Monthly Archives: July 2008

Rulers’ Rivalry Hikes Gas Prices

The capitalist economic crisis is sharpening global competition for Persian Gulf oil and driving fuel prices sky-high. The working class is being dealt a triple body blow. In some parts of the U.S.  workers are shelling out up to one-fifth of their pay for gasoline. Soaring energy costs contribute to a job-destroying economic slowdown and are driving up food prices worldwide.

While many politicians and pundits rail at greedy speculators, who are indeed cashing in on, and boosting, the price spike, its root causes are geopolitical (and rose immediately from Federal Reserve efforts to protect U.S. banks — see box below). China’s and India’s burgeoning economies now thirst for Mid-East crude supplies that U.S. rulers once claimed as private property. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to counter U.S. economic weakness by strengthening its control over the oil all rivals needed. But despite murdering millions, the U.S. war machine has failed to secure oil-rich Iraq or tame al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan bent on seizing Mid-East oil sources. Oil’s grand prize, U.S. puppet Saudi Arabia, faces internal attacks. Meanwhile, Washington and its proxy Israel are trading escalating war threats with Iran’s holy-roller oil barons, who kicked out Exxon Mobil three decades ago. And beyond the Gulf, an upsurge in political violence has slashed Nigeria’s oil output.

BOTCHED BY BUSH, U.S. IRAQ GENOCIDE YIELDS RULERS LITTLE OIL

Unlike growth in China and India, the U.S. fiasco in Iraq — which is also central to the oil price-crunch — receives little blame from the rulers’ media. U.S. bosses invaded Iraq in 2003 hoping to create a new “swing producer,” in addition to its old one, Saudi Arabia, increasingly bedeviled by al Qaeda. A “swing producer” is one with sufficient spare capacity to steer world markets by raising or lowering output, according to its U.S. patron’s wishes. (One reason U.S. rulers toppled Saddam Hussein was his constant jerking around of oil production, making for an unstable price market which Big Oil couldn’t control.)

In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia helped the U.S. bring down the oil-exporting Soviet Union by pumping so much crude that its price fell to $5 a barrel, depriving the Kremlin of needed foreign income. Months after the Iraq war began, the liberal Brookings Institution gushed, “Many analysts believe that Iraq might be able to pump up its production to as much as 6 mbd [million barrels per day] by 2010 and 7-8 mbd by 2020.” (Brookings, May 2003)

But Bush didn’t put enough boots on the ground to secure Iraq’s oilfields, which now produce 2.5 mbd, even less than before the war. And with their own infrastructure in peril, Saudi princes can’t take up the slack. “Saudi Arabia has arrested 701 Islamists in the past six months on suspicion of plotting attacks on oil industry installations.” (AFP, 6/26/08 ) The Saudis just promised to hike output a meaningless 200,000 barrels a day.

The U.S.-Israeli standoff with Iran is another major factor in oil prices. “Speculators and others may be acting on the assumption that Washington and its Israeli ally will proceed to ‘take out’ Iranian nuclear facilities, because that is exactly what Bush and his allies are implying will happen if the Ahmadinejad regime does not comply with U.N. resolutions.” (Newsweek, 7/7/08 ) In turn, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, promised, “Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz” (Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008 )  the world’s most important chokepoint. Through it 17 million barrels of oil pass every day. In such a case, $10-a-gallon gas would be cheap.

WITH CRUCIAL FUEL SOURCES AT RISK, RULERS FEEL A DRAFT

To ease their oil woes, U.S. rulers are planning a solution involving far more than reducing fuel consumption or regulating speculators. Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a group called Securing America’s Future Energy, headed by former Marine commandant P.X. Kelly, are staging a war-game program,“Oil ShockWave,” on campuses across the U.S. The New York Times (11/2/07) reported on one imminent scenario presented last year:

“Iran had drastically cut its oil production in response to Western economic sanctions imposed because of its nuclear weapons program. The Venezuelan leadership of Hugo Chavez followed suit, driving prices beyond $150 a barrel. The Iranian nuclear program touched off talk of war. The military advisers urged redeployment of the bulk of America’s naval and air power to the Persian Gulf in anticipation of war, and urged reinstatement of the draft for young men and women.”

Hang onto your hats. At press time oil hit the $143-per-barrel mark and talk of war with Iran has begun. “Oil ShockWave” deliberately targets college students, who, ever since Vietnam, have been reluctant to support the Pentagon’s murder machine. The program springs from the highest levels of the liberal Establishment. In addition to its Harvard pedigree, “Oil ShockWave” boasts Robert Rubin, Citigroup chief and

Clinton Treasury-Secretary, as a leading participant.

Like openly militaristic McCain, “Barracks” Obama favors the mobilization a broader Gulf war requires. He vows to add 92,000 troops immediately upon inauguration. But his threat to invade Pakistan “searching for Osama bin Laden” and the Taliban would require hundreds of thousands of troops and could kick off a war in a country possessing the A-Bomb. Some “anti-war” candidate!

Voting for either candidate would prove a serious political error. War is a result of capitalist crisis and inter-imperialist rivalry. A new president can change the appearance of the crisis, but not its essence. The solution is to work towards the ultimate elimination of the profit system that causes these endless oil wars. Our revolutionary communist Party has this goal.

U.S. BANK BAILOUT SPIKED OIL PRICES

While many politicians and pundits blame greedy speculators for skyrocketing oil prices, the immediate problem arose from the Federal Reserve’s efforts to protect U.S. banks. Under capitalism, money serves two functions: (1) it has a “use value,” enabling the buying and selling of commodities, from raw materials and labor power to finished goods; (2) its accumulation is a means of storing value for future investments and future payment. Capitalist hoards are claims on the future labor of workers and the surplus value they can create. (Workers are paid only part of the value they create. The rest is “surplus value” from which bosses’ profits are reaped.)

Since last August the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates and supplied billions of dollars to the banking system in an effort to limit the bank failures that began with the subprime mortgage crisis. This increase of money in circulation cheapened the value of the dollar. It now buys less in international markets.

As the value of the dollar fell 20% during the last year, so did the value of foreign investments in U.S. treasury bills and corporate debt. The decision to let the value of the dollar fall so quickly sharply reduced the value of hundreds of billions of treasury bills belonging to China and other rivals.

Looking for protection from such losses, investors (U.S. banks, pension funds, foreign governments) began buying gold and oil, commodities whose value could not be manipulated by the Federal Reserve. This increased buying forced up the price of both oil and gold, fueling new internal conflicts in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations, immigrant workers, whose earnings are tied to the dollar, have staged strikes because the reduction in the value of their pay meant they can no longer feed their families back in India and Pakistan.

Faced with internal conflict, many Persian Gulf nations are again pressing to price oil in euros or yen, both worth far more than the dollar. (Iran already requires Japan to pay for oil in yen not dollars). This move has been limited only by the efforts of the Saudi royal family, the world’s largest oil producer and a major holder of U.S. investments (including in Citibank). If oil was not priced in dollars, the value of the dollar and these investments would fall even further as countries dumped the dollar for other currencies.

This falling dollar stoked the already heated inter-imperialist rivalries for oil, further exposing the U.S. failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Bosses’ Imperialist Dogfight Sets Stage for Boeing Contract Fight

The July 16 strike sanction vote means the Boeing contract battle is in full swing. For nearly a year, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) leadership has been pushing the slogan, “It’s Our Time, This Time.” They say that if workers in union plants stick together, they can negotiate a contract to increase our wages, benefits and job security. Workers on the shop floor are not so sure. As one machinist puts it: “What part of capitalism don’t they understand?!”

In this struggle, illusions won’t serve us. Currently, Chinese, Russian and European capitalists are economically challenging the U.S. bosses, undermining U.S. rulers’ political clout. War to maintain the empire is pushed to the forefront, with both presidential candidates offering plans for a “better” war. In this climate, the U.S. bosses are rebuilding their industrial military base on the backs of the working class, particularly those of us in basic industry. Racism and sexism lead the attack. Black and Latin workers — women and men — in the subcontractor plants were the first and most brutally attacked. (The subcontractors are non-union, low-wage plants to which outfits like Boeing farm out work formerly produced by higher-wage union plants — domestic outsourcing.)

The bosses use racist super-exploitation as a wedge to attack all industrial workers: 140,000 unionized senior autoworkers will be replaced by 77,000 new workers at half the wage. The UAW carefully isolated American Axle strikers for 83 days this spring, and then railroaded a contract through that cut 2,000 jobs and wages by a third to a half. The Nucor company is building the first integrated steel plant in the U.S. in four decades right outside Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to take advantage of some of the country’s lowest, non-union labor. No matter what eventually happens with the tanker contract, the bosses, with the Pentagon’s blessing, are determined to erect a “southern aerospace corridor” in non-union, low-wage Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The system depends on this kind of racist exploitation to build profits.

The Boeing bosses have no illusions about the times — or their ruling-class needs. In late June, they eliminated defined pensions (ones with guaranteed specific benefits) for all non-union new hires, demanding the same of union workers when the old contract expires on September 3. They’re pushing healthcare cuts disguised as a “wellness-based healthcare system.” They’ve said our wages are “above the market rate” after they slashed the “market rate” through racist outsourcing — which they’re accelerating. In order to afford to attack the world’s workers, the bosses must attack us here at home — and Boeing bosses are doing their (very profitable) part!

Fight The Bosses’ Ideas  Within Our Ranks

Relying on deals with the company bosses — never wise — and believing their lie that “what’s good for the company is good for the workers” is increasingly delusional in these times. The bosses’ imperialist plans call for more war, nationalism, racism, sexism and attacks on our standard of living. The only viable answer is to smash the capitalist system with communist revolution — no easy, short-term task. We’ll never succeed without waging a long-term fight against the bosses’ ideas.

When union members struggled for our locals to participate in the immigrant rights May Day marches to fight anti-immigrant racism, they were building the class-consciousness we’ll need this fall. When workers raised money for the Jena 6 on the shop floor and fought the union misleadership to protest this racist outrage, we were laying the anti-racist groundwork for the class struggle ahead. When we exposed the Pentagon’s role in promoting aerospace wage-cuts, we took aim at the dead-end flag-waving of the union sellouts.

In this vein, PLP is sponsoring Summer Projects in the Seattle area and among L.A. aerospace subcontractors. Building anti-racist, international solidarity between union workers and non-union super-exploited subcontractor workers takes aim at the bosses’ divide-and-conquer strategy.

We face a tough battle, and may not win this round, but we can build our offense with strike preparations. We can struggle for the kind of class-consciousness and solidarity that teach us about workers’ power. We can build forces among those already in basic industry and young revolutionary workers just entering the factories in order to eventually destroy this bosses’ nightmare.

Support the Seattle and Los Angeles Summer Projects

The Progressive Labor Party is organizing Summer Projects in Seattle and Los Angeles to both learn from workers’ experiences and bring revolutionary ideas to workers, soldiers and students.  We urge you to join us in going to factories, military bases, visiting with workers, and studying the science of revolution — Dialectical Materialism — as well as hearing from the experience of revolutionary workers themselves.  Volunteers will learn first-hand from their class sisters and brothers and share experiences, which can lead to a lifetime of serving their class and fighting for a communist revolution. Please join us for a great revolutionary time! Make a donation and support a Summer Project volunteer.

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Angry LA Workers Mobilize Against Racist Police Murders

HOLLYWOOD, CA, June 21 — Hundreds of workers –– Asian, black, Latino, and white –– expressed their anger at the memorial for Usman Chaudhry, next to the bushes where racist LAPD officers woke him up, handcuffed him, then assassinated him. Chaudhry was 21 years and had autism. Even though the kkkops had his identification the police didn’t notify Chaudhry’s family about his death for 21 days.

The event was also a protest against over thirty such executions since the beginning of 2008 that include Michael Cho who was killed by La Habra police and Brian Moore, 23, in Compton. Just five days later, all charges were dropped against the cops who killed Cho. The memorial challenged the climate of fear that hangs over this block and many others like it.  “It was a good event,” said a regular CHALLENGE reader who lives in the neighborhood, “because people really came together, at all levels.”

On the one hand, we mourned with Usman’s parents, sister, and brother, all of whom spoke, and with friends and family of Cho, Michael Bayoune, and others murdered.  But the barely-suppressed anger of the crowd broke out during the closing candlelight vigil, with raised fists and chants –– led by PLP’ers –– of “No Justice, No Peace –– No Racist Police!”  CHALLENGE and leaflets were warmly received by nearly everyone.

Workers and youth are up against a racist profit system that purposely uses police terror to force workers to submit to intensified exploitation in preparation for wider wars, and eventually World War III. Workers and soldiers have nothing to gain and lots to lose from these wars, beyond those killed and wounded.  One in three homeless men are vets, and three-quarters of all vets have substance abuse or mental health problems.  They come home to inadequate care and systematic police abuse.

PLP members criticized demands made by leaders of sponsoring organizations for federal investigations or police reform. Voting for Democrats is no solution. In the midst of budget cuts to health and education, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants more money for cops.  Barack Obama has called for building up the U.S. military for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and maybe Iran.

The coalition that sponsored the rally is planning for more such events in neighborhoods across the city this summer.  PLP plans on bringing Summer Project volunteers to fight back against these racist attacks by organizing on the job and in the schools to build class unity.  Imagine if each police murder were met with on-the-job protests as well as thousands marching in the streets. And then imagine the power of such a movement, based in the industrial working class and led by communist ideas, to take on the capitalist system that’s killing us.

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Red Leadership Could Turn Lights Out on Con Ed’s Scabs

NEW YORK CITY, July 2 — Over 9,000 workers were set to strike the billion-dollar Con Ed electric company at midnight last night when a “tentative” agreement was reached in the early hours of this morning. Few details were released. The rank and file will be voting on it over the next month.

Con Ed was preparing a massive scab operation, ready to work non-union managers 24 hours a day on two 12-hour shifts, in automated control rooms, dispatch centers and on service trucks, but without routine maintenance.

The bosses had “offered” what amounted to a wage-cut: a one-half of 1% annual wage “increase” in a four-year contract, healthcare cuts, a switch to 401(k)-style pensions for new hires (which first reports said was scrapped) and a clause to make workers pay back workmen’s compensation benefits from their pensions. With inflation mounting at 4.2% a year (excluding food and gas costs!), a less-than-one-percent wage “increase” is a gigantic slash in real wages.

Meanwhile, the “neutral” government has taken the company’s side, with the State Public Service Commission saying, “Con Edison has a plan….We are confident…they are doing everything they should be doing” (NY Daily News, 7/1).

Yes, a “plan” all right — a massive strike-breaking scab operation to protect their tens of millions in profits reaped off the backs of the 9,000 workers and from charging exorbitant rates to millions of customers.

How to beat such a plan, in a company thriving on automation? If the union was worth anything it could have been doing the following:
• Calling on workers throughout the city’s labor movement to come out in support of Con Ed’s workers, and together with them surrounding the company’s buildings and barring anyone from entering or leaving;
• Better yet, preparing in advance to have thousands of Con Ed workers remain in the buildings in a mass sit-down strike to prevent any scab supervisors from performing union jobs;
• Mobilize New York’s working class to the strikers’ side, calling attention to Con Ed’s constant rate hikes that impoverish electricity consumers, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods where non-payment of exorbitant bills lead to service cut-offs.

Such a plan would inspire the entire working class with a militant, no-holds-barred strike that could deal with the company’s scab-operated automated equipment. No matter how automated, workers are still needed to operate it.

A sit-down strike could hold Con Ed’s billion-dollar automated plants hostage, just as the communist-led autoworkers did in their 1936 seizure of GM’s key plants to win their demands on threat of immobilizing the company’s machinery. In fact, the utility workers industrial union itself grew out of the militant CIO in the 1930s, largely led by communists, and is responsible for the wage and benefit levels these workers have today.

No doubt Con Ed would cry that the workers “don’t care about the public.” But it is the bosses who don’t care, raking in millions in profits while offering what amounts to a huge wage-cut to workers who are suffering skyrocketing costs in food and gasoline and being forced to pay for the bosses’ trillion-dollar oil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Irish and Italian workers have long-dominated the workforce, lately half the workers hired are black and Latino, with one in five women. The company would like to use this situation to drive a wedge between the older and newer workers. The fact that for decades the older workers had not fought to integrate the workforce could be coming home to roost now, giving Con Ed the racist tool with which to divide the workers, and feel it can get away with offering such a lousy contract.

The kind of action needed to carry out the above plan won’t happen with the current crop of union leaders whose main aim is to elect “pro-labor” politicians and who always side with the bosses. Workers need a long-range plan to build communist leadership. Organizing solidarity and unity in this current battle could help prepare the workers for the kind of action that, with red leadership, would result in a revolution that would shut off Con Ed and their partners’ in the bosses’ state.

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PL’s Politics Make Mark at LA Social Forum

LOS ANGELES, June 30 — Last weekend, the Los Angeles Social Forum drew a few hundred attendees. CHALLENGES and PL leaflets were distributed throughout the event. One workshop presented the struggles in building worker-student solidarity on their respective campuses. Discussion in both break-out groups and the workshop in general offered different ways to achieve this. PLP members showed that historically the only effective path is building a base in the working class, bringing out communist ideas in class struggle. We also emphasized that while campus work is important we must spread these ideas throughout the working class, especially among industrial workers. An important avenue this summer is participation in the Los Angeles or Seattle Summer Projects, where we will be doing precisely this — building a worker-student and soldier alliance.

The presidential election came up, and while there was mostly agreement on rejecting Obama, there was certainly disagreement over how to react to his campaign. Some wrote it off and condemned participating in it. We advocated the importance of seeing the contradictions within those who are attracted to his campaign. Many working-class youth and adults are drawn to the prospect of change, especially amid the failing economy, budget cuts and the war. We noted that such people can be won to pro-working-class, communist politics if we dare to join the struggle.

It’s important to talk with Obama supporters and show them an alternative — communist revolution — where, instead of giving away our power to politicians and their system of empty promises, we take power ourselves and attend to our needs through a communist society.

Another workshop portrayed the anti-war movement through the soldier’s perspective. A clip from the Winter Soldier forum depicted what soldiers have been required to do in this war, leading to some soldiers becoming more politically conscious. A veteran described the war as imperialist, saying the working class must and could change the world so that imperialism could not exist. A comrade explained that her experience in the anti-Vietnam War movement had taught her that activists needed to understand the reasons for the war and base their activities on anti-capitalist, communist politics.

The discussion illustrated what soldiers have done to end wars, be it the Vietnam War or the current ones in the Middle-East. Some said mass marches and rallies are important, but organizing soldiers both within and outside the military is much more vital to halting this war and building for a communist revolution. Soldiers are ultimately the ones sent to fight these wars for profit. A comrade concluded that the class consciousness of the soldiers on the panel and their stance against racism demonstrate the great potential the working class has for revolution.

Some high school students participated for the first time in the struggle to defend our ideas. Our emphasis on understanding that capitalism is the political basis of imperialism and that the solution is communism resonated with some newly anti-imperialist forum-goers. As we continue to prepare for our summer actions, the LA Social Forum reinvigorated our confidence in the working class and PLP’s politics. Overall our activity at this Forum revealed the importance of putting forward communist revolution and building a base for it.

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Liberals’ School Reforms Serve Profit System, Leave Kids Behind

At the coming American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Chicago convention, nearly everyone wants to reform or repeal NCLB (“No Child Left Behind” or, as some call it, “No Corporation Left Behind” or “No Child Left Untested”).  McCain and Obama both support NCLB’s goals and its testing to measure schools’ success, but both want “changes.”

McCain emphasizes “market forces” (privatization) and freezing federal education spending. Obama backs more active federal government intervention.  “More accountability is right,” he says. Neither candidate can or will change the basis for the U.S. educational system: it has always served the needs of the capitalist class, not of workers and our children.

The current educational reform movement’s two wings are more alike than they appear.
Straight from U.S. rulers comes the $60 million “Ed in ’08” campaign, sponsored by The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. Comparing U.S. students to those in other industrialized countries, they conclude, “The world is changing, jobs are evolving, and far too many students are simply not being prepared to be successful adults…. Many of those who do graduate are not ready for college, for the workplace and for life.” For the sake of “our economy” (meaning U.S. capitalism that exploits millions worldwide), they want “strong American schools.” “Improving our educational performance will pay huge economic dividends” — for these capitalists.

U.S. imperialists are facing unprecedented competition from European and Asian bosses, a sharpening rivalry leading to ever wider wars. So, led by Roy Romer (former Colorado governor and ex-superintendent of LA schools), they’re pressuring presidential candidates Obama and McCain to support their agenda: privatization (charter schools), accountability (teacher pay based on students’ test scores) and union-busting (ending tenure).

A new coalition, led by NYC school head Joel Klein and ex-FBI informer and Democratic Party hack Al Sharpton, is joining Romer and his billionaire pals to brand these capitalist policies as an “Education Equality Project.” They stress that black and Latino students still lag far behind their white counterparts in test scores and graduation rates, fifty years after court-ordered school desegregation. But capitalism is racist to the core. It reaps $250 billion super-profits annually from the difference in income between white families and black and Latino families.

Broad or Broader?

The other reform wing (the Forum on Educational Accountability and the Forum on Education and Democracy) advocates “A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education,” appearing to challenge the “Ed in 08” program.

But the two sides are essentially similar. The “Broader, Bolder” group also wants to make NCLB “work better” by backing expanded early childhood education and better health care. While not rejecting aspects of privatization (charters) they also want the federal government to spend more money on “accountability systems” (testing).

They want schools to promote “upward social mobility,” but don’t challenge class society where a few wealthy at the top profit from exploiting the many workers on the bottom. They want to retool schools to produce the loyal and well-trained workers and soldiers urgently needed in the pre-World War economy: “The increasingly inter-connected world of the 21st century places a premium on the preparation of all of our young people to take their places as effective workers, citizens, and family members.”

The “Broader, Bolder” group includes many Clinton administration officials; Chicago schools boss Arne Duncan Rudy Crew, Bella Rosenberg (long-time associate of former AFT President Albert Shanker), members of the Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Harvard’s Christopher Jencks and William Julius Wilson, and a raft of well-known liberal reformers. Several (including reported Obama advisor Linda Darling-Hammond), are also part of the Forum on Education and Democracy (FED), with its roadmap for education reform entitled “Democracy at Risk.”

The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) is a broader coalition of over 140 liberal organizations with similar goals and policies. It’s “committed to the No Child Left Behind Act’s objectives of strong academic achievement for all children and closing the achievement gap….The federal government has a critical role to play in attaining these goals. We endorse…an accountability system that helps ensure all children, including children of color, from low-income families, with disabilities, and of limited English proficiency, are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.”

These groups appeal to teachers and school activists who are rightly appalled by the present situation. Their programs might seem to be “a step in the right direction” despite their continued embrace of federal “accountability” and intensive testing. But reforming the system means making it work better — for the bosses who run it! To fight for our children and our future, amid sharpening inter-imperialist rivalry and war, we need to destroy that racist system before it destroys even more of us.

For schools to serve the working class, we need a society that serves the working class, not the capitalists. We must unite students, parents and teachers in a class struggle against the rulers’ attacks. Out of this struggle, with red leadership, we can acquire the understanding needed to end the racist profit system with a communist revolution that abolishes wages and inequality, building this movement in the factories, barracks, communities and schools. That means teaching and learning everything, from the history of our class to the philosophy of dialectical materialism, from politics and economics to science and mathematics. Join the Progressive Labor Party in this historic task!

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Student’s Answer to Testing: ‘Shut the School Down!’

NEW YORK CITY, June 30 — The ruling class has been forcing NYC teachers to give testing so the bosses can intensify fascist practices at home, enabling them to continue their imperialist wars. Some PL teachers met to discuss the new preparatory tests that would presumably “predict” what students would do on the final tests. These would be given three times a year, administered by teachers, then graded by the State. One PL teacher was in a high school that was administering the test, a joint partnership between the State and Houghton-Mifflin Corporation. The PL teachers decided that a written report on the test was needed.

As part of his training, the PL teacher saw the computer program of the standardized test. One screen correlated the teachers, the number of students taking the test and the students’ scores on that test. The rulers will use this test to determine what teachers teach in the classroom. They want to tie a teacher’s tenure to the test scores, which would provide a basis for their merit pay schemes. Communists must lead the working class to struggle against the bosses’ attempt to implement this new weapon against us.

A week later the school discussed the testing. The bosses’ puppet facilitator tried to explain that “data-driven education” would be positive. The PL teacher exposed the test as a “tool of oppression,” to loud applause from the majority of teachers. Every teacher who spoke afterwards condemned the test. Only the school administrators showed even tacit support for it. This did not happen in a vacuum. Over 100 CHALLENGES are distributed in the school, more than 20 among the staff. Years of friendship and political discussion with these teachers encouraged them to express their anger toward the ruling class’s plans.

With PL’ers confident in our ability to extend the struggle among teachers, it was time to involve the students directly. PL’ers have patiently built ties among the students for over four years. More than 80 students read CHALLENGE regularly; 10 have joined the Party.

After carefully estimating the balance of forces, the PL teacher encouraged his freshman classes to boycott the test. He told them his job was to give them the test, but they could decide whether or not to take it. He informed them that over $100 million had already been spent on the test.

The students were already frustrated with standardized testing and asked if the tests would affect their grades. The answer was no, but the State could come down on them hard. One student declared, “Well, let them throw the first punch and we’ll shut the school down.” Another replied, “Just give us the excuse.” (Continued next issue.)

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Mid-West Floods: Another Disaster Created by Capitalism

The wholesale failure of any flood protection system in the ravaged Mid-West has once again exposed another disaster created by capitalism. The ruling class’s neglect of the country’s infrastructure has made tens of thousands of working people homeless; killed at least two dozen residents along the Mississippi and its tributaries; submerged 100 blocks of Cedar Rapids, Iowa — a city of 200,000 — under water; destroyed tens of thousands of houses; flooded 160,000 acres of cropland in Illinois; and has seen the failure of 20 levees. And virtually all of this death and destruction was preventable if not for the anarchy of the profit system.

This failure of the flood protection system was long predicted. Army Corps of Engineers brigadier general Gerald Galloway told the NY Times, “We told them there were going to be more floods like this….This shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The Times (6/22) cited a chaotic system of levees, “owned and maintained by all sorts of towns, agencies, even individual farmers.” It reported the levees “have poor construction, signs of stress, trees growing on them, [and] animal burrows. A 1994 report urging a more uniform approach to flood control along the Mississippi river system was largely ignored. That report stated, “Many levees are poorly sited and will fail again.” In fact, the situation is so chaotic that Galloway said, “We don’t even know where some of these levees are.”

The Wall Street Journal reported (6/19) that scientists believe the unplanned and chaotic development has made floods worse. “By building along the riverbanks and forcing the Mississippi into a bed that is half the width of where it ran a century ago, residents are  displacing water and forcing the river to run faster and higher.”

The racism of the system was revealed in the levees supposedly protecting impoverished East St. Louis, Illinois, with its large black population, where leaks were discovered on the Illinois side. The Associated Press reported that at one place “water was bubbling out of the ground like a volcano.”

John Barry, author of “Rising Tide” about the 1927 floods, told the Christian Science Monitor that the low standards governing U.S. levees are a joke around the world. The Dutch inland standards are 12 times as rigid as the U.S. and their ocean levee standards are 100 times as rigid.

The politicians, from Bush to McCain to Obama, paid lip service to the flood victims, posing for photo ops in brief visits with survivors. These ruling-class servants are ready to spend trillions on imperialist oil wars while never caring about workers’ lives, from the Mid-West to the Mid-East. Capitalism’s priority lies in its drive for maximum profits, not in protecting people’s lives.

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D.C. Rally Hits Profit-Driven Housing Shortage in AIDS Fight


WASHINGTON DC, June 21 —
Over 50 people rallied for more effective HIV prevention and more affordable housing in the Congress Heights neighborhood — one of D.C.’s worst hit areas in terms of HIV. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association’s Health Disparities Committee (MWPHA) and several other groups visit neighborhoods to raise the awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

PLP has been organizing within MWPHA for some time now.  We have struggled with our friends to not just hand out condoms but also to directly confront the bosses for their racist neglect of HIV patients. Out of that struggle we have won the group to have these rallies and to link the fight against HIV/AIDS with the fight for housing, jobs, drug treatment, and more youth programs, including sex education in all schools as a way to see that we must fight the whole capitalist system.  One of MWPHA’s major demands is for more affordable housing for everyone living with HIV/AIDS to help people prevent and manage HIV. PLP members distributed about 35 CHALLENGES and plan on having study groups to discuss how communism can ensure health equity for all workers.

During this last rally we chanted, “Affordable Housing is the Name of the Game, Soccer Stadium – Shame, Shame, Shame!”, “Racism Means Fight Back, HIV Means Fight Back, Housing Mean, Fight Back,” and much more. People marched around the neighborhood with signs and distributed a flier that compared the amount of public money offered to a soccer stadium developer — up to $225 MILLION — with the amount of housing that could be provided to people who need homes.  Over 25,000 people are on the waiting list for housing vouchers (Section 8 ) and about 200 people with AIDS are waiting for housing funded by a federal program called HOPWA.

Housing and HIV

People with no stable housing are 3-9 times more likely to get HIV.  Unstable housing puts people in very vulnerable positions that often lead to drug addiction and exchanging sex for a place to stay.  Homeless individuals with HIV or AIDS have much more trouble taking their medications correctly or at all (National AIDS Housing Coalition, http://www.nahc.org). Meanwhile, affordable housing has been disappearing because capitalism puts making profits — high rental costs and sparse housing assistance — over the needs of workers.  In the 1970s MWPHA requested over 400,000 vouchers for rental assistance; in 2003 the budget included less than 40,000 vouchers.

Revolution…Communism…HIV?

A revolution for a communist society gives workers the power to eliminate profit in all aspects of society so we can meet the needs of our class. It also eliminates racism that developers and their politicians use to favor stadiums and condos over workers’ basic necessities for life. In China when the working class had control, everyone had access to basic health care, lived free of epidemics like schistosomiasis, and had an average life expectancy that increased from 35 to 68 years. Unfortunately, they abandoned this system and gave control of health to private organizations that charged for services and required health insurance.  Infectious diseases and infant mortality rates have soared (Blumentha D, Hsiao W. Privatization and its discontents – the evolving Chinese health care system. New England Journal of Medicine; 2005. 353(11): 1165-70).  Progressive Labor Party invites all of our activist friends to join us in raising the class struggle for a workers’ dictatorship, so we can really save the health of our class.

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Autoworkers Need International Solidarity to Fight Bosses, Union Hacks

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — Almost 200 delegates from 27 countries met June 16-18 for the 12th International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) World Auto Council “to address fundamental challenges of [the] industrial and enterprise restructuring process sweeping the auto sector.” But little could be expected to deal with the problems faced by autoworkers worldwide at a meeting where the keynote speaker was Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW and the IMF Automotive Department.

While parroting, “We must develop a pathway to build union strength at the major global auto producers and suppliers,” in practice under Gettelfinger’s leadership the UAW has done the opposite. The last example was the sellout of the Axle strikers in Detroit and other U.S. cities (see CHALLENGE, June 4).

Gettelfinger and most union hacks worldwide have done everything possible to help companies cut autoworkers’ wages, jobs and benefits. Nationalism and pro-company unionism have been the norm for these hacks, and not just the UAW. The Canadian Autoworkers Union has just seen its strategy of “trading concessions for job security” blown to bits when GM announced the closing of its big Oshawa, Ontario plant. In Mexico, union hacks have announced their willingness to accept even lower wages, making them competitive with “China’s low wages.”

On June 17, IMF delegates attended a strike solidarity rally with workers at the Cummins Engine plant in Guarulhos. It followed the meeting’s closing speech by IMF General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi pledging to end precarious (non-permanent, low-paid) work. But this symbolic rally was just for show, to pretend these hacks are actually fighting union-busting.

The IMF is calling for a Global Day of Action on October 7. Class-conscious and militant autoworkers must turn this day into one of real international solidarity, blasting the hacks’ nationalism, exposing how the attacks workers suffer worldwide are caused by an international capitalist system faced with sharpening competition for markets, resources and cheap labor, which is leading to endless wars.

This is the only kind of political leadership that can confront the auto bosses growing attacks, and it won’t come from the UAW, CAW or IMF hacks. It requires a red leadership whose goal is, “Workers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Brazil’s GM Workers Need International Solidarity

Not far away from the IMF meeting place, GM has been trying to hire 600 new non-union workers with lower wages at its assembly plant in São José dos Campos. Meanwhile, the local city government has given GM tax exemptions and other concessions. The company, the local government and the media have attacked the workers opposing this wage-cut scheme, claiming they “oppose the creation of new jobs.” Now GM is threatening to transfer jobs to a plant in São Caetano do Sul, which has a pro-boss union leadership and already has 1,500 workers earning less and with less benefits.

Contrary to the U.S., Canada and Europe, Brazil’s auto industry is enjoying a boom because of the rise of the local market. GM controls 20% of it, making huge profits.

A coordinated struggle of rank-and-file GM workers in Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. behind the slogan, “Same enemy, same fight, autoworkers of the world, unite!”  would go a long way to fight these bosses’ attacks, something they won’t get from the IMF’s pro-capitalist leaders.

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