First Published: Progressive Labor, Vo.. 8, No. 1 February 1971
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The internal struggle inside the Progressive Labor Party is becoming much sharper. Struggle by itself however, is not automatically useful; what is most important is the direction of our work and how it is to be done. We are learning that there can be no part time communists. Our entire lives have to become devoted to building the Party and serving the working class.
The contradiction between our personal and political lives must be solved. Building bases in the working class cannot be done on an occasional basis, nor can bases be built in half-hearted ways.
As the external struggle sharpens most members and friends of the PLP are strengthened; new members come into the Party on a much higher political level. The workers, students and others with whom we work have more respect for, and understanding of, what the Party is and why it is necessary for them.
Naturally as individualism and political revisionism continue to be fought in this more-sharpened manner in our day-to-day work and attitudes, some people fall to the wayside. Some remain friends who may become strengthened and won back to the Party and we should try to have this happen with them. Yet others become enemies, some organizing against the Party, others fading away. Most members see the usefulness and necessity of this internal struggle as it helps the Party grow among the masses.
As our work grows, there is still a tendency in shying away from the mass line impeding basebuilding. By now it should be crystal clear that there is an objective base for our Party to grow in numbers and influence among all sections of the- people, especially among workers.
By simply unleashing a fraction of our energies, Party members have scored a few important breakthroughs in mass work in an independent way. We have probably raised our efficiency level from five to about 15 per cent these past six months. Can anyone doubt the importance of raising our efforts above these limits? It would have a tremendous effect. Most important it would stimulate a qualitative influence on friends close to the Party, on one another’s work and in raising the political level of thousands of workers and others – thus sharpening the class struggle.
Among the advances in the past period of time we note that over a thousand people are studying in PLP groups around the USA, over 1500 people are working in Party literature sellers’ collectives and about 3500 contacts – mostly working people – are to varying degrees working closely with the Party. We have reached the point where we are selling 100,000 copies of the Party newspaper, Challenge-Desafio. This increased sale of the paper reflects the growing maturity of the PLP and the thirst for knowledge about revolution among workers and students.
However, as comrades have put it quite well, the mere sale of Challenge-Desafio is not what we want. The paper must become an organizer for the Party and for mass struggle. The growth of the paper must be related to this. We must however not lose sight of the significance of our newspaper, the official organ of our revolutionary communist movement.
For those who unfortunately still cling to the conception that personal lives may be unrelated to politics, the Party has learned a score of lessons this past summer. In most cases where there were sharp weaknesses in peoples’ lives, this has tended to weaken their own political work and that of others around them. Personal weaknesses – expressed mainly in acts of bourgeois individualism – have often limited us through members’ inaction and in attacks on the Party. This has happened where extreme selfishness, dope, promiscuity and perversion, etc., have expressed themselves.
We are not a therapeutic organization in any medical sense. While these weaknesses must be dealt with one way or another and each problem has to be evaluated and handled sympathetically, we must not forget stability is the name of the game. Unstable people do not make good revolutionaries, dedicated communists. While perhaps some unstable people may remain friends, in the long run instability in personal lives must lead to a political deviation taking the form of attacking the Party in one way or another.
We must consolidate our political base. Every form of social and political activity must be used to do this. We must win members of sellers’ collectives to Party study groups, get sellers’ collectives to become action groups and win people in these groups to assume greater leadership and political initiative – bringing them into the Party. Sellers’ collectives must participate in consolidating contacts to whom they’ve been selling. Party members in these collectives must make it their political responsibility to become close to the non-Party people with whom they are working and selling. The Party leadership must spend more time with those members of PL who are doing the best work in this area, rather, than as in the past, spending so much time with the weakest politically and most unstable elements.
We should not underestimate the importance of the development of these basically non-Party sellers’ collectives. In New York City alone there are such groups in over a dozen geographic locations and in six industrial concentrations. We have already set up a coordinating committee of non-Party people leading these seller’s collectives, with a small number of PL members to guarantee the continuity of the work.
The continuation of this most important work depends on the efforts of the Party’s forces to engage in mass struggle; to help build action groups led by non-Party forces; and to build bases on and off the job and school. Previously, members have been won at work or in school. This has taken a great leap forward among hundreds because of the step-up sale of Challenge-Desafio among workers.
We have previously discussed techniques of developing closer ties with workers and students who willingly and eagerly buy the Party press. These people are not simply names on pieces of paper. They are people who have expressed interest in talking about the struggles and in the work of the Party. When doing work among these contacts, members and friends must never forget to listen. Everything, from shop and school to personal problems should be discussed and as a result it will become more possible to talk about how to expand struggle and bring the contact closer to the Party.
There have been a significant number of important experiences in this expansion of Party literature sales and popularization in a mass way of our revolutionary communist ideology. This past summer, 1970, named by our friends and members Challenge-Desafio Summer, has greatly enriched our Party’s experience, influence and political base. We are presenting a number of communications from Party and non-Party groups, from individuals and from area leaderships. Not only do these articles relate the experiences in different areas of political struggle, they point to our Party’s strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that members and friends, readers of PL magazine, may in this way become better acquainted with the work and aspirations for the future of the Progressive Labor Party, and that these experiences may enable us to overcome our weaknesses and steel our strengths.
–National Steering Committee, Progressive Labor Party, (from Internal Bulletin, August and September 1970).
For about a year after the 1968 French worker-student rebellion, it seemed as if all the pseudo Left groups around the country, the Young Socialist Alliance, Monthly Review, Revolutionary Union, Guardian, etc., suddenly ”discovered” the working class. All of a sudden, all kinds of coffee shop “communists” who never did a lick of work in their lives were proclaiming “the future belongs to the workers.” After years of attacking the working class as “bought off,” “corrupt,” “disappearing,” etc., and years of attacking Progressive Labor for our pro-working class position, this motley crew announced – as the crusaders of olden times on their way to “save” the “savages”–“we must go to the workers!”
And they did. For about a year. Some got jobs. Some of the men sent their wives out to get jobs.
A number of the leading coffee-klatchers used their experience to become local union officials.
But it seems, “The Year of the Worker” has passed, and most of these phony Leftists have returned to the coffee shops (although a few of the smarter ones stayed on as well-paid union bureaucrats). The line today, as put forward most clearly in the Panther paper and by Revolutionary Union guru Bruce Franklin, is that the United States working class is hopeless, and the revolution must be made by the lumpen elements, pot smokers, homosexuals, and other outcasts of society. (Jerry Rubin even visited the lunatic Manson in jail trying to make a revolutionary hero out of him.) Individual terrorism–isolated acts that prove how gutsy you are but don’t mobilize anybody to action–is the fad of the year.
As for the working class, well, they had their chance. “We gave them a whole year of our lives, and they didn’t make a revolution ... that proves they’re rotten.”
In that framework, PL sold well over a quarter of a million copies of Challenge–the great majority to working people–all over the country this summer. In that framework, we involved somewhere around a thousand new working class people in selling our communist paper for the first time.
“Ah, but do they know what they’re doing?” comes the cynical reply. “Those people just go out there and sell that paper because you tell them to, or because they think it’s for better working conditions and higher pay. You still can’t win United States workers to become communists.”
The proof, of course, will come only with the growth of our Party as a working class organization, and particularly with the working class leadership within and around our Party. But as part of this growth, I am enclosing three letters from working class people who have come close to, or joined our Party in the Bay Area in the last six months. The three people who submitted these letters are fairly representative. One is a black army veteran (eight years in the service, including Vietnam and Detroit) now working for the telephone company; one is a white former Marine who now works as a cutter-welder in a small San Francisco shop; and one is a Chicano high school student in San Jose.
Here are some thoughts about my job and the future:
The phone company, AT&T is the world’s largest corporation. Its assets of $40.2 billion dwarf all other giant corporations.
AT&T, Western Electric and the Bell System are able to keep profits high by paying their workers slave wages, which in many cases are wages under $100 a week before taxes.
Western Electric is owned and controlled by AT&T. This company manufactures and supplies all the equipment for the Bell System. Western Electric receives $10 an hour from Ma Bell for each installer. The average salary for an installer is less than $3 per hour, even for some of those with as much as two years of service with the company. In addition to poor wages, the working conditions are just as bad, if not worse.
Racism is the biggest and best tool the company has and uses to divide their workers for a more effective means of exploiting them. Black and third world people are very few at this company. They are the very last to be hired and the first to be fired. Within the San Francisco Bell System, there are women doing the same work as men but their pay is about 20 per cent less.
The bosses have no feeling or respect for human beings. Workers in America are looked on as merely a production machine. They are exploited by every means the bosses can think of to keep their profits high.
This society, plagued with racism, inflation, war and tyranny is choking in its own waste.
There is only one choice. You can either live with the rich bosses, the racists and the military brass and the government which the bosses control, or you can line up with the people that treat each other on the basis of equality, the working class, the poor and the youth, as part of the solution.
We can no longer afford to be onlookers, listening to the empty rhetoric of the politicians as they express their “extreme concern” and do nothing except make it worse.
We must take a stand–we are tied together. The working class needs each other regardless of race or color if we are going to defeat the bosses of big business who rule this country.
Before the victory is won, maybe some more will have to be scarred up, lose jobs and maybe some of us will have to face jail or death.
You must take one or the other road. We must strive for socialism or help keep imperialism and capitalism in force as they stand in America today. We must change this if we do not want to continue to exist in this dying society.
We cannot sit on the fence any longer. There is no exception to the rule. We must now take one side or the other; there is no third way if we are to defeat the ruling class and we must oppose all illusions of a third road. To stand neutral is merely a camouflage.
This means the reactionaries must be deprived of their right of voice as well as control of the people and the government. Such rights are only for the people.
In speaking and dealing with the capitalists, this may seem to be extreme or repressive. Yes, it may be extreme. But such repression is not for any of the people, it is only for the capitalists. And in regard to reactionaries the question of being repressive or not shouldn’t even come up. The bosses of the ruling class believe only in property rights and don’t give a damn about human rights and respect. We have to unite to fight them.
Dear Mom and kids,
This will be the first letter I have written in a long time, as you well know. I send you all my love and kisses. Pam and I are in the best of health and life. We have a very good marriage for the most part but we have our weaknesses. Life has been good to me since I met Pam. In fact life has taken on a new meaning for me. I have come to realize that I am not just one person who has many problems and I am not totally messed up and no good as I thought most of my life. I feel that things can be changed and will be changed. Because I have changed and I feel that things are not as hopeless anymore.
Mom do you know why there are so many strikes and demonstrations? My feelings are that people are getting tired of living the way most people are forced to live because of the class of people they are. It has become clear to me that there are a few people in this country, and all over the world, that run everything. Those are the ones who have all the money, own the land, the factories and everything else.
In all the jobs I’ve had it’s always the same old shit. Do what the boss says, no matter what you think. The thing that really pisses me off is, that most bosses haven’t worked a day in their lives, so how can he tell someone how to do something when the worker has been working all his life? Just for an example take where I work now.
It’s a fairly small shop about 50 men, but it is divided into six different areas: shipping, welding, press, switch cleaning and cut-off departments, and mechanics and helpers areas. No one is supposed to leave his area or department without permission. Anyway, when I started to work there last year I had the impression that workers are to work together to get more done and make it easier on each other.
I am working in the cut-off department in the front of the shop, the mechanics work in the back. My job involves cutting out of 20 and 30 feet of angle iron, flat bar, pipe, tubing and channel iron pieces. All of ’this stuff is of different thicknesses and widths from 1/8” by 3/4” flat bar to 2” by 6” bar, 6” by 6” by 1/2” angle iron, 4” pipe. I also cut a lot of stainless steel. We make parts to be put together by the mechanics.
Here’s what I do: I get a shop print that shows what is to be done, then I look at the material list and the print and decide what is to be cut. In the lower right hand corner is a small box that gives more information, like make three or make four or one right and one left; also who the thing is for, like Denver Meat or Allen Meat or for stock; then I start cutting the material with the friction band saw or with flat bar.
I do make mistakes but I try not to. Being rather new to this type of work, the mechanics tell me things that will help me do my work better. One thing is the guys tell me to take my time and be sure of what I’m doing. A lot of the times holes have to be put in the parts at certain places. The mechanics ask me to put these holes in, as it’s easier for me, since I have the metal worker right in front to use.
Anyway, one day the boss comes up and asks me, “What’s Frank doing wasting time punching holes?” I say that he is doing what we have been doing and what the mechanics want and ask us to do. He says, “I am the boss you do what I say and what I say supercedes what anybody else says.” So we stop punching holes and laying out parts. Then the mechanics come up yelling why the holes are not in the parts. Of course they are pissed at us. I say it’s the bosses fault, but this does not sink in because as you know in this society bosses are made to look good. If I keep telling the real truth about bosses someday people will see this and kick out all the bosses and run things for themselves. Of course my boss is very small in comparison with the real big bosses who run the whole country, like Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan.
To get a job today you must sell yourself to someone who owns the machinery of production and get paid just enough to keep you working everyday and to live on, but it’s hard just to do that. At the same time the rich keep getting richer and richer and we keep getting poorer and poorer.
When men go out on strike for better wages and working conditions the bosses say that this causes inflation. But what really causes inflation is the bosses who must keep getting huge profits by raising the prices of whatever they are making. Last year our government spent billions of dollars on space exploration when right here in this country thousands and thousands of people were out of work and there’s more all the time. That means that there were a lot of kids going hungry, unclothed and not living the lives they should be living.
Remember when dad used to talk about black people and call them niggers and say they were no good and lazy. On TV the blacks always played the dumb role or the inferior role. All our lives we see this and hear it. This is also something that is used to keep people apart; it is called racism. This is something used by bosses to give black workers the dirtiest and hardest jobs with the least amount of pay they can give. While doing this they, the bosses, tell the white workers, “see the dumb lazy niggers.” If the white workers call the boss a liar they might lose their jobs and be called names that you can think of yourself.
The truth is black people are not dumb or lazy but this society makes us think this: again it’s the bosses fault. Racism works not only on black and white but on all people: brown, red and yellow, on rich and poor. How many times have you heard poor people are dumb or lazy and no good? Poor people are not poor because they want to be but because they are forced to be. Most of all blacks. Very few people born in the ghetto ever get out of it. The ghettoes are not owned by the blacks, but by big businessmen and bosses who only want that money and don’t care that there are rats and bugs and that the buildings are falling down. They don’t live there, and they damn sure are not going to spend any of the money they get to fix up the buildings and get rid of the rats even though they get the money from the people who live there.
You should see the schools in this city; most are like prisons. Most schools are for poor working class kids. They have cops in some of the schools here to keep the kids in line. In other words, if the kids protest that the teachers are racists, the cops step in and knock heads.
I can see Mission High School from the window here. I know a guy, a very good friend of ours, who went to Mission. Three weeks before he graduated he quit and went into the Marines. He was kicked out because he couldn’t read or write. Frank is his name. Frank is a very good guy but he is forced to work in a factory for $3.20 an hour. He is a very good mechanic on cars, but to be a mechanic you must pass a written test. Because of our struggles with him, he is, after over a year starting to learn to read. It will be hard for him but he can do it. Because Pam and I care for Frank we got him started in the right direction. The only thing most schools in this society teach you is to get a crummy job or join the service.
Kinky is a pretty sharp kid. Do you think you can send him to college? If he stays super good and gets good grades he might get a scholarship. The chances are very slim. College trains you to be a boss or how to exploit people to the best you can. That’s why there are so many demonstrations on campus all the time. Students are getting fed up with the shit they are being taught.
The Pope is one of the most powerful and rich men alive. The church and god is something that was thought up to keep fear in people. As they pass around the collection plate they scream “Be good or god will strike you dead.” Bullshit! Have you ever seen god, has grandma or anyone that you have known? I have faith alright, but in my wife, you, grandma, the kids and all my friends, to make my life good or bad. Not in something I can’t see or feel or touch. I’m alive now and that’s what counts. Shit when I die, I’m dead and that’s it. The only hell is not having any friends or a wife or family, or a decent place to live. Having no money is hell! If the workers had the power in this country there would be no hell unless you were a boss. Heaven is when Pam and I think about the family we want to have and that someday people like us won’t have to worry about where to live or how to get the next meal or pay the rent if they can’t find a job.
Well, I have decided to devote my life to fighting the bosses and serve the working class in every way I can. This means becoming a socialist and a communist so that is what I must do. Only the bosses say that communists could say, but this is the most important now, so will close with love and kisses.
P.S. Tell grandma and everyone I say hello and I am doing fine.–Larry
I am a Chicano student at W.C. Overfelt High School on the East Side of San Jose, California. In the last two months I have been making close friends with PL members her in San Jose and Bay Area.
Before I met my friends I had fallen into two of the bosses dividing tools which was drugs and nationalism. The drugs had taken over my mind and I didn’t care about anything but drugs. And then around six months ago I had fallen into another one of the bosses’ tools – nationalism. When I took the nationalist point of view I started to hate all races but the Chicano and I was still on drugs.
But in the last two months I have begun to take another point of view which is the communist point of view. By taking this point of view I have begun to see the need to struggle against the bosses’ tools of dividing the working class.
For instance I am beginning to see the need for a struggle against the tracking system. From what I am beginning to see the tracking system begins in your childhood. A child in a low income area gets little attention from his parents because of the hard labor that his parents go through daily to feed money into the pockets of the fat, rich ruling class. Therefore since he gets little attention from his parents he has no alternative but to get attention at school where he may be noticed by his friends. While trying to get attention at school he usually gets into trouble at school and on the streets. By getting into trouble he begins to lag behind in his school work and is immediately marked down as unable to do average school work.
From here on in the bosses begin to prepare the role of life that we the working class are forced to live. After grammer school we go into high school, branded unable to do average school work. We go into a high school like Overfelt and we are assigned to woodshop, metalshop, homemaking and other courses of the sort. We are also put into English I-c which is the lowest English class. And there we are kept for the rest of our high school years.
If we dropout of school (which the bosses like) we will either have a welfare check coming twice a month or the bosses will hit us for cheap labor. And we have another alternative and that is a brand new uniform and rifle with happy greetings from Uncle Sam.
But if we stay in school the teachers will more than likely let us slide even though we are failing. Once we are out of high school we go to apply for a job with the experience of making bookends. cutting boards and knowing how to boil water.
By having this kind of experience we are faced with the same situation as if we would have dropped out. By seeing this situation I believe that it is very important to build a worldwide revolution to overthrow this racist, fascist, and imperialistic-capitalistic system. I also see the need to win over the working class from the pacifist movements put out by the government to destroy the movement of the working class.
I thank the Progressive Labor Party for bringing forth the communist ideology and the need for revolution by the working class. May many more working class people be won over by PL and may they see the need for a revolution like I am beginning to see. All power to the working class!!
As the summer rolls on it is clear working people are not going to twiddle their thumbs in the face of ruling class oppression. While government bladder-mouths yap about how unemployment rates are being reduced–as they admit the number of unemployed grow–black workers have taken to the streets demanding jobs.
Jobs has become the battle cry of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Thousands of outraged black workers took to the streets demanding jobs, housing and other vital needs. Confronted by growing militancy the mayor of Asbury Park and the police chief– urged on by state and national leaders–opened fire on demonstrators. Lying police chiefs talk of how they shot over the heads of the people. But over fifty people have been wounded, and at least four dying. Asbury Park has been sealed off to prevent anyone from seeing the murder of black workers.
Obviously, the police riot in Asbury Park is part of the national scheme cooked up in Washington to prevent the militancy of black workers from spreading. And bosses intensify all aspects of racism to divide black and white workers.
But black workers have no intentions of taking oppression and terror lying down. On the day of the rebellion of black workers in Asbury Park a young black Vietnam vet said: “If they don’t give us the demands it’s going to be hell. I’ve been to Vietnam and I don’t give a damn anymore.” He noted that he recently quit a job with a carpet firm. Asked why he quit he replied. “Would you work for $66 a week?”
The ruling class and their stooges in various nationalist and so-called Left movements are finding out having black cops or “community control” over the police won’t fool the people. The Chief of Police in Asbury Park is black.
Having a black Chief of Police didn’t stop anger and protest. We are sure many honest forces in ghettos, or in other areas, realize that “a cop is a cop is a cop.”
Cops–whether they are black or white–are paid to defend the rotten, racist, boss system. A man’s color isn’t the question, the question is which side of the class struggle are you on? Either you are on the side of the workers, or on the side of the bosses.
It is getting harder and harder to palm off the same old lies that the rebellions are aimless, anarchistic and violent without content. The rebellions are for jobs, and improving all conditions of life. It is the class duty of all workers and progressive forces to come to the support of all those who rebel. They are right to rebel. We support that right in action as well as words.
If the goals of black workers are secured it will help lead all working people to winning their class aims against the bosses. It only benefits bosses if we don’t support one another. For example: New York City is an economic disaster area. Racism has been used in heavy doses to force minority workers’ wages down to far less than minimum standards. This has acted to lower wages of all workers in the city. In other words, racist practices by bosses, union leaders, and politicians (liberal or conservative) have made 450,000 garment workers in NYC the lowest-paid organized workers in the country. NYC wages generally are about the lowest in the country. Racism is a blow to the entire working-class–it must be smashed.
“We demand jobs” is a battle cry of the Progressive Labor Party. But we know, as millions are coming 10 know, that the bosses’ system is unworkable for working people. We know this system can only continue to breed more problems, and disasters for working people. That is why we combine all immediate fights with the battle for socialism. And in this battle millions of working people are realizing their ability to grind the bosses’ system into the dirt. Wave after wave of rebellions, strikes, student action and anti-war action can unite into a gigantic flood against the bosses. We work for the unity of these movements. The bosses work to split them. As unity becomes a bigger fact of life– victory against capitalism grows realistic. The bosses cannot stop growth toward unity anymore than they can stop the battles against them. Billions of people all over the world–united against imperialism and for socialism–will toss the capitalists into the garbage can of history. Reprinted from Challenge
Here are some examples of how putting our ideas into practice produces results!
A middle-aged black worker at Ford who bought the paper from a student, said he wanted to get together and discuss these ideas. A couple of us went to visit him. He was eager to discuss everything and we talked for a couple of hours. He said, “I’ve been going to this same job for a long time and sitting looking out on these same rotten slums for even longer. If this revolution you’re talking about is going to change that, I’m all for it!” We talked about how Challenge helps workers fight and he agreed to take 10 copies to sell to his friends in the plant. He said, “if selling this paper can help turn around one of my brothers, then it’s well worth it.” That’s the kind of attitude we all should have!
* * *
At another plant, a young black guy came up to a seller. The student gave him the pitch but he said, “oh, it’s like the Panther paper. I don’t want it.” The seller said, “it’s not like the Panther paper. It has stories about people really struggling and winning.” The worker went into the gates and about two minutes later he comes back out again with 50c and said, “I just found out about it. Give me five copies!”
* * *
At Youngstown Sheet and Tube where Challenge has never been sold, the response was terrific! On our second trip there, we got 18 contacts and sold lots of Black Liberation pamphlets.
This young worker at Youngstown was eager to know all about the Party. A friend of his was standing near by but didn’t seem to be taking any interest in the conversation. As I turned to go, the friend spoke up and said, “hey, come back here. Put my name on your list, too. I want to find out what this is all about!” Then he bought two Black Liberation pamphlets.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OVERALL THE WORK IS going well. The reasons are obvious. The class struggle is sharp here. There hasn’t been any real organization of workers down here by anyone. Even with all the bad aspects of lousy leadership, sellouts, deals, etc., union organizing and union membership hardly exist down here. But when struggles do break out there is a lot of militancy – the Lone Star Steel strike is just one example – and workers are eager for winning ideas. They respond to our line enthusiastically. The sale of Challenge and the number of Party leaflets and flyers that are given out all reflect this. But even more important is the response to the ideas. People are generally enthusiastic and want to talk and know more. One black woman who we went to visit liked what we had to say and told us she had so much to learn and wanted us to come back so we could talk more.
There were some problems but they are beginning to get straightened out. The most serious was that no plan was being made to involve the people that we met in the work – there was no plan for consolidation. We had a fairly sharp club meeting about this and the results are already picking up. Alice went to visit one boy who lives in a housing project that we met by selling door to door. She talked to him for a full evening. He liked the line, knows just about everyone in the project where he lives and his apartment is a sort of hangout for all his neighbors. That is, people keep coming over to say hello and to talk. The result is that Alice met and talked to a lot of people, and they want to get into a study group. She and Frank are going to the beach with this guy and his family and a bunch of their friends this weekend.
Selling in housing is really good and if people are not doing it nationally they should be, the response and sale rate is high. Also, you know to whom you have sold it and can very easily follow up on contacts. We began to sell at projects because there are no factories around. Many companies have corporate headquarters here, but essentially the big industry is oil and chemicals. They are way out and involve a long drive to get to. As time goes on we will begin to sell there too. We had to find a way to reach the workers. The projects seemed like a good way, and it seems to have paid off. Some beginnings are being made at the airport. The airlines are laying off all over the place, and the PL airline flyer and our emphasis in fighting layoffs and unemployment is a winner.
Sally has already told a number of people at her job that she is a communist and in Progressive Labor and has given Challenge to them. She got a pretty good response to it and is going to move in and share an apartment with one girl on her job. She met the girl’s family and showed them Challenge and they, too, like it. We had a struggle with her over seeing friends from work more often and she has begun to do it.
Chris has gotten a job teaching and given the busing plan that the school board has worked out and the racism that they are trying to build, we should be in a good position to do some good work. We had a talk about what he should be trying to do – get to know the kids and their parents, and try to talk to some of the other teachers. We talked about the need to let the kids know that he is on their side as well as to try and expose the tricks of the school board. He was somewhat depressed before we had the meeting but the day after the meeting, and after he put some of the ideas into practice, he began to feel a lot better. We have a study group going here that Alice and Sally lead, but the weakness that showed up was a lack of preparation. The people in the group began to detect it and it also began to show up in their attitude toward the study group. They agreed that there should be a meeting before the study group to figure out what it was they wanted people to get out of the meeting and how to best do that.
One weakness that is showing up in my work is that I am not checking up on what is going on often enough. This also showed up in the leadership that I was supposed to be giving to Atlanta. Fran and I are going to exchange written evaluations on the work with each other weekly, and I am going to call her up at least three times a week to see how things are progressing. I am enrolled at the university but I will probably be going to a mostly black school in the spring. Since it is close to the university, I will be selling Challenge there and at the university regularly. We know a number of high school kids who will be selling Challenge at their schools soon. The work among the GI’s, both here and in Atlanta has suffered because there was nobody to give it the fulltime attention that it needs. I am going to set up a Southern GI meeting in early October and set up a GI collective for the South to lead the work.
I have been meeting with the people in Austin regularly who are close to the Party and we are going to have meetings set up somewhat like candidate’s classes to try to develop their work and a perspective about moving to Houston and joining the Party.
The Student Mobilization Committee is planning to have a series of demonstrations in ten cities across the country on October 31 – Halloween (there must be some significance to that) – and the city in Texas will be Austin. I called the Austin people up and told them to mobilize people under Progressive Labor banners. We will be doing it here and we’re trying to bring busloads of friends to the demonstration. The high school kids will be doing it at their schools and we will try to get these workers we know to come and have a separate rally there. I also spoke to Frank about doing it in the city that the Student Mobilization Committee picks near Atlanta.
That, in general, is the work. As it begins to get going, more and more things are opening, and the possibility of bringing some of these people into the work and into the Party is giving us all new vigor, solving our manpower shortage. The weaknesses that I showed at the beginning are being defeated. The one of trying to do too much and in reality not doing all that much at all is being rectified. I think slowly I am beginning to give some amount of leadership to the work.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA–SORRY I WAITED SO long to write. We have been pretty busy but that is no excuse. Thanks to you and the study groups for the money. It bought lots of paper for leaflets for Ford, GM, and other places.
Like I said, it has been busy here. Right now I’m waiting till time for shift change at Ford. We have lots of the Auto Strikers Fight to Win papers left so we are giving them out with a leaflet announcing a PL forum.
Selling at Ford and GM has not been exactly easy. I hear that it is the same all over the country although a lot of the workers like Challenge-Desafio: It tells what “is really happening”. But for some reason the bosses, cops, union officials, and KKK do not like it. The first couple of times that we went to Ford, they took our pictures – and we were hassled by the plant guard and the town cops. I guess they want to decorate their offices. After their threatening to bust us for trespassing and obstructing traffic – that did not work. Actually, it made the workers more interested in finding out what we were selling that had the bosses and the cops so worried. The bosses’ next tactic was the goon squad, led by the union president (a former, if not present member, of the KKK) and the union committeemen. The first couple of times they just tried to scare and intimidate us. But when that didn’t work they attacked us the next times. Then we waited a few days and went back. They were not expecting us, so we were able to sell a few papers and make one more contact. The next time (a week ago yesterday) we were not so lucky. We were able only to sell a couple of papers before the goons came. Gene and Dick ended up with black eyes, and the goons managed to burn most of our papers. But things are not as bad as it sounds so far. We have managed to make contacts at Ford, some of whom are going to be in a readers’ club.
* * *
Well, we just came back from Ford, a few hours later. It was a great afternoon. Four of us went out. We had been there only a few minutes when the goons came. They attacked Dick, the only guy who went out today. Then, to the surprise of the goons, the guy who attacked Dick was jumped by Marie and me.
The last time we went we had a lot of pacifist feelings and did not fight back very hard – mainly just pushed a little - did not really fight. But this time all of us fought the goons. After we started fighting back, several other workers came to the fence and the gate. At first they mostly watched – then a few came out and tried to stop the goons. As more workers, especially black ones, began to watch, Dick heard one goon say, “We had better clear out.” So with our fighting, and much more important, with the other workers watching and being very clearly not on the side of the goons, the fight ended.
The goons had managed to grab all the papers we had, but then they threw them inside the fence and to their surprise several workers picked up some of them and started reading. When we saw that we started shouting to the other workers, “These goons are the ones that will help Ford beat your strike. If communist ideas are so bad, why are the bosses so afraid for you to hear them,” etc. While we were standing there shouting, the goons did nothing. They were afraid because other workers were there. Several papers were picked up by the workers. What we are counting on now is that some of them will call us and/or come to the forum next week. Until we make more contacts and build stronger ties with the workers we know we probably won’t be able to sell at Ford again because the union officials and the goon squads are ready.
Today’s overall evaluation is that it was a political victory for us because:
1) we fought back and began defeating our pacifist feelings; it is hard to be a pacifist if you hate the ruling class and its flunkeys;
2) the workers, many of whom we did not even know, came to stop the goons; some because of liberalism and not wanting to see women beat up – but some because they had read Challenge and knew that it is important;
3) workers saw that we do fight back – that we think the ideas in Challenge need to be grasped by the workers and that we will fight to get the paper out. That is a rundown of what happened at Ford today.
The work at Ford is going well now. As I said before, we have contacts; we have to do more follow-up and getting to know the workers better and winning them to sell Challenge with us and to follow up other contacts.
Flash Bulletin: We just got a phone call from a black worker at Ford. He saw what was happening today. He has read the paper and we are meeting with him tomorrow morning to talk about Challenge and how we can get it out to Ford workers. We have so much work to do. The working class is ready to grasp communist ideas. We have to get the paper to them, and talk and work with them. Anyone who thinks that the Southern working class is different and can’t be won to communist politics does not know what he is talking about.
We are doing a little work at places other than Ford. We have started selling Challenge at two of the largest Atlanta hospitals. We made contacts at one of them, and Dick and Gene both work part time at the other and know several people. Two of the people who work with them are in a readers group, but have not followed up most of these contacts yet. Again, as with Ford, the main problem is not with the workers but with our not getting enough work done.
A couple of weeks after we got down here, we found out that there was a construction laborers’ strike going on. It started the first week of July and is still going on with the workers receiving absolutely no strike benefits. The union is just a few blocks from where Dick lives. We made some real mistakes in our work with the union members. The important one that we did not make politics primary. We told the workers that Challenge is a communist newspaper and that we are communists – but the main thing that came across was that we are nice people who supported the strike, helped raise some money (very little) for the strikers, and we were trying to give tactical leadership in the fight against the sellout union leaders. But we could not give tactical leadership, we are not in the union, we are not construction workers and we cannot lead them in their strike. What happened was that our politics became more buried. Our politics were not hidden from the union and other misleaders like the SCLC and Martin Luther King, Sr.
Some of the workers, in trying to raise money for the strike, had arranged a meeting with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The workers we knew invited us to the meeting. When we all got there and everyone was waiting for the meeting to begin, the SCLC spokesman came in and said “the meeting is for striking workers only. Everyone else must leave.” Our friends said that they had invited us. The meeting took place in Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. While this was going on, Martin Luther King, Sr. came out and said that he did not want communists in his church. In fact he said “he did not want strikers who were striking against their union” meeting in his church. At that point everyone got up and left and there was no meeting with SCLC.
We talked with the guys a while that night about why King and the SCLC did not want them meeting with communists. The next night the union had a meeting in the local Teamsters Hall. We wrote a leaflet about the role of the union leaders to hand out at the meeting. We got to the union hall late and most of the people had already gone in.
When the union officials saw us, they began organizing a goon squad to attack but we had managed to get some of the leaflets inside. A few workers took several leaflets and passed them out at the meeting. So, we saw a lot of the workers looking out the window at what was going on. This made the goons think again and they decided not to attack. After the meeting we handed out leaflets to more of the guys and talked to people about the strike and the union leadership and the need for communist politics. While we have not been able to make up for the poor beginning with the construction workers, we made a few contacts on a political basis. One guy is interested in being in a reader’s group.
About three weeks ago, the MOBE had an antiwar march and rally – based completely on pacifism and relying on liberal politicians – on Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day. The total turnout, including the SWP-YSA forces and us, was no more than 50 people. The SWP-YSA, after a march of at least 1000 people last spring after the Cambodian invasion has managed to nearly kill the anti-imperialist movement in Atlanta. After the rally we had a PL forum to which three or four students and one sanitation worker came. The sanitation worker is working with us now and is in a reader’s group. Last week he sold 20 Challenges in about four days (completely on his own) and then asked for more. He said he is planning to go to Ford with us and that he does not mind a good fight with the goons. He also told us good places to sell.
We are selling some papers in Summerhill, a black community in Atlanta where a 15-year-old kid was shot in the back and murdered by the cops recently. There has been some fighting back by the people of Summerhill. The cops so far have managed to keep a loose lid on it, and with the help of various liberals and black politicians have kept it from exploding – so far. But the people are mad and when the cops get off – and they will – Summerhill will explode. Mayor Massell’s solution (he is the mayor who fought against the sanitation strike and is still trying to smash the union) to the problems of the people of Summerhill is more “police protection” with a new precinct house to be built right in Summerhill. The people whom we know here do not want any cops in their community and that includes black or white cops. There is very little misunderstanding about the role of the cops by the working people in Summerhill.
Lynne and George (Lynne is a PLer from Boston and George came down from North Carolina to work with us) are teaching elementary school and high school. They and Andy – a high school student we met at an Atlanta MOBE meeting and who is now working with us – are doing work with high school kids and beginning a Challenge Corps. Here in Atlanta, high school students have one year of compulsory ROTC. That is one of the things they will be fighting around this year. Also we think (we are not positive yet) that one of the schools is building a gym with scab labor. There seems to be enough for the Challenge Corps to fight around.
Gene and Kathy will be in school this year and trying to build an SDS chapter there. There was a chapter last year but it died during the year. It seems that this was basically a hippie group and made no attempt to reach most of the students. So at this point we are starting from scratch. Some work has already been done this summer – a couple of meetings and a rally in support of the people of Summerhill in their fight against the cops. There is a lot of work that has to be done to get SDS off the ground, but we met some students who seem to be interested in building the chapter.
Dick will be working at one of the black colleges here this year. AAT, for instance, is a working class school where kids go mainly to learn trade skills. We know one student who reads Challenge and wants to work with us.
* * *
This morning we started selling at Fulton Cotton Mill (about 1500 workers). We handed out 100 copies of the paper and we made one contact. We already knew a guy who works there. It is one of the largest factories that employs lots of women here in Atlanta. There is no union and the wages and the working conditions are horrible. Most people this morning were interested; we are planning to go back the first of next week with the new paper and a leaflet announcing a forum.
The place that we are having most difficulty in making headway is General Motors. The goons were there the second time we went to sell and we have not been able to get any contacts. We are having to depend on making contacts through others who know GM workers. There are a couple of people that we need to follow up in the next couple of days. Until we do this, we are going to have real trouble trying to sell there.
I guess this gives you a rundown of what we have been doing so far. What 1 have not mentioned is the great people we are working with – both the people who came down from North Carolina to work and the people we’ve met here. Everyone’s enthusiasm is really great. People are really trying to work collectively, in discussing the work and in helping each other with problems that come up.
We have made a lot of mistakes in our work so far. and I have no doubt that we will make many more. But through criticism, self-criticism and change, I am sure that we can do the work and build Progressive Labor in the South. The working class is ready – the ruling class will not be able to stop them from grasping communist ideas and making ’hose ideas their own. Only our lack of work and initiative and our fear of putting forward communism can slow the building of a communist party among the southern working class.
I could go on but this letter is getting too long already. I hope to hear from all of you. What is going on? How is the work developing? I do miss all of you and want to know what everyone is doing. Please write, and if anyone is coming through the South, stop in Atlanta for a visit – and to help with the work.
In Struggle for the Revolution.
P.S. (Wed. night). Just came back from the reader’s group meeting. Two workers from Ford, two workers from the hospital, and one sanitation worker were there. One Ford worker did not make it because he took his wife to the hospital (their fourth child). All of the people there want to sell Challenge. The Ford workers think that we should go back to Ford tomorrow. They said that the cops were waiting for us today – and lots of workers were there to defend us if the goons attacked. It seems that we are on the offensive at last at Ford. So we are going back tomorrow, with the auto flyer and a leaflet attacking racism and anti-communism.
The two guys at the meeting don’t think we have to worry about the goons tomorrow – they think there will be several workers on our side. The bosses are scared because lots of workers read Challenge yesterday in spite of the goons. The bosses certainly will not give up, they will try every tactic they can, but they cannot stop the working class from smashing them. Fight and struggle hard.
* * *
This is just a short note to bring you up to date on what has happened since the last letter. The week has been great. Like I said, the guys at Ford thought we should go back on Thursday. We did.
Marie and 1 went (Dick drove, but since he had already been worked over by the goons, we decided he should just put us out and not get out himself). When we got there, the first thing we saw was about 10 or 15 goons ready and waiting. We were scared stiff. But then at least 15 guys led by our friends, came down to the gate and stood between the goons and us. I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life!!! If they had not been there the goons would have really worked us over, male chauvinism not withstanding.
So we started handing out the leaflet Racism and Anti-communism – the Bosses’ Weapon. We had been there maybe two or three minutes when the cops came up the street and ordered us to leave. They had been parked about 100 yards down the street waiting to see if the goons could handle the job. When they saw that the goons could not then they took over. We had discussed this possibility, and decided, if it seemed clear that the cops were determined to arrest us if we continued, then Marie and Gene would stop and go back to the car, and I would continue to hand out the lit. So that is what we did. Only the cops did not see it that way. After getting very excited, one pipsqueak of a cop kept yelling in my face “I have an 18-year-old son,” and then, arresting me, they decided to pick up Marie too. It was obvious that they were having trouble figuring some kind of charges – we had gotten their “permit” to sell papers. Finally they came up with “littering,” “obstructing traffic,” “failure to disperse on order of an officer,” and, in my case, “resisting arrest.” Dick got us out on bond ($475. each) Thursday night.
Then yesterday and today we have been talking to some of the guys from Ford about what happened. The results have been great. They are going to take leaflets Cops and Goons – The Bosses’ Tools into the plant next week and also talk to friends of theirs about the Wednesday night forum. Some of us are getting together Thursday to figure out more about how to get the leaflets and the papers to the other workers at Ford.
To prove how scared they are of communist politics, the union officials called a union meeting Thursday night after we were busted and said that they had passed a new bylaw that anyone working with groups trying to disrupt the union would be kicked out and fired. It was clear to everyone that this meant anyone working with Progressive Labor. With this, the guys still see the need to work with communists and to build a rank-and-file group.
This latest development is forcing us to depend more on the workers we know to get the paper to other workers. The cops are going to be waiting for us at least every day until the strike. To go back now would simply mean that we would be busted again and probably have to sit in jail until the trial. So now the only way for Challenge and other literature to get into the Ford plant is by the guys we know taking it in. When we meet on Tuesday we will talk about that and the importance of getting the paper to other Ford workers.
Our biggest weakness in our work at Ford so far has been our lack of reaching white workers. Several have called and said that they like Challenge but so far are too scared to give us their names and get together to talk about it. We are counting on some of them to come to the forum Wednesday night. We have to find some way to reach white workers at Ford and overcome their fear of us and of being baited by their friends. When we overcome that weakness the work will take a qualitative leap forward.
After the forum this Wednesday, the next thing we will be trying to bring people to will be the trial. It will be Monday, Sept. 14, the same day that the auto contract expires. This will be an opportunity to expose the court and the ruling class – that they will break their own laws in order to try to stop workers from organizing to fight back, and especially to try to stop the spread of communist ideas. This will perhaps be the first trial of its kind in Georgia – a trial in which communists and friends of communists put forward their politics and use the courtroom as a political forum in which to help build a movement to smash the ruling class.
We are planning to bring as many people to the trial as possible – high school and college students, teachers, and workers – especially Ford workers. We do not know what this is going to cost, but we are pretty sure that with court costs and whatever fines we may get, it is going to be lots of bread – which we don’t have. It seems that making a revolution takes not only work but also money. We are going to raise what money we can here, but it seems certain that we will have to depend on comrades and friends around the country to help us out.
Well, that brings you up to date. It has been a great summer. The class struggle is sharpening.
Write and let us know what is happening.
In struggle, Fran
Gerally speaking most of the men in the Party are trying to defeat their chauvinism, but there is still a long way to go. Although, by now the men have enough knowledge of chauvinism to know that they shouldn’t chain their wives to the kitchen, or cheat on them, etc., there are many aspects of it which are more important and aren’t even being thought about, by women also.
For example, how is chauvinism hurting the work? Where you sell Challenge, how many women are employed there and what effect would it have if the women were all ignored? (This has been raised by the collective selling at the unemployment office where a great percentage there are women.) To not make an extra effort to speak to the women would be stupid and the women in the Party are just as guilty of this as the men.
When deciding where to sell, an extra effort should be made on concentrating on places where most of the workers are women. At Metropolitan Life Insurance where I am working there are 1700 employees, the vast majority of which are women; in New York City they employ 17,000 people! Most of these employees are young working class girls, in the lowest paying, most boring jobs (such as file clerks) are black, Latin or Filipino. Generally speaking, people working in these concentrations should follow the same “rules” as those in a factory! Concentrate on winning workers to I the Party, sell the paper, build a base, etc.
Probably the main weakness within the Party regarding chauvinism (which will be the main one when meeting women who are new) is not being political or struggling sharp enough. I sometimes get the feeling that the men think that they have it whipped if they aren’t telling women to shut up or aren’t beating them, etc. Not struggling sharply with women to take on more and cut out the dependency on men is saying we’re worthless and that the shit taught us about women is true. There are no “get rich quick schemes” for “curing” chauvinism. Women’s Lib groups and “special” meetings for women are usually a crock and make women seem like they’re some special freaks.
It’s true that women are more oppressed than men so it means more struggle for them to take on political leadership. If we want to win over the masses of women to revolution then we better start struggling with the ones that are around the Party and stop trying to wrack our brains trying to think of some gigantic, all-encompassing group that will win women over in one great sweep. It won’t happen that way, it’ll never happen if women aren’t taking on leadership in Progressive Labor.
Sure the women are going to have to do it themselves, but the men can’t forget about their responsibility in the whole thing. If a guy talks throughout a meeting and never gives a woman a chance to speak, unless she demands to be heard; or says “everything” and doesn’t give her a chance to figure anything out for herself, then in a patronizing way asks her if she has an opinion; giving the distinct impression that he couldn’t care less anyway–well, it’s obvious that he’s not trying to win women over, and that the most important thing is that his leadership is not threatened, not that the work is done well.
There is a great deal of leadership potential in women, because they are part of the working class and the struggle, not just because they are treated second class. Why are they being treated that way’1 Because some member of the ruling class doesn’t like his wife?
My husband is no genius at defeating chauvinism but he has taught me a lot about defeating it.
He makes demands of me and other women and won’t take our bull. He knows when women are not really trying to defeat chauvinism and fights against it–primarily he’s more concerned about winning more people to the line than in protecting himself.
This struck me the most when his mother and grandmother were here to visit us last week. He was struggling with them very sharply over the line–for a long time their main answer to everything was “I’m too stupid to discuss this with you” or, “I don’t understand it enough to have an opinion.” He wouldn’t take these answers and demanded to hear what they had to say. My first reaction was to cut the discussion short because they weren’t ready!! Small things, like learning to play cards–he demands that I learn and become better than him.
I really don’t think there’s too much else to say. The rest becomes tactical. The important thing is the necessity to win women to the Party.
Every worker has seen political papers other than Challenge-Desafio being sold, so why should one buy it? One day in New York’s garment center I asked a young black worker if he wanted to buy the paper and he said “no.” I asked if he had ever read it before, he said he had. Then 1 asked how he liked it and he replied he thought it was very good. “So why, then,” I asked, “don’t you want this issue?” He said he was tired of reading and he wanted to do something, Naturally I explained that the paper was Progressive Labor’s organizing tool, that if he thought its ideas were good and he wanted to do something and learn Marxism-Leninism, we wanted to contact him–he became a Challenge contact.
With this experience in mind I set about selling the paper from the point of view of organizing. To almost any worker who seemed interested, I explained that the point of our selling the paper was to organize workers. This led immediately to more interest and more contacts. I now rarely sell without making three to four contacts.
The basis for making contacts should be clear: we are communists, we feel only communist leadership won’t sell out in the long run. What’s more, we feel the working class will have to smash the bosses’ state and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat under Marxist-Leninist leadership. If people think that this is sectarian, that it’s bound to turn off workers, they’re wrong, at least in many cases.
Every contact I’ve made through the latest issue has been made this way. Today 1 tried to sell the paper to two tired workers but they already had it. I explained the paper was the organizing tool of the Progressive Labor Party, that we didn’t just sell it for “good circulation.” We discussed it during which I stated the above very clearly, adding that if they wanted the dictatorship of the proletariat and wanted to fight the bosses and agreed Challenge is a useful tool for workers, then Progressive Labor wanted to talk with them; they too both became contacts.
The lesson is very clear: Challenge-Desafio is a tool for contacting workers and winning them to Marxism-Leninism, only if we use it as such. The higher the circulation, the easier to make contacts. But the way to more sales is to sell the paper as Progressive Labor’s organizer, as our way of spreading Marxist ideas and contacting interested workers.–A.S.
This report was prepared by the New England leadership collective of the Progressive Labor Party. It’s an attempt to help sellers’ groups to critically analyze the work we’ve done so far so that Challenge sales and especially winning workers to Progressive Labor can improve.
* * *
The general situation is good.
The rulers are right to worry: Miami; Augusta; Georgia; Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York; Asbury Park, New Jersey; Bedford, Massachusetts; etc., have all had serious ghetto rebel-lions. The strike wave continues.
Millions of unemployed–especially black youth–are fighting back.
There is trouble in the army. The lid will blow–the only question is, how many ways at once? The rulers wake up screaming from nightmares about auto wildcats on top of ghetto rebellions on top of postal walkouts on top of construction wildcats on top of army mutinies on top of...
Most decisive is that communist ideas are getting out to workers. One sellers’ group in this area has 100 contacts. We now have several readers’ groups including black, white and Spanish-speaking workers and high school students. There are black and white workers, male and female, young and old who have themselves begun doing communist work. Therefore, since nothing happens by luck, we conclude that the sellers are doing better work than any of us could have imagined a few months ago.
Nevertheless there are plenty of weaknesses. Everyone knows this and if we sit on our laurels, our butts will grow, but Progressive Labor won’t.
The objective situation presents good possibilities. Winning workers to fight for communism is the way to end the vicious exploitation, imperialist plunder and the revolting U.S. “culture.” Winning workers to Progressive Labor is the way to smash racism. Communist workers–black and white– are the ones who can lead the whole class to slaughter that poisonous snake. Winning workers, employed or unemployed, paid or unpaid, as in the case of women homeworkers, winning workers to Progressive Labor is the way to wipe out the rotten male chauvinist ideas and practices. It is the way to create rock-hard unity between U.S. workers and working people all over the world. Winning workers to Progressive Labor is the answer to the filthy leeches who’ve been investing in misery so long. We think however two fears hold people back.
When you’re going to sell Challenge this fear means being scared that workers will slam the door, look away, curse you, spit, or maybe even hit you. Of course, if this gets strong enough it can lead to complete inaction and it must be combatted. Frightening situations should be discussed fully. It’s possible that the frightening situation is being blown way out of proportion. Maybe some technical steps can be taken to change things around. The point to keep in mind is that most people are not hostile.
It is not surprising that the ruling class can mobilize some to intimidate. The main way to defeat this is to further deepen our political links to the people so that they themselves become red Johnny Appleseeds, spreading communism far and wide.
A small but good step in this direction was taken awhile ago at General Motors. When sellers there were harassed, they won General Motors workers to distribute some leaflets inside the plants: This is the whole point.
The fear of harassment is licked by deepening our ties with the working class. This second fear, of winning communism, is much more serious for it is precisely the fear of deepening those ties:
Does this sound nuts? “Everybody wants to win,” you say. But also some want to lose. Many are afraid that if we take the key political step with a worker–the vital step at a particular time– then we’ll have to do even better work in the future. We’ll have to be more responsible in serving the people; our work and life styles will have to become even more geared to serving workers’ needs.
Of course there’s no one pat way to up the ante in our political struggle with workers. There are many stages in anyone’s political development. But, at a particular time,’ there’s always something that’s key. At times we don’t realize what that something is, but more often we realize what it is, the struggle is over whether to do it! The fear of doing the one vital thing that will up the struggle to a new level so that more “crucial steps” will have to be taken, this fear of winning workers to communism, whereupon we know we’ll have to make a greater contribution, this fear of communism is the very worst corrosive, the most deadly enemy influence on us at this time.
It works quietly, and it’s sly, cunning. The “fear of winning” is always working hard, lobbying for its line. “Don’t take that step,” it says, as you consider whether to do what you know is vital right now. “Think of yourself.” “Think of how much more revolutionary you will have to be later.”
Here are some examples.
Jared, a member of the New England leadership collective, was fired from a job. He knew it was key that he contact certain friends from work, people politically interested in Progressive Labor. The aim would be that they help continue the agitational activities he’d done. After taking very limited steps, half-heartedly trying to contact three workers, he stopped trying until now. Why? These guys were interested in Progressive Labor. They like our line. So the fear must have been, as we have said, the fear that if steps were taken, “where will it all stop?”
Another example: A girl in Progressive Labor has been doing good work in Roxbury. Saturday, a worker called three times, wanting to speak to someone who wasn’t home. The PL’er knew right away that this worker was lonesome and would like to come over and discuss something with a Progressive Labor person. But she pretended not to get the hint, pretended to take what the worker said literally.
She told him that the person wasn’t home and gave numbers where the worker might be able to find him. What was the Progressive Labor girl thinking? If the worker came over, she’d “have to” talk to him, she “didn’t feel like it,” if she did it once, she’d have to keep on doing it, etc., etc.– Another example: A Progressive Labor member and a Challenge seller visited a worker they knew. They all had a nice time. The Progressive Labor member knew it was key to discuss with the worker handing out a particular leaflet. She knew he would be hesitant and that it would take a good, serious, unhurried discussion. If this were not done soon, the worker might get much harder to win to communist work. But on the other hand, raising this in a good way would up the ante. In the new situation thus created she’d have two choices,
a) she could struggle in an increasingly good way with him, or;
b) she could cop out of the struggle at the now higher level with even worse effects than had she copped out before.
She decided to cop out now, but to make herself feel less guilty she did it in the following way: just as she was leaving the worker’s house, she mentioned the leaflet and suggested that he hand it out–leaving the Challenge seller holding the bag! While fooling herself that she was “doing her duty,” the PL’er was really not doing what was necessary at the particular moment to win this particular worker closer to communism.
Yet another example: A guy knew a young worker who’d written a letter to Challenge. The guy (a PLP member) did nothing to consolidate this worker’s understanding and practice. Nobody ever saw him with his friends. A girl in PL then asked this young worker to help write a leaflet. At first he agreed, but when she actually called to ask him to come over he attacked her saying “everyone hates reds” and “the people you work with are just sour grapes because they’re failures,” etc. He probably had mentioned Progressive Labor to some friends and they attacked him; because we’d done nothing to consolidate our relations with him, he at least for the time, folded under attack.
We’ve used Progressive Labor members as examples for one reason: That is–we do not want anyone to think we see this as a problem of non-Progressive Labor members only–although it does affect them. The point is it affects all of us. We are new, inexperienced and all of us have plenty of wrong ideas and bad, pro-capitalist attitudes. There are no angels, just people trying to be revolutionaries; we need to help each other rectify these errors.
Perhaps some think they can play around with this problem, keep on taking “half-way measures” you fully screw up the struggle, as we’ve seen. The struggle can advance only when, to the best of our ability, we take all the way steps. Second when you succumb to the “fear of winning” you create a pattern which gets harder and harder to break out of. Third when you succumb to the “fear of winning” you are helping to win other people, consciously or by merely setting a bad example, to also take “half-way measures.” This is how a Rightwing can develop–even in a Progressive Labor selling project.
After awhile it gets disturbing to keep on bullshitting, doing things halfway. It’s too corrupt; there’s a lot of pressure to try to justify bad practice; we begin to blame others; we invent disagreements. We say things like “selling Challenge a lot is bad because it keeps us from base-building.”
The potential for such a Rightist development comes out every-time somebody who has been taking halfway measures out of the fear of winning says: ”I’ve been demoralized.” The statement clearly implies that some external force–Progressive Labor or the workers–has made this person sad, has ruined his or her life.
The problem isn’t that the person feels guilty about having not done things he or she knew were absolutely necessary, but that “things” have gotten him or her down. When this sort of approach is taken, it is impossible to correct errors stemming from these two fears. The first step must be to correctly understand the source of feeling down which most commonly, but not always, means the two fears are in command.
Some very good people in the sellers’ program would probably do better work at this point in a different situation. This would be nothing to be ashamed of, but we do not think this is necessary in any but a small minority of cases. In most cases, the problem is struggling over the two fears.
The situation is posed very sharply: Big breakthroughs are possible and the beginnings have been made. Whenever a situation like that is posed some will go to the Right, become actual opponents of this breakthrough. But, if this two-fear error is handled properly, we certainly do not think this need apply to anyone but a tiny handful.
Most people want to correct the weaknesses in the situation which hold back greater breakthroughs. We are convinced this can be done. We suggest a number of steps as part of the rectification–and we’re sure people will come up with many others.
1. Read and discuss this report.
This should be done in a spirit of honest criticism and self-criticism. The revolution gains nothing from liberalism, which is really a way of dealing with each other along the lines of the second fear. That is, by not “fighting too hard” we keep our political relations from getting “too sharp” so that nobody will in turn “struggle too hard” with us! This is corrupt and we must defeat liberalism. The best discussions draw on real self-critical examples and figure out real political solutions.
2. In general, sellers’ meetings should be improved.
a) there needs to be better organization. Ten to twenty people aren’t needed to work out minor technical details, this can and must be done by a small group which then reports to the meeting;
b) this will help make possible having much more political discussion about our actual ties with workers as well as how, in real life, we can revolutionize those relations to improve the workers’ and our political understanding and practice. These discussions are the key thing for sellers’ meetings.
c) a separate meeting should occur every two weeks or so, for a sellers’ group study session. Study has gone on very little and very sloppily. If time is tight, groups could cut back on selling the number of hours the study takes per week. The quality of work will improve much more than if such time were not taken. People want and should be able to develop a much firmer grasp of Marxism-Leninism as well as Progressive Labor’s strategic political line. In addition, this makes possible much more thoroughgoing political discussions with workers.
We don’t think the situation is crucial because everyone’s messing up. The opposite is true. The situation makes possible a big breakthrough and that’s when you either go up quickly or down faster! That’s life. We are not putting down a lot of good work that’s been done, but if you rest on your laurels, you get nothing but fatter laurels.
Comrades and friends: there are several points that require our immediate attention. Challenge is rapidly becoming the most important national party organizer. Over 100,000 copies of the last issue were sold and the sales seem to be steadily increasing. We have not done our best here in Los Angeles to contribute to the revolutionary content of Challenge and insure its mass distribution. Many of our articles have been late and lacking in good Marxist-Leninist analysis. Although some clubs and study groups have discussed Challenge, most do not regularly prepare articles or analysis for the paper.
The truth is that workers are looking more to Challenge as their newspaper. This, sometimes despite ourselves. The national Party leadership has called upon every Party member and friend to help further improve Challenge-Desafio, its content, distribution and follow up work.
As you probably saw in the last Challenge, sales in Los Angeles were around 3000 last month. Although this is a reasonable increase over the previous month, it is still much too low. Los Angeles is the largest city in the country. There are over nine million people living in the area. Clearly, we are not reaching nearly enough working people with our revolutionary ideas. True, we are not in a selling race or a numbers game to see how many papers we can sell, but the more working people we reach through the paper, the better our chances of building a real base for Progressive Labor. It is no accident that in areas where the paper sales are high, there are more working class contacts, more workers in study groups, and in the Party.
There are between 50-70 people selling Challenge in Los Angeles. We should be selling at least 7,000 papers a month. There is no organizational magic that can accomplish this goal. The main obstacle to achieving it is that there is still a lot of foot dragging in regard to building the Party through the paper. Some comrades look at this work as a duty that interferes with “their base building” and spend only one or two hours a week selling the paper, rarely making or following up contacts. These comrades should be criticized sharply by their fellow club members. Every club should set a goal that corresponds to each member selling at least 75 papers each issue. Every Party member should be selling the paper a minimum of two or three times a week and spending at least one night every week following up on contacts that he or she met or that were assigned by a concentration club. This means a lot of hard work for all of us, but it also means a real proletarian turn for the Party.
Our main purpose is to make contact with the workingclass through Challenge and build the Party. Our main concentration is in auto. There are four plants in the Los Angeles area which employ over 20,000 workers. A Challenge readers’ group of workers just began. Based on our contact work so far with auto and other workers, we may be able to start another readers’ group or two for workers around the time of the next forum. This depends on how we do the followup work. We have the names and addresses of many workers but we need to speed up and improve our style and method of work.
Additionally, although progress is being made, racism still continues to be one of the main internal obstacles for our Party to overcome. Many comrades know black and chicano workers and students in Los Angeles but have not carried out a consistent struggle to win them to revolutionary politics. Where a consistent struggle to win minority workers and students to the Party has been carried out the results have been good. New York is a good example.
The majority of the 400,000 workers in the garment center are black and Latin. There are several dozens of these workers in Progressive Labor study groups and several of them are ready to come into the Party. Most of the Challenge sales and contact work in this area is done by white party members. There exist some anti-workingclass and racist attitudes among these comrades but they are being struggled against.
In other words, a class analysis goes a long way and is generally accepted by many workers. Nationalism is not the biggest obstacle for us at this point. Black and Latin workers and students are being won to revolutionary politics. Most of the places where we sell the paper in Los Angeles have a large percentage of black and chicano workers (auto, steel, hospitals, unemployment, post office, phone co., etc.) and many of the contacts we have are black and Latin. With a serious attitude toward winning these workers to the Party we should see a big change in the composition of our base and Party membership. The national leadership estimates that approximately 100 new black and Latin workers and students will be in the Party by winter. Many of these are in the N.Y. area and mostly from contacts made through Challenge sales and followup.
There is a Party group in New York that is preparing a report on male chauvinism and women’s liberation using a class analysis. We have been too slow in this area. Progressive Labor led the struggle at the Chicago SDS convention to adopt a class analysis on women’s liberation. The current report will be based on that analysis but should include new contributions. These should be forwarded to the Los Angeles leadership. What about some articles for Challenge exposing the special oppression of women?
Everyone is being encouraged to make a schedule and follow it, not just go through the motions, but to develop a better revolutionary outlook and discipline. How we spend our time is important in winning workers to our politics. Many of us work a lot of time and generally run around pragmatically. What about planning a time to read, to see contacts, see friends and neighbors, follow up club assignments and two or three slots a week to sell the paper? How many of us run around all week, get very tired and then find it hard to say what our political focus was that week or what we accomplished? The other side is those who don’t run around at all; this is worse.
Starting in the leadership, we are launching a full time struggle against part time communists. Those of us who think of revolutionary work as a hobby to be conducted at our own convenience must change our ideas and our practice immediately, otherwise, we will be asked to step aside.
With vastly increased printing costs for Challenge, flyers, travel and a few more fulltime Party workers, our budget is increasing tremendously. By the end of the year the budget will be running over $1.2 million a year. This is a lot of money for us but it can be raised because our base is also growing. Careful attention to money from literature sales can account for nearly half of our budget and this comes mostly from workers.
The rest of the budget will have to come from Party members and friends. This means a better job and attitude on fundraising all around. Some of us are still reluctant to ask people for money, even people who believe in what the Party is going. This has to change. Also,
a) Most of us who give regular sustainers could probably give a little more and more regularly;
b) we can get money from new people who we have never asked;
c) the secret is to ask, explain the work and importance of the Party to workers and students.
* * *
The class struggle is sharpening in the Party. Our efforts to reach more working people with revolutionary ideas is showing some good results.
1) Challenge sales in southern California have increased by more than 1000 for the second issue in a row.
2) Many contacts have been made, especially among auto workers, where a Challenge project is concentrating.
3) Our latest forum was attended by 150 including some new worker contacts and it was generally considered a lively and militant affair.
4) This Party week-end, in the first Western Regional Conference of Friends of the Party was held in San Francisco. Sellers’ groups from San Diego, Hawaii, Sacramento, Seattle, Salt Lake City and other cities were represented at the meeting, where plans to consolidate and build the Party in those cities were made.
5) Our first Party-wide sales mobilization was meager in attendance but long on sales (400) and contacts (6), of whom one came to the forum later the same day. Let’s do this every other weekend.
The question is often asked, “is the ruling class going to sit back and let us do all these good things, and let us get away with it?”
Well, if we were trying to win the auto workers to support some ruling class scheme, like community control of schools and cops, the bosses would be giving us free bus rides to the plant, arranging shift times so we would not have to get up too early to sell the paper, and they might even fix it so our fund drive would be handled by Ford (the foundation).
Well, things are not happening like that. Our line is proletarian revolution. We are urging workers to fight racism and all other bosses’ ideas with proletarian internationalism. We are urging workers to unite against the boss and capitalism and we have a program for smashing the bosses’ agents (union officials) that control every single trade union in the country.
Is our line correct? This will be borne out in practice. The Party is increasingly under attack. This is the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time because it proves that our revolutionary ideas and programs are winning support among workers. Witness recent attacks against Party by union officials, police and organized Rightwingers!
a) At General Motors in Van Nuys, the union organized a goon squad of committeemen to stop us from selling the paper;
b) At General Motors in South Gate, the Party was attacked in a professional type Rightwing leaflet distributed in the plant;
c) At Ford in Pico River, an organized group has threatened the sellers.
d) Police continually harass and arrest high school sellers.
e) At Ford a woman seller was arrested and later released after union officials fingered her to the police. These attacks are happening all over the country, wherever there is a major effort to sell Challenge and build the Progressive Labor Party. The bosses are organizing and encouraging these attacks because they don’t want workers to read revolutionary literature, they don’t want us to build the Progressive Labor Party.
At this point, there is a very sharp class struggle inside the Party and among our friends. The focus of this struggle is the attacks on the Party. The outcome of the struggle will determine how we respond to these attacks. As in every class struggle, there are two sides. The majority of our members and friends are on the side of advancing under attack. They are consistent in seeking to sell more papers, making and following up contacts, looking for bigger and better ways to build the Progressive Labor Party. They show up on time, try to make friends among workers and have a friendly attitude toward other members and friends, toward doing political work. They are on the dare to win side.
The other side favors retreat. “If we are attacked at Ford, then we can’t sell the paper there.” A minority of our members and friends are on the side of capitulating under attack; they don’t attempt to meet workers and engage in conversation with them; they don’t show up on time; they sell only when they “have” to; they stand around hoping to look more like lampposts than live revolutionaries; they have “urgent” tasks that keep them away from factories, campuses and barracks; their attitude toward political work is to-accept assignments and neglect to carry them out, or to carry them out two weeks late; they act like they’re doing the revolution a favor when they come around; and what’s more, they have an unfriendly, grudging attitude toward Party members and friends–these people are afraid to win.
The class struggle between the dare to win and afraid to win lines in the Party is very sharp. Victory for the surrender line would be a serious setback for us now. It would mean an end to Challenge sales to workers, would deprive workers of vitally needed Marxism-Leninism at a time when the bosses are desperately resorting to racism to divide and beat them down, and furthermore, would eliminate the possibility of organizing a national, rank-and-file-based resistance to the sellout engineered in the auto contract talks.
Naturally nobody in the Party is openly advocating surrender or sellout, this would be easily exposed and defeated. The afraid to win line is a road paved with good intentions but strewn with broken alarm clocks that don’t work in the morning, memories that fail on selling days, papers that do not get delivered or contacts’ telephone numbers that don’t answer or are always busy.
Afraid to win is often found among those elements ready to complain about others, to get angry when another slips up and is foremost with constant, carping criticism about some secondary matter.
Dare to win is critical and self-critical, while afraid to win makes a career out of complaining and criticizing while ignoring the responsibility of every Party member and friend to solve problems, take real initiative and get work done.
Afraid to win is often concealed behind bravado. Why? Because some people have responded to organized and even spontaneous attack against sellers by advocating Party mobilizations to go down to the plants in numbers to defend ourselves. Individual heroism is neither here nor there. Relying on the people is the essence of our politics and this won’t be accomplished today by showing a few workers we can fight. What, we need if we are to avoid becoming a Weatherman-like faction with a twisted pro-workingclass line is to urgently win over the masses of workers who need Marxism-Leninism. Workers don’t need this ideology in order to keep fighting, because they will do this anyway, but in order to win.
Let’s face it. Aside from the fact that beefing up our goon squad directly contradicts our main line of reliance on the people, experience has already demonstrated it won’t work. For all those who are dreaming of overpowering the bosses’ trade union apparatus at the auto plants with 25 hand picked karate experts, it would be well to remember that Che Guevara got wiped out in Bolivia and Progressive Labor itself came close at New York’s Figure Flattery garment shop with ten times 25.
In the long run, without the support of people we are sunk. Better yet, with the people we are invincible. The workers will brush off the union flunkeys with a swipe of the hand when they grasp Marxism-Leninism. In the short run this is impossible without immediate support from the workers themselves. That is, we’re already at the point when workers’ support is the critical factor. With it, we can keep selling and building the Party, without it we must retreat.
This is where the afraid to win and dare to win lines meet head on. We must go all out to make friends, pursue contacts, form study groups, reader’s clubs and win workers to the Party. We must build a base! Enthusiasm for selling Challenge without hard work to build a base will soon turn into its opposite. Without a base, Challenge sales will wither.
This is the sharpest contradiction in our work. To solve this in a revolutionary way requires an all out effort on contact work. This has not yet been done. Responsibility for this failure to make contact work (base building) the focus of our attention and political energy lies primarily with ourselves, the leadership. First of all, we have not set the lead in visiting contacts and winning their support. Secondly, we have been too liberal in inner-party struggle. We did not see soon enough that afraid to win is a dangerous trend, we did not fight hard enough among ourselves or in the clubs to expose and smash all of the various manifestations of this line.
Every one of us will continue to visit at least one new contact every week and take along some other friend or member with us. Naturally, visits are only the first step. Parties, picnics, forums, study groups, paper selling and Party building, that’s our real goal. We intend to check up and see that there is good follow up work with every contact so that our goals are met.
In addition, we’re trying to be much sharper in inner-party struggle. Concretely, this means a drive to make every Party member accountable for 75 sales per issue and at least one, live contact follow up a week (these are minimum goals). We are not proposing to organize a selling race, but a campaign to build a base, to criticize the reactionary political nature of the real and self-constructed barriers that stand between us and winning workers to Marxism-Leninism.
There are a few members and friends here doing good work. They should help win others to their example. We urge every one to be self-critical. Examine your own attitude and assignments. Make a list of the instances and ways in which afraid to win has characterized your work. Present this to your club or sellers group along with your plan to achieve the two minimums now. Also think of how you can help others to do this.
Remember however, you can’t win them all. Recently three comrades here left the Party. We consider them casualties of the sharp struggle that has been going on. Our estimate is that there were two general factors in this situation, primarily individualism. Each of the three felt that his own problems and worries were entitled to first consideration; more so than serving the people or building PL or fighting racism and they all admitted this. Secondly, liberalism. We failed to wage a sharp political struggle against the weaknesses these three comrades had exhibited for some time. We were afraid to drive them away with too sharp criticism.
These ex-comrades are now friends of the Party, two of them help to sell the paper, they are not attacking the Party. They are self-critical and hope to change (they have nothing at all to do with enemies of the Party, like Epton and Co.). Our attitude towards them is friendly, we should struggle with them and try to win them back to our line of serving the people.
Things are getting sharper: As the success of Challenge in reaching working people becomes clearer sales are shooting up, the number of workers met, of workers helping to sell the paper, and the number won to our Party is increasing. The attacks against us are picking up too. We think it is a sign of our success that we are being attacked more sharply. When we weren’t reaching anyone, when no workers knew of our revolutionary communist position, naturally the ruling class didn’t have to bother with us.
The attacks come in two ways. The first attack is from the police, more arrests and harassment of people selling the paper. So far, these attacks are designed mainly into frightening us into not selling and frightening workers into not working with us. So far they’ve flopped. At one big steel mill, for example, when the man came out to take pictures of our people selling the paper, 11 steel workers bought the paper within five minutes right in front of the camera. At that plant we sold 130 last issue, the first time there.
The other way of attacking our paper is more insidious. This is the attack from within our ranks and it rises from within our own fears of working people and fears of struggle. The main target of these attacks is our Party and especially the leadership. In practice, the attacks take the form of four don’ts:
1) don’t sell the paper;
2) don’t open a public headquarters;
3) don’t make contact with workers, or follow up those contacts (“only a select few cadre are qualified to visit contacts”);
4) don’t defend communism or PL when they’re attacked.
Our answer to these attacks must be loud and clear: for every “don’t” substitute a do or do more! Starting with a new public campaign headquarters we will double time spent on paper sales and following up on contacts! Every Challenge group should follow up contacts, invite as many working people to forums, films and discussion meetings and improve our understanding of communism and the PLP so that we can win even more working people to the line and to the Party.
The more bold we are in selling our paper, the more workers we talk with, the more we will have to understand our line. This does not mean sitting off by ourselves in little groups having endless abstract theoretical discussions. It does mean talking to workers, listening and bringing back these discussions, and if possible the workers also, to our Challenge groups. Most of us can’t really know what we should be discussing in our groups until we have talked to people and found out what their pressing problems are, what their questions are. Among those asked frequently are:
1) “What do you mean communist?” “Communism is a dictatorship, isn’t it?” “At least now we have the right to speak.” “Under your system, would you allow strikes?”
2) “What is this Progressive Labor Party?” “What do you guys stand for?” “What do you people do besides sell papers?” “Why do you call yourselves communists– it might turn people off.” “Is this PL the Communist Party?”
3) ̶Would you like to live in Russia, Cuba or China?”
4) “What about all the welfare chiselers?” “There’s going to be a race war here–we whites have to protect ourselves–don’t you want to protect your home?”
5) “The only way we can win is if blacks stick together.” “Communism is basically a white ideology.” “Let’s face it, white workers are never going to be won away from racism.”
6) “Women don’t give a damn about organizing. You can’t depend on them. All they are is a second paycheck and it doesn’t matter to them if they get a raise or not, they have a husband to support them.”
7) “What your Party ought to do is run someone for office.” “Why don’t you support?”
8) “I don’t think people should go around burning things down and blowing things up. Those nuts are going to kill some innocent people. What do you hope to get out of that?”
9) “Communism is a great idea but it will never work.” “I agree with you but you’ll never convince most people.” “What’s going to make your system or leaders any better than what we’ve got now?”
10) “What do you think we could do right now?” “What about the unions?” In discussing all these and other questions we in PL would like to emphasize our positions on these key points;
a) The strategic need to defeat racism and male chauvinism within the workingclass and fight for class consciousness.
b) Nationalism is a reactionary outlook that divides workers of one country or national minority against workers of another.
c) Revisionism means working within the system instead of working to smash it. Each system is a class dictatorship; ours now is of the capitalist class, under socialism under the workingclass.
d) The workingclass needs a communist party (PLP); the Party needs the workingclass as only the workingclass can lead the revolution.
e) The ruling class will never give up without a violent struggle.
f) Build PLP and Challenge-Desafio.
There are many vital aspects of our line most of us avoid when talking to people. For example, when workers raise the question of Russia, do you drop it as “It’s no longer communist” or do you raise the question of revisionism?
When workers say “the fight is here” do you agree or do you raise the question of internationalism? When workers say that “people on welfare don’t like to work” do you talk about the ruling class depending on welfare to supplement their lousy wages, that they are encouraging it rather than trying to stop it?
All of these questions should be discussed in this way, in relation to how they can be used to win workers to the Party. The main thing is to get out and sell, talk to workers, ask them to join collectives, invite them to forums and your homes for further discussions.
In the next six weeks the Progressive Labor Party will need a minimum of $85,000. This will cover the costs of publishing Challenge, our primary organizing tool. In addition we need more Black Liberation Programs, Vietnam pamphlets, etc. It takes money to build a revolution and the money will not fall out of the sky. We are not backed by rich industrialists (that’s good!); we do not get money from abroad. So where and how do we get the money and why?
These questions are answered when we see fund raising as a political question. The Progressive Labor Party is the only Marxist-Leninist group in the USA! We are working for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Workers and students judge us by what we do–are we building the revolution, are we winning workers over, are we leading struggles, are our ideas correct?
We have been saying that the ideas in Challenge are absolutely essential for the working-class in their struggles. We have been saying that the Progressive Labor Party is absolutely essential for the workingclass for revolution. How then, can this continue? It won’t if we don’t meet our expenses–we live in a capitalist society. Our base, our friends, see the importance of the Progressive Labor Party and want to build their Party. We must overcome our own liberalism and ask our friends for money because of the political necessity of building the Progressive Labor Party! For example comrades and friends in the area raised close to $4000 in bail in one week; in Boston $2000 was raised in a few days. All this says is that the support for Progressive Labor is there. People want to help us; we should always have the perspective of relying upon the masses for support.
So what’s holding us back? We’re afraid to ask people for money; that’s liberalism on our part and it’s overcome by going out and asking for money for our revolutionary party–in no other way. This question should be raised in every Party collective, study group and class.
1. Challenge sellers have met over 200 people in the Bay Area, some are already being visited. For example:
Gloria on Youth Aid Program at Post Office is coming for dinner. She goes to Lancy and wants to find out what communism is; Larry is in touch with her...
Frank talked to Barry for half-an-hour by phone. Very interested but says best time to talk is when he gets off work. Would like to listen to a rally at the plant and maybe come to a discussion group. Says there are discussions inside plant, such as where he took the position Challenge was socialist and other workers said it was communist. He is Asian, working at a gas station for $1.75 per hour. He also works in a community center; is interested but felt he disagrees with many things and wanted to know more. He’s read Vietnam pamphlet.
Bill and Mary were met at an unemployment center. She’s out of work and said she is interested in coming to a meeting to discuss organizing against layoffs.
These are just an example of the many workers whom we have met already and who are anxious to find out more about us and get involved in struggles. Already ten workers have begun selling papers and another ten come to discussion groups.
As of now, we have sold about 7000 papers in the Bay Area but we’ve still got a long way to go. We could double that amount with work. Examine your schedule to see if your group can sell more often. Either sell more often at regular locations or begin secondary selling concentrations.
2. Writing for Challenge isn’t as hard as it may seem. Write up a discussion your group had, read it to the group, show it to people who are thinking of coming to the group. Interview someone for the paper, many people have a gripe or are involved in a struggle and their experiences are often more important to other workers around the country. Disagree with something in the paper, write a letter. Do you think there should be more articles on a certain topic? Let the editorial board know about criticisms but also write something yourself.
Someone has another discussion topic for Challenge groups to discuss and write up: religion, “are communists atheists?” “Why don’t you believe in God?” “Sure, the church is corrupt so what we need is people’s religion and churches.” “I’m a churchgoer, communism conflicts with my religion.” “Marxism is just substituting one religion for another, one dogma for another.”
Most of us are working with the Challenge project because we want to spread communist ideas among the working class. Another reason is that we want to get to know workers and help build a strong, fighting worker-student alliance.
So far, most everyone has been asking the workers we meet how they like Challenge and getting their names and phone numbers. Lots of contacts have been made (although there’s room for lots more aggressivness and this is good). But unless we turn these pieces of paper with names and phone numbers into workers selling Challenge and coming closer to the Party, we will have a big mailing list at the end of the summer, but that’s all.
Lots of times students say, “Well, how come these workers never show up at the forums, etc.?” Well, the workers who do come and are interested didn’t drop out of the sky. They are coming around because someone took the time to call them up and listen to their ideas, and talk with them about the Party and Challenge. Someone took the time to go to their house and talk with them and their family about getting involved in helping to spread revolutionary ideas among workers. We can’t rely on Challenge to do our struggling for us. Selling the paper means talking with people and getting to know them. People do want to get involved but we must help open up the way for them. Think about your own experience. Most of us got involved in the movement because someone called us up for a meeting, spent time talking and struggling with us and involved us in activity.
This doesn’t mean that we should go out and organize the workers. It doesn’t mean that we have to be able to answer all the questions that will come up about the Party and communism. But we can talk to workers, get to know them and their families and make the Party a real thing for them.
With a minimum of effort on our parts we’ve seen Challenge sales soar and many workers begin to express interest in forums and meetings. If we put out the maximum workers will begin to take these ideas into their shops (which is beginning to happen now where sellers have followed up on their contacts) and the ideas of revolution will really begin to take hold. Once workers grab ahold of this thing they will begin to fight in ways we never thought of. Things are getting tougher every day for workers and this means they need Challenge more than ever. This means that we have to fight harder than ever before to take these ideas to the workers and build the Party among them.
When questions come up we aren’t sure how to answer, we should say we aren’t sure. Then we can discuss these questions in our sellers’ groups. This will help strengthen our political ideas as well as spread revolutionary ideas.
When men or women give you their names and phone numbers, this implies a certain amount of trust on their part. It means that they really like the paper and want to know more about the Party that puts it out. Our responsibility goes further than just writing that name down and turning it over to someone. We can help consolidate all these contacts by making calls and getting together with the workers we meet. People should go in pairs, one girl and guy together. We shouldn’t go to give a lecture but should listen to what people are thinking and try to involve them in showing the paper to their friends, selling in the shop, joining the workers’ discussion group, writing an article for Challenge, etc.
This project will have been a real step forward only if the sales start happening beyond the plant gates. We will all have to work harder to make this happen. Every group should discuss concretely how to follow up their contacts and start doing it. This is what building a worker-student alliance means! There has never been a better time to make this a reality!
Following are excerpts from a letter written by Comrade Levi Laub, leader of the Party in Los Angeles, who was then serving a six-month prison term in Dannemora, New York, growing out of his refusal to “cooperate” with a Grand Jury that was trying to frame Progressive Labor Party members and friends during the J 964 Harlem Rebellion, the first of the ghetto uprisings:
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DANNEMORA, N.Y. – Thanks for your interesting history of the national question ... if it wasn’t for the class struggle right here and now, one could get very cynical, but that’s where things start to look up. Our country seems to be alive with tremendous opportunities for us. I get hopped up reading The New York Times – every day there is a new crack in the curtain of corruption and greed that reveals a little bit more of the handwriting on the wall. Friday’s early edition has an account of the East Los Angeles Rebellion. We are mentioned by name – must be that the early editor isn’t up on the “blackout” policy on Progressive Labor. The article is a pseudo-sympathetic account that concentrates on pushing nationalism again. Mary’s last letter said that we were there and did very well. Good!
As for making friends, jail is second to few. Maybe the army tops it, but not by far. The people are terrific. They have an abundance of ordinary human outrage against injustice and exploitation. This is the universal and indestructible raw material of struggle. When you see all this ammunition that our side has got, you really get excited. Man, you know we cannot lose. Even the toughest problem – racism – is cut down to proper size when the boss here comes down hard on his white and black enemies. I’m just itching to tell you the stories.
At this point, the revolution is still far enough around the corner that it is sometimes hard to keep it in view. If we were organizing a Red Army, or even it communist ideas were leading the various mass movements of workers and students, it would seem different. But we are not there, yet. We are quite a few steps back. So when 6:00 A.M. (or 5:00 or 4:00 A.M.) rolls around, we do not always have the revolution on the top of our minds. We do not jump out of bed like Red soldiers going to liberate territory. Instead, we think “Why doesn’t it rain?” or “maybe every one else will oversleep” or “fifteen minutes more.”
During the first week of the Challenge project lateness had been pretty much the rule. Almost all of this was avoidable. People overslept, didn’t have good directions, didn’t have the literature, etc. All kinds of things that would not have happened if the revolution had been on the top of our minds. If we were Red Soldiers we would get out of bed, we would sure be hot to get to the battle, we would be sure we had our guns!
It’s hard to sustain such a sense of urgency at this point, because what we are doing is not as clear as fighting the ruling class with guns. But what we are doing now is absolutely crucial if there’s ever going to be a Red Army. We are now doing what every successful communist party in history has done. That is, we are making Marxism-Leninism as available to the working class as we possibly can. If we do this well they will take hold of it and the revolution will move forward.
We should try to keep this in mind in the wee small hours of the morning. We should try to remember that if we are fifteen minutes late, we might miss one or two workers who have really had it with capitalism, who are up for revolutionary ideas. The more of these guys we miss, the longer it will be before we have a communist workers’ movement that can destroy the war-makers, break the back of the strikebreakers and fight for socialism until they win it! That is what this summer project is about. So if we are sloppy about it, that has very serious consequences for the revolution.
All this doesn’t just go for being late. It goes for everything that keeps us from selling. We are all born and raised under capitalism. We have all gotten an extra giant dose of “me first” from its schools. We will have to struggle very hard with ourselves to make the little sacrifices that will allow us to sell as much as we possibly can and we should try very hard.
Nothing succeeds like success, and in spite of the blunders, the response to the Challenge project has been tremendous. These great experiences have shown us even more clearly that what we are doing is correct and revolutionary.