Category Archives: Labor

Capitalism Murders a Worker in Greece Through Suicide

An old worker. A pharmacist who healed by providing medicine to the sick.  Desperate. 77 years old and just had his pension cut. Greece, under assault by the capitalist class.  The angry man goes to the crowded square in front of Parliament, pulls out a gun, screams, “I have debts; I can’t stand this anymore”, blows his brains out, and a note saying that he refused forage in rubbish heaps for survival is found on his corpse.   His death struck a chord in the hearts of the Greek working class. Hundreds gathered and set up a shrine with notes condemning the government and its actions. The crowd that formed was angrily chanting, “this wasn’t suicide, it was murder by the state.”

The crowd was right. The state is the organized force of society and wielded in the interest of the ruling class in order to preserve its rule over the servile classes. It is the concentration of power and authority massed against the class that produces all so that the parasitical class that steals can continue to gorge itself.

A young vegetable seller was the spark of the Arab spring in Tunisia last year. This man’s death, like the young man in Tunisia’s, didn’t have to happen, but capitalism needs more profit.  His note pointed out that the government had “annihilated any hope for my survival and I could not get any justice.  I cannot find any other form of struggle except a dignified end before I have to start scrounging for food from the rubbish.”  If only there were a mass Communist struggle for this man to have joined so that he could have pointed his gun at the real enemies.  When workers commit suicide because there is no work and they don’t know how they’re going to eat, it is more apparent than ever that a Communist revolution is needed.

Workers have already begun battling with the police, the dogs of the bourgeoisie.  Politicians are already shedding tears about this tragic event.  Their tears don’t mean anything.  It would be sweet irony if Greece, the birthplace of Western society became the birthplace of the new.  For that to happen, our friends in Greece need to use this upswing in class struggle and violence to build the PLP.

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

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

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

Trillions for War, Zero for Schools

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

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

Useless Tests A Bosses’ Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graduating to Communism

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

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

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Obama Rescues Bosses’ Profits

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

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

www.plp.org

INTER-IMPERIALIST RIVALRY

ROGRESSIVE LABOR PARTY VIEWPOINT

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

Capitalism

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

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

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

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

Communist Revolution: Resolve the Contradiction

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

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

Imperialist Bosses Fight among Themselves

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

Inter-Imperialist Rivalry Means World War

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

The World of Imperialism—and How to Change It

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

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

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

http://www.plp.org

PO Box 808, Brooklyn, NY 11202

718.630.9440.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International PLP Advances

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

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

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

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

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

Arab Spring and Wall Street Occupy Working Class’s Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Day

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

Turning Fascist Oppression into Communist Organizing

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

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

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Bosses Aim to Pacify Occupy Wall Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting Wall Street is Good Capitalism Must Be Destroyed

NEW YORK CITY, October 2 — Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has spread to more than 20 U.S. cities, from Philadelphia and Dallas to Seattle and Los Angeles. It adds a significant marker to the growing list of places where the working class is fighting back against the horrors of capitalism. In an era commonly defined by the lack of militant class struggle, recent events in the U.S., Greece, Egypt, Spain, England, Syria, Israel/Palestine and Pakistan are to be celebrated.

But as we celebrate we should be clear: The ideas behind these struggles are overwhelmingly reformist. Most of the participants are fighting to maintain capitalism in one form or another, with disastrous results for the workers in these places.  Without communist ideas in the lead, the battles, won or lost, will pave the road back to capitalist oppression.

The ruling class continues to provide opportunities for us to bring communist ideas to the forefront. In New York, the ruling class pulled back the mask of “democracy” yesterday when more than 700 OWS protestors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. After having been lured onto the bridge by the cops, the protestors were surrounded with netting and taken away on city buses, over the protests of union drivers.

More than two weeks in, OWS has survived nearly a thousand arrests. It has captured the imagination of both workers and students. Watching more than a hundred transit workers march into Zuccotti Park near Wall Street was inspiring.

Police Action Backfires

The NYPD has been trapping and arresting hundreds at a time in order to identify as many dissenters as they can. The KKKops meant to intimidate the protestors, but the police action may have backfired. Most of the youth seem even angrier and more committed to build their movement. Today, protesters were back at Zuccotti Park in full force.

There are many good things about the ongoing OWS struggle. It includes a growing number of young people, workers (employed and unemployed) and students. For many, this is their first taste of fighting back. They show some understanding of why the ruling class needs racism, sexism and wars for oil. Many of these protesters will be faced with a future draft and a decision either to fight in these wars or to resist them. Some are discussing the role of imperialism. The most prevalent chant is “We are the 99%,” making clear the opposition between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of us.

But there are a number of critical weaknesses that reflect OWS’s lack of communist leadership. The movement lacks black and Latino participation. Amid the push for “fairness,” many fail to understand that capitalism cannot possibly be fair. Inequality is essential to the bosses’ system.

Racism Fundamental to Capitalism

The rule of the capitalist class rests firmly on a foundation of racism. All around the world, the bosses make super-profits from the exploitation of sections of the working class, usually defined by race, ethnicity or religion. In the U.S. this primarily means black and Latino workers. The bosses also rely on racism to divide workers and weaken class struggle. Although the OWS movement claims to be a revolution, it has yet to enlist the most oppressed and exploited sections of the working class. Party members have been raising these and other communist ideas at the OWS protests.

There is a long way to go. A recently released statement from the protest organizers says nothing about capitalism or imperialism. The document urges workers to exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone. This is not a political strategy to end the suffering of the worldís working class.

PLP’ers and friends must inject communist ideas into OWS and explain how the police serve the rulers under capitalism. We must show the absolute need to fight to destroy the profit system and to produce for workers’ needs, instead. In the heat of struggle, these ideas will move us one day closer to revolution.

THE WORKING CLASS HAS A WORLD TO WIN!

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‘Our Union’s in bed with the Bosses…’ Brookdale Rank-and-File Must Unite and Lead the Struggle

BROOKLYN, N.Y., July 29 — “So what they’re talking about doing here is building a whole working-class movement, beyond our union,” stated one Brookdale worker to another at a home visit by PLP members. Despite torrential rain, we met to discuss the ongoing struggle at Brookdale Hospital, which foreshadows the even bigger racist cuts coming from the Obama-Tea Party circus, such as the $655 billion federal cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Brookdale Hospital and its 3,500 workers, in the majority black and Latino working-class Brownsville neighborhood have been stripped bare by the racist bosses of MediSys. The misleadership of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU  — see previous CHALLENGE, 8/3).

Workers expressed their disappointment that the fight hasn’t escalated further, regardless of the militant sit-downs and picketing. “When we go outside now to march, we tell everybody in our department, ‘hey! You all should take your lunch break and come march with us!’“

After the previous months of struggle and confrontation between the workers and bosses, these workers didn’t hide their frustration with the declining militancy, and exasperation at how the hospital bosses are getting away scot-free. “We were telling the union for months what was going on here.” Another worker declared, “but they kept telling us to wait until the legal people did something.” The 1199 leaders are out for their own interests; it’s time to call upon new leadership, ourselves.

The MediSys-owned Peninsula Hospital, located in the borough of Queens, announced last week it is closing. This news was received with surprise and anxiety at Brookdale. The union Local 1199 leadership, is not only uninterested in fighting back at Brookdale, but uninterested in fighting back at all! Peninsula Hospital is closing due to the same series of attacks MediSys has made on Brookdale. Union leadership does not have the workers’ interests; as workers we need to unite and fight for our class interests.

A PL’er asked, “Why didn’t the union, which was aware of Peninsula’s troubles for months, organize any solidarity events between Brookdale, Peninsula, and every union member in the city with it’s 250,000 members?”

“Because our union’s in bed with the bosses!” shot back a worker.

PLP isn’t building some union or electoral party, but a fighting, revolutionary communist working-class party.

CHALLENGE, unlike all other media, is the working class’s paper and shows capitalism as the root cause of our current problems. Brookdale workers are learning that PLP is with them shoulder-to-shoulder. A major aspect of our struggle with the Brookdale workers has been trying to keep a long-term outlook. Strike or no strike, “win” or “lose” this round, the bosses’ racist class war rages on against the working class; the struggle continues.

Distribution of CHALLENGE to Brookdale workers, struggling with the workers over the ideas in the paper, making new friends, and uniting our lives through our struggles are the orders of the day. Communist revolution is necessary, and can happen as growing CHALLENGE networks make PLP’s ideas mass ideas.

PLP Summer Project Backs: Strikers with ‘Mops and Stethoscopes’ Fighting U.S./Haitian Bosses

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 21 — “Haiti has a hardscrabble beauty,” an art historian said about its eroding slopes, its city streets turned into a huge informal market, its people always on the move in the daily scramble for food. However, Haiti, at the bottom rung of racist capitalism, has the beauty of workers struggling with their backs against the wall.

Workers at the University Hospital (HUEH) led off a strike with a demonstration at the Ministry of Health, for unpaid wages, decent health services for patients and working conditions for workers. Our PLP Summer Project medical clinic team spotted the demonstration and learned more from the local nurses working with us. The strikers are in the Syndicat des Travailleurs de Santé (STS — Health Workers’ Union), an industrial union whose logo combines a stethoscope with a mop.

Today we brought 50 students from our Project’s freedom school, and health workers and translators from our medical clinic to the sweltering STS union hall. We were given some of the few seats, fans were brought up, and they looked at us expectantly.

Charles, the head of their negotiating committee, explained the problems at HUEH, whose administrator lives in Canada and, with his cronies, gets paid in U.S. dollars. They have, in essence, destroyed the hospital.

Since the earthquake, labs, medicines, even food for the patients are missing or are allowed to deteriorate. Workers must find food for the patients themselves. The bosses allow patients to pile in without the means of caring for them. And workers being paid? Maybe.

As Charles said, these terrible services for patients occur alongside terrible working conditions for their caretakers, plus the stress of being unable to provide needed care.

The STS president Milot, a doctor, wrung his hands as he described the pain workers felt, prevented by the bosses’ system from using their strength, skills and creativity to treat other workers who need them so badly. He and Charles thanked us for our solidarity across the seas, his hands clutching the precious handful of $20 bills we donated to the fund.

Someone started a chant in English, “Same Enemy, Same Fight! Workers of the World Unite!” Our STS hosts took it up as best they could. Some of us lost our voices there today.

A Physician’s Assistant from the Bronx described his public hospital’s conditions as failing to improve over his 30 years of service, actually declining steadily over the last five years. A Dominican teacher, also from the Bronx, called for unity of workers on both sides of the bosses’ colonial border dividing Haiti from the Dominican Republic. A student from Mexico working here in our clinic added greetings from workers in Mexico.

We did the best we could with English and Spanish translated into French so a friend from Haiti could put it all into Kreyòl. We said we’d start a campaign of letters of support from the U.S. and elsewhere, and picket the Haitian consulate. It was, well, beautiful — and then we bumped our way home over the hardscrabble streets.

What is beauty? This recalls the common question among PLP’ers: “What is winning?” Workers’ struggle in and of itself is, as the Irish poet Yeats wrote, “a terrible beauty,” and nothing is uglier than the blank, depressed defeat of the dark night of the soul. But all reform struggle fades, slowly if it wins, and with a sad and terrible speed if it loses.

What our class needs in Haiti is a communist revolution. It cannot come a moment too soon, clearly seen as you watch a hungry child devour the bananes braisées from our Sunday picnic on a public beach as if they were sacred.

The revolutionary beauty our class needs must come from the strikers with mops and stethoscopes and from the anger of hungry children. It must come from their worldwide communist party. The truth of PLP’s ideas and the strength of its international organizing are the only adequate response to the racist crime that is Haiti today.

Send letters of strike support to Syndicat des Travailleurs de Santé, Siège Social HUEH, Rue Monseigneur Guilloux, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

‘Don’t Buy Scab Food!’ California PL Mobilizes to Back Store Workers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, July 27 — In preparation for a probable strike of the 62,000 Southern California grocery workers, approximately 300 mostly black, Latino and women grocery workers and supporters, rallied and marched this week. The two paths open to workers were on display: On the one hand, the NAACP and the workers’ union, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) push strategies of compromise and concession, proven to lead to wage-cuts and attacks on pensions. PLP, on the other hand, was there with the message that this and other strikes are training grounds, where workers learn that united, we can smash capitalism and its racist exploitation.

Due to capitalist competition, Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Von’s and other chains must continually strive to maximize their profits. The result is a race to the bottom for workers as their wages and benefits are attacked. Now, after suffering through UCFW-approved wage and pension give-backs, the workers are being asked to pick up an additional $7,000 a year in health care costs! For many of these workers this cut would be a third of their annual income. Meanwhile these three stores raked in $5 billion in profits last year!

In this period of economic crisis, expanding imperialist wars and racist unemployment a potential strike of over 60,000 workers is an opportunity for our Party to join the class-struggle, mobilize our friends on the job, campus and in our mass organizations to expose the inherent exploitation of capitalism and the bankrupt tactics of the sellout unions and build the revolutionary communist PLP.

Leading up to the march, about 30 members of a local church gathered at a nearby store where they demonstrated and then marched inside, handing out letters of support to the workers. This was after Party members pushed for a resolution  at a national convention of the Universalist Church (see page 5) to support the strike nationally, pledging to hold demonstrations and walk the picket lines. A contingent of PLP members and friends from the church joined the rally and march wearing stickers “Don’t Buy Scab Food,” which was a hit for many workers.

Several angry workers gave speeches at the rally, including one young black woman worker who boldly condemned the bosses’ attacks and called on the unity of ALL workers. However, under union “leadership” these workers can’t win. These hacks even have the gall to put on their website that they have selected grocery stores where they have weekly pickets and informational leafleting with the aim to apparently win over community support. However, on three separate occasions members and friends have gone to these locations to find no picket lines or anyone handing out information.

On the one hand, it shows the lack of seriousness by the union but on the other hand it gives us the opportunity to expose the essence of union leadership as the bosses’ lackeys. With the union missing, we can pass out our literature, mobilize our base and mass organizations and take on more leadership. We have made modest efforts thus far but can do much better. We must improve our distribution of CHALLENGE and connect the struggles from workers fighting back here to workers fighting back all over the world. This will contribute to the growth of the PLP and the eventual victory of the working class.

The Bosses’ Profits Have No Ceiling

The recent drama over the federal debt limit, with politicians in gridlock amid scare stories that the U.S. government might default on its bills, marks a significant move toward fascism by an embattled capitalist ruling class.

A default was averted when Democrats and Republicans agreed to at least $2.1 trillion spending cut over the next decade to counter a hike in the debt “ceiling,” the legal cap set by Congress on government borrowing. But the rulers’ internal crisis remains. The debt ceiling battle reveals their two essential needs in the current period:

To wring extreme profits from the working class with cuts in critical social services in a period of perpetual and massive racist unemployment.

To discipline their own ranks to help fund imperialist wars abroad and repair a crumbling infrastructure at home.

These imperatives are the hallmarks of fascism, the phase of capitalism that forces the ruling class to discard its mask of liberal democracy. President Obama recently took the lead on both fronts with his “Grand Bargain.” This ploy for “shared sacrifice” called for a devastating $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years, alongside just $1 trillion in tax increases for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

The Republicans’ “no-new-taxes” (on the rich) pledge, pushed hardest by the elements coalescing around the Tea Party, gives Obama cover to maintain his liberal credentials even as he ruthlessly targets the most vulnerable workers: the old, the sick, the poor. And as the first black president, he is the bosses’ perfect tool to impose racist cutbacks that fall most heavily on black and Latino workers, the same people who were hardest hit by the latest economic crisis (see box on page 5).

Capitalists Divided

Liberal analysts misrepresented Washington’s debt standoff as a battle between crazed GOP ideologues and sane if ineffectual Democrats, like Obama, who are striving to protect a fragile economy.

In fact, both sides are acting rationally, against the working class, in selfish pursuit of profits. They represent two camps of capitalists with conflicting interests. As Lenin noted in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, there is a yawning gulf between entrepreneurs, who profit by managing capital in productive businesses, and financiers, who profit purely from “money capital” and seek to extend their domination over finance capitalists in other countries. The biggest financiers’ massive overseas investments require “the intensification of antagonisms between imperialist nations for the division of the world.” By that, Lenin meant world war.

In the U.S. today, both capitalist factions demand the racist looting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Their clash stems from how they get their respective wealth. The entrepreneurs (such as Koch Industries; see box) have a short-term, domestic focus that favors younger, rising firms. The financiers, represented by Obama and the banker-backed liberal wing led by the Rockefeller interests, have a longer-term, imperialist outlook to defend their worldwide empire, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Somalia and beyond. The financial capitalists still dominate U.S. policy — although, as the debt flap reveals, not absolutely.

On July 28, the nation’s biggest imperialist bankers sent a letter to Obama to plead for a resolution to the recent Congressional impasse. The consequences of a default, they wrote, would be “very grave” for “America’s global economic leadership” — a code phrase for imperialism. The signers included the chiefs of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of New York Mellon, and Boston’s State Street, which hold a combined $71 trillion in global assets under custody. By contrast, Forbes magazine estimates the Kochs’ wealth at $44 billion.

Going Where the Money Is

Obama’s cut and tax strategy has been shelved for now. But the president and his cheerleaders at the New York Times, both representing the main wing of the ruling class, will soon be back to demand that bosses big and small pony up — and $1 trillion will be just a down payment.

For the bosses, it’s less a matter of “fairness” than of narrowing options. They are willing and eager to drain the working class, but they’re running into objective limits. The global financial meltdown obliterated millions of jobs in the U.S., along with the tax revenues they generate. (In June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “real” unemployment rate — including unemployed, under-employed, and people “marginally attached to the workforce” — stood at 16.2 %, or more than 25 million people suffering for lack of work in the third year of Obama’s dead-on-arrival “recovery.” And for black and Latino workers, those jobless rates are double.)

Workers are being sucked dry. Thinning the social safety net will not be enough to keep the war machine humming. Both Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who signed off on the Grand Bargain before buckling to anti-tax Tea Party pressure, know that they’ll eventually have to go to where the money is: to the rich.

In 2008, the median income of the U.S. capitalist elite — the top 0.1% — was $6 million, versus $50,000 for American households as a whole. In 2007, the top 1% of the population controlled 43% of the nation’s financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), or  1½ times the bottom 95 percent. The federal government has locked in these gross inequalities by slashing capital gains and estate taxes and by failing to enforce anti-trust laws (Vanity Fair, May 2011).

But even as the biggest U.S. capitalists rake in more and more, they are contributing less and less to the government that is dedicated to protect their interests. Corporate income taxes now account for only 7% of federal revenues, as compared to 23% in 1960. The jobless rate tells us that corporations aren’t using this extra cash to hire more workers. Instead, they’re hoarding. The bloodsucking banks aside, non-financial companies are sitting on close to $2 trillion in liquid assets.

The outrageous greed of the super-wealthy fits neatly with the small-government creed of the Tea Party caucus. It works less well, however, with the overriding needs of U.S. imperialism. The debt ceiling fracas was the public face of the rulers’ fight over how to divide their wealth and rule their weakening empire. The bitter struggle over the fallback measure, with no boost in needed revenues, is a mere prelude to the struggle to come. The battle should escalate in the fall, when Obama pitches his “balanced approach” (more taxes) to the new Congressional “supercommittee” charged with fleshing out the deficit reduction deal.

Bosses’ Rx: War and Fascism

In the end, the rulers’ Rockefeller-led main wing must prevail for U.S. imperialism to fend off its competition. The regional wars of today foreshadow the world war to come, as new imperialist rivals (China, India, Brazil) and old ones (France, Germany, Russia) challenge U.S. dominance. Both now and later, huge infusions of cash will be required to expand the military. Meanwhile, Obama’s backers will continue to exploit debt concerns as they build a fascist mass movement — including a military draft and even more extreme worker “sacrifice” — all for the greater good of U.S imperialism.

Fascism represents the ultimate exploitation of workers. The income losses of millions of unemployed and the slashes in wages of tens of millions of those still employed are intensifying the exploitation of workers worldwide. It should be remembered that Germany’s Nazis supplemented their extermination camps with thousands of forced labor camps. Millions of Jews, communists, and others were commonly worked to death at mines, quarries, farms, factories, and construction sites. The free labor both shored up the German bosses’ profits and sustained their war effort.

Under capitalism, economic crises aren’t caused by debts or deficits. They reflect the contradictions of a profit-driven system that can never meet workers’ needs. That’s why we must fight for a world run by workers for the working class, not for the bankrolls of a few parasites on the top. Fight for a communist society for the working class led by PLP! Join us!J

 

 

Kochs Challenge Rockefellers; Workers Must Throw Them All Out

The Koch brothers, who finance the Tea Party and bash Obama, buy oil and manufactured products in many countries. They are heavily invested in industrialist accumulation in the U.S. but do not own a major bank nor do they profit from the huge U.S. war machine. However, they are also trying to establish a niche in their own special form of “imperialism on the cheap.”

The Kochs bankroll the Cato Foundation think-tank. Its Mid-East expert Leon Hadar thinks that the “ballooning deficit and an overstretched military leave Americans no choice but to make major cuts in defense spending by shrinking [the] U.S. role in the Middle East.” (Huffington Post, 7/5/11)

Hadar, no doubt smelling a potential supplier to Koch Oil, sees a deal with Teheran in the offing: “The United States should take part in any negotiations leading to regional agreements on Afghanistan and Iraq, a process that could also become an opportunity to improve the relationship with Iran.” (Cato Institute, 7/1/11) This, of course, runs counter to the interests of the Rockefeller-led, imperialist wing of the U.S. ruling class which controls the largest chunk of Mid-East oil supplies.

Obama Fronts for Dominant
Rockefeller Wing; Kochs Want Piece of the Action

The Koch brothers dream of catching up to the Rockefellers but the closest they’ve come to wielding state power is Tea Party obstructionism in Congress. They have a long way to go to match the Rockefellers’ long history of transforming their Standard Oil monopoly into a banking empire. Having trumped the J.P. Morgan clan by the 1930s, World War II left the Rockfellers heading up the biggest U.S. banks and therefore with the resources to supply the controlling capital in the U.S. war industry, putting them in position to shape U.S. foreign policy to protect their imperialist interests abroad.

During the Vietnam genocide of the 1960s and 1970s, James and David Rockefeller personally headed the ancestors of Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. Nelson Rockefeller was governor of New York and later became U.S. vice-president. David Rockefeller ran U.S. imperialism’s most influential policy foundry as president of the Council on Foreign Relations; its most influential university as president of Harvard’s overseers; and its most influential “philanthropies,” the various Rockefeller foundations.

The Koch brothers’ challenge to this mammoth empire puts them into a fierce dogfight with the world’s most powerful capitalists, a battle over who can exploit the most workers. The Rockefellers have been reaping super-profits from workers on five continents. The Koch brothers were behind the attack on Wisconsin’s state workers and teachers that cut their wages, benefits and bargaining rights. The only interest the working class has in this fight is to overthrow both sides with communist revolution.

 

 

 

Depression Intensifies Racism As Basis of Capitalist Super-profits

A Pew Research analysis (7/26/11) “shows the racial and ethnic impact of the economic meltdown, which ravaged housing values and sent unemployment soaring.” (AP, 7/26)

The net worth of black households in 2009 at $5,677 was one-twentieth of that of white households. For Latino households at $6,325 it was one-eighteenth.

From 2005 to 2009, Latino household net worth declined by 66%. Black household net worth shrank by 56% over that period. Much of this was due to their home equity losses, both from home foreclosures and plummeting home values, as well as double unemployment rates.

The Pew Research report also found that 35% of black households had zero or negative net worth. For Latino households it was 31%.

Said Roderick Harrison, former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, “Typically in recessions, minorities suffer from being last hired and first fired. They are likely to lose jobs more rapidly at the beginning of a recession, and are far slower to gain jobs as the economy recovers.”

Across all groups, “the wealth gap between rich and poor widened. The share of wealth held by the top 10% of U.S. households increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009.”

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