Category Archives: Culture

Women Continue To Feel the Brunt of Fascism

As the world’s working class continues to feel the brunt of living in the new dark ages if late capitalism, the special oppression of women intensifies. The bombs falling in Gaza do not discriminate. The hundreds of dead children attest to that. The Islamic State just made female genital mutilation (FGM also called female circumcision) mandatory in the territory that they conquered. Obama is getting ready to send back thousands to potential sex work and violence directly or indirectly financially benefiting US capitalism. It is getting more and more clear every day that a mass communist movement led by PLP is needed.

An international communist movement of millions organized and led by the Progressive Labor Party would have seized state power in one area of the world. Like the communist lead USSR’s example in Spain, we would organize hundreds of thousands of volunteers to engage in armed struggle internationally. We would build and organize to build ties with the working class in dangerous areas like Islamic State. We would make sure that those fascists got exactly what they deserved.

Instead, the US may use this latest information to create a basis for their humanitarian imperialist intervention. Islamic State and the sectarian war now raging in Iraq would never have happened without the US invasion of Iraq and destabilization of and support for the jihadist saturated rebels struggling against the butcher Assad. In fact, the US may not even want to challenge Islamic State too much since they are also the enemies of its enemies: Iran’s puppet Iraq’s Prime Minister Malaki, Iran, and Iran’s other proxy, the butcher Assad. The US may be using the threat of and extreme violence of Islamic State as leverage against Malaki and Assad. If Islamic State takes Baghdad and begins to seriously threaten Saudi Arabia, then the US might intervene immediately, but, right now, it is only the working class, primarily women, suffering under extreme violence. Either way, PLP would not play politics, but, instead, organize to smash the special oppression of women and the religious ideology that fuels it by replacing it with a dialectical materialist outlook that shows a future where the needs of all are met by all and the working class will be the human race.

In Gaza, instead of Hamas’ rotten Islamist ideology whose logical outcome is seen in organizations such as Islamic State, we would fight sexism and seek to unify the working class against all of the bosses’ rotten ideology. The role of nationalism is that it attacks both the Palestinian and Israeli workers who don’t see each other as human, but as Israelis or Palestinians. Both of these nationalist ideologies blur the class nature of the conflict and makes the working class think they have more in common with their respective ruling classes than with their fellow workers. Netanyahu has no problem sending working class youth to murder other workers in Gaza from the safety of his post. Hamas has no problem burying their tunnels under homes of workers that will be targeted by the IDF. Again, PLP in Israel organizes against both Palestinian and Israeli nationalism. We do not support national liberation, oppressed nationalism, or lesser evils like Hamas. We know the answer to the national question: death for workers and reversal of all gains after the struggle for national liberation and the consolidation of power by the local bourgeoisie.

The same racism that allows bombs to fall in Gaza and for Obama to deport millions is the same that allows the racist pigs in the NYPD to murder black workers. The same sexism that allows for pornography to be a multi-billion dollar a year industry, countries to function as locations for sex tourism, and for women to be raped in India with impunity is, in content and essence, the same special oppression of women that Islamic State uses to justify their brutal mutilation of female genitalia. Only a communist revolution led by PLP for the total transformation of the economic base and cultural superstructure can end these rotten ideologies once and for all.

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Capitalism is so broken it can’t be fixed

Capitalism is so broken it can’t be fixed is the headline from The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch.  The bosses’ pundit Paul B. Farrell, no friend of Communism, is pointing out that nothing that the bosses are currently trying to do can solve the broken system of capitalism.  He even points out that the inter-imperialist rivalry that PLP has correctly pointed out as the primary contradiction determining world events is an important determinant.  He points out that what Marx called the tendency for the capitalists to hoard their capital as they search for maximum profitability is also a major facet of broken capitalism.  The capitalists hoard their “capital” that  “sits unused on the balance sheets of corporations, and languishes inert in private equity funds.”’ because they use it to speculate, generating Abstract and Fictitious Capital to generate their profit returns as opposed to investing it in infrastructure and other elements of Concrete Capital that are actually needed to support their place as the world’s hegemon.  In other words, the US bourgeoisie use their money to make money not the roads, rails, and factories that are needed to make actual products and preserve their level of production.  This tendency of capital is mitigated by attacking the working class to extract more profit and, as Lenin pointed out in Imperialism, exporting capital to other undeveloped areas of the globe in order to produce at the highest profit possible.  The problem of exporting capital is that other capitalists in other countries want to do this as well.

 

The ruling class has to protect their economic investment, and they use the working class to fight their wars.  The workers who have been part of the economic draft to become US soldiers are now having Moral Injuries that tear their psyches apart.  They have nightmares and have trouble living with themselves because of the atrocities that they do for the sake of profit based on the timeworn lies of god and country. “ A moral injury tortures the conscience; symptoms include deep shame, guilt and rage. It’s not a medical problem, and it’s unclear how to treat it, says retired Col. Elspeth Ritchie, former psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.”

Ritchie’s comments echo the torturers in Franz Fanon’s Wretched Of The Earth who felt uncomfortable psychological trauma from brutalizing the guerillas and didn’t want to stop torturing and killing, but wanted their psyches to be healed nonetheless.  The way to treat these nightmares is to stop these imperialist oil and resource wars and begin a rectification campaign where the US imperialists and the soldiers who killed on their behalf apologize and rebuild.  This will never ever happen under capitalism.  Only a Communist revolution can begin the healing process and rectification necessary for those who are guilty of the most brutal crimes against humanity in the name of profit can heal themselves. 

 

So while the working class soldiers live with guilt, the professional mercenary scum in Blackwater get all of their charges completely dropped.  Poof.  Vanished. It cost them a few million, made some rich people a bit richer, and reaffirmed that the US needs their thugs to kill kill kill!  The war on the black and Hispanic working class under the veneer of the war on drugs continues unabated with felonies handed out like party favors, yet when the thugs who murder and kill for the bosses get tried in their courts, the capitalists use their courts to preserve their power.

 

Meanwhile, in the Syrian arena, the Free Syrian Army, stooges of US Imperialism, have begun to bomb Hezbollah, stooges of Russian and Chinese imperialism and Iranian hegemony, in Beirut and Lebanon. The escalation of this war threatens the stability of the whole Levant, yet the US looks on with delight as they can get profitable pipelines and check their rivals.  The “Arab Spring” has turned into the Winter of Jihadism and reaction as Islamic Parties and other reactionary groups have filled the power vacuum that deposing dictators creates.  Without a Communist Party ready to seize state power and begin the revolutionary transformation of society under the dictatorship of the working class, there can be no fundamental systemic change.  Capitalism is fundamentally broken when it comes to meeting the needs of the working class.  It needs to go. 

 

The working class is trapped in the prison of false consciousness.  For example, thousands of workers in Bangladesh are fighting for false consciousness as they attack the police and rally in defense of Islam.  They are angry at “atheist blogs”.  This reactionary rally is a tragedy for the working class as religion is a weapon that the ruling class uses to divide the working class and get us to pay attention to the next world instead of this one.  The working class is divided by race, class, gender, and cultural structures such as religion – Christian vs Jew, Sunni vs Shiite, Muslim vs Hindu, etc.  The list goes on and on and on.  Communism is needed to wash away all of the social constructs that act as the bars in the prison of false consciousness that we live in.  The friends of PLP in Bangladesh will continue to struggle against the violent reactionaries and continue to organize for a revolution that will end the ability for religious leaders to command thousands of workers to kill. 

 

The fact that Capitalism is broken is inaccurate though.  Capitalism is working fine.  It is making the wealthy wealthier, concentrating power in fewer and fewer hands, facilitating the growth of fascism as the bosses need to prevent their power from flowing out of their hands and into the hands of their rivals.  Capitalism works for the capitalists.  They can maintain their state power through any natural or economic disaster.  Capitalism is a resilient system with only one fatal weakness – Communist revolution.  A Communist Party of millions, armed with Red ideas, Dialectics, and the determination to wipe capitalism off of the world once and for all is the only that thing that will break capitalism.  Capitalism will not end because of some massive crisis.  No, only we, the working class under the leadership of PLP, can end it.      

 

 

 

 

 

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Capitalism murders in NYC

The bosses press are patting themselves on the back for the bang up job that they are trying to spin that they did in New York after Tropical Storm Sandy obliterated parts of the capital of world capital.  There are parallels to Hurricane Katrina flooding parts of New Orleans and the US bosses taking advantage of that crisis to fire all the teachers and permanently displace the Black population of the 9th ward.  The bosses are up to it again with the displacement of Black and Hispanic workers from Red Hook, Far Rockaway, and other parts affected by the Hurricane that still don’t have heat or running water.

 

The real estate moguls that are the real power behind Baby doc Cuomo, the governor of New York, and the billionaire capitalist mayor Bloomberg who rules New York like its his own personal fife are licking their chops at the prospect of all that valuable oceanside land that they can develop.  They’ve already been developing it in some of these neighborhoods with gated communities and restaurants as the tells that gentrification are right around the corner.  Of course, the real estate moguls are going to have do deal with the contradiction of changing weather patterns which the bourgeoisie have absolutely no answer for since their vast wealth depends on oil remaining king.    

 

The workers who have been displaced due to the storm are in shelters in schools and other large buildings and are being constantly moved around.  Many of them are not getting the food or medical care that they need.  This disaster clearly illustrates that capitalism can not take care of us workers.  They are going to use this disaster to further their practice on how to institute fascism.  They are already rationing gas.  This is getting us conditioned for life under a wartime footing where gas is rationed due to the needs of protecting the bosses’ empire.

 

The whole way that the disaster was handled and continues to be handled clearly illustrates that we workers could do a better job than the bosses can running this society. We would have organized millions of people all over to come and help with the rebuilding while also creating the conditions necessary for surviving a hurricane class storm, whether it be a sea wall or other elements of infrastructure.  The bosses are using this storm to rebuild their decaying infrastructure while looking with an eye to future profit by displacing the working class populations most affected by the storm.    

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.

2011: Crisis-driven Bosses Attack, But Class Struggle Alive and Well

The events of 2011 served to remind us of two important aspects of capitalist society. First, the bosses of the world, caught in a sharpening struggle against their rivals and a spreading financial crisis, always have their knives out to assault the working class. Attacks intensified against our jobs, education, health, homes and families. The myths of democracy, fairness and opportunity for workers were exposed by a worldwide reality: we live under the bosses’ dictatorship. The past year made clear that regardless of national boundaries, no matter the “race” or gender of the boss, the ruling class will eagerly consign workers to hell on earth for the smallest gain in profit.

The ultimate expression of the boss’s callousness to sacrifice the lives of workers is imperialist war, of which there was no shortage in 2011. The U.S., still the main capitalist power in the world, continued its racist massacres in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in hopes of securing the Middle East’s oil and natural gas. Without the growth of a new worldwide communist movement, the prospects for 2012 and beyond are not much better.

While the U.S. remains the dominant power, other rivals, most prominently China, are gaining power — militarily, economically and politically. This challenge does not go unnoticed by the U.S. ruling class. The recent announcement by President Obama (the Nobel Peace Prize winner) that U.S. Marines will be stationed in northern Australia, alongside the recent diplomatic overtures to Myanmar, which borders China, signal a future where direct military conflict between the U.S. and China will be increasingly likely.

But the deadly maneuvering of the ruling class is only one side of the story of 2011. The second lesson, clearly visible from a quick look back through the pages of any of the bosses’ newspapers, is that workers are not meekly accepting these attacks. Class struggle is alive and well.  The list of places where large-scale rebellion rocked the bosses this past year is a long one: Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, England, France, Greece, Israel/Palestine, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, the U.S., and more.

To advance the cause of communist revolution, the international Progressive Labor Party has joined and led some of these militant struggles. In the pages of CHALLENGE, these battles and many other reports of class struggle were presented with a communist analysis.  If we are ever to defeat the murderous bosses and end their reign of terror, the working class must transform these narrow reform struggles into a fight for the working class to take state power — a fight for communist revolution.

The International PLP Advances

In New York City, the working class took on the racist Department of Education and its plan to impose Jim Crow-style segregation at the John Jay Campus high schools. In Israel/Palestine, a Summer Project participated in the fight against racist evictions and the housing shortage gripping workers there. In Haiti, we struggled to help rebuild a shattered society with communist principles of international solidarity and equality.

PL’s Summer Project in Haiti included a “Freedom School” for the discussion of communist principles. “Serve the working class” became more than a motto; it was put into practice when Party members created a clinic to serve the medical needs for Haitians in tent camps. The racist health care system was also a focus for comrades in the U.S. In New York we fought against the racist closing of Brookdale Hospital. Comrades and friends in Philadelphia fought to prevent the firing of a trusted hospital coworker. In Chicago, where hospital bosses tried to give patients a death sentence by transferring them to a decrepit facility, PL and others fought back.

Chicago was also the battleground for the heroic efforts of students and parents (primarily mothers), supported by the Party, to prevent the racist closing of the Whittier School library. Providing an example for the Occupy movement to follow, the parents (primarily mothers) and students at this majority Latino school, supported by the Party, seized the building and renamed it “La Casita.” For nearly a month, they held off the racist dogs of the Chicago Department of Education from carrying out their plan. Our comrades helped in many ways, from medical care to overnight guard duty. All the while they pointed out that whether we won or lost this particular battle, the bosses would still have state power. Our job is to fight not only “our” bosses, but bosses everywhere.

In Pakistan and Bangladesh, communists infused labor struggles in garment factories and universities with a vision of a society based on need rather than profit. In Mexico, where flooding threatened to destroy a community of 200,000 people, the Party explained that if our communist predecessors in the Soviet Union could move entire factories over the Ural mountains in three months during World War II, we could protect their city — if we had state power.

In these places and others around the world, CHALLENGE was ever-present. It consistently hammered home the point that it is only when we take on capitalism itself — when we transform battles against corrupt dictators, greedy bankers and fascist school boards into a world-wide communist movement — will we achieve workers’ liberation.

Arab Spring and Wall Street Occupy Working Class’s Imagination

Perhaps the most significant expressions of working-class fight-back were the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East, collectively dubbed the Arab Spring, and in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a worldwide rage at the inequality of wealth that is the hallmark of capitalism.

The Arab Spring began with a rebellion in Tunisia that followed the self-immolation of a desperate young worker. But the uprising was fueled by a 13% official unemployment rate (about 30% for youth), skyrocketing prices for food, and political corruption. Similarly, in Egypt, while the bourgeois media focused on Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the struggle for “democracy,” the real battles were over rampant unemployment and the price of food. Strikes at Egypt’s textile mills, pharmaceutical plants, chemical industries, the Cairo airport, the transportation sector, banks, ports and the Suez Canal are the primary source of revolutionary optimism.

Workers throughout the world cheered on scenes from Tunisia and Tahrir Square, which makes the outcome of these battles all the more painful. In Egypt, ruthless dictator Hosni Mubarak was first replaced by a ruthless military and now in addition by the even more ruthless Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (see CHALLENGE, 10/19). In Tunisia, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted and elections were held in October, but unemployment still crushes the youth there. This is the essence of reform struggles. However militant it may be, any struggle that fails to attack the entire capitalist system will simply replace one set of bosses with another. For workers, the promise of a new society has been met with the reality of continued joblessness and misery.

Nonetheless, the international working class proudly looked on as workers in Tahrir Square held up signs reading, “We are all Wisconsin,” a reference to the 100,000-strong protest against the attack on public sector workers in that state. Months before anyone occupied a park near Wall Street, thousands of workers occupied the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin.

Just as in Cairo, however, the brave workers of Wisconsin have been misled, this time into backing electoral politics and the Democratic Party. In the midst of this struggle, the Party brought forward the idea that both the fascist Governor Scott Walker and the supposedly “heroic” Democrats were all defenders of capitalism — and were all therefore enemies of the working class. This communist idea attracted many workers in Wisconsin and around the world.

In September, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began in New York City before spreading to more than 1,500 cities worldwide. OWS captured the attention of workers who were tired of seeing banks get trillions of dollars in bailouts while education, transportation, health care, wages and jobs are slashed. One chant especially reflected this anger: “Banks got bailed out; We got sold out!” Throughout 2011, the Party participated in many of these occupations, picket lines, schools, churches and job sites, armed with leaflets and CHALLENGE.

PLP continues to strive to replace the dead-end reform tactics of the old communist movement with the fight for revolutionary communism for billions of workers in the world.

May Day

This past year was the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the first time workers took control of the state. In this spirit, we celebrated May Day with marches, dinners and songs. From Colombia to El Salvador, in Los Angeles and New York, in Haiti and Palestine, we raised the red flag honoring our revolutionary ancestors. This year our May Day celebrations grew in size and better reflected the international character of the working class.

Turning Fascist Oppression into Communist Organizing

The working class continues to suffer from the racist exploitation and oppression that capitalism requires. In their increasingly desperate competition for dominance, the various national ruling classes outdo one another in making workers homeless, sick, maimed or killed in pursuit of profit. Frantic about “sovereign debt,” collapsing banks, currency disasters (notably the euro) and the industrial crisis of overproduction, the world’s bosses are peeling back their thin masks of “democracy” to reveal the bloody maw of a fascist monster. Meanwhile, the fight over Central Asian and Middle Eastern oil and natural gas appears to be careening toward broader military conflicts.

As we move into 2012, the battles against our capitalist enemies will continue to rage. The workers of the world will continue to fight back, in ways large and small. Everything we do as workers and communists counts: every march or picket line or discussion strengthened by  communist ideas, every time we help another worker and demonstrate how we can build a society without the parasitic bosses. By doing these things and more, the Party will help the working class move closer to ushering in a classless society that produces for need, not profit. Communist ideas are essential for this crucial advance. A mass, international, revolutionary party is necessary to lead the way. PL is that party. Now is the time to join!

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Bosses Aim to Pacify Occupy Wall Street

As Occupy Wall Street (OWS) helps to sow mass anger against the billionaires, the liberal wing of the United States ruling class is working full-tilt to make sure that it does not boil over and out of control.  On October 12, a group of about fifty protesters toured the Upper East Side of Manhattan, stopping to rally before the homes of some of the ruling class’s biggest billionaires: Rupert Murdoch, David Koch, Howard Milstein (chief executive of Emigrant Savings Bank),  and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. They made their final stop at hedge-funder John Paulson’s 86th Street townhouse, just east of Fifth Avenue.

The disciplined marchers chanted, “They got bailed out, we got sold out!” Led by Michael Kink, a veteran Democratic Party operative and shill, they brandished a dozen oversized foamboard checks in the amount of five billion dollars, “paid to the order of the top 1%” and drawn on “the 99%.” (The $5 billion, according to Kink’s Stronger Economy for All Coalition, will revert back to the rich if the New York State millionaire’s tax is allowed to lapse at the end of this year.)

A former Legal Aid attorney, Kink currently works as a chief policy adviser and senior counsel to Democrats in the New York State Legislature. The bosses can trust him to lead a demonstration through the heart of a prime residential district, knowing that he would confine any protest within the legal limits. Kink did not let them down. He called the suffocating police presence along the march route “very positive,” less than a week after hundreds were netted and dragged away on the Brooklyn Bridge amid indiscriminate beatings and pepper-spray attacks.  Kink is the liberal bosses’ stooge.

At each fat cat’s home on Kink the Fink’s harmless tour, the demonstrators laid their symbolic checks on the front doorsteps of this or that billionaire.  Revolutionary justice would have dragged those billionaires out of their plush apartments and put them before workers’ tribunals for their crimes: engineering an economy based on racist unemployment; waging imperialist war; wrecking the global environment for profit.  In mass uprisings as old as class society itself, rulers have been eliminated without mercy; in the 20th century, workers under communist leadership in Russia and China disposed of their ruling classes. Eventually, however, these socialist revolutions degraded into state capitalism because of their failure to eliminate the profit system, the system still in place worldwide today.

Wars to carve the world into spheres of interest are, as the Russian communist leader Lenin said, the ultimate expression of capitalists’ drive for wealth and power. The billionaires’ imperialist wars are primarily paid for by taxes on the working class; that’s the way Presidents Kennedy and Johnson funded the genocide in Vietnam, and how the Bushes bankrolled their invasions of Iraq. The profit system cannot be reformed. Only its eradication through communist revolution will put an end to the bosses’ sickening slaughters.

OWS is far from reaching this understanding, but the ruling class is growing nervous over mass anger against their rigged system.  They want to control this new political phenomenon and keep it within the tight bounds of the electoral politics.  Meanwhile, the New York Times highlights dead-end debates between OWS reformists and Latino nationalists. Its narrow reportage shows how hard the bosses are working to build racism and undermine worker unity.  Mainstream reporters are finks, too.

Nothing is more threatening to the bosses than multi-racial unity against racist super-exploitation. To the extent that black, Latino and immigrant workers do not join OWS protests across the country, the movement will be less dangerous to capitalism.  The OWS manifesto begins with the words, “As one people, formerly divided by the color of our skin, we acknowledge the reality: there is only one race, the human race.”  This is an important and positive statement, but OWS leaders have failed to take it far enough. Michael Fink and his reformist cronies own a vested interest in the status quo. They target the excesses and corruption of capitalism, but stop short of indicting the system itself. They lack something fundamental: a class analysis of racism and inequality.

History demonstrates that racism is essential to capitalism’s very existence.  The wealth of the U.S. ruling class was rooted in the genocide of Native Americans and the holocaust of the Atlantic slave trade, followed by lynch law segregation. It industrialized by employing massive state violence and child labor against a workforce of new immigrants. It consolidated its global dominance in World War II, culminating in the racist incineration of Japanese workers and children with firebombs and nuclear weapons.

But the bosses’ power is not absolute. Under anti-racist, communist leadership, workers have waged epic struggles against racism and fascism, from the Scottsboro campaign to defend nine black youths framed for rape in the Jim Crow South to the Soviet communists’ annihilation of the Nazi Germany war machine. Since its beginning 50 years ago, PL has waged its own successful struggles against the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis.

Kink’s Stronger Economy For All has three demands: extension of the state’s millionaire’s tax; “real job growth” through infrastructure projects, and the restoration of funding cuts to education and other social services.  These reforms will likely become central planks in the Democratic Party push to retain the White House and shore up U.S. interests in a period of sharpening international rivalries.

As imperialist war inevitably widens across the Middle East and beyond (see editorial page 2), a shaky U.S. empire will need enthusiastic citizens to support a military draft and to kill and die for the bosses. Only a sharp class analysis of the true nature of “the 1%” will lead the masses to the one conclusion that the bosses’ can’t hijack or repackage: that “the 99%” needs communism.

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.)

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.

CHALLENGE-DESAFIO

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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Pakistan’s Sanitation Workers Fighting Bosses and Open to PL Ideas

PAKISTAN, May 13 — Sanitation workers are the most exploited workers in Pakistan. They live in miserable conditions with slave wages, no security, no pension and no benefits. Parents and children live together in small mud-made dwellings covered with leaves, with one room consisting of a kitchen, living and bedroom. Sanitation workers also suffer special prejudices — they are prohibited from eating or drinking with other people if they do not bring their own cups and dishes. Strikes have begun against these conditions.

They start work early morning and labor for 18 hours for slave wages, without proper equipment like gloves or boots. Permanent workers are paid only 5,000 Pakistani Rupees (PKR) (59 US$) per month; temporary workers get PKR 4,000 (47 US$). If they have an on-the-job accident, they cannot get medical treatment and can be fired anytime. Female domestic workers face violence and sexual attacks. There are no weekends or holidays in their lives —they live just to serve.

Many sanitation workers thus suffer from health problems produced by working conditions. Some suffer from blindness. Skin and breathing problems are very common but there is no free medical treatment or any other benefit. When sick they cannot remain in their small dwellings; if they do not work they cannot eat.

The sanitation workers are labeled “minorities.” Their “representatives” in parliament are the wealthy who never visit their dwellings. The religious institutions are also silent about these workers’ wretched exploitation. Both the politicians and religious officials just protect the interests of the rich bosses.

Organizing A Union to Fight Back

A small Pakistani town contains 220 families (about 2,000 people). Many have been attacked by landowners, chasing them from temporary living areas. About five years ago, the workers formed the Sanitation Workers Association (SWA). They began organizing strikes and sit-ins to get a piece of land on which to live. Despite brutal torture and starvation they maintained these strikes and won a 15×15-yard piece of land for each family. However, this land is about 1.6 miles away from the town and has no electricity, water or road, making it difficult to reach the town where they work. Of course, without water and electricity they cannot live there. They demanded infrastructure but the administration refused, saying the government has no money. We must organize strikes and militant actions against this special type of fascism.

After the October 2005 earthquake, the SWA won an allotment of 57 houses but these houses cannot resist severe weather, another example of the corruption of the politicians and authorities. Workers are organizing a strike against the district administration which is controlled by corrupt politicians.

PLP is struggling with these workers to understand that without smashing the exploitative capitalist system, workers cannot rid our class of this poverty and homelessness. A comrade and a few friends of the Party have distributed a leaflet linking this misery facing these sanitation workers to the need for a communist revolution to change the situation.

Such an international communist revolution is no easy task; it needs the firm commitment of workers to an international communist party, PLP

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