Saturday, March 23, 2013

Breakthrough in U.S. communist newspaper sales


Int’l drive ends with a bang—  600+ subscribe in final week!
In a truly impressive effort during the final week of an international campaign, Militant readers sold 619 subscriptions, bringing the total sold in five weeks to 1,924. Supporters of the paper in a number of areas are organizing victory celebrations.

All but four areas went over their local quotas. Militant supporters also sold hundreds of books on revolutionary working-class politics, mainly going door to door in working-class neighborhoods. (See ad on page 3 for books on special.)

“Tonight, Militant supporters have successfully completed the campaign in New York. We can look forward to continuing the discussions with readers,” Deborah Liatos wrote late March 19 to volunteers who sold 303 subscriptions to workers there.

“You have been talking about things I have been wanting to talk about,” Alexandra Jean told Militant supporters in Montreal when asked why she decided to join the door-to-door effort. A few weeks ago she bought a subscription and four books from a team that knocked on her door.

Until recently Jean was attending pre-university college. She explained she had volunteered for the Red Cross and other charities, “but they weren’t making a difference. I feel like going door to door is worth it. This message is true.”

“Where does this crisis come from?” Louis Conde asked Militant supporters standing at his door in Philadelphia March 16. “It’s like nobody’s steering the car. Or at least, we’re not. We’re the ones paying for this disaster.”

Conde has been a custodial worker with the Philadelphia public school district for more than 20 years. He described recent cuts in wages and working conditions of school workers, as well as the closing of schools. “The schools are set up to fail. They never give us what we need for the students,” Conde said. He got a Militant subscription and bought The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism.
Mark Wilson in South London subscribed to the paper after Julie Crawford and Jonathan Silberman came to his house for a follow-up visit he requested a week earlier.

Wilson’s mother, who lives in Jamaica, was cured of cataract blindness by Cuban medical volunteers there. “The Cubans did it for free,” Wilson said. “I don’t know much about the Cuban Revolution, but Jamaicans I know prefer to see Cuban doctors.”

John Naubert reported from Seattle that Louis Vega, 54, a disabled army veteran originally from Puerto Rico, renewed his subscription when Militant supporters stopped by his house.

“I like how the paper tackles issues head on,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about the Cuban Five until it was covered in the Militant. They are fighting the covert operations from the U.S.” against the Cuban Revolution. (See box on page 9.) Vega also bought a copy of Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own.

Naubert also reported that Militant supporters going door to door in Kent, Wash., met Lily Wilson, whose husband was one of the recent strikers at United Natural Food Inc. in Auburn, Wash.

“The Militant is by the people, for the people. We have to come together, everyone is out there for themselves. I want to show this paper to my friends,” Wilson said as she got a subscription.

“Militant supporters in Atlanta sold 35 subscriptions and 17 books in the last eight days,” reported Rachele Fruit.

One of these subscriptions was a renewal to Alfonso Baccay, a building cleaner from the Philippines. Baccay also got a copy of Cuba and Angola. “I like that you can learn the truth about other peoples’ struggles,” he said.

Alyson Kennedy reported that one of the renewals in Chicago last week was from Andre Watson, 30, who drives a forklift in a plant. “The Militant is about building a movement,” he said. “It explains how we are progressing and how the government keeps us oppressed. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

“It is not a race thing,” said Watson, who is African-American. “It doesn’t matter if you are poor Latino, Black or white. They want us to fight each other. If we have a movement in different states, cities and even overseas, we will have a better chance. That’s what we need.”

Jacquie Henderson wrote from Houston that Militant supporters were invited by three construction workers to join a fish fry March 16 to meet their friends, eat freshly caught fish and introduce everyone to the paper and books.

When told that Socialist Workers Party members were planning to run a campaign for mayor and city council in Houston, the new readers volunteered to help launch the campaign. “The campaign was really launched there yesterday,” said Henderson.

Frank Forrestal reports from Minneapolis that Militant supporters picked up four subscriptions, including three renewals, last week from workers in the Red River Valley region of northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

“I like the Militant, but would like to see more promotion of unions and how to get unions started,” said Bill Hauck, one of 1,300 workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar since Aug. 1, 2011, who now works at a potato factory.

The Militant got five “Prisoners” subscriptions last week, bringing our total to 20 for the drive. These include three renewals from Los Angeles, which Militant supporter Jesus Landeros organized to get.

One new subscription was bought by an unemployed worker supporters in Miami met going door to door, who wanted it for her jailed godnephew. And a prisoner in Florida requested to receive the paper.

The international effort to expand circulation of the Militant continues. Bundles of the paper can be ordered by contacting the Militant at or (212) 244-4899.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lipstick, powder, rouge, and Marxism


‘Fetish of cosmetics’ bred by social relations under capitalism

Below is an excerpt from Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for March. The selection is from an article titled “The Fetish of Cosmetics,” written in 1954 by Joseph Hansen (1910-79), a leader of the Socialist Workers Party. Copyright © 1986 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

Long ago in analyzing the strange powers of money, Marx called attention to this projection by which human beings see their relations not as relations but as things which they endow with remarkable powers. Indicating the parallel to certain magic objects in primitive beliefs and religions he called it fetishism. What we have in cosmetics is a fetish, a particular fetish in the general fetishism that exists in the world of commodities. The special power that cosmetics have derives from the fact that in addition to economic relations, sexual relations attach to them. That is the real source of the “beauty” both men and women see in cosmetics. …

At a certain age, girls—sometime very young ones—begin trying out lipstick, powder, and rouge. In almost every case, this either causes or is associated with a sharpening of relations with their parents. At the same time they often seem to leap ahead of their age group so far as their former boy associates are concerned. If they can get away with it, they go out with youths considerably older than they are. The reason such girls use cosmetics is to facilitate this by appearing older than they are.

What they seek to say is quite obvious. Through the magic of cosmetics they express their wish to cut short their childhood and youth and achieve the most desirable thing in the world—adulthood. Why they want to be adults can be surmised in the light of how capitalist society treats its youth.

Precisely at the age when the sexual drives begin to appear and an intense need is felt for both knowledge and experience, capitalist society denies both of them. Just when the developing human being must set out to establish normal relations with the opposite sex, capitalist society through the family intervenes and attempts to suppress the urge.

The relation with the other sex thus tends to become distorted and the interest that belongs to the relation shifts to a considerable degree to a symbol. The powers and allure of the relation—some at least—are likewise transferred to the symbol. Lipstick, for instance, comes to signify adulthood; that is, the adult capacity and freedom to engage in activities forbidden to children. By smearing her lips the child says, this gives me the power to do what I want.

Naturally it’s only a wish and an imaginary satisfaction—or at least that’s what most parents imagine it to be or wish to rate it as, and the real power of the drive toward relations with the opposite sex, disguised by the fetish, is not always recognized. The symbol becomes beautiful or ugly, beneficent or malignant. In Antoinette Konikow’s youth [1880s], for instance, lipstick was “indecent.” Today it is a “must.”

This interesting alternation in time of the aesthetics of cosmetics is accompanied by an even more striking duality in its powers. To a child, as we have noted, cosmetics are a means of hiding and disguising youth, a means of appearing to be at the age when it is socially acceptable to gratify the urge for knowledge and especially experience in sexual relations.

Thus the same fetish displays opposite powers at one and the same time—the power to make old women young and young women old. Mother uses cosmetics to hide her age and bring out her youth by covering up the dark circles under her eyes. Daughter uses them to hide her youth and even touches up her eyes with blue shading to bring out her adult beauty.

Now what shall we say of children who use cosmetics because of the social necessity to look old: Shall they be denied that right? My inclination would be to go ahead and use cosmetics if they feel like it. At the same time I would be strongly tempted to explain what a fetish is, how it comes to be constructed, what is really behind it and how this particular society we live in denies youth the most elementary right of all—the right to grow naturally into a normal sexual relationship—and gives them instead the fetish of cosmetics as an appropriate companion to the fetish of money.

The application of Marxist method has thus forced cosmetics to yield two important results. We find ourselves touching two problems of utmost moment in capitalist society—the interrelation of men and women and the interrelation of youth and adults; that is, the whole problem of the family. In addition, we have discovered that these interrelations as shaped by capitalist society are bad, for it is from the lack of harmony and freedom in them that the fetish of cosmetics arises.

Existence of the fetish, in turn, helps maintain the current form of interrelations by creating a diversionary channel and an illusory palliative. Thus we have uncovered a vicious cycle. Bad interrelations feeds the fetish of cosmetics; the fetish of cosmetics feeds bad interrelations.

Our application of Marxist method has given us even more. If we deny that beauty is inherent in a thing, then it must be found in a human relation; or at least its source must be found in such a relation. Doesn’t that mean that the beauty associated with sex is at bottom the beauty not of a thing but of a relation? If we want to understand that beauty we must seek it first in the truth of the relation; that is, through science.

Is it really so difficult to see that in the society of the future, the society of socialism where all fetishes are correctly viewed as barbaric, that beauty will be sought in human relationships and that after science has turned its light into the depths that seem so dark to us—the depths of the mind—the great new arts will be developed in those virgin fields?

U.S. working class will fight back

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Catholic Church in the epoch of imperialist decay


Social roots of crisis in Catholic Church

The crisis facing the Catholic Church today, far from being a "sex scandal" as it is depicted in the big-business media and by many pundits in the bourgeois press, has deep social roots, particularly in relation to the advances made in the battle for women's liberation.

For several decades now the fact that official church doctrine teaches that women are inferior has put the institution more and more at odds with the views and beliefs of growing numbers of women and working people not only in the United States, but in Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere.

As women increasingly became part of the U.S. workforce and fought their way into "nontraditional" jobs after World War II, the battle for women's equality gained momentum and scored important victories, like the 1973 Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing abortion. For women, the right to control their own bodies, including the use of birth control and access to abortion, became one of the central features in the struggle against their second-class status and the systematic discrimination they face as a sex.

A recent Gallup Surveys poll reported changes in the attitudes of men and women in the Catholic Church from 1987 through today. Between 1987 and 1993 men and women's support for the church's teachings against the use of birth control and abortion continued to erode. In 1987, more than 60 percent of all Catholics thought that individuals could still be "good Catholics" without obeying the church's teachings on birth control. By 1993 70 percent of respondents held that view. Today only 14 percent of men and 7 percent of women agreed that church leaders should have the final say on whether the practice of birth control is right or wrong. 

Views on abortion rights
Similar trends are evident in the abortion debate. In 1987, about two-thirds of the women and half of the men surveyed said that "good Catholics" needed to obey the church's ban on abortion. In spite of the rulers' bipartisan campaign to undermine a woman's right to choose, after a decade less than half of both men and women thought it essential to adhere to Rome's dictates. And by 1999 only 22 percent of men and 18 percent of women said that church leaders should have the last word on whether women who are Catholics can advocate free choice regarding abortion.

In a 1996 editorial following the reelection of William Clinton as president, the liberal National Catholic Reporter described the course of some among the Catholic Church hierarchy as "the latest episode in a lesson, now 23 years long, on how the politics of the Catholic leadership has done little but neutralize and marginalize the Catholic presence in U.S. society."

The paper said that it "appears once again all the gambles taken on behalf of opposing abortion above everything else came up empty." Cardinals John O'Connor of New York and James Hickey of Washington backed the Catholic Campaign for America, which was organized to oppose the reelection of Clinton by mobilizing antiabortion forces. "In the end," the paper stated, "Catholic voters largely ignored all the hot button rhetoric and were one of the largest factors in the Clinton victory."

The open and raging debate reflected in the Reporter articles surfaces in many other ways.

One incident along these lines happened in 1999, when Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who figures prominently in the recent exposure of church officials' cover-up for priests who sexually assaulted minors, banned a Catholic group that advocates women's ordination from church-affiliated buildings. The Massachusetts Women-Church group had gotten local Jesuits to cosponsor two conferences on the role of women in the church that were held on Jesuit property and were attended by some 450 people. Law ordered the Jesuits to deny use of their facilities to the organization.

Barbara Maher, a leader of the women's group, told the press that the controversy will "raise consciousness that there are reform-minded, faithful Catholics who do not feel comfortable with the language and direction being forced upon us by the hierarchy. There is no dialogue about the future of women and women's place in the future." 

'Women robbed of our dignity'
A year later sister Elizabeth Johnson, a church theologian, told a meeting of 3,700 people in Milwaukee that "women have been consistently robbed of our full dignity as friends of God and prophets" due to "theories like [Catholic Saint] Augustine's who claimed a man taken alone was fully in the image of God, but a woman was fully in the image of God only when taken together with man who is her head; or philosophies like [Saint Thomas] Aquinas's which argued that women are misbegotten males with weak minds and defective wills." Johnson is a professor at Fordham University in New York and a former president of the Catholic Theological Society.

Another reflection of how the Catholic hierarchy is crossways with the advances in the fight for women's rights was seen during the debate on stem cell research last year. The National Conference of Bishops supported a prohibition on "embryo-destroying research entirely," claiming that an embryo is a person--the same basis they use for opposing the right to abortion.

One opinion columnist in the Wall Street Journal noted last July that U.S. president George Bush got himself into "a hole playing political games with embryonic stem-cell research" because the White House "confuses the Catholic hierarchy with rank-and-file Catholic voters. There is really no longer a distinct Catholic vote in America; on issues like stem-cell research and abortion, Catholic views are little different than non-Catholic views." 

Marriage and the family
The teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage, its opposition to divorce, and views on the family are increasingly at odds with the reality of life for working people in the United States and other countries.

Over the past half-century a historic change in the family structure has taken place. The number of children born to women who are not married now stands at 31 percent in the United States. The percentage of households headed by married couples dropped from 80 percent in 1990 to little more than 50 percent today. And there has been a sharp increase in the rate of divorce since 1960.

Between 1950 and 1998 the percentage of working-age women who hold jobs outside the home nearly doubled, rising from 33.9 percent to 59.8 percent. The number of women incorporated into industrial production increased dramatically in the second half of the 20th century, with a notable rise in the number of women who began to fight their way into jobs from which they had traditionally been excluded. Women who are raising children account for most of the increase since 1994, with the proportion of working women who have children less than one year in age rising from 49.5 percent in 1990 to more than 55 percent in 1996.

One reflection of the consequences of these trends came in Ireland in 1995, when a referendum on making civil divorce legal passed by 9,000 votes, ending a decades-long ban. The votes from the working-class districts in Dublin weighed heavily in the outcome, but even in rural areas the "no" vote was 15 percent lower than in a similar referendum in 1986. It was the most serious rebuff to the influence of the Catholic church on legal and political life in some years, in a country whose population is 93 percent Catholic.

Even with the divisions between the views of the Catholic archbishops and cardinals and lay people in the United States, the U.S. church is seen as something of a renegade by Rome. Syndicated columnist Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that the pope chose "not to govern the church strictly," mostly because he knew that "the American cardinals...tend to view his directives as suggestions." 

Bourgeois lives
The church hierarchy used its power and money to cover up cases of sexual abuse by priests and acted above the law, wrote Noonan. There is the "racketeering dimension," she noted, "the fact that a RICO suit has been brought, could be brought, against the church, charging that it acted as an institution to cover up criminal behavior by misleading, lying, and withholding facts. The church has long attempted to keep priest abuse cases quiet through the paying of hush money--estimated at a billion dollars so far--to families instructed to sign confidentiality agreements."

Another problem for the church hierarchy as the gap grows between its stance and the real views, practices, and doubts of the "faithful," is the hoarded wealth of the church and the lifestyles of many bishops, archbishops, and cardinals--never mind the pope and his retinue.

Writing on the eve of the pope's meeting with American cardinals, Noonan stated that the pope should know that "many of the cardinals he will speak to have grown detached from life as it is suffered through by ordinary people," a fact that is not new in the church. "The princes of the church live as princes of the world," she wrote. "They live in great mansions in the heart of great cities, dine with senators and editors.... They are surrounded by staff who serve them, drive them, answer their call." In short, they live bourgeois lives. 

Protecting vast real estate holdings
In face of a growing number of lawsuits, the church has moved to shield its land holdings from plaintiffs seeking damages for the actions of church officials. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article entitled, "Besieged Church Tries to Protect Vast Real Estate." In Rhode Island, where 38 sex-abuse suits are pending in state court, the Providence diocese has stated that its Aldrich Mansion and attached 85-acre estate is owned by a nonprofit corporation created more than 100 years ago. The church-owned company holds real estate valued at more than $44 million.

In Stockton, California; Dallas, Texas; and other cities, church officials have acted to move similar holdings into legal setups so they cannot be considered in awards settlements.

Another tack is being taken in Chicago, where Cardinal Francis George suddenly announced last week that he was considering selling the $15 million Queen Anne-style mansion, located in a plush neighborhood two blocks from Lake Michigan. A New York Times article noted that Cardinal Law in Boston "has been pressured to sell the chancery's 15-acre compound, including his residence, to offset mounting legal expenses." The falling fortunes of Law, once one of the leaders of the church in the United States and an outspoken opponent of a woman's right to abortion, reflects the social roots of the crisis.

Some on the right are using the crisis to press forward the culture war and urge a return to traditional "Catholic morals."

Rod Dreher, writing in the National Review, pointed out that the "overwhelming majority of priests who have molested minors are not pedophiles.... They are, rather, 'ephobophiles'--adults who are sexually attracted to post-pubescent youths, generally aged 12 to 17." Dreher discussed the extent of homosexuality among seminarians and priests and the fact that "Rome has explicitly discouraged the ordination of homosexuals since at least 1991... to little avail in most U.S. dioceses." 

'A conservative reform'
Dreher concluded by arguing that there "is every reason to believe that a conservative reform--replacing dissenting or milquetoast bishops with solid, no-nonsense men; making the seminaries safe places for heterosexuals loyal to Church teaching; and restoring the priesthood to a corps of chaste, faith-filled disciples--would result in a tide of good men seeking holy orders."

In a May 8 column entitled, "Anti-Catholicism at the New York Times," Ultrarightist Patrick Buchanan took issue with a piece by Bill Keller, whom he termed an "apostate Catholic who enjoys being called a 'collapsed Catholic.'"

Buchanan slammed Keller for stating that "probably no institution run by a fraternity of aging celebates was going to reconcile itself easily with a movement that embraced the equality of women, abortion and gay rights. Most Catholics ignore the pope on contraception as they do on divorce and remarriage, abortion, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality and many other things Rome condemns as violations of natural law."

The church is in crisis today, responded Buchanan, "not because it failed to adjust its teachings and practices to the sexual revolution, but because it tried both to be true to its teachings and to keep in step with an immoral age, which is an impossibility. The way for the church to restore its lost moral authority is to retrace its steps, even if it means leaving lost souls like Bill Keller howling in the wilderness."

Although the church and its hierarchy have long since ceased to be an independent social force, a ruling-class force in its own right, it remains a bourgeois institution upon which the superwealthy ruling class depends to help perpetuate its state power and its rationalizations for the continuation of the social order it dominates. This point was brought home by an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which admitted some shortcomings in the church, but defended the institution. "When we look across the breadth of modern American life, in short, we see the institution of the Catholic Church as one of our great assets. The current scandal will have served some purpose if it forces America's bishops to take more seriously accusations against their misbehaving priests. But we aren't about to join those whose real agenda is to leave the church crushed and humiliated."

‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis

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130 years since the death of Karl Marx

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[Video]: The Relevance of Marxism Today

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

U.S. Socialist Workers Party and Cuba

Socialists from US, UK talk with youth in eastern Cuba’s Santiago province

A welcome visit to cradle of Cuban Revolution by communists building revolutionary workers parties in their own countries

SEGUNDO FRENTE, Santiago de Cuba province, Cuba—An enthusiastic welcome from 120 students assembled at a high school in this mountainous area of eastern Cuba greeted the arrival of six guests from the United States and United Kingdom.
The March 1 visit was a first for the school. Both students and teachers became more and more interested in exchanging experiences as they learned that the visitors, involved in editing, using, and distributing books published by Pathfinder Press, were communists building revolutionary working-class parties in their own countries.

Several students performed songs, dances, and skits, after which Elena Rivera, municipal director of education, welcomed the guests. A brief presentation of three recently published books and of the socialist newsweekly, the Militant, explaining how they are used by workers carrying out communist political work in the United States and other countries, was followed by a lively exchange of questions and comments.

After more music and dance performances, students and teachers massed around the literature table to buy the featured books and other Pathfinder titles.

The meeting was part of a three-day tour in Santiago province organized by the national leadership of the Union of Young Communists (UJC). The visit included several events in the city of Santiago de Cuba: an exchange with students at the University of Oriente, a meeting with the provincial UJC leadership, and a book presentation at what was once the family home of Vilma Espín. Espín was a central leader of the July 26 Revolutionary Movement and a Rebel Army combatant in the revolutionary war, commanded by Fidel Castro, that overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. Her home was the general headquarters of the underground struggle in Santiago for a period of time.

The visitors also toured two historic sites—the family home of Frank País, a central leader of the July 26 Movement, murdered by Batista’s henchmen in 1957, and the Museum of the Underground Struggle, which recounts the work of the July 26 Movement in Santiago.

Visit to mountainous district
The trip to Segundo Frente (Second Front), north of Santiago in the foothills of the Sierra Cristal mountains, had particular significance. That’s where the Rebel Army’s “Frank País” Second Eastern Front, a vast liberated territory under the command of Raúl Castro, established its general headquarters in the town of Mayarí Arriba in 1958.

The story of how the Second Front was established, and of the social revolution that deepened throughout the region as the war accelerated, is told by Vilma Espín and Asela de los Santos, two combatants who helped lead it, in Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution, one of the books featured in the panel presentations.

The tour of the area included a visit to the memorial honoring Rebel Army combatants and to the Museum of the Second Front, originally a few wood cabins used by Raúl Castro, Espín and other rebel leaders when they weren’t on the move throughout the region.

The meeting in the Segundo Frente district was held at the Rolando Matos Ferié Pre-University Institute. Students aged 15-18 had come from several nearby schools. Most were children of workers in Mayarí Arriba and surrounding towns. The grandparents of many of the students had been landless peasants under the Batista dictatorship. Facing the permanent threat of eviction and brutal reprisals from the tyranny’s troops and thugs, many peasants had aided the Rebel Army.

“Before the revolution, there were few schools and a lot of illiteracy here,” noted assistant school director Inés Maturell. The Rebel Army’s Education Department, headed by Asela de los Santos, opened some 400 rural schools throughout the Second Front with the help of peasant families. “Today, in the Segundo Frente municipality alone, we have 74 schools and even a university,” Maturell said. Segundo Frente has a population of about 40,000.

The students were all eyes and ears as Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press and a member of the Socialist Workers Party’s National Committee, gave a brief picture of the political work carried out by communists in the United States and other countries.

Going door to door in working-class neighborhoods and using the Militant and Pathfinder books, “we are part of the wide-ranging discussion among working people who are trying to understand the deepening world capitalist crisis and how they and other workers can effectively respond,” Waters said.

Today, she noted, working people in the U.S. are confronting high levels of prolonged unemployment, wages that are being slashed, and the loss of homes, savings and access to health care.

“And we’re only in the opening stages of the capitalist contraction,” Waters said. “Decades of political and social convulsions, as well as open-ended wars, lie ahead of us.”

As a result, growing numbers of working people are becoming more open to learning about the example of the Cuban Revolution, Waters said.

Fight to free Cuban Five
Workers are discovering the truth about the frame-up and imprisonment in the U.S. of five Cuban revolutionaries who were monitoring violent plans by counterrevolutionary groups with a decades-long record of deadly attacks on Cuba, operating with impunity from U.S. soil. As they learn of the integrity and dignity of these five fighters, workers become attracted to the political example they are setting and to the struggle to win their freedom.

Following the remarks by Waters, Róger Calero presented Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own, and Martín Koppel talked about The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free. Calero and Koppel described how hundreds of these and other books, along with several thousand subscriptions to the paper, have been sold as Militant readers go house to house, apartment to apartment talking with fellow workers.

Several students took the floor during the discussion. Marlén Sánchez, a 12th grader, commented on the importance for them of the fight to free the Five Heroes, as they are known here in Cuba. Beatriz Miniet, also in 12th grade, asked, “What are your experiences taking the fight to free the five to the American people, especially when the media blocks the truth?” She also asked, “What possibilities do young people in the United States have to get an education?”

In response, Koppel said the fight of the Cuban Five “strikes a chord among workers in the U.S. Many have firsthand experience with the capitalist cops, courts, and prisons.”

Calero noted the difference between education in the United States and Cuba. Schools in the U.S. reinforce class divisions and bourgeois values, he said. The socialist revolution in Cuba enables working people to continue expanding their access to culture and learning throughout their lives.

Afterwards students surrounded the display table, buying dozens of books, pamphlets, and copies of the Militant, while peppering their guests with more questions. In addition to the speakers, the visitors included Tom Baumann from the United States and Jonathan Silberman and Olivia Pallister from the Communist League in the United Kingdom.

By the end, virtually all books were gone. The rest were donated to the school library, to the pleasure of teachers and students alike.

While visiting Segundo Frente, the delegation also met and talked with two municipal UJC leaders, First Secretary Yunia Machuca and Noriel Almenares. Machuca, 34, was previously a teacher, and Almenares, 28, had served five years in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, where he had responsibilities for political work among young soldiers.

The heart of the UJC’s efforts in this coffee-growing area is political work with young workers and farmers, Machuca and Almenares explained. After the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, the UJC in Segundo Frente organized a brigade of some 50 local youth to join farmers in helping salvage storm-battered coffee plants.

The UJC leaders also described how they work with young people interested in farming by organizing clubs at elementary and high schools, and involving students in tending vegetable gardens that supply their schools.

University of Oriente event
At the University of Oriente in the city of Santiago de Cuba, the socialists took part in a Feb. 27 seminar and related events around the study of the revolutionary legacy of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero. Held at the agricultural sciences campus, the one-day event drew students and teachers from throughout the university.

One of the organizers, Esperanza Aguilera, a professor at the university, had visited the Pathfinder stand at the Havana book fair the week before. When she learned about the planned trip to Santiago, she arranged for a Pathfinder presentation to be part of the day’s program.

An audience of 80 attended the presentation, which was followed by 45 minutes of questions and discussion.

Acting university rector Pedro Tejera Escull concluded the session. He expressed appreciation for the Militant and for the political activity the Socialist Workers Party carries out in the working class in the United States. Noting that the university library has a number of Pathfinder titles, he pointed to Cuba and the Coming American Revolution by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes and My Life by Leon Trotsky.

After reading Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, Tejera said, he was surprised to find out the book wasn’t about a revolution that had never taken place, but about the present and future. When he met Socialist Workers Party members at an international conference in Cuba several years ago, Tejera recalled, he’d been struck that “while others talked about ‘social movements’ today, they were the only ones who talked about the working class.”

The probing questions and discussions continued around the book sale table outside the meeting room.

One of the most sought-after titles was the issue of Nueva Internacional magazine featuring the article “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun.”

“I need to read this,” a student remarked. “I want to understand more about the economic crisis. I’ve been following the news about the crisis in Spain.”

At the seminar’s closing session, prizes were handed out to winners of a José Martí essay contest. Rosa María Reyes, dean of the School of Social Sciences, thanked the guests from the U.S. and U.K. for participating. One reason Cubans are often unaware the economic problems they face today are sharply intensified by the global capitalist crisis, she said, is “that we’re protected by our government.” As a result of our socialist revolution, Reyes said, workers in Cuba don’t face the threat of unemployment or losing their homes, as in capitalist countries.

In discussions with the provincial UJC leadership Feb. 28, the SWP and CL members heard First Secretary Jorge Suárez explain the UJC’s work in boosting agricultural and industrial production in Cuba.

Response to Hurricane Sandy
This has become even more important in Santiago, where Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc last October. Suárez and other UJC leaders described how the organization mobilized brigades of youth who joined with others to help with the heavy cleanup and reconstruction work.

In response to the heightened danger of dengue fever outbreaks, the UJC also organized youth from Santiago and across the island into brigades that went house to house to work with local residents to eliminate breeding grounds for the mosquito that transmits the disease. Young people who want to continue working on such public health efforts are offered the opportunity to do so.

While everyday activity is largely back to normal in Santiago, the longer-term effort to repair and rebuild damaged housing and infrastructure is still under way.

Suárez was asked about the challenge of winning youth who are neither in school nor working a job to the revolution. He noted that the UJC, along with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and other mass organizations, goes house to house to work with these young people and draw them into productive activity.

UJC members Marianela Castañeda and Rocío Nápoles described a related UJC-led effort—the José Martí Brigades of art instructors, of which they are the president and vice president. The brigades go to local communities to give art classes and involve young people in music, drama and other cultural activities.

Event sponsored by FMC
A highlight of the Santiago visit was a presentation, sponsored by the Federation of Cuban Women, of two related Pathfinder titles: Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos, and Yolanda Ferrer; and its companion booklet Women and Revolution: The Living Example of the Cuban Revolution by Asela de los Santos and Mary-Alice Waters.

The presentation was held at Espín’s family home, now a museum that exhibits photos and other materials illustrating chapters in the Cuban Revolution in which Espín took part.

More than 100 people attended, among them some two dozen students, mostly young women, from a nearby high school. Also present were a dozen veterans of the Santiago underground and Rebel Army who had worked with Espín and de los Santos, along with cadres of the FMC and representatives of other mass organizations.

Margiola Sánchez, director of the Vilma Espín memorial, chaired the meeting, which featured remarks by Waters and Surina Acosta, FMC general secretary in Santiago province. Acosta, who was trained as a livestock specialist and worked for a number of years on a cattle-raising cooperative, is a deputy in Cuba’s National Assembly and just completed a five-year term on the country’s 31-member Council of State. The event was widely reported in the Santiago press and featured in the national TV newscast.

A fuller report on this event and a similar book presentation a week earlier at the FMC training center in Havana will appear in a coming issue of the Militant.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Class struggles in China

China: fights by toilers heat up, economy cools

Protests by working people in China have increased over the recent period. In addition to a number of strikes by factory workers in November and December, residents in a fishing community on the south coast put the land question into world focus.

This is happening at the same time as a slowdown in manufacture, trade, and other economic activity highlights the fact that the anti-working-class course of the Chinese ruling bureaucracy has left the country quite vulnerable to the worldwide crisis of capitalism.

The strikes have involved thousands of workers. Their demands are over unpaid wages, relocation of factories, loss of overtime, abuse by bosses, rising production quotas, and lack of compensation after factory closures.

A strike wave hit Guangdong province in southern China in the summer of 2010. Workers in plants operated by Honda, Toyota and Foxconn fought for and won substantial wage increases, in some cases as high as 50 percent. As a result, the provincial government raised the local minimum wage.

Since then the central government has encouraged and offered incentives for domestic and foreign companies to move inland in search of cheaper labor as wages have risen in Guangdong and Shanghai, the two industrial export centers in China.

“Nowadays the cost of labor has risen to such a level that it’s no longer cost-effective to be on the eastern coast, so you’d have to be moving west as much as you can,” Francois de Yrigoyen from ManpowerGroup China told Reuters.

The 2010 strikes were led by the second generation of so-called migrant workers, many in their early 20s. Migrant workers in China are registered with the government as being from rural areas, but actually live and work in urban centers. Lacking official residency in the city, they are denied government services and other benefits, such as education, housing, medical care, food subsidies and many jobs.

Nearly two-thirds of those considered migrant workers today belong to the second generation that either grew up or were born in the cities. Only about 11 percent have any experience in agricultural work.

There were 30 million migrant workers in 1989. Today there are roughly 250 million.

In Beijing 40 percent of the population are migrant workers. In Shenzhen in Guangdong province nearly 12 million of the population of 14 million are migrants.

Increased protests over land rights
A majority of the estimated 180,000 social protests in China last year were over land rights in rural areas. Peasants accuse local officials of taking their land without offering proper compensation.

In September, residents in the fishing community of Wukan on China’s south coast took to the streets protesting seizure of agricultural land by local government and party officials. Some 1,100 acres of village land was sold to a property developer and their common fishing grounds to a large seafood company, sharply reducing basic subsistence for many families.

Residents of Wukan chased local officials out of town and for three months ran the village. An elected committee organized food distribution, defense and logistics.

The struggle intensified and residents fought off an attack by 1,000 police with water cannons and tear gas. Five of their leaders were kidnapped by the police, and one died in custody. After being under siege by the cops for more than 10 days they threatened to march through the police chains to the county capital to press their demands. Concerned with the local authorities’ inability to quell the growing unrest, a provincial Communist Party leader moved in and took control. He said residents’ claims were just and he would look into their demands. A truce was negotiated.

Land grabs—“legal” and “illegal”—have been a central part of China’s economic “miracle.” Local governments have taken over land for real estate, industries, roads, dams and power plants. Land grabs are also an important source for growing social inequality. They are a constant threat to the livelihood of the rural population, still a majority in China.

Since 1980, an estimated 50 million farmers have lost their land, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the world economic crisis is beginning to bite in China. “China is nearing the end of the period of high economic growth,” according to Yu Bin, senior economist with China’s State Council. He expects 8.5 percent growth for 2012 and between 7 and 8 percent through 2017. Annual growth rates have been more than 10 percent for three decades.

Manufacturing continued to contract in December, following an even bigger slowdown in November. Export growth slowed because of a drop in demand from Europe and the U.S., and export orders fell in December for the first time in three months. Foreign investment was 10 percent lower in November than a year earlier.

Alain Badiou and the Idea of Communism by Alex Callinicos