Pentagon expenditures way beyond their current 4% of GDP levels. During the budget debate, phony “anti-war” Congressman John Murtha declared, “We [need]… a military that can deploy to stop China or Russia or any other country that challenges us. I want to be prepared in case there’s a confrontation about energy.” (Reuters, 2/5/08) Such a clash would eat up trillions.

Clinton, Obama, McCain:All War Hawks

Make no mistake. Clinton and Obama aren’t calling for higher taxes on the rich to pay for social programs. Both promise to expand U.S. ground forces, Obama by 92,000 troops. Staunch defenders of the profit system, Clinton and Obama are every bit as militaristic as war-hawk McCain. Voting for any one of them will only select the next warmaker. While we have focused on the dollars wiped out by the war machine that all the candidates serve, the cost in workers’ lives has been horrific and will intensify.

Capitalism, which ceaselessly creates economic panics and imperialist wars, will always squeeze and destroy workers’ lives. Don’t vote. Join and build the Progressive Labor Party to achieve the long-term goal of communist revolution, the only answer to the horrors of the profit system.

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INDUSTRIAL WORKERS STRIKE BACK IN THE SOUTH

On February 1, about 2,500 members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2069 struck the Volvo Trucks North America plant in Dublin, Virginia, after failing to reach a new contract. Workers had voted by a 95% margin to walk out. The plant builds all Volvo trucks sold in North America.

Volvo is seeking wage and benefit concessions, and trying to roll back many health and safety protections in the current contract. Layoffs have reduced the workforce by 300 while the strike has put another 650-job cut on hold. A Volvo spokesman told the Roanoke Times, “We’re considering…keep[ing] the plant running as close to full production as soon as possible,” but gave no strike-breaking details.

This battle reflects a reaction to a 20-year movement of U.S. auto production to the South, impelled by a massive investment of European and Asian auto billionaires in the highly profitable U.S. market. Historically intense racism, going back to slavery, has created a huge low-wage region in the South. No wonder that, while Ford, GM and Chrysler plants close in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, Mercedes, Hyundai and Toyota plants are opening in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. Since 2000, 15,000 parts-supplier plants have opened in Southern states, according to the UAW National Organizing Department.

This example of the inter-imperialist rivalry rages from China to the U.S. as the world’s auto bosses fight for markets, resources and cheap labor. Imperialism inevitably leads to war, and as this rivalry sharpens, wars are spreading globally. Only communist revolution can end imperialism and its wars for good.

As industry increasingly heads south to exploit cheaper, unorganized labor, attacks will intensify and sharpening class battles will be waged by the region’s industrial workers. Just recently six workers were killed and many injured in a sugar factory explosion in Georgia.

Another fight involves the jobs of the Freightliner Five — Glenna Swinford, Franklin Torrence, Robert Whiteside, Allen Bradley and David Crisco, members of UAW Local 3520 — who were fired at the Freightliner truck plant in Cleveland, North Carolina on April 3, 2007. They had led a strike of 3,000 workers. Four were members of the Voluntary Organizing Committee (VOC) that organized the plant in 2003, the country’s largest manufacturer of the big Class 8 heavy trucks. They’re asking for, and getting support from workers worldwide.

The five were on the 11-member union bargaining committee fired by Freightliner. Six got their jobs back, but had to sign agreements requiring them to be “model employees.” The other five were not offered their jobs on any terms.

In 2002, Freightliner and its parent company DaimlerChrysler, cut wages an average of $1.15/hr and imposed healthcare cutbacks. Between 2003 and 2006, over 6,000 workers joined the UAW at Freightliner plants in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Robert Whiteside, a black worker, was elected shop chair, the union leader on the shop floor. He also headed the Local’s bargaining committee.

The bosses refused to meet with him. Daimler and Freightliner demanded give-backs, despite Daimler’s truck group record $2.6 billion profit in 2006. The bosses broke off negotiations, announced layoffs and voided the union contract and healthcare coverage. The workers followed the bargaining committee’s lead and walked out.

The strike was quickly called off by the Local President, claiming it had not been sanctioned by the UAW International. Workers rejected a tentative agreement that excluded the health and safety gains sought by the bargaining committee. But soon afterwards a similar contract was ratified in a vote held on company property, from which the five fired workers were banned.

The Freightliner Five continue to fight for their jobs. Their unemployment benefits are exhausted and they need help to support their families and to continue the fight.

This fight resembles the struggle of the Charleston 5, members of the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1422 in Charleston, S.C., who were fired and arrested after police attacked their picket line several years ago. Next month marks the one-year anniversary of the strike of
over 7,000 shipbuilders in Pascagoula, MS, against Northrop-Grumman, a major war contractor.

Slowly but surely, the red flag of communist revolution is being planted in the South by the PLP. With patience and a long-term outlook, by building ties based on struggle and spreading CHALLENGE, industrial workers will lead the way in building a mass PLP. J

For more information about the Freightliner Five, including how to make donations, go to http://justice4five.com.

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Students, Farmworkers, Vets Get PLP Exposé of Hillary’s War Plans

Ten thousand people lined up around our college campuses to try to hear Hillary Clinton speak at a campaign rally. While they stood in a long single file line we were there with CHALLENGE and a leaflet exposing Clinton’s support for war and exposing the DREAM Act as a preparation for war. The flier quoted her website: “The DREAM Act would also strengthen our nation’s military readiness, allowing these well-qualified young men and women to serve their country with honor.” A teacher-comrade explained as she handed out the leaflet: “I know the rulers’ plans for my students — war.” Nearly everyone took our literature from her including both the flier and CHALLENGE. We also explained that it wasn’t just about Clinton, but that all the candidates, Clinton, Obama, and McCain, support wider war in the Middle East and war with China in the future. We tried to show that no matter the candidate, it is the system of capitalism that causes and requires war.

At the rally Clinton pushed race and racism as she played up the support she received from the United Farm Workers (UFW) and attacked Barack Obama. She tried to use the UFW to lie that she supports working-class struggles, invoking the name of another union sell-out: Cesar Chavez (he attacked militancy and undocumented workers as the head of the UFW). We made sure to talk with the farmworkers and give them CHALLENGE/DESAFIO as they left. We also had a good conversation with some Iraq war veterans who were there to protest against Clinton and the continued war in Iraq. One vet agreed that it was imperialism that caused war and that we would have to completely change the economic system. He got a CHALLENGE and we got contact information as well.

One important lesson we learned is that appearances can be deceiving. Many seemingly die-hard Clinton supporters or Democrats were just looking for a change and were interested when we argued that change could not come about through elections. We saw that people with Clinton or Obama buttons liked the idea that only communist revolution could create change. This showed many of us the importance of talking to people about our line of communist revolution no matter their T-shirt or button.

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Airline Bosses Attack So Workers Shut Terminal

NEW YORK, NY –– Airport workers recently stopped work in response to bosses’ attacks. An understaffed crew of ramp workers, who direct plane movement and load luggage, was given a third flight, above the usual two, within two hours, without any break time. The workers decided to show the bosses who really had the power to move the planes. When the third flight approached the gate before the second had even been finished, one worker called on another to stop the third plane.

“If they’re going to give us this many flights, somebody is gonna have to wait,” he told his coworkers.

The second worker signaled to hold the plane in the middle of the taxiway. Soon another plane began to push out, causing a gridlock. The ramp workers brought terminal operations to a halt and demonstrated the power workers acting collectively can seize.

Because of their strategic importance to the domestic economy and the movement of troops for imperialist wars, the airline can’t afford to allow many such angry actions. The airline bosses strategically use racism, sexism and ageism to pay employees less and keep them from fighting back more often.

Workers have different pay scales depending on their job category. Ramp workers start at $10/hour and only reach $18/hour after an exhausting 10-year wage progression. This system is designed to promote high turnover so that the bosses can continually hire new employees at the lowest wage possible. More than half the ramp workers have been on the job for less than 5 years. The seniority system promotes racism and ageism by forcing the younger, mostly black and Latino, workers into undesirable late shifts. The bosses use “part-time,” 30-hour-a-week workers for the last shift so that they will not have to pay time-and-a-half if workers stay late due to delays. Most workers on the late shift have another job and must put in 12- and 14-hour days to survive.

For cabin service workers, mainly women, conditions are even worse: $8.50/hour, with no progression and no benefits. The airlines get away with this theft by using a sub-contractor. Bus drivers make slightly better pay but still get screwed by being overworked with no time-and-a-half pay even for 18-hour days to cover for sick coworkers when the airline bosses refuse to increase hiring.

The latest attacks spurred one worker to say to a PLP member that “this is why we need to strike, so they’ll respect us.” As long as capitalism exists, workers will never get the wealth they produce. Even if all airport workers obtained better wages, they would still pale in comparison to the thousands in profit generated for the bosses with each flight.

Resistance like this teaches workers valuable lessons about their place in the system: the bosses need workers to produce anything, but the workers don’t need bosses. When workers grasp this idea it is a victory on the road to a new world. For workers to win more than reforms that the bosses will reverse, they need more than anger and spontaneity; they need the communist analysis found in CHALLENGE. More readers of CHALLENGE and more members of PL could take even more meaningful action at this airport. Workers united with soldiers and students under the banner of the communist PLP can smash capitalism to establish a society for all workers.

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‘Small Schools’ Ploy Part of Bosses’ ‘Creeping’ Fascism

NEW YORK CITY — In discussions with friends, I’ve often mentioned that the working class is living under growing fascist conditions, but some disagree. They ask, “Are storm troopers kicking down the door to your house? If not, then we don’t have fascism.”

But the ruling class doesn’t want to control the working class by kicking down doors all the time (although sometimes it does. see Shades of Hitler, p.7). Some control is more subtle, slowly adding more and more fascist conditions over time so we’re deep in the middle of it before we know what hit us. For communists, it’s important to fight such trends.

Throughout the country there is a rush toward replacing larger schools with smaller ones. Among my friends with whom I work in our school I’ve raised the idea that this move is really “creeping” fascism. In New York City, the Chancellor has mandated the closing of large comprehensive high schools to be replaced by smaller ones, as is happening in my school.

They tell us the large schools are “not meeting students’ educational needs.” Although our school was improving somewhat, the bosses say it “wasn’t improving fast enough.”

The attack has a distinctly racist character since the majority of the school closings are in predominately black and Latino working-class neighborhoods. Currently the bosses feel they don’t have enough support or soldiers for their wars and think that one way to change this is to win these youth in the schools, and in the classroom, to patriotic support of their imperialist adventures.

I told my colleagues the rulers are closing the large schools to maintain more control, especially in the classroom. The students are their main targets.

Fascism in Schools Has Many Forms

This strategy is fascist for several reasons. These small schools have fewer students (although the same large class size) and so needed staff is also smaller, which is much easier to watch and control than a larger one.

Few veteran teachers are hired at the small schools. Mostly younger, newer teachers staff them. The latter aren’t tenured and usually are on probation, blunting their ability to fight-back against attacks on students and staff. A “55/25” proposal — allowing a teacher with 25 years of service to retire at 55 without penalty — is being dangled before more experienced teachers.

Small-school principals have greater power over the staff. At one Brooklyn school a principal rated 10 of 40 teachers “unsatisfactory.” At another school, union meetings are practically forbidden. When some staff did call one, they were ordered into the principal’s office to explain their action. The administration more easily knows everything occurring at these schools, making organizing more difficult.

The greatest fascist danger at these schools is the change in the relationship between the working class and the ruling class. Communists believe that the class interests of teachers, students and parents are opposed to the administration’s (bosses’) interests. These small schools spread a “we” philosophy, the “we” uniting the staff and administration. If one doesn’t follow the principal’s goal for student achievement, that teacher is ostracized from the rest of the staff.

For example, many teachers in these small schools work hours on their own time, without being paid overtime. If teachers refuse, they’re labeled “slackers.” Teachers go along with this anti-working-class thinking unwittingly, furthering fascism’s talons in the backs of the workers.

The majority of these small schools are housed — up to three or four — in a structure that used to contain one large school. The building is carved up into different sections to fit each school, often leading to a fight for space. Students who happen to wander down the “wrong” hallway may be considered “trespassers,” subjecting them to disciplinary action.

The fight over space forces students to share the little existing space. Gymnasiums and cafeterias that once served one school must now accommodate up to four schools. This not only pits staff members against each other, but also student against student.

School Closing Is Attack
on Working Class

The news that our school was closing devastated most of my colleagues. Many have been there 20 years or more. For some, this was the only school at which they’ve taught. The immediate response was depression, then anger (usually toward the principal or other administrators) and then fear — from not knowing where they’ll teach next year, not knowing what will happen next.

Many might not recognize this as growing fascism, but this is how it “creeps” into our lives, with workers concentrating on where to go next rather than on organizing. As workers “adjust” and get used to this level of attack by the bosses, it only enables the rulers to go further. This move to smaller schools is an attack on the working class, not “just another change in the schools.”

As we fight it, we must win teachers, students and parents not only to see it as growing fascism, but also to understand why the rulers are resorting to such attacks — the better to control us and win the youth, in preparation for unending wars against imperialist rivals. Ultimately, only communist revolution can defeat fascism because its source: capitalism.J Red Teacher

(Series continues next issue)

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Electoral-Circus Stirs Intense Debate in Church

My church youth group has talked a lot about the elections lately. These young adults used to be reluctant to talk about politics, but now there is lots of enthusiasm, especially among the first-time voters. Several waited for hours to see Clinton and reported happily that they had seen CHALLENGE sellers there, too. Many are enthralled by Obama.

This is the savvy “YouTube generation,” but their reasons were incredibly superficial: “I just like him” or “She won the debate.” Nobody seemed to know the candidates’ positions, other than “she’s for health care, he’s for change,” or whether they differ on anything substantial. One older adult was the most enthusiastic, saying that “Obama is inspiring a whole generation of youth to get involved in the electoral process.” About half of the young people just listened, and one said later that she “wasn’t really into the elections.”

Another adult, known as a radical, was pressed to say who she really wanted to be president. She replied, “We’re on an out-of-control runaway train with no brakes, headed toward a cliff, and you are asking who I want to drive it. I think we should all get off the train, as quickly as we can!” Several young CHALLENGE readers said, “yeah, but communism didn’t work.” But they agreed to invite a student comrade to talk with the group later.

One of the sharper exchanges came when someone offered to bet on the return of a military draft within the first term of any Democratic administration. “Why do you think Obama would do that?” someone asked. “Because the main message of his campaign is to get young people to feel that ‘we’re all in this together, part of a liberal multi-racial, anti-sexist America’ and the logical conclusion is ‘everybody should do National Service’ which would turn into a draft” she said. Most looked unhappy with this idea, but nobody argued against it.

In an anti-racism class at the church on election night, almost everyone self-identified as a Democrat and seemed to agree when the minister said whichever Democrat won would be wonderful. But nobody actually claimed that the Democrats would improve things. Instead they talked about how a black or female president would be a “symbol” of change for the better. Several were excited that Internet developments have “democratized American politics.” On the other hand, several people pointed out that the constant media talk about the “black vote” and “Latin vote” and the “female vote” builds even more racism.

I was a little surprised when some CHALLENGE readers shared the general hopefulness about the elections, because these good friends are open to the ideas that capitalism can’t be reformed and that we can’t end racism without ending capitalism. But their idea of having a “long-term perspective” is that incremental “gains” made through electoral politics will lead eventually to revolutionary developments.

Now a long-term perspective depends on understanding that small changes can create conditions for a revolution. But what kind of changes? Not winning small reforms but winning people – by ones and twos and in larger groups – little by little, closer to the communist movement PLP is building.

Most of my friends don’t yet fully agree that it’s meaningless to talk about “democracy” when we live under a capitalist dictatorship. And we need to talk more about what real mass participation will be like under a revolutionary dictatorship of the working class.

These conversations have led to a new regular CHALLENGE reader, with plans to show the paper to four more people. Being deeply involved in this church has created wonderful opportunities for sharp, friendly, long-term political struggle over racism, the bosses’ electoral circus and for communism.

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