Category Archives: Europe

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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France: Union Hacks Back Bosses’ Plan to Tax Workers

PARIS, June 18 — In order to boost the competitiveness and profits of French companies, the government is moving to lower the social security contributions paid by private business. Taxpayers — most of whom are workers — will have to make up the shortfall through a value-added tax on consumer goods. This amounts to a sales tax, and since the tax is the same no matter what one’s income, it will cost workers a greater percentage of their income than rich people.

Moreover, this is a racist tax since workers of Arab and African origin are disproportionately poorer and will pay a larger percentage of their income than higher-income people.

The idea was advanced in a June 8 report co-authored by three bosses’ organizations and three sellout trade union confederations.

This week, both the Industry Minister and the ruling UMP party’s general secretary pushed debating the scheme, the first step in passing a law. To win public backing, the measure is billed as an “anti-offshoring value-added tax.” They claim that wages in France are “too high” because of the social security contributions the bosses have to pay. The bosses pretend they won’t move their factories to low-wage countries if they get what amounts to a wage-cut for workers — the new tax would cut into workers’ wages.

Blackmail

This is straightforward blackmail: telling workers their jobs will disappear overseas if they don’t cough up.

Industry Minister Eric Besson said, “The idea of shifting company social security contributions to a tax on another tax base, like consumption, merits debate. The cost of labor is one of the key elements in competitiveness.”

By cutting social security contributions, French bosses hope to lower their costs and undersell their imperialist rivals, increasing their competitiveness. But once the new “anti-offshoring value-added tax” has been established, the second round will surely see the politicians cutting social security benefits in order to lower taxes.

Co-authoring this scheme, set out in a 40-page report entitled “Approach to French Competitiveness,” represents yet another betrayal by three sellout union confederations. It highlights the bankruptcy of the unity-at-any-price strategy pursued by the supposedly “class-struggle” unions.

In 2009, the three sellout unions — the CFDT, the Roman Catholic CFTC, and the business executives’ union, the CGC — began working with the bosses to collect data on economic indicators. Now they’ve gone a step further.  They want the bosses’ government to “rethink the tax base that finances social protection.”

A worker’s income is composed of wages and benefits, including social security benefits. The proposed cut in our income will increase the boss’s profits. The three sellout unions are quite simply urging the government to change the tax laws so that the bosses can steal more of the wealth that we — and we alone — create!

Union Leaders in Bed
with the Bosses

This attack on the working class is accompanied by nauseating class collaboration. The bosses and union leaders announced in chorus that they had “gone beyond ideological approaches.” CFTC president Joseph Thouvenel trumpeted that “confronted with a fall in competitiveness, we have exited the class struggle to look reality in the face.”

For the past three years, the three openly sellout union confederations have been working hand-in-glove with the bosses to concoct this report. Now they intend to use the document to indoctrinate their members and as a basis of reference in wage negotiations.

Throughout last year’s fight against raising the retirement age, the leaders of the so-called “class-struggle” union confederations — particularly France’s biggest confederation, the CGT (which represents 34% of all workers) — insisted on preserving unity with these sellouts (who together represent 38% of workers). They claimed this was “the key to success.”

But in effect, this strategy gave the sellouts a veto on any possible actions. It guaranteed the struggle would never exceed symbolic one-day strikes. It nixed any possibility of an unlimited general strike. The struggle against raising the retirement age was lost.

Clearly this “unity strategy” was nothing but a fig leaf. It concealed the unwillingness of the “class-struggle” union leaders to really organize against the attack on the retirement age. It allowed them to sabotage the millions-strong movement while shifting the blame to the more open sellouts. So-called “progressives” like CGT leader Bernard Thibault are no better than CFTC’s Joseph Thouvenel.

When masses of workers here understand the pro-capitalist nature of all the reformist union leaders, of whatever stripe, it will provide the basis to develop the needed revolutionary communist leadership. Organizing to convince workers of this reality is one of the important tasks of communists in France.

France: Union Hacks Back Bosses’ Plan to Tax Workers

PARIS, June 18 — In order to boost the competitiveness and profits of French companies, the government is moving to lower the social security contributions paid by private business. Taxpayers – most of whom are workers – will have to make up the shortfall.

The idea was advanced in a June 8 report co-authored by three bosses’ organizations and three sellout trade union confederations.

This week, the Industry Minister and the ruling UMP party’s general secretary pushed debating the scheme, the first step in passing a law. To win public backing, the measure is billed as an “anti-offshoring value-added tax.” This is straightforward blackmail: telling workers their jobs will disappear overseas if they don’t cough up.

Industry Minister Eric Besson said, “The idea of shifting company social security contributions to a tax on another tax base, like consumption, merits debate. The cost of labor is one of the key elements in competitiveness.”

Workers would be doubly penalized, first by losing the part of their wages that companies pay into the social security funds, and secondly by paying extra taxes out of the wages that the boss pays them directly.

Co-authoring this scheme, set out in a 40-page report entitled “Approach to French Competitiveness,” represents yet another betrayal by three sellout union confederations. It highlights the bankruptcy of the unity-at-any-price strategy pursued by the supposedly “class-struggle” unions.

In 2009, the three sellout unions — the CFDT, the Roman Catholic CFTC, and the business executives’ union, the CGC, began working with the bosses to collect data on economic indicators. Now they’ve gone a step further.  They want the bosses’ government to “rethink the tax base that finances social protection.”

By cutting social security contributions, French bosses hope to undersell their imperialist rivals and increase their competitiveness. But once the new “anti-offshoring value-added tax” has been established, the second round will surely see the politicians cutting social security benefits in order to lower taxes.

A worker’s income is composed of wages and benefits, including social security benefits. The proposed cut in our income will increase the boss’s profits. The three sellout unions are quite simply urging the government to change the tax laws so that the bosses can steal more of the wealth that we — and we alone — create!

This attack on the working class is accompanied by nauseating anti-communism. The bosses and union leaders announced in chorus that they had “gone beyond ideological approaches.” CFTC president Joseph Thouvenel trumpeted that “confronted with a fall in competitiveness, we have exited the class struggle to look reality in the face.”

For the past three years, the three openly sellout union confederations have been working hand-in-glove with the bosses to concoct this report. Now they intend to use the document to indoctrinate their members and as a basis of reference in wage negotiations.

Throughout last year’s fight against raising the retirement age, the leaders of the so-called “class-struggle” union confederations — particularly France’s biggest confederation, the CGT (which represents 34% of workers) — insisted on preserving unity with these sellouts (which together represent 38% of workers). They claimed this was “the key to success.”

But in effect, this strategy gives the sellouts a veto on any possible actions. It guarantees the struggle would never exceed symbolic one-day strikes. It nixed any possibility of an unlimited general strike. The struggle against raising the retirement age was lost.

Clearly this “unity strategy” was nothing but a fig leaf? It concealed the unwillingness of the “class-struggle” union leaders to really organize against the attack on the retirement age. It allowed them to sabotage the millions-strong movement while shifting the blame to the more open sellouts. So-called “progressives” like CGT leader Bernard Thibault are no better than CFTC’s Joseph Thouvenel.

When masses of workers here understand the pro-capitalist nature of all the reformist union leaders, of whatever stripe, it will provide the basis to develop the needed revolutionary communist leadership. Organizing to convince workers of this reality is one of the important tasks of communists in France.

U.S. Rulers: History’s Biggest Terrorists

The U.S. ruling class claims it is engaged in a “war on terror” against al Qaeda, symbolized by the killing of Osama bin Laden. But as terrorists go, al Qaeda is small change compared to U.S. rulers’ 200 years of murderous attacks on workers and youth, both in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. ruling class is the biggest terrorist in world history, responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, especially black and Latino workers and youth because of racism.

But that’s only one side of the story. Wherever these butchers have engaged in this carnage they have been met with heroic resistance and rebellion from the international working class (see p. 7). The class struggle is a history of ruling-class capitalist, imperialist repression and working-class fight-back. Below is a (partial) list of U.S. rulers’ terror, followed by workers’ struggle against that terror.

• Centuries of slavery embedded in the U.S. Constitution enslaved millions of black people on southern plantations, toiling in the fields from sun-up to sundown, suffering torture, punishment by hacking off limbs and the mass rape of thousands of black women slaves.

• Following post-Civil War “emancipation,” a Ku Klux Klan terror rampaged throughout the South and in some northern cities, keeping millions of black people in virtual slavery through laws barring equal rights, arresting and jailing thousands of black men right off the streets to become prisoner-slaves “rented out” to plantation owners, right up to World War II.

• An untold number of Native Americans were removed or wiped out in the 18th and 19th century by the U.S. Army’s genocide, including the infamous “trail of tears” that marched the Cherokees from the Carolinas to Western reservations, virtual concentration camps, thousands dying on the way, a “heritage” that has produced the most impoverished section of the U.S. working class, with a 90% unemployment rate.

• 1898: Spanish-American War; Kill 3,000 Filipinos in seizing Philippines.

• 1898: U.S. troops occupy Cuba, former Spanish colony, and then institute the Platt Amendment which authorized U.S. intervention into Cuba any time it felt necessary, effectively subjecting Cuba to U.S. control.

• 1898: U.S. troops occupy Puerto Rico, former Spanish colony until 1900 and then annexed it, to be subject to U.S. corporate exploitation, paying workers below U.S. minimum wages.

• 1904 to 1913: U.S. builds Panama Canal under horrific health conditions; 25,000 workers die from malaria, yellow fever, small pox, typhoid, dysentery, intestinal parasites and accidents.

• 1917 to 1925 — U.S. armed forces invade the Soviet Union, along with 16 other imperialist countries, to try to bury the first socialist system, free of capitalist profits; 4.5 million Russians die. (Churchill: “Strangle the baby in the cradle.”)

• 1914 to 1933: Marines invade Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and China and half a dozen Central American countries.

• 1930s to 1947: U.S. arms fascist dictator Chang-Kai-Shek against Chinese Red Army, killing millions until Revolutionaries seize power in 1949.

• In 1941, hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans were summarily evicted from their neighborhoods and herded into “internment” concentration camps throughout the entire World War II, being cited as a “threat” to the national war effort by the Roosevelt Administration, following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

• 1945: U.S. drops Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 250,000 civilians after indiscriminate fire-bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities killing another half-million civilians, leaving 13,000,000 homeless.

• 1953: CIA organizes overthrow of Iran president Mossedegh, installs fascist Shah in power, trains Shah’s secret police in methods of torture, killing thousands of communists and left-wingers.

• 1954: U.S. organizes overthrow of Guatemala’s elected government, installs dictatorship that lasts for three decades, killing 100,000 opponents.

• 1961: CIA assassinates Patrice Lumumba, leader of the Congo, installs dictatorships lasting for 30 years.

• 1963 to 1973: U.S. invasion of Vietnam results in 3,000,000 deaths and 2,000,000 more in Laos and Cambodia plus 58,000 GI’s. Drops more bombs on North Vietnam than tonnage dropped in all of World War II.

• 1965: U.S. arms Indonesian dictator Suharto to massacre one million communists; CIA gives list of 5,000 communist leaders to be killed and “checks them off as they are executed.”

• 1973: CIA and U.S. Secy. of State Henry Kissinger arm Chile’s General Pinochet to seize power from Allende-elected government on 9/11/73 and kills, tortures thousands of opponents in fascist reign of terror.

• 1979: U.S. president Carter has CIA organize a jihad from Pakistan to oust Russians from Afghanistan in $30 billion, 10-year operation, training among others Osama bin Laden, leading to emergence of the Taliban’s seizure of power.

• 1980s: CIA trains and arms Contras to ravage Nicaragua and El Salvador attempting to defeat rebel forces, including training of death squads in Ft. Benning, Georgia to maintain dictatorships in Latin America.

• 1980s — U.S. supports fascist Apartheid in South Africa to enable U.S. corporations to profit from exploiting black workers in the mines and factories.

1980 to1988 — U.S. encourages Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, supplying U.S. weapons, cluster bombs and intelligence reports on where to bomb Iran; 8-year war ended in a stalemate, leaving one million dead.

• 1989: Bush, Sr. government invades Panama with 27,000 U.S. troops, killing up to 6,000 innocent civilians, using flamethrowers to burn dead bodies and bury them in mass graves. General Noriega ousted for alleged “drug trafficking.” Although he had been the on CIA payroll, he gave too much leeway to Japanese banks.

• 1991: Gulf War I; U.S. planes kill thousands of fleeing conscripted Iraqi youth on the ground in a “turkey shoot” from the air and tanks roll over them burying hundreds alive.

• 1990s: Clinton orders sanctions against Iraq and no-fly zone, causing the deaths of 500,000 children and 500,000 adults due to lack of medicines, food, and other essentials (according to the UN’s World Health Organization).

• 2001 to present: U.S. invades Afghanistan with a current total of 100,000 soldiers (50,000 from Bush and 50,000 from Obama), killing untold numbers of innocent civilians on the ground and from the air, destroying infrastructure, homes and villages in what is now the U.S.’s “longest war.”

• 2003 to present : U.S. invades Iraq with “shock and awe” leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, displacing 5,000,000 from their homes (20% of the population), leveling many villages.

• “Plan Columbia” sends over a billion dollars of U.S. weapons to the country’s military to be used against workers and peasants in the fields.

• 2010 to 2011: Obama orders drone attacks into Pakistan to kill al Qaeda but kills many more civilians as “collateral damage.”

• CIA sends “suspects” in rendition program to countries using torture as “interrogation” method, many of whom turn out to be innocent.

• U.S. arms Israeli rulers in the billions of
dollars, used to enslave Palestinians.

• U.S., as the world’s largest weapons supplier, including land mines still exploding and killing hundreds, to back up fascist dictators worldwide.

Workers Fight Back Worldwide

• 1600s to 1800s: 400 slave revolts against slaveholders, including Nat Turner Rebellion.

• 1791 to 1804:  Rebellion against slavery in Haiti ousts French colonialists and established first free republic of ex-slaves.

• 1859: John Brown led abolitionist movement against U.S. slavery, killing pro-slavery forces; led raid on federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry to attempt to seize weapons to be distributed to slaves.

• 1871: Paris Commune: Workers in Paris in armed overthrow of autocratic French government and erect first state of workers’ power, workers’ councils ruling city from March to May.

• 1875: Battle of Little Big Horn: Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arajaho Native American tribes unite to rout 700 of U.S. General Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment, annihilating five of seven companies, killing Custer and 268 U.S. soldiers.

• 1877: First national railroad strike in U.S. history, turns into general strike after Pittsburgh militia refuses to fight workers and hands over their arms, used to rout Philadelphia militia. Railroad and steel workers seize and run Pittsburgh for four days (the “Pittsburgh Commune”).

• 1917: Russian Revolution: Workers and peasants led by Lenin’s Bolshevik Party overthrow dictatorial Czarist government, seize all foreign imperialist holdings and establish first communist-led workers’ state.

• 1918 to 1925: Soviet workers’ Red Army defeats invasion by 17 capitalist countries attempting to overthrow first workers’ state.

• 1919: Great Steel Strike of 350,000 steel workers, centered around Pittsburgh, led by communist William Z. Foster, organized the first industry-wide shutdown of the steel industry, uniting immigrant workers from 17 countries, setting the precedent which eventually unionized steel 18 years later.

• 1922: 10,000 West Virginia coal miners engage in largest armed workers’ struggle in U.S. history, using military tactics learned in World War I, march to unionize non-union coal mines in the state’s southern region in battle against thousands of company gunmen, state troopers and sheriffs.

• 1932: One million jobless workers take to the streets across the U.S. demanding unemployment benefits and jobs, organized by the communist-led National Unemployment Councils, later uniting with employed workers, joining their strike picket lines.

• 1936: Sit-down strike of General Motors auto workers in Flint, Michigan, led by communists, occupies GM plants for 44 days, sparking hundreds of similar actions across the U.S. Rout cops and counters National Guard with support of 40,000 workers from four states surrounding the plants. Leads to unionization of 4,000,000 workers in four years, sparking mass movement that wins the 8-hour day, 40-hour week, unemployment insurance and Social Security.

• 1930s to 1949: “Long March” by Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Tse-Tung, sets up base from which Red Army launches battles against — and eventually defeats — the occupying fascist Japanese war machine as well as the U.S.-backed Chang-Kai Shek dictatorship.

• 1941 to 1945: Soviet Workers’ State led by Josef Stalin and its Red Army engages 80% of Hitler’s armies, defeats the Nazi invaders and smashes Hitler fascism,  costing 27 million lives, moving all their factories east of the Ural Mountains to produce the weapons of war. It defeats the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, producing the turning point of the Second World War, routing the Nazi hordes all the way to Berlin.

• 1959: Rebels overthrow the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in Cuba, confiscating $1 billion worth of U.S. corporate factories used to exploit the workers and farmers over 60 years.

• 1962: Fifty workers and students meet in New York City to form the Progressive Labor Movement, forerunner of the 1965 Progressive Labor Party, to eventually establish a new revolutionary communist movement after its abandonment by the old Communist Party.

• 1963 to 1973: U.S. invasion of Vietnam is defeated by workers’ and peasants’ People’s War, aided by millions protesting worldwide and GI’s fragging of officers, sabotage of six U.S. aircraft carriers, underground opposition and desertion of 503,000 GI’s, causing what a Marine historian defined as “The Collapse of the U.S. Army.”

• 1964: Harlem Rebellion: Workers and youth take to the streets to protest the police murder of a black teenager, battle cops, demand jobs and march with PLM’s newly-published  CHALLENGE newspaper as their “flag” (PLM is the only group in the city to back the rebels); this uprising is the forerunner of rebellions that spread to Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit where the 82nd Airborne Division is diverted from Vietnam to quell that rebellion.

• 1968: Workers and students in France organize general strike with a sit-down occupying one aircraft factory and spreads to ten million workers shutting down the country for ten days, demanding job security and reform of school system, impelling president Charles DeGaulle to ask for German troop support to stop the uprising.

• 1970: Workers’ nation-wide strike shuts down U.S. postal system, begun in NYC when group of young black workers leap to the stage at a union meeting and force union misleaders to flee, amid chants by thousands of “Strike! Strike! Strike!”

• 1973: PL organizes first sit-down strike in the auto industry in 37 years, leading 200 workers to shut Chrysler’s Mack Avenue Detroit plant.

• 1970s to 1990s: PLP leads attacks on Klan and neo-Nazis in series of confrontations involving over 100,000 anti-racists in the U.S.

• 2003: Ten million demonstrate worldwide against coming U.S. invasion of Iraq, largest global protest in world history.

• 2011: Millions of workers, youth and others take to the streets against dictatorships throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

CHALLENGE Is Exciting Students in Portugal

PORTUGAL, March 31 — In recent months here a group of fifteen high school students, aware of the ongoing national crisis in Portugal, have begun weekly meetings to discuss various political and economic issues. We review the consequences of capitalist society, our thoughts on solutions, as well as organize different awareness events.

After being introduced to CHALLENGE the group was excited to know their fight was happening all over the world and that it was supported by many people. The students have read and discussed many of the articles, integrating them with their usual topics of discussion. They’ve begun to sneak CHALLENGE into school and pass them out to other students who are curious about the fight against capitalism.

It was also discussed that the country’s Prime Minister, José Socrates (representative of the Socialist Party), was re-elected for a second five-year term on the promise that he would no longer raise taxes. It’s a promise that hardly seems plausible due to the country’s excessive external deficit.

Can’t Afford More Than One Meal A Day

One year into his term and three “Stability and Growth Plans” (SGP) later, the country is paying 23% Value Added Tax (VAT). Most families are running on 400 euros (approximately U.S. $562) a month; retirement funds are as low as 200 euros (approximately U.S. $ 281.4) a month; the welfare funds have been cut and social services have rejected help for most families. This makes them unable to afford more than one meal a day.

The official unemployment rate is at 9.3%, making it one of the four European countries with the most unemployment. All the while the Prime Minister and his board of Ministers are being paid 4,000 euros (approximately U.S. $5,657) a month.

So it was no surprise when the Left Bloc (BE), supported by the Portuguese “Communist” Party (PCP), announced they were promoting a Censorship Motion based on evidence that the current legislative government was incompetent in creating quality living for the people. Although the Censorship Motion would probably be vetoed due to the “right” parties’ opposition, people are looking for the dismissal of the government.

However the motion never went to a vote because the Prime Minister announced that if his next “Stability and Growth Plan” (SGP IV) didn’t pass in Parliament, he would resign. The plan aimed to increase taxes again and reduce more social benefits, creating economic austerity in order to lower the external deficit.

IMF Invades

On March 23, the plan was presented in Parliament and was voted down by every single opposition party. Moments later the Prime Minister resigned. New elections are set for the end of May. Until then the Portuguese political crisis has been a factor in lowering the value of the Euro and is now more likely than ever to have the International Monetary Fund intervene in Portugal’s economy.

Amid such a political crisis, infuriating people with awful living conditions, the “Communist” party is seen as the left party, but they are far from revolutionary. They only propose reforms that just continue to support the capitalist system.  The removal of the Prime Minister might bring a lot of smiles to working people here, but it is far from the solution.  The bosses have always been able to get rid of their puppets while still maintaining capitalism. The struggle is to organize and recruit millions to fight for a communist world, free of exploitation.

Portugal has a history of revolutionary movements that were created and led by students. It’s no surprise then, that it is the students who are now taking the fight into their hands and organizing. With clearer knowledge of the fight between classes around the world, as well as these discussions that are open to anyone who wants to join, we are one step closer to organizing and recruiting for the fight against the capitalist system and exploitation.

War Over Oil Looms: Saudi Arabia, Not Libya, Main Prize for U.S. Rulers

As the U.S., France and British rulers launch air strikes at Libya, the U.S main focus is still focus on energy’s grand prize, Saudi Arabia and the greater Persian Gulf region. As important as Libya’s 46-billion-barrel reserves are, threats to far richer sources preoccupy Obama and the oil-fueled imperialists he serves.

As of March 11, dictator Qaddafi was brutally retaking key oil towns from the rebels, indiscriminately slaughtering civilians and his opponents. Leading senators — Democrat Kerry, Independent Lieberman, and Republican McCain — have called for a “no-fly zone” entailing U.S. bombardment of Libyan planes, air defenses, and runways. But, on that very day, March 11, Obama sent war boss Robert Gates to embattled Bahrain, on the Persian Gulf — not to Libya’s U.S.-backed neighbors Tunisia or Egypt.

Bahrain houses the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which polices the globally-crucial oil exports of U.S. protectorates Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, U.S.-occupied Iraq and U.S. enemy Iran.

Kenneth Pollack, a Gulf expert having worked at the CIA, the National Security Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Brookings Institution, wrote a book in 2002, “The Case for Invading Iraq.” Now he has written: “It is not clear that… Libya is enough of a national interest to justify…long-term military and diplomatic commitment. Just within the Middle East, there are countries of far greater importance to the United States that may well need us to invest those resources there to make sure they turn out right.” (Brookings website, 3/09/11)

Iraq, following two U.S. invasions and sanctions that killed over two million, has, for now, “turned out right” for Exxon Mobil. Consequently, the latter now enjoys access to Iraq’s West Qurna oil field, one of the world’s biggest.

U.S. Rulers, Exxon-Mobil, Won Big in Iraq War, But Could Lose All in Saudi Destabilization

Stratfor, an outfit that provides geostrategic analysis to U.S. corporations, explained Gates’s travel plans on its website (3/9): “Unlike Libya, where the effects are primarily internal, the events in Bahrain clearly involve Saudi, Iranian and U.S. interests….Bahrain is the focal point of a struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for control of the western littoral [shoreline regions] of the Persian Gulf ….[Saudi] destabilization would change the regional balance of power and the way the world works.”

In other words, upheavals in Saudi Arabia — home to more oil than any other country in the world — could end the biggest racket in the history of imperialism. Exxon Mobil, Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer and investor, today controls the lion’s share of the kingdom’s production. Through Exxon and its U.S. and British allies — Chevron, BP and Shell — entire nations are beholden to U.S. rulers’ terms for the supply of capitalism’s lifeblood.

Obama, Pentagon Boss Gates Oppose Only Those Wars Not in the Rulers’ ‘National Interest’

Obama’s “Defense” Secretary Gates opposes a “no-fly zone” in Libya only because it detracts from his imperialist masters’ larger need to secure the Middle East. Note his February 25 warning to West Point that any future war secretary advising a U.S. president to send a large land army into Asia, the Middle East or Africa, “should have his head examined.” Colonel Gian Gentile, an active-duty military fellow at the ultra-imperialist, Rockefeller-led Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), translated:

“The secretary is suggesting that, if a future secretary of defense advises an American president to send a significant land force into a foreign country to do nation building, the analysis has to show that that kind of effort… is worth the costs…. because it will be a costly and long-term endeavor.” (CFR website, 3/2/11)  Gates, hardly a pacifist, rewords Gen. Colin Powell’s “Doctrine” which clearly specified that indispensable, imperialist goals (like securing Saudi Arabia) require overwhelming U.S. military force.

The workers and youth rebelling against fascist dictators in North Africa and the Mideast have put their lives on the line in battling the police and the armies. They have struck in demanding jobs and freedom from poverty. They deserve the support of workers worldwide.

But for the working class, two deadly misunderstandings are woven into this upsurge. First is thinking that it represents “liberation.” Without militant, class-based, communist revolution, one gang of exploiters will replace another in every country involved. Secondly is the assumption that any temporary reluctance of U.S. rulers to deploy deadly force shows “peaceful” intentions. In reality, U.S. imperialism’s continuing existence depends on control of Mideast oil. Obama & Co. and their successors will fight for it to their last bullet and to the last drop of workers’ blood.

It is up to the working class, and especially to communists, to mobilize our forces wherever we are — in shops, unions, schools, within the military, in churches and community organizations — to turn the class struggle against the ruling capitalists into a fight that goes beyond the immediate one for reforms. The rulers hold state power and always can, and do, take back these reforms. Their goal of maximum profits — and their system’s inevitable crises which produce mass unemployment, racist exploitation and imperialist war — drives them to demand these give-backs from the working class.

Only a communist revolution that smashes the bosses’ state power and their racist system altogether, creating a society run by and for our class — which produces all value — can free us from the misery of the profit system.

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N. Africa to Mideast to Asia:Capitalism’s Survival Undercuts Workers’ Revolt; Wider Wars Loom

Tens of thousands of workers and youth are waging a political battle to overthrow U.S.-backed corrupt fascist dictators, cutting a wide swath throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Many have taken up arms and risked their lives fighting brutal attacks by the rulers’ cops and armies, whose tanks, guns and tear gas are marked “Made in USA.”

The rebels are also going on strike against the ravages of capitalism — skyrocketing food prices and massive unemployment — demanding jobs.

Unfortunately these courageous workers and youth will wind up with the same capitalist system that has produced this mass poverty and fascist conditions. What leadership that does exist is not fighting for workers’ power — communism — which would destroy the profit system and its ruling bosses. This only highlights the necessity to build the Progressive Labor Party to develop the kind of leadership that would make a fundamental change, a real revolution that would toss out the old ruling class and put the working class in power.

However, the U.S. may very well be playing both sides. While the rebellions oppose dictators backed by the U.S., their replacements might be U.S.-backed also. Some student rebels have been trained by CIA front groups on a 2008 organizing conference at Columbia University in NYC) as well as a union movement trained by the AFL-CIA.

Significantly these struggles are raging in and near the heart of U.S. rulers’ energy-based global empire, raising big questions: Will pro- or anti-U.S. bosses gain long-term advantage from the conflicts? And now that many Arab lands are, or could be, under shaky new management, how can Exxon Mobil and its Big Oil buddies hang on to critical oil fields and shipping routes?

Iran’s ayatollahs made their opportunistic aims clear by sending a pair of warships through embroiled Egypt’s Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, long controlled by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Meanwhile, Obama & Co.’s response involves expanding the scope of liberal President Jimmy Carter oil “Doctrine”:

“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. (Carter’s 1980 State of the Union Address)

Today’s revolts could spread to Carter’s obvious focus, Saudi Arabia, U.S. imperialism’s most vital energy interest. So Obama’s actual and possible combat theater protecting U.S. bosses’ “vital interests” now stretches from the mountains of Pakistan across the Gulf to the North African coast. And now the U.S. military has admitted its Afghan strategy is failing, and is withdrawing from strategic areas in that country. (NY Times, 2/25)

Liberal Bosses Want 20,000 Troops for Libyan Bloodbath

Libya, where dictator Qaddafi’s thugs have killed hundreds, and Exxon and U.S. ally BP have had to suspend drilling for crude oil, is especially worrisome to U.S. rulers. The NY Times summed up these risks: “The worst-case scenario, should the rebellion topple him,…is…a failed state where Al Qaeda or other radical groups could exploit the chaos and operate with impunity.” (2/27)

Michael O’Hanlon, military expert at the liberal Brookings Institution, urged the Pentagon to prepare a ground force, contrasting Libya with U.S. inaction in the 1994 crisis in Rwanda: “It would have taken closer to 20,000 troops, or more, to do the job right. There could well be a similar requirement here.” (Brookings website, 2/25) Obama booster O’Hanlon even provides the outlines of a body count: “We could lose one of our soldiers or Marines for every 10 enemy fighters we had to take down. If Qadhafi loyalists numbered in the thousands…we could lose hundreds of U.S. troops.” O’Hanlon would no doubt recommend the same treatment for al Qaeda sympathizers in Libya.

But Saudi Arabia, as the world’s greatest petroleum source and ExxonMobil’s biggest supplier, poses far graver concerns for U.S. bosses — so grave, in fact, that they resort to code to speak about it publicly. Michael Levi, a fellow at the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), funded by Rockefeller, Exxon and J.P. Morgan Chase, wrote: “If unrest actually migrated to the desert kingdom…Riyadh [Saudi’s capital] would probably impress on the world that it needed support if they didn’t want to see prices get out of control. That would be a credible threat, and could result in a very concrete set of responses”(CFR website, 2/25/11).

“Concrete response” means “invasion.” Two main groups seek to benefit from Saudi regime change: swelling ranks of unemployed youth and those capitalists not part of Saudi’s royal family, shut out of the fabulously lucrative oil racket. Osama bin Laden, a member of the latter, has united elements of both into the anti-U.S. al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Saudi’s ruling king, fearing an uprising, and to calm oil interests, just allotted $36 billion for reforms in his kingdom. But rather than “calming” the situation, those oil interests see his concerns as evidence of a further threat to the region and can very well provoke even more oil price hikes.

Top U.S. Warlord Visits Big Oil States and U.S. Bases

To hammer home the U.S. invasion vow, Admiral Mike Mullen, the U.S.’s top military chief, recently visited Kuwait on the pretense of commemorating the 20th anniversary of Desert Storm. In 1991, a U.S.-led coalition of 750,000 soldiers ousted Iraqi invaders from Kuwait. But the display of U.S. and allied firepower demonstrates Obama’s promise of a repeat performance to defend Saudi Arabia.

Covering the February 26 celebration, Stars and Stripes, the U.S. brass’s mouthpiece for GIs gushed:

“Tanks, troops, armored vehicles, helicopters and barrel-rolling [combat maneuver to elude adversaries] fighter jets…passed in formation before Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and other dignitaries including Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1991, and Spain’s King Juan Carlos. It was a spectacle rarely seen in the world today. Saudi, Kuwaiti, French, British, and other troops joined the relatively small contingent of roughly 175 Americans thundering down the road.”

Saudi Arabia’s participation indicated its coming turn for potential U.S. invasion.

Powell’s presence signaled the future use of his “overwhelming force Doctrine.”  The Spanish, French and British showing demonstrates that Obama, more like the Bush, Sr. than Bush, Jr., understands the U.S. need for broad military coalitions.

Mullen landed in Kuwait after a five-day Gulf tour of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Djibouti and Bahrain. These seven states either produce vast amounts of oil or house major U.S. military bases that defend the U.S. strategic stranglehold on its distribution. A Mullen spokesman reassured Saudi king Abdullah that Obama intends to keep him on his throne:  “The aim of the 1991 Gulf War was not to democratize Kuwait.” (Agencie French Press, 2/25)

But where would U.S. rulers find the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of troops needed for a Saudi invasion that would probably draw in Iran? Restoring the draft in present circumstances remains unthinkable. Gary Hart, a leading imperialist strategist, thinks the solution for U.S. imperialists lies in tying the liberal side of the fight over workers’ rights now centered in Wisconsin to a patriotic movement that would back U.S. rulers’ war plans.

Hart was co-chairman of Clinton’s 1999 Hart-Rudman Commission that drew up blueprints for a centralized U.S. police state, while both fearing and welcoming a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Hart figures this could galvanize mass U.S. support for a Saudi invasion, just as it did for the eventual invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter war now the longest in U.S. history. (See box)

Opportunities to Build the PLP

The uprisings and U.S. rulers’ reactions to them offer many valuable political lessons, about which we will write in coming issues. But for now we point to the first and foremost: Don’t trust the liberal bosses.

Meanwhile, PLP members and friends must back solidarity with — participate in — any rising working-class struggles, to be in position to guide them towards the goal of workers’ power and away from the liberals’ dead-end war aims. Recent anti-government working-class resistance to ruling-class attacks, both in the U.S. and abroad, show that politics are increasingly motivating workers. This can be advanced to demonstrate the need for a communist party, the PLP, a central role for our Party in the immediate period.

Liberal Gary Hart Seeks to Turn Wisconsin Protests to U.S. War Aims

Writing about Tea Partiers trumping U.S. imperialist policy from Madison to Tripoli, imperialist strategist Hart says, “There are lessons to be learned meanwhile about the limits of …American power. The struggle here is whether we will return to a pre-New Deal America with many fewer ladders of opportunity, safety nets for the poor and elderly, and regulatory protections for consumers, workers, and the environment.” (Hart’s weblog, 2/21) Hart wants a new New Deal, with even more ladders and nets. He understands U.S. rulers’ need to somehow recreate Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. FDR ran an alphabet soup of social programs, from the militaristic CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to the job-creating (though slave wage) WPA (Works Progress Administration). It was these, along with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that helped overcome Tea Party-style 1930s isolationism by luring workers into the arms of a war-making government.

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France: Auto Parts Workers Seize Plant, Fight for Jobs

VILLEMUR-SUR-TARN, FRANCE, August 27 — Eleven weeks after holding two bosses hostage for 26 hours, 283 Molex workers occupied the auto parts factory owned by the U.S.-based multi-national for 38 days, fighting to keep their plant open and save their jobs. This was part of a 10-month struggle against the French government and the U.S. company which exploits 32,000 workers in 45 factories in 17 countries. The workers are reacting to the bosses’ attempts to shift the burden of the world capitalist crisis onto their backs.

French media portraying Molex as a “rogue employer” and the Sarkozy government as “unpatriotic” create two dangerous illusions: that there are “good employers” and that a “patriotic” government would protect the workers. But both Molex and the Sarkozy government are typical products of capitalism.

“In the past ten months, we’ve gone through every state of mind,” Alain, a 30-year maintenance worker told a newspaper interviewer. “We’ve had our hearts in our boots, and then we began to hope again when the courts voided the first layoff plan in April, and again when they ordered the factory to reopen in early August. And when…management ignored the courts, our morale plunged even lower than before.”

Today, negotiations with the government-appointed mediator are stalled because Molex will only sell the factory to a purchaser that doesn’t compete in their market. But the government mediator “is just a media show,” declared Alain.

In 2000, SNECMA, then a French government-owned aeronautics company, raided the family-owned factory in southwestern France, bought and restructured it and then sold it to Molex in 2004. Nationalized companies remain capitalist companies.

In 2008, Molex stated that “during fiscal 2005, we decided to close certain operations in the American and European regions in order to reduce operating costs.” That year, workers in Detroit, New England, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia got the axe.

“In 2006, eight executives began photographing our machines and noting…our working techniques,” said José, a 30-year veteran worker.

In 2007, Molex announced plans “to move production between facilities, reducing staff levels…”

Before closing the Villemur factory, Molex equipped its Lincoln, Nebraska factory with copies of the molds and tools used in Villemur, built up a stock of parts in the Netherlands, and informed its customers, the French auto companies PSA and Renault, of its plans. “They had us working overtime all summer to build up stocks,” said Michelle, a 23-year veteran.

On Oct. 23, 2008, Molex announced it would close the Villemur factory as “unprofitable,” although the factory netted 1.2 million euros in profits (US$1.6 million) that year. On Christmas, the workers guarded the factory to prevent Molex from stripping it of machines and stock during the holidays.

In January, 2009 Molex said the world financial crisis was forcing it to close the Villemur factory. It was when the Villemur workers discovered — on April 20 — that the Lincoln factory was making the same interconnects, that they held two bosses prisoner. One month later, workers’ actions prodded the courts into suspending the layoff plan.

In May, the Syndex accounting firm reported that the Villemur factory was economically viable. French Secretary of State Luc Chatel had promised that if this were true, “the government would…facilitate the purchase of the factory [by a “white knight”] in order to maintain interconnect production in France.” But the government did nothing, so on June 10 the workers demonstrated in Paris, and then, starting July 7, occupied the factory in a 38-day strike.

When Molex broke off negotiations with a possible “white knight” purchaser, the workers egged the Molex director of development. Two days later, four of us workers “were summoned to court,” said shop steward Guy Pavan. “The judicial system works fast against the workers.”

“When you respect the law,” said a worker, José, “you get screwed. When you stay calm, you get screwed. And when they’ve got your nose in the shit, you’re still supposed to keep your trap shut,” he concluded.

On August 6, the workers ended the strike, but Molex closed the factory “for security reasons.” Defying an August 11 court order to reopen the factory, Molex has used security guards and guard dogs to keep it shut. They can do this because the company has friends in government. Christine Lagarde, French Minister for the Economy, Industry and Employment, was Molex’s judicial advisor in 2004, when she was a director of the Chicago law firm Baker & McKenzie.

Today, these Molex workers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If Molex prevails, the factory will be shuttered. If Molex is forced to sell to a “white knight,” some workers will be laid off while others will continue to work to enrich its capitalist owner.

Communist leadership is needed here and everywhere to provide the revolutionary alternative to capitalism, a society where workers own the factories and share the goods they produce.

[Messages of support and contributions can be sent to: Association Solidarité des Molex, 5 rue St Louis, 31340 Villemur-sur-Tarn, France.] J

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers Shut Universities

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

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

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France: Workers Must Unite Immigrants, Youth in Looming General Strike

le che au dessus des travailleurs de l'automobilePARIS, January 24 — A 24-hour general strike called by eight trade union confederations is set to rock France. Both government and private-sector workers are likely to participate in large numbers. Demands include: limiting job cuts; reducing income from stocks and bonds to increase wages; changing European Union policy to bolster consumption, the welfare state, and social housing; and regulating international finance.

These tepid reformist demands show that, in the name of “unity,” the most radical confederations are once again lining up behind the lowest common denominator acceptable to the right-wing unions. Even in their independent position statements, the radical unions go no further than calling for renewing the general strike, day by day, and “refusing to pay for the capitalist crisis.”

All this is a far cry from what workers here really need: revolutionary leadership to overthrow capitalism and establish communist workers’ rule.
In addition to private-sector workers in the metal trades, mining, banking, telecommunications and retailing, public workers in health, rail and urban transport, the post office, gas and electricity and education will join the strike.

The January 29 walkout will also hit the campuses, where teachers and researchers are feeling the lash of an increasingly authoritarian government. In December, French president Nicolas Sarkozy increased his control over the broadcast media. This month he shattered illusions of “judicial impartiality” by eliminating the examining magistrates who supposedly counter-balance executive power. Now he’s moving to bring the education system under greater autocratic control.

This constitutes a three-pronged attack: (1) changing the status of faculty, (2) changing the recruitment of primary and secondary school teachers, and (3) reinforcing religious education.

Previously, all faculty pursued research and teaching in equal measure. Now university presidents will use their new powers under last year’s LRU law to give the “best minds” more time for research and administrative tasks, while the others take up the slack and teach longer hours. Thus the presidents will be able to advance teachers who side with the bosses.

In the past, many teaching positions were filled by national competitive exams. Successful candidates were then paid during one year of teacher training. Now, three roadblocks will make it harder for working-class people to become teachers: (1)candidates will have to write a master’s thesis while studying for the competitive exam (difficult if you’re working to pay your way through school — as do 70% of the students in the working-class Paris suburbs, many of whom are of North or sub-Saharan African origin); (2) candidates’ “files” (their social background), will become a selection criterion, in addition to exam results; and (3) there will be no paid year of teacher training.

Before, the French government did not recognize diplomas awarded by Vatican-controlled universities on a par with those from state universities. Now a treaty with the Vatican will allow conservative Catholic institutions to play a bigger role in shaping the French “meritocracy.”

The situation on the campuses is a microcosm of French society. With inter-imperialist rivalry mounting in recent years, the French bosses have steadily increased their state’s capacity to regiment and control society. This accelerated with the May 2007 election of President Sarkozy. Now the financial and economic crises are pushing the bosses to move even faster, with full-blown fascism becoming an increasingly probable outcome.

In the past, the union leaders and many workers have looked the other way while immigrant workers and youth from the former French colonies in Africa suffered police terror and racist super-exploitation. The lack of anti-racist unity with these immigrant workers and youth has weakened ALL workers. The best outcome that can emerge from this general strike and many other struggles is the building of an anti-racist, multi-ethnic revolutionary leadership to fight the sharper attacks the working class is facing. That’s the road that will lead to building a society without any racist bosses: communism!

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