LETTER, CRITICISM AND SUGGESTIONS
The Political Struggle Against Sexist Behavior on the Job
“I am a male comrade. At work I have observed sexist behavior on the part of my fellow workers. For example, comments always come out about how you should behave if you are a man or a woman (the man must always be strong and the woman is weak).
“Sometimes I have laughed at comments like: only women cry, the men do not complain about being hit, the women must do all the cleaning. Sometimes out of fear I don’t say anything about it. Sometimes I even thought they were normal.
“However, I have reflected on these behaviors. We all have different skills with which we can contribute and make a better world, we all need everyone.”
The comrade wrote this while we were thinking about what to write for the paper. We concluded that we need to be sharper in the fight against sexism. We are happy because we are forming a new and good collective. We have limitations that little by little we are beginning to understand and are moving forward. We do not have formal study circles like we had planned, but the work allows us to be close and we are continuously analyzing different topics. In discussions with other co-workers we can take a more political position on these issues.
In a later talk with a woman friend I told her about our pamphlet about fighting sexism. She agrees that we do not need therapists to be aware of our actions. She said that social relationships and experience help us to become aware and be able to help other people.
As a self-criticism I should have said that we need a communist political line, the political line of the party, to have more clarity in making the analyses. She is the partner of an ex-soldier who we get together with frequently. They are notable for their solidarity. Usually, she agrees with what we discussed with the comrade mentioned above, except when we talk about religion. In her spare time, she says, she reads the Red Flag articles that talk about sexism. There is an intense struggle on several fronts, but we are happy to share our work.
—For a communist society, comrades in Mexico.
Travel to Palo Alto Opens Eyes to Working-Class Misery
Sitting under the light poles which contain banners heralding Stanford Athletics, the Stanford Credit Union or Stanford Medicine, shocking examples of working class misery can be found in Palo Alto, California.
While driving near the private university (which boasts a US$24.8 billion endowment), I noticed a large number of older recreational vehicles (RVs) parked on a major urban street. I saw no fewer than 25 older RVs parked within a four block area. This kindled conversations with a radical news editor about Silicon Valley and the immiseration of the working class. Homelessness in this region does not only take the form of women and men and children sleeping in shelters. It also can be seen in the life of working poor people, people who have jobs but who cannot afford the astronomical rents in the San Francisco Bay Area and who, thus, live in recreational vehicles or their cars.
Palo Alto, CA has a median income of $137,000 and a population of over 66,000. With the average rent listed as over $2300 per month, one wonders where the workers live who work the blue-collar jobs paying $15 per hour. Some, perhaps many, are in these RVs on this major street in one of California’s wealthiest university-dominated cities.
Along this short span of road near the Stanford Campus, one finds a Verizon store, restaurants ranging from McDonald’s to trendy ethnic eateries, along with hotels such as Travelodge. There are no graffiti, no boarded-up windows, no signs of poverty. The streets are relatively clean; people walk or drive by, going to the gym, to eat, or about their normal daily affairs. A multiplex cinema is on the avenue. People can be seen wearing Stanford University clothing in preparation to attend an athletic event.
There is no reason for such a sight. But there is a reason, and it is capitalism. Capitalism has created many crises in its lifetime, and homelessness is one of them. Internationally the working class and the poor are being forced to live in the streets, in mountains, wherever they can find shelter because of the ruthlessness of the system.
Capitalism has no solution to the crisis of housing, the shortage of affordable housing and the gouging of rents and home purchasing costs. So, the working class survives paycheck to paycheck, with many unable to pay the rent landlords and property management companies demand.
We need a new system—a communist system where we produce for human need not for profit. Shelter is a human necessity and when we do away with wages and money and markets we can guarantee that everyone’s needs are met. Join ICWP—communist revolution is the only solution!
—Comrade in US
Hybrid Articles: A New Way to Reach More Readers
I’d like to describe a new type of article made possible by the ICWP blog (icwpweb.wordpress.com): the hybrid article, one part of which is printed and the other part posted on the blog. Normally, the printed part of the article directs the reader to the blog, and the blog part links back to the online version of the printed article.
There are many reasons for writing hybrid rather than pure print articles (or letters). One is to save space in the print version. Red Flag is a small newspaper (8 pages in each language) and only appears every 3 weeks. Thus every column inch is precious. Often there is too much material and articles and even letters are held over to following issues and sometimes never appear. Furthermore authors submit items that are just too long.
The blog supplement to this letter will describe further uses and advantages of hybrid articles.
Hybrid articles could leverage the power of both the printed paper and the blog and should be a very effective tool for mobilizing the masses for communism. For more on this subject look for “Hybrid Articles” on the blog
I’m sure there are other advantages to hybrids and different ways to use supplements but I’ll leave these to future updates to this post
—ICWP blog moderator
Editorial Note: Thank you for the suggestion. The new ICWP social media collective will discuss how to best use the blog.
Mobilize the Masses for Communism and Nothing Else
In the last issue of Red Flag, the editorial note introducing three letters on page 14 and the article from Seattle on page 1, said that they “are part of an ongoing discussion about communist class struggle and how to organize it.”
More plainly, it is really a debate of whether we should “mobilize the masses for communism and nothing else,” or mobilize them with class struggles putting forward reformist demands.
The authors of the letters “Imagine this scenario” and “An air conditioning scenario” argue that we should participate in the class struggle and if necessary put forward our own reformist demands or support those put forward by the workers.
We argue for participating as communists in all class struggles, initiating them or organizing them without supporting the workers’ reformist demands or putting forward our own.
The two following examples from our work at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) prove this point:
In one Division, management was taking advantage of a mechanic’s many petty faults – like tardiness, turning in paperwork late, etc. – to hound him in order to fire him. The real reason, however, was that he was a very meticulous inspector who sent too many buses to repair for minor defects.
We put forward writing an article in Red Flag about this case. His coworkers refused to because they didn’t want to “defend” him because they disliked him because of his many petty faults. We argued that this was a capitalist attack against the working class which we could not accept passively.
In communism, we said, no one would be fired. Only if they were a danger to their co-workers or the public would they be removed from their work – maybe assigned to a different one, where they would be no threat – but never denied the basic needs of survival.
We won his co-workers to our position and wrote a series of articles in Red Flag exposing the inhumanity of capitalism and how communism would be different. We never demanded that he not be fired or that management stop hounding him. Hundreds of Red Flags were distributed to MTA workers in our regular mass distributions.
In another Division, a mechanic was publicly humiliated by his supervisor for not fixing the front and rear brakes of a bus in one day. Safety concerns require two days minimum. The mechanics here were upset about this degrading incident, about the speed up being imposed on them and about the threat to the safety of the drivers and passengers.
We wrote an article attacking the inhumanity of capitalism, and how communism would do everything possible to make things healthy and safe for mechanics, drivers and passengers. We raised no reformist demands – like demanding an apology or two days for fixing the brakes. Hundreds of Red Flags were distributed in our regular mass distributions at MTA divisions.
Class struggle is class war. We can’t control what the capitalist will do and shouldn’t try to. Our only concerns should be how to wage this war to advance the communist understanding of our class to organize the revolution we need and envision the communist society we must build.
This helped us recruit two workers in the first division, consolidate the existing members there and increase the distribution of Red Flag. This did not happen in the second division but workers there and hundreds of MTA workers at other divisions got a better and more specific understanding of what a communist society would look like and how we must fight for it.
Faced with this communist counter attack, MTA management retreated. In the first case, they stopped hounding the mechanic and sent all mechanics in that Division to a retraining course in how to more carefully inspect buses.
In the second, the supervisor apologized publicly to the worker he had humiliated and told the mechanics they could continue to take two days to change the brakes.
We Must Rely on Each Other
I joined the movement 6 or 7 years ago. I believe the movement was founded in my house. But I have not been active for a long time, not because I disagreed with the party line comrades. But I was a drug addict and it took me a long time to come to this conclusion.
I’m telling you comrades that without the support of my comrades maybe I’ll be dead by now. What affected me the most was the fact that these are the people I’ve hurt the most. Some of them I even stole from because of my addiction. Yet they went above and beyond for me, to try a get me out of this dark hole I was in.
At some point my actions were destabilising the movement. It was after comrade M sent me an article about Communist relationships that I understood. After reading that article it became clear to me why my comrades were still struggling with me to be a better person. It gave me another perspective about the importance of the collective and comradeship.
Without solid personal relationships that can withstand political struggle, I would not be calling myself a proud member of ICWP. I hope this letter will also help maybe other comrades who have a similar problem to mine. Whatever problem you might have it’s not too big for the collective. We must rely on each other. Individualism is our downfall. Only when we are united can we destroy capitalism.
—Comrade in South Africa
Focus More on Communism
Communism is a struggle, a struggle we need to live with each and every day of our lives. Capitalism has been reinforced to people to such an extent that they don’t even know that there are other ways to live and other forms of governing.
A person grows up with the mentality that they will go to school, graduate, get a job that will make them afford to take their kids to private schools, private hospitals and stay in the suburbs driving luxury cars, with phones and fancy offices.
No one grows up with the mentality that I will go to school, graduate, help my community with my skills from school so that we as the community could have a better life.
That is the problem with capitalism: it kills peoples’ minds and limits them from reaching their full potential and the most important thing of all is that it turns people to be SELFISH.
We as communists have a duty to change that and to enlighten people about Communism by means of distributing the Red Flag and organizing the masses to join ICWP and fight for Communism. Turning our dreams as Communists into reality can happen by mobilizing masses and distributing Red Flag.
I have started my journey of distributing Red Flag and it’s an amazing and complicated journey where you get to meet up with different people with different attitudes. It is important to know when to raise the topic about Communism and how to deal with different people.
When talking about Communism you should not present it as part of Capitalism because it raises a lot of debate and leaves some unanswered questions because people are desperate and tired of exploitation. So they just want a quick or instant change. They might just miss your point and see it like these unions. Just present communism as it is and its ideas and let the people conclude.
And the most important point is they must know the value of life, and they must know that this system is not permanent. That it’s in our hands to change this horror society we are in and be in a society where everyone is equal, where there will be no race and no class, where people will be valued for their different skills. Where they will make means of production for themselves, not for a few individuals. By doing so there will be no poverty. Then there will be no crime, not to mention unemployment.
So it’s wise to present Communism as it is and its goodness. Focus more on Communism and leave capitalism. You will see that they conclude themselves.
It’s important to do follow-ups after distributing Red Flag. Ask them how it is and what they think of it. And take their contact details and invite them to meetings and give them a political line. What’s important are the results, which is quality. That’s how I do it at work and everywhere.
—Comrade in South Africa