Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Battle That Helped Crush South Africa’s Apartheid

Part VII of Africa Series

On March 25, the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, was celebrated in Cuba by Raúl Castro and government representatives from Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Although the battle is mired in propaganda over whether the South African apartheid army really lost or the Cuban Army-led forces won, it marked the beginning of the end of the hated South African apartheid regime and the myth of its army’s invincibility in Southern Africa.
It has been called “Africa’s largest land battle since World War II,” occurring amid the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. A brutal, bloody civil war gripped oil-rich Angola after it won independence from Portugal in 1975. Angola’s MPLA government was pro-Soviet. So the CIA, the apartheid South African regime, Congo’s corrupt dictator Mobutu and Israel armed, financed and trained UNITA, a guerrilla movement that had also fought Portugal’s colonial army. UNITA and its backers outgunned the MPLA, so the latter sought aid from Cuba, which sent thousands of soldiers to fight alongside the MPLA. The South African army also wanted UNITA to control Angola’s southern border to stop the liberation movement (SWAPO) fighting for Namibian independence from South African control.

The border war’s final battle occurred in the city of Cuito Cuanavale, in early 1988. It involved hundreds of tanks, artillery, planes and 50,000 Cuban-army-led soldiers against the UNITA-South African army attempt to capture the city. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. The apartheid regime claimed it wasn’t defeated.
But as von Clausewitz said, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” That battle crushed the myth of invincibility of the racist apartheid regime and its army. Several years later, apartheid was dismantled in South Africa.

Unfortunately, this defeat of the hated apartheid regime didn’t include a revolutionary struggle against the root of racism: capitalism. Today, the rulers of South Africa, Angola and Namibia (all former leaders of those liberation movements) are in bed with capitalism and imperialism. Cuba looks to be turning towards the “China” road of free-market capitalism. And a new imperialist battle for Africa’s oil and other vital resources is developing, now between the U.S. and Chinese imperialists. A luta continua (the struggle continues).

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Students, Workers and Soldiers Must Unite to:Smash Imperialist War for Oil!

With 4,000 (and counting) American deaths, over 40,000 wounded, and at least 600,000 Iraqis killed, the Iraq war has increased the suffering of workers and youth in both countries, especially in Iraq. After five years of U.S. occupation, opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq is found throughout the country at schools, on the job, and in the military. Most of the U.S. population wants the U.S. military to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Despite all the Democratic blather about a total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Clinton, Obama and the U.S. congress are clearly not going to oppose the basic interests of the U.S. ruling class. Those interests require that congressional members (both Democrats and Republicans) buy time while ruling class strategists prepare to extend the current war across the entire Gulf region. This new war will require a massive military build-up, including a re-institution of the draft. It will also require that the U.S. military, sooner rather than later, take on Iran, the leading power in the region. The reason that the U.S. ruling class must strengthen its control over Iraq and the Gulf region is oil.

Oil and Imperialism. Oil is the basis of modern industry. It is critical for the operation of factories and for transportation systems, and is the lifeblood of the economy and military of every capitalist nation. The U.S. ruling class is waging its wars in the Gulf region for two reasons:

    Economic crisis in the U.S. Since the 1970s, the U.S. capitalist class has been losing market share to its imperialist rivals: Europe, Japan, Russia and China. As world competition has pushed down their profits, the U.S. bosses have been forced to resort to layoffs and cutbacks, and to move factories and service operations overseas in a desperate search for cheap labor and resources.

    Monopolizing oil. Why does the U.S. have two aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, when only 22% of U.S. oil is imported from that region? Because in order to control its rivals, the U.S. ruling class needs to monopolize the strategic power of oil, which means controlling its supply, transportation, and pricing.

In order to protect the U.S. superpower status and empire against challenges from imperialist rivals, particularly China and Russia, the U.S. ruling class needs to dominate the Middle East and Central Asia (and their oil) politically and militarily. The current Iraqi insurrection and civil war has prevented any political solution acceptable to the U.S. bosses from developing—so war in Iraq is the only option. The U.S. bosses are pushing patriotism and anti-Arab racism to get us to support their imperialist oil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the real enemy is not workers from other nations but capitalists of all nations.

How Do We Stop Imperialist wars? Our battle cry should not be the liberals’ “Out Now!” but “Smash Imperialism!” As we learned in the anti-Vietnam war movement, the working class, not the lying politicians, is the key force in any fight against the capitalist class. Workers are the ones who work in the factories where the weapons are made. Workers and students are the ones who serve in the military. Workers and students led the anti-Vietnam war struggle, and these are the forces that will organize the strikes, shut down the troop trains, occupy the campuses and fill the streets in the coming anti-war struggle. We must begin to organize this struggle now. Here’s an agenda we can begin with:

  • Drive all military recruiters off the campuses.
  • Support draftees and soldiers who refuse to fight in the bosses’ wars.
  • Fight anti-black, anti-Arab, and anti-immigrant racism.
  • Organize in our unions to strike against the war. Build for a general strike.

Capitalism = Death. Capitalism generates racism, poverty and imperialist war. A system that can murder workers by the millions in Iraq and Afghanistan but cannot feed the hungry, shelter the homeless or provide decent jobs for all does not deserve to exist. The only long range answer is to build an international communist movement of workers, students and soldiers to defeat capitalism with communist revolution.

    Smash Capitalism and Imperialist War with Communist Revolution!

Progressive Labor Party is a revolutionary communist party dedicated to eliminating capitalism with communist revolution as the only way to end imperialism, terrorism, racism, sexism and class inequality.

For more information, see www.plp.org.

March on May Day, International Workers’ Day

May 3, 2008 in Brooklyn, New York

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Mis-leading Workers and Youth: Obama Spurs Rulers’ War Agenda

Swelling support for Barack Obama is a two-sided phenomenon. On one hand, it reflects the sincere but misdirected anti-war, anti-racist aspirations of millions of people. On the other, it marks a concerted ruling-class effort to win these millions to the electoral system and thus to implicitly back U.S. imperialism. Communists should work among these masses to turn this around.

So whom does Obama serve, and what’s his agenda? A big hint comes from arch-imperialist Paul Volcker’s recent endorsement of Obama. Chief economist at Chase bank, director of the Rockefeller-led Trilateral Commission, Federal Reserve chairman who put millions out of work by jacking up interest rates to 20% to bail out bankers in the 1980s, Volcker hopes Obama’s “leadership…can restore confidence in our vision, our strength, and our purposes right around the world.” (Wall Street Journal, 1/31/08)

FOR LIBERAL IMPERIALISTS: OBAMA BEST ASSET IN 50 YEARS

Volcker exemplifies U.S. rulers who — facing inevitable clashes with regional rivals like Iran and global ones like China and Russia — need to mobilize and militarize millions of people. Obama, with his broad appeal to young students and workers, is giving the war-makers invaluable help. Robert Putnam, from Harvard’s Kennedy School, a top imperialist policy factory, writes, “Primaries and caucuses…in the last two months have evinced the sharpest increase in civic engagement among American youth in at least a half-century, portending a remarkable revitalization of American democracy.” (Boston Globe, 3/2/08) He could have said more honestly, “of the U.S. war machine.”

Crediting, both the “extraordinary” Obama campaign and 9/11 for the upturn, Putnam calls the new crop of voters a second “Greatest Generation.” He likens them to the tens of millions who, whether enlisted or drafted, fought fascism in World War II. The capitalists Putnam represents (the Ford, Getty, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations bankroll his “civic engagement” program at Harvard) hope voting will boost patriotism and, ultimately, troop strength.

HARVARD PROF BACKING OBAMA GIVES THANKS FOR 9/11 SLAUGHTER

Near the end of, and after, the Vietnam War, the rulers tried several tactics to control youth. They dropped the voting age to 18 in 1972. Some bought it. That year 52% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, while millions received a steady diet of drugs and other aspects of a dead-end “do-your-own-thing” culture. In fact, with war out of the way temporarily, youth apathy pleased the bosses. Youth rates of voting in presidential elections fell steadily throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, reaching barely 36% in 2000. But by then China had emerged, and Russia reemerged, as serious U.S. foes. U.S. bosses now needed major sources of cannon fodder.

As Putnam notes, “Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001… a tragedy, but also the sort of opportunity for civic revival that comes along once or twice a century…. In the 2004 and 2006 elections, turnout among young people began at last to climb after decades of decline.” Like the rulers’ pre-9/11 Hart-Rudman Commission reports, Putnam welcomes terrorist mass murder as an aid in “galvanizing” the U.S. for global war. But, as motivators, 9/11s and Pearl Harbors, however useful, wane over time. They must be sustained by a Roosevelt-style, media-fueled charisma that mis-leads workers into voting booths, against their class interest.

‘BARRACKS’ OBAMA FIRES AIDE WHO LEAKED WAR PLANS

Putnam’s — and U.S. imperialism’s — reputed savior, Obama has a long history of luring people of military age into the system. His “Project Vote” in Chicago in the 1990s registered over 100,000 young first-time voters. Obama, who promises to add 92,000 soldiers to the Army immediately, has participated in the Seminar on Civic Engagement that Putnam leads at Harvard.

Pretending to be the “Out-of-Iraq” peace candidate, Obama supports the war agenda just as much as Clinton and McCain do. He recently fired a foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, for letting that cat out of the bag. (Power, another Kennedy School guru, specializes in disguising military invasions as “humanitarian interventions.”) On March 6, a BBC reporter asked her: “So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment?” Power’s answer: “You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009.”

Yes, Obama’s voting numbers present us an opportunity because they show that young people are now less cynical and more open to “talking politics.” But just what politics is crucial. The highly politicized Hitler Youth weren’t cynical. Many earnestly hoped for the better world Nazi imperialism claimed to offer. And Hitler, after all, professing “socialism,” was able to rally many well-meaning people seeking change to support German industrialists’ deadly schemes for territorial expansion.

Unless we actively participate in Obama’s campaign and expose his true purposes, any Obama success at the polls will prove deadly to the working class. The fatally deceptive optimism he sells masks imperialist objectives that are the exact opposite of PLP’s working-class program. Our long-term goals are waging a revolution to destroy the profit system and its endless wars and making a communist-led working class the rulers of society.

Obama’s Phony ‘Anti-War’ Roots

Obama mirrors both the rulers’ phony anti-war candidates McCarthy (1968) and McGovern (1972) as well as that era’s pro-capitalist, pacifist civil rights misleaders. McCarthy drew thousands of youth into his “anti-Vietnam War” campaign and actually forced the rulers to dump incumbent Lyndon Johnson. But the war went on. In 1972, McGovern again brought thousands of young people around his “anti-war” candidacy, but that effort didn’t end the war either.
When masses were in motion then, demanding change, PLP exposed the imperialist political content of those movements. Politics are primary.

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Vets Must See Imperialism Can Only Bring War

The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) are holding a Winter Soldier’s Conference, presenting vets’ and Iraqi and Afghan workers’ testimony of U.S. imperialism’s war atrocities. It is modeled after testimony of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam presented by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in 1971. (“Winter Soldier” is drawn from the mutiny of “poorly-clothed, badly-fed, and worse-paid” soldiers, many re-deployed, at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776. They demanded and won full pardon, money, food and supplies and discharges for the re-deployed.)

While many activists want to re-invigorate the U.S. anti-war movement, some IVAW leaders want to use Winter Soldier — stressing voting, lobbying and direct action — to pressure politicians “to think twice” about launching “unjust” wars. But Vietnam vets’ testimony in 1971 couldn’t prevent virtually non-stop wars afterwards, in Latin America, Africa, the Mid-East and Europe. U.S. rulers spent billions to wage proxy and direct wars to compete with Soviet, European and Asian rivals.

Blaming “bad policy” and politicians just paves a path for wider wars. Fighting imperialism requires attacking its root — capitalism — with its violent competition amongst the bosses driving to maximize power and profits. Eventually ending such wars requires building a mass international communist party and a red army to smash the bosses’ state power with workers’ power — a world without profits.

During World War I, the Russian communist Bolsheviks organized soldiers on the frontlines and led workers, students and soldiers to turn imperialist war into class war. Instead of “pressuring” the Russian rulers to stop fighting, the Bolsheviks organized millions, including soldiers on the front lines, to throw out the imperialist war-makers and build a workers’ state. Organizing working-class troops into a red army is crucial to ultimately smashing the imperialist warmakers.
Winter Soldier has the potential to encourage anti-war organizing amongst troops. IVAW’s leader has called on soldiers to withdraw their support for the Iraq war. But much more is needed. PLP says we must fight to destroy the cause of these endless imperialist wars: that means organizing for communism.

In Vietnam, troops participated in mass protests, mutinied and “fragged” (killed) their officers in opposing the war and racism. Now, 35 years later, comes another Winter Soldier testimony to hold the rulers “accountable” again! Organizing conscientious objectors, refusing missions and counter-recruitment actions can be useful, but which class’s politics are in command — the workers’ or the bosses’ — is primary.

To “save GIs’ lives,” U.S. officers in Iraq lead “search and avoid” missions to minimize risking U.S. troops’ lives while patrolling — but instead favor leveling whole cities and everyone in them! Opposing the war only because it’s “dangerous for troops” is a racist and sexist attack on Iraqi workers and encourages genocide. Iraqi women and children are disproportionately killed by air strikes; military-age Iraqi males are targeted for detention and execution.

Today, some U.S. soldiers, influenced by communist politics, are leading fight-backs against the command’s orders, but also struggle to win fellow troops to the need for communist revolution, anti-racism and anti-sexism. Troops may resist war, but unless their resistance is part of the struggle for communism the bosses will use their grip on state power to reverse any gains we may achieve.

“Patriotic concern for the troops” still leaves us under imperialist leadership. Winter Soldier’s panel on how the occupation of Iraq “hurts the military” echoes the complaints of one faction of the U.S. ruling class. U.S. generals and Democrats complain of a “broken force,” worrying about keeping the military ready for other, larger, future wars. Some veterans and troops are upset about multiple rotations into combat and call for “sharing the burden” among the U.S. population, a position Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both support, with calls for “national service” and increased troop numbers.

These liberal Democrats are preparing for wider wars. Their job is to defend the U.S. ruling class against workers and rival bosses. Both Obama and Clinton support the Democrat Carter Doctrine: using military force to guarantee U.S. access to, control of, and profit from Persian Gulf oil. Obama says he’s “open” to keeping troops in Iraq for years, if necessary. While the NY Times reports the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan is “alarmingly high,”

Obama promises to redeploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The recently-announced increase in U.S. covert operations in Pakistan will continue, no matter who’s president.

Liberal U.S. anti-war leaders want us to believe that the problem is just Bush, the neo-cons and McCain. With “democracy” and the Constitution, people can vote, lobby or “protest their way to peace.” PLP will work in Winter Soldier to expose the ruthlessness of capitalism.

As U.S. rulers contemplate their self-described “long war,” PLP is organizing troops, vets and military families for the long struggle for communism. Our class needs more fight-backs that build anti-racist, anti-sexist and international working-class unity to smash the bosses’ dictatorship, not patriotic peace movements for a “more humane” capitalist/imperialist-run country. Fight for communism!

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CAPITALISM KILLS: 72,000 GI CASUALTIES; MILLION IRAQI DEATHS

The GI casualty figure is the latest lie uncovered about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon reports the number of wounded somewhere in the teens (including nearly 4,000 dead in Iraq). But Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) says the Defense Department only releases one category of battlefield casualty, those “wounded in action” by a bullet, shrapnel or knife.

“A GI who cracks his head on the windshield of his Humvee in a crash, though he may have suffered brain damage and had to be evacuated…is considered ‘injured,’ not ‘wounded,’” says VCS head Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War I vet. Government figures released to the media don’t include such casualties. Sullivan’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed that through January 5, 2008, U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan totaled 72,000.

A GI suffering a heart attack or severe emotional collapse is considered “ill,” not “wounded,” never entering the official casualty count.

Sullivan, a former Veterans Administration (VA) project manager, blew the whistle on inadequate vets’ health care long before the Washington Post “broke” the story. The VCS reports that “VA hospitals and clinics have already treated 263,909 ‘unplanned’ patients” and 245,034 “unanticipated” disability claims from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Sullivan expects an eventual 700,000 patient claims.

Meanwhile, a leading British polling group, the Opinion Research Business, recently reported 1.03 million Iraqi deaths. (Reuters, 1/30/08) That figure omits three of Iraq’s 18 provinces, two of which are among the country’s most volatile, Kerbala and Anbar. But U.S. rulers completely ignore Iraqi deaths.

Such is the destruction of human lives wrought by U.S. imperialism in its drive to control oil supplies and other resources and maintain profits, battling its capitalist rivals.

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Puerto Rico: Teachers’ Strike On Hold, Fight ‘Rat’ Rivera

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, March 5 — After a 10-day militant strike, 10,000 teachers held a mass meeting at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum and agreed to the proposal of Rafael Feliciano, president of the FMPR (Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico) for a temporary suspension of the strike in order to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of their struggle without surrendering the right to strike again.

The strike included many mass actions, street marches of thousands, militant picket lines, battling vicious attacks by riot cops and confronting the gang-up of the Dept. of Education (DOE) bosses, governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and a court order to decertify the union for violating the anti-strike Law 45.

The strikers also had to deal with backstabbing by international union hacks like Dennis Rivera, vice-president of the SEIU “Change to Win” Federation and former president of NYS Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers Union. He lunched with Governor Vilá to urge decertification of the FMPR in favor of an SEIU union. During a mass rally, when a speaker called Rivera a “vulture,” striking teachers repeatedly chanted, “He’s a rat.”

The strikers did win a $150-a-month wage hike on top of a $100 monthly increase agreed upon last year. While the cost of living here is much higher than in the U.S., teachers’ starting pay here is $19,200-a-year, much lower than any U.S. school district. The DOE agreed not to punish any striking teachers “except those involved in criminal activities” (it was the cops who criminally attacked strikers) and to put on hold the privatization of many public schools (the DOE’s plan to make the 500,000 public school students and their working-class parents pay even more for the rotten conditions).
The strikers received support from other workers and students here, many of whom joined the marches and other activities during the struggle. A mass student meeting at the Univ. of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus organized a 24-hour strike to support the teachers. Scabbing “dissidents” had little mass support among the teachers but got a lot of coverage in the bosses’ media. And the opportunist leadership of the National Hostos Independence Movement issued a press release backing the bosses.

In the U.S., the strikers won support from both college and public school teachers. (See adjacent article on support from the City University of NY Professional Staff Congress union). The March 5 Delegate Assembly of the NYC United Federation of Teachers (UFT), with 92,000 members, also unanimously passed a solidarity resolution “to support the Puerto Rican teachers in their struggle to be treated with dignity.” But the UFT leadership gave no real support to the strikers.

On March 4, the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Agency in Manhattan was picketed, backing the strikers. PLP teachers participated in these support actions, and distributed a PLP leaflet in NYC and L.A. supporting them.
The strike was more than a trade union struggle; it was a political fight-back against the rulers’ strike-breaking Law 45 (similar to the U.S. Taft-Hartley and NY State Taylor Laws which forbid public workers’ strikes). It also fought the colonial-master politics of the Change to Win and AFL-CIO hacks, as well as the brutal repression by the “shock police.”

The strike demonstrated that, despite all the odds, these teachers dared to fight back in a day and age when so many workers accept the bosses’ attacks that make us pay for their economic crisis and endless wars (the death rate of soldiers from Puerto Rico in the Iraq war is very high). But it also showed the limitations of reform struggles.
Workers must turn these battles into schools for communism, learning how to forge a revolutionary internationalist movement to carry on the long-range fight-back for a world without vicious cops, union traitors and capitalist-imperialist oppressors. That’s the goal of workers’ power — communism — that PLP fights for. Join us!

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CUNY Faculty Union Supports Puerto Rico’s Strikers

NEW YORK CITY, March 6 — The February 25 Delegate Assembly of the City University’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC) voted unanimously to “participate in strike support and solidarity efforts on behalf of the striking teachers of the FMPR [Puerto Rico’s teachers’ union].” Delegates contributed $700 on the spot, and quickly organized a network for strike support on the campuses. Fifty PSC’ers took 7,000 flyers and petitions to union colleagues and students on at least half of CUNY’s 20 campuses. Another $900 was raised by PSC leaders at a board meeting of the state teachers’ union body.

Class unity across borders is essential for teachers and all workers, so PL members and friends in the PSC took the lead organizing strike support on the campuses. Exclusive focus on economic gains for a single union’s members is a loser for all workers because it isolates us from each other. We need to combine struggle for our own demands with equal efforts to build international working-class unity and class consciousness, to win workers to PLP.

This struggle will remain a significant political one among PSC leaders and activists for some time. While all are sympathetic to the striking teachers, there is disagreement about priorities: amid a tough PSC contract campaign and an uphill battle for more State funding, should we spend time and resources on FMPR strike support?

PLP members and friends and other PSC’ers answered that question with a mass approach, working hard on the campuses to persuade our colleagues and students how vital it is to support our fellow teachers in a bitter struggle. We were not deterred by comments like, “I wish you’d spend this kind of energy on the contract campaign!” Some were anxious about relations with other unions “if we got too far out front” supporting the FMPR, which disaffiliated from our national union, and is being raided by SEIU VP Dennis Rivera. But we persisted, getting a warm response from CUNY students, especially those entering teaching and those from Latin America.

One cafeteria worker urged others to sign the petition, exclaiming, “This is to liberate my people!” And all workers, we told him. One signer was a union chapter leader in his high school.

We used different tactics: tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings. We proved that relying on the masses of PSC’ers and students to express their international solidarity with the strikers was the way for revolutionaries to work in reform struggles, not as some sectarian groups do, saying some apparently “correct” things but building no base among the mass of workers.

Self-critically, comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists’ state power, but win all workers’ liberation — communism.

We’ve recently had two CUNY PLP forums, one on racism and another on immigration, each attracting 30 or more faculty and students. We’ve also expanded CHALLENGE readership and study groups, have collected $800 worth of new subscriptions. We’re planning a Party newsletter at CUNY, and winning some friends closer to joining, but we have more to do. Time presses: the whole world is a tinder box leading to a major imperialist war. Teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico have taught us a good lesson in fighting capitalism: “¡Lucha sí! ¡Entrega no!” Struggle yes, surrender no!

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‘Need Bloodshed to Bring Changes’

CHICAGO, IL February 29 ––“Why are all these people clapping? This isn’t a victory! It’s an assassination of the working class. It’s going to take bloodshed to get the kind of changes we need!” That’s what a black worker with 30 years at the County hospital said about the new funding “compromise” reached by the Cook County Board of Commissioners. They agreed to raise the sales tax in return of giving up control of the Bureau of Health services to an “independent,” more professional Board of Directors.

The applause she was referring was coming from the SEIU, AFSCME and NNOC (Nursing) union leaders, and the Medical Staff (doctors), who fell in line behind the racist budget cutters Stroger and Simon, and claim to have saved the County healthcare system! The County hasn’t been “saved.” It is more than half-closed. All the school-based clinics are closed, Provident is downsized and Oak Forest decimated. Patients wait in the ER for more than 24 hours for a bed on the overcrowded wards while inpatient beds are closed because the bosses cut more than 2,000 jobs. The Stroger pharmacy is down to one shift, patients aren’t getting discharge medications, and poor mostly black and Latin women wait months to get urgently needed tests after abnormal Pap smears.

Patient visits dropped by more than 100,000 after last years’ cuts, and there are more than 1.2 million uninsured in Cook County. The County patient population is 82% black and Latin. Like home foreclosures, lay-offs, rotten schools and overcrowded jails, black, Latin and immigrant workers are taking the bulk of these racist health care cuts. The $2 billion-a-week war economy is balanced on the backs of the poorest, most vulnerable populations.

And all the talk about a “more professional Board” running the County “more efficiently” is the new language of fascist healthcare. We should find no satisfaction that the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, the Chicago Federation of Labor or liberals from the Health and Medicine Research Group are going to be governing the Health Bureau. The only reform coming our way is increasing and expanding wars, racism and fascist terror.

The “independent governing board” was called for by the Northwestern University report issued about three years ago. The authors reflected the dominant ruling class outlook and included Michelle Obama, who pulls in $300,000 sitting on the Board of University of Chicago Hospitals. Cook County workers and patients are about to get perhaps a taste of what Obama’s healthcare plan really is.

We can’t reform the racist profit system. We need communist revolution to, as the worker said, get what we need! No interim governing board of bosses and union hacks, or Democratic Party candidates can bring about that kind of “change.” PLP has been the only force exposing this “compromise” charade, moving some workers into action and standing up to the bosses and union hacks. CHALLENGE is reaching a few more eager hands and we are gearing up to bring workers and patients to May Day.

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Deal Averts South American Oil War….For Now

A March 7 Latin-American presidential summit meeting temporarily settled the crisis caused by Colombia’s bombing and subsequent murder by Colombian commandos of Raúl Reyes, a leader of the Colombian FARC guerrilla movement, and others, sleeping inside Ecuador territory. The Presidents of Venezuela (Chávez), Colombia (Uribe) and Ecuador (Correa) shook hands on a deal which Uribe was forced to make (for now) because his attack isolated his government in Latin America (only Bush, McCain, Obama and Hillary Clinton supported this aggression). But the deal didn’t solve the contradictions bringing the three countries to the verge of regional war.

The $5 billion in U.S. aid under Plan Colombia/Patriot (begun under Clinton and continued by Bush) has armed Uribe and the Colombian Army to the teeth. It’s now second to Brazil as the most powerful military in South America. Hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. and Israeli military and intelligence advisors, and private Pentagon mercenaries, are involved. U.S. electronic snooping operating from three bases inside Colombia guided the murder of the FARC guerrillas.

Uribe has become the U.S. rulers’ main ally in the region. While U.S. aid was supposed to fight the drug cartels, Colombia has basically become a narco-death squad state. Dozens from Uribe’s own party are either accused of, or in jail for, their link to the drug-dealing paramilitary death squads. On March 6, marches were held in many Colombian cities, and in other countries, protesting these murderous paramilitary forces.

Colombia is the most dangerous place worldwide for union members. Thousands of workers and others have been killed for trying to organize workers, peasants and youth. U.S. companies — Chiquita Brands, Coca-Cola, Occidental Petroleum, Drummond Mining — have paid these death squads to kill union activists.

Washington’s aid to the Colombian government is basically part of U.S. imperialism’s global war for control of oil supplies. Venezuela is the main target because, along with Mexico, it’s the key Western Hemisphere oil supplier to the U.S. (Ecuador is also an important oil producer, with investments from Chevron-Texaco and Brazil’s Petrobras).

Guillermo Almeyra reported (La Jornada, Mexico, 3/9) Shell Oil’s expectation that oil production by PEMEX (Mexico’s state-owned monopoly) will diminish, so Venezuela’s oil becomes even more important for the U.S. But Chávez is dealing with Russia, China, Iran and India. Exxon Mobil is suing Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA in an international court for not paying enough for its lost Venezuelan oil holdings. This makes Chávez a target for the U.S. oil-war strategy.

Uribe and his U.S. masters don’t like Chávez’s positive international image after he mediated FARC’s release of high-profile hostages. Interestingly enough, France’s president Sarkozy was even planning to meet with the murdered FARC leader in Ecuador to work out the release of Colombia’s former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, a French citizen. Colombia’s government warned Sarkozy to stay away.

The whole crisis caused much debate in Colombia itself. The bosses and their press pushed nationalism to support war-maker Uribe’s government. PLP members and friends were out advancing our Party’s internationalist revolutionary politics, attacking both Uribe-Bush and the entire capitalist system, describing how the rulers worldwide spill the blood of workers and youth to fight for their oil profits and imperialist allies.

Many believe Chávez and Correa are the best friends workers can have. But Chávez and Correa, after “denouncing” Uribe as a murderer, shook hands with him at the summit meeting.

Preceding this crisis, Chávez attacked “ultra-leftists” in Venezuela who don’t support his policies 100%. One example: workers at Sidor, the country’s biggest steel producer (controlled by Technit, an Argentine company) have been fighting for a contract for over a year, demanding better benefits and wages (they’re among the lowest-paid steel workers in Venezuela). Chávez’s Labor Minister is siding with Sidor bosses as a union-buster and strike-breaker, even though four workers’ general assemblies rejected the Minister’s intervention in their struggle.

PLP must intensify its political activity, offering the communist alternative, the only way out of the capitalist-imperialist hell of oil war, strike-breaking and death squads.

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