Windsor/Detroit demos continue

fight vs. neo-liberalism

The intro is from Communist Voice #24, June 14, 2000,
and the leaflet is from Detroit Workers' Voice #25, June 4, 2000.

. On June 4, several thousand protesters took to the streets of Windsor, Canada to denounce a meeting of the Organization of American States being held there. An additional 300 activists rallied and marched in Detroit, just across the border from Windsor. The OAS was targeted for its role in the neo-liberal agenda of exploitation and environmental ruin in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

. Before the June 4 actions, the capitalist authorities tried to intimidate protesters. For instance, 20 activists were arrested in Detroit for the "crime" of riding bicycles on a street. New ordinances, such as banning protesters from covering their faces with bandannas or masks, were passed. Harassment at the border crossings was stepped up. Meanwhile, the bourgeois media kept up a steady drumbeat of hysteria against the demonstrators as "violent" and "terrorists". The day of the action, police in riot gear sealed off several blocks around the OAS meeting, stationing themselves on both sides of a newly-constructed 10-foot high chain-link fence, and lining the downtown streets of Windsor and Detroit.

. But the protesters refused to be frightened off. In Windsor, large numbers of workers in trade union contingents marched together with youth and student activists from the surrounding region. This spirited action went right past the OAS meeting area and ended in a rally in a park bordering the Detroit River. Following the march and rally, several hundred young activists attempted to block intersections around the meeting area and temporarily stopped a bus carrying OAS delegates before the police waded in with tear gas and arrested about 40 activists.

. The demonstration not only succeeded in exposing the crimes of the OAS, but also provided an opportunity for activists to exchange views on important issues for the movement. The following article was among the leaflets distributed at these actions. It was also distributed at some workplaces in Detroit.

Down with the OAS, free-trade and protectionism!

To fight neo-liberalism, target capitalism

(From Detroit Workers Voice #25, June 4, 2000,
published by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group)


. Over the past months angry demonstrators have taken to the streets against the atrocities being committed against the masses around the world by various international or regional organizations of the big capitalist exploiters. Massive protests raged in the streets of Seattle this past November/December against the WTO. This April in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of activists targeted the policies of the IMF and the World Bank. Now activists in Windsor and Detroit are gathering to denounce a gathering of the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization of the capitalist rulers of the U.S. and Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The OAS is presently trying to establish a "free-trade" zone throughout the hemisphere through an agreement called the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). This agreement would help accelerate and lock in place the free flow of investment capital and trade that is already extensive between these countries.

. Today neo-liberal "free-trade" policy is the fashionable panacea being offered up by the lords of finance and industry and their political representatives. According to the dominant neo-liberal "wisdom" of the last couple decades, just eliminate all restrictions on big business, and all problems will be solved. The reality? The workers and other oppressed are being hammered as profits of the powerful corporations soar. Workers are hit with layoffs, increased workloads, and wage cuts. Workers are also hit by cutbacks in social programs, which particularly ravage lower-paid working families, and the black and Latino communities. Privatization has meant expanding the fields of private profiteering while letting public services and education rot. Already weak environmental measures are being undermined. At the end of this road lies ruin for the downtrodden and unprecedented wealth for the rich.

. Meanwhile just as the gap between the rich and poor has grown within the powerful industrial countries, so the gap between rich and the less developed countries has also grown. The multinationals roam around the poorer capitalist countries not to uplift the masses, but to find ever-cheaper sources of labor, grab resources and markets, and dump their toxic wastes.

. It is this legacy of ruining the masses and the environment that has given rise to the outrage expressed against the capitalist agencies and agreements that assist this process.

Capitalism itself is the underlying problem

. But to wage an effective fight against the ills that are rightly protested, one of the major issues that activists have to deal with is what is the root cause of the ills we protest? These ills are not mainly the product of this or that trade arrangement. Nor are they just the result of neo-liberal policies in general. The underlying problem is capitalism, a social system whose very operation requires the ruining of the masses and the environment. But what of the global spread of the large corporations and the domination of the world by the major imperialist powers? This too is inherent in capitalism. Just as the competition between capitalists within a country leads to the stronger growing at the expense of the weaker, so the big capitalists who conquer the domestic market must also strive to dominate their competitors on a world scale or be conquered by them.

. The present neo-liberal crusade is nothing but one form of this system, but not the system itself. In fact, while today the world capitalist agencies are on a free trade kick, world capitalism has gone back and forth between free trade and state regulation of the market. For example, for a long time after World War II, the World Bank and other bourgeois agencies encouraged government-backed infrastructure projects and the building of state sectors in the Third World. Even now, when various monopolies feel threatened by competition, they demand protectionist measures and state subsidies, and a whole system of "corporate welfare" continues to exist. Today, even as the bourgeoisie claims everything is supposed to be solved by the market itself, they are in fact building a system of world rules for economic activity greater than anything seen in the past. Presently, this is mainly for the end of attacking protectionism, but when the world bourgeoisie needs to save itself with a heavy dose of state intervention, the international bourgeois institutions can adopt themselves to that policy too. For example, in the coming years, as world environmental disasters mount up, and several catastrophes force the bourgeoisie to take the question seriously, they will turn to state regulation to save themselves. Of course, just as today they devastate the masses with free trade, they will ensure that the state regulation of the future squeezes the masses to pay for the messes created by world capitalism.

Class struggle is the answer

. The answer to the offensive of the bourgeoisie is to build a class movement of the workers and other oppressed. It is the organizations, demonstrations, strikes, mass uprisings and rebellions of the working masses against poverty, cutbacks and all forms of capitalist oppression that is what the world bourgeoisie fears. While the capitalist representatives of Latin America and North America haggle over trade rules, an armed mass rebellions is going on in Colombia which the Colombian bourgeoisie, with massive U.S. military aid, is trying to quell. In Peru, there is also a mass guerrilla movement and recently a boycott of the fraudulent elections held by the Fujimori regime. In Ecuador, mass protests recently toppled the country's president and major strikes and protests have broken out in Argentina. The demonstrations against the world capitalist agencies can help encourage struggles such as these, show the justice in them, and expose the attempts of the bourgeoisie to smother them. They can likewise encourage strikes, the mass demonstrations against racial oppression and sexism, and other struggles that have developed in Canada and the U.S. Support for the class struggle also involves a fight against the class collaborationist trends that often dominate the movement. For instance, the workers in the U.S. and Canada face a struggle against their own entrenched pro-capitalist trade union bureaucracies of the AFL-CIO and the CLC (Canadian Labor Congress).

"Fair trade?"

. The trade union bureaucrats are among the reformist forces strongly pushing the idea that the answer to the WTO or the FTAA is protectionist measures ensuring "fair trade". The faulty premise of this slogan is that unfair policies of foreign companies and governments are the cause of unemployment and therefore protectionist measures will preserve jobs and living conditions at home.

. But the workers can only defend themselves by fighting their own companies, not begging the bourgeois rulers to save the companies from foreign competition. The "fair trade" slogan can only divert the attention of workers away from their own exploiters. Indeed, it is no accident that while the AFL-CIO misleaders can give bloodcurdling speeches against foreign competition, they have allowed "our" capitalists to steamroller the workers with "downsizing" and wage and benefit concessions. The truth is that everywhere the laws of capitalist competition drive the corporations to automation, speed-ups, increased workloads, etc. Moreover, capitalist production leads to periodic crises of overproduction where the market can no longer absorb what is produced. If unemployment was a product of foreign competition, then everything should be rosy for the workers in other countries. But capitalism has created armies of unemployed everywhere around the world. Meanwhile, in the U.S., even in this period of relatively low unemployment during the present "boom" economy, there is job insecurity and wages are being kept down.

. It should also be noted that the protectionist campaign of the trade union bureaucrats and other reformist forces has included cuddling up to arch-reactionary Pat Buchanan and his "American [Capitalism] First" campaign. Buchanan, who is financed mainly by a textile billionaire, has always recognized the value of bashing foreigners to divert the workers from targeting their home grown oppressors. His flirtation with the AFL-CIO heads merely required him to link his chauvinism with a bit of anti-corporate rhetoric.

Reformism and the Latin American bourgeoisie

. Another part of the struggle against reformism involves what attitude to take toward the bourgeoisie outside t he big imperialist powers. When we look at the OAS, the problem isn't simply U.S. imperialism, the world superpower. The Canadian bourgeoisie and the Latin American bourgeoisies are also exploiters with their own rotten missions. Indeed, it's notable that the Latin American bourgeoisie has already established its own neo-liberal "free-trade" zones such as Mercosur and the Andean Pact. The Latin American bourgeoisie rides roughshod over the workers and poor peasantry who have waged heated battles and uprisings against their local exploiters. At the same time, the masses also target U.S. imperialism which, being the strongest power, has great economic and political leverage with which to squeeze the other countries in the region, make them bend to its will (with the help of agencies like the IMF), and a shameful record of making or breaking regimes.

. Despite the many strikes and protests, independent class organization remains weak in the oppositional movements in Latin America. The dominant trends in the movement may oppose this or that government. But they also tend to look to local capitalism, albeit with some reforms and a relationship with imperialism that provides more room for local bourgeois development. Such ideas permeate not only the more mainstream oppositional trends like Peronism in Argentina or the politics of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and the PRD in Mexico, but are also strong among radical mass organizations. Indeed, Castroism has long promoted alliances with the bourgeois forces in Latin America.

Anti-revisionist communism and building the anti-capitalist trend

. The advance of the class struggle both here and abroad is needed to push back the neo-liberal agenda. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that most everywhere the mass movements face serious problems of orientation and class organization is very weak. Thus, the fight against the neo-liberal offensive puts on the agenda protracted work to establish new revolutionary class organization.

.Building a revolutionary class trend also involves work to show that the liberation of the workers and oppressed is impossible without overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism. Only when the working masses smash the capitalist machinery of oppression, establish their own revolutionary government and stepwise place economic enterprises under the control of the society as a whole can they become masters of society, not its slaves. Such a society was the vision of the communism of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

. But to uphold this perspective requires opposition to the phony "communism" of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a system that still exists to some extent in China and Cuba. The revolutions in these countries died out, the working masses lost their say over what was being done and the institutions being built, and instead of socialism a new form of state-capitalism was established. These so-called "communist" societies, and the pseudo-Marxist trends that support them, have revised Marxism beyond recognition. This is why real communism today is anti-revisionist communism. The revisionist societies have considerable state sectors and extensive state economic plans which makes them look like they're not capitalistic. But a closer look shows that beneath the veneer of planning and state ownership, anarchy of production reigned. Private interests developed between the different enterprises and ministries. The state property became in fact the property of an elite class of bureaucrats who lived high on the hog off the sweat of the workers and enforced a tyranny over them. The development of private interests under state-capitalism paved the way for the eventual transition from state-capitalism to market capitalism, a process that is well under way in China and Cuba. These countries have all become havens for the imperialist multinationals as well.

. An example of how state property in such societies is similar to capitalist property can be seen in the current campaign of the Castro regime called "improved management." Under this program, government subsidies to state enterprises will largely end and enterprises will live or die according to their own financial success. Managers are being given extensive powers to determine wages, work hours, job levels and other conditions for their particular factory as national regulations on such matters are being scrapped. Wages will be paid out of the funds of each enterprise, which will be a direct incentive for factory mangers who want to survive to slash wages and jobs. Workers whose jobs are eliminated are out of luck as enterprises will no longer be required to offer such workers other jobs or training as this might undermine "efficient production", as a Cuban manager put it. Indeed, officials admit they are copying capitalist methods, stating that this is necessary in part so Cuban enterprises can drum up business in the world markets. Clearly, this is not a society where the workers are in power, but one where the working class is under the thumb of a managerial elite which operates as a bourgeois class.

. Socialism is the act of the working class, not something handed to it by benevolent despots. And the struggle against neo-liberalism must be used to encourage a class movement, not relying on squabbles between the ruling classes. This is the path of struggle against world capitalism. The path of encouraging the class struggle is the alternative to the program of the world agencies of neo-liberalism.

Down with the OAS, "free trade" and protectionism!
Fight the neo-liberal onslaught with class struggle!
Market capitalism and state-capitalism are the enemies!

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Last changed on October 16, 2001.