September 2003  

Defeat U.S. Imperialism!

Iraq antiwar demo, NYC, 05.03.03
Antiwar protesters chanting at March 5 rally at Hunter College, New York City. Internationalist Group banner calls to defeat U.S. imperialism, defend Iraq.

Bloody Conquest of Iraq,
 Racist Attack on CUNY

Same Enemy, Same Fight!

By Moises Delgado

The U.S. colonization of Iraq is directly linked to the attack on CUNY – both are part of an all-out war on the oppressed. This war is being waged by the capitalist rulers and their Democratic and Republican politicians. It can be defeated only by mobilizing a more powerful social force: that of the working class, at the head of all the oppressed, here, in Iraq, and around the world. Our role as students who want to change the world is to put our energies and skills in the service of this worldwide fight.

Iraqis are fighting back. Good! Our enemy is here at home: the ruling class that wants us to be cannon-fodder for their imperialist wars for world domination, that wants us to work for poverty wages (if we are lucky enough to get any job at all), and is trying to throw large numbers of black, Latino, working-class and immigrant students out of school. After all, learning can be dangerous – it can lead to questions. Military and police recruiters on campus use phony promises to trick people into joining up for wars of conquest abroad and repression at home. The more students know about the real workings and history of this society, the harder it may be to fool them. This is another link between imperialist war and the drive to push tens of thousands of us out of school.

So on June 28 tuition was hiked 25 percent! It is the biggest tuition hike since 1995. Across the U.S., tuition is being jacked up, particularly at public colleges. State governments claim poverty and cite budget deficits caused by the war drive. Here in New York this goes together with the hike in transit fares that makes getting to school even less affordable than before – even though the excuses for this increase were shown to be a fraud.

Most recently, capitalist greed and capitalist incompetence brought us the huge NYC blackout. The ruling class wants to keep you in the dark so you won’t know the truth about their system. One way they do this is through bourgeois “peace” candidates like Democrat Howard Dean, or Green candidate Nader in 2000, whose job is to hoodwink opponents of the war and lead them into the trap of capitalist electoral politics.

Revolutionary Marxism brings to light that the program of socialist revolution shows the only way to put an end to capitalism’s endless wars, racism and exploitation.

Imperialist War on Iraq

In reality, the war on Iraq never stopped since the first Gulf War of 1990-91 by George Bush Senior. The deliberate bombing of waterworks and electrical plants followed by a decade of brutal economic “sanctions,” sponsored by the UN, resulted in the deaths of one million children.. On March 20 of this year, having occupied Afghanistan and installed a puppet regime, George Bush Junior and his cohorts in the twin capitalist parties launched a new war of aggression and conquest against Iraq.

Their pretexts and excuses have been shown to be a pack of lies. While the U.S. rulers have huge stocks of weapons of mass destruction, and have used them repeatedly, there are no and were no WMDs in Iraq. The “documentation” claimed by Bush & Co. was provided by Britain’s Tony Blair, who doctored his dossier and drove a weapons expert who objected to suicide. It turned out Blair cribbed an old paper by a grad student! Such plagiarism that would get these frat boys kicked out of any college.

The assault on Iraq has been an imperialist war in every sense of the word. The Hunter Internationalist Club and the Revolutionary Reconstruction Club at Bronx Community College support the Trotskyist politics of the Internationalist Group, U.S. secrtion of the League for the Fourth International. In demonstration against the Iraq war, the IG stood for the defeat of the imperialists and the defense of Iraq against this mass murder, invasion and colonial occupation. Student bureaucrats and reformists often tried to drown out our revolutionary chants with social-partriotic rhetoric about “books not bombs,” as if it’s a matter of budget “priorities.”

We look centrally to mobilize the power of the working class against the bosses’ wars, including by refusing to handle (“hot-cargoing”) war materiel and workers’ strikes against the war. But the main obstacle to this is the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy which ties the unions to the bourgeois parties like the Democrats.

Faced with all the modern technology and massive firepower of the U.S. military, Iraqis sought to resist. Within days it became apparent to the Pentagon heads that their fantasy of the Iraqi population rising up to greet American “liberators” wasn’t panning out. The road to Baghdad included resistance by Iraqis determined to fight off the foreign invasion. The colonial occupation is generating continued opposition and resistance, and claims by the White House and Pentagon that everything is under control run up against mounting casualties among the forces of colonial occupation.

U.S. troops received orders to use increasingly brutal treatment in dealing with the occupied Iraqi people. Special viciousness is employed in dealing with anti-occupation demonstrations in Iraq that have brought thousands into the streets time and time again. Politically well-connected U.S. oilfield companies Halliburton and Bechtel, armed with multi-billion-dollar contracts, have taken control of key oil fields. The real goal of this second Desert Slaughter against Iraq is putting the U.S. capitalists’ hands firmly on the Near East oil tap, giving them crucial leverage against their European and Japanese imperialist rivals, who (unlike the U.S.) depend on Middle Eastern oil.

Iraqi soldiers demonstrate, 17.06.03 The Iraq war will turn many of those who did this dirty work for U.S. imperialism into pathological killers. Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building, was trained to be a mass murderer in the 1991 Gulf War where he drove a bulldozer that buried surrendering Iraqi soldiers alive. Some of these returning soldiers will be put to work in local police precincts in inner-city communities all over the country to join the ranks of armed enforcers of capitalist rule – yet another connection between the war against the oppressed abroad, and attacks on the oppressed here “at home.”

Demonstration by former Iraqi soldiers under American bayonets in Baghdad, June 17. U.S. soldiers shot point-blank into the crowd, killing two. (Photo: Faley Kheiber/Reuters)

This connection was shown once again when the NYPD added black city worker Alberta Spruill to the long list of those killed by the cops. At a march in Harlem on May 24, Revolutionary Reconstruction Club (RRC) and Internationalist Club members chanted, 1, 2, 3, 4, Defeat U.S. imperialist War! 5, 6, 7, 8, Smash the racist police state!” Just days afterwards, African immigrant Ousmane Zongo was killed by police bullets, reminding us all of how Amadou Diallo was gunned down here in the Bronx. As the RRC emphasized in a forum last semester commemorating Diallo, the fight for black freedom, for immigrant rights and against racist police terror can only be a fight to defeat the imperialist rulers once and for all. It is a fight to put an end to the social system rooted historically in slavery and based on unending exploitation: the capitalist system.

Racist War on CUNY

The all-out assault on the education of the sons and daughters of New York City’s poor, immigrants and workers is a battle in the racist rulers’ overall war, launched under the phony name of a “war on terrorism” after the indiscriminate World Trade Center attacks. Proof of this is that the prelude to this June’s tuition hike was the “war purge” declared against undocumented students in fall 2001 under cover of “national security” – with undocumented students being cynically described as the supposed threat.

In 2001, CUNY officials openly declared their tuition increase for undocumented immigrant students was a response to the September 11 attacks. Working hand-in-hand with the capitalist politicians (Democrat and Republicans), they carry out the racist orders of the bourgeoisie, the class of owners who lord it over us in workplaces across the country. As far as they’re concerned, we’re good enough to work ourselves to death for them or die fighting their dirty imperialist wars, but not worthy enough to receive a proper education. Our worth to them is that miserable monetary value printed on that miserable paycheck.

The Revolutionary Reconstruction Club at BCC and the Internationalist Club at Hunter are proud that alongside the Internationalist Group, we worked to organized a militant demonstration at Hunter College in November 2001 that drew hundreds to protest that anti-immigrant war purge. We warned that this attack against immigrants would be followed by an attack against all CUNY students.

The onslaught against us by Pataki and the Democratic/Republican war party seeks to accelerate the devastation of CUNY. Not only in New York but all over the country, there is a push to accelerate re-segregation of schools (insofar as they were even minimally desegregated), with minority students warehoused in rundown inner-city facilities. The rulers seek to fit us into their racist portrayal of us as uneducable troublemakers who deserve to spend our lives in broken-down ghettoes or in their prisons. As industrial jobs have been decimated, the ruling class sees less and less reason to educate working-class youth (white as well as doubly-oppressed minorities). Today in NYC, unemployment officially stands at 8.1 percent. A liberal charity notes, “1.5 million New Yorkers are now in need of food…. 500,000 children [in the city] simply don’t get enough to eat” (Food Bank for New York City statement, August 2003).

What access we have won to education has always been through our own struggles. Power never yields anything without a battle, and the concessions the ruling class is sometimes forced to make can always be taken away so long as the capitalists have the power.
From the beginning the slave masters feared what might happen if their slaves were to become educated. So great was the fear that it was a crime to teach a slave to read. A century and a half after the Civil War destroyed chattel slavery, they fear what can happen if their wage-slaves become too wise to the real nature of this society. Above all else, they’re fearful of the revolutionary implications when black people see that the struggle for their liberation is bound up with the struggle for workers power.

The CUNY system is a blot in their portrait of us as an uneducable people because it continues to produce brilliant minds that often excel in their respective fields. Add that the CUNY system is “guilty” of graduating more black and Latino students than any other university in the history of the United States and you will begin to understand why CUNY is constantly under attack. In reality CUNY’s gates were opened to oppressed minorities’ student population by the massive 1969 struggle that led to the establishment of open admissions. This was the result of campus occupations by black and Puerto Rican students and the insistence of the powerful labor movement that opening up the elite city university system had to benefit all working people. This victory transformed CUNY, and has been a target of the racist rulers ever since.

In 1976, the same year that the freshmen CUNY class was for the first time in its majority composed of minority students, racists in office determined to destroy open admissions and put a stop to the influx of minority students.

The first attack on open admissions came that year in the form of the introduction of tuition during the “fiscal crisis” provoked by Wall Street bankers with Democratic mayor Abe Beame acting as hatchet man. As many as 50,000 CUNY students were forced out then. In 1979 tuition was hiked by $900 per year. In 1982 Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo proposed a hike of $200 more per year. In 1985 another attack was launched, this time a tuition hike of $750 led to the forced exit of some 8,000 more students. In 1990-91 tens of thousands of CUNY students took to the streets against cutbacks ordered by liberal Democratic governor Mario Cuomo and black Democratic mayor David Dinkins. Thousands of students occupied campus buildings and marched in the streets with striking 1199 hospital workers and others.

Tuition was increased again in 1996, causing thousands more to drop out of college. In 1999 the CUNY Board of Trustees voted to eliminate remedial classes at CUNY’s senior colleges, a backhanded way of knifing the policy of open admissions that had existed since the 1969 struggles.

But the rulers are not content to stop at the destruction of the 1969 gains; their success only encourages them to go further. On June 23 of this year, in a lightning-quick stealth attack in the auditorium at Baruch College – while the campuses were close to empty – the Board of Trustees voted the 25 percent tuition increase. This means students must pay $4,000 per year at the four-year colleges, and $2,800 at the two-year colleges. Only days later, on June 30, the State University of New York (SUNY) decreed a $950 increase for in-state students and a whopping $2,000 increase for out of state students.

It’s nothing more or less than a racist, anti-working-class purge. The Republicans and the Democrats have found that one of the most effective methods is the use of the bursar to “build a color wall,” as Jimmy Breslin called it in Newsday (June 24).

Ruling-Class Cynicism

Another weapon in CUNY officials’ arsenal is that of purge-tests. A July 5 New York Times article reports “hundreds of students at the City University of New York are quietly being bounced out of college because they could not pass a test intended to gauge whether they have reading, writing and thinking skills appropriate for students halfway through college.” This exam was introduced two years ago and has been used by CUNY officials to unfairly weed out students they deem unqualified regardless of whether they have successfully completed all the courses required by their major. Currently, if a student takes and fails the examination three times he or she is booted out of school. Of the students who took the purge-test in March 2003, about 25 percent failed.

Lest any more proof be needed of the CUNY administration’s intentions, chancellor Matthew Goldstein – who attended City College when it was free –is quoted in the same July 5 New York Times article as saying that if students can’t pass the test “after so many attempts, they ought to be thinking about doing something else with their lives.”

No doubt what the chancellor has in mind is something along the lines of cleaning his house, taking his food orders, or pumping gas into his car. Or maybe he would have us go to the nearest military recruiting stations which have been working overtime to find economic conscripts to serve as frontline killers for the U.S. imperialist war machine.

At heavily minority CUNY campuses like BCC, military recruiters have been calling students up at home, talking about their majors and courses, and trying to sucker them into the army with promises of education aid. We demand to know what information the CUNY administrators are giving to these bloodsuckers, and that this practice be stopped now. At BCC opposition to military recruiters led them to stop showing up in uniform; now they sneak around the cafeteria in civvies. At high schools, meanwhile, under Bush’s cynically titled “No Child Left Behind” Act, Pentagon recruiters are demanding lists of names, addresses and phone numbers of seniors so they can be pressured into the military.

We demand all cops and military recruiters off campus!

Pressuring students into the military goes together with targeting many for programmed non-graduation: as an August 27 Times article notes, “A preliminary report on the problems with a statewide math test needed for graduation from high school in New York State has found that even early trials of the test indicated that the average student would be unable to pass.” Obviously this is no fluke. Excluding huge numbers of students is the whole point of these tests, tuition hikes and budget cuts.

Mobilize the Power of the Working Class

Against this onslaught there must be an all-out fight for the basic democratic right of free public education for all. A revolutionary leadership is needed to link students to the enormous potential power of the multiracial working class, which has a vital interest in the right of its children to education. In its absence, the hand-raising of a few miserable capitalist appointees was enough to ram through the tuition hike.

As part of our efforts to build that revolutionary leadership, we participated in the protest of students (and some faculty) inside the CUNY board meeting in June. Among the chants we raised were: “Open Admissions, No Tuition” and “Abolish the Board of Trustees!” Student-teacher-worker control of the universities, nationalizing private universities, providing a living stipend for students so they can devote themselves to their studies; ripping out the turnstiles so public transit is free to the public; cops and military recruiters off campus – these demands are part of the overall fight for a workers government that can make quality, integrated education a reality for all.

As opposed to this, the reformists, though employing different “tactics” and different degrees of militancy, are always reduced to bourgeois pressure politics. So many trips have been made to Albany (shrine of the state legislature) that an outsider might mistake this for some sort of recurring religious ritual. But this pilgrimage can lead to only one revelation: the reverence of reformists for the myth that they can appeal to the morals of the masters of society to make things fairer. And how else to reach them – these pious pleaders ask – than through their political agents (Republicans and Democrats alike) at the altars of Albany and City Hall, from which alone one can communicate their plea to the almighty capitalist lords.

At Hunter, shortly after the bombing of Iraq began, SLAM (Student Action Liberation Movement, that is, the student government bureaucracy with “militant” verbiage) sat in at the office of college president Jennifer Raab trying to get this right-winger (a former “issues director” for Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaign) to “take a stand” against the war and tuition hikes. Pathetic! Instead, campuses should have been shut down by student, teacher and campus worker action.
For its part, before the trustees’ vote the CUNY4All coalition put out a statement subtitled “Whose Side Are You On,” asking the Board if they stood with the students or with the millionaires.

The answer is not rocket science. The Board of Trustees and CUNY administration are the representatives of the ruling class whose task is to keep students, teachers and campus workers in check. There is a world of difference between a strategy of pressuring the rulers while criticizing the “policies” of their figureheads and administrators, and fighting for their defeat and expropriation as a class.

And here as in other things the communists set themselves apart as the one political tendency fighting against every form of illusion, deception and self-deception, to educate young people in class politics and win them to participate in forging a revolutionary vanguard party of the working class that will take up their battles as its own. That is where the power lies to defeat all the attacks launched by the capitalist ruling class, and knock them off their pedestal of oppression through a revolution based on the proletariat, the workers of the world.

Why We Publish Revolution

It is not in the interest of the working people – black, Latino, Asian, white, immigrants or U.S.-born – to live and work only to make enormous profits for a filthy rich class of exploiters while being repressed and even killed by their police.

Nor is it in our interest to be sent to kill our class brothers and sisters anywhere around the world.

Nor is it in the interest of the workers and oppressed to support the government of our “own” exploiters, whether it is administrated by their Democrats or by their Republicans. On the contrary, our interest lies in their defeat.

Finally, it is not in our interest to stand by as the racist rulers steal our access to an education. The battle over CUNY is not just a “student issue,” it is an assault on all working people, minorities and immigrants. The working class has the interest and power to defeat this assault, just as it has the power and interest to defeat the imperialists’ colonization of Iraq; to put an end to imperialist oppression and capitalist exploitation through international socialist revolution.

The Revolutionary Reconstruction Club at Bronx Community College, and the Internationalist Club at Hunter College, are launching Revolution to help win young people to the revolutionary program of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, advanced today by the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International.

We are publishing Revolution to help bring revolutionary Marxism to students at CUNY and other college and high-school campuses. We publish Revolution because we are fighting for the liberation of all the oppressed, for a revolution by the working class all around the world – and we want you join us in this fight.

Moises Delgado

President of the Revolutionary Reconstruction Club (@ BCC-CUNY)
Member of the Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com