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Vol. 75/No. 15      April 18, 2011

Our solidarity surprises them

“The capitalists are surprised when human solidarity—of which the working class is the bearer for the future of all humanity—comes together in explosive and unexpected resistance to assaults on the living standards, job conditions, and democratic and social rights of working people,” says Jack Barnes in The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions.

They’re being surprised again this year—ever since February, when working people began mobilizing in Wisconsin to fight attacks against public employees and their unions. The Wisconsin actions opened the first showdown between the employing class and workers and our unions since the acceleration of the capitalist crisis and antilabor offensive began in 2007.

This issue of the Militant reports on actions from coast to coast in solidarity with embattled government workers. These protests, called by the AFL-CIO and held on or around April 4, also marked the anniversary of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King. At the time King was shot, he was in Memphis building support for striking city sanitation workers, who took “I am a man!” as their slogan in the fight against racism and for union rights.

Some April 4 actions were linked with current or coming union fights. On April 5, for example, some 400 people rallied in Columbus, Ohio, where the governor has just signed a law not only curtailing collective bargaining rights but allowing local governments to impose contract terms in disputes over the few issues unions are still permitted to negotiate.

Other actions involved striking Machinists in Sandusky, Ohio; United Mine Worker-organized miners in the eastern and southern coalfields, whose contract comes up in December; and UNITE HERE-organized hotel workers engaged in a contract fight in San Francisco.

“We need to work as one,” said a government worker from British Columbia at a rally of workers from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. “Whether we are in Wisconsin or in Canada, we have the same interests as workers.”

These and other workers need a paper like the Militant that, as our masthead says, is “published in the interests of working people”—a paper that tells the truth about our struggles and points a political road forward for the working class. Since February, thousands have bought copies of the Militant at labor actions and elsewhere. Hundreds have signed up as weekly readers. For the next two months, Militant subscriptions are being sold along with an offer for one of four books, including The Changing Face of U.S. Politics, quoted at the opening of this editorial.

That book by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, is especially useful for militants who not only need to learn how our unions got as weak as they are today, but who want to draw lessons from hard-fought battles we’ve waged in recent decades—victories, stalemates, and setbacks—as the bosses stepped up their offensive against labor since the mid-1970s.

Just leafing through the book’s photos shows what fighting workers will find. The organizing battle in 1979 that won union recognition for 18,000 shipyard workers, a large percentage of them Black, in Newport News, Virginia. The six-week walkout in 1989 by some 44,000 UMWA members in support of miners on strike against Pittston Coal. Fights by packinghouse workers, airlines employees, garment and textile workers, and more.

The book also draws lessons for the working-class movement from struggles by working farmers, mobilizations for women’s rights, fights against racist discrimination and cop brutality—and battles by fellow toilers from revolutionary Cuba, to South Africa, and beyond.

As Barnes writes in The Changing Face of U.S. Politics, class-conscious workers aim to advance the transformation of the unions into instruments of revolutionary struggle for the interests of working people and the oppressed in the United States and the world over.

Take advantage of our front-page offer to get this invaluable handbook for workers, unionists, and young people attracted to their struggles.
Related articles:
Actions across U.S. stand up to union busting, back Black rights
Wisconsin: 1,000s rally for 7th week
Striking Machinists rally in Ohio
Benefits for our class vs. ‘fringes’ for a few
Miners back Wisconsin unions
Rallies answer union-busting across U.S.  
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