Tag Archives: students

Remembering Quake Inspires Brooklyn; Students Solidarity with Workers in Haiti

BROOKLYN, January 11 — More than three hundred students at Clara Barton High School, along with about twenty-five staff members, attended an inspiring commemoration of the second anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.  It was organized and led by students who belong to an after-school club that has been fighting attacks by the school administration against teachers and students for many years. Important ideas were raised about imperialism and the roots of Haiti’s poverty, and why students in the U.S. need to build solidarity with the working class in Haiti. Students and teachers grasped the communist ideas of solidarity with workers around the world, of multiracial unity, and of fighting for a better future than the bosses’ plan for wars, drastic cuts in social services, and increased racism.

There were speeches and performances, ranging from spoken word and debate to singing and step dancing. The program stressed unity, solidarity and the struggle for a better world.

One song was sung in both Creole and English, with many in the audience learning the Creole words for the first time. This was symbolically important because students from Haiti have endured a lack of adequate programs and services at the school. There was also delicious food donated by area restaurants, as well as by staff and parents. As many students and teachers commented afterwards, the whole program was “amazing.”

The preparation for the event was as significant as the commemoration itself. The multi-racial student organizers were from Africa, South Asia, China, the Caribbean and the U.S. They were clear from the start in their goal to send a strong message of unity and solidarity with the workers and students who struggle for a better life in Haiti, where 600,000 still live in tents. Their collective effort inspired more and more students and teachers to come forward and offer to help. Each day, more students joined committees and got involved in the planning. The enthusiasm spread.

The fighting spirit at Clara Barton comes out of a long and vibrant history of activism. Students went to New Orleans to help after Hurricane Katrina, organized anti-racist mass assemblies, and marched in New York and in Washington against imperialist war and budget cuts.  More than 300 CHALLENGEs are distributed outside the school. Members of Progressive Labor Party have defended the rights of both students and teachers against attacks by the school administration, which regularly harasses teachers with accusations and investigations. PL members and friends have withstood these attacks and continue to fight for what is in the best interests of students and staff.

Although the Bloomberg administration has built fear and passivity in many schools in New York, the fighting spirit at Clara Barton has not wavered. To sustain and spread the resistance to more friends and other schools, many more people need to be recruited to commit to a lifelong struggle to build a communist world. Join the Progressive Labor Party!

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Students Fighting Cuts: Ally With Workers, Not Liberal Pols

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — “The rally for community colleges on February 27 is being organized by Chancellor Jack Scott and college public-relations officers,” a student leader commented, “so members of our club will need to make sure students’ wants are voiced.”
Most community college students belong to the working class. Like other workers, they’re hit hard by the current capitalist crisis. They don’t want classes cut, teachers to lose jobs, and student fees to go up.

Unlike tuition at California’s two university systems, community college fees go into the state General Fund. They help pay interest going to banks and investors, which the state constitution requires to be paid before any other expenses! Community College fees also help pay for the state’s huge and viciously racist prison system.

The governor plans to cut funding for state financial aid by $87.5 million by freezing income eligibility limits, reducing the maximum award and eliminating the “safety net” for recipients’ children.

Budget Cuts, Tax Hikes: Racist, Anti-Worker

Most students don’t want higher taxes either, but that’s what the Democratic Party and the California Teachers Association want us to fight for. California Community College Chancellor Scott, as a “pro-education” legislator, pushed for a sales tax hike at a Pasadena rally against education cuts last spring.

Sales taxes are racist and regressive. They come down hardest on lower-paid workers and the unemployed, including a high proportion of black and Latin workers. The poorest 20% of California households paid nearly 12% of their income in taxes, while the richest 1% of households paid only 7% of theirs.

Budget cuts are racist, too. Cuts in Medi-Cal eligibility and benefits will make things much worse in a health care system so overloaded that it already turns away many – especially in neighborhoods like South LA, where the MLKing Hospital was shut down and clinics are closing.

Legal immigrants and US citizen children of undocumented immigrants are singled out for specific racist cutbacks. Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the California Food Assistance Program, which feeds certain legal non-citizens who are ineligible for federal programs because of their immigration status.

Capitalism is the Problem, Communism is the Solution

The California budget crisis is a direct result of the capitalist crisis of overproduction and imperialist war. Because capitalists compete to maximize profits, and because lower wages mean higher profits, they produce more than can be sold. Then workers are laid-off so that they can afford to spend less on consumer goods.

Meanwhile, “corporate income taxes have declined over time as a share of General Fund revenues and as a share of corporate profits. If corporations had paid the same share of their profits in corporate taxes in 2006 as they did in 1981, corporate tax collections would have been $8.4 billion higher,” concludes the California Budget Project. (www.cbp.org)  Because of Prop 13 (1978) huge corporations pay property taxes on the assessed value of their property — like Disneyland — 30 years ago!

Community colleges are promoted as a “way out of the working class.”  But they are training the workers who can be the key to building a new system. Students need to ally with industrial workers and soldiers in a movement to destroy this capitalist system that brings us economic insecurity, racist inequality, and increasingly murderous imperialist war.

The alternative to capitalism is communism, a classless society where workers hold power. Cynicism will get us nowhere!  PLP communists are in the class struggle – like the fight against California budget cuts – to win workers and students away from reform and to the long-term fight for communist revolution.  We invite you to subscribe to Challenge, join a PLP discussion group, and march with PLP on May Day – International Workers Day!

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Red Ideas, Worker-Student Unity Can Boost Contract Fight

LOS ANGELES, CA, Nov. 26 – “Whatever the changes are, they’re not going to benefit workers like us,” said a long-time CHALLENGE reader at my school. “Obama represents the rich in this country, just like the other guys [Bush and McCain],” he told his co-worker. I went to distribute CHALLENGE to this group of campus workers who are in the middle of a union contract fight for higher wages and to safeguard pensions. Many are now regular CHALLENGE readers, which has helped show the connections between their contract fight, the budget cuts, and the wars for oil profits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking at the post-election headline in CHALLENGE (“Obama to Workers: Sacrifice to Save Racist Capitalism”) a group of us began to talk about Obama’s victory.

One worker echoed a very common idea on campus that, at least now with Obama, we could expect some things to change for the better. Another worker who has been reading CHALLENGE for a year pointed out we could expect “change,” but it wouldn’t benefit the working class. Some others agreed, saying that Obama’s policy on immigration, for example, isn’t any better than Bush’s.  (Obama supports further militarizing of the border, a slave-labor guest worker program, and fascist control of the immigrant workforce known as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”) I asked the worker, “Do you think Obama is going to change the fact that you and others  have to work two or three jobs to survive?” The worker agreed that the problems most important to him probably wouldn’t “change for the better” because of Obama’s win.  He decided to take CHALLENGE, and we agreed to talk more after he’d read the paper.

Some workers are sharing CHALLENGE with co workers. One reads CHALLENGE articles out loud during lunch and the workers then discuss what they mean. This has helped strengthen the worker student alliance around PLP’s politics.

Student CHALLENGE readers on campus led the struggle to expose Obama’s pro-war, pro-Wall Street stance before and after the election. They organized a post-election panel of different student groups to discuss what the election really means for workers and students, with the Muslim, Republican, African-American, and Labor Rights student organizations participating on the panel. The turn-out was modest, but the discussion was sharp. One long-time CHALLENGE reader on the panel argued that the financial crisis and the Iraq war are the products of imperialism, a system rooted in racism, war and exploitation. The speaker also showed all the ways that Obama supports the agenda of the U.S. capitalist class, from national service to expanding the military to more wars in Pakistan and possibly with Iran.

Surprisingly the Republican speaker argued that now “the nation” needed to unite behind Obama. “The U.S. is fighting it out right now with other countries…We need to make sure we stay on top in the world, because if China or Russia get the top spot, then we all lose. But if the U.S. stays the main power in the world, then we all benefit,” said the young Republican.

Obama and the ruling class want to win students and workers to believe that if the U.S. is strong, then all “Americans” will be better off, to get the working class to sacrifice for “our nation.” One PLP member pointed out that all workers always stay at the bottom under capitalism, no matter which group of bosses is on top. So, workers and students should fight for internationalism and solidarity across borders.  We should fight against the racist nationalism and patriotism that Obama, McCain, and other politicians are promoting. Others on the panel and in the audience agreed.

By building CHALLENGE networks and fighting for a worker-soldier-student alliance, we can expose these fascist lies that promote patriotic sacrifice and racism among workers and students. This will help in creating a base for our ideas and for the struggles in the future. As the capitalist crisis deepens, the struggle to expand CHALLENGE networks will politically prepare our members and friends to take greater leadership with PLP in the fight for revolution.

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Baltimore Youth Fighting for Job Funds

Baltimore students protestingBALTIMORE, MD, June 2 — On May 30th, students, teachers and education advocates gathered at the Inner Harbor amphitheater to protest Mayor Sheila Dixon’s refusal to appropriate $3 million toward knowledge-based jobs for 750-1,000 young people through the Peer 2 Peer (P2P) network. P2P Youth Enterprises, a coalition of approximately 20 local youth groups, organized the demonstration. They then marched to the Legg Mason plaza and announced a hunger strike, commencing that evening. The protestors chanted and gave speeches on education, followed by an open mic session featuring socially conscious hip hop and spoken word poetry.

P2P has been engaging in activities from workshops to overnight camp-outs in front of City Hall to demand these funds. “It’s outrageous that the City is not giving $3 million to young people to do positive work,” said a public school teacher. “When the City schools were predominantly white, about 20% to 40% of the city budget went to education. Now that the City’s student population is 90% African-American, the portion of the City budget devoted to education is just 11%, a severe, racist cutback that hurts all students, no matter what their racial background.”

The Baltimore City Council voted 11 to 3 against the P2P funding. Many speculate that pressure from Mayor Dixon forced that negative vote.

Two weeks ago, when the coalition began a four-day, overnight campout in front of City Hall, Dixon appeared and told the young people they ought to just get jobs at Target. But P2P seeks funding for programs like tutoring and mentorships, so young people can be paid to teach other youth important skills, like algebra, debate and video production.

“Target is not a comparison to Peer 2 Peer,” said one P2P organizer, nor is P2P an after-school or summer program, as misrepresented by the bosses’ media. It’s a year-long program designed to create jobs and prepare youth for careers in a knowledge-based economy.

The $3 million figure would come from the annual interest earned on the City’s $88 million rainy-day surplus emergency fund, not from the fund itself, as inaccurately portrayed by the capitalist media. “The state of youth in Baltimore City is definitely an emergency,” declared a P2P youth leader.
One excuse offered to refuse funding is “a sluggish economy,” yet City funds are going into the build-up of tourist areas like the Harbor.

As the event concluded, committed hunger strikers were transported to a church where nightly shelter is being provided.

The young people view the hunger strike as necessary to attain their goal, with no plans to end it until the mayor and the City Council grant their demands.

Progressive Labor Party applauds the selfless commitment of the hunger strikers and all their many supporters. But we recognize its limitations. In general, hunger strikes seek to embarrass the rulers, but the rulers really have no shame. After all, capitalism starves millions of workers worldwide.

P2P activists stepped up the level of struggle by bringing many supporters to the Mayor’s Night-In, which she had promoted as an opportunity for youth and adults to talk about solving problems in various neighborhoods. The vast majority of participants were P2P supporters, who spoke out very forcefully, essentially taking leadership of the event away from the politicians. At one point the mayor physically grabbed the microphone to defend herself and to accuse adult P2P supporters of misleading P2P youth.

However, she received meager applause, compared to the overwhelming repeated applause for P2P speakers, a vigorous standing ovation for the hunger strikers, and powerful applause supporting the $3 million for P2P youth jobs.

In a broader sense, political awareness is growing, learning how politicians and the government, though claiming to represent all people, are really puppets for the ruling class of big business owners. Some of the young activists recently attended PLP’s May Day march in New York City.

It’s becoming clearer that the government is not neutral but really a dictatorship of the capitalist class. The government is theirs, not ours.

Even if a reform victory is achieved — winning $3 million — the rulers, having state power, can always take it away later, as they’re doing in cutting wages for millions of workers. This is especially true, given the bosses’ need to direct resources toward carrying out imperialist oil wars in Iraq and elsewhere.
Capitalism cannot be reformed, nor can it solve the problems it creates for the working class. We need a future in which the working class shares the fruit of all the value our labor produces. Only communist revolution can achieve this.

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PL-led Action Hits Mexico University’s Oppressive Rules

MEXICO, April 16 — PLP organized a protest at a school in UNAM (Autonomous University of Mexico) against the Rules of  Inscription reproduced on April 7th, in an edition of the “Rights and Obligations of the Universities” by the Administration’s Committee in “ Defense of the University Students.”

These rules require that only students who have finished their Bachelor’s degree in three years and with an average grade of nine (barely 10% of the students achieve this) are allowed to choose a major and their preferred school. This same rule excludes from UNAM those who finish their bachelor’s degree in more than 4 years. And for the faculty, to achieve permanent status, a professor would have to work 5 times longer (505% more) than the current plan.

The UNAM student strike of 1999-2000 demanded the repeal of this same rule. In the face of the mass and prolonged protest against the police intervention to smash the strike, the Rector declared that this rule would be suspended until it was discussed in the University Congress (that they could never organize). However, since the protests got smaller, now the government in using the Administration’s  Committee in the Defense “of the university students” to remind us of their regulation. The majority of students are against this.

The PLP quickly called for a protest inside one of the schools where we demanded that the Director take the message of our anger against this ruling to his superiors. We also demanded a cafeteria for the students, improvements in the showers in the sports area, and permanent status for the “interim” professors, some of whom have been in this interim situation for 10 years, and other demands.

About 60 students came to the protest and hundreds watched it, including teachers and workers who’ve shown their support and agreement. We brought red banners of PLP and we talked abut the need to build a new type of proletarian party that fights directly for Communism.

We recognize that even though we’ve been timid in putting forward the ideas of the liberation of the working class, we’ve taken steps that have also led to the  math professors demanding the same things of the school administration. We’ve also carried out a campaign to distribute copies of PLP’s Road to Revolution IV. Several professors have shown us their support and encouragement to continue fighting actively for revolution.
Greetings to all the comrades!

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Campus PL’ers Expose Racist Cuts, Link to War, Prison System

“These cutbacks on education are racist to the core,” a PLP member stated during a campus meeting against the cuts. California has proposed a 10% budget cut to both the California State University (CSU) and UC systems, leaving them $312.9 and $417 million short, respectively. Student fees are projected to rise 10% for the upcoming Fall Quarter in the CSU system. This system has large African-American, Latino, and immigrant populations (many of whom don’t qualify for financial aid because of their immigration status). The cuts, a racist attack on these students in particular and all working-class students generally, are part of a series of racist attacks such as the closing of healthcare facilities like King-Drew hospital. Students should unite with workers because we’re all bearing the brunt of a society hell-bent on waging profit wars.

Many students are eager to connect campus struggles to the fight against the exploitation of the whole working-class. PLP encourages all students to participate and to push for more mass-actions on and off campuses against the cuts, the war and the prison system. We are struggling to unite students, faculty and staff for system-wide strikes against these attacks. After all it’s not just Governor Schwarzenegger and a few administrators; we’re up against the capitalist system. This fight could help many see that joining and building a mass communist party is the best way to fight for workers’ power in an era marked by fascism and wider imperialist wars.

We’re exposing the role of the university under capitalism. While the CSU produces teachers, nurses, and engineers, it also builds false, capitalist ideology. While the educational system teaches students skills, it instills ideas that divide the working-class and disarm us politically, telling us we can escape the ills of capitalism by graduating from the university and “making it.”

While the CSU produces 87% of all of California’s teachers, it also creates a booming 89% of all of Criminal Justice graduates. The CSU system helps the bosses mobilize students to serve as agents of repression in law-enforcement careers. CSU San Bernardino works with the Department of Defense to commercialize technologies geared towards homeland security. CSULA recently opened a $100 million Crime Lab built in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police and the Sheriff Department. The rulers want to use the CSU system for repression, which most students and faculty oppose.

Some student organizers call for a tax on the rich, as do Obama and Clinton. The liberal ruling class sees that they must direct more profits into war programs and homeland security. They are willing to attack minor bosses’ profits to wage more war in defense of imperialism. Without communists putting forward the party’s ideas, the bosses and their misleaders can channel the anger of working-class students into illusions in the liberal imperialists while doing nothing to stop the cuts.

Many students who earnestly want to fight against these cuts are being told that the budget cuts are the result of the greed of a few administrators and Governor Schwarzenegger (who certainly are willing servants of the system!), and that just by delivering petitions to Sacramento we can win this fight. With the elections approaching, the misleaders will attempt to mobilize angry working-class students to support Obama or Hillary. Both of these candidates support expanded wars which can’t take place without cuts on wages and social services such as education and health care.

By expanding our hand to hand CHALLENGE distributions, we aim to politically equip our friends to see that in the long run, workers and students need to build a movement to destroy capitalism and create a Communist society, free from profit wars, racism, and sexism. CHALLENGE-based study action groups can connect what may seem as an isolated struggle to a capitalist society becoming more ruthless.

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PLP Students Lead Action vs. Racist NYC Budget Cuts

NEW YORK CITY, February 14 — A multi-racial group of over 500 parents, teachers and students rallied on the steps of City Hall today, protesting the recent racist budget cuts. On January 30, a $180 million cut had been announced and it was carried out the very next day.

The idea for the protest grew out of a teachers union Delegate Assembly on February 6 when PLP members called for the immediate organization of a protest rally for February 14 at Department of Education (DOE) headquarters. They called for teacher unity with parents and students and for the union to use the press, radio and leafleting subway stations to bring out as many people as possible.

The union leadership attacked the call, saying the 14th was “too soon” to bring anyone out. (This from a union with over 100,000 members!) They said, “We can’t ‘hide’ behind our students.” Clearly the union leaders feared thousands of angry workers and students on the streets. Instead they called for a “coalition rally” for March 19, six weeks after the cuts were made.

But PLP students and teachers showed what could be done NOW. At several schools, PLP’ers immediately called for meetings to plan a student-parent-teacher fight-back. They proposed a rally on Valentine’s Day at DOE offices.

The students wrote a flyer advertising the rally and e-mailed it to other student governments city-wide; posted copies around schools; made announcements over school loudspeakers; explained the impact of the cuts in the classrooms. The news of the rally quickly spread to other schools and they took up the organizing as well, encouraging students to join the fight-back.

No Love on Valentine’s Day

At the rally some student speeches emphasized the need to build a movement to smash capitalism, that we must not rely on lying politicians. Some of the latter said they would “help” the students, asserting that the students and parents need Democratic politicians “to save them.”

One young woman speaker said if politicians really cared, billionaire Mayor Bloomberg would pay the school “deficit” out of his $11 billion fortune because he CAN. Instead we have Democratic candidate Obama wanting 92,000 more troops in the military while NYS Senator Hillary Clinton allows $504 million to be cut from the school budget. Some “help”! The speaker concluded that we need a revolution to end this racist system. Condemning the budget cuts as racist, students also linked them to the widening war and to a growing police state.

Liberals in the crowd told the cops that the students “weren’t a part of the demonstration” and wanted them to leave. The cops, eager to end the event, tried to negotiate but we told the crowd what was going on and they all began chanting, “Let them speak!”

The final speaker described the growing repression against workers fighting the attacks of the system. While Bloomberg rolled out the red carpet a week before for the NY Giants, he will never do that for angry parents and students on the steps of City Hall. Fight for communism!

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Students, Farmworkers, Vets Get PLP Exposé of Hillary’s War Plans

Ten thousand people lined up around our college campuses to try to hear Hillary Clinton speak at a campaign rally. While they stood in a long single file line we were there with CHALLENGE and a leaflet exposing Clinton’s support for war and exposing the DREAM Act as a preparation for war. The flier quoted her website: “The DREAM Act would also strengthen our nation’s military readiness, allowing these well-qualified young men and women to serve their country with honor.” A teacher-comrade explained as she handed out the leaflet: “I know the rulers’ plans for my students — war.” Nearly everyone took our literature from her including both the flier and CHALLENGE. We also explained that it wasn’t just about Clinton, but that all the candidates, Clinton, Obama, and McCain, support wider war in the Middle East and war with China in the future. We tried to show that no matter the candidate, it is the system of capitalism that causes and requires war.

At the rally Clinton pushed race and racism as she played up the support she received from the United Farm Workers (UFW) and attacked Barack Obama. She tried to use the UFW to lie that she supports working-class struggles, invoking the name of another union sell-out: Cesar Chavez (he attacked militancy and undocumented workers as the head of the UFW). We made sure to talk with the farmworkers and give them CHALLENGE/DESAFIO as they left. We also had a good conversation with some Iraq war veterans who were there to protest against Clinton and the continued war in Iraq. One vet agreed that it was imperialism that caused war and that we would have to completely change the economic system. He got a CHALLENGE and we got contact information as well.

One important lesson we learned is that appearances can be deceiving. Many seemingly die-hard Clinton supporters or Democrats were just looking for a change and were interested when we argued that change could not come about through elections. We saw that people with Clinton or Obama buttons liked the idea that only communist revolution could create change. This showed many of us the importance of talking to people about our line of communist revolution no matter their T-shirt or button.

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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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