Monthly Archives: February 2009

Bosses’ Stimulus Plan: $4 Billion for More Racist Cops

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To help keep a lid on the New Depression’s growing millions of angry, jobless workers (now 26 million unemployed and under-employed), Barack Obama is giving new life to racist community policing. Obama earmarked $4 billion of his $827-billion stimulus package for Community Oriented Policing Services and “other law enforcement needs.” (New York Times, 2/6).

The Clinton regime, in a glaring example of fascism disguised as liberal “progress,” had put 100,000 new cops on the street in the name of “community policing.” Now Obama wants to double that to 200,000.

Community policing began in earnest in Boston during the early 1990s. The Boston Police Department (BPD) then formed the Ten Point Coalition with pastors in the city’s mainly black Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan sections. The cop-loving clergy created a network of stoolpigeons. Tips about “criminal activity” — usually minor offenses like drug use or vandalism — poured in from pastors, principals and merchants. Arrests soared.

Under this scheme, cops expand their ability to terrorize black and Latino neighborhoods by finding allies among church, school and other local leaders. Pretending to combat gang violence, community policing in fact targets rebellion. That’s why it hits the most oppressed — unemployed black and Latino young people — the hardest and why Obama needs it desperately in today’s collapsing economy.

The cops had won the ministers to consider “all youth as their responsibility regardless of the parish the youth lived in or the youth’s denominational affiliation” and to “spend time on the streets at night, getting to know the kids.” (Encyclopedia of Police Science, 2006) In effect, the notoriously racist BPD succeeded in creating a new version of the Nazi’s World War II-era Judenrat. The Judenrat were Jewish “community leaders” who, collaborating with the Nazis, betrayed their neighbors to the gas chambers.

Boston’s top cop in the early 1990s was Bill Bratton, the rulers’ leading apostle for community policing. Bratton has since brought the liberal rulers’ racist gospel, with varying success, to New York and Los Angeles.

Liberals have a long vicious history. It was the liberals (anti-communist Social Democrats) who ushered in Hitler in Germany. And his party adopted the name “National Socialist” (NAZI in German) because a majority of German workers had voted for socialism so the Nazis figured they could use the liberal fig-leaf of “socialist” to win the working class to fascism.

That’s why it would be wrong to think that the beleaguered U.S. bosses need to assert police power only in inner cities. They need to control all of society and Bratton-style policies help immensely. In mostly white, suburban, middle-class Topsfield, Mass., “Police are arresting twice as many people and writing twice as many citations as they were just two years ago [after the police chief]  adopted several community policing strategies.” (Salem News, 1/22)

With the whole working class — black, Latino and millions of whites — being hit by the bosses’ Depression, the rulers fear working-class rebellions like the ones in the 1930s, when they had to order out the National Guard every week in 1937. With Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ll need those 200,000 extra cops here, while pushing patriotism among white youth as well to get them to join the Army.

WHITE HOUSE MILITARIZATION INTENSIFIES, DESPITE CLUMSY COVER-UP

Intensifying militarization — again masquerading in liberal guise — accompanies Obama’s burgeoning police state. Facing armed conflict now in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and eventually with Iran, China or Russia, Obama seeks to avoid imperialist predecessor Kennedy’s disastrous choice of advisors.

Obama has put four-star officers in key war-planning posts. General James Jones is National Security Advisor and Admiral Dennis Blair directs national intelligence. In launching the U.S. genocide in Vietnam, Kennedy relied on academic Ivy League experts like McGeorge Bundy, who had read all the books but hadn’t a clue about the technicalities of waging war.

“Anti-war” Obama’s preference for war-bloodied brass has become so obvious that he backed off on appointing General Anthony Zinni as ambassador to Iraq, whom he had already promised the job. “Late last week, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former top military commander in Afghanistan, was named as the next ambassador to Kabul. That made it unlikely that the White House would name another general to a high-profile diplomatic post, and fuel criticism that it was militarizing American foreign policy.” (NYT, 2/6) Phony peacemaker Obama then made the obvious move of replacing Zinni with Peace Corps alumnus Christopher Hill.

Obama’s coziness with the cops and generals destroys his credibility as an agent of pro-working-class change. His choice of Paul Volcker to head a panel on economic restructuring proves Obama serves only the highest, imperialist echelons of the U.S. capitalist class. Volcker was once top economist at Chase Manhattan Bank when David Rockefeller ran it. In the early 1980s, as Federal Reserve chief, Volcker threw millions out of work by jacking up interest rates for the bankers’ benefit. Now he and Obama preside over an effort to restore U.S. rulers’ profits through misery and war.

In these hard times, workers can rely only on our own class. And the only purely working-class political organization is the Progressive Labor Party. We encourage the rebellions Obama and his bosses dread. It is our long-term goal to crush their top-down oppression with bottom-up base-building in the working class for a communist revolution.

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Rebellion, Not Non-Violence, Is Black Workers’ Real History

1967newark-rebellion1As the U.S. government celebrates black history month this February, the bosses’ media are painting Barack Obama’s presidency as the positive legacy of a pacifist civil rights movement. But the real history of the civil rights era is militant black workers rebelling, often violently, against racism.

This is the history of the international working class that the Progressive Labor Party celebrates every day in our fight to smash capitalism — the system that gave birth to racism and continues to profit from it.

The many gains of the civil rights era — the end of legal race segregation, free breakfast programs, jobs for blacks, affirmative action — were concessions won by militant, mass working-class struggle. The civil rights movement involved thousands of black workers heroically putting their lives on the line. Many, many were killed in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and throughout the South in the fight against racism. While the movement also involved whites, including some who died, the opening of freedom schools, marching against segregation, integrating lunch counters and other struggles brought the full force of the racist system down on those black workers who stood up and fought.

Obama is part of King’s legacy of misleading working-class anti-racists into the dead end of supporting the bosses’ politicians and laws. There was tremendous political struggle within the anti-racist movement in the 1960’s. At the famous 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom where King gave his “I have a dream” speech, King and other march organizers toned down a student’s speech attacking Kennedy, the Democrats, and the Civil Rights bill itself for failing to address police brutality, racist unemployment, and low wages.

This militancy wasn’t only, or even mainly, inside the organized movement. In 1965, police harassment of a black man sparked an anti-racist rebellion in Watts, California. King went to Watts and supported the armed cops and National Guard troops, while urging rebels to be peaceful. When his pacifism was rejected, King phoned President Lyndon Johnson (who had sent him to Watts) complaining about “all of these tones of violence from people out there in the Watts” (New York Times, 05/14/02). King’s last campaign to support 1,200 striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee in the spring of 1968 is supposedly his most radical. But King fled the March 28th protest when a group of demonstrators, frustrated with pacifist leadership, smashed downtown store windows.

Black Workers’ Armed Struggle

Black workers’ militant and sometimes armed struggle won the victories that are credited to King. In 1964, the Louisiana-based Deacons for Defense emerged as an armed organization to defend non-violent civil rights workers and spread to 23 communities across the south. Their actions helped win integration battles and fight off racist terror from the police, the Ku Klux Klan, and racist white mobs (“The Deacons for Defense,” Lance Hill, 2004).

Then, in June 1964, the first mass big-city rebellion erupted in New York City’s Harlem when masses of black workers and youth took to the streets to protest a police murder of a black teenager. They marched through Harlem’s streets, displaying the front page of CHALLENGE as their “flag.” PLM (Progressive Labor Movement, forerunner of PLP) was the only organization to support the rebellion — all the reformist black leaders and the “Communist Party” tried to cool the rebels and attacked PLM. The latter was barred from Harlem but defied the ban and held a mass demonstration, which sent several in PLM to jail. This rebellion laid the basis for many to follow, including in Newark, NJ in 1967.

The Detroit rebellion of 1967 — sparked by police harassment of a party for returning black Vietnam veterans and suppressed by 82nd Airborne troops diverted from Vietnam — led directly to 10,000 jobs in the auto industry for black workers.
When King was assassinated in 1968, anti-racist rebellions flared up in hundreds of U.S. cities. These rebellions led to an increase in jobs for blacks, especially in the public sector, although unemployment and underemployment remained (and remains) higher for black workers than for white.

Black Politicians Have Never Served the Working Class

The U.S. bosses want us to focus on political victories for black politicians (like Obama) but these black bosses are part of the same racist ruling class that is responsible for the reversal of the civil rights gains and the racist conditions today.

Despite decades of black, Latino, and Native American mayors, governors and lawmakers, racism thrives by every indicator — higher incarceration rates, lower wages, more unemployment, higher home foreclosure rates, less access to health care and fewer education opportunities for black, Latino and Native American workers. Over and over cops get away with racist terror — such as the murders of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California and Sean Bell in Queens, New York — while Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton urge us to be peaceful and seek victory in courts that acquit or slap cops on the wrist.

Like King, Obama can only offer empty hope and promises. His role is to win anti-racists to support the racist ruling class.
In referring to the “muslim world” as a “clenched fist” Obama uses anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism to win U.S. workers to support oil wars in Afghanistan and continued occupation in Iraq, which have killed over one million Iraqis since 2003. (Opinion Research Business, Feb 2008). Obama constantly draws inspiration from racist slave-owning founding fathers who systematically committed genocide against Native Americans to increase their profits.

Obama will not wage the battle against racism. So, just as workers in the ‘60s did not rely on a servant of the ruling class to wage their battles, we can’t rely on the current servant to wage ours.

The gains won by our class in the ‘60s have been reversed. Those good-paying auto industry jobs won by black workers in Detroit have vanished. The mass anti-racist rebellions were good, but the crumbs given our class in response have been taken back. The fight against racism must take place within the context of fighting for communist revolution, the only outcome where workers can win power and establish a world free of capitalism and its racism.

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500 Marchers Back Stella D’Oro Strikers ‘NO CONTRACT, NO COOKIES!’

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BRONX, NY, January 31 — Braving freezing temperatures, 500 Stella D’Oro strikers and supporters marched down Broadway chanting, “No Contract, No Cookies!”

As CHALLENGE readers know, the 135 Stella strikers are 100% solid on the line. They’ve been out for nearly six months but are determined not to let the Brynwood bosses (who own Stella D’Oro) bust their union and take away holidays, healthcare benefits and sick days, while demanding annual wage-cuts for the next five years.

While the strike involves a limited number of workers, it is significant on two counts: (1) it not only sets an example of militant workers fighting back against the bosses’ attempts to make workers take the losses resulting from the bosses’ crisis; and (2) it involves predominantly black and Latino workers — who, because of racism, suffer disproportionately from the bosses’ attacks — giving leadership to the whole working class.

This march and rally was larger and more spirited than previous ones. Supporters came from the PSC (Professional Staff Congress-CUNY), the teachers union, District Council 37, RWDSU (supermarket employees), nurses from the NYS Nurses Association, other unions and the community. But critically important, most speeches at the closing rally were by the strikers, not politicians who had dominated earlier rallies.

PSC’s president vowed continuing support for the struggle, telling Stella strikers that, “You must win; we cannot allow you to lose.” A George Washington H.S. student took the mic and showed the crowd support letters from his fellow students and funds collected at their school.

In sharp contrast to this genuine display of solidarity from working-class youth was the shameful performance of Ed Ott, NYC Central Labor Council director. He appeared for only a few minutes at the pre-march rally. When someone in the crowd called out, “Ed, Ed, tell us how much money the Central Labor Council has given to support the struggle,” his pathetic answer was, “We haven’t been asked yet.”

PLP members have played an active role throughout the strike. At the closing rally, a PL speaker explained how the Stella workers inspired all workers and how communist revolution is necessary to eliminate the bosses and their system. During the rallies and march, 555 people bought CHALLENGES.

When some phony leftists chanted, “People’s power,” PL’ers overrode it with “Workers’ Power!” And when they said, “People, united, will never be defeated,” PL’ers responded with, “Workers, united…” In both cases, the great majority of the crowd joined PL’s most class-conscious chants. PLP opposes the slogan of “people’s power” because it means an alliance of workers with bosses and politicians.

One weakness in the strike is scabs working in the plant. It’s estimated that production in 30% of normal. With mass support at the picket line, stopping scabs becomes possible. While workers try to build a successful city-wide boycott of Stella products, the bosses’ strategy may be to take losses until August when the strikers’ benefits run out.

PL organizers are encouraging greater militancy. The Stella workers can reach out to other members of Local 50 in other bakeries and to other locals of the bakers’ international union.stella_challenge

In picket line conversations we have found that the workers are interested in discussing political questions, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of Wall Street, and how these events will affect the working class. One worker e-mailed us a set of pictures showing the horrors resulting from the Israeli invasion and massacre in Gaza.

Many strikers are reading CHALLENGE. We plan to organize a contingent of Stella workers and their families and friends to attend this year’s

May Day dinner. Fight the bosses! Build the Party!

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Strike Diary: ‘Peaceman’ and ‘Hopeman’ — Gaza and Stella D’Oro

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BRONX, NY, January 13 — Today, a multi-racial group of 500 Stella D’Oro strikers and supporters, including PLP’ers, marched to a Target store that’s selling scab-made cookies. In thinking about this strike, much in the world situation comes to mind: the economic meltdown, the imperialist oil wars, racist unemployment, and in particular, the Israeli invasion of Gaza and this strike — two sieges in a long class war — so this diary is dedicated to Peaceman and Hopeman, two friends on either side of the Gaza border who write a blog together: http://gaza-sderot.blogspot.com

They’re ordinary folks (Hopeman is a student who can’t get out of Gaza to attend his college), not very “political,” who maintain their friendship to have something to rebuild with when the war and siege forced on them are over. Of course that’s very political!

They’re showing how workers can build solidarity across borders, dodging Israeli bombs and Hamas rockets to find cell phone reception so they can talk, at least when Hopeman has enough electricity to charge his phone. Most of the Stella strikers who are becoming my friends are like that — they’re building a base for the future. Communism does that too.

Recently A. told a young teacher and community arts organizer (who’s planning a video documentary about the strike) that it was forced on the workers. The Israeli fascists and Hamas religious nationalists did the same thing to Palestinian and Israeli workers with their war.

But hidden behind the Israeli and Palestinian politicians who the bloggers despise are all the rival imperialists who’ve shaped the Middle East: the Ottoman emperors who ruled there until World War I; the British Mandate rulers who set up this impossible situation by guiding the founding of Israel as a European settler colony; the U.S. rulers funding Israel as their client state and military proxy; and all the others (the EU, Russia, China, Japan, Iran, India) feeling their way into a serious challenge to the declining U.S. empire.

Those same clashing imperialist elephants are trampling the grass in this bakery strike too, hard to see until some communist comes and talks it up. Three strikers are now reading the article “A Class Analysis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict” from PL’s journal “The Communist.”

Imperialist rivalry caused the economic crisis smashing into the Bronx bakers and also intensifies it. Brynwood Partners, which own Stella D’Oro, is a Wall Street speculator like those who brought us this deepening depression, a “vulture capitalist” who swoops down on struggling companies to strip and flip them for resale.

Economists call it “financialization,” turning real plants into fictitious capital and trading them like bad mortgages or baseball cards. The capitalist economic pressures that forced this strike are the same ones producing war in Gaza.

A. tells the young video artists the strike was forced on them, but there’s nothing forced about how these workers love and honor one another, just as no one is forcing or even organizing Peaceman and Hopeman to continue their blog. The strikers stick together, like Peaceman and Hopeman, so there’s something to rebuild with when the strike ends (win or lose). This solidarity grows from their working together so long, but it’s really for the future, as they pull on their long johns and layer up for picket duty on the five-month anniversary of their brave strike.

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Students Fighting Cuts: Ally With Workers, Not Liberal Pols

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — “The rally for community colleges on February 27 is being organized by Chancellor Jack Scott and college public-relations officers,” a student leader commented, “so members of our club will need to make sure students’ wants are voiced.”
Most community college students belong to the working class. Like other workers, they’re hit hard by the current capitalist crisis. They don’t want classes cut, teachers to lose jobs, and student fees to go up.

Unlike tuition at California’s two university systems, community college fees go into the state General Fund. They help pay interest going to banks and investors, which the state constitution requires to be paid before any other expenses! Community College fees also help pay for the state’s huge and viciously racist prison system.

The governor plans to cut funding for state financial aid by $87.5 million by freezing income eligibility limits, reducing the maximum award and eliminating the “safety net” for recipients’ children.

Budget Cuts, Tax Hikes: Racist, Anti-Worker

Most students don’t want higher taxes either, but that’s what the Democratic Party and the California Teachers Association want us to fight for. California Community College Chancellor Scott, as a “pro-education” legislator, pushed for a sales tax hike at a Pasadena rally against education cuts last spring.

Sales taxes are racist and regressive. They come down hardest on lower-paid workers and the unemployed, including a high proportion of black and Latin workers. The poorest 20% of California households paid nearly 12% of their income in taxes, while the richest 1% of households paid only 7% of theirs.

Budget cuts are racist, too. Cuts in Medi-Cal eligibility and benefits will make things much worse in a health care system so overloaded that it already turns away many – especially in neighborhoods like South LA, where the MLKing Hospital was shut down and clinics are closing.

Legal immigrants and US citizen children of undocumented immigrants are singled out for specific racist cutbacks. Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the California Food Assistance Program, which feeds certain legal non-citizens who are ineligible for federal programs because of their immigration status.

Capitalism is the Problem, Communism is the Solution

The California budget crisis is a direct result of the capitalist crisis of overproduction and imperialist war. Because capitalists compete to maximize profits, and because lower wages mean higher profits, they produce more than can be sold. Then workers are laid-off so that they can afford to spend less on consumer goods.

Meanwhile, “corporate income taxes have declined over time as a share of General Fund revenues and as a share of corporate profits. If corporations had paid the same share of their profits in corporate taxes in 2006 as they did in 1981, corporate tax collections would have been $8.4 billion higher,” concludes the California Budget Project. (www.cbp.org)  Because of Prop 13 (1978) huge corporations pay property taxes on the assessed value of their property — like Disneyland — 30 years ago!

Community colleges are promoted as a “way out of the working class.”  But they are training the workers who can be the key to building a new system. Students need to ally with industrial workers and soldiers in a movement to destroy this capitalist system that brings us economic insecurity, racist inequality, and increasingly murderous imperialist war.

The alternative to capitalism is communism, a classless society where workers hold power. Cynicism will get us nowhere!  PLP communists are in the class struggle – like the fight against California budget cuts – to win workers and students away from reform and to the long-term fight for communist revolution.  We invite you to subscribe to Challenge, join a PLP discussion group, and march with PLP on May Day – International Workers Day!

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$20 Billion Mayor Laying Off 23,000 NYC Workers

NEW YORK — Billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg has unveiled his doomsday budget proposal for workers here. To close a projected $4 billion budget deficit, Bloomberg — whose private fortune totals $20 billion (Forbes, 10/6/2008 ) — wants to lay off 23,000 workers and get the city worker unions to give back $1 billion from pensions, health benefits, etc. He counts on the union leaders to convince members to take all these attacks without fighting back. That’s exactly what happened during the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Union workers were told they were saving the city. What they really saved was capitalism. They never regained the contract givebacks from thirty years ago. The working people of NYC lived with a level of city services that didn’t come close to meeting their needs. As is always the case, black and Latin workers were hit the hardest by both layoffs and the resulting service cuts. Let’s not make the same mistake this time.

Strikers at the Stella D’Oro bakery show that some workers are willing to fight against their vicious bosses. Communists in PLP vow to give leadership in the struggle to fight Bloomberg’s proposed layoffs. We will help to build the unity needed to fight the cutback plans. We will explain the nature of the capitalist system that exploits us and destroys our lives. We will explain how a communist revolution will put an end to racism, inequality and oppression.

Workers here as elsewhere are already reeling from the financial meltdown, home foreclosure crisis and an uncertain future for themselves and their children. During 2008, city agencies twice had their operating budgets slashed by $1.5 billion. What do an additional 23,000 layoffs mean? 15,000 of the layoffs target the city schools. They mean more students per teacher, less support staff and longer waiting time for needed repairs in school buildings. In city hospitals, people will literally die from the layoffs. That’s what happens when wards, rooms and halls are not kept clean. That’s what happens when patient-to-staff ratios increase. Every city agency will see similar results as they become less able to provide needed services from providing clean water to repairing pot holes.

What about the so-called fat pensions, health benefits and pay those on city payroll get? “Good government” types say that the average city worker earns about $100,000 per year. In reality, the average wage of 120,000 District Council 37 city workers is about $33,000 per year. Since 1995, they have lost between 7-10 % in real wages because their pay hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living. Contrast that to the pay of New Yorkers making $200,000 and over. They saw a real increase in pay of 96% during the same period (3/28/08 Chief Leader).  Since pensions are a fraction of gross pay, DC 37 members can hardly have fat pensions. Likewise, city workers have been forced to pay an ever increasing share of their medical costs. If this seems similar to what’s happening to you, it’s because workers all over this country and around the world are facing a similar attack on their living standards.

We shouldn’t pay for the problems that capitalism creates. We didn’t cause the financial crisis. We should make the bosses take the losses caused by their system and their greed. If the union leaders call for sharing the pain of cutbacks “fairly,” we should say no! Rather than saving this racist, exploitative rotten system, we should be fighting to overthrow it. We should be planning to replace it with communism, a society of production to meet human needs not greed, a society where working-class unity is built while racism and sexism is outlawed.

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Gary Protestors Keep Heat On Racist Kop Killer

GARY, INDIANA, Feb. 6 — A mistrial was declared today in the trial of the racist cop who murdered Vincent Smith. In near zero degree weather, a group of protestors again held a demonstration at the courthouse to keep this struggle alive. The judge declared the mistrial because supposedly some jurors had “contact” with some of the workers and youth who came to protest the racist murder and demand justice. This has fired up the community and the campus. A new trial is set for July — more time for members of PLP and friends to build a bigger movement and recruit to communism.

Vincent Smith, who was a freshman in high school, was shot in the back while running from the killer cop three years ago. The police claimed that young Vincent was a criminal because he was once arrested for shoplifting! As a result of the demonstrations organized by community groups, a local campus organization and PLP, the state had to charge this cop.

When a Gary cop admits to shooting a fleeing, unarmed teenager in the back of the head, and is indicted by the prosecutor for murder, he is assigned to desk duty with full pay until the trial! That’s the racist, capitalist “justice” system at work! The phony internal police investigation concluded that the killer cop did everything right, and the city is asking the state to drop the charges – basically saying that it is legal for cops to hunt children in Gary.

Gary is among the most depressed, oppressed cities in the USA, where the steel mills sucked the life out of the working class for a hundred years and capitalist chaos has left much of the city abandoned or in deep racist poverty.  The Gary police force is known for corruption and brutality. A past chief was just convicted of breaking into someone’s home and brutally beating him. Young people often talk about which cops are brutal and which cops work with drug dealers and gangs.

The bosses need vicious cops to control the working class that does not buy into the empty promises as our lives get worse day by day. So there will be more police terror and more innocent young lives will be lost. Organizing protests against police terror are one way to build a movement that can grow and bring anti-racist, communist ideas to life.

Beyond these courthouse demonstrations, we will continue to publicize and organize workers on the job, students and teachers in school, and other members of the community to fight back against these racist attacks—to take this killer cop off the streets forever, to send a message to other cops that we will not let these racist killings just pass by, and to build a movement and a Party for communist revolution, workers’ power!

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General Strike Jolts France: 2.5 Million Marchers Say Make the Bosses Take the Losses

SAINT-NAZAIRE, FRANCE, February 7 — On January 29, as part of a massive general strike of hundreds of thousands of workers, 2.5 million people marched for jobs and against government cutbacks in almost 200 cities across France, with 300,000 demonstrating in Paris and 200,000 in Marseilles.

At least 18,000 demonstrated in this ship-building port in western France. When the sub-prefect (the local representative of the national government) refused to receive a union delegation, protesters began throwing beer cans at the riot police protecting the sub-prefecture. When the police attacked with tear gas, workers tore down the entry gate and four hours of street fighting ensued. The cops injured a number of protesters, one seriously and rounded up 16 people, partly at random, some of whom have already been sentenced to jail.

The bosses in France are very nervous. Even the government’s under-stated figures show nine months of rising unemployment have left 2.1 million workers jobless, while another 2.8 million have given up finding a job. Result: a real unemployment rate of at least 17.5%!

This high unemployment has made workers anxious and angry, sparking this huge general strike and demonstrations called by eight union confederations. From 20% to 40% of public sector workers — hospital, telephone, postal and electric company workers and half or more of secondary and elementary school teachers — walked out.

All the major state radio networks shut down, and a third of television network workers struck. Almost one-third of flights from Orly airport were cancelled. Almost all the Paris commuter train workers, half the Métro (subway) workers and at least a third of urban transport workers in the rest of France went on strike.

In addition, unexpectedly large numbers of private-sector workers went out, in the banks, Renault auto plants and at Alcatel-Lucent (the world’s second-biggest telecommunications equipment-maker). Autoworkers completely shut down PSA’s Poissy and Rennes factories, and partly closed the Sochaux plant.

Private-sector workers do not enjoy the same job security as public workers and consequently strike less. Thus, many Auchan supermarket, Celanese chemicals, Dynastar ski, Ford auto, Free telecommunications and Tefal kitchenware workers used their holiday time to join the protest marches.

Many marchers bore signs saying, “Can you see this strike, you stupid jerk?” — a reference to French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s July statement that “nowadays, when there’s a strike in France, nobody notices” and his telling a farmer who refused to shake hands with him in February, 2008 to “beat it, you stupid jerk.”

As usual, union leaders here are tailing the militancy of the working class. The bosses wanted to reduce the duration of unemployment benefits. The signature of two trade unions was necessary for the measure to pass, so on February 2 the traitorous CFDT and CFE-CGC obliged the government and signed.

President Sarkozy responded to the workers’ strike with insult and scorn, reflecting the ruling class’s estimation that any deviation from the set course could lead to their losing control. In his February 5 speech, his “answer” to the general strike, Sarkozy offered another, 8-billion-euro tax break ($9.5 billion) to French bosses and told the working class he would continue to push through his neo-conservative counter-reforms, notably the non-replacement of half the public workers who retire. He announced a meeting with union leaders on February 18.

The more radical unions want to stage another strike and protest before the 18th, a move the conservative unions are resisting.

These struggles need to confront racism since police repression, mass unemployment, among other problems have hit non-white and immigrant workers here for a long time. International solidarity with strikers in Martinique and Guadeloupe must also be part of the struggle. In this age of endless imperialist wars and economic meltdown, this means developing a revolutionary anti-racist communist leadership of these militant struggles, breaking with the union misleaders and fake leftist electoral parties.

Teachers Shut Universities

On February 2, teachers struck at over half the 83 French universities on February 2, with the strike continuing and general assemblies being held on February 4 on many campuses. Students are gradually joining the protest movement.

The teachers are opposing counter-reforms which make it harder for members of the working class to become primary and secondary school teachers and give university presidents greater control over faculty working conditions and careers. These counter-reforms are the French enactment of a May, 2006 European Commission decision to force all European universities to serve the capitalist class more directly. A national university protest is scheduled for February 10

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Guadeloupe General Strike Spreads to Martinique

FORT-DE-FRANCE, MARTINIQUE, February 7 — The general strike which began January 20 in the French overseas department of Guadeloupe spread February 5 to neighboring Martinique, 122 miles to the South. These workers — 90% African or African-white-Indian mixture (Indian from India) — are refusing to pay for the world capitalist crisis.

Over 20,000 people demonstrated here February 5, completely halting public transport. The marchers included all job categories from dockers to Catholic schoolteachers. They chanted, “Sarko [French President], Fillon [Prime Minister], we want jobs!” and “Jobs, yes! Precarity [poverty], no!” The twelve unions calling the strike united in a Collective, welcoming other unions and associations to join.

The Martinique strikers are demanding price cuts and higher wages for all, especially those in low-paying jobs. A Collective study shows milk costs 44.7% more and noodles almost 80% more on this island than in mainland France.

On Guadeloupe, the junior minister for the overseas departments, Yves Jégo, claimed agreement on about one-third of the 146 demands advanced by Lyiannaj kont pwofitasyon (Link Against Extreme Profiteering – LKP). In a clear maneuver to pressure LKP and Guadeloupe’s workers to end their strike, French interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie immediately released a lying communiqué claiming “an agreement has been found on most of the questions raised.”

The people of Guadeloupe are super-exploited by capitalist monopolies and the Guadeloupe wealthy class. This island’s population of 405,000 is 69% African or African-white-Indian mixture.

A trade unionist told French radio that four or five families control imports to the island, so rice is almost twice as expensive here as on mainland France; a toothbrush costs four euros ($5.14).

Gasoline and diesel fuel distribution is effectively monopolized by the Caribbean Refinery Inc. (SARA), owned 50% by France’s Total company, with Exxon and Texaco also holding a stake.

Jégo claims to have obtained a one-year 10% price reduction for 100 staple goods in 60 supermarkets. He says he’ll “put heavy pressure” on the bosses to grant demands for higher wages. LKP wants an across-the-board, 200-euro-a-month wage hike. Jégo said before negotiations even opened that all workers would get at least a 2% raise. If accepted, a percentage-based raise would widen the gap between the highest- and lowest-paid workers, potentially dividing workers when the bosses inevitably move to eliminate the increase.

LKP is also demanding a rent freeze, improved health care, permanent jobs for all temporary workers and no racism in hiring. “The high rate of unemployment on Guadeloupe [35%] has to be taken into account,” said Jean-Marie Brissac, CGTG trade union general secretary. “Even though our young people are highly qualified, they can’t get a job here. The big corporations get their job applicants through Paris job agencies in order to exclude Guadeloupe youth.”

Jégo claimed LKP has asked him to be the “moderator” in negotiations.  Posing as a “neutral mediator,” Jégo has induced the strikers to lower their guard. All gas stations were to re-open February 5, and two hypermarkets and a large number of shops have re-opened.
Meanwhile, in this good-cop-bad-cop routine, Guadeloupe bosses are dragging their heels at throwing any crumbs to the strikers. “Have a thought for the companies!” one local boss is said to have shouted at Jégo.

On the other hand, LKP called for a demonstration on Feb. 4 to shut the hypermarket and shopping center in Baie-Mahault, which had re-opened.

This apparent indecisiveness is reflected in the LKP platform: “People of Guadeloupe, workers, farmers, artisans, retirees, unemployed, entrepreneurs, young people, Lyiannaj kont pwofitasyon is our organization, our idea, our tool, our consciousness.” The inclusion of “entrepreneurs” — capitalists — in the Collective indicates confusion about the nature of the struggle. LKP apparently believes in unity with some bosses on a nationalist basis, because these bosses form part of “the people of Guadeloupe.” Such illusions are fatal in the class struggle.
It’s the job of communists worldwide to explain that the government is never “neutral” — it is always on the bosses’ side. The working class can obtain justice only by overthrowing the bosses’ government with communist revolution, in order to institute workers’ rule.

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Chavez’s Cops Attack Strikers, Kill 2 Auto Workers

CARACAS, VENEZUELA, February 3 — Chanting “Workers, united, will never be defeated,” and “Punishment for Killer Cops,” over 1,500 workers and community residents marched from the Mitsubishi plant in the city of Barcelona, state of Anzoátegui, to the governor’s house demanding justice for two workers — one from Mitsubishi and the other an auto parts worker — killed by cops on January 29. In that afternoon, a judge came to the Mitsubishi Motors plant to evict the workers who had seized it.

After a January 12 workers’ mass meeting, 863 workers voted to take it over, with only 21 opposed. The workers were demanding permanent jobs for 135 Induservis subcontracted workers, used for maintenance by Mitsubishi.

The state’s pro-Chávez governor, Tarek William Saab, obeyed the company’s demand and sent a judge with cops to evict them. The company also had its supervisory staff “rally” in front of the plant to demand the occupation be ended.

When the workers refused to leave, the cops viciously shot at them, killing two and injuring many others.

This is the second time governor Saab used cops against workers. Before becoming governor, he had made a career of being a “human rights advocate.” Workers should never trust any bourgeois politicians, even if they claim to be pro-worker.

Repression against militant workers is increasing under Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution.” On January 22, the National Guard arrested two workers following a protest by 250 workers fired by contractor Costa Norte near Barcelona city.

On December 30, Caracas Metropolitan Police attacked subcontracted workers protesting at the office of the country’s Vice-President, demanding to be rehired by the Sidor steel company. Over 8,000 Sidor workers are still working as subcontractors, even after the government bought a majority share from the Argentine steel company Technit, precisely using the argument that it refused to give all Sidor workers permanent status.

Also in December, two dissident union leaders were killed by hired gunmen in the state of Aragua, provoking a regional general strike on December 2. And the list goes on.

Meanwhile, a February 15 referendum is again confronting Chávez and his Bolivarian bosses, fighting the old pro-U.S. ruling class that has lost most of its political power. The balloting will decide whether Chávez can run for re-election in 2012.

Workers shouldn’t take sides in this dogfight among these capitalist factions. Most hate the old pro-U.S. bosses, remembering how 20 years ago in 1989 Social-Democrat President Carlos Andrés Pérez sent the Army and tanks to crush the mass uprising by workers and shantytown residents of Caracas, rebelling against an IMF-imposed austerity package. Over 1,000 protestors were killed.

The workers’ anger after this massacre gave rise to Chávez. But Chávez’s “Bolivarian nationalism” has revealed its limitations. When oil prices were sky-high, he gave workers some crumbs, but now that the price has tumbled and the world’s capitalist crisis has hit Venezuela like a ton of bricks, Chávez is again trying to make deals with the foreign oil companies he attacked just a year ago.

While posturing as “anti-imperialist,” he’s bargaining with Russian, Chinese, Iranian and European imperialists. He’s now hoping relations with the U.S. will improve, with Obama in power. Just last week, he even signed a trade pact with Colombia’s President Uribe, who he had labeled as a Bush lapdog in Latin America not too long ago.

Workers must shed all illusions in any so-called bourgeois “savior” like Chávez. Some militant workers are demanding the government nationalize some imperialist-owned companies, but as Sidor’s case has shown, state capitalism is no solution. The only road which will lead to workers’ liberation is to forge a revolutionary communist leadership and fight for working-class power.

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