Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Brian Keleher

Student Tells of Challenge, New Harlem Weekly Paper

First Published: Michigan State News [East Lansing] July 30, 1964.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The recent riots in New York’s Harlem and widespread charges of Communist infiltration and support, have created nationwide interest in the Harlem Defense Council, the Progressive Labor Movement, and the weekly newspaper “Challenge.” National attention was focused on these groups by the arrest Sunday of the “self-avowed Communist” William Epton, leader of the Defense Council, and Progressive Labor’s candidate for the New York City Council in the last elections. Who are these people, and what kind of newspaper are they publishing?

The Progressive Labor Movement (PL or PLM for short) is a revolutionary socialist group which considers that the American Communist Party is too conservative, and has lost touch with revolutionary movements in this country. On the international scene, PL tends to be oriented toward the position upheld by Mao-Tse-tung of China against Khrushchev of the USSR, but the American group has no formal commitment to China, and receives no help from abroad.

Two months ago, the New York PL group began weekly publication of “Challenge.” According to a statement printed on the editorial page of each issue, “Challenge” is “dedicated to the working men and women who have built this city and keep it going. It is dedicated to:
– Fight the slumlords and bosses, who sit back and do nothing but collect rents and profits, exploiting the working people.
– Fight and expose those in government–city, state, and national–who are bought and paid for by the landlords, big corporations; bankers and racketeers.
– Fight those who hide behind police uniforms to terrorize and murder working people while the big crooks go scot free.
– Fight for equal rights for working people and their families; for quality and equality in salaries, and treatment before the law.
– Fight those who divide working people against each other; fight for the understanding that Negro, Puerto Rican and white workers have the same rich enemies, enemies who stay in power by dividing the working people against themselves.
– Fight for jobs for all–a shorter work–day with no loss in pay.
– Above all, this paper is dedicated to fight for a new way of life–where the working men and women own and control their homes, factories, the police, courts, and entire government oh every level.
– For a new way of life with no exploitation of man by man.
– For socialism.”

The issue of last Saturday (25 July) may be considered fairly typical. It contained a front page picture and article on Harlem resistance to police terror,” and a call for a demonstration Saturday afternoon to protest the murder of a fifteen-year-old boy by a policeman (it was at this demonstration that William Epton and Conrad Lynn were arrested).

Inside pages contain further articles on the events In Harlem of the past week, including four more pages of pictures, and articles designed to show the harm done by capitalism, and to contrast this with the benefits of socialism. This issue has an article by Steve Martinot on “A Visit To Wall Street.”

A regular feature of “Challenge” is a column called “Without Exploitation”; this column shows specific changes people can expect in their way of life with the coming of socialism.

This issue contrasts the care given expectant mothers and newborn children in present-day New York with existing conditions in the socialist countries, and the conditions which may be expected for a socialist America.

An editorial accepts the charge of Acting Mayor Screvane that Communists are involved in the Harlem resistance, but “Challenge” argues that the resistance itself is an indigenous Harlem movement, and cannot be attributed to “outside agitators.” The editorial states “If the FBI tries hard enough, we’re sure they can ’discover’ that Bill Epton and the Harlem PLM have secretly brought in some *North Viet Nam troops to direct the Harlem war.” (This refers to the charge, expressed by the U.S. government and denied by all observers, including the New York Times, that the “Viet-Cong” is obtaining military support from North Viet Nam).

Another regular feature, “World-Wire,” tells of world events of revolutionary interest.

This issue includes a call for “massive self defense” against oppression and injustice from Rob Williams, exiled American Negro leader. Also noted are various events in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

“Challenge” makes wide use of cartoons; one in this issue shows Acting Mayor Screvane standing on a pedestal, surrounded by a scene of police attacking Negroes. Screvane’s caption reads “All I ask from the people of Harlem is to preserve restraint, decency, and decorum!”

The last two pages of “Challenge”, always in Spanish, are directed toward the Puerto Rican community of Spanish Harlem and the lower East Side of New York. This section consists mostly of translations of the English articles, including the “Without Exploitation” column.

Circulation of the paper, all told, has been about 5,000 per week–the tremendous publicity “Challenge” has received all over the country in the last few days should result in a substantial growth in readers.

The Progressive Labor Movement also puts out the “Marxist-Leninist Quarterly,” and “Progressive Labor” (monthly). Both publications are obtainable from the MSU Socialist Club, or the Paramount Newsshop in East Lansing.