Saturday, April 18, 2015

'Solidarity is strengthened by social struggle’

The Militant received the following letter from reader August Nimtz in Twin Cities, Minnesota, commenting on the article "Does 'Broken Windows' Policy Cause Police Brutality?" in the Feb. 23 issue.

The Militant is right on in its article on police brutality and what it will take to eliminate it as well as the daily "crime and gang violence" working people have to live with. "Ties of solidarity among working people are strengthened in times of growing social struggles" — the beginning of a real answer to the latter. At the height of the Black rights movement 50 years ago, the Feb. 1, 1965, Militant reported on a study on how crime in the Black neighborhood dropped during the most intense moments of the mass mobilizations in one of the movement's sites. Militant readers, anti-police brutality fighters in particular, would also benefit in knowing more about how the Cuban Revolution was able to dismantle the police force and replace it with one that serves the interests of working people.

Below we reprint the article Nimtz refers to, with the original headline.

How to Cut the Crime Rate: Mobilize People for Rights
A Johns Hopkins and Howard University study of crime patterns in Cambridge, Md., showed a clear link between "direct action" civil rights activity and a reduction in crimes among Negroes. The study showed that in the months of May through September in 1962 and 1963, during which there was considerable civil-rights activity in Cambridge, the Negro crime rated dropped to 25 per cent of the 1961 rate.
There was no corresponding difference in the crime rate of Cambridge whites.

According to the Jan. 15 Baltimore Sun, the university researchers drew the following conclusions:

"1. Aggressions built up by the system of segregation, instead of being dammed up or unleashed against other Negroes, were channeled into the nonviolent protest movement …"

"2. All levels of the Negro community were affected by the movement. Even Negroes who took no active part in the protests were deterred from crime by a spirit of unity and common concern for the movement."

The civil-rights movement in Cambridge, led by the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee under the direction of Gloria Richardson, was one of the most militant in the country. For several months in the summer of 1963 the National Guard was called into Cambridge to maintain martial law.

Despite this the CNAC won a number of demands in Cambridge, embodied in a July 23, 1963 five point program. These included integration of the Dorchester County schools, appointment of a bi-racial city committee, integration of all public places of accommodation, and the proposal for the building of low-rent public housing.

The university investigation of the effects of the Cambridge movement put its finger on a key point when it concluded: "The most important single fact is that [the Cambridge movement] was conducted almost entirely by lower class Negroes."

Putin glorifies despotic czars as examples of Russian pride

Who your heroes are says a lot. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appeals to Great Russian chauvinism seeking to boost his regime and its modern-day territorial claims, promotes glorification of the czars and the country's despotic feudal history. Revolutionary working-class leaders Karl Marx and Frederick Engels accurately described the monarchs who ruled the Russian empire for centuries as "the mainstay of European reaction." Their rule was overthrown by the historic working-class-led revolution in 1917....


Support for rights of gays spurs debate on ‘religious freedom’ law

.... these laws have nothing to do with preventing discrimination against the free exercise of the right to worship. Their goal is to legitimatize discrimination against gays and others....


Ukraine ban on free speech threat to sovereignty

Ukraine ban on free speech
threat to sovereignty
In the name of denouncing totalitarianism and honoring independence fighters the Ukrainian parliament passed several laws April 9 that trample on the freedom of speech....


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Join protests for $15 and a union!


Join protests for $15 and a union!  

All out for the April 15 national day of action for the Fight for $15 and a union. Bring your co-workers, your family, your friends.

The protest will be a demonstration of growing confidence as the working class in the U.S. begins to transform itself through resistance to the bosses' attacks.

The fight has spread beyond fast-food and Walmart workers to other layers of the class who work for wages that don't pay the bills — from contract airport cleaners to home health care workers to carwasheros.

The demand for a minimum wage of $15 an hour has gone from a wish to a watchword for millions of workers, forcing big-box retailers and now McDonald's to announce wage increases that, while limited and inadequate, show workers that by fighting you can win. "The bosses are scared of us," they correctly say.

Layers of better-paid workers, including union laborers and janitors, are weighing in on the side of the lowest paid workers, whose persistence and confidence is inspiring. The Steelworkers union has set an example for militancy and taken the moral high ground in fighting for safety, both for oil refinery workers and those who live in surrounding communities. The growing refusal to accept police brutality and racist attacks is another sign of the changing consciousness among millions of working people. The protests since grand juries let cops walk in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, have reinforced the Fight for 15, and unionists are increasingly showing up at actions against police violence, from London to Smyrna, Georgia.

As they engage with others in struggle, workers broaden their scope and deepen their sense of solidarity. They see themselves differently, not as lone wolves condemned by "human nature" to battle other workers, all looking out for number one, but as members of a class and a movement that can win concessions on the road to ending the dictatorship of capital and building a society based on our morals, not theirs.

More workers will be attracted to the example of the Cuban Revolution, its internationalism and self-sacrifice, and repelled by Washington's 56-year effort to overturn it. And the rise of resistance in the bastion of the empire strengthens the Cuban Revolution.

The Militant is a weapon in the hands of those beginning to resist boss attacks. It tells the truth about their fights, lets them know about others fighting worldwide, discusses the key political questions facing humanity from the working-class point of view and draws the lessons of revolutionary struggles past and present. Join us to help expand the paper's circulation.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Democratic Party liberalism: a communist critique

A 1996 article demolishing the Wellstone Mystique

Wellstone: Liberal Advocate Of Imperialism  


ST. PAUL, Minnesota - "What distinguishes my campaign is that it has no aspirations separate and apart from what working people need to do to fight for a decent living and for our rights." Tom Fiske, Socialist Workers Party candidate, was responding to my question on how he's different than the other candidates in the race for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. 

"We are beholden to no big business profiteers or anyone else who benefits from exploiting the labor of workers and working farmers," Fiske said in an interview here October 10. "We tell the unvarnished truth about the ruling families' bloody wars for profits and domination abroad and their mounting assault on our standard of living and our democratic rights at home. 

"And we explain that working people must rely on our own collective power, our unions, and mass actions in the streets to defend our interests as a class, and chart a political course independent of the capitalist parties. We need to fight for a government of workers and farmers to replace the government that acts in the interests of the billionaire families that run this country, and lead millions to join the struggle for socialism." 

Fiske is running for the seat now held by Paul Wellstone, who is up for reelection on the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party ticket. Six years ago, Wellstone, formerly a professor in the Political Science Department at Carleton College, defeated Republican incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. 

Boschwitz is the Republican standard-bearer again this year. Five other candidates for the Senate seat are on the ballot: Dean Barkley, Reform Party; Tim Davis, Grassroots Party; Howard B. Hanson, Resource Party; Steve Johnson, Natural Law Party; and Roy Esra Carlton, Libertarian Party. Barkley won more than 5 percent of the votes in 1994, enough to win "major party" status for his party in Minnesota. 

"From the media and the candidates' ads one would get the impression the race is between `balance-the-budget' Boschwitz and `big spender' Wellstone," Fiske observed. "That, however, hides the agreement they have on major issues." Fiske noted that both Wellstone and Boschwitz immediately hailed President William Clinton's missile attacks against Iraq in early September. "Of all the candidates in the race," he said, "I'm the only one who joined picket lines to protest these brutal violations of Iraq's sovereignty. I helped get others to these protests, including a small group of Macalester College students I met while campaigning there. And I'm continuing to speak out against Washington's cruel economic sanctions and military threats against the Iraqi people." 

In spite of this, a lot of activists, including protesters against the bombings of Iraq are supporting Wellstone, I noted. How do you explain this? 

Wellstone supports antigay measure

"Many people back him because they think he's in the front lines standing up to the mounting assault on Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of public assistance," Fiske responded. "His campaign staff and the media have made a big deal out of his being `the only Senator seeking reelection to vote against the welfare bill,' which Clinton signed. The senator claims `I voted my conscience.' But I think this covers up how he is aiding and abetting the employers' assault on working people." 

It was hardly a radical step for Wellstone to vote against the Welfare Reform Act this summer, Fiske said. In the Senate, 21 Democrats voted against the bill and 25 voted for it. In the House, 97 Democrats voted against it and 98 for it - nearly 50/50, even after Clinton's no-holds-barred public demand for congressional backing. Wellstone cast his vote on this legislation not under pressure from the working class, but in step with the top AFL-CIO officialdom and the Minnesota state labor council. 

Fiske continued, "If you want a real litmus test of conscience I think Wellstone's votes in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act and the immigration bill are much more revealing. The former, which lets states refuse to recognize same-sex marriages by gays and lesbians in other states, is a flagrant attack on the right of privacy - a right working people have fought to defend and extend. 

"Wellstone," the socialist candidate stated, "has put himself on record in support of the right of the state to intrude into the most personal matters between individuals and in such a way as to stigmatize a section of the population. This can only aid the employers' attempt to undermine solidarity among working people and pit us against each other." 

It is hard to think of legislation more cruel and demeaning than a measure permitting the state to treat a certain section of the population - gays and lesbians in this case - differently from others in regard to elementary civil equality and access to government benefits, Fiske said. 

"We should not forget that one of the consequences of this barbaric legislation is to deny federal entitlements to same-sex partners. This includes benefits that surviving spouses have a right to, including Social Security and veterans payments. The Defense of Marriage Act has to be seen as part and parcel of beginning the assault on the social benefits working people have fought for, paid for, and are entitled to. Wellstone's vote has helped encourage the ultra-rightists' `culture war' against working people and has helped grease the skids for deepening the attack on Social Security and other social benefits. So be it for the Senator's `conscience,' " Fiske stated. 

"We should not be surprised to see Wellstone join attacks on social benefits, including reversing himself on the question of welfare. It's easy enough to see him backing off his tactical stance on the welfare law this year. If Wellstone considers it expedient to support a follow-up to this opening assault on social security - in order to prepare to reverse it, he could say demagogically, as other liberal Democrats did on the welfare bill - he will certainly do so, pointing to his recent vote on the Welfare Reform Act to establish his liberal bona fides." 

Assault on immigrants

I asked what the connection is to Wellstone's vote for the Defense of Marriage Act and his September 30 vote for legislation restricting immigrant rights. 

"The omnibus spending bill that the Senate adopted just before it adjourned and that Clinton signed on October 1 included severe new attacks on immigrants," Fiske stated. "It declares undocumented immigrants ineligible for most federal, state, and local benefits. Moreover, it denies `legal' immigrants access to most benefits except school lunch and some nutrition programs. The bill also subjects `legal' immigrants to deportation if they receive public assistance for 12 or more months during their first five years in the United States. 

"This is another way the Democrats and Republicans are starting to chip away at the social wage. They target a particularly vulnerable group of people, stigmatize them, and start to win public acceptance for beginning to go after hard- won government entitlements. 

"The bills Wellstone voted for," Fiske continued, "will authorize 1,000 additional border cops per year until the year 2000, roughly doubling the force to 10,000. It will also streamline the process for verifying eligibility and documents and for detaining and deporting immigrants." 

"Again Wellstone's `conscience' has helped reinforce ultrarightists and fascists like Patrick Buchanan," Fiske stated. Buchanan is the rightist politician who ran in the Republican primaries against Robert Dole. "In fact, Buchanan, in response to the adoption of the immigrant legislation, crowed, `Bill Clinton and Dianne Feinstein [U.S. Senator in California] now are echoing Pat Buchanan on immigration. It's a total victory.' While this is undoubtedly an exaggeration, it gives a sense of the effects of approving these latest attacks on the rights of working people from other countries." 

"I've been talking to a lot of immigrant workers and know that deep anger is developing against these new legislative attacks, the stepped-up INS raids of plants hiring immigrant workers, and the employers' increased confidence in assaulting immigrants," Fiske said. 

"I've been down to Worthington in southern Minnesota talking to union-organized Mexican workers at the Monfort turkey processing plant who are fighting to get their union to take on the company's abusive treatment. I've also done a lot of campaigning at the Northern Star potato chip factory in Minneapolis talking to Latino and African workers about the recent INS raid there and trying to get some of them interested in going with me and others from here to the October 12 immigration rights march in Washington, DC." Fiske is a member of the International Association of Machinists Lodge 1037 and works as a machinist at Eaton Corporation. 

Wellstone's admiration for cops

"It's not surprising that Wellstone would vote for beefing up the border police," the socialist candidate explained. "Backing the cops is one of his calling cards. Every background article on Wellstone I've read describes his admiration for cops. 

"It was totally in keeping with his record to vote for substantially increasing the repressive apparatus of the government by voting to spend $1 billion in the next year `to fight terrorism,'" Fiske said. 

This legislation, adopted by the Senate on April 17, would also restrict the habeas corpus rights of prisoners and increase the restrictions on foreigners entering the United States. Wellstone also voted for a provision to allow multipoint wiretaps in so-called terrorism cases when a suspect uses many phones, the socialist candidate noted. This undemocratic measure, however, didn't make it into the final bill signed by Clinton on April 24. 

I pointed out that one of Boschwitz's campaign themes is to attack Wellstone as "a throwback to a different era, to the '60s" when the last big additions to the federal entitlements that began to be won in the 1930s were enacted. 

"I think that's dead wrong," Fiske said, "Wellstone is not a throwback to either Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. There has been a shift to the right in capitalist politics and in both the Democratic and Republican parties. This is the result of the bipartisan drive to raise profit rates and defend the dollar by promoting economic and social austerity measures at the expense of working people." 

In the early 1970s the curve of capitalist development began a downward slide, Fiske said, registered in the first worldwide capitalist recession in 1974-75. Since then, the bipartisan imperialist foreign policy consolidated under Harry Truman's administration in the 1940s, has been mirrored by an increasingly bipartisan domestic policy. The declining rate of capital accumulation for the U.S. rulers continues to shift to the right the boundaries of their assault on the social wage won by labor and its allies. 

"Along with this, a `culture war, ' as the fascist demagogue Buchanan has put it, is being waged as the political rationalization for the rightward march of both parties," Fiske said. "It is the boundaries of this assault on the working class that circumscribes Wellstone's liberal policies, not the boundaries of some other era. In this context, I don't think we can stress too much the support Wellstone has given to the cultural war's rationalizations by his support to the Defense of Marriage Act and the immigration bills. 

"It's also in this framework we must see the Kennedy- Kassebaum Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that Wellstone voted for. Highly publicized as a measure to give workers a little more medical security when they change jobs, it doesn't guarantee they can get insurance at reasonable rates and doesn't include some 40 million workers. It converges with the attacks on social benefits in the welfare act rather than being an antidote to them." 

An `environmental' senator?

In a recent radio interview, I said, Wellstone stated that by definition a senator from Minnesota is "an environmental senator." What do you think about this? I asked Fiske. 

"I'm not sure why anyone from Minnesota would necessarily be more or less for environmental protection than any capitalist politician from another state," Fiske stated. "Wellstone's record isn't actually so good. In the ongoing debate over whether or not more of the Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should be opened to motor boats and motorized vehicles, the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party here is divided with liberal congressmen taking opposite stands. 

"In an attempt to not alienate potential voters, Wellstone is waffling on the issue and has been a strong proponent of federal mediation. Those favoring opening up these wilderness areas tend to be resort owners in northern Minnesota. Unfortunately, trade union officials in northern Minnesota have been supporting this stance too on the basis that workers there need to have the opportunity to use the areas for recreation. I think that working people can and will think more broadly about the social necessity of preserving the environment, including places for recreation for all working people. Most workers know that degradation of the environment and hazardous conditions at work are very much interconnected." 

Unclogging illusions on liberalism

I pointed out to Fiske that he spent a lot of time on Wellstone's campaign. 

"It's important to do so," Fiske explained. "I've been reaching a lot of people, especially youth - talking to them on campuses, at soap box rallies , and at plant gates. Many are attracted to some of the positions I'm raising but have illusions that Wellstone is better than Boschwitz and, even though imperfect, he's a buffer against the rising wave of rightism in Congress. 

"What I've explained should help to unclog some of these illusions. Nobody else is doing this. Barkley, for example, is promoting reform of campaign laws and a `flat tax' as his main themes. He doesn't offer any road forward for working people any more than Boschwitz and Wellstone." 

The Socialist Workers campaign, Fiske concluded, offers a working-class alternative to Wellstone, Boschwitz, and the rest of the capitalist candidates for U.S. Senate.