Tag Archives: Jena 6

Hacks’ Phony ‘Human Rights’ Unit Kills Jena 6 Resolution

Seattle, WA — After nearly two months of struggle at various International Association of Machinists (IAM) union meetings and conferences, our rank-and-file Jena 6 support resolution was finally kicked upstairs to the District Human Rights committee. Last week, the Business Representative chairman informed us the committee decided to kill it. “If we supported this then anybody could come forward with his or her issues,” he warned.

“That would be horrible” was the sarcastic reaction of many members on the shop floor. Then more serious discussions began. What is the purpose of these human rights committees anyway?

The network of Human Rights committees was started in the mid-’70s. At the time, the union was flooded with new younger members just back from the Vietnam War, with experience in anti-racist rebellions and familiarity with left-wing politics. These new members expected action against racism both on the job and in society at large. The leadership answered with a human rights committee in every local. Carefully controlled by the reactionary leadership, these committees served as the hacks’ lightning rods. They diverted the efforts of honest anti-racists from militant class struggle into dead-end bureaucracy.

In our district, the activity of this committee is also driven by rank-and-file anti-racist struggle. But, once again, the misleadership used this committee to give an appearance of “diversity” while short-circuiting class struggle. The leadership even decided to cover their ass with diversity training for all union officers. Unfortunately, the International runs these classes. As explained by an International officer, diversity training is important to organizing. Their organizing slogan is “Defending Our Freedom; Defending Our Jobs.” Their logo features a U.S. flag and an armed soldier.

The picture is complete. The International’s version of Human Rights is multi-racial support for racist U.S. imperialism.

Communism: The Only Answer To Bosses’ Racism

Under communism the PLP would bring workers into the street to battle racists. Racism hurts all workers; communism requires anti-racist working-class consciousness and unity. In order to ensure the victory of the revolution, we must muster our class’s fighting might.

Today, with pro-capitalist unions, we have to expose the misleaders’ phony Human Rights committees. In that sense, being attacked by the hacks in this struggle has not been such a bad thing. Our CHALLENGE sales have increased a bit as we have worked hard to bring communist ideas to our fellow workers who have lost faith in pro-capitalist unions. We now have to turn those sales into bigger CHALLENGE networks and new Party members.

Where possible, we should encourage honest workers to join these misleaders’ committees. They should have no illusions about how far the hacks will let these committees mobilize rank-and-file class struggle. On the other hand, by pushing just such action, we can more profoundly expose the pro-boss union leadership.

As these struggles ensue, the revolutionary alternative will become more meaningful when we find ways to emphasize our communist politics.

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Rout Marine Recruiters, Defend ‘Jena 6,’ Ally with Workers

Our college, which sits amid the remains of a major industrial center, where the wreckage of factories and railroads resembles a carpet-bombed city, has become a battleground for the political commitment of the students. Our main struggles involve the ‘Jena 6’ and Marine recruiters.

Campus mass organizations include an anti-war group and some “multi-cultural” clubs. We’ve aimed to raise political consciousness among students and campus workers by linking the racist attacks in New Orleans, Jena, Iraq and on immigrant workers to this college’s segregation and union-busting against immigrants here.

I distribute over 20 CHALLENGES, mostly to friends. I also slip papers under the doors where the immigrant workers who clean our dorms store their cleaning supplies.

Recently I saw several Marine recruiters distributing brochures. I made some calls and within 20 minutes we had an angry, multi-racial group of about 12 students ready for action, including some Middle Eastern students and CHALLENGE readers who knew me as a PL’er. Everyone else knew and respected me as a communist.

When we discussed the situation, I advocated a confrontational approach, explaining how these Nazis materially aid the mass slaughter in Iraq, and how they use racism/nationalism to divide workers instead of directing them against the real enemy, the profit system. Everyone agreed. We planned to form a disciplined row of people directly in front of the recruiters, with some of us ripping up their literature and verbally shouting them away. As we approached them, the Marines took off! We think a right-winger who had overheard us warned them. Everyone was fired up; spirits were high. One young woman yelled, “we’re finally doing something!”

The Marines book their space on campus carefully, so we’ve organized a rapid response plan to demonstrate when they return. We discovered an administrator is working with them. Since some fraternities host a “support-our-troops” week, we’re working out a little special something for that as well.

In another big struggle, one anti-war organization agreed to hold a series of events to protest the ‘Jena 6’ sentencing. I was asked to write a leaflet for that day. I suggested it be written collectively, but people said they had too much homework, so I revised the PL leaflet and made sure people distributing it were comfortable with it. Over 400 leaflets were gone in 90 minutes; the response was overwhelming! Many students asked for more for their friends, and some offered to help distribute even more elsewhere on campus.

That night two campus liberals sent me angry e-mails decrying the leaflet, arguing it was so inflammatory, no one would read it (contrary to our experiences that day). People sent e-mails with the standard anti-communist accusations, questioning who was “pulling the strings” behind our anti-war group, and demanding an apology for advocating “violence.”
One of the group’s liberals, a virulent anti-communist and self-described “democratic socialist,” visited me in my dorm, very disturbed by the leaflet. He said he represented “concerned friends” who wanted to know how I came to write the ‘Jena 6’ leaflet. He didn’t know about PLP.

Then a friend of mine who occasionally reads the paper walked in, unaware of what was happening, picked up a random DESAFIO, and jokingly exclaimed, “Why is there communist propaganda everywhere!?” The liberal grabbed it, glared at me, threw it down and left. (He didn’t understand much since he couldn’t speak Spanish.)

Until then I had no idea what was becoming of the several issues of DESAFIO I had been slipping into the campus workers’ cleaning closets. Now I was excited to know the workers had been reading them. When I figured out the workers’ schedule and met them, they told me they liked the paper, especially the articles about Latin America, and were open to meeting again.

Despite expecting an attack I was still dumbfounded at how quickly things were developing. That so-called socialist’s visit was a big surprise. I became defensive, which only invited even more attack. My friends, regular CHALLENGE readers, chided me for shrinking back and keeping my mouth shut. They argued, “Why aren’t you exposing these people for what they are? They’re just avoiding the issue and everyone knows it!” I realized they were right so we prepared for a confrontation at the next meeting.

There the liberals realized approval of the leaflet was very high. Except for a handful of meager comments, they received no support. Most people were thankful for the leaflet and wanted to know when we were planning something big. My initial reaction was to retreat but I was defended, and told to go on the offensive, both by CHALLENGE readers and non-readers. I learned about reliance on one’s base. I had lacked confidence in what I was doing; this struggle really changed my perspective.

As a result, many more people are friendly to the Party. Some are in a newly-formed study group. We’ll continue linking the Marine recruiters and the ‘Jena 6’ struggles to the racist segregation on campus and probe the connections between our school’s advanced research labs and U.S. imperialism. We’ve raised a campus worker-student alliance.
As we build CHALLENGE-DESAFIO networks out of these struggles, we’ll be on the road to eventually crushing these racist, sexist, warmongering parasites for good.

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Support for ‘Jena 6’ Puts Union Lackeys on Spot

SEATTLE, WA. Nov. 9 — “When you guys write your next article,” demanded a Machinist, “make sure you tell everyone that the union holds these conferences [sponsored by human rights and women’s committees] to give the appearance of doing something, not to do something!”

Like many Boeing workers, she drew this conclusion after watching the mis-leadership move the ‘Jena 6’ support resolution (see CHALLENGE, 10/13) from committee to committee, trying to stay one step ahead of irate, anti-racist rank-and-filers. At this writing the resolution has been kicked upstairs to the district human rights committee after three different struggles at various union meetings and conferences over the last month. It’s like the children’s game, “Where’s Waldo.”

Meanwhile, some union officials have changed their tune. For the first time any of us can remember, some are admitting that the union must deal with issues like anti-black and anti-immigrant racism. They cynically blame “backward” members for the roadblocks they themselves have erected over the years.

Of course, none of this has stopped the top leadership from calling the resolution-backers “troublemakers.” In fact, some lower-level officials have complained about the District President’s vindictiveness when he demands that no official talk to any in the opposition.

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Rally Support for ‘Jena 6,’ Hit Criminalization of Youth

Southern California –– A multiracial group of students and teachers woke our community college with a rally supporting the ‘Jena 6’ and opposing the criminalization of youth in California and nationwide. It was the first public event organized by a new campus club.

Students took turns speaking on the bullhorn for the first time, while others held signs, collected surveys and passed out leaflets all over the campus. Students eagerly took the leaflets, which exposed the racist treatment of youth (especially black and Latin) in court and prison systems. For example, 16-year-old Jena defendant Mychal Bell was originally tried as an adult.

He was one of over 7,000 youths confined to adult prisons every year, of whom 3/4 are black and Latin. In California, black and Latin youth are over three times as likely to be tried in adult court as white youth. This attack leads to greater criminalization of all working-class youth.

One speaker at the rally related these issues to problems on the campus, where cops routinely hassle groups of black students who are just hanging out after class. Now we are spied on by new “Homeland Security” cameras. The cops recently called a teacher to warn that a “young Latino man with baggy pants and a shaved head was just seen on camera entering your building.” The teacher replied, “He’s one of our students!”

Like many campuses, this one has a large “criminal justice” department that trains future racist cops and prison guards and regularly holds “law enforcement career fairs.”

“The schools aren’t educating kids,” said a student organizer, “so they get caught up in things and don’t see any options. Then they’re told to go into the military to learn some discipline.” She added, “It’s a result of capitalism — everything is connected.” She and several other CHALLENGE readers are forming a study group and plan to invite others to join them.

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Back Jena 6 in Union and in Boeing, Subcontractor Plants

SEATTLE, WA — “It has to be brought to light,” insisted a white Boeing machinist as more than a dozen union members — black, Latin and white — prepared an anti-racist resolution to support the Jena 6. “I was just talking with my son about the way high schools are organized. Racism is everywhere.” The resolution now sits in the union’s executive board, but the struggle continues on the shop floor.

Before we entered the meeting, we knew we were in for a fight. We were not disappointed!

One low-level official described how he would shake his head at the roadblocks the union mis-leaders put up anytime our left-led, rank-and-file group raised racism. (He actively supported anti-racists during the battle to get the union to participate in last year’s May Day March calling for international unity.) “How can you run an organization like that!” he bemoaned.

Even as the resolution was tabled until next month’s meeting, debates broke out throughout the hall and in the corridors outside. “I don’t want to be a jerk, but what has this to do with the union?” asked one. We replied that anti-racism was crucial to answering the economic and political attacks on our members, like racist subcontracting. We pointed to the parts of the resolution calling for anti-racist, multi-racial solidarity in the upcoming contract struggle. The question of the class necessity of anti-racism was front and center at this overwhelmingly white union meeting.

We wanted to do more than engage in this useful debate. We planned beforehand to use this resolution to jump-start struggle on the shop floor. Jena 6 defense collections are now being taken in a number of buildings.

These “shop-floor” collections — in alliance with the collections taken among non-union subcontractor workers — can lead the way. There are many more black and Latin workers in the plants than at union meetings. Still more black and Latin workers suffer super-exploitation at the hand of vicious subcontractors.

CHALLENGE sales and mailings have increased modestly, spreading the revolutionary politics necessary to marshal this multi-racial force. We’re mobilizing to raise this resolution at various other meetings and conferences during the next month. We can measure the lasting value of this battle through the expansion and consolidation of our CHALLENGE networks here and among the subcontractors. Stay tuned!

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