Tag Archives: Brooklyn

PLP Wraps Up Convention

“When you see a Palestinian Arab and Jewish worker standing side by side while saying that they need to build the Party, the bosses better be scared.” This sentiment from a PLer who spent over 40 years fighting for communism was repeated and illustrated time and time again. Comrades from India and Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East, and North and South America defied the ruler’s artificial borders and got together to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of The Progressive Labor Party’s  inexorable struggle for communism.

With hundreds and hundreds of the working class gathered to teach ourselves how to fight back and to discuss our line as illustrated in “Dark Night Shall Have Its End”, the renewing joy of working class solidarity was the vibe of the day. As our Party continues to grow in country after country, continent after continent, and defy border after border, we know that another world is in birth.

The Party’s organizing in the teeth of fascism in Ferguson was directly compared to organizing in a factory in China. The PLers from China pointed out that the corrupt government controls the unions and organizations that are supposed to help the workers. He went on to say that there are no organizations in China that are on the side of the working class except for PLP. As the PLer from China was discussing how the unions sell out the workers, a PLer from the U.S. pointed out that the unions in the U.S. were also on the side of the bosses and anti-working class. This reaffirmed our line that the we the working class have the same enemy and the same fight.

PLP’s line on the necessity of armed revolution; the need to fight sexism; the struggle against nationalism and racism; the need to build the Party; and the historically unprecedented change to a collective leadership and away from a single chairman was reaffirmed to thunderous applause.

PLP was born in the struggle against revisionism and for communism in a time when it looked like revolution was on the horizon. That horizon is much further away than we thought. What other group born during that era is still around, still growing, still fighting back, and, more importantly, led and organized by a new young generation of leaders steeled in the struggle against capitalism? The simple answer is none. The reason is the principled struggle against revisionism in order to stay firmly rooted on the road to revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The International PLP Advances

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

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

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

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

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

Arab Spring and Wall Street Occupy Working Class’s Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Day

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

Turning Fascist Oppression into Communist Organizing

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

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

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PLP Youth Lead Anti-Racist Campaign At Brooklyn H.S.

BROOKLYN, NY — Students, mainly black and Latino, and teachers at a local high school here — located in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood — have been battling racist attacks inside and outside the school. Every day after school the racist NYPD quickly herds students out of the neighborhood.

Before Thanksgiving, when an underage female student and her friends tried to leave a subway car because they feared a fight was about to erupt, a cop in that car yanked her back in. Her friends defended her, saying she’d done nothing wrong, that the cop’s action was illegal. They wrote down his name and badge number. Seeing students stand up for each other angered this racist cop. When the train pulled into the next station, he ordered the young student out of the subway car.

Her friends, and passengers on the train, told her she didn’t have to go because she’d done nothing wrong. But she went, fearing arrest and further abuse. About a dozen of her friends followed her, which angered the cop even more. He called for back-up; almost immediately a dozen racist cops came running down the stairs. They maced and beat the students, arresting six.

Four were underage and taken to the precinct and then to a juvenile detention center for the night, where they were further harassed and verbally brutalized with racist remarks. Three are CHALLENGE readers, which partially influenced their will to fight back.

When PLP members at the school, heard this story, we responded immediately, first calling the parents of those arrested. Consequently, we were able to accompany the students and their parents to a court hearing. The students, never offered legal aid, were instead offered a “deal”: community service and a sealed conviction! Such is capitalist justice: get harassed, maced, beaten and locked up by racist cops — the “crime” being black or Latino.

PLP members encouraged and supported the parents to fight the case and demand a lawyer. Despite the DA’s scare tactics, and because the parents had a prior relationship with the teacher/debate coach of their children, the parents resisted the “deal” and await a trial date.

Back at school, a PLP youth club took an anti-racist petition to the Student Government Association. It linked the racist attacks on the Jena 6, the NYPD’s brutal murder of Kiel Coppin, the cops’ racist attacks on students to the racist pizzeria owner across the street. Hundreds of signatures were collected the first day!

During the petition campaign, a debate on metal detectors in the school occurred before the entire student body. One side argued safety required having such detectors. The other side exposed the racist nature of these detectors.

They eloquently explained that besides metal detectors being ineffective at catching many metal objects, the main reason to eliminate them was their use to teach control and obedience to authority.

One debater argued, “Although we all won’t get 95’s in all our classes or pass all the Regents exams needed for graduation, we will all leave this school knowing how to “assume the position.” This shows that the main reason school exists is to train us to follow orders, like prisoners.” (This fits in with the bosses’ need for obedient cannon fodder in imperialist wars and for cheap labor.) Another debater used statistics from the NYC Lawyers’ Union website revealing that 82% of students attending high schools containing metal detectors are black and Latino. Hundreds of students and many teachers wore stickers distributed at the debate, stating: “Students not Suspects! Fight Racism!”

This modest increase of class struggle has helped expand our CHALLENGE distribution, though inconsistent, to 75 per issue. Two new students have joined a study group. Since one student’s arrest and our response, she began meeting with a PLP study group again. She will attend the next PLP club meeting and has her mother’s full support. Four PL student members have led the campaign.

Still, we must strengthen our organizing. The anti-racism campaign must include the Apartheid pizzeria owner across the street from the school; he refuses to allow our students to eat there. We’re planning to more vigorously approach the building’s other two schools; the petition is being passed around in one. We’ve also taken the petitions to mass organizations, provoking political discussion that’s changed some of their thinking, increasing our experience in doing this.

The anti-racist campaign has not yet blossomed, but 2008 promises more opportunity to win these youths to the Party while advancing the class struggle within their schools.

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Student Anti-Racist Assembly Sparks Fight-back

BROOKLYN, NY, December 19 — “Asian, Latin, black and white; to fight racism, we must unite!” was a chant among 800 high school students attending our second annual anti-racist assembly. It centered on the theme of the “Jena 6” and students fighting back. Members of Progressive Labor Party — understanding that racism is a crucial weapon in the capitalist arsenal against the working class — see one way of building the anti-racist fight is organizing mass assemblies in the school to spread our ideas.

The assembly was exciting from start to finish, with original poetry, a skit about battling racism, some great speeches linking past struggles to today and lively routines by cheerleaders and steppers. It called on students not only to wear the Jena 6 button (see insert) but to become active in the fight against racism. The high point was a slam poet’s poem opposing the criminalization of students in the schools. It really hit home as students are increasingly treated like suspects and criminals.

The main lesson: always rely on the students and staff, especially the students. Everyone came through in a big way. Students had been meeting daily for over a month to plan every aspect of the assembly, from the program, the lighting, the music and the ushers to, most importantly, the message. We had lively discussions about the nature of racism, its history and what to do every day to challenge it.

A few teachers lent their support and attended all the discussions and planning meetings. Others were very enthusiastic about the program, thanking us for doing it.

But clearly, the students led this activity, armed with much determination and understanding. It was followed a week later by a debate in the cafeteria based on the Lerone Bennett article, “The Road Not Taken.”

We’ve taken some important steps, especially to make racism a mass issue. Our sharp assembly was even better received than last year’s program. Nationalism was minimal in organizing the assembly, but the administration’s fear was evident. One weakness was the failure to link racism here to the U.S. rulers’ imperialist wars which use racism to win GI’s to kill their class brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan

Those who run the school are afraid of our students and of PLP’s communist ideas. They understand their power and know that we can be a spark to lead rebellion. Our job is to continue this fight, explain the class nature of racism and our solution — and always rely on the working class!

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Anti-Racism the Main Subject At B’klyn H.S.

BROOKLYN, NY, Nov. 26 — Anti-racist consciousness and actions are mounting at our high school. The frame-up of six black youth in Jena, Louisiana, struck a chord here. As soon as we raised the issue, students began organizing. Proposals for rallies, buttons, petitions, forums and even walkouts emerged.

We decided to start with an anti-racist assembly to be followed by an anti-racist fair. Meanwhile, we produced stickers that said, “Free the Jena 6, Unite Against Racism.” Everyone wanted one. We produced over 1,000 buttons with the same slogan. Students are still asking for them weeks later.

On the day of the big rally in Jena, we organized a “wear-black” day. Many students and staff participated. We had an especially large meeting to hear a report from someone who had attended the Jena 6 rally in Louisiana. Clearly many students and staff wanted to take a stand against racism.

When the students went to the principal to present the idea of an anti-racist assembly, a roomful of administrators awaited them, but the students were not intimidated. The idea of the assembly was generally well received, but there was objection to the term “anti-racist.” “Tolerance” was proposed. This provoked good discussions about the nature of racism. The students were very clear — their goal was to fight racism. They did not want to “tolerate” it or have others do so.

A lively discussion began on whether racism could ever be ended. Many students thought “no.” Yet many saw that racism is man-made. Starting with the slave trade and plantation slavery, racism had been immensely profitable for the slave-owners. That is still true today as capitalists super-exploit black and Latino workers, and now especially immigrant workers. Additionally, racism divides and weakens the working class. To achieve any improvement, one must confront and fight against racism. As Karl Marx said long ago, “labor in the white skin cannot be free as long as labor in the black skin is enslaved.” Thus, you have to end capitalism to end racism.

Such divisions have been evident at some recent anti-war marches. Students and staff who attended noticed the marchers were mainly white and saw almost no signs mentioning the Jena 6 case.
When racist cops shot and killed a mentally ill, 18-year-old young black man recently (see front page) whose brother attends our school, the administration did not even acknowledge this tragedy until a teacher raised it. Although an announcement was read, grief counseling was never mentioned. The dead youngsters’ brother is devastated. Several students attended a rally and also the wake for the young man. They said at least there should be a moment of silence at the school.

A more recent meeting discussed the anti-racist assembly with the principal and several administrators. What was its goal? “Education about racism” was the answer. It was suggested that some positive activities come out of this assembly. “Good idea” was the reply. When students asked an administrator for suggestions, none were forthcoming — but “don’t get students mad about racism. They will just get riled up and angry. We have a nice school. Don’t get students stirred up. Provide something positive.”

This is a challenge for those of us organizing this anti-racist assembly. However, how can one not get “riled up” when racism still exists everywhere in so many vicious ways? Yet getting upset but doing nothing is useless. So we need to do two things. Firstly, we must organize a series of anti-racist activities in which lots of students and staff can participate. Even more importantly, we must commit ourselves to a lifetime of struggle against racism and against the capitalist system that promotes it.

PLP members are participating in all these activities. We have expanded our membership and developed two study groups. Our goal is to increase CHALLENGE sales and recruit students and teachers to our Party as we intensify the fight against racism in the school.

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Murdering Racist Cops Pump 13 Bullets into Black Teenager

BROOKLYN, NY, Nov. 13 — Last night five killer cops unloaded 20 rounds on an unarmed mentally-ill Brooklyn teen, 13 of the shots hitting their mark. Then, after being gunned down, Khiel Coppin, 18, was handcuffed and his lifeless body dragged away by the NYPD assassins and taken to Woodhull Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Coppin was carrying a hairbrush, which eyewitnesses said he dropped when raising his hands in the air in front of the cops, before being cut down in a hail of bullets. Several witnesses reported that the police fired so many rounds that one officer began yelling, “Stop, stop, stop shooting — he’s down,” but cops kept firing like they were “playing with a toy.”

Coppin’s mother had tried to have her son admitted for psychiatric treatment before the incident. After a dispute last night, she called 911 in an effort to remove him to get help for his mental illness.

The cops’ story has changed drastically several times between last night and this morning in an effort to rationalize what everyone else present at the shooting witnessed. But all their stories hinge on the claim that his mother had warned the 911 dispatcher her son “had a gun” — a charge the mother denies. Additionally, police are trying to wash the youth’s blood from their hands by speculating that Coppin was attempting “suicide by cop,” a bigoted charge commonly leveled at mentally-ill victims of cop murders.

In one police story, Coppin has a knife, in others he doesn’t. In one he drops from a window with the hairbrush under his shirt (hence their “believing” it to be a gun), and charges at the police while reaching under his shirt for the hairbrush, “ignoring orders to halt” — but in a different police narrative, he “walks across the sidewalk” to them.

But all witnesses state clearly that he lowered himself from his window to the ground, stood and immediately raised his hands up, dropping the hairbrush to the ground. Then police opened fire, murdering another working-class urban youth.

Now, as always happens, liberal misleaders and reformers will try to contain the working class’s righteous anger, channeling it instead into their reform efforts like “community policing” and “police oversight” and their election campaigns. But to fight police murders, we can’t fall into this trap!

The only way to smash the Klan in blue is to smash the racist system —capitalism — that uses them to terrorize urban working-class communities. Communism — the system of workers’ power, a society run for need, not profit — will sweep away these new night riders and their politician masters, crushing them like the cockroaches they are. But for this, we must organize!

Now, more than ever, is the time to direct our anger where it belongs: not into more dead-end reform campaigns designed solely to keep angry workers and youth under control, but into the streets and into our shops, unions, communist organizations, churches, schools and campuses.

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Teachers Defy Edict Limiting Students’ Anti-Racist Activities

BROOKLYN, NY, October 16 — Yesterday teachers at our high school won a small but significant victory, staging a “work-in” that defied an administrative edict which would limit our after-school (especially anti-racist) activities. One of the last remaining large schools with a fairly active union chapter, a student body that has often fought back and a group of teachers who work closely with Progressive Labor Party, we have faced continuous attacks in the past few years.

Last year we won many important anti-racist victories. Students and teachers organized a mass campaign against racism, including assemblies and forums. Volunteer trips to New Orleans supported workers there. A sharp struggle defended a teacher threatened by the administration for involvement in these trips. Eventually the administration was forced to back down, but not for long.

This year students and teachers returned to discover that the school would be closing early and activities would be limited. Even staff members who stayed late to work would be considered “trespassing.” Many students are on late schedule, so according to this new policy they’d have less than an hour to participate in after-school activities. Interestingly, clubs that would be most limited by this rule are those which have been fighting racism and building student unity. We’ve had several mass meetings and are planning a teach-in about the Jena 6. Over 40 students packed a classroom two weeks ago to hear college students report on their trip to Jena.

So to answer the administration’s new policy we organized a “work-in” and encouraged teachers to stay late to test the waters. Earlier we had been warned that we’d be considered “trespassing” and “violating school policy” if we stayed late. However, not surprisingly, when groups of teachers did stay late in their respective offices, we were commended for working so hard and told that “special security” would be provided for us that day! The administration backed down pretty quickly.

We should be clear that these new rules are mainly an attack on students, as well as on the movement we seek to build. Hopefully, this small act of resistance is just the beginning of larger things to come. We must take on the administration at every juncture and point out that their interests are opposite from ours — they keep the school open for various events when they see the need, but are ready to kick students and teachers to the curb on a daily basis. Unity of students, parents and teachers to fight these attacks is crucial. We plan to step up this struggle, increase our CHALLENGE sales and organize more actions and struggles this semester.

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