Category Archives: Historical

World War Due to Syria?

If there is one thing that the civil war in Syria has shown the world is that when the bosses have a disagreement, it is the workers who do the dying. For a quick rundown of who is fighting whom in Syria, click on this link.

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Hundreds of thousands of workers in Syria have been murdered by the bosses’ bombs, due to their rotten ideology, their sectarian divisions manufactured by their borders, and the millions of bullets that they have made billions in selling. PLP has pointed out that this civil war in Syria has been a proxy war between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and other Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) nations in order to loosen Russia’s natural gas grip over Europe, control the natural gas mega field in the Eastern Mediterranean, and block Iran’s influence in the area. The millions of refugees created by this imperialist adventure are now being used as a political lever by Turkey as Erdogan does his best Gollum impersonation over his precious neo-Ottoman empire expansion into Syria using hoards and hoards of Islamist, mostly Al Qaeda aligned, rebel groups. He is tired of his nation being the ottoman of Europe.

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Over 60% of Europe’s natural gas market is dominated by Russia, and the US is desperate to break this stranglehold that keeps them from absolute economic sanctions against Russia. This civil war is a classic example of category of dialectical imperialism known as appearance and essence. It appears to be, and is manipulated to look like by the bosses’ media, a civil war between a tin pot dictator and rebels trying to overthrow him, but it is really an imperialist proxy war between different major nations that is now spinning out of control.

 

Basically, the US supported Kurdish and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are now getting Russian Close Air Support (CAS) to fight the CIA vetted and armed moderate opposition that are also tactically aligned with both Al Qaeda and Turkey after the Assad Regime seized territory in northern Syria to cut off the supply lines that the CIA and Turkey were using to pump weapons and jihadis into the conflict. Turkey played a dangerous game and is now in the process of losing it. The worst moment in the history of France was when Germany formed out of the Germanic tribes that Europe had enjoyed using mercenaries in their militaries since the Roman Empire. When Germany rose, it was an existential threat to the social order where England and France’s military might vied to be the preeminent power in Northern Europe.

 

As Germany rose, it challenged the already divided world and its ambitions led to the conflagration that was supposed to be the Great War to end all wars, but is now just reduced to World War I. Turkey is now staring down that historical moment. An autonomous Kurdish zone, colloquially known as “Rojava”, has formed just south of Turkey’s border as the leftist People’s Protection Units (YPG), the group that is the heart of the SDF, whipped the snot out of the Daesh (Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL) fascists who were hoping to massacre them. Though there are progressive aspects of the YPG that PLP does support such as fighting against patriarchy, they are not Communist and will not be able to sustain a revolution that will transform social relationships through the transformation of the economic relationships. The YPG illustrates the contradiction that unless there is a proper political line fighting directly for Communism, they will eventually end up back in the pit of capitalist ideology and relationships. Just as the PLP did not unreservedly support the brave workers who fought imperialism in Vietnam, we will not uncritically support the YPG and their Rojava project. We will point out that their struggle is just as doomed to the quagmire of capitalism as Vietnam’s left-led struggle National Liberation.

 

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As Kurdish Rojava rises to their southern border, Turkey sees them as more of a threat than the Daesh’s genocidal death cult and has actually embedded their special forces in with the Jihadi groups now infiltrating into Northern Syria as they are just wantonly firing artillery into the Kurdish controlled areas as the Kurds are fighting the “moderate” CIA vetted rebels that have no problem wiping out whole villages of Shia and Al Awari that don’t worship their deity the way that they want to in the name of their Sunni sectarianism.

 

We are at a historical moment now where the imperialists can either take their losses and leave Syria to a Russian victory – a Russian victory that is going to allow them to take on the mantle of being the army that has defeated Jihadi forces in the Middle East, that has helped to shove a massive thorn into the side of Turkey, and that will allow for them to keep an expanding military presence in an area of the world that is strategically vital to the US’s empire. Turkey and SA have threatened to invade Syria to ostensibly fight Daesh, but this excuse will be a military excursion in order to keep Rojava from uniting across the entirety of Turkey’s border. The US has been arming and funding the YPG in their fight against the Daesh death cult, now Russia is providing CAS, and the regime’s forces are not engaging them as they have worked out some type of de facto non-aggression pact.

 

When the “Arab Spring” happened, PLP pointed out that none of the groups fighting against their own tin pot dictators had the correct political line of fighting directly for communism and that the struggle would be hijacked. Well, once again we were right as the struggle in Syria led to the rebels making tactical alliances with Islamicists that have now rendered any secular struggle within the Western-backed rebels impotent. Since the rebellion in Syria did not have the correct goals at the outset, it’s now fully apparent that they have betrayed the working class in Syria and now Turkey is trying to stave off the endgame of them being crushed. They have been complaining about being abandoned by their Western backers like the US, but they have also aligned themselves with groups like Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda in Syria.

 

The Western backed rebels aren’t the first group of rebels trying to overthrow a tyrant that became tyrants as they made opportunist errors based on their incorrect political line. They made a deal with the devil, and now they are paying the price as they have basically not only lost the rebellion, but, even more importantly for a rebellion, they have lost the support of the people. Masses of workers are now meeting their former tyrant’s forces that are aligned with that despot Putin in Russia as well as the oppressive fascists in Iran with massive celebrations in the street. They are full of joy at being liberated from the liberators by their former exploiters!

 

PLP will continue to maintain a principled left position and will not be opportunist. We recognize the historical moment that is now occurring within Syria. We see the balance of forces moving in the direction opposed to the dominant US Empire and allies. We know that the US needs to create a Sunni state to block Iran’s influence and to eject Russia’s growing military might out of the area.

 

Turkey wants to expand, and as it expands, since it is a member of NATO, US power is also expanded. The issue now occurring is that Turkey has now overplayed its hand. It is now firing artillery into SDF controlled Syria, has tens of thousands of troops along the Syrian border ready to invade, and does not want the US armed and backed SDF to wipe out the US armed and backed rebels and Daesh that now control its southern border. The US is caught as two of the sides that they have supported in Syria are now at war, so they may be able to pull out some kind of diplomatic victory, but Turkey has gone all in on toppling Assad’s regime. If Turkey is unable to topple Assad, that’s bad, but if they not only don’t topple Assad, but are then stuck with a Kurdish autonomous zone along their southern border while they continue to fight a war with the secessionist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in their south then it can be easy to foresee a time when Syria facilitates the Kurds in their armed struggle against Turkey.  This would be a catastrophe for Turkey and entail a major rollback of NATO, and by association, US power in the geostrategic region.

 

Turkey is now trying to get the US to say that the YPG is a terrorist organization just like the PKK is. It would not have been prudent, to say the least, if the US had admitted to arming, funding, and providing CAS to a terrorist organization, so they have officially said that the YPG are not a terrorist organization – much to the chagrin of their NATO ally. Turkey considers the revisionist YPG to be more of a danger than Daesh’s genocidal death cult!

 

It is historical moments like this where seemingly small wars can turn into massive world wars as imperialist rivals have the choice of either throwing in their hands and letting their rivals take all of the chips or doubling down and entering the fray themselves. Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and, most importantly, Russia have said that if Turkey or SA were to invade it would be a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and they would be going home in body bags. This is not an empty threat. Turkey shot down a Russian plane that was bombing its Islamist proxy forces in northern Syria, and Russia has not forgotten. It will, in all probability, attack any columns of troops entering into Syria. Turkey may not be able to invoke the NATO defensive pact since it would be an offensive operation. SA would use an army made up of many of its allies including Pakistan and Indonesia, who, ironically, have both said that they don’t want to invade, but may be obligated to due to signed defense pacts. If Russia were to vaporize the Turkish troops that invaded, this could be quite the spark.

 

The bosses are seeing the weakness the US has right now, a weakness where they don’t have the mass army that they need to confront their current world rivals, don’t have the patriotism necessary to induce their army to fight, and, most importantly, don’t have their own ruling class unity won to the necessary economic sacrifices necessary for such a massive war.

 

Aspirant warmongers like Bernie Sanders would prove to be quite the boon to the US ruling class as he already is saying that he wants the rich to pay more taxes. He or Hillary would be just what the dominant liberal wing of the US ruling class needs to convince its working class to wage a really big war. So, whichever Repubulocrat or Demopublican, Trump or Sanders, that wins the US presidential election will have to carry out the needs of a US empire in decline. PLP knows that imperialist bloodbaths have lead to Communist revolution in the past and knows that, as we continue to build in over 25 countries on 5 continents, we have a world to win and nothing to lose but our chains. The bosses will attempt to destroy this world, but workers built it, run it, and can build it again even better. We know that this capitalist system will not last forever. The bosses can keep conspiring again and again, but only a Communist revolution led by PLP can end these wars once and for all.

 

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MAY DAY!!! Fight For Communism!

May Day’s Communist Roots Belie Rulers’ Reform Sham

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 11:56AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trillions for War, Zero for Schools

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

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

Useless Tests A Bosses’ Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graduating to Communism

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

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

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Obama Rescues Bosses’ Profits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International PLP Advances

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

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

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

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

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

Arab Spring and Wall Street Occupy Working Class’s Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Day

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

Turning Fascist Oppression into Communist Organizing

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

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

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‘Captain America:’ Making the World Safe for Fascism

“I don’t like bullies.” This is the reply of Steve Rogers (the soon-to-be Captain America) when asked why he was trying so hard to join the military and fight in World War II. This simple platitude, repeated throughout the film, serves to distort the political analysis of an entire generation of the world’s working class. For millions of workers, the fight against fascism was not just a question of battling “bullies” like Hitler and Mussolini. The world’s working class fought the Nazis because it saw both the danger of fascism and the promise for workers that the Soviet Union embodied.

In many ways, the distortion of political motivations in Captain America is just as bad as the racism of films like “300” and “Transformers 2” because it obscures the history of our class and its ability to understand and evaluate complex political situations. Captain America fights with a multi-racial, multi-national squad of soldiers, including a Japanese-American and black soldier (the film fails to address the U.S. Army’s racist policy of segregation during WWII). Where is the story of their understanding of racism, capitalism or imperialist war?

Japanese in the U.S. often went to war under duress, as the only escape from the internment camps and as a way to try to prove that they deserved citizenship. Black soldiers went into war fighting for the Double-V: Victory against fascism abroad and victory against racism at home. This demand came out of the political struggles for civil rights that began in the labor struggles of the early 20th century. The denial of these rights after the war would reignite the struggle when soldiers returned home. In the years leading up to the war, thousands of workers from around the world voluntarily risked their lives to battle the fascists in Franco’s Spain.

Captain America’s distortion of the past reveals many important details about the ruling-class politics of the present. Along with changing the character of working-class resistance against fascism, the film embraces characteristics of fascism that the U.S. ruling class admires.

Capitalism’s fetishism of technology is revealed in both the creation of Captain America and in the military weaponry of the Nazis. Steve Rogers is turned into the hero through a special serum and machine. Using a mystical energy source, the villain creates a weapon that instantly dissolves its targets. The obsession with technology seen in capitalist society reflects a political reality: Vastly outnumbered by the working class, capitalists constantly promote technology as the power to maintain their class rule while pushing workers further to the margins. Inventions like the atom bomb were meant to take workers, who are considered unreliable by capitalists, out of the equation when it came to imperialist war. Yet their technology is no match for a united working class, a lesson the U.S. bosses learned well from their war in Vietnam.

The embrace of the Nazi eugenics program stands at the center of the film, bolstering U.S. racism. After reducing workers’ hatred of fascism to a “dislike of bullies,” the film then proposes a “novel” solution: take a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white man and genetically alter him, turning him into a super soldier to fight the Nazis. They declare a plan to build a whole army of these “supermen,” a “master race” if you will. They take Hitler’s dream and turn it into a celluloid reality. The film exposes the U.S. ruling class’s long obsession with racism and theories of genetic racial superiority (for more on this history see Edwin Black’s “War Against the Weak”).

Ultimately the film embraces the worst realities and myths of Nazism and it wants the viewer to embrace them as well. It distorts the mass worker movement against fascism that eventually crushed the Nazis because the ruling class would prefer that history did not repeat itself. Captain America sells workers (with their children as the target audience) Nazi-esque open fascism by draping it in red, white, and blue and hiding behind the façade of “innocent” comic-book fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milt Meets Stalin

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

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

In and Out of the CPUSA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hazard, Kentucky Miners

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

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

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

The Struggle Against Revisionism

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

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

PLM and the Anti-War Movement

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

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

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

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

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

CHALLENGE-DESAFIO

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

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

Fighting Racism

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

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

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

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

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

From Movement to Party

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

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

Work in Mass Organizations

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

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

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

Turning the Tables on HUAC

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

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

“Build a Base in the Working Class”

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

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

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

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

Road to Revolution IV

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

Great Revolutionary Leadership

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

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

‘No Chairperson for Life’

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

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

A Communist Forever

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

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

More than anything, he taught us never to give up

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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.

Imperialism Program for Africa: Billions in Profits, Pennies for AIDS

PART II

(Conclusion. In our post the source of AIDS was traced to the holocaust-like poverty heaped on Africans through colonialism, forced labor and slavery, creating starvation conditions which impelled these super-oppressed people to kill apes for food, apes which–it later turned out–carried the AIDS virus.)

Starting in the 1960’s, African societies changed from colonialism to rule by indigenous nationalist or fascist rulers allied with imperialism. For example, the Belgian Congo became Zaire. Patrice Lumumba was assassinated by the CIA. They installed Mobuto, a worthy successor to King Leopold in greed and bloodthirstiness. South Africa and Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) remained under fascist apartheid throughout this period. Armies of male migrant workers left the countryside for the newly-crowded cities, while their wives remained behind in remote rural areas. Prostitution became a major growth industry, some European companies even setting up whorehouses near their factories for their workers. A seemingly endless series of nationalist and inter-imperialist wars sent millions of soldiers and refugees all over central Africa.

Enslaved by the global market economy, conditions created by colonialism continued and worsened in “post-colonial” African societies. HIV spread like wildfire through populations ravaged by poverty, war, famine and disease. HIV spread to Europe and the U.S., and then to Haiti and Thailand, primarily through sex tourism, often child prostitution. Prostitution and dirty needles spread it to Latin America, India and Eastern Europe, centers of new epidemics. The IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) stranglehold on poor countries caused massive unemployment, promoted prostitution, imposed cutbacks in health care and education and made life-saving drugs unaffordable.

Sexism kills, just as surely as–and combined with–racism. In Africa, traditional oppression of women has meshed with new, profit-driven forms of oppression. In southern Africa, married women often don’t dare ask their husbands to wear condoms, and are pressured by relatives to stay unprotected for maximum fertility. Husbands are expected to have many sex partners while their wives are expected to be monogamous.

Some day the HIV pandemic will be known as one of imperialism’s worst crimes. Rulers in both Africa and the U.S. claim that the situation is hopeless, and that millions are doomed. Yet the money it would take to provide effective prevention and therapy now ($100 billion yearly) is only a small fraction of what imperialists spent on wars against Iraq and Vietnam. It is an even smaller fraction of the profits they’ve made from African rubber, diamonds, gold, copper, oil and slave labor. In a few countries (like Uganda and Thailand) even simple prevention campaigns have had a big impact. So building a larger movement now, that refuses to accept rules protecting the bosses’ profits, can save many more lives. Mass production and distribution of pirated anti-AIDS drugs, in collaboration with medical workers in Africa, can prevent transmission and provide treatment for millions.

A larger movement must also lead a sharp and prolonged struggle against sexism in order to transform relationships between men, women and children, ending prostitution and sex slavery. It must fight to end the super-exploitation of migrant labor. These goals can only be achieved through the revolutionary destruction of capitalism. The experience of once socialist China in eradicating prostitution, syphilis and drug addiction (which have all returned in now capitalist China) shows that revolutionary communism can, even in poor societies, solve massive public health problems.

Sources: Hahn, B.H. et al. (2000); Korber et al. (2000); Science 287: 607 Chitnis et al. (2000), AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses 16: 5-8; Gao et al. (1999) Nature 397: 436-441; Hooper, E.M. (1999) The River; Schoofs (2000) “The Agony of Africa” (at http://www.villagevoice.com/specials/africa) ScientificAmerican, January 2000; New York Times, 6/28/00 and 7/9/00. Recommended background: A. Hochschild King Leopold’s Ghost; W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; B. Davidson, “The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State”

 

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King Leopold’s Legacy: Imperialism and the Origin of AIDS

“I can choose to die of starvation now, or of AIDS later”—Prostitute in Harare, Zimbabwe

A continuing holocaust of mind-numbing dimensions. Fifteen million have already died. Thirty-four million are HIV-infected, including 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS will kill 67% of today’s teenagers in some African countries. Women are twice as likely as men to become infected. Thirty million African orphans are predicted by 2010, life expectancies dropping from 70 years to 30 in some countries. If neutron bombs were dropped on the dozen biggest cities of Africa, the damage could not be worse. International response to this crisis has been obscene. Bosses and politicians fight over drug prices and profits, while they spend much more on Viagra and baldness remedies ($333 million QUARTERLY earnings, according to Pfizer), than on all international HIV programs in sub-Saharan Africa ($600 million YEARLY of international aid for HIV/AIDS).

Though many see the AIDS pandemic either as a “natural” disaster or as a biological warfare conspiracy, it is actually rooted in the devastation imperialism has inflicted on African societies. This first of a series of articles on the political economy of AIDS will discuss where the HIV virus and the AIDS pandemic in Africa came from.

Scientists have recently learned much about the origin of HIV. Like influenza and rabies, AIDS is a disease transmitted from animals to humans. The closest relatives of HIV are SIVs, viruses carried by apes and monkeys. HIV-1 most resembles a chimpanzee SIV, found in rain forests of coastal West Africa. HIV-2, a milder West African virus, is nearly identical to a monkey SIV. These viruses have lived in their natural hosts for millions of years and don’t make them sick. Among scientists, the currently favored idea of how the viruses jumped into humans is that people hunted chimps and monkeys for meat, and cut themselves while butchering.

HIV is relatively new to humans. The earliest verified HIV case was in 1959, in Kinshasa, Congo; African blood samples from earlier times are free of the virus. HIV exploded in Africa during the early 1970’s, just before it spread to the U.S. and Europe. Very early cases were found near the borders of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. From there it quickly spread to Zambia and Tanzania. Before the 1970’s, AIDS was as unknown in Africa as in the U.S.

HIV evolves rapidly. Its gene sequences accumulate mutations in a steady, clock-like manner. The more differences, the more time has passed since viruses had a common ancestor. By comparing the genes of currently circulating viruses, it is possible to make an informed guess as to when the common M type of HIV-1, the one responsible for the worldwide pandemic, began. The best guess is in the 1930’s.

HIVs not only jumped from animals to humans recently; they also did so OFTEN, at least four times. This is inferred from the fact that some HIV strains are genetically more similar to SIVs than to each other. So it seems that HIV is relatively easy to catch from animals, and that no special mutations are needed to make it virulent in humans. In fact, a lab worker recently developed AIDS from a monkey SIV after an accidental needle stick.

So, if the virus jumps easily to humans, why did the pandemic not start until the late 20th century? What changed that made repeated transfer to humans more likely and explosive growth a certainty?

Until the late 19th century, most Africans farmed and lived in rural villages. Then feverish land grabs among imperialists—seeking rubber, gold, ivory and diamonds—created the largest forced labor system since African-American slavery. For example, King Leopold II of Belgium seized the Congo and ruled it for years as his personal rubber plantation. Fifteen million Congolese died in this genocidal holocaust. Forced labor was the rule in colonial Africa. Copper mines in Katanga (Congo) rounded up miners from Zambia, Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique. Colonial armies drafted millions of Africans during both world wars. During the 1930’s, the French built a railroad through coastal West Africa, drafting hundreds of thousands of African laborers from distant locations and marching them through the rain forest under appalling conditions of near-starvation. According to one theory, it is here that Africans first were exposed to SIVs, as workers made desperate by starvation had to hunt apes as food.

Another theory places the origin of AIDS in the Belgian Congo and neighboring countries. In his thoughtful book, The River, Edward Hooper argues that HIV spread to humans through racist trials of polio vaccines. During the late 1950’s, Hilary Koprowski of Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute gave an experimental oral vaccine to over 300,000 Africans, using them as guinea pigs. Hooper suggests that Koprowski may have grown vaccine poliovirus in chimp cells contaminated with the SIV ancestor of HIV. Hooper’s ideas lack solid evidence, but they are being taken seriously enough to prompt testing of remnant vaccine stocks.

Whichever theory turns out to be true, it is clear that the crossover of the virus was a result of conditions created by colonialism. But what caused HIV’s later explosive growth? (Continued tomorrow)

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UNDER COMMUNISM: How Will Children Be Raised?

Most children are part of the working class, the class that will control society under communism. To the capitalists, working-class children are just the future means to their (the capitalists’) profits. Working-class parents, on the other hand, care about what’s good for their children. But there is little discussion or writing about how to raise children for their own good. Parents are not taught how to nurture their children, and are even persuaded to feel that it’s nobody’s business how they raise them. But a collective approach is always the method most likely to achieve the outcome we want.

Under communism, children probably will spend most of the day in a collective situation, under the supervision of many caring adults. They’ll learn cooperation from an early age, and competition will be discouraged. (As a past example, Soviet children were given blocks that were too large for one child to move around, requiring others to help.) Students will not be ranked, and there will be no such thing as failure in any school subject. This will encourage classmates to help each other to learn, rather than trying to outdo each other.

Some classic theories, even under capitalism, resemble communist principles. For example, Stephen Glenn in his book “Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World” says that children need to develop (1) perceptions of their capabilities, (2) the feelings of contributing meaningfully, (3) the ability to work well with others, (4) the knowledge of limits and consequences, and (5) the use of strong judgment skills. Glenn emphasizes awareness of children’s own power or influence over life. He apparently doesn’t realize that only under communism will working-class children have the ability to influence society.

Alfred Adler (the 19th-20th century Austrian psychiatrist) taught that (1) children are social beings and behave as they see themselves in relation to others, (2) behavior is goal-oriented, toward belonging and feeling significant, (3) maladjusted behavior stems from discouragement, (4) children and adults need to contribute to society, based on concern for others, and (5) children and adults both require dignity and respect. But youth have a vague understanding that a profit-based system is interested only in sorting them for different forms of exploitation, through forcing them to compete with each other and then ranking them.

To prepare them, capitalist schools train children to take tests rather than to think creatively. As a result, many drop out or rebel. Then dealing with rebellion becomes a primary task of teachers and parents.

Under communism, the basis of education will be vastly different. Whereas children’s books today emphasize fantasy, under communism they will teach real working-class history and how to run society for the benefit of the class. Whereas today books are racist and sexist, under communism they will teach why the capitalists needed these divisive horrors and how the working class overcame them once it seized political power.

Under capitalism, even young children feel the stress of inability to achieve a fulfilling life through competition. Under communism, fulfillment will come from contributing to everyone’s welfare. Is it any wonder our children exhibit anger, self-destructive behavior and depression? And then they’re drugged for invented psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which mainly results from the contradictions between what they learn in school and what they learn from their own, and their parents’ real lives.

In a communist society we will experience some of the same joys and problems we face today in raising our youth. But families will not be left to fend for themselves. While children may develop various abilities, these will enable them to contribute in various ways. Working-class children worldwide will become more than capable of running the future communist society.

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