Monthly Archives: July 2011

NYC Summer Project Youth Learn, Spread and Are Inspired by Communist Ideas

NEW YORK CITY, July 16 — “Fight Back!” could be heard ringing through the streets as Progressive Labor Party marched in Harlem to arouse the working class. We had a flyer that denounced Obama as a racist puppet of the U.S. ruling class. Our militancy, multiracial unity, and revolutionary politics won many workers to pump their fists, clap their hands, and chant along with us. This final march of the Summer Project illustrated our success and power to win workers to PL’s communist ideas.

The NYC Project began with an orientation that included over 50 young people —  teachers, workers, soldiers, students, parents; women and men; black, Latino, Asian, and white — the backbone of our Party and its friends. We discussed why PLP was having the Project.

A group of largely undocumented workers spoke in Spanish about unemployment; a PL soldier outlined the role of imperialism. Racist health care was analyzed as well as PLP’s organizing among transit and hospital workers (see CHALLENGE 7/20). PL brought young people together from all over the U.S. — Chicago, LA, Baltimore, and beyond — to both recognize that we’re fighting the same enemy and that the working class is facing similar conditions everywhere.

Racist Cop’s Threats Fail

Tuesday started off bright and early as we surrounded an unemployment center in Trenton, NJ (see page 7). We rallied outside and handed out flyers. A racist cop almost drove his car into a group of disabled people in his rush to try to intimidate us. He waddled out of his car wearing a bulletproof vest, hoping to scare us, but did not succeed. He would be the first of the bosses’ attempts to shut down our rally.

The unemployment center’s security force confiscated CHALLENGE from all the workers who walked into the building. The state will always break its own laws whenever it chooses to prevent workers from hearing communist politics. New Jersey’s fascist governor Christie is spearheading attacks on the working class’s education, health care and aid checks, the latter amounting to only $140 a month! How are workers and their families expected to live on such a pittance? Our rally could have been a spark in a tinderbox; the bosses fear the potential of the working class to rise up and smash them.

‘Give me a CHALLENGE….They took mine…’

A black woman health care worker came angrily out of the building towards us saying, “Give me a CHALLENGE; they took my copy and I want one.” She was mad about their confiscating her paper.

On Wednesday, we headed to the Bronx. Comrades there did an excellent job organizing our site, ensuring that food and drinks arrived. Young people from LA performed a great skit: some comrades acted the role of bosses; another group were communists; and a much larger group acted as the working class. A debate ensued which helped raise the awareness of all to understand and contrast the bosses’ arguments with the ideas of communism. An enriching discussion followed on what it means to build a base in the working class.

Force Shutdown of  Recruiting Center

After the study group, we all moved in a disciplined manner to a military recruitment center in the Bronx  where we distributed 400 CHALLENGES on the surrounding corners and picketed the center. The recruiter became so upset when we showed up that he shut down the center. Speeches in Spanish and English condemned U.S. imperialism.

After the rally, the HBO film “No Contract, No Cookies” and another “independent” film on the Stella d’Oro strike were screened, with about 10 former Stella d’Oro workers present. A sharp discussion followed, illustrating how the strike was both a school for communism and an inspiration to us in the class struggle.

Thursday was Harlem Day. After individual groups sold the paper in the morning, we picketed the military recruitment center there. We distributed a flyer denouncing Columbia University’s racist expansion, exposing Obama’s racism and attacking U.S. imperialism. The racist KKKops showed up and began following us, “escorting” us over a 10-block march. They told us to turn off our bullhorn. As one young person put it, “I was scared of the police, so I chanted louder to not have to think about them.” When we arrived at the Columbia employment agency, we condemned them for not providing jobs and for stealing homes from black workers.

Afterwards, we attended a forum on anti-communism based on Grover Furr’s book “Khrushchev Lied,” which exposed deceitful questions on the New York High School History exam. We also heard about the attack on PL teachers at Brooklyn’s Clara Barton H.S. The forum helped us sharpen our arguments against those who spread the bosses’ lies about the history of the world communist movement. They spend billions of dollars to portray Stalin as a “mass murderer” because they fear his communist ideas.J

Summer Project Impressions

(The following are three expressions of volunteers’ experiences.)

“I really enjoyed the diversity of the Summer Project and how hospitable the host-comrade was. It inspired me in ways that no other experience could. The rallies we held had an outcome that I did not know was possible from an organization that is frowned upon as much as the PLP. The anti-communism forum was one of the most helpful in teaching us on how to defend communism. It showed how far the bosses and pigs go to make sure their despicable way of living prospers.”

“The NY Summer Project was different in atmosphere and surroundings, but in some ways similar to the LA Project making you realize the struggle is the same everywhere, like the issues with the government. The NY project was a fun experience.”

“My experience during the Summer Project was inspiring, and I learned more about what is going on in the world. My comrades taught me how to be strong and fight for what is right. We are the workers and we will not let the bosses rule us.”

(Write to CHALLENGE with your Summer Project experience.)

Women Hospital Workers Lead Fight vs. Boss-Union Hack Gang-up

BROOKLYN, NY July 18 — “Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike!” That’s how a rally of two hundred Brookdale Hospital workers ended after a night of picketing, marching and chanting in front of their hospital. Almost every worker carried a copy of CHALLENGE with the story of their struggle on the front page. Militant workers from Downstate, Methodist, Woodhull, Long Island College and other hospitals and unions came out in solidarity, greeting their Brookdale sisters and brothers with warm hugs, handshakes, and plenty of conversation.

One worker said, “The entire hospital would walk out and strike if the union said so, but they keep telling us to wait…” These racist cutbacks are taking place in every city, designed to make workers and patients pay for the trillion-dollar imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, and for the bailouts of the bosses and bankers.

Just before the rally, a vice-president from Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) played emcee to a collection of city and state politicians in a town hall meeting. Their aim was to numb the workers into staging a silent “candlelight vigil,” unsurprising, considering that SEIU’s idea of “struggle” is a bus trip to beg Governor Cuomo and other politicians at the state capitol.

These politicians are part of the same city and state government that orchestrated the closures of eight city hospitals in the past five years. They said the same “fighting” words before shutting down St. Vincent’s and North General hospitals. Parts of Brookdale, a 3,500-worker hospital, have already shut down, robbing the mostly black, Latino, Caribbean and women workers and patients of their jobs and health care.

Speaking to a crowd of workers at the town hall, most with CHALLENGEs in their hands, New York City councilman Charles Barron pandered to their anger, but offered no leadership for the class struggle they need. Barron’s divisive black nationalist politics reinforce racist divisions between black and white workers. Workers don’t need division — they need class unity! Barron’s and 1199’s attempts to control the workers failed when the 1199 VP tried to prevent a white worker from another hospital to speak in solidarity with the Brookdale workers, prompting angry shouts from the crowd and chants of “Let him speak!” The VP backed down.

Brookdale is being bled to death by racist Medicaid and Medicare cuts on the one hand and a pack of thieving bosses from MediSys, the hospital’s parent company, on the other. MediSys Chief Financial Officer Doss steals $3 million-a-year in salary, and top MediSys executives (including CEO Flanz and Human Resources Director Sclair) also draw salaries from 22 dummy corporations that bill Brookdale for their “services.” Doss runs a collections agency that bills Brookdale for collecting unpaid medical debts! He draws another salary from Brookdale as a “consultant”!

At the same time, “Brookdale has no toilet paper,” one worker said. “We have to borrow it from other hospitals. Nurses are telling families to bring their own [adult] diapers. We’re borrowing medicine from Jamaica Hospital [a smaller hospital also owned by MediSys] and I’m always on the phone trying to borrow extra envelopes and paper to get my job done.”

Another woman related the racist and sexist abuse, where 80% of the workers are women. “The managers sexually harass the women…making open sexual advances. They suspend anyone who complains. They don’t fear anybody. They think they’re invincible. Recently, fifteen of us women went to one of their offices and put a stop to it. We haven’t heard from him again!” The women leading the struggle have shown incredible bravery and strength, continuing the fight against the bosses even while 1199 tries its best to cool the workers down.

We heard similar stories of fight-backs and job actions from every department, including a three-day sit-in at the hospital last month, after MediSys stopped paying into the 1199 SEIU National Benefits Fund. This “forced” the union to cancel the workers’ health insurance and replace it with a much worse plan with sky-high, unaffordable co-pays. Aside from stripping the workers of their health care, no one knows what steps, if any, the union has taken against the bosses to recoup their losses.

Either way, the union is worth over a billion dollars. It could have paid for the workers’ health insurance while fighting to get its money from MediSys. Instead, it meekly accepted the hospital bosses’ benefit cut. Had George Gresham and the union leadership really wanted to support the struggle, they had every “legal” reason to strike back in January, when MediSys first violated the labor contract. As one worker said, “The bosses treat us like garbage and the union leaders always give us reasons why we can’t fight, but we know we gotta fight!”

Beyond MediSys, we are confronting the whole racist profit system and a U.S. ruling class that is struggling to keep its world empire amid stiffening competition. Today they fight Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, but down the road looms China. With the help of the union misleaders, they are taking back everything that U.S. workers have gained in the past 80 years in order to meet their growing competition.

PLP is fighting for a base among the workers in order to challenge the bosses and union misleaders. The Brookdale workers are fighting on behalf of every worker affected by racist hospital closures. Every worker worldwide can support the Brookdale Hospital workers by raising their fight on the job and in their union, sending messages of support to CHALLENGE. Workers in the New York City area can sign up to sell CHALLENGEs at Brookdale.

While the bosses ultimately control whether or not Brookdale closes, through building CHALLENGE networks within Brookdale, we are injecting our ideas of fighting back with multi-racial working-class unity. Should Brookdale close, in whole or in part, these workers will bring these ideas with them into the looming struggles ahead, wherever they go. Our long-term success will be measured in how many workers understand that only when millions of workers join PLP and the fight for communism, can the international working class destroy capitalism and seize power.

The politicians and union misleaders had their say at the town hall meeting, but the mostly-female Brookdale workers will have their say when they strike against the bosses. We ask every one of these fighters to join us

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Draft on the Way: Obama’s War Budget Makes Workers Pay

The U.S. ruling class’s “debate” over raising the debt limit above $14 trillion and cutting the budget is all a cover to hide the goal of forcing the working class to foot the bill for U.S. imperialism’s global wars that are slaughtering workers internationally.

Wars for control of Mid-East oil and gas and for strategic footholds against China and Russia cost U.S. imperialists a fortune — $3.7 trillion so far in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, as battlefields widen to Libya, Yemen, Somalia and beyond, the current depression leaves U.S. rulers with inadequate ready cash. So Obama and the major capitalists he serves are pushing a budget plan that shoves even more war burden onto the backs of workers.

Obama’s proposal for 2012-2020 slashes $655 billion from the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits workers have earned. (White House Budget, published in 2010) This includes lowering Social Security benefits and gradually raising full retirement benefits from age 65 to past 66 and eventually to age 69. Consequently, millions more workers will die on the job before they can retire.

Meanwhile, the needs of struggling U.S. imperialism belie his promise to curb the military budget by 7%. In fact, the imperialists themselves demand a whopping 67% boost. (See CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby quote below.) The only significant “cost-cutting” move likely at the Pentagon, one now pushed by the highest brass, is restoring the draft. Most draftees, unlike career enlistees, get rock-bottom pay and no pension.

Lying Obama Promises Tea Partiers Pentagon Cuts; Bigger Bosses say ‘Forget about ‘em’

Obama’s phony Pentagon pruning aims solely at appeasing obstructionist, anti-tax Tea Party elements in Congress. The latter front for smaller domestically-minded U.S. capitalists who don’t directly benefit from the bigger bosses’ expensive and expanding war agenda. But the main U.S. imperialists, whose profits depend on war, and who bankrolled Obama into office and fill his cabinet, reveal the intentional hollowness of his rhetoric.

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), U.S. imperialism’s leading think-tank, representing the Rockefeller-dominated wing of U.S. rulers, such as Exxon Mobil and JP Morgan Chase. They seek to undermine Obama’s cheap talk and rally Republican imperialists, the socially-liberal and fiscally-conservatives like Senators John McCain and Maine’s two Senators, part of the old Nelson Rockefeller wing of the G.O.P.

Boot wrote in the conservative Weekly Standard (7/18/11), “Obama’s proposed cuts…would seriously impair the military’s ability to meet its global commitments.” Boot then lets loose a flood of rhetorical questions that pretty much lay out his bosses’ money-burning order of battle for the near term:

“Should we completely pull out of Afghanistan? Even with the overly hasty withdrawal of surge forces ordered by Obama, we still will have 70,000 troops there at the end of next year, costing at least $70 billion. Pulling out troops even faster risks giving jihadists their biggest victory since 9/11.

“Perhaps we [U.S. rulers] should stop fighting pirates off the coast of Africa? Stop fighting in Libya so that arch-terrorist Muammar Qaddafi can claim a victory over the West? Stop targeting al Qaeda in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere? Stop deterring China, North Korea, or Iran? Stop patrolling the Persian Gulf through which much of the world’s oil flows? Stop fighting cyberattacks emanating from China and Russia?”

Obama’s Ruling-Class Handlers Want Massive 67% Boost, not Mini 7% Cut, in War Funding

Of course, all this call to expansion of U.S. rulers’ wars means mass murder of untold numbers of workers in these countries. Boot obviously seeks a “No” answer to the military cut question. His colleague, CFR fellow Sebastian Mallaby, goes much further, urging drastically increasing war funding and reducing workers’ living standards. In a piece entitled, “American Power Requires Economic Sacrifice (CFR website, 7/7/11) he says:

“…[I]f the U.S. has the will to allocate a rising share of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] to the Pentagon, it can sustain its global dominance for a long time to come. After all, defense claimed more than a 10th of U.S. GDP during the 1950s, compared with just below 6 per cent today. But military budgets on the scale of the 1950s entail social and economic sacrifices.”

Mallaby refers unmistakably to reducing health care’s 17% share of U.S. GDP. Furthermore, his demand to revert to 1950 military budget allocations of one-tenth (10%) from the current 6% means a two-thirds increase, or 67%.

Anti-Worker Draft Coming Back
as ‘Money-Saver’

From the Korean War in the 1950s to the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s, U.S. rulers maintained the draft. Today, massive unemployment and under-employment of over 30 million workers forces job-seeking youth to enlist, which may help make recruitment adequate for U.S. bosses now. But that won’t be the case if rebellion reaches Saudi Arabia, Big Oil’s biggest energy source, and sets the whole Middle East aflame or if armed conflict breaks out with Iran’s or China’s bosses. Then the U.S. “all-volunteer” forces won’t be able to cut it, economically or politically.

With pay raises, benefits and pensions, the volunteer force costs the bosses too much. And only a shrinking segment of the population, increasingly poor white workers, seems won to enlisting. So here comes conscription again, in the guise of “economizing.” The Air Force Times (7/14/11) reported that, “The Pentagon is considering massive changes to the force — including a draft — amid fears that new and far deeper budget cuts are looming just over the horizon…. It quoted General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “You may just shift the balance of the services from active to Guard or reserve or to — the dirty word — a draft. Those are all different characters and they have different costs that you can manage.’”

A new draft would force millions of U.S. youth into a war machine that would kill them and millions of our sister and brother workers worldwide. (World War II saw 14 million in the U.S. armed forces, with half the current U.S. population.) But, at the same time, in laying bare to millions the horrors of capitalist war, it would also expand the opportunities for communist revolutionary anti-imperialist organizing in the military.

Historically, the two great communist-led revolutions in the last century, in Russia and China, arose out of the imperialist World Wars I and II.

With our lives, labor, declining wages, and ever-diminishing living conditions, workers have paid for capitalists’ wars for centuries. Aside from the incalculable money loss, their harm to our class amounts to billions of human beings impoverished and murdered. We must turn the tables on the profit-driven killers by building for communist revolution to destroy them.

Our Progressive Labor Party works towards this goal, as is evident from PLP’s immersion in, and helping to lead, class struggles: for a community library (page 7); among transit workers in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (page 6); for client-worker unity against budget cuts in New Jersey (page 7); among hospital workers in NYC (page 1) and in Chicago (page 6). PLP joins and leads these battles to be able to raise revolutionary communist ideas and recruit these workers to build a mass Party.

PLP Builds Class Consciousness Call for Strike to Battle D.C. Bosses, Union Hacks

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The battle against the Metro transit bosses and sellout union leaders is heating up.  PLP members at Metro used a union-called town hall meeting for workers and riders “to get input” to expose the sellouts and have radical conversations with fellow workers about the need for communist revolution.

Party members testified that a strike at Metro would help all D.C. area workers, including Metro riders, resist today’s racist offensive against workers. Those statements from both Metro workers and riders got the loudest applause of the meeting, and helped build an attitude of rebellion that opens the door for building the PLP at Metro and throughout the community.

Although support for a strike to resolve our contract dispute is wide spread among riders and drivers, the union leadership is strongly opposed to any work action by members of ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Local 689.

Since strikes by transit workers in D.C. are illegal under the bosses’ laws, the union president is afraid to lead a strike.  She fears it would bankrupt the union and she would wind up in jail. Without a plan to win a strike, many workers are afraid of losing their jobs if it fails.

Many workers have illusions about what a strike can accomplish.  Some believe that if we strike, the bosses will be on their knees begging us to come back to work.  This is an unlikely scenario. They will try to hit us hard, and we must be prepared to hit back!

PLP’s job is to help people overcome their fears of a strike as well as give a realistic estimate of what it takes to advance our interests under current conditions.

Part of helping workers overcome their fear of striking is having a party organization which has the support of the workers and a plan to move forward.  Most of the groundwork for this has been done. Now it is time to consolidate this base into the Party by helping our brothers and sisters gain a clear vision of a lifetime struggle to destroy capitalism and replace it with OUR power, workers’ power.

A strike will not end the bosses’ domination of us, but a strike can give us good training in how to fight. Workers are terminated all the time without just cause at Metro.  There is no reason to expect Metro would not attempt to continue these policies during a strike.  The difference is that we will be fighting back in a mass way to advance our goals. Through sharper struggle against the bosses, we will be able to see the need to build a new kind of society where workers collectively run things  — communism — so that we can get off the treadmill of constant attacks from bosses.

For a strike to be successful, strengthen the union, and build greater class consciousness, the racist divisions that exist in our union must be overcome.  Black, Latino, Asian, and white workers standing side by side in a fight against the bosses will be a strong signal of our ability to win against the bosses in the long run.

Parents Resist Demolition of Community Library

“It’s disgusting,” said a Whittier mother of the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) latest attempt to demolish the community center and library known as “La Casita.” Last fall, the Whittier parents kept the building open with a heroic and grueling 43-day sit-in. After following all CPS stipulations on how to keep the center open, La Casita parents were surprised when demolition workers showed up with permits. This shows that no matter how hard workers fight, the bosses will lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. Regardless, the parents quickly jumped into action to stop the CPS demolition.

The next day, with the demolition crew scheduled to arrive at 6 AM., the Whittier parents, with support from the community, mobilized 60 workers, teachers and students to begin a new sit-in. Only one demolition worker showed up at 6:30 AM, scouting the area to check on the protest. A PLP member and a La Casita mother attempted to win this worker’s support. He refused. With true working-class solidarity, the Whittier mother gave the worker her phone number, saying that while the bosses aren’t coming for your neighborhood now, they will be soon, and we can help.

At 7:45 AM, the Chicago KKKops blocked off all roads leading into La Casita. In response to this fascist attack, PLP members and allies went door-to-door in the neighborhood informing residents about the situation, trying to get them involved in the fight-back. This made many sit-in’ers feel more confident that no matter what CPS and the KKKops did, we would respond.

At the heart of this struggle are the CPS’ lies. They planned to build a library in the adjacent school by cutting in half two classrooms that are already overcrowded, with 30 or more students. Additionally, this second-floor library would be inaccessible to handicapped students since the school has no elevator. A CPS spokesperson pretended to care about the students’ well-being, saying it doesn’t make sense to have services outside the school. Yet CPS refuses to renovate the school “cafeteria” where students eat in a basement with sewage water running on the ground.

The mass media has helped to spread pro-CPS distortions, stating, “Parents protest construction of library” without giving the parents’ side of the story. However, it makes sense that the bosses’ media would further the bosses’ interests against the working class.

PLP will continue to lead, and be led by, the valiant parents of La Casita in order to save the center from demolition. Yet we must fight the cause of this and all working-class struggles: capitalism. To do this, we ask La Casita parents and friends to join PLP to fight for a communist revolution. Only with a communist victory in that battle will workers be able to breathe easy, without the bosses’ (like those in CPS) boot on our necks.

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Comrade Milt Rosen, 1926-2011 Founding Chairperson of PLP, Great 20th Century Revolutionary

In the fall of 1961, Milt Rosen convened a small collective that would soon leave the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) to form the Progressive Labor Movement. Four years later, Comrade Milt became the founding chair of the Progressive Labor Party. He served our organization and the working class in that capacity until 1995.

On July 13, Milt died of Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 85. He is survived by family, friends, and thousands of comrades — and by a revolutionary communist party deeply rooted in the international working class.

Since PL’s birth half a century ago, many left organizations have withered and died. Others have decayed into the living death of electoral politics or a fake Marxism which allies with “progressive” sections of the ruling class. PL is the exception because it never stopped evolving. Milt grasped the essence of dialectical materialism, the philosophy of communism: that the objective world is ever-changing, and that the Party must continue to learn from its own experience and those of the courageous but flawed workers’ movements that preceded it. He was staunchly principled, but never rigid.

Sparked by Milt early on, PL exposed both counter-revolutionary revisionism and “revolutionary” nationalism as death traps of worker-boss unity. It indicted the state capitalists of the Soviet Union as far back as 1966, and then broke with the ones ruling the People’s Republic of China. Those failed revolutions led PL to advance beyond Marx’s two-stage theory that socialism was a first step toward communism; history had shown that socialism inevitably led back to the exploitation of capitalism. And unlike any other group on the landscape, the Party emphasized the importance of the fight against racism as a basic communist principle, not a mere tactic. It understood that all struggles are essentially anti-racist struggles. Most important, it saw that capitalism cannot survive without racism dividing groups of workers, and that racism injures and exploits the entire working class.

PL stayed vital and relevant because Milt and other comrades refused to shrink from struggle or to compromise our communist politics to make expedient alliances. The Party stood apart from others parading as “left” groups; Milt called that separation “glorious.” He knew that our unity, first and last, must be with the working class.

Over decades of action and analysis, the Party was built by Milt and by people he directly influenced and developed. They steered PL to its early growth amid the opportunities of mass movements and the threats of government attacks. Then they kept us on course through the “dark night” of rising fascism. As Milt noted in “Jailbreak,” his down-to-earth booklet on dialectics, “We must be able to combine urgency with patience.”

The Progressive Labor Party is now growing on five continents. It continues to sharpen its practice and its political line to overthrow capitalism and build a communist future. That struggle endures today. It is PL’s living history, and Milt’s legacy to all of us.

Milt Meets Stalin

Milt’s first brush with the enormous power of communist ideas came as a 17-year-old soldier (he had lied about his age) in Italy in World War II. Each morning he would see a name in fresh red paint on the buildings’ walls: “STALIN.” The anti-fascist partisans, knowing they risked execution if caught, had come out at night with their paint cans to raise morale.

After the war in Italy ended, Milt, now a sergeant, was in charge of a motor pool. His unit was ordered to break strikes led by communist resistance fighters, the soldiers’ former allies. Milt led “search-and-avoid” missions, as they later became known in the Vietnam War. His troops would board the trucks and set off, but they never found a strike. Instead they’d get “lost” on the winding mountain roads.

In and Out of the CPUSA

After returning home to Brooklyn from the Army, Milt joined the Jewish War Veterans, the first of many mass movements he would enter. Influenced by his future wife, Harriet, he then joined the Communist Party of the United States.

In the 1950s, Milt went to Buffalo, New York, to organize fellow workers at a steel mill. He soon became a local union leader. Citing the mill’s status as a “war plant,” management said they had to fire Milt because he was a communist — otherwise, they said, they’d lose their government contracts. They gave each worker a letter stating they were sure Milt would “want” to be fired rather than cost everyone else their jobs. As the workers came off shift, they walked past a fire in a steel barrel and dropped their letters into the flames. As a result of their unity and struggle, Milt got “unfired.”

Milt rose to become the CP’s leader in Erie County, centered in Buffalo, a platform he used to advance the politics that ultimately created PL. In 1957, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) brought its witch hunt to Buffalo to destroy communist influence among industrial workers, Milt and Mort Scheer (later the vice-chairperson of PLP) led the charge against it. They turned HUAC’s hearings into a political battleground. Rather than hiding behind the Fifth Amendment, which the CP used to avoid “self-incrimination,” comrades in Milt’s collective proudly espoused their communist beliefs and attacked the committee’s fascist inquisitions. Meanwhile, Milt and Mort organized mass demonstrations outside the hearings and marshalled mass support. HUAC fled town, discredited. Milt was both teaching and learning a valuable lesson: that communists must fight back against fascism, no matter what the risks.

The industrial work in Buffalo became both PL’s foundation stone and Milt’s point of departure from the old Communist Party. By the late 1950s, in retreat from McCarthyism, the CPUSA had abandoned any effort to organize the working class for revolution. It hid its most advanced ideas from workers and plunged into the sewer of electoral politics, running its own candidates and supporting “lesser-evil” liberals for office. Socialism, the CPUSA leaders declared, could be achieved by reforming capitalism. On the international stage, they joined with fellow revisionists in the Soviet Union in calling for “peaceful coexistence” with the U.S. and its capitalist bloc — an impossible strategy, given the fight-to-the-death reality of imperialism.

By contrast, Milt (by then the CP’s industrial organizer for New York State) defied the old party’s directives and openly called for communism and the need for mass, violent revolution to achieve it. He and his comrades saw that the future of communism lay in negating the old movement — in preserving its progressive elements while discarding what had become outworn or harmful. In January 1962, they published the first issue of a monthly magazine called “Progressive Labor.” In July of that year, in a meeting at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City, they formally broke with the CPUSA and established a new Marxist-Leninist organization called the Progressive Labor Movement, or PLM.

Others split with the CPUSA around the same time, over essentially the same ideological disagreements. One new group, Hammer and Steel, had 500 members; PLM began with 12. Yet our movement grew while the others all dwindled away. Why were we different? PLM’s strategy, as originally put forward by Milt, was to turn away from the organization that had given it birth. Milt could see dialectically that the old CP had reached the end of its historical process.

While Hammer and Steel tried to pull the
CPUSA to the left, a hopeless and sectarian pursuit, PLM reached out to non-communist workers and students and led them in militant class struggles. The wisdom of that strategy soon became obvious.

The Hazard, Kentucky Miners

In one of its first mass activities, PLM stood behind 500 wildcatting, armed coal miners in Hazard, Kentucky, who were locked in an all-out war with the coal barons to win decent conditions and wages. Milt convinced one PLM member, a railroad worker and local union president, to take two weeks off to mobilize solidarity for this fight. Out of this was born the Trade Union Committee to Support the Hazard Miners. A relief campaign raised critical funds and sent truckloads of food and clothing to the strikers. When the miners’ rank-and-file leader came to New York City, PLM organized a mass meeting of a thousand people to hear him.

Milt saw the need to highlight the role of industrial workers as a crucial force for revolution. PLM made the Hazard strike a national cause. For the ruling class, it was an equation for big trouble: wildcatting strikers + armed violence against the bosses + communist ideas. Reformist forces moved into the Committee to seize its leadership and destroy it, but not before countless workers and students came to see the world with new consciousness.

As Mao said, “To be attacked by the enemy is a good thing.” Milt was not discouraged. He realized that we couldn’t control the content or ultimate direction of reform movements. Our power came from expressing our revolutionary ideas within these groups and winning workers to communism.

The Struggle Against Revisionism

In October 1963, before PLM’s National Coordinating Committee, Milt delivered a comprehensive report on the fight against fake Marxism, or revisionism. After months of discussion, the report was published in March 1964 as “Road to Revolution.” A devastating ideological assault upon the old communist movement, it begins:

“Two paths are open to the workers of any given country. One is the path of resolute class struggle; the other is the path of accommodation, collaboration. The first leads to state power for the workers, which will end exploitation. The other means rule by a small ruling class which continues oppression, wide-scale poverty, cultural and moral decay and war.”

PLM and the Anti-War Movement

As of early 1964, active opposition to the growing U.S. war in Vietnam was limited to a few pacifist groups. PLM chose to break through the existing limits and organize a militant, anti-imperialist movement to demand immediate U.S. withdrawal. In March of that year, Comrade Milt sat on a panel at Yale University with representatives of supposedly left organizations, most of them Trotskyite. The panelists were arguing heatedly about “democracy” in Cuba when Milt changed the subject in his characteristic style: “You guys are full of shit. We should be talking about building a movement against the war in Vietnam. Our organization, the Progressive Labor Movement, is doing just that.”

While Milt acknowledged the critical importance of theory, he always taught that practice was primary. That conference was a case in point. Before an audience of more than 500 students and faculty, he focused on the Vietnamese revolution and the efforts of U.S. imperialism to crush it — and what we could do to help the Vietnamese working class fight back.

Milt electrified the crowd. When he proposed a nationwide mobilization to protest U.S. aggression in Vietnam, the conference overwhelmingly voted its approval.

On May 2, 1964, under PLM’s leadership, the first major demonstrations against the Vietnam War were staged in cities around the country. In New York, one thousand people attended a rally at 110th St. and Central Park West, where they heard PLM speeches about the necessity of communist revolution. Breaking a police ban on demonstrations in midtown Manhattan, the marchers wound through Times Square to the United Nations for a second rally.

To sustain its fight against the Vietnam War along with students and other non-communists, PLM founded the May 2nd Movement and built chapters on a number of college campuses. As the war expanded, liberals and fake leftists grabbed the leadership of the broadening anti-war movement. Even so, our anti-imperialist politics and militant leadership led to a period of rapid growth for PLM on campuses nationwide. More young people were drawn to our organization when we broke the U.S. government’s travel ban on Cuba and brought 134 students there over the summers of 1963 and 1964.


In June 1964, PLM began publishing CHALLENGE-DESAFIO. At a time when bilingual publications were unheard of, and despite our organization’s small size and limited funds, Milt fought for a paper in both English and Spanish. We had no choice, he said; we had to make communism available to the many New York workers from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere who spoke mainly Spanish.

As our movement expanded into Chicago and Southern California, which had large numbers of workers from Mexico and Central and South America, an English/Spanish newspaper became even more important to organize workers for communism on a multiracial, internationalist basis. Years later, DESAFIO would also pave the way for our work in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fighting Racism

From its very beginning, Milt led the struggle within PL to see racism as the ruling class’s primary tool to divide workers. He helped us understand how the capitalists’ racist ideology poisons every facet of workers’ lives, from unemployment to police terror to the eugenic pseudo-science pushed on college campuses. Given this analysis, it became clear that the key to communist revolution was to build a mass, multiracial, anti-racist movement. PL could not lead the working class without masses of black and Latino workers and youth as members and leaders.

“POLICE WAR ON HARLEM” was the front-page headline of the first issue of CHALLENGE, over a photo of a man who had been beaten by a cop’s billy club. The article described the growing anger that would lead to the Harlem Rebellion one month later, when the police shot 15-year-old James Powell in the back, killing him.

New York’s mayor placed Harlem under virtual martial law, and more than eighty “left” and civil rights groups agreed not to demonstrate.  Milt had a different idea. He proposed that PLM print thousands of posters: “Wanted for Murder, Gilligan the Cop.” They became the anti-racist flags of Harlem residents in their struggle against police brutality.

When PLM members stepped out of their Harlem clubhouse to start a march, they were immediately arrested. One leader was charged with “sedition” for “attempting to overthrow the State of New York,” and faced up to 20 years in prison. Others were rounded up in predawn raids and jailed for contempt of court after refusing to testify. Even the printers who produced the Gilligan posters were jailed! Nothing scares the capitalists more than multiracial unity under communist leadership, and they were quick to suspend their so-called “freedoms” to squash us. But the bosses’ legal terror backfired. As a result of its activity in Harlem, PLM gained respect among black workers throughout the country.

Throughout this inspiring period, Milt helped to give our members the confidence to “dare to struggle, dare to win.” He understood that the main threat to a communist movement was not ruling-class terror, but our own timidity.

From Movement to Party

In April 1965, two hundred comrades met in New York and took a bold step forward: the founding convention of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP). The transformation from a movement to a party signified greater unity over our politics, greater trust and confidence in our members and the working class, and greater commitment to organizing for communist revolution.

Milt was chosen as the first chairperson of PL because he was unafraid of struggle. He’d led the internal fight that transformed the Buffalo CP into a red force, in sharp contrast to the CP’s national leadership and its accommodation to capitalism. PLM was born out of that internal struggle, as was Milt’s analysis in “Road to Revolution.” Milt himself had been steeled in class struggle, from his experiences in World War II to his vanguard communist work in Buffalo’s steel industry.

Work in Mass Organizations

Following the massive Washington anti-war rally in the spring of 1965, Milt saw that Students for A Democratic Society (SDS) had grown into the center of radical student politics. He proposed that the May 2nd Movement be dissolved and that our student members move into SDS, which had potential for far greater growth. Some PLM members felt comfortable in M2M, and fought against this change. Some even left our organization when their view did not prevail.

This internal struggle was an early battle over the need to work in mass organizations, which are invariably led by the ruling class. Despite their limits, these groups connect communists to large numbers of workers and students. They allow us to bring our revolutionary ideas to people even as we fight alongside them for reforms. From the beginning of our movement, Milt was a firm advocate for working in unions, community groups, churches, and academic organizations.

From 1966 to 1968, PL would do its largest-scale political organizing among students. We recruited hundreds of members by building the Worker Student Alliance, which became the majority caucus within SDS. Many of those students joined the Party, and Milt led the push to send large numbers into the factories, where our work continues today. We also organized students to waive their deferments, enter the draft, and join the military to build our movement there. With three U.S. imperialist wars now raging, that work is more important than ever. As Milt liked to say, “You’ve got to be in it to win it.”

Turning the Tables on HUAC

In the summer of 1966, the House Un-American Activities Committee launched an investigation of “subversive activities” in the movement against the Vietnam War. They subpoenaed the movement’s leaders, including five student members of PL. Comrade Milt and other Party leaders and members seized the opportunity to mobilize 800 people to pack the Washington, D.C. hearing room, disrupt the proceedings, and demonstrate outside Congress. Some were arrested, and at least one student joined PL while in jail.

Once again, our comrades openly advocated communism when questioned by the Committee. We “took the offensive and exposed the racist HUAC members for the Nazis that they are,” as Milt wrote. We turned the hearings into an attack on capitalism and on the liberal Johnson Administration, accusing it of mass murder in Vietnam and racist policies at home. Those hearings were a major step toward the abolition of HUAC.

“Build a Base in the Working Class”

At our 1968 Party convention, Milt gave a speech that was subsequently published as one of the Party’s most durably important statements. “Build a Base in the Working Class” advanced the necessity to develop close ties with industrial workers, on and off the job, and to immerse ourselves in their lives. In this way, a party could be built from tens to hundreds to thousands — eventually to a mass party of millions, capable of seizing state power from the rotten capitalist class. Milt’s vision was the polar opposite of the bosses’ vicious caricature of communists as isolated terrorists.

Milt’s analysis linked selfishness and individualism to revisionism, anti-communism, and lack of confidence in the masses. It advocated “serving the people” through a long-range outlook and a lifelong commitment to fighting for communism. It stressed the need for collectivity and for criticism and, especially, self-criticism.

“I believe that all the weaknesses displayed by party members are also exhibited by myself,” Milt said. “Even after 22 years of trying to help build a revolutionary movement, I believe that one of my main motives still is self-serving. That is, I do my work more to satisfy something within me than to serve the people. Nonetheless, I would say that the biggest reason that I have been able to do the little I still do…is that I really believe the working people will, eventually, defeat imperialism.”

With PL members worldwide doing communist work within mass organizations, it would be useful to study this speech in our Party clubs and study groups, and to spread its ideas to workers and students with whom we are involved in class struggles.

Road to Revolution IV

In 1982, after a year of discussion within PL and its base, Milt led the struggle to adopt “Road to Revolution IV” as the political line of the Party. RRIV analyzed the return to capitalism in the Soviet Union and China. It concluded that fighting for socialism as a preliminary stage before communism — a core principle of the international communist movement since Karl Marx — was fatally incorrect. This theory had led inexorably to a reversal of all the gains from the heroic struggles of millions of workers. RRIV, by contrast, called for winning the working class to fight directly for a communist society. This was a qualitative leap for PL and  for the international working class.

Great Revolutionary Leadership

Milt Rosen, through his leadership of the Progressive Labor Party, made ground breaking contributions to an international movement that began with the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Marx and Engels showed how capitalism exploits the working class — and how the capitalists will be destroyed by the workers they have brutalized. Lenin organized the communist party that led to the first seizure of power by the working class in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Stalin consolidated workers’ power in the Soviet Union, and led the proletariat to smash the Nazis in World War II. In 1949, Mao advanced the concept of a people’s war with a mass base to overthrow the U.S.-backed fascist regime in the Chinese revolution.

As another link in this historical chain, Milt was the first to expose the weaknesses of socialism as a halfway house back to capitalism. Where Lenin, Stalin and Mao had viewed nationalism as a stepping stone toward communism, Milt was the architect of a new concept: one international working class with one international communist party, leading workers directly to communism. Milt clarified the contradiction between reform and revolution, and how communists must function as revolutionaries within the reform movement. And it was Milt who led the fight against the “cult of the individual,” showing how it prevented workers from becoming communist leaders and thinkers.

‘No Chairperson for Life’

Milt believed that the only way our Party could grow was to constantly train new leaders, especially black, Latino, and women comrades. Milt believed that fighting both racism and sexism was an integral part of the class struggle, and he ensured that much of the Party leadership would be in the hands of women. One of the Party’s early militant struggles grew out of its organization of mothers on welfare, who united with welfare workers to demand services for their children. As the Party immersed itself in class struggles in the garment districts of New York and Los Angeles, in the grape fields of the San Joaquin Valley, and in the Stella D’oro cookie factory in the Bronx, we learned that unity between men and women workers was essential to building our movement.

In all previous communist parties, the chairmen (and virtually all were men) stayed on as party leaders until they died, were too sick to continue, or were thrown out. Milt suggested to our Central Committee that this was a dangerous practice. Staying on as chair forever implies indispensability, and no individual communist can be indispensable. Therefore, in 1995, Milt stepped aside as Party chairman. He remained active in other ways, in meetings and fund-raising. “Communists don’t believe in retirement,” he said. “We contribute as long as we can.”

A Communist Forever

After stepping down as Party chair and before becoming too ill to function, Milt continued to make vital contributions to PL and the international movement. Among his most significant lessons was the need to understand the character of our historical period. Shortly after the events of 9/11, he spoke of how he’d underestimated the impact of the old communist movement’s demise, and how far it has set back the class struggle. This failing, he pointed out, could lead to one of two devastating errors: false optimism   or despair over the formidable difficulties in building a mass communist party. Milt’s self-criticism reminded us that the old movement’s defeat may have left us in a “dark night,” but the working class has lived and fought through dark nights before.

While the end of the old movement was the worst setback we’ve ever suffered, it isn’t the end of history. It’s not the end of class struggle. Our Party exists all over the world, and small though it may be, it is growing. With words and by example, Milt taught the vital importance of a long-term outlook. More clearly than most, he knew there were no shortcuts to revolution. He embraced it as the commitment of a lifetime.

More than anything, he taught us never to give up

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Obama’s Boeing Buddies, Union Hacks Pave Way for Sellout

SEATTLE, June 28 — The court case between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) kicked off earlier this month with a judge hearing Boeing’s request to have the IAM’s complaint thrown out. The latter is accusing Boeing of moving part of its 787 aircraft production to a non-union plant in South Carolina in order to punish the union for its 2008 strike. Boeing has denied the charges and wants the case dismissed.

However, the fact that Boeing’s move to South Carolina was made to punish its workers is undeniable. And the fact that Boeing has chosen South Carolina reveals the racism of the company’s move. The state’s history of centuries of racism as a union-busting “right-to-work” area has kept wages much lower than in Washington State and enables the racist bosses to use it as a club against white and black workers in Seattle.

In 2010, Boeing CEO Jim Albaugh told the Seattle Times (4/22/10) that preventing strikes was the key factor in deciding to move to South Carolina. A 2009 conference call with then Boeing CEO Jim McNerney had the company again stating that the move was made to prevent “regular strikes.” More recently Boeing’s chief counsel told a Senate committee hearing that the move was undertaken to prevent further strikes. (LA Times, 6/26/11).

Now Congressional Republicans are attacking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for even hearing the IAM’s complaint. Senate Republicans threatened to kill the appointment of NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon over the dispute with Boeing. (LAT, 6/26/11)

Obama’s Appointees Solidly Boeing

But workers shouldn’t rely on the government’s NLRB for help. Democrats have mostly sat in quiet approval of the attacks. Obama Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson, in his recent Senate confirmation hearings, said he thought the NLRB decision to bring the complaint forward was a “big mistake.” (Business Insider, 6/21/11) Bryson is a former Boeing board member, as is Obama Chief of Staff William Daley.

Boeing is so confident it will beat the charge that it hasn’t even bothered to show up for settlement negotiations with the IAM. Indeed in many ways Boeing has already succeeded in breaking the back of the IAM. In a 2010 speech, IAM president Tom Buffenberger condemned the 2008 strike, stating, “It is time to move beyond the old ways of bargaining that have been used since the 1930s… We must find ways to move forward where both the company and the workers benefit together, neither one profiting at the expense of the other in adversarial roles.” (IAM, 1/26/10)

This abject union class collaboration is nothing new. This “strategy” has successfully whittled the membership of the UAW down to one-third of its peak in just a few decades. As only CHALLENGE reported, the IAM did not initially endorse the 2008 strike that began as a worker-led wildcat and actively tried to undermine it every step of the way. (CHALLENGE, 10/1/08)

The sellout of that strike by the IAM leadership and its continued propaganda campaign of pushing cooperation with Boeing has left many workers deeply cynical about their ability to resist Boeing’s attacks on their wages and benefits. Many openly express their pessimism about the future of their jobs and their own ability to change that future. The IAM’s appeal to the NLRB is part of its campaign to protest through the “right” channels (according to the bosses’ laws) rather than striking. As the case stretches out over months and even years until the judge eventually and inevitably sides with Boeing, workers may become even more cynical.

In this era of union sellouts’ surrender and coordinated attacks against the working class by the bosses and its capitalist state, workers need communist ideas more than ever. Following pro-boss union leaders is a dead end. We must win the rank and file to challenge the bosses’ laws and in that class struggle build a mass communist PLP to fight for revolution and the ultimate destruction of the exploitative capitalist system.

‘Jobs, Yes! Deportations, No!’ Workers Fight Fascist Attack on Immigrants

NEW YORK CITY, July 1 — The most important task for the world’s working class is rebuilding the international communist movement, learning from past successes and failures and advancing the struggle for workers’ power. Crucial to this process is fighting racism and all racist divisions within the working class. We must understand global immigration in this context.

Workers migrate for many reasons: work, hunger, misery, war, repression and persecution. The world is the marketplace where international wage slaves look for work, regardless of capitalist-imposed borders. The world’s capitalists exploit the working class in part based on immigrants, both outside and inside their so-called borders. The lower the wages and the worse the situation for immigrant workers, the better capitalists can create the conditions to exploit the whole working class while building racist ideology and divisions. We must understand how capitalism works, unite across “borders” and fight for our class worldwide.

Bosses Spread Anti-Immigrant Lies

Within capitalist “nations,” the bosses super-exploit undocumented workers, reaping huge profits. Meanwhile, their government and media system blame undocumented immigrants for “stealing” jobs from “Americans”; “taking services away” from “law-abiding citizens”; “committing crime”; “ruining neighborhoods”; and being “terrorists.” These statements are based on racist lies and myths that foster a climate of racist hate and division that masks the nature of capitalist exploitation and builds a base for ruling-class-led fascism.

In the U.S. there are a rash of new anti-immigrant laws, often passed in states with the highest immigration rates, like Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona and Utah. The latest law, enacted in Alabama:

• Requires public schools to check students’ immigration status using birth certificates or sworn affidavits;

• Bans undocumented immigrants from attending state colleges;

• Makes it illegal for landlords to rent to undocumented immigrants;

• Makes it illegal for citizens and documented immigrants to transport or shelter undocumented immigrants; and,

• Makes it a crime to hire undocumented immigrants and forces employers to use E-Verify, a so-called “voluntary” program run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify a worker’s immigration status.

Meanwhile Texas Representative Lamar Smith has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to make the use of E-Verify at workplaces federal law, thus mandatory. (E-Verify is a faulty system with a high error rate, causing many documented workers to be either fired or refused employment.)

Obama Expands Bush Program

Another racist feature is the “Secure Communities” program, a DHS “immigration enforcement” program in which local police share fingerprints with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and DHS, supposedly to find and deport immigrant “criminals.” The program was begun under the Bush administration in 2008 with the plan to make state participation mandatory by 2013. The Obama administration has expanded the program as a key part of immigration enforcement.

ICE deported 392,862 immigrants in 2010, not including over 400,000 who took voluntary deportation. Projected deportations for 2011 are 404,000. There are currently 350 detention jails in the U.S. More than 77,000 immigrants have been deported through the Secure Communities program; 49,000 had no criminal records or had only minor offenses (like a traffic ticket).

While Texas and other states are expanding Secure Communities, some like Illinois, New York and Massachusetts have “opted out.” But DHS is apparently claiming that once in, you can’t “opt out.” DHS Chief Jane Napolitano defends the program. These three states have been told that fingerprints collected by local police will continue to be sent to DHS. An ICE spokesman has said the program is mandatory and that only the federal government can deport immigrants. The reality is that by 2013 the U.S. government will have merged federal databases so that all fingerprint searches check immigrants’ status automatically.

All these ruling-class attacks reflect a growing fascism which the rulers need to continue to wage imperialist wars, in order to maintain their hold on the world’s resources, especially oil and gas. But within this war drive, the U.S. bosses’ position on immigration faces a contradiction: on the one hand they need to super-exploit and terrorize immigrants for profit and to divide the working class. Yet they also have great need for immigrant youth — through their proposed “Dream Act” — to replenish their war machine with cannon fodder for those very same wars. We must expose this contradiction to show how the rulers’ attack on immigrants is an attack on the international working class.

The working class can’t rely on piece-meal, defensive strategies led by the Democratic Party. We need to take the offensive. Comrades working in an organization in our neighborhood are proposing and organizing for a march in the area around the theme: “Jobs, yes; Deportations, no!”

Comrades have a large CHALLENGE circulation in the organization we’re members of, with plans to expand CHALLENGE networks in the neighborhood and at job sites. We’ve recruited several new members to our PLP club and, with our two study groups, can recruit even more. Our job is to turn our new and veteran members, CHALLENGE readers and close friends into organizers who can mobilize the masses, fight for communist ideas, and lead the class struggle and the long-range fight for communist revolution.

The working class has two choices: unite, reject racist divisions and fight for the needs of our entire class, or fall for racist ideas which divide us and deflect anger from our real enemy under capitalism, the bosses, banks and government authorities. We must demand massive numbers of jobs, not “growing” jobs here and there. Make the capitalists pay! We must lead the working class to fight together against racist profiling and deportations. Immigrants don’t cause unemployment and “insecure communities”; capitalist unemployment, ICE and racist policing do. Working-class consciousness, not capitalist politicians and momentary reforms, build real power.

Every day the international working class is fighting back. In all our areas — the factories and unions, the schools and college campuses, the churches and community organizations — communists must be fully involved in the class struggle. While illusory reformist/electoral ideas dominate the movement now, the door is wide open to communist ideas, organizing and leadership and, as the Party grows, a communist world.

Hospital Workers’ Class Hatred Rages vs. Racist, Sexist Cuts

NEW YORK  CITY, NY, June 26 — “What do we want?! BENEFITS! If we don’t get it? SHUT’EM DOWN!”

Hundreds of black and Latino hospital workers militantly chanted, sang and danced in a picket line surrounding Brookdale Hospital CEO Bruce Flanz’s house in this rich, mostly white town, about an hour north of the hospital’s site in the Bronx. The picket was organized by Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a local representing over 260,000 mostly black and Latino hospital and home healthcare workers in New York City. The workers were responding to Brookdale’s violation of its labor contract, which has forced the 3,500 hospital workers onto a more expensive health insurance plan in a racist, sexist campaign to break worker militancy and, ultimately, decertify 1199.

When Progressive Labor Party members spoke with Brookdale workers as they arrived to board the buses that morning, we met with very positive reactions. Almost every worker took a CHALLENGE, and we came away with more than a half dozen contacts. Since then we have followed up with them to plan meetings. As some of our new friends later told us, several Brookdale workers took stacks of papers on the buses with them, distributed them all, and held discussions about the Brookdale article (CHALLENGE 6/6) on the bus trip there and back.

The picket around the CEO’s house was highly militant. At the sight of the CEO’s sprawling house, the racist contrast between the living conditions of Brookdale workers and the bosses was blatantly obvious. One disgusted worker, her young daughter with her, yelled, “We’re fighting just for this [contract] when these people live like this?” Another woman worker began spreading a chant to burn down the boss’s house, before being discouraged by union marshals. The loudest and most popular chant, quoted at the top, was a call-and-response for the hospital to shut down.

Scabs Watch Out!

Class hatred for the bosses was stoked even further at the discovery of a scab standing in the CEO’s driveway, a man known only as “Martinez.” The workers crowded the edge of the property, taunting Martinez to step closer “so we can get a piece of you,” but the police and union marshals got the pickets moving again as the scab Martinez smugly raised his middle finger. A hospital worker from Jamaica warned: “Don’t you dare step back into Brookdale! I’ll be waiting for you!”

Over the past six months, Brookdale workers have shown a lot of bravery in the face of the bosses’ attacks. According to our friends inside the hospital, supervisors have been spying on workers who are organizing fight-backs. We’ve learned of two instances of spontaneous work stoppages across many hospital departments. Three weeks ago, according to several EMT and paramedic friends, the New York City Fire Department issued some unusual orders: no patients were to be brought to Brookdale. Last week, bosses at the cash-starved hospital suggested that another round of layoffs is imminent, a move that would criminally worsen an understaffing crisis.

While Brookdale workers have amply demonstrated their class hatred, the struggle’s outcome will be determined by the political line of their leadership. This is where Local 1199 represents a dead end. The sellout essence of the 1199 misleaders, from President George Gresham on down, betrays their militant appearance. Workers frankly admitted that while they want to strike, they don’t trust 1199 to support them. Some said defiantly that they should strike, “union or no union.” But apart from their spontaneous work stoppages, they have yet to follow the example of the Stella D’Oro workers, who took the lead in 2008 and spearheaded an 11-month, anti-sexist strike.

Brookdale’s workers need a mass base of support to battle their racist, sexist bosses. While 1199 talks tough and bills itself as the “largest local in the world,” it refuses to mobilize its quarter-million members in New York City in these workers’ defense. Recently the union leadership began talking about the need to get rid of Flanz and his entourage, to pave the way for a takeover of Brookdale by state officials. But these officials are the same “saviors” who have cut billions of dollars from health care and closed eight hospitals in New York City alone!

Boss-Union Hack Gang-Up

In reality, boss Flanz and hack Gresham are on the same side. Although they haggle over contract details in a show of collective bargaining, their argument is confined to how much can be taken from the workers in the current economic crisis, and how fast. Under capitalism, both bosses and unions serve one overriding goal: the exploitation of workers to generate maximum profits. The brutal workings of this system are most obvious when it targets black, Latino, and women workers, as at Brookdale. Through this super-exploitation, the capitalist ruling class pushes down wage and benefit levels for all.

PLP’s message of fighting back is spreading, evidenced by the enthusiastic response to CHALLENGE and the many contacts we’ve made. These embryonic leadership collectives will serve the interests of the working class instead of playing off their fears — the strategy of 1199 and other unions, whose job is to keep the capitalist status quo in place.

PL’ers and CHALLENGE readers around New York City have been circulating petitions and flyers to spread the word about Brookdale. In days following the picket in New City, one friend of PLP was conducting blood pressure screenings in another borough. He made available a stack of anti-racist leaflets that denounced the Brookdale bosses. One person getting her pressure checked read the leaflet and exclaimed, “My sister works for Brookdale! What can we do here to help?” She took several leaflets and contact information was exchanged. Wherever we are, we can meet people and deepen our ties.

PLP fights for both the short-term and long-term interests of the working class. By strengthening CHALLENGE networks while we build support for the Brookdale workers in our own workplaces, we are both sharpening the local struggle and moving toward our ultimate goal, a communist revolution.

Billionaires Rule the Schools, but — REAL Education Comes from Class Struggle vs. Capitalism

As the economic crisis and wars abroad deepen, the U.S. ruling class has moved toward more direct control of the schools nationwide. In New York, billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg runs the city’s school system on a corporate model, with lawyers and business people in top leadership roles while teachers and school staffers are downsized. This structure attacks the students, the working-class of the next generation.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a new school board full of corporate “movers and shakers” like board chair David Vitale, the former vice-chairman and director of JPMorgan Chase, and Penny Pritzker of the Hyatt Hotel dynasty. John Veasy, the Los Angeles schools superintendent, worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and completed an executive training program funded by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, these billionaires and millionaires have no intention of creating policies to benefit students. Children who attend urban public schools are disproportionately black, Latino and low-income, the children of the same workers these bosses exploit. The racist segregation of housing and education in the U.S. makes poor black and Latino students the most likely victims of closed schools, empty test-prep curricula, and inexperienced teachers.

In this still-racist (not “post-racial”) country, children of the most exploited workers, including the unemployed, are the ones most likely to attend schools where rigid obedience is demanded and rote learning is the norm. The critical analysis skills that all students need are the last thing the rulers want most of them to learn.

The degraded conditions of these schools — and of an economic system that thrives on low-wage/no-wage workers — push nearly half of their students to leave without having graduated. The system needs only a handful of working-class students to be well-educated, for skills the bosses need and for use as misleaders of the mass of workers who are left behind by the school system.

Members of the ruling class are directly funding “reforms” in education through the Broad and Gates foundations, along with Walton Family Foundation and groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Educators 4 Excellence. The new Chicago schools’ CEO is Jean-Claude Brizard, who left his job as the Rochester (NY) superintendent of schools with a 95% no-confidence vote from teachers and a similar lack of support from parents and community members. Brizard is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, described by James Horn, of the blog Schools Matter, as “Eli Broad’s corporate training school … for future superintendents who… [learn] to hand over their systems to the Business Roundtable.”

This stepped-up corporate control is both about making money in the short run and trying to save capitalism over the long haul. A revolving door of new, lower-paid teachers saves public systems money, while attacks on teachers’ unions and pension funds are cutting wages and benefits for all education workers.

More fundamentally, the nationalization of education will prepare workers for increased fascism and war by defining the ideas taught to youth. Common Core State Standards and the accompanying battery of tests (now in development) will advance the centralized control of the content of education. By tying seniority, pay, and job security to teacher evaluation and student test scores, the ruling class hopes to develop a teaching force that shies away from independent thinking, both for themselves and their students. The end goal is a working class trained to be loyal to U.S. imperialism and willing to fight in wars to defend it.

All unions, including the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, work within the framework of a capitalist system that aims to destroy their members. The NEA leadership recently pledged to support President Barack Obama in spite of his implementation of Race to the Top, a policy that forces corporate-style reforms upon public schools. At its last convention, the AFT honored Bill Gates, the champion of larger class sizes — the key to massive teacher layoffs — in urban schools.

Both of these national unions have many members and local leaders who are fighting the attacks on education, like the “anti-billionaires” campaign of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Unions, however, are bound by the confines of the capitalist system. They negotiate contracts and lobby for laws that set the terms of workers’ exploitation. The CTU cuts deals with politicians when it should be organizing its militant rank-and-file to fight. Recent legislation agreed to by CTU leaders makes it harder to strike and undermines seniority protections for teachers. In reality, workers can never win in the legislative arena; any “victories” are short-term and can always be taken away by the class that rules.

The real value of class struggle doesn’t lie in the reform crumbs that workers may or may not win, but in the experience of fighting the bosses — an experience that too few workers have today. (In 2010, there were only 11 major strikes in the U.S., compared to more than 4,000 strikes in 1937.)

Communists advocate breaking the rules, and to fight back wherever we can. The mothers at Whittier School in Chicago did this last fall, when they took over a building to demand a library. In Brooklyn, students, teachers, and parents recently joined together to demand that the racist Department of Education withdraw its plan to insert an elite school into the John Jay Campus, where black and Latino students face prison-like security scanning and under-funding. Currently, students at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn are battling a trumped-up investigation of PLP teachers.

Militant fighting is insufficient; it needs to be coupled with a revolutionary communist outlook and a long-term struggle against capitalist ideology. We must understand how ideas like individualism, racism, nationalism, and class unity with the bosses are built into the schools’ curricula. To keep our students from killing and dying for capitalism, communist teachers must win other teachers and students to see through the rulers’ lies. We must learn and teach the skills of scientific analysis, the true history of workers’ struggles, and the multi-racial, international unity required for revolution. This is the role of a communist education, and the goal of PLP: to build an army of workers and students to destroy the profit system, once and for all

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