Category Archives: Political Economy

Capitalism is so broken it can’t be fixed

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

plp.org

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!

****

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.

Just Occupy Wall Street; Smash It And Its Profit System Only Revolution, Not Voting, Can End Capitalism’s Racism, War and Unemployment

NEW YORK CITY, October 17 — Occupy Wall Street (OWS), spreading across the U.S. and worldwide, holds both promise and danger for the working class. It’s now clear that large numbers are seeking an end to the profit system’s misery and injustice. At the same time, Obama and union misleaders are embracing this protest for their own reasons. For the capitalists, OWS represents yet another ruling class effort to funnel workers’ anger down the dead-end road of reforming capitalism, especially through electoral politics.

The good news is that many in the movement’s growing ranks reject the patriotic goals of the “one-percenters.” On a subway headed to Wall Street, a rider asked, “Are you going to the protest? I’m with you. Your banner says ‘Fight for communism’? I’m not so sure about that, but it sure is true the current system is failing. Stronger regulation of capitalism won’t work. We need to learn from the mistakes of past communist movements because a revolution is what’s needed. Okay, I’ll read this paper.”

When this kind of political discussion breaks out between strangers on a train, it’s a sign that things are changing. The growth of OWS is driven by a profound frustration with capitalism’s inability to provide a decent future for the broad masses of workers. In the face of repeated police repression, brave demonstrators have taken to the streets of New York. More important, many are open to communist ideas and to having the Progressive Labor Party participate in their movement.

On the October 15-16 weekend, as PL members chanted some slogans — “It’s not just Wall Street, it’s capitalism”; “The 99% needs revolution, not reform”; “The 99% need communism” — they were met with near-universal agreement. More than 500 PL leaflets were distributed among protesters and others who came to Zucotti Park to check things out. Friends of PL have been critical in helping spread the communist message, an important step forward toward real change.

U.S. Flag A Banner for Imperialist War

Previously, a larger group of PL’ers, including several youth, had met with a similarly positive response, but they also encountered the dangerous patriotic ideology — the bosses’ ideology — that has infiltrated the movement. A protester holding high a large U.S. flag took issue with a Party banner that read, “Fight for Communism, Join PLP.” A lively exchange ensued in which we attacked his flag and defended our banner as being more in tune with the future that protesters were demanding and deserved. Others gravitated to the debate, and several political discussions spun off.

Attacking the U.S. flag as the flag of imperialist war, the most hated banner in the world, brought out pointed disagreement. Attacking the U.S. Constitution as a slave-owners’ document provoked other sharp exchanges. But through it all, a friendly tone of struggle won most people, some of them initially hostile, to weigh our message against their assumptions. We will continue participating in even larger numbers.

Opportunistic Democratic politicians and their union boss allies are striving to subvert OWS into re-electing war-maker Obama. “[A] consensus is emerging among Democrats that the ‘Occupy’ movement is worth tapping into, even helping along and joining with in some instances” (ABC News, 10/10/11). “I support the message to the establishment,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on ABC’s “This Week” (10/9/11). “Change has to happen.” Labor hacks from the AFL-CIO to AFSCME to the SEIU are lending huge financial support. SEIU boss Mary Kay Healy found “incredible inspiration” in OWS (“The Hill,” 10/15/11).

But meanwhile, these union sellouts do absolutely nothing to fight the layoffs of 660 NYC school aides and other low-paid workers, the 99 per-center victims of the one per-centers’ crisis. Goldman Sachs’ brokers stole $15 billion in bonuses while billionaire NYC Mayor Bloomberg can’t find the money to keep these  $14-an-hour school staffers on the job. As leaders from the United Federation of Teachers spout their lip-service support for OWS, they make not a peep as workers are thrown out of their classrooms and their jobs. Why this seeming contradiction? These union leaders are in the hip pockets of the one percent.

Rulers’ Shill Jesse Jackson Tells OWS’ers, ‘Don’t Fight’

The liberal phonies are making a special push to corral black workers in OWS — the ones hit hardest by the racist New Depression — away from meaningful, militant action and into futile voting. One-time Democratic White House candidate Jesse Jackson urged them to “maintain your disciplined focus, your peaceful nonviolent approach to protest and demand change. In the end, we will win” (Rainbow/Push website, 10/11/11). The “we” Jackson refers to is the U.S. ruling class, which has called his tune from the start of his public life. Back in 1978, the Rockefeller brothers anointed Jackson as their dutiful servant with their “Public Service” award.

Capitalist Press Clouds Billionaire Soros’s OWS Role

Although U.S. imperialists don’t yet control OWS as they would like, they most certainly helped spark it. The first call to “occupy Wall Street” came this past summer from an online magazine called Adbusters, a beneficiary of the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, whose biggest sugar daddy is none other than billionaire U.S. imperialist George Soros.

The ruling-class media’s bizarre treatment of this link suggests just how much they want to conceal it. At 11:09 AM on October 13, mainstream Reuters’ coverage led with, “Anti-Wall Street protesters say the rich are getting richer while average Americans suffer, but the group that started it all may have benefited indirectly from the largesse of one of the world’s richest men.” By 5:25 PM, Reuters had changed the same article to begin, “George Soros isn’t a financial backer of the Wall Street protests, despite speculation by critics….” At 6:45 PM, Reuters had the original opener followed by a disclaimer from Soros & Co. In the face of the money-trail facts, liberal rulers spin the lie that only right-wing lunatics see an OWS-Soros tie.

Bankers Provide ‘People’s Park’ as Protest Site

Zuccotti Park, the demonstrators’ New York base, did not fall from the sky. “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it,” NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg told a September 16 press conference. He obliged with a private park owned by Brookfield Properties, property agents for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, among others. The mayor’s lady-friend, Diana Taylor, serves on Brookfield’s board. Brookfield head honcho John Zuccotti, the Park’s owner, once ran the big-bank-loving Downtown Lower Manhattan Association founded by David Rockefeller.

The grip on OWS of reforming capitalism is growing stronger. On the Sunday morning TV talk shows, an OWS representative blasted “shared sacrifice,” saying the “working class” had already given enough. When the news anchor pressed for a “political strategy,” his reply was, “We won’t say for whom but we want all the allies of our movement to vote.”

Clearly the liberal rulers have a plan: they want to make OWS the beginning of Obama’s 2012 election campaign. “We are the 99%” is within the scope of Obama’s “tax-the-rich” strategy to more fully fund and popularize imperialist war. Black volunteers from the Democratic Party were canvassing for Obama’s phony jobs bill.

But this movement is also a direct result of frustration with the failures of voting. OWS resonates because elections have flopped. This disdain for ruling-class politics is good. But there’s a long way to go. There was little sense of mass anger at the police. The mix of counter-cultural, religious, absurdist and reformist politics lends the scene something of a carnival atmosphere. Passers-by are looking for answers. The absence of anti-racist politics is evident, but the crowds are not all white, at least not in Manhattan.

Real Grievances Could Drive OWS Beyond Bosses’ Grip

The sheer mass of protesters, and their increasingly working-class background, may nevertheless upset the rulers’ scenario. At first the media focused on frustrated, mostly white, college grads with suffocating tuition loans. But then multi-racial representatives of the more than 30 million unemployed and under-employed workers starting showing up. That’s when Jesse Jackson felt the need to chime in. The calming post-World War II U.S. social contract — a steady job, a house, college for the kids, and a pension — lies in ruins. Black workers gained it only briefly after fierce fights in the 1960s and 1970s and were the first to lose it.

OWS’s originators claim inspiration from Egypt’s Tahrir Square activists. But what did they win, without communist politics or leadership? The new cabal of military rulers Tahrir Square eased into power recently slaughtered dozens of unarmed Christian opponents. And OWS leaders’ supposed savior Obama had his Africa Military Command send troops into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Power of the Working Class Is Crucial

OWS must spread to support strikers on picket lines and into schools and workplaces through anti-racist sit-ins and job actions in solidarity with OWS. The scope of OWS must be enlarged to oppose U.S. rulers’ oil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan which will further improve the conditions for the spread of communist revolutionary ideas. It would make the movement overall more difficult for the ruling-class liberals to hijack and turn into yet another tool of imperialism.

What we do now to organize workers — the class that produces all the value that the 1% steals as profit and who more and more recognize capitalism’s failures —will significantly advance revolution for workers’ power. In participating in OWS, Progressive Labor Party can expose the capitalists trying to steer it, and win rank-and-file protestors to the long, hard struggle for communist revolution.J

U.S.-U.K. Imperialists Expand Fascism and War Black, White, Asian Working-Class Youth Battle Racist Cops

Workers produced every item working-class rebels took from shops in English cities. Workers also produce all the Middle East’s energy supplies. So what constitutes real “looting”? Is it a London youth, who may never find a job, grabbing a pair of sneakers? Or is it racist British capitalists joining racist U.S. bosses to murder millions in seizing Iraqi and Libyan oil and Afghan gas routes?

The recent rebellions take place in a context of declining U.S-U.K. imperialism. For survival, the depleted British Empire became the U.S.’s junior partner during World War II. Now, rising China, resurgent Russia, and regional powerhouse Iran have the U.S. & Co. on the defensive. So both U.S. and U.K. rulers are implementing an agenda of widening wars overseas and police terror to enforce massive economic attacks on workers domestically.

Since racism is fundamental to capitalism and its drive for super-profits, the racist super-exploitation of black and Asian workers has moved these youth — subjected to the system’s mass racist unemployment and poverty — to openly rebel.

Militant anti-cop uprisings in England come as a mainly healthy reaction to fascist policing. London’s working-class Tottenham district erupted after August 4 when cops gunned down Mark Duggan, a black father of four, on “suspicion” that he had a gun. He, in fact, never displayed one. The rebellion quickly spread to other deprived communities across London, and to the northern cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

But although the killing was a source of anger, it was not the primary cause behind the rampage of thousands of black, Asian and white youth that lasted four days before the heavily-reinforced police could clear the streets. The torching of police cars, police stations and public buildings expressed the pent-up frustration and rage of an alienated generation with no opportunities, gripped by poverty, discrimination and joblessness. Many are the second and third generation of their family without jobs. For some African-Caribbean youth unemployment is as high as 50%. A 2007 UNICEF report found that British and U.S youth had the worst quality of life of 21 developed nations.

“We’re sticking it to the police” yelled one  woman, “and to the rich” she added. A Tottenham protestor who appeared on a radio show described the events as, “A war against injustice.”

Their fury against the rich echoed the anger most Britons have against the bankers who paid themselves huge bonuses after taking government bailouts and of the blatant looting by politicians of public funds for their private expenses last year. One of the most notorious cases involved the member of parliament who took £80,000 ($130,000) of tax-payer money to subsidize his second home. This year’s scandal of police officials taking bribes from the Murdoch news organization has only added fuel to the fire.

Even the right-wing Telegraph newspaper (8/8/11) had to admit legitimate grievances, “Tottenham’s unemployment is still among the highest in London. Black people are far more likely to be stopped and searched by the Met [Metropolitan Police] than whites.”

Despite the media focus on burning stores, the so-called riots’ main aspect was black, white and Asian working-class youth uniting in fierce battles against the killer cops. The Independent (London, 8/14/11) quoted one terrified cop, “We could hear time after time on our radios, ‘Officer down,’ ‘Officer injured’ and we knew it was bad.”

Actually, that’s pretty good, given London cops’ reputation for racist brutality. The protests’ weakness, however, lies, not in violence (which was unfocused at times) but the lack of a communist movement with the goal of destroying the profit system, the root cause of workers’ ills.

Bosses’ Media Ignore Libya Massacre for London Blazes

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron, who has never done a day’s work in his life, jetted back from vacationing in Tuscany to decry workers’ “criminality” spreading across his country. But the real criminals are “NATO’s air-strikes [on August 8th] at Majer [in Libya which] killed 85 people, including 33 children, 32 women and 20 men. Reporters and visitors were shown 30 of the bodies in a local morgue, including a mother and two children” (Counterpunch, 8/14/11).

Seeking access to Libyan oil unfettered by dictator Khadafy, British (along with French and Italian) bosses avail themselves of U.S. weapons and leadership. NATO supreme commander, U.S. admiral Stavridis, runs the Libya operation.

While London Burns, Oil Wars Enrich U.K. Bosses

And in Iraq, British rulers’ staunch military support for U.S.-led genocide pays off big time, though stability may never arrive. (On August 14, 42  coordinated attacks in ten cities killed 96 Iraqis and wounded 315.) “Iraq’s oil auctions were portrayed as a model of transparency and a negotiating victory for the Iraqi government,” said Greg Muttitt, author of “Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq,” quoted in the London Observer (7/31/11): “Now we see the reality was the opposite: a backroom deal that gave BP a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy, and even influence over the decisions of OPEC.”

British forces based in Basra fought mostly near the vast Rumalia oil field, which BP (British Petroleum) had owned from 1927 to 1972. BP, to nobody’s surprise, won the potentially 3-million-barrel-per day Rumalia contract at the “transparent” 2009-2010 auctions. Now it’s revealed that in the 2011 backroom deal Baghdad must pay BP for oil not even extracted from the wells should renewed warfare or OPEC quotas curb production. As for Afghanistan, British troops have concentrated on Helmand province, through which much of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline may run.

PM Cameron Wants Nazi-style  ‘Community Policing’ in Britain; Summons U.S. Top Cop Bratton

Just as in the U.S., British imperialists’ war efforts cost vast sums of money. And, just as in the U.S., the rulers get that cash by stealing from workers with sharp, racist cuts in pay, jobs, health, education, pensions, etc. In Britain, mostly urban African, Caribbean and Asian workers (along with poor white native British and Irish) bear the brunt.

To enforce this exploitation, the bosses employ more intense fascist measures. However, Britain’s police establishment is in disarray. Its two top Scotland Yard chiefs were forced to resign amid the Murdoch payoff scandal to squash the media mogul’s bribery of cops. So to head off future rebellions, Cameron is calling in Bill Bratton, formerly top cop in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, to establish sweet-sounding but deadly “community policing.” It resembles the Nazis’ Judenrat scheme, which turned local Jewish leaders into a network of snitches that led millions to the gas chambers.

In Boston, Bratton employed black pastors. According to a 2008 report from Harvard’s Kennedy School, “The ministers…helped the Boston Police manage negative publicity by the local media after several potentially explosive events [such as] the accidental death of a 75-year-old retired minister who suffered a fatal heart attack during a botched drug raid.” Cameron wishes he had agents like these in Tottenham.

Fascism on the Rise

Fascism is being institutionalized. Government laws, surveillance through a vast street camera operation along with Cameron’s deep cuts in social services impoverishing the working class have become the order of the day. Alongside this is the increasing influence of racist organizations like the anti-immigrant British Nationalist Party which recently took over nearly 10% of the local council seats in the extremely-segregated city of Bradford and has gained enough legitimacy to be included in nationally-televised political debates.

However, workers are not giving these fascists a clear path. Last year when the fascist English Defense League, which has held demonstrations against Asians nation-wide, rallied in Bradford, they were confronted by thousands of anti-racists and local residents, both white and Asian.

The rebellions in England hold important lessons in class struggle. They prove that a militant, multi-racial force of workers can take on and beat “highly-trained” cops. They also show the need for a revolutionary communist party and the outlook of seizing state power for our class, not just winning concessions which capitalism inevitably reverses. (See Verizon strike, p. 3.) Ultimately only revolution led by such a communist party can smash the creators of the world’s largest looting system — capitalism — that gives us police brutality, poverty, mass racist unemployment and war.

‘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.

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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