Tag Archives: War

Obama’s ‘Change’:Be All You Can Be For U.S. Imperialism

This year the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Black History Month and Barack Obama’s presidential run are combining to create a lethal brew for U.S. workers. Every year on King’s birthday we hear how racial harmony is just around the corner if we workers can only be true to his pacifist legacy. Black History Month, while highlighting great contributions made by black writers, scientists and artists (although notably excluding working-class heroes), also builds the illusion that capitalism provides unlimited opportunities for black workers.

These events combined push the lie that racism is declining in the U.S. However, the media blitz can’t hide the fact that racism is alive and well in the U.S. and worldwide.

Now Barack Obama’s bid is pushing two big lies: (1) simply voting for a politician or law can reform capitalism; and (2) the working class, especially black workers, will be better off with a black President.

Yet the reality is that even in the Democratic primaries themselves “race” and racism have emerged front and center, with Clinton and Obama trading barbs about it and appealing to black and white constituencies. And anti-immigrant racism plays a major role in the Republican primaries as well.

The bosses use racism to divide the working class and extract even more profit from our labor. By nearly every measure — employment, incarceration rates, healthcare, education, poverty levels, wages, the Katrina horror, racist police murders and frame-ups like the Jena Six and anti-immigrant raids — black and Latino workers are victims of a brutal racist system. According to 2006 U.S. Census statistics, the poverty rate for blacks was 24.3% compared to 3.5% for whites. (The federal poverty rate is set at a level –– $20,650 for a family of four –– that is horrendously low. This means that tens of thousands of families are living in poverty conditions, even if they aren’t counted as such by the government.) The U.S. prison population (the highest in the world) contains 2.4 million people, 70% black and Latino, with millions more on probation, parole or awaiting trial, much of it due to racism.

The fact is, capitalism cannot exist without racism. The concepts of “race” and racism were developed as an ideology just as capitalist economies began to dominate world markets. Then, as now, it was used both to divide and weaken the working class, and to justify paying lower wages to black and Latino workers.

Under capitalism, workers must compete for jobs. On average, according to the Census Bureau, black workers are paid about 70¢ in wages for every dollar paid to white workers. (For Latino workers it’s about 60¢.) Bosses use this differential to threaten white workers not to ask for higher pay or be replaced by lower-paid black and Latino workers. White workers are thus forced to accept lower wages based on the racist exploitation of black and Latin labor. This historical analysis has led PLP to consistently make the fight against racism central to the struggle against capitalist oppression. As Karl Marx said, “The labor in white skin can never be free so long as the labor in black skin is branded.”

The Danger of Elections

Along with the usual lies about how capitalism can be reformed to eliminate racism, the presence of the first legitimate black contender for president, Barack Obama, makes this a particularly dangerous year for workers. Since his break-out speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama has become another face of the liberal wing of the ruling class, along with Hillary Clinton (see editorial page 2). This Rockefeller-led faction pushes a “friendlier” capitalism, where the war in Iraq would be fought with more allies, Guantanamo Bay would be reformed or closed, and “civil liberties” would be protected (“liberties” which are revoked whenever the ruling class feels threatened). Even if these changes are made, however, it will not lead to a system that satisfies the needs of workers. In reality, the liberals are attempting to use these ideas to build even greater patriotic loyalty to their imperialist aims worldwide.

Obama neatly fits another part of the liberals’ strategy. He talks about “change” and “hope” and other wonderful-sounding ideas. And as the higher (though limited) voter turnouts in Iowa and New Hampshire demonstrate, his ideas (along with the other candidates’) are inspiring many more people to get involved in capitalist politics. Yet Obama has clear ties to the ruling class and has proven that he will place the goals of the U.S. imperialists over the needs of the working class (see box below for his links to the bosses):

• He voted billions more for the war in Iraq and has threatened military action against Iran;
• He supports expanding the murderous war in Afghanistan;
• He voted for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, to make it even more dangerous for super-exploited Mexican workers trying to enter the U.S.

(CHALLENGE has leveled these criticisms at Hillary Clinton, who is just as much an enemy of the working class as Obama. (See editorial page 2) Workers will not benefit from an Obama presidency any more than from Clinton or McCain or any of the others.

Militant Struggle, Not Elections, Led to Change

In fact, workers have never won real social, political and economic changes through voting. The so-called “examples” of voting bringing reforms ignores the intensive militant, violent struggles that preceded the vote. The anti-slavery Thirteenth Amendment passed only after years of fight-back by abolitionists, more than 400 slave revolts and a Civil War in which 600,000 soldiers, mostly workers, died.

The 40-hour work-week and labor reform followed a decade of sit-down strikes, often pitting armed workers, led by communist organizers, against the army, cops, National Guard and other bosses’ agents. Even the Voting Rights Act resulted from years of bloody struggle against the KKK and Jim Crow racism. History clearly shows that the bosses only make concessions to the working class when forced to do so by mass, militant action.

But the bosses use their state power to reverse these reforms. And current economic conditions show this is especially true during times of intense inter-imperialist rivalry. As U.S. rulers struggle to solidify control of Iraqi oil and contain their imperialist rivals in Europe and Asia, workers increasingly feel the squeeze. For more and more workers, the 40-hour work-week is a distant memory. The Labor Department recently reported that in 2007 inflation was 4.1% while real wages dropped 0.9%, making necessities such as food, energy and healthcare more expensive. Due to racist discrimination, all this disproportionately affects black and Latino workers.

Capitalism is a system with laws that cannot be changed by electing a black or woman president or through reforms. These laws dictate that racism will always be used to extract super-profits from the labor of workers and that any reforms the working class does win will eventually be taken back. Only revolutionary communist change will emancipate the working class from capitalist wage slavery which is the basis of racism. Only with communism will all aspects of society meet the needs of the working class, while the profit-driven bosses are destroyed. Progressive Labor Party constantly and consistently works toward this goal.

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Red GI Challenges War At Platoon Meeting

I’m currently in a unit with soldiers who openly express resentment towards unfair demotions, long work days, and an upcoming deployment to Iraq. For many soldiers this will be a second trip to the Middle East. This means that for a second time we will see how unproductive and vicious the occupation is. These conditions offer fertile ground for communist politics to spread, so my political conversations have recently reached a new level of importance. Although my conversations range from complaining about our working conditions to imperialism, I haven’t yet shown Challenge to anyone in my current unit. But this is about to change because of one specific incident I want to share with Challenge readers.

Recently my unit has been merged with other units to “strengthen” deployable status, a very common occurrence with military units. This means that new relationships are created among soldiers. Leaders, therefore, are quick at attempting to build a “teamwork” atmosphere. So our platoon sergeant had everyone gather in a room to introduce themselves to each other. When it was my turn, I decided to announce something, which I knew many would agree with. After giving a brief introduction, I told everyone that I “wholeheartedly disagreed with this war.” I said that “even though we wear this uniform, it doesn’t mean we can’t openly disagree with the government.”

But the courage to say this out loud didn’t occur spontaneously. It came about through the collective base building of our Party. I knew that at least three soldiers would agree with me because of political conversations with them. It turned out that more agreed as well. Plus, a leaflet was distributed outside my base calling soldiers to be more critical and to create an alliance between workers, soldiers, and students. When I spoke about the leaflet to one specific soldier, who is also in my platoon he let me know that he agreed with what was essentially part of our Party’s line.

What is to be done? While the ruling class uses soldiers and the military as their tool to gain imperial hegemony, it’s time for us to use Challenge as our tool to win more soldiers to PLP. Clearly the next step is to show our newspaper to more friends. From this, more intense conversations will emerge. The ruling class will wage its wars in the Middle East; therefore. workers, along with soldiers and students should wage our ideological struggle with the working class. I find myself in a stronger political position in our unit. Reading in Challenge about other soldiers’ struggles in the military inspires me to move forward. In any case, political base-building is the foundation that will pave the way to our success in reaching our ultimate goal, and our newspaper will aid me in building for a communist revolution.

Red Soldier
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2007: Rival Imperiaists Challenged U.S. –Workers Fought Back Worldwide

World domination by U.S. rulers is being challenged by the bosses of Russia, Iran and China. This sharpening rivalry is displayed in many ways. Pick up a mainstream U.S. newspaper any time and the message you most likely receive is that China is evil. News sources reported all year about the dangerous or poisonous products of China: from pet chow to toothpaste, from toys to sea food. The mouthpieces of the ruling class were determined to paint China as the devil, even though U.S.-owned companies produced the goods in question.

A communist analysis tells us that the bosses’ reason for this is not concern for our safety. They fear China’s growing ability to compete with the U.S. as an imperialist power, and they need to build up anti-China sentiment in workers in anticipation of future armed conflict.

The U.S. rivalry with China and other growing powers drove many of the events of the year, either directly or indirectly. The Save Darfur movement is being built among students and workers in order to oppose China’s interests in Africa. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is able to call George Bush names without much fear, partly because of his ties to imperialists in China, Russia and elsewhere. Over a million people have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waged by U.S. bosses to prevent rivals from gaining access to Mid-East oil.

The year 2007 saw the outbreak of rebellions by Arab and Muslim youth in France and mass strikes in France, South Africa, Peru, Italy and the Dominican Republic and a general strike in Greece. Workers in the United States have fought back with strikes in war plants at Northrop-Grumman in Pascagoula, Mississippi and at Navistar. Although those workers struck for economic reasons, striking war plants shows that they did not fall for the boss’s patriotism. PLP supported these strikers and helped expose the pro-boss union hacks still holding back our class. PLP’ers have also been organizing in the military and in subcontracting plants serving the war industry.

The lead-up to the next presidential election was big news as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton jockeyed for the Democratic Party nomination, each hoping to convince workers of their anti-war stance while assuring Big Oil that they would do a better job than Bush at securing control of the Middle East. Both Obama and Clinton have openly supported pre-emptive strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan and the Iranian rulers respectively.

In mass events, PLP’ers — through chants, speeches and sales of CHALLENGE — have consistently exposed the liberal politicians as more dangerous as they try to win worker support with their lies while deepening the wars their “conservative” counterparts started.

Meanwhile, the current government used the “war on terror” to excuse increasingly fascist tactics in oppressing the workers. We saw a rise in the use of video cameras everywhere, from schools to buses. Police murdered black and Latin young people in every major city like Kiel Coppin in NYC, Francisco Mondragon in LA and Aaron Harrison in Chicago. Brutal crackdowns on immigrants, like the raid at a plant in New Bedford, Mass., separated families through deportation at the same time that immigration “reforms” like the DREAM Act promise citizenship to those who would join the military to fight in the Middle East. The bosses have worked hard this year to build fear and passivity in the workers, but they face a major contradiction: they are attacking the same people they need to be patriotic and fight their imperialist wars.

PL was there to lead militant, multi-racial protests against gutter racists like the Minutemen. We stood up against racist right-wingers like David Horowitz with his Islamo-Fascism week and against military and CIA recruiters on our campuses.

The local courts in Jena, LA, viciously punished young black students who fought back against racists who hung nooses at their school. Since then the media has reported that racist attacks are on the rise. As the NY Times reported (11/25), “…this country has seen a rash of as many as 50 to 60 noose incidents. The level of hate crimes in the U.S. is astoundingly high — more than 190,000 incidents per year.” Masses of black workers and students converged on Jena, LA, to protest the racist events there. PL members brought communist politics to these anti-racist events.

The rulers left workers to suffer in many ways while they struggled to keep control over their imperialist interests. The sub-prime mortgage crisis meant many workers, disproportionately black and Latino ones, lost homes and financial security. Bridges collapsed, miners died in cave-ins, homes and lives were lost to fires and floods, earthquakes from San Diego to Tabasco, Mexico, to Peru, the Caribbean and Bangladesh. The wreckage left in the wake of hurricane Katrina is in even worse shape after two years of the bosses’ “recovery effort.” The bosses have decided to demolish the public housing which were totally livable.

No matter how much the bosses abandon all responsibility for our safety, workers take care of each other. Students, teachers and workers are still traveling to the New Orleans area to lend support to their class brothers and sisters there. PLP contingents made the trip several times during the year, organizing our friends to help in schools, churches, community groups and workplaces.

High school students spoke to the Delegate Assembly of the New York teachers’ union for the first time, demanding that their voices be heard against imperialist war. On the West Coast, high school and college students spent their summer building unity with industrial workers.

Even as the bosses try to beat us down and win us to their nationalist ideas, the workers’ anger is still there. It’s the job of communists to give this anger at the system a revolutionary direction. We don’t want to rebel fruitlessly, but to build a movement that will be able to challenge and destroy capitalism. Then workers will be able to run the world according to our class interests. PLP is leading the way towards that communist future.

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The recent revelation that Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program for the last four years marks a step towards, not away from, wider war in the Middle East. Policy-makers representing the liberal, imperialist wing of U.S. rulers dropped the Iran bombshell in order to hamstring the remaining neocons in the lame-duck Bush administration. The liberals want to prevent Cheney & Co., whom they view as inept war makers, from launching an undermanned, unilateral military strike on Iran in their administration’s last year.

With the U.S. war machine bogged down in Iraq, the liberal rulers are buying time. They hope a Democratic president can mobilize the vast forces — both U.S. troops and allies — needed for inevitable clashes not just with Iran but with rivals China and Russia. Toning down the U.S.’s image as a racist torturer (while in no way eliminating actual torture) is crucial to this process. That’s why a “new and improved” liberal-led CIA revealed that the corrupt, incompetent old neocon CIA had, back in 2005, destroyed videotapes of torture at Guantanamo.


The “December Surprise” on Iran comes not from the White House but from a spy apparatus, once discredited for its Iraq weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco but newly rehabilitated by imperialist liberals. Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Rockefeller-led imperialists’ Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), boasted, “The intelligence community surprised everyone, including the Bush administration” (CFR website, 12/04/07). The liberal NY Times joined the chorus of praise: “The new national intelligence directorate is analyzing information more rigorously” (12/09/07).

Key to this pro-imperialist transformation has been Gen. Michael Hayden, CIA chief since 2006. Hayden serves the liberal wing. Bill Clinton chose him to direct the National Security Agency in 1999. His mentor in the Air Force was Gen. Charles Boyd, formerly executive director of the Hart-Rudman commission, which outlined U.S. capitalism’s plans for world domination for the next 25 years.

Boyd penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “A Symphony for Hayden” at the time of his protégé’s CIA appointment last year. It was Hayden who blabbed about the Guantanamo torture tapes to pin the blame on Bush die-hards and cast his own crew as “reforming” white knights. Liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller, while condoning torture, backs Hayden’s whistle-blowing because waterboarding “however well-intentioned, plays into the hands of our enemies” (NYT, 12/08/07). However, the Democrats were briefed about waterboarding back in 2002 and said nothing.


Mobilizing the U.S. militarily and building popular support for its wars are the chief tasks the liberal rulers lay upon the next President. CFR chairman Richard Haass told National Public Radio (12/08/07), “The new president will inherit a tremendously complex world and a U.S. less well-positioned to deal with it because our military is stretched and worn down and because of anti-Americanism.”

The liberals understand that Iran won’t be a quick “hit-and-run” job. Robert Blackwill, counselor at the CFR writes, “If diplomacy fails and the U.S. attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, the result would likely be a long war, as Tehran isn’t likely to surrender. Such use of force would also further destabilize the Middle East, inflame the Islamic world, strengthen terrorist forces everywhere and would probably produce attacks on the American homeland” (Wall Street Journal 12/6/07). So, to give the rulers time to militarize the U.S., the new intelligence estimate sets the timetable for action beyond the Bush gang’s term, declaring, “Iran will achieve nuclear weapons capabilities somewhere between 2009 and 2015.”


Robert Gates, the liberals’ replacement for Rumsfeld (Gates has worked for the Baker-Hamilton commission and the CFR), said there was no telling when the pretext for a U.S. invasion would arise. “Iran could restart those efforts at any time.” At a recent conference in Bahrain, Gates urged U.S. Mid-East allies to “develop regional air and missile defense systems” and maritime security to prepare for war against Iran. He promised that the U.S. was hell-bent on expanding its war for control of the region’s oil. “The United States remains committed to defending its vital interests and those of its allies in Iraq and in the wider Middle East” (NY Times, 12/09/07). “Vital interests” has been code for Mid-East oil ever since Jimmy Carter used the term in his Carter Doctrine and began the military build-up to secure it after the 1979 Iranian ayatollahs’ ouster of the Shah, a U.S. puppet.

All the Democratic candidates seek to meet their capitalist masters’ needs in ways that will shed even more workers’ blood. Supporting any of them would be a grave error. The course for our class must be to join and build the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party, which has the long-term outlook of destroying the profit system and its ever-deadlier wars.

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