Category Archives: Health Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milt Meets Stalin

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

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

In and Out of the CPUSA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hazard, Kentucky Miners

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

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

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

The Struggle Against Revisionism

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

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

PLM and the Anti-War Movement

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Fighting Racism

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

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

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

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

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

From Movement to Party

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

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

Work in Mass Organizations

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

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

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

Turning the Tables on HUAC

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

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

“Build a Base in the Working Class”

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

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

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

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

Road to Revolution IV

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

Great Revolutionary Leadership

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

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

‘No Chairperson for Life’

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

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

A Communist Forever

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

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

More than anything, he taught us never to give up

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

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

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

Bosses Spread Anti-Immigrant Lies

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

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

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

• Bans undocumented immigrants from attending state colleges;

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

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

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

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

Obama Expands Bush Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scabs Watch Out!

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

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

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

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

Boss-Union Hack Gang-Up

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

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

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

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

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.

Yes He Did: Obama Brings Racist Attacks on Workers to a Whole New Level For Capitalist Rulers

Obama Sets New Record in Racist Deportations

As part of the ruling class’ plan to step up racist terror against all workers President Obama, the first President of the so called “post-racial” era, has set a goal of deporting 400,000 immigrant workers in 2010, an all time high. And if all goes according to plan they expect to be able to deport 700,000 immigrants annually by 2013.[i] This increase in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) terror represents a steady trend over the last eight years that has seen spending on immigration enforcement increase by 132% and deportations increase by 142%. In real numbers that adds up to over 2.6 million racist deportations, two thirds of which (1.7 million) were non-criminal deportations.[ii]

Representing the clearest form of American style fascism these raids are designed to intimidate Latin workers, both documented and undocumented, in order to drive down wages and further disorganize the working class. In one brazen example of the anti-working class nature of these raids ICE thugs raided the Smithfield Pork Plant in 2007 after workers began an organizing drive in the plant. In order to drive the point home, seven months later they raided the local neighborhoods.[iii]

Since then workplace and neighborhood raids have become common events. In 2008 ICE started raiding grocery stores in Latin neighborhoods in Texas checking both workers and shoppers’ IDs. In 2010 all the McDonalds Restaurants in the Phoenix area became targets of ICE raids.[iv] Local Neo-Nazi Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who regularly does neighborhood immigration sweeps, was responsible for the raids. Prior to the March Washington DC immigration protest in 2010 Obama had DC area restaurants and neighborhoods raided by ICE to intimidate the Latin community. Says one worker swept up in the raid, “For five years all I did was work. I came suffering, and I leave suffering.”[v]

Deadly Immigration Prisons

ICE holds around 32,000 immigrants in prison at any one time to await deportation. They use 363 detention sites across the country to handle their massive prisoner load. In January of 2009 of the 32,000 inmates 18,690 had no prior criminal conviction. With no judge to appeal to and nothing forcing authorities to press charges, immigrants can remain in these prisons for a very long time. During that same period in January nearly 10,000 inmates had been in prison for more than 31 days (which ICE considers the standard turnaround), 400 had been there for more than a year, 12 for at least three years, and one Chinese man had been there for over five years![vi]

Conditions in these prisons were described by a 2009 Amnesty International report as beyond the bounds of international human rights standards and far short of official ICE guidelines.[vii] Despite the fact that most prisoners are non-criminal offenders inmates are handcuffed and shackled and forced into overcrowded cells. After an ICE raid those slated for deportation could be shipped off to any number of prisons all over the country. Frequently a thousand miles from their homes inmates are not given immediate rights to a phone call or a lawyer sometimes leaving their families not knowing where they are for months.[viii]

There have been many complaints filed regarding the non-existent medical care available at these facilities. The New York Times reported that between October of 2003 and January of 2010 107 people died in ICE prisons. ICE officials worked overtime to cover up the details and circumstances of these deaths since many were due to abuse and lack of access to medical care.[ix]

In 2007 Guinean immigrant Boubacar Bah suffered an unexplained severe head trauma while imprisoned by ICE in New Jersey. Guards left Bah in an isolation cell for 13 hours before finally calling an ambulance. At the hospital Bah slipped into a coma and several days later eventually died. While he was still in a coma ICE officials discussed deporting him back to Guinea to avoid unnecessary questions about his condition. Later that same year an investigation into the death of Salvadoran immigrant Nery Romero revealed that he had committed suicide because of unbearable, untreated pain after ICE guards refused to administer his doctor prescribed painkillers. Hiu Lui Ng, a Chinese immigrant, would die from cancer while in ICE custody in 2008 after being repeatedly denied medical treatment that left his cancer undiagnosed.[x]

Many pregnant women rounded up in ICE raids are given no pre-natal care. In Arizona pregnant women are shackled to their beds during and after childbirth. Many don’t even find out what happened to their children until days after giving birth and are not allowed to nurse them until many months later. In 2008 Alma Chacón gave birth while both her hands and feet were shackled to the bed. She was unable to nurse or even hold her child for another 70 days after the birth. Another immigrant woman, Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, who gave birth in ICE custody in 2009 reports being shackled and left to wait in a small unventilated room with 20 other women as she awaited her pre-natal appointments. In the final two months of her pregnancy she had to sit on the floor because of the weight of the chains. She reports weeping frequently afraid that her sadness might hurt the baby.[xi]

The Militarized U.S.-Mexico Border

The intense drive to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border began with the Liberal Jimmy Carter. With the excuse that he was “protecting American jobs” he proposed to double the size of the Border Patrol and build the “Carter Curtain,” a wall separating San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico. During the Reagan and Bush Administrations the Border Patrol budgets were continuously inflated while Latin workers were demonized. Under Liberal leader Bill Clinton the ruling class launched Operation Gatekeeper which tripled the Border Patrol budget in five years and led to the construction of border walls in key cities.

The increased presence of Border Patrol agents and the creation of no-man’s lands in border cities forced Latin immigrants to try and cross through the deserts of the Southwest. According to an ACLU investigation the policies of Operation Gatekeeper led to the deaths of over 5,000 immigrants between 1994 and 2009.[xii] Various anti-racist groups have tried to mitigate some of the danger of this journey by placing water jugs in the desert for traveling migrant workers. Border Patrol agents and Minuteman fascists have aided in the murder of thousands of workers by slashing and emptying these life saving water jugs. During a particularly hot July in 2010 the Pima County morgue had to bring in a refrigerated truck to handle its overflow as it received an astonishing 59 immigrant bodies. It was the worst month for immigrant deaths in Pima County since July of 2006 when they found 68 dead in Pima’s deserts.[xiii]

The militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border has rapidly increased under Bush II and Obama. In July of 2010 Obama sent 1,200 National Guard soldiers to patrol the border. A month later he signed a $600 million bill to deploy 1,500 new Border Patrol agents and other police officers on the border as well as two drone aircraft.[xiv]

In the four years since the Secure Fence Act of 2006 the authorities have built 646 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence ranges between 15 and 20 feet high and has patrol roads paralleling it for Border Patrol vehicles to cruise.[xv] The fence has been criticized by many as a waste of money that does little to stem immigrant traffic across the border, but it should be understood that its real purpose goes far beyond stopping immigration. The fence stands as a visible symbol of the racist nationalism pushed by the U.S. ruling class. Its goal is to impress on workers’ minds a mentality of “us vs. them.”

Anti-Immigrant Hysteria Builds Deadly Racism

The anti-immigrant hysteria that has been stoked by the media and politicians to support the massive ICE terror operation has predictably led to increases in anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate groups and violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that between 2003-2007 when CNN’s Lou Dobbs began his racist anti-immigrant rants that hate crimes against Latin workers increased by 40%! The SPLC also found that between 2008-2009 that the number of “Patriot groups” in the U.S. increased by 244%![xvi] These racist hate groups have strong anti-immigrant agendas and count among their more infamous members Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

This increase in racism and violence has been encouraged by a racist criminal justice system that does not view the murder of Latin workers as a crime. Four teens who brutally beat to death 25 year old Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA in 2008 while shouting racist slurs only received misdemeanor assault and violation of civil rights convictions.[xvii] A month later when Jeffrey Conroy, a Long Island teen who liked to go “Mexican hopping” with his friends, stabbed to death Marcelo Lucero he was acquitted of murder charges and received only a first degree manslaughter conviction.[xviii] During the trial it came out that Conroy and his friends had regularly engaged in racist attacks on Latin workers. Between April and August of 2010 there were 11 different racist attacks on Latin workers in Port Richmond on Staten Island, NY. These attacks were fostered by capitalists who pit poor black workers against poor Latin immigrants and by police who cynically used the attacks to intensify their fascist police presence in Port Richmond.[xix]

In May of 2010 Seattle police brutally beat a Latino man while shouting racist epithets only stopping when they realized it was not the guy they were looking for.[xx] Despite the incident being videotaped no charges were filed against the officers. Later that month Border Patrol agents murdered Anastasio Hernandez with a taser in San Diego.[xxi] In June a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, TX shot and killed 15 year old Sergio Huereka while he stood on the Mexican side of the border.[xxii] INS has shown no intention of investigating or charging any of these officers.

New Arizona Law Connected to White Power Movement

On July 29, 2010 Arizona put its racist immigration law SB 1070 into effect. The law obligates all law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of every person they stop and anyone deemed “suspicious” of being in the country illegally. Given the law’s blatant modeling of American fugitive slave laws and Nazi “race hygiene” laws, it should come as no surprise that it was crafted by a member of the white power movement.

Kris Kobach, the author of SB 1070, is a lawyer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a group that the SPLC classifies as a hate group. FAIR gets its primary funding from the racist Pioneer Fund a group that funds research into “scientific” racism and eugenics.[xxiii] FAIR founder and current board member John Tanton has written that, “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” FAIR president Dan Stein has crudely claimed that immigrants are engaged in “competitive breeding” aimed at diminishing the white majority.[xxiv]

The racism of FAIR is matched by those who have come out to support the law. Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce who sponsored SB 1070 has a long history with the white power movement. In 2006 he forwarded an email from the Neo-Nazi group the National Alliance titled “Who Rules America?” The article criticized what it saw as anti-racist multi-culturalism in the media and espoused a belief in Holocaust denial. Pearce has also been photographed hugging Pheonix resident and member of the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) JT Ready.[xxv]

JT Ready and his NSM thugs have taken Arizona’s recent legislation as an invitation to heighten their racist attacks on Latin workers. The group has been going on armed patrols of the Arizona border where they hold immigrant workers at gun point. One of the members of Ready’s group, Harry Hughes, has a history of racist violence against Latin workers. He has advocated murdering Latinos in order to scare others out of neighborhoods and even shot the dog of his Latin neighbors in order to intimidate them.[xxvi]

Now that the Obama Administration has challenged SB 1070 in court various hate groups from all over the country have begun to donate money to Arizona’s legal defense fund., the oldest and largest white power site on the internet, has even begun a fundraising campaign for Arizona.[xxvii]

Obama’s challenge to the Arizona law should not be seen as any victory for anti-racism, however. As shown above Obama is as dedicated to the racist ICE system as any other president. The administration’s challenge of the Arizona law is a jurisdictional one that hopes to keep the racist immigration terror in the hands of ICE and not the states. The legal challenge also helps to paint Obama as the good guy while he tries to shove through the equally racist DREAM Act.

Capitalism Needs Immigration

Under capitalism money and those that control it are free to travel all over the world to find workers to exploit. Only the working class is bound within national borders and severely punished for moving to find work. Capitalists control national borders as a way to control the working class. Immigration laws are used to create the deadly racism that pits one worker against another.

In the U.S. the first effort to control the border on the part of the ruling class came in the form of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.[xxviii] A deliberate act of extreme racism, the law was less effective in stemming Chinese immigration than it was in breeding an atmosphere of hatred around Asian immigrant communities. This law created the conditions that allowed bosses to keep Asian workers in virtual slavery as railroad workers and miners on the west coast.

All over the world capitalists use racist immigration laws for the same purposes. In France the target is workers from Northern Africa, in Germany it is Turkish workers, in China it is workers from South East Asia. In all cases these laws are used to drive these populations further underground and make them easier to exploit. The end result is a divided working class and super-profits for the bosses as they use anti-immigrant racism to drive down all wages.

Capitalists punish immigrant workers, but it is capitalists who create the conditions that require workers to search the globe for work. What is called underdevelopment is not an original historical condition but a product of imperialism’s super exploitation.[xxix] It was European imperialism that destroyed the economies of Africa with over 200 years of theft. Yet now the European countries complain of the migration of African workers looking to escape mass poverty at home by going to Europe. 500 years of European and American imperialism in Latin America has created the enduring poverty that affects millions of workers there.

The mass immigration of Latin workers to the U.S. began 30 years ago as U.S. trained and funded death squads terrorized people in Central America and Colombia and U.S. sponsored neo-liberal economic policies destroyed local economies. The 1994 NAFTA agreement that the U.S. crafted instantly destroyed millions of Mexican farmers’ livelihoods by dumping heavily subsidized American corn into Mexican markets. The subsequent mass immigration was met with tightening immigration laws under Clinton and a marked increase in anti-immigrant racism.[xxx]

Obama’s DREAM Act is a Racist Nightmare for Workers

The Obama Administration has tried to use the controversy over the Arizona law to build support for its own Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The bill known as the DREAM Act allows for students between 12 and 35 at the time the law is enacted and who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and graduated from an American high school to apply for a temporary citizenship. This citizenship is granted for six years during which time the person must either acquire a college degree, be enrolled in a college pursuing a bachelor’s degree for at least two years in good standing, or have committed to at least two years of military service.

Immigrant students typically come from the poorest sections of the working class and with Pell Grants and other federal financial aid cut off for immigrant students and most scholarships requiring proof of citizenship the ability to attend a four year university where the average yearly cost is $14,000 (at state schools!) is an impossible dream.[xxxi] With college cut off as a legitimate option for most immigrant youth the military becomes the only realistic option. This of course is not unplanned. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) commented in 2007 to the Army Times, “Under the DREAM Act, tens of thousands of well-qualified potential recruits would become eligible for military service for the first time. They are eager to serve in the armed forces during a time of war.”[xxxii]

The targeting of Latin immigrants by military recruiters dates back to 2003 and the Bush Administration. At that time the Pentagon made a plan to boost the number of Latinos in the military from 10% to 22%.[xxxiii] Four years later the Defense Department helped craft the DREAM Act as a conscious bid to boost the military’s still sagging recruitment numbers. A 2009 study by the RAND operated National Defense Research Institute again emphasized the recruitment of Latin youth as the key to meeting recruitment goals.[xxxiv]

The DREAM Act has other problematic features as well. Anybody wishing to apply to receive possible benefits from the Act will have to voluntarily turn themselves in to authorities permanently marking them as subject to arrest and deportation.[xxxv] For high school age kids who are seeking temporary citizenship status to attend college this means exposing the immigration status of their parents and family and making them subject to arrest.

Perhaps the least known fact about the DREAM Act is the extremely small percentage of the immigrant population that will even be eligible for citizenship through it. Of an estimated population of 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. only 2.1 million (19%) would be eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act according to a study from the Migration Policy Institute. And of that 2.1 million the MPI estimates that only 825,000 would actually be able to achieve full legal status.[xxxvi] That amounts to only 7.4% of the total population of undocumented immigrants!

Anti-Immigrant Laws an Attack on All Workers

Racist terror has been the preferred weapon of choice for the U.S. ruling class in its struggle to keep workers divided and oppressed. Immigration laws are designed to terrorize not just immigrant workers but all workers of color who now have to fear being beaten or murdered by racist thugs or rounded up by the police. The racist intentions of the new anti-immigrant laws are barely concealed. A new law being discussed in Arizona would target so called “anchor babies” criminalizing children born to immigrant women.[xxxvii] This law has its precedent in the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws that criminalized human beings for the simple act of being born. Despite all of the “law and order” rhetoric the intention of these laws is clear as news agencies report that Latin workers are “fleeing Arizona” (the spear head of this racist terror campaign).[xxxviii]

These laws further institutionalize and intensify the fascist American police state, the most oppressive in the world with over 2.6 million prisoners. The intentions of the Obama Administration to carry out and further this organized terror were made clear when he made fascist former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (a staunch supporter of Hitlerite Joe Arpaio) the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Obama has cleverly used workers’ outrage at Arizona’s efforts to re-instate Apartheid to build support for his fascist DREAM Act; an act that is designed to force immigrants into the military to be cannon fodder for imperialist wars. The bosses’ hope that the DREAM Act will both build nationalism among immigrants while maintaining the capitalists’ carefully cultivated system of anti-immigrant racism. Obama’s actions make it clear that he wants both the DREAM Act and continued and intensifying police terror.

Workers have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in the U.S. to voice their opposition to this new Apartheid, but like Bush, Obama has shown that his allegiance lies with ruling class exploiters not workers. The truth is that racism is capitalism’s lifeline, its source of super profits and its primary weapon against the working class. Still American workers could learn from the international fight-back against anti-immigrant racism. In France a multi-racial, multi-national strike has lasted longer than eight months as workers demand citizenship rights and the end to threats of deportation.[xxxix] Migrant workers in China are leading strikes for higher wages and safer working conditions shutting down a Honda plant in Guandong and two Toyota plants in Tianjin.[xl] But these reforms will ultimately not solve workers’ problems, for workers to survive in dignity and not in fear we need an organized communist party and ultimately communist revolution!


[i] America’s Voice, “Obama Administration Immigration Deportations Exceed Bush’s Record,” 5/20/10; Stewart Lawrence, Counterpunch, “Obama Reneges on Key Agreement with Immigration Advocates,” 105/10.

[ii] America’s Voice.

[iii] Center for Immigration Studies, “Immigration Raids at Smithfield,” 7/09.

[iv] AP, “21 People Arrested During Immigration Raids at Area McDonalds,” 3/26/10.

[v] Washington Post, “Raids Throw Shadow Over Immigration Reform Rally,” 3/22/10.

[vi] Global Detention Project, “United States Detention Profile,” 3/09.

[vii] Amnesty International, “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA,” 3/09.

[viii] NPR, “Fresh Air,” 12/10/09.

[ix] NYT, “Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail,” 1/10/10.

[x] NYT, “Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail,” 1/10/10; NYT, “Documents Reveal Earlier Immigrant Deaths,” 1/10/10.

[xi] New America Media, “Pregnant and Shackled: Hard Labor for Arizona’s Immigrants,” 1/26/10.

[xii] ACLU, “U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing Deaths are a Humanitarian Crisis, According to Report from ACLU and CNDH,” 9/30/09.

[xiii] NYT, “Water Drops for Migrants: Kindness, or Offense?” 9/26/10; Phoenix New Times, “Blood’s Thicker Than Water: As Thousands Die in the Arizona Desert as a Result of U.S. Border Policy, an Army of Activists Intervenes,” 2/25/10; Seattle Times, “Ariz. Desert Crossing Lures Migrants, Despite Deadly Risks,” 9/2/10.

[xiv] CBS News, “National Guard Troops Deploying to U.S.-Mexico Border August 1st,” 7/19/10; Democracy Now, “Obama Signs $600M Bill to Increase Militarization of U.S.-Mexico Border,” 8/19/10.

[xv] AP, “Fence Alone Can’t Plug Porous Border,” 5/28/10.

[xvi] NPR, “All the Rage,” 4/1/10; SPLC, “’Patriot’ Groups, Militia Surge in Numbers in Past Year,” 3/2/10.

[xvii] The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, “Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009,” 6/09.

[xviii] NYT, “Guilty Verdict in the Killing of Long Island Man,” 4/19/10.

[xix] Racism Review, “Mexican Immigrants Target of Hate Crimes on Staten Island,” (updated) 8/5/10; NYT, “Attacks on Mexicans Leave Neighborhood in Turmoil,” 7/30/10; CHALLENGE, “Black and Latino Workers Unite to Defeat Bosses’ Racism,” 9/8/10.

[xx] Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Videotaped ‘Stomping’ Dominates Seattle Top Cop Selection,” 5/9/10.

[xxi] NBC San Diego, “Illegal Immigrant Shot with Taser Dies,” 6/1/10.

[xxii] MSNBC, “Mexico Slams Border Patrol Shooting of Teen,” 6/10/10.

[xxiii] SPLC, “Hate Group Lawyer Drafted Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law,” 4/28/10; PLP Pamphlet, “Racism, Intelligence, and the Working Class,” February, 1995.

[xxiv] SPLC.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] SPLC, “Neo-Nazi Official Patrolling Arizona Border Lauds Violence,” 7/29/10.

[xxvii] SPLC, “Hate Groups Donate to Arizona Law’s Defense,” 7/13/10.

[xxviii] See Andrew Gyory, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act.

[xxix] Confronting the myth of “underdevelopment” social critic Michael Parenti notes, “The lands of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have long produced great treasures of foods, minerals and other natural resources. That is why the Europeans went through all the trouble to steal and plunder them. One does not go to poor places for self-enrichment. The Third World is rich. Only its people are poor—and it is because of the pillage they have endured.” Michael Parenti, Against Empire, (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1995), p 7.

[xxx] See David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants; Mike Davis, Planet of Slums.

[xxxi] The Huffington Post, “The Average Cost of College: How Much Is It?”  8/25/10.

[xxxii] Army Times, “Bill Would Grant Citizenship for Service,” 7/16/07.

[xxxiii] The Independent (UK), “Pentagon Targets Latinos and Mexicans to Man the Front Lines in War on Terror,” 9/10/03.

[xxxiv] UCSD Professor Jorge Mariscal quoted in the documentary Yo Soy El Army; RAND National Defense Research Institute, “Military Enlistment of Hispanic Youth: Obstacles and Opportunities,” 2009.

[xxxv] CHALLENGE Supplement, “Racism – Capitalism’s Key Strategy to Maximize Profits and Divide Working Class Then and Now,” 6/23/10.

[xxxvi] Washington Post, “Number of Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Drops, Report Says,” 9/1/10; Migration Policy Institute, “DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries,” 7/10.

[xxxvii] Time Magazine, “Arizona’s Next Immigration Target: Children of Illegals,” 6/11/10.

[xxxviii] USA Today, “Hispanics Flee Arizona Ahead of Immigration Law,” 6/9/10.

[xxxix] Challenge, “End Nears for Undocumented Immigrants’ Anti-Racist Strike,” 7/7/10.

[xl] TV Asahi (Japan), “Labor Demands Rising in China After Honda Strike,” 6/15/10; Business Week, “Strike Hits Toyota’s China Production as Honda Workers Return,” 6/19/10.

Workers, Patients, Youth Unite to Fight: Racist Hospital Cuts — Murder the Nazi Way

CHICAGO, March 21 — Hospital workers on the picket line noticed an older man marching with them shaking his fist as they all yelled, “They say cut back, we say FIGHT BACK!” He was wearing a hospital gown under his coat. The dozens of hospital workers, community members and students protesting in front of Stroger Hospital of Cook County had attracted some patients, too. The protest was sparked by the plans of the County Board to close two of the three hospitals in Chicago’s public system, turning the patients out to fend for themselves.

PL’ers at the hospital, meeting with Coalition Against The Cuts in Healthcare (CATCH), had heard the most dramatic aspect of this particular cutback at a meeting weeks earlier. A nurse from Oak Forest Hospital, one of the hospitals about to be closed, described the plight of patients in the chronic ventilator unit, some of whom had been living there attached to breathing machines for many years. “They’re more like family than patients to me,” she explained. “We’ve been together for years.” These patients had been given a deadline of the end of the month to find themselves a nursing home to be transferred to. “This unit is closing,” they were told.

“I’ve known many patients from here who left for nursing homes,” said Michael Yanul, an Oak Forest ventilator patient with muscular dystrophy who tells his story on YouTube. “They all died. And that’s what frightens me.”

‘Administrative Euthanasia’

Hospital workers showed up at board meetings, calling the planned hospital closures murder and pointing out the racist nature of this attack on facilities serving mostly black and immigrant patients. One doctor pointed out the similarity of these deadly cuts to the way the Germans freed up hospital beds in preparation for World War II by gassing the chronic patients in public hospitals in a program they called “euthanasia.” The doctor suggested the label “administrative euthanasia” to describe the County’s cut-back plan.

The nurse from the CATCH meeting testified before the County Board Finance Committee and held up pictures of patients slated for eviction from the ventilator unit. “These people can’t be here to speak for themselves and so I told them I could tell their story here. Closing this unit is tantamount to murder!” When she finished speaking the hundreds of people in the jammed meeting room stood up and applauded. When she came to work the next day, she was sent home on “administrative leave” for “violating the patients’ confidentiality.”

Others who had heard this nurse at the CATCH meeting were furious and started circulating a petition defending her. They also went to support her at her disciplinary hearing, but her union, wishing to avoid “interference by radicals,” arranged with management to move the hearing 30 miles away to another venue at the last minute.

Solidarity Backs Nurse

Three other hospital workers came up with another way to show their solidarity. They went to Oak Forest Hospital during visiting hours and talked with staff and patients on the long-term vent unit. Both staff and patients wanted to help the nurse who was wrongly accused of “violating patient confidentiality.” The ventilator patients gladly agreed to sign consent forms to be photographed again for the purposes of getting their story out at an upcoming CATCH demonstration in front of Stroger Hospital. One man, David Moreno, paralyzed from the neck down, held the ballpoint pen in his teeth to make an “X” on the consent form.

The afternoon of the picket line, teachers brought along their high school students to learn first-hand about the nature of health care in Chicago. Once a hospital worker explained the story behind the huge faces (the patient photos had been made into 3-foot posters) he said, “They’re doing that?! Putting those people out, when they are on breathing machines? Give me that poster!” This youth had one of the strongest voices leading the chants. (Hear and see the demo at The demonstration involved a number of our friends and long-time CHALLENGE readers. One doctor who participated was later called into his boss’s office for questioning but once he showed the signed consent forms, the matter was dropped.

On March 21st the Illinois Health Facilities Board held their meeting to decide whether or not to grant a permit for the closing of Oak Forest Hospital of the Cook County Health System. Two busloads of hospital workers and community members sat and stood all around the large meeting room holding protest signs with pictures of the long-term patients. The protesters were silent at first but then, the same nurse (“They’re more like family”) stepped out and asked for permission to address the Board.

‘Are you going to kill these people?’

When she was denied, the number of voices protesting increased. “Are you just going to kill these people?” “How come you can find money to give the administrators raises but you can’t afford to care for patients?” The Chairman had to recess the meeting to restore order. In the end, the Facilities Board decided to deny Cook County permission to close Oak Forest Hospital, telling them to return in six months with a clear plan that would avoid harm to uninsured patients in Cook County. The protesters cheered.

We all know this is not the end, but it gives us time to organize a bigger fight-back for the next round. From the perspective of communists involved in this fight, it has energized our collective, activated some who have been passive and helped develop several less-experienced comrades. One friend, a health worker who has met with our PLP club, said, “What I like about you guys is that you actually do stuff.”

Recruiting new Party members in the struggle is our best strategy against the fascism that is taking shape in health care as it is throughout the U.S. in this run-up to the next World War. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but there are lots of workers out there who, like that nurse, will show their hidden leadership qualities as events unfold.

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How Capitalist Medicine Is Dangerous to Your Health: Three Case Histories

Good health care depends on how services are organized, facilities staffed and the attitudes of the people who provide care. “Serve the people” was the slogan of the Chinese Communists. In the first 25 years following the 1949 communist revolution, Chinese medical and public health workers brought about the most dramatic increase in life expectancy, and the steepest decline in death rates ever seen in any population in history. This stemmed from a revolution in attitudes and distribution of limited resources according to need, not because of high-tech hospitals.

In capitalist China, infant death rates among infants are rising again, now that free services have been eliminated. The following cases are from a major U.S. “public” hospital, but they could be from ANY major U.S. “public” hospital.

Case #1: Diabetes + Capitalism = Coma

A 60-year-old man was admitted with a new diagnosis of diabetes. His doctor prescribed insulin and a new diet. Ordinarily, the “Diabetic Teaching Team” (DTT) would then have seen him. The DTT is a group of nurses who go floor to floor, instructing new diabetics how to give themselves the proper dose of insulin, draw their own blood and check their own sugar level. The patient then understands how to manage the disease. But the administration eliminated the DTT two years ago, saying the floor nurses could perform this task. But the floor nurses were already overworked with other new responsibilities, all in the name of cost-cutting and “efficiency.”

After only 24 hours, the patient was sent home where he lived alone. He gave himself insulin as he thought he’d been instructed by the floor nurses. Two days later, his daughter broke into his apartment and found him unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital and into intensive care, diagnosed with dangerously low blood sugar from insulin overdose. He remained in a “persistent vegetative state” (coma) and was sent to a special hospital for long-term care.

Case #2: Staff Cuts Nearly Kill Baby

A young woman having her first baby did well in labor but had a hard time pushing the baby out. After about 2_ hours, her doctors called for a Cesarean Section, but there were no nurses because a reduced staff was busy handling trauma cases. She pushed for another two hours. When the baby was delivered, it was almost dead and had to be resuscitated. Only time will tell if there was permanent brain damage.

Case #3: Early Discharge Can Cause AIDS

A woman was admitted to the maternity unit for evaluation. An HIV test was requested. The special team handling HIV had more patients than it could handle. Her blood was drawn even though the counselors had not spoken to her. She went into labor and delivered her baby. The early discharge program sent her home before doctors discovered she was HIV-positive. She wasn’t notified until she had been home breast-feeding her baby for a week. The risk of her baby being infected with HIV, during delivery or through breast-feeding, and dying of AIDS is over three times what it would have been had the HIV result been known before delivery.

“Serve the People”

Honest self-criticism, anti-elitism and serving the working class are communist ideas. They reached a pinnacle in Chinese hospitals during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. These ideas inspired health care workers around the world.

As fascism develops in the U.S., we see the opposite. Mistakes are covered up. Decisions once made with collective input from nurses, therapists and interns, are now made in a dictatorial style by head doctors. Hospital budgets are cut to the bone and selfish attitudes are pushed.

We must fight hospital bosses who want to remove life-saving services from our patients. We must struggle against the insidious growth of anti-patient and anti-worker attitudes among health professionals. But none of those fights will lead anywhere unless they are connected to the overall fight for working class power. When the workers hold power, “Serve the People” will be the order of the day.

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Protest Bosses’ Back-Breaking Response to NY Blizzard

NEW YORK CITY, February — I work in a medical center in the New York City area. Two years ago the maintenance and cleaning workers, were given unsatisfactory evaluations. We organized three demonstrations in the entrances and protested at the human resources office, without the help of the union which disagreed with the struggle. Although it was a small struggle, we showed strength and unity. The bosses changed the evaluations to “satisfactory.”

When the Blizzard of 2010 hit in December, the workers who do outside maintenance worked day and night for three days straight to clean the snow. We had told the bosses that the snow removal machines needed to be fixed. When the storm came we had only a small snow plow that barely worked, and soon broke down completely. From then on the work had to be completed manually, which was a backbreaking and exhausting job. There were only five workers and they were overwhelmed removing all the snow from blocks of sidewalks, entrances, driveways, and parking lots.

The bosses blamed the workers for not having removed the snow before Monday morning’s work day began. The truth is that the only ones to blame were the bosses for not having the needed machinery and for the cuts in personnel (many have been fired and others have retired without being replaced).

After the snowstorm, all the workers had to take days off because they were sick, with pain in their arms and legs. The salt used to clean off the snow burned our hands since we weren’t given adequate gloves for this work. The little sleep we did get during those three days was taken sitting in hard-backed chairs. The bosses want robots that never tire and never complain.

This is no different from what happened to the sanitation workers in NYC. Mayor Bloomberg tried to blame them for the disastrously slow clean-up when in reality the only ones to blame were the bosses who have cut more than 400 sanitation workers.

When the vice-president from our section was complaining about the “inefficiency,” a worker with 20 years service said that if he wanted to blame someone he needed to blame the director of the department because he hadn´t done what was needed to bring in more workers and to fix the snow plows.

Because of this he was sent to human relations where he was obligated by the union and the bosses to sign an “agreement” where he promises not to show this kind of “disrespect” to the bosses, or his contract will be terminated. He will not be able to complain or speak up for a year because of what he said in front of the other workers which the boss called “insubordinate.”

This is how capitalists discipline workers, creating a climate of fear and putting us in a position of extreme submission. This is part of how fascism develops in the workplace. The sanctioning of this worker is an attack on all of us.

The bosses act as if this center is their own private plantation. They constantly violate the union contract. They do all of this with the help of the union hacks who are constantly telling us that workers are getting fired so it is best to be careful and stay quiet.

Though the bosses are only small-time administrators, they want us to believe the contrary. They carry out the cuts demanded by the major capitalists who want to place the economic crisis they created on the workers´ shoulders. They cry that they have no money, while spending trillions on their wars for world domination.

We workers must learn from our past struggles. We see how the cuts in personnel affect us. There are already rumors that there won´t be a contract settlement this year and therefore there won´t be a salary increase. We have to organize more protests because the problems in this department will surely get worse. We have to link up with those fighting against school closures and against threatened closings of 10 more hospitals in New York City (eight have closed in the city since 2007).

We must link up with struggles of workers around the country and the world. This will expand our outlook and give us enormous strength. The capitalist system is not able to solve the problems we workers have. The only solution is a communist revolution to create our own system, where workers’ needs, not bosses’ profits, are put first.

Only Communist Revolution, Not Obamacare, Can Insure Workers’ Health

Communism is the only way to provide the working class with true health care unimaginable under capitalism. Though there are limits to perfect health, a growing scientific understanding will give the working class the tools to find new approaches to prevention and treatment of disease.

Communists will use these tools, as well as mass mobilizations, to build a society that will keep people healthy over their lifespan. But we cannot do this without an armed revolution to destroy the profit-maximizing system capitalism, which distorts every aspect of our lives and undermines the use of scientific discovery.

Obama’s health care reform, far from bringing about broad improvements in health, is designed to cut health care costs to free up funds for imperialist wars and to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. Empire.

Health And Racist Health Care

The profit motive and competition inherent in capitalism require companies to overwork, underpay and lay off workers whenever it’s profitable. Black and Latino workers fare even worse in all the social determinants of health because of racism, which through mass racist unemployment excludes entire populations from receiving minimal healthcare.

Capitalist medical care can barely touch the damage done to workers by exploitation, pollution, poor nutrition, stresses of work and unemployment, continual war and most of all, racist and sexist oppression. Capitalist health care patches up a suffering working class providing capitalists workers just healthy enough to produce goods and services, and staff an army to guarantee U.S. capitalist interests globally.

Class struggle is the only way to gain significant reform, but without destroying the capitalist class these gains will be lost. Medicare was forced on the bosses by the movements of the 1960s, including the civil rights and women’s movements, and is now being sharply cut by the capitalists. Unionized workers won health care benefits, which are now under attack, for being, as the bosses say, “too generous.“

Fighting racism is critical to fighting for health care for the entire working class. Students, professionals and workers have to vigorously organize multiracial unity against racist cuts that close clinics and hospitals which serve the poor, such as St. Vincent’s in NYC.

Health Care Reform?

The Patient Prevention and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed this spring under Obama and was heavily supported by liberals. It demonstrates how the drive for profits sabotages the efforts of well-meaning reformers and misleads workers. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the ACA does not restructure health care in a major way since insurance companies will continue to collect premiums and control coverage for services.

Under the ACA:

  • Each state will set up an insurance exchange with a range of options and fees.
  • Undocumented workers are excluded.
  • Many workers who will still be paying large co-pays will lose access to many types of health care, as “comparative effectiveness
    research” will justify limited access to procedures and medications.
  • Promised gains in coverage for uninsured workers will be offset by cuts in Medicare.
  • Access to primary care for many will be limited since many more providers will be needed to guarantee timely appointments.
  • Specialists will refuse to see patients from plans with lower reimbursements — an example of rationing under ACA health reform.
  • Subsidies to help low-income workers will be too small to allow a worker’s budget to cover insurance so workers would then have to pay fines to the government for not having insurance.
  • With the goal of containing costs while nominally expanding coverage, the regulation of insurance companies’ service will be like the government oversight of Wall Street — next to nothing.

Insurance companies generate their profits by collecting premiums from the working class and providing as little health care as they can get away with. They deny payment for hospital days and keep the entire working class on hold to settle bills and get referrals. PLP organizers have heard thousands of such stories during the year building up to health care reform and still the insurance companies were handed the prize of another 30 million customers!

Class Struggle And Health

Healthy lifestyles will be possible as we build a society that provides all workers with the care they need, with no need to generate profits for hospitals, drug and insurance companies.

We have learned from past upheavals in society that class struggle can improve health. The Soviet Union made health care available to all, while attacking poverty and racism and saw rapid improvements in health outcomes. Chinese workers attacked major health issues and eradicated schistosomiasis, destroyed the narcotics trade and developed mass education with local “barefoot doctors” during their communist period. As capitalism returned to these countries, these improvements in workers’ lives are being reversed and health outcomes are deteriorating.

Many workers who were disappointed in Obama’s wars and Wall Street bailouts still believe in him because “he got us health care.” But during the health care reform debates of the last year, rhetoric about improving the quality of care and broadening access disappeared and cost control soared to the top. What we got is a program that the insurance companies love far more than the working class ever will.

In addition, health care reform is being used to mislead sections of the working class into attacking black and Latino workers who will be covered under the ACA.   The capitalists are building an increasingly strident racist movement — the current Tea Party’ers — that attacks immigrant workers.   The racists portray the ACA as taking away good benefits from deserving white workers, cutting well-earned Medicare benefits and giving benefits to the supposedly undeserving poor.  White workers need to stand with black and Latino workers to demand quality health care for all.

Workers have not won health care reform by electing Obama. We did not build a mass movement that forced concessions from the bosses — the bosses themselves reorganized the health system through the ACA to increase their profits!  It is time to give up illusions that any capitalist restructuring of society will help the working class, particularly during an economic crisis. We need not spend our energy on trying to tweak this health care reform or telling Obama how to “regulate” the insurance industry.  We must continue to build a mass, multiracial revolutionary movement to fight for better health care and to destroy the bosses’ system.

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