History lesson

In the 1930s, the right of workers to join unions, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, minimum wages, and the 40-hour week were enacted into law after a fierce struggle in which the Communist Party USA, through the leading role of its activists in the mushrooming labor movement and other people’s organizations, played a central and indispensable role. Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal government also played a central and indispensable role in the passage of the legislation, especially Social Security, which the Bush administration is attempting to destroy.

Your readers should remember and tell their friends as they fight Bush today that it was the postwar attack on both the labor movement and the Communist Party and the weakening of both which created the opportunities for Nixon, Reagan and two Bush presidents to redistribute wealth from working families to the wealthy. Only huge organizing drives and increases in the membership of both the labor movement and the Communist Party USA, the only political party in the United States fully committed to regaining and expanding working people’s rights and eventually establishing socialism can defeat the Bush agenda. What Ben Franklin said at the Continental Congress in 1776 holds true today for labor and the left. If we don’t hang together we will certainly hang separately.

Norman Markowitz

Via e-mail

We said it first

Over two years ago, the PWW was one of the first publications to carry an item urging its readers to buy CITGO gas as a way of supporting the progressive developments in Venezuela.

“As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA,” the PWW wrote, “purchases of CITGO eventually work their way back to Venezuela to fund the ambitious social development programs being undertaken by the government of Hugo Chavez.”

What the PWW suggested over two years ago has recently gotten a big boost with a posting May 16 on CommonDreams.org by Jeff Cohen, a founder of FAIR. Cohen suggested a “Buycott” of CITGO for the very same reasons the PWW gave. Cohen’s posting has been picked up by several publications and listservs.

The Cohen posting came just a few weeks before President Hugo Chavez’ announcement that Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) will allocate 2.3 billion bolivares for housing projects, 500 billion bolivares for a series of social missions and 450 billion bolivares to pay off 200,000 Mision Ribas scholarships, giving proof to what benefits a “Buycott” of CITGO could entail.

Readers of the PWW can get a free “Buy CITGO Gas — Fuel Democracy” bumper strip by sending their snail mail address to Fueldemocracy@yahoo.com, indicating an English or Spanish version.

Walter Tillow

Louisville KY

Harmful books?

According to Human Events Online, a conservative weekly newspaper, the Communist Manifesto is “appropriately” ranked as the most harmful book of the 19th and 20th centuries. But what, one might ask, is so “harmful” about communism? Nothing.

The only substantive attacks made by the weekly include calling Engels a “limousine leftist” for his financial support of Marx and the naively judgmental assertion that the “Evil Empire” of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice.

Marx’s “Das Kapital” was ranked sixth. Marx, according to the weekly, failed to see “21st century America” as “a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.”

It is tempting to dismiss such rankings as the result of misunderstandings about Marx’s work or the truth of human suffering in our supposedly “free” and “affluent” society. We may even cynically retort that President Bush has done little to preserve and extend that freedom and affluence to the American people. But as the CPUSA approaches its July convention, I would suggest that the Party steer clear of the ad hominem attacks on President Bush, since these attacks expend crucial energy on the mere figurehead of a massive economic power structure that oppresses us. Weeds are killed only when pulled up by the roots, not when their top is cut off.

Tony Thomas

Columbia MO

Job programs needed

Just read Jarvis Tyner’s excellent article on the Internet at www.cpusa.org on the “leading role of the African American people’s movement.”

It is not accidental that the ultra-right attack on working families has had a racist edge. In the downsizing of mass industries such as steel and auto, the African American percentage of the workforce has declined. This creates a danger for the labor movement and the progressive movement in general.

I believe we must aggressively fight for public works jobs with a strong affirmative action policy.

Some years ago, Gus Hall proposed that we fight for a massive affordable housing program. This would also be a job-creation program. It must have affirmative action at its heart. It would also take head-on the new urban planning policy that is changing the face of Chicago. Luxury housing is being built while lower-cost housing is torn down. The working class is being driven out of our city into suburban ghettos.

Let’s move the fight for public-works jobs programs back to the top of our agenda.

Beatrice Lumpkin

Chicago IL

Good work

I just returned from a trip to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. While there, I could not help but notice how many people were reading the People’s Weekly World. I asked about it and I was informed that one person has quite a large distribution. I was very pleased not just to see stacks of PWWs in local shops, coffee houses, and buildings, but by the fact that people were reading them and that shop owners had a hard time keeping them in supply. Sitting in a coffee shop in St. Paul, I saw two women seated a few tables away reading a copy of the PWW. Those bistros, as well as other storeowners, have a reserved spot for the PWW, as do other places. Storeowners sometimes put the PWW right on the front counter by the checkout line. It seemed that everywhere I turned around I saw the paper. One shopkeeper told me that they disappear quickly. A special thanks goes out to Morgan Soderberg for his tireless work.

Michael Adam Reale

Via e-mail