Hundreds of millions of members of the global working class continue to be devastated by an economic depression that's lasted nearly four years. No one knows when it will end, and in numerous countries it's again worsening.
As in other countries, the U.S. industrial capitalists have combined layoffs with speed-ups and reduced wages to recover their profits. But the workers continue to suffer from unemployment, home foreclosures, and hunger, with African Americans, other oppressed national minorities and immigrants being most brutalized. And instead of providing relief to the working people, the government has used the crisis to justify further attacking them. Both Republicans and Democrats demand austerity from the people, but give untold $trillions to the Wall Street parasites, and to further build their military and police-state machinery.
And along with the economic crisis, the global masses are confronted with the continuing U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan plus other wars and occupations, tyrannical governments, super-exploitation of migrant labor, and national and sexual oppression, while all of humanity faces catastrophic runaway global warming unless the current path of reliance on market solutions is abandoned.
These intolerable situations have brought hundreds of millions of people into struggle.
Last year the long-ruling tyrants of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were toppled in historic mass uprisings, and now the masses of people of those countries continue to organize and press demands upon the new regimes, as well as struggling to bring down the Egyptian military junta. In Syria, after sacrificing some 9000 lives in over a year of struggle, the people continue fighting to bring down the Assad tyranny. And in Bahrain, after having their uprising overwhelmed by U.S.-supported Saudi Arabian military intervention, the people are again filling the streets demanding democracy. Taken together, these and other Arab Spring uprisings are not only revolts against tyranny, but also revolts against increasing misery caused by neoliberal economic reforms and economic crisis.
And in this year, in January: With roads blockaded with flaming barricades, more than a million Nigerian workers and poor people waged a week-long general strike against rising fuel prices caused by government removal of fuel subsidies as demanded by the IMF and World Bank.
In February: The Romanian government fell after weeks of protests against austerity measures, including plans to privatize the public health system. In Greece, hundreds of thousands of workers and other poor people militantly rose against austerity demanded by the banks and their political servants, while hundreds of thousands of Spanish workers also took to the streets against austerity. As many as 100 million Indian workers participated in a one-day general strike against rising prices, and for ending privatization, equal pay and rights for contract workers, and raising and extending the minimum wage. In Palestine, tens of thousands of people participated in the Global March to Jerusalem protests against Zionism. In Japan, where the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues, thousands of people were again in the streets protesting nuclear power. And after the latest series of U.S./NATO atrocities, the Afghan people rose in the most powerful nation-wide protests of the ten-year occupation.
In March: Protests by millions of Spanish, Portuguese and other European workers against austerity, including the huge March 29 general strike in SPAIN; a general strike by over one million South Africans; continuing battles in southern Chile for a list of popular demands; hundreds of thousands of Quebec students in motion against tuition hikes and austerity; thousands of Indians protesting construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant; nation-wide U.S. protests demanding justice for the racist murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
But while the masses are fighting -- with more
wanting to join in -- they're everywhere being hamstrung by the very
organizations that speak in the name of the working class. The
"socialist" parties in Europe, for example, just as much demand
austerity as the right-wing parties, and have sent police against
protests. And the dominant trade union bureaucracies work to squash or
confine and mass actions, or only call one-day general strikes to let
the steam out of the movement, or, as in Nigeria, call off powerful
struggles at the crucial moments in order to settle for rotten
compromises. Thus, to beat back the class offensive of the rich -- to
say nothing of overthrowing their rule -- the working class is going to
have to overcome this treachery by developing independent politics and
organization. And this is nowhere more true than in the United States:
In 2008 the Wall Street sharks threw the majority of their campaign cash behind Obama because they wanted a more effective evil in the White House than another hated Republican would be. Indeed, even before his inauguration Obama was already going to bat for the rich by lining up Democrat support for Bush's bank bail out. Then, when he had a large Democratic majority in Congress, and when the people needed social services more than ever because of the depression, Obama put all programs that benefit the masses on the table to be slashed in the name of deficit reduction! Tax the rich? No, Obama extended Bush's tax cuts for the rich, then in February this year he proposed a corporate tax overhaul that would lower the tax rate for companies from the present 35% to 28%, and down to 25% for U.S. manufacturers. And even though Obama now calls for the so-called "Buffett tax" on millionaires, this is just cheap election talk: he knows Congress is not going to seriously tax the rich.
Meanwhile, Obama promised more years of impoverishing the working class to benefit the capitalists in his February State of the Union address (SOTU). Sandwiched between the military-worshiping beginning and ending were the same old trickle-down economic prescriptions that both parties have championed since Reagan: tax credits and tax cuts for businesses, and tearing down regulations on them. Never mind that under these same prescriptions the rich have been growing richer and the poor poorer for more than 30 years. Never mind that Obama championed the same old "race to the bottom" politics as his predecessors when he boasted about how he'd bailed out G.M. and Chrysler, meaning that he'd saved their profits by collaborating with the UAW to impose a contract that reduces entry-level wages by half, set back auto workers more than half a century in terms of pay and pensions, and eliminated tens of thousands of jobs.
And climate change? Beneath the sweet talk Obama's program is drill more oil, strip-mine more coal, frack more natural gas, and license new nuclear power plants. In his SOTU he even boasted that: "Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." Obama also said "it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock -reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground." Whoopee! Use government to shovel more tax dollars to the big corporations! Never mind that fracking poisons the waters and destroys the earth, and that burning natural gas also produces large carbon emissions.
But Obama didn't brag in his SOTU that he's taken government secrecy and spying on the people beyond Bush, or made indefinite detentions and presidential-ordered assassinations of American citizens the law of the land. Nor did he brag that his Department of Homeland Security collaborated with mayors and police departments across the country to send the cops to drive Occupy protesters from public spaces last fall. And more recently Obama signed a bill that makes it a felony to "trespass" on public buildings or grounds when Secret Service members are present, while his DOJ argued before the Supreme Court (and won) that strip searches (i.e. sexual humiliation) of even those arrested on minor offenses is legal. This growing police state is directed against domestic dissent.
And the workers' so-called leaders? Rather than mobilize the working class to oppose the Obama-led assault on the people, the AFL-CIO bureaucrats have endorsed Obama for re-election, and promise to mobilize tens of thousand of workers to doorbell for him this fall. This is the role Wall Street knew they would play, and thereby make Obama a more effective evil.
In order to win votes from immigrants and others, in 2008 Barack Obama shed tears about immigrant families being torn apart by I.C.E. raids and deportations, and promised to fight for "comprehensive immigration reform." In 2012 he's again up to the same tricks. But the legislation Obama supports would be a huge attack on undocumented immigrants and the entire working class -- something the mainstream immigrant rights groups have hidden from the movement in order to turn it into a tail of the Democrats. Meanwhile Obama has deported more migrants than Bush or any other president in U.S. history, including 46,000 with U.S. citizen children last year! Real "concern" about tearing families apart, that!
This shows that the real concern of the politicians of both parties is to fatten the wallets of the rich by driving undocumented workers into the shadows through threat of deportation, which makes it easier to super-exploit their labor power. A bonus is that since most undocumented migrant workers can never collect the benefits of the payroll taxes they're forced to pay, they're a good source of extra government revenue. Meanwhile, Arizona, Alabama, and other states have passed laws designed to make life even more hellish for immigrants.
The government's immoral turning of undocumented immigrants into hunted, second-class people is an outrage that the entire U.S. working class must fight against. Furthermore, this denial of rights to one part of the working class, immigrants, puts them in a position where they cannot effectively organize and resist exploitation and discrimination, which is then used to drive down the conditions of all workers. Demanding full rights for all immigrants -- no matter what their legal status -- is therefore in the vital interest of every worker.
The rapid spread of the OWS movement has shown that the masses of people want to fight back against the reactionary program of the rich; and this has required that they take action outside the established unions and other groups who've helped hold them down. The ruling class counter-attacked with repression (often led by liberal mayors) combined with work to divert activists into championing mild reforms using mild methods. This political counter-attack has had obvious successes, but also helped coalesce a leading edge of activists determined to push the class struggle forward.
In Seattle, the most dramatic expression of this was organization of the December 12 port shut down. But these activist have also taken the lead in organizing solidarity actions with the port truckers, farm workers, and longshore workers in Longview; they've fought against OWS being a color blind movement; they've helped broaden its perspective by mobilizing for the October demonstrations against the war in Afghanistan and against police brutality; and they're agitating in defense of undocumented immigrants in building for May Day.
We think these are good steps in the struggle to mobilize the working class and progressive people into a great multi-issue movement of struggle that scorns the two parties of the rich and makes itself the focus of hope for the oppressed. And to build such a movement government austerity, unemployment and foreclosures, union-busting, racism, imperialism and ecological disaster must be immediately attacked one by one while at the same time shown to be linked to the fundamental problem of the dictatorial power of the big corporations and banks. More, to have working class independence and grow, we must continually expose how both the Democrats and Republicans work against the mass interest.
Additionally, the fights for immediate needs of the
people will be greatly strengthened when the working-class movement
revives the goal of the overthrowing capitalism. The fact that
increasing numbers of activists are looking into Marxist theory to see
what it says about capitalism and crisis, as well as the strategy and
tactics of the workers' movement needed to overthrow it helps speed
such a revival. Also necessary for it is work to expose how the
tyrannical Stalinist USSR (or Cuba and China today) defended another
form of capitalism, state capitalism, and only used Marxist phraseology
to hide this.
The great 1886 U.S. workers movement for the 8-hour
day culminating in the general strike beginning May 1 showed the power
of the working class, while the hanged Chicago martyrs showed its
heroism. In this time of global crises ordinary workers all over the
world are displaying that same heroism in their struggles against
tyranny and capital. Let's use it in fighting back against the attacks
on immigrants, against devastation by austerity, to take the class
struggle into the environmental movement, and more. And let's use May 1
to link up with others wanting to organize the class struggle. We have
nothing to lose but our chains! We have a world to win!
Seattle Communist Study Group, April 14, 2012.
Tuesday, May 1st rallies and marches in Seattle, Washington:
Noon and 3 pm at Westlake -- called by Occupy Seattle (other Occupy events all day at Westlake)
5 pm at Judkins Park (behind St. Mary's Church, 611 20th Ave. So.) -- annual march called by El Comité
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