Rank-and-file workers, get organized against the capitalist offensive!

(from Detroit Workers' Voice #60, September 4, 2006)


. The capitalist employers and the Bush administration are out to ruin the masses here and abroad. But resistance has begun to develop: resistance against mass layoffs and concessions, against the mistreatment of so-called "illegal" immigrants, and against opposition to US foreign policy.

. Today these struggles are sporadic, and the workers' movement is on the defensive. Yet on one front after another, the capitalists and the Bush government aren't getting their way. Workers! The fate of our class depends on bolstering the present mass struggles. Our anger at Bush and the CEOs must be translated into action, be it the rank-and-file organizing themselves at the workplaces or taking part in the various political protests.

. And it's crucial for workers not just to participate in the mass movements, but to bring a working-class orientation to them. We can't rely on ruling-class politicians like the Democrats to save us. Nor can we trust the bulk of the union leaderships who've saddled us with concessions and chain us to false political friends.

The rise of rank-and-file militancy

. Layoffs and concessions have been ravaging workers. Locally, workers in the auto and airline industry, Detroit city employees, teachers and others have felt the sting of the capitalist offensive. Even though there have been only a few strikes and other worker actions, a lot of workers want to fight back. And struggles have broken out. For example, Northwest mechanics are still striking while Northwest flight attendants are planning actions against concessions. Detroit teachers have struck against new concessions demands. Delphi workers have been demonstrating against job and wage cuts.

. Too often, however, the struggles are sabotaged by the leaders of the unions. The bulk of the union officials are more interested in saving the profits of corporations than the workers' livelihoods. They are reluctant to call strikes and other effective actions, and they sabotage the struggles they do call. Look at the Delphi situation. Though Delphi is about to lay off most of its workers and cut the wages in half for those remaining, the UAW and other union leaderships have not called a single job action.

. Among the Delphi workers, new rank-and-file groups, like Soldiers of Solidarity, have formed to carry forward the struggle despite the treachery of the UAW leadership. Soldiers of Solidarity organizes in the plants, has its own web site, exposes traitorous union officials, organizes demonstrations against concessions, and supports actions like work slowdowns. The threat of rank-and-file action has forced Delphi to take seriously the possibility of a strike. It has backed down from some of its more drastic concessions demands, though it still demands deep concessions. So independent rank-and-file organization is not just a nice wish, but can actually develop and have impact even under today's trying circumstances.

. Rank-and-file groups only started to develop at Delphi after it had declared bankruptcy. This late start limited how far the struggle could develop. Workers need to develop their own independent organizations in the workplaces and within the unions. Militant workers should get together. They should encourage the sentiments to fight back that exist among the rank and file through discussions, leaflets, meetings and other means.

Gigantic demonstrations of immigrant workers

. This year saw millions of immigrant workers demonstrate for their rights in cities across the country. Today, some 12 million so-called "illegal" immigrants toil in the worst jobs for slave wages. Congressional Republicans wanted to make things worse. House Bill 4437 called for deporting or making felons of these immigrant workers and anyone who helped or sheltered them. This is the bill that sparked the gigantic demonstrations by immigrants and their supporters a few months ago. Millions of the most downtrodden section of workers stood up for their rights. Immigrants walked off the job, shutting down meatpacking plants, restaurants and other businesses. Latino students in Los Angeles and other cities boycotted classes to show solidarity.

. The plight of one section of workers affects the conditions of all workers. Rights for immigrants workers will make it easier for them to organize in unions and other class organizations and improve their conditions. And this will undermine the capitalists' efforts to use slave-wage labor to drive down all workers. All workers should rally to the cause of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

. The only reliable path to full rights for immigrants is a united struggle of immigrant and native-born workers. Bush and most Democrats are pushing for alternative congressional bills that would recognize the need for immigrant labor, but still keep it oppressed. All they see in the immigrants is cheap labor, and not people with rights. They promise a path for legalization for "illegals", but put a thousand obstacles in the path of any "illegal" being legalized. They talk of reform, but call for more repression against the immigrants, and this would also pave the way for more repression against the working class as a whole. We should instead support solidarity with the immigrants. We should tell our co-workers why it's important to support "Full rights, now!" for undocumented workers.

Failure of US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon

. While attacking workers here, the Bush administration is ruining the masses overseas. The US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon is the latest atrocity. Lebanese civilians were the main target of cluster bombs and other US-supplied Israeli weapons. Much of the country's infrastructure and tens of thousands of houses lie in ruins. The Israeli army thought it would steamroller through Lebanon, and the Israeli government thought that this would blackmail the Lebanese people into doing whatever Israel wanted.

. But the Lebanese masses were overwhelmingly opposed to Israel, and stiff resistance by militia forces in southern Lebanon made the Israeli invasion bog down. This has had an electric effect in the Middle East. It may cause the Bush administration and the Israeli government to think twice about plans for attacking other countries. And the present Israeli government is in trouble, as recriminations fly back and forth about what went wrong in Lebanon.

. The mass resistance in Lebanon has shown itself a force to be reckoned with. But it is still necessary for the working class there to put its stamp on the movement. Over the years, different political trends have vied for supremacy in the resistance. Presently it is Hezbollah which is leading the military resistance to Israel. Its vision of an Islamic theocracy, however, is a danger for the masses. A good deal depends on whether the Lebanese working masses can develop a progressive leadership for the resistance, a leadership which unites them on the basis of their class interests and not their religious affiliation. Nevertheless the cause of repelling the Israeli invasion was just.

. Not only the Bush administration, but most of the American bourgeoisie supports Israel strongly. They see its importance to the American empire. Hillary Clinton's statement, "The United States must stand by Israel" is typical of the Democrats. Nevertheless, even today, some American working people see through what is going on in the Middle East. Locally, a number of demonstrations have taken place against the US-backed destruction of Lebanon. In Dearborn, as many as 10,000 people have demonstrated. There was a thousand-strong demonstration at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. And tens of thousands demonstrated against the US-backed Israeli aggression in Washington on Aug. 12. Though there is a UN-brokered truce now, Israel continues to blockade Lebanon; its troops remain in Lebanon; and it will continue to stir up trouble. So it's important to keep up the actions in solidarity with the Lebanese people and their resistance struggle.

. The problem with Israel is not that there are many Jews there. It's that the Israeli government is a theocracy, a government that gives special rights to Jews as opposed to other people. Similarly, the problem with the Islamic fundamentalist movement isn't that it organizes among Muslims, but that it stands for Islamic theocracy. At one time, communist and left-wing trends based on the class interests of the working people as a whole, rather than the theocratic interests of any religion, were strong in the Middle East, and the time will come when this is true again.

. The roots of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon can be found in Israel's desire to maintain its oppression of the Palestinian people, whose land it has robbed. We must therefore stand with the Palestinian struggle against US-backed Israeli oppression. The only lasting solution for Israel and the Palestinians is the replacement of the discriminatory Zionist system in Israel with a democratic, secular (non-religious) state with equal and full rights for Jews and Arabs. And the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forcibly exiled by the Israeli authorities in the past must have the right to return to their historic homeland. In order to prevent this return and deny rights to the Palestinian people, the Israeli government continues oppressing the Occupied Territories. Today it has even imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, bombed infrastructure, and imprisoned much of the elected government of Gaza and the West Bank. We must demand an immediate end to these Israeli atrocities.

The growing anger at the occupation of Iraq

. There is massive anger across the country about the continuing war in Iraq. Countless demonstrations large and small have taken place across the US. Disillusionment is spreading in the armed forces, and some soldiers have even fled to Canada. Military recruiters aren't meeting their goals. Bush staked his presidency on the invasion of Iraq, and the fiasco of the continuing war has been dragging him down.

. Bush claimed the occupation of Iraq would lead to freedom throughout the Middle East. But his real goal was not liberation, but domination of the Middle East and of its oil. That's why the US occupation has been met by massive opposition from the Iraqi people. The longer the US stays, the more Iraqis there are who want the US to get out.

. The Iraqi leadership of the armed resistance to the occupation is dominated by fundamentalists and ex-members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, but the strength of the resistance is the mass anger of the Iraqi people at a corrupt and foreign domination. The occupation cannot even provide basic living conditions for the masses, and it has become a horror for the Iraqi people. The chaos created by the US occupation has even paved the way to civil war, as rival Iraqi bourgeois and religious hierarchies compete for power at the expense of the Iraqi masses.

. But, despite the tragic conditions facing them, Iraqi workers have been trying to develop their own class movement. For example, new trade unions have been formed. And the 23,000 workers of the General Union of Oil Employees are threatening to strike in opposition to a new law privatizing Iraqi oil fields. The growth of workers' organization is crucial for undermining the various sectarian and bourgeois factions in Iraq.

. The American bourgeoisie still wants to hold onto Iraq, and the bourgeois politicians haggle over how to do this. Bush wants to "stay the course", while most Democratic politicians say Bush has made mistakes, but pledge that they too would not "cut and run". The American workers should instead demand that the US gets out now, and we should focus on international solidarity with workers overseas. We should oppose not just Bush, but the whole imperialist system and its wars for domination of regions of "vital interest". And we should give special support to the Iraqi workers, who are striving to build up a working-class alternative in Iraq.

The mass struggle to save the environment

. For decades, the conservatives and the energy capitalists have ridiculed the environmental movement, but present-day events have proved the correctness of many of its warnings. We have just lived through one of the hottest summers on record, and drought has scorched farm crops in a number of states. Hurricane season is upon us again, and New Orleans isn't ready to survive another major hit. There is no longer any doubt that global warming, rising sea levels, and erratic weather are grave problems.

. It is the masses of the people, not the bourgeoisie, who have taken these problems seriously. It was the masses who suffered from pollution and who forced some cleanup of the rivers and air of this country. Only the work of many activists has led to research into renewable energy sources to replace oil and coal. And just last year, it was the efforts of thousands of volunteers and activists which provided immediate help to the Katrina victims, while FEMA and the Bush administration dawdled and then handed out money to big business as supposed Katrina relief.

. Recently a number of books, articles, and films by establishment figures have warned about the looming dangers of global warming. But this doesn't mean that the capitalists are now ready to solve the environmental crisis themselves. What is needed is that the whole structure of production and power generation must be changed. The corporations must be forced to produce in a way that doesn't ruin the earth. This requires going against the will of the "free market" and infringing on some of the rights of private property. But the capitalists are still committed to neoliberal free market fanaticism.

. Indeed, the Bush administration still isn't convinced global warming is a serious problem. And the establishment figures who do worry about it aren't willing to abandon the free market. They hope that carbon and gas taxes, a free market in pollution permits, and other special financial deals will lead the corporations to do the right thing for their own profit. Such solutions are mere bandaids. Moreover, as such deals make their way through bourgeois governments, they are usually tailored to ensure that the corporations don't suffer financially, while the masses are told to tighten their belts. A serious effort to save the environment requires more than such wheeling and dealing. It requires the direct regulation of production, and it requires that the conditions of the masses are protected rather than the profits of the millionaires. Only a further struggle of the working masses can force through measures in this direction.

The Democratic Party, a phony alternative to Bush

. Today we are on the eve of another round of elections, and the Democrats are claiming that all the problems in the world are only due to Bush. Bush is indeed one of the most blatant and corrupt representatives of the rich corporations. But the Democrats, too, look out for capitalist interests. If layoffs, wage cuts, tax breaks for the rich, and privatization are merely because Bush is in power, how is it that Democratic Mayor Kilpatrick has done the same thing to city workers in Detroit? If imperialism and war are only the policy of Bush and the neo-cons, then why are the Democrats defending Israel and continuing to finance the occupation of Iraq?

. A few of the Democratic politicians have become so notorious for backing Bush's policy of war that the masses have turned against them. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a bigshot in the Democratic Party, ran for vice-president in 2000. But just last month he lost the Democratic primary to a political nobody because of his pro-war stand. Lieberman is seeking to retain his Senate seat by running as an independent and appealing for support from conservative voters.

. But such repudiation of Democratic politicians is not widespread at present. Even in Connecticut, Lieberman's opponent was simply a liberal businessman, Ned Lamont, not a supporter of mass struggle. Lamont wants to revitalize the Democratic Party, not lead the masses out of it. But the working class won't be free of bourgeois politics until the Democrats are revealed as simply another ruling-class party. The only things that have effectively resisted the capitalists are strikes, mass actions, and militant organization. The Democrats aren't going to support such actions. Instead they support strikebreaking laws and court injunctions, as they did during the New York transit strike. It is necessary for workers to build up an independent political force that would devote itself to supporting the mass struggle, not smothering it.

Put a working-class stamp on the mass struggles

. Building a real working-class alternative is on the agenda. Today, mass actions tend to be sporadic. Yet, when we see such things as the bold stand of workers to defy the no-strike law in the New York transit strike, we see not only the eventual rotten betrayal by union officials, but a display of the potential power of the workers' movement. It is fighting stands of this sort that must be spread among more and more sections of our class. This is what's needed to beat back concessions at the workplace.

. To do this, we must build rank-and-file groups, as the Delphi workers started to do. And this spirit of rank-and-file working-class militancy should be brought into all the mass movements against oppression. There are many possible things to do. Rank-and-file workers can put out their own leaflets giving their distinct views and demands. There can be literature distribution at the workplaces and in working-class communities. Even small protests held in working-class communities can be important in mobilizing the masses. Militant workers can bring their own literature, placards and slogans to demonstrations.

. While fighting all the ills caused by capitalism, we must also prepare to fight the disease itself. We may beat back certain attacks today, but so long as the bourgeoisie rules, we can expect more exploitation, environmental disasters, racism, imperialism and war. If we want to get rid of the source of these problems, we must get rid of capitalism itself. That will require a revolution that puts the economic resources of society in the hands of the workers as a whole.

. Various regimes calling themselves communist have claimed this is what they stand for. However, the revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba, etc. died after a time. What was set up was not a real communist society, but a new type of capitalism where state officials and high party members lorded it over the workers. It was this Stalinist order that alienated the workers, not genuine communism. Our trend, the Communist Voice Organization, supports the genuine principles of communism. We call this anti-revisionist communism as opposed to the regimes that revised communist principles beyond recognition. Genuine communism supports the development of the workers' initiative in the struggles of the present. It also recognizes that the experience and organization that workers build today will put them a step closer to the time when they can rid themselves of the capitalist parasites altogether, and run a society where production is for the needs of the working masses, not the profits of a handful.

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Last modified: September 4, 2006.
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