Category Archives: books

MAY DAY!!! Fight For Communism!

May Day’s Communist Roots Belie Rulers’ Reform Sham

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 11:56AM

May Day has always had two sides to it: one that demands reforms, and the revolutionary side that organizes to destroy capitalism. May Day commemorates a massive strike wave in the U.S., and the particular battle in Chicago’s Haymarket Square in 1886. The movement’s leaders demanded an 8-hour day, but also advocated the “abolition of the wage system.” Six of them were hung by the rulers for their allegiance to the working class and defiance of capitalism. Then and now the capitalists feared this revolutionary side to May Day.

In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Communism.” By 1886, the rulers of Chicago saw this specter. “The newspapers and industrialists were increasingly declaring that May 1, 1886 was in reality the date for a Communist working-class insurrection modeled on the Paris Commune. According to Melville E. Stone, Head of the Chicago Daily News…a ‘repetition of the Paris Communal riots was freely predicted’ for May 1, 1886” (Page 90, “Labor’s Untold Story,” Boyer and Morais).

In December 1886, San Francisco transit workers joined this rising strike wave. They demanded a workday reduction from 13-15 hours to 12 hours (then 7 days a week), and for a pay increase from $2.25 to $2.50 a day. “Strike-breakers were hired, and there was a great deal of violence. Cars were damaged, strike-breakers were beaten, and one person was killed.” Newspapers reported eight instances of the use of dynamite by the striking workers. In March 1887, the Governor signed a bill “limiting gripmen, drivers, and conductors to a 12-hour day.” (“Transit In San Francisco” published by SF MUNI RR Communications Department.)

In the 1880’s the early leaders of the American Federation of Labor were somewhat radical — it was actually an AFL delegate’s report to the Marxist-led International Workingmen’s Association that led to the call for the first May Day.

But by the 1920’s the pro-capitalist AFL leadership, fearing the growth of communist ideas in the working class, collaborated with the U.S. government to subvert May Day. At the 1928 AFL Convention, the Executive Council supported a Congressional resolution to make May 1 “Child Health Day.” They said, “May 1 will no longer be known as either strike day or communist labor day.”

The revolutionary side of May Day dominated when the communist movement was strong. During the peak of the communist organizing of the CIO’s industrial unions in the 1930’s and ‘40s, May Day was celebrated in the U.S. As many as 250,000 would march to New York’s Union Square. However, with the advent of the Cold War, and U.S. imperialism’s launching of a worldwide anti-communist offensive, the bosses’ government in Washington helped oust communists from union leadership by making it illegal for them to hold union office. With the triumph of business unionism and anti-communism, organized labor discarded May Day and recognized Labor Day in September.

However, in 1971 PLP resurrected the annual May Day march from its abandonment by the old U.S. Communist Party. PLP has marched in many cities every year since.

From the Haymarket battle in 1886, revolutionary workers spread May Day around the globe. But history is written by the conquerors, and many workers born here know nothing of the contribution that the U.S. working class, with the support of the international working class and communist movement, made to the development of this revolutionary holiday. Today May Day is the official Labor Day in most countries, but the leadership of these marches demand reforms, and stress the “common goals” of labor and capital.

PLP has learned from the triumphs of the communist movement in the USSR and China, and from their failure to fight directly for communism. We advocate “Abolish the Wage System” as part of changing the relationship of workers and work in a new communist society.

The abolition of money, of production for sale and profit and of the wage system is absolutely necessary to establish communism. When the international working class wins and holds control over all economic, political and cultural institutions of society, it will unleash a creative power that will propel the human race to its highest accomplishments in all fields of endeavor. We call this the dictatorship of the proletariat. We need a mass revolutionary communist party to achieve this. The capitalists will use every means — including mass, fascist terror and war — to prevent it.

For the last several years some groups now want to “Reclaim May Day.” They want to reform the “evils” of capitalism, but disconnect May Day from its communist roots. PLP seeks to keep May Day as a revolutionary international working-class holiday; to advance and popularize communist production for need as the future of the human race; to develop a strong and healthy class hatred that will destroy wage slavery and fascism everywhere.

Long live the 1st of May, the revolutionary, international, working class holiday! Fight for communism!

plp.org

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Students, Parents, Teachers Unite: Fight Fascist Attacks in U.S. Education

The bosses’ assault against students and teachers in the United States has reached epic proportions. The capitalists are using standardized curricula and tests to assert more direct control over what is taught. They are attacking wages and conditions for school workers even as they blame teachers for the system’s decay. In large and overcrowded urban districts, where student populations are predominantly black and Latino, dress codes, rigid discipline, and metal detectors are the norm. Students are treated like criminals, with no time off for good behavior.

These racist attacks serve two related purposes for the ruling class. First, they enable the bosses to lay an ideological foundation for intensified fascism. Second, they make it easier to intimidate and militarize youth for the inevitable broader wars against the bosses’ surging imperialist rivals, such as China. The U.S. rulers need to use the schools to protect their profits and shore up their dominant — but declining — position in an increasingly competitive world economy.

Trillions for War, Zero for Schools

In the current period, the bosses’ economic crisis and the trillions sunk into Afghanistan and Iraq have led to a wave of racist budget cuts and layoffs in public schools throughout the U.S. The results have been devastating. In New York City — the graduation rate hovers around 60 percent — and most graduates require remedial work before they can take college-level courses. In Philadelphia, where the schools had floundered under state stewardship for nearly a decade, district officials estimated it would take until the year 2123 to get all students up to grade level in reading and math. In February, after decades of local mismanagement, the state board of education revoked its accreditation for the entire Kansas City, Missouri school system. Even by the bosses’ own low standards, the public schools are broken.

To distract workers from the real causes of why and how schools are designed to fail, the capitalists push one reform after another. Supported by billionaires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, these range from the small-school movement to the charter school phenomenon to the bosses’ current vogue, an all-out emphasis on “teacher quality.” By using data-driven teacher evaluations, the bosses claim to have found an objective way to improve substandard schools and weed out unqualified instructors.

Useless Tests A Bosses’ Tool

In fact, these evaluations are based significantly on student performance in standardized testing, where the margin of error is so high that they are statistically useless. But as a political tool for the bosses, the evaluations are invaluable. They give the rulers easy scapegoats for the failure of their schools: “bad teachers” and the unions that “protect” them.

Many of the headlines in the teacher-bashing campaign have been seized by Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or by capitalists like David and Charles Koch. But the main leadership for this attack comes from the dominant liberal wing of U.S. finance capitalism and its loyal servants: mainstream media like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and the Democratic administration of Barack (“Race to the Top”) Obama.

These rulers do have disagreements. Some of their factions on the right, like the Koch brothers, advocate the gutting of collective bargaining rights and even the abolishing of unions altogether. More dangerous, however, are the liberals who want to use the unions to mislead teachers into thinking their interests are best served by the latest reform. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the major teacher unions — containing 30 percent of U.S. union members — have willingly collaborated with the bosses in the new evaluation systems. The leaders of these organizations are loyal to the bosses, not to the workers. More insidious are new reformist groups like Educators for Excellence, which has enlisted broad support among young teachers in its reactionary fight against tenure.

In any case, the political fallout is the same. Under increased pressure, teachers tend to become more controllable. Some workers get caught up in the blame game, with teachers blaming students and parents blaming teachers when the evaluation numbers fall short.

In a desperate effort by principals and teachers to keep their jobs, some schools focus their attention on students who are relatively close to grade level, triaging the ones who are further behind. As one New York City high school guidance counselor recently told the school’s staff, “Don’t waste your time on them.” The children he was throwing overboard amounted to nearly one-fourth of the student population!

As always, the school reform’s primary targets — and victims — are the students.

There never was a “golden age” of U.S. public education. While government funding has fluctuated over the past century, the schools’ purpose was always to reinforce capitalist values and the profit system. The overwhelming majority of children are trained for low-paying, subordinate tasks in the rulers’ factories, infrastructure, support services, and military. More than ever, U.S. capitalism requires a politically reliable, highly regimented education system to feed a military that will secure its threatened interests worldwide. It’s no coincidence that Obama’s education reform agenda includes the re-opening of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at a number of colleges.

To meet the rulers’ needs, the schools infect children with capitalist ideology: racism, sexism, individualism, and incessant competition for the best grades and test scores and then jobs, all against a backdrop of extreme racist and sexist inequalities. Rigid discipline and arbitrary rules nurture passive followers. Gross distortions of history — the “bravery” and “heroism” of genocidal monster Christopher Columbus, the “compassion” of white supremacist Abraham Lincoln — rob students of the ability to understand the world. Regimented teaching-to-the-test saps their creativity and analytical thinking. Daily doses of anti-communism steer them away from the one force that can change the world to meet the needs of the working class.

Graduating to Communism

If the situation sounds bleak, it’s crucial to point out that it’s only one side of the story. As the bosses make their plans, so too must the workers. In New York, for example, masses of furious parents, teachers, and students have routinely disrupted the Panel for Educational Policy (the rubber-stamp body that does Mayor Bloomberg’s bidding) with standing-room-only crowds and deafening chants. Rising anger among teachers has led to fresh attempts to form a serious opposition caucus to the sellout union leadership in New York.

But while this anger itself is positive, and the Party must be immersed in these struggles, no reform will help students get the learning they need. It’s our job to point to the systemic failures of education under capitalism and to win teachers, students and parents to fight for communism and join PLP. To truly educate our children, we must abolish the profit system. We need to create a new society to serve the needs of workers, not the tiny, parasitic minority of bosses. Forward to May Day!

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Obama Rescues Bosses’ Profits

The bosses’ attack against teachers has a precedent in their systematic dismantling of the standard of living of industrial workers in steel and auto, which was won through generations of class struggle. As in the schools, this attack was carried out with the express support of the leadership of the unions.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama claimed victory for “rescuing” the auto industry: “We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.” What he really meant was that the bosses forced the workers to accept a two-tier wage system, with new hires making $14 an hour, or half the wages of their previous hires. This give-back was achieved with the active support of the United Auto Workers union leadership. For the bosses, “settling differences” always means protecting bosses’ profits and attacking workers.

www.plp.org

INTER-IMPERIALIST RIVALRY

ROGRESSIVE LABOR PARTY VIEWPOINT

In the decades since the defeat of the first communist revolutions, the major imperialist powers have sharpened their attacks on each other. This rivalry between imperialists underlies and drives world events and will do so until the working class, under communist leadership, again takes the world stage to fight exploitation and racism and make revolution.

Capitalism

Capitalist society is an unstable tension between two great opposed social classes: the tiny capitalist class that owns everything important and runs the government and the huge international working class, whose members survive by selling their labor to a capitalist for a wage. Capitalists and workers constantly struggle over wage and social benefits versus profits; they are locked together in a class society until revolution destroys the bosses. This fundamental tension between unity and conflict in a class society is a contradiction, a unity of opposites that is by its very nature unstable.

Contradictions don’t stay the same. They drive development, turn one thing into another, and get resolved. The contradiction in our class society gets on the side of unity in boss-worker relations, if workers are willing to take the class struggle only so far, if our unified ability to struggle is blunted and diverted by racist ideology or other pro-boss ideas. In that case capitalist society continues with all its horrors, because workers, however reluctantly, still accept capitalism because they feel they simply aren’t strong enough to “fight city hall” or have no vision of an alternative to the capitalist snake pit.

The contradiction can get resolved on the side of the workers, on the side of conflict in boss-worker relations, with revolution to abolish the class of bosses, the racist divisions among the workers, and the entire exploitative system.

Today, unity between the two opposed classes prevails and capitalism continues despite its constant wars, racism, financial crises, and all our efforts for change. But conflict between the two classes will re-emerge and sharpen. Workers with communist leadership can resolve the contradiction in favor of the working class and all humanity by abolishing capital itself and its many harsh conditions including poverty, racism, brutality, and war for profit, as our predecessors did for many decades in the Russian and Chinese revolutions.

Communist Revolution: Resolve the Contradiction

Communist revolution means that we workers form a new kind of government and use our new state power to abolish the capitalist class, the wage-and-profit system, and all aspects of racism, from material differences to ideology. Revolution abolishes capitalists and transforms the working class from the slaves to a wage into the creative producers of all social value building a new society of egalitarian communist sharing where all can contribute mightily to each other.

It may seem that capitalism will go on forever and survive every crisis. But the secret of class contradiction is that its resolution depends mainly not on the capitalist class but on us, the working class. The capitalist class is dominant now, but the working class, and only our class, does have the ability to break their grip and transform society. We do have a future without capitalism, “a world to win.” We will have to pass through the fires of war and revolution to get there. We will have to make conflict with the bosses primary over unity with them. But if we succeed in winning millions of workers to this communist vision, we will have that future.

Imperialist Bosses Fight among Themselves

Right now we are a long way from our revolutionary goal because the working class is weak and disarmed, having lost much of its communist leadership and party organization when the Soviet and Chinese revolutions turned back to capitalism. The basic overall contradiction in capitalist society—bosses v. workers—has temporarily faded as the main thing driving world events. Now, the battle among the imperialists for profit and power (using workers for cannon fodder in their wars) has become the main contradiction in the world. Capitalists always compete (GM fights Ford). But what is really determining events now is the contradiction between the major capitalist countries (Ford/U.S. fight Toyota/Japan). That is inter-imperialist rivalry. Major capitalist powers became imperialists over 100 years ago as they extended their power and control far beyond their own national borders seeking profits, markets, and sites for investment, dividing up the entire world into competing spheres of interest. They used to call these zones their colonies and empires (British, French, Japanese, or Russian). Now imperialists dominate whole economies and governments without making them into colonies, but it’s the same thing: the biggest capitalists use their corporations, armies, and governments to win away from other capitalists as much of the world’s resources, markets, and labor as they can. Workers won’t remain quiet forever, but for now, the battle among imperialists conditions all world events.

Inter-Imperialist Rivalry Means World War

Imperialists try to limit their conflicts to economics and politics (e.g., through the UN and bilateral negotiations), but military conflict—all-out war to resolve their differences and redivide the world—is on the rise. The many wars being fought today mean that the major imperialists are more and more resorting to military means to secure their empires. It is likely that there will be a world-wide war with major groups of imperialists and their allies on opposing sides, just as happened in the 20th century. Such a third world war would end with yet another capitalist “new world order” if we workers fail to rearm ourselves with the international revolutionary communist party, PLP. But, if workers build the PLP internationally, a third world war will also see another great wave of the communist revolutionary movement, ending capitalism altogether. The end of the story of inter-imperialist rivalry therefore depends on us, on the working class rising again, restoring the primacy of that main contradiction in capitalist class society—workers’ conflict with bosses—and resolving it by revolution.

The World of Imperialism—and How to Change It

The U.S. has been top dog among imperialists since they came out stronger than the others after World War II, and since communist anti-imperialism ended with Russia and China’s return to capitalism. By 1999 the U.S. ruling class faced the fact that they were declining relative to their major rivals. The bipartisan Hart-Rudman Commission that year foresaw a 9/11-type attack and advised the ruling class to use it to build patriotism and support for permanent war and a centralized police state. The U.S. military budget, with 700 bases in 130 countries, is still more than that of the rest of the world combined. But though still top dog militarily, the U.S. is weakening rapidly, its military forces stretched thin without a draft and its economic power being challenged throughout the globe by the EU, China, Russia, Japan, and lesser opponents including Iran and Venezuela. The EU and NATO are no longer automatic supporters of U.S. imperialism. China and Russia have formed an alliance called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which in 2001 linked them to four Central Asian states (and more in line to join), challenging U.S. and its allies’ power in the oil-rich region. Capitalist states including Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, and Pakistan, can now try to play one imperialist power or alliance off against another to their own advantage. Venezuela is beginning to sell more oil to China instead of to the U.S., and the EU, Japan, and China are rapidly increasing investment in South America at the expense of U.S. market share. Not so long ago, the U.S. might already have invaded Venezuela or changed its regime as they used to do all over South America as they did in Chile in 1973, for example, but they simply cannot take military action yet against Iran or Venezuela because they are too weak. Australia withdrew its tiny military support of the U.S. in Iraq and is growing ever more closely tied to China economically. South Africa has increased ties to China and India at the expense of the U.S. and the EU. Pakistan no longer automatically dances to the tune of the U.S. military. Saudi Arabia refuses to help out the U.S. by increasing oil supplies. This brief glance yields the same picture as our look at the major imperialists: an unstable, shifting, dangerous moment in history, when the U.S. is being driven back and will have to take desperate drastic action to stay on top.

The capitalist future is bleak, especially for the international working class, which suffers the brunt of war, racism, and economic crisis. So we return to the burning need of the moment. We must strengthen the working class side of the class contradiction by joining and building the PLP, fighting racism, struggling against the bosses, and heating the class struggle to a white hot intensity so that we can overthrow capitalism and create a communist world that meets the needs of our class.

Contact the Progressive Labor Party at desafio.challenge@gmail.com,

http://www.plp.org

PO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202

718.630.9440.

Global Warming: Only Communism Can Save the Planet, Not Capitalist Schemes

Book Reviews: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America,” by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Strous, and Giroux, New York, 2008); and “The Green-Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” by Van Jones with Ariane Conrad (Harper One, New York, 2008).

These two books on global warming were published last year as the Obama campaign moved into high gear. Friedman is a NY Times columnist. Jones is a human rights activist who Obama appointed as Special Advisor for Green Jobs but then was forced to resign recently after being attacked by right-wing Republicans for supposedly being a “Marxist.”

Both Friedman and Jones recognize that today’s severe global warming is due to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) in industry, transportation and in the generation of electrical power. They both recognize the urgent need for a solution. But they both (incorrectly) suggest, in different ways, that the capitalist market can solve this problem, if only governments worldwide would adopt “the correct policies.”

In his book, Friedman is an unabashed apologist for U.S. imperialism. Jones, on the other hand, denounces the U.S. history of genocidal theft of Indian lands, slavery and the ongoing racist treatment of black, Latin, Asian and Native American working-class people, as well as the extreme sexist discrimination against women. Racism/sexism and global warming are the “two biggest problems” (his subtitle) facing the world.

Friedman writes as though racism and the current oil wars never happened and calls on the U.S. to regain its mythical moral leadership in the world (after Bush allegedly destroyed it) by taking the lead in decreasing GHG emissions. Jones, on the other hand, calls on the U.S. government to solve global warming by creating green jobs to build clean energy usage that will also help to abolish the inequality of income and opportunity suffered by black and Latino workers. He says neither problem can be solved without solving the other.

The two authors seem to be living in two different universes — Friedman in fantasyland while Jones is almost in the real world.

While Jones doesn’t defend the war-criminal U.S. ruling class like Friedman does, he appears clueless about the nature of capitalism. He doesn’t recognize the antagonistic relationship between the capitalist class and the working class. He doesn’t see the capitalists’ absolute need to promote racism and sexism to enhance their super-profits and to maintain their political power —  control of the state. This enables them to exert their class domination over both the working class and over competing imperialists.

Though Jones advocates the full involvement of “minority” workers to pressure the government to foster use of solar panels, windmills and other forms of clean energy, he proposes that such a coalition be led by “progressive” businessmen. (!) This position is misleading pie in the sky, typical of those like Jones who toy with revolutionary ideas at one point in their lives and then reject them to pursue a career in the Democratic Party.

His central error is not understanding that capitalism, with its driving profit motive, cannot stop using fossil fuels without dismantling virtually the entire body of physical capital in the world, replacing it with new physical plant and modes of transportation employing clean energy sources. The world’s capitalist classes can never agree to do this.

The world’s imperialists are locked in life-and-death competitive rivalries with each other. No “global policy” that interferes with their battle for maximum profits can possibly be written and enforced as long as these imperialists fight with each other over control of the world’s resources and markets.

The main battle we face in the movement against global warming is defeating the misleading strategies of writers like Jones and the fantasies of liberals like Friedman. We must redouble our efforts to demonstrate that only the abolition of capitalism, classes and production for profit instead of for use can lay the foundation for a renewed planet. Only the world’s working class, led by its communist party PLP, once having seized power from the capitalists and consolidated its power through revolution, will be able to clean up the world, revolutionize production processes with safe, clean energy and save the planet.

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There will be bloodied capitalists….

The Academy-award nominated film, “There Will Be Blood,” with a spectacular performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, who won Best Actor, is said to be based on Upton Sinclair’s 1926 novel, “Oil!” Unfortunately, it is not. The director, Paul Thomas Anderson, borrowed only three aspects of the novel – the setting (southern California), the industry (oil) and the time period (first quarter of the 20th century). He omitted the heart of Sinclair’s wonderful book: an exciting and insightful description of the struggle between labor and capital, and the way in which the owners control government, Hollywood and the press for their own ends. It’s an unintended and welcome consequence of the film’s success that many people are reading ‘Oil!”

A terrific novel, it follows two main characters – J. Arnold Ross, a self-made, hard-driving owner of several oil fields, a millionaire who only has two interests. One is getting oil out of the ground and making money, and the second is the well-being of his son, affectionately called “Bunny.” Father and son care deeply for each other. But as “Bunny” grows up and becomes more socially aware, he becomes close friends with Paul Watkins, a young carpenter who works for Ross Sr. Paul helps lead a strike in the oil fields and is radicalized by left-wing organizers. Bunny is sympathetic to the strikers and begins to listen carefully to Paul’s socialist ideas.

During WWI, the newspapers were filled with crude anti-Bolshevik propaganda, believed by most people. But not by Paul, who sees things clearly from the point of view of the workers:

“Bunny,” he said, “do you remember our oil-strike, and what we read about it in the papers? Suppose you have never been to Paradise [an oil field], and didn’t know the strikers, but had got all your impressions from the Angel City newspapers! Well, that’s the way it seems to me about Russia; this is the biggest strike in history, and the strikers have won, and seized the oil-wells.”

Paul, drafted into the U.S. army, is sent to Vladivostok in the Russian far east, part of an intervention by a dozen imperialist armies aimed at helping the Russian aristocracy, the White Army, overthrow the new workers government. His friend comes back in poor health and when Bunny asks what had been the purpose of his expedition, Paul replies:

“I’ve told you – to break the strike. The biggest strike in all history – the Russian workers against the landlords and the bankers; and we were to put the workers down, and the landlords and bankers up! . . . .[T]hey would get together and call themselves a government, and it was our job to rush them supplies, and they would print money, and hire some adventurers, and grab a bunch of peasants and ‘conscript’ them, and that would be an army, and we’d move them on the railroad, and they’d overthrow another Soviet government, and slaughter a few more hundreds or thousands of workingmen. That’s been my job for the past year and half; do you wonder I’m sick.”

Bunny begins to question the capitalist system that was the source of his father’s and his own wealth. He comes to realize that there is a war going on every day in the factories and the fields. Describing one oil field and the accidents that occurred there as the men raced to produce more oil and more profits, Sinclair writes:

… of all the thousands of men who had worked here, seventy-three out of every hundred had been killed or seriously injured during the few years of the field’s life! It was literally true that capitalist industry was a world war going on all the time, unheeded by the newspapers.

His friend Paul becomes an organizer for the Communist Party, which tells the workers that capitalism needs to be overthrown with revolution. One of Bunny’s college friends, Rachel, is a member of the Socialist Party, which tells the workers that capitalism can be peacefully voted out through elections. Although Sinclair gives Paul all the best arguments, Bunny’s temperament – which is to avoid conflict – leads him to side with the Socialists, as did Sinclair himself. Yet Sinclair is respectful of the politics and accomplishments of the international communist movement.

This review only touches the surface of this powerful and thoughtful novel, which ends with both personal tragedy and a hope for the future.

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