To one degree or another many are able to mitigate the assault and strengthen working-class unity. But these defensive economic battles eventually run into objective limits and come to an end. This poses the question: How do workers increasingly awakened to their worth and capacities for struggle continue to fight?
The national public meeting called by the Socialist Workers Party for March 10 in New York City will address a road forward for fighting workers—the building of a working-class revolutionary party that can advance the interests of our class as a whole, along the line of march toward wresting political power from the capitalist exploiters. (See ad front page.)
Assaults have sharply escalatedThe bosses have been on the offensive against workers and working farmers for decades as their profit rates have declined. Their assaults sharply escalated with the most recent stage of the worldwide crisis of capitalist production and trade that began in 2008. The problem is systemic. The increasingly cutthroat competition of the bosses drives them to increase the rate of exploitation of the working class. This is what is behind their lockouts, their speedup, their union busting.
The capitalist owners also use their state power, their government, to shift responsibility for the young, the elderly, the disabled and the ill, those impoverished by lack of employment, from being a social responsibility to a personal, family matter. Social gains such as Social Security and Medicare represent a piece of the wealth created by workers’ labor and wrested in struggle. Now the capitalist class wants it back.
Meanwhile, the crisis is marked by persistently high unemployment and a rise in part-time and “temporary” jobs. This provides leverage in the bosses’ drive against the entire working class.
Pauperization, a large reserve army of the working class, smashed trade unions, large-scale incarceration of angry workers, especially African-Americans—all these are necessities for capitalist recovery.
The massive expansion of “stop and frisk” and plea-bargain-driven imprisonment aimed at the Black proletariat is increasingly justified in the eyes of bourgeois-minded middle-class professional layers, including a growing layer who are African-American. In defense of the racist class “justice” meted out in the street and courtrooms, they hold up “diversity”—the increasingly multiracial makeup of this privileged social layer itself. They hold a deeply rooted belief that they deserve their positions in society, and that working people bearing the brunt of the capitalist crisis deserve theirs.
Thousands of workers are standing up to the bosses—from the docks of Longview, Wash., to American Crystal Sugar in the Upper Midwest; from Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, to Rio Tinto in Quebec, Canada. Crucial solidarity has come from far and wide, mobilizing allies, spreading the word and offering economic support to keep on fighting. Solidarity with workers’ struggles helps batter down barriers fostered by the employers between Black and Caucasian, U.S. and foreign-born, employed and unemployed.
But the propertied rulers keep coming at us, determined and relentless, and their resources—political and financial—are large.
Capitalist rulers more than 1 percentMany workers know they need a political perspective to take this on, but see no road outside of bourgeois politics, usually its liberal wing. Some look to Occupy groups and their railing against greedy banks and hedge funds—the 1 percent against all the rest of society.
The 1 percent/99 percent is an arbitrary division that serves to obfuscate real social classes, which are based on irreconcilable interests. It dovetails perfectly with the demagogy that permeates the 2012 Democratic election campaign, part of the bosses’ two-party sham.
The propertied rulers and their allies represent much more than 1 percent of the population. The capitalist class, in many gradations of size, includes the owners of all the factories, mines, mills, real estate, transportation and shipping, retail and commercial distribution, banking and finance, media, legal and illegal drug manufacture and distribution, etc, etc.
They include owners and co-owners of the 1.3 million firms that employ 10 or more workers, more than 2 million top corporate executives and the board members of some 6,500 banks.
Maintaining “order” on the shop floor for the capitalist owners are millions of supervisors, foremen and other management personnel.
The bosses are backed by the armed power of their state: over 800,000 federal, state and local cops; some 518,000 prison guards and jailers; and another 100,000 parole and probation officers; a military officer corps of 200,000; 58,000 agents and support personnel in the FBI, Secret Service and Defense Intelligence Agency; tens of thousands more in the CIA and National Security Agency, whose exact numbers the rulers keep “top secret”; 41,000 immigration and border patrol personnel; 10,000 in the Drug Enforcement Agency; 5,000 Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents; and more.
Add to this the millions who comprise a substantial section of middle-class “professional” layers not directly associated with production, but whose primary function is connected in one way or another to maintaining the social relations of capitalist production. These include lawyers, professors, think tank and non-governmental organization functionaries, etc—the self-styled “enlightened meritocracy.”
Rather than a “greedy” 1 percent, we confront the capitalist class and its allies representing far more than 10 times that—all of whom utterly depend on maintaining the exploitation of our labor, the source of all wealth. We are then confronted with the real class relations under capitalism, as well as the necessity and possibility of proletarian revolution to bring it to an end.
Revolutionary road forwardAs individual struggles wind down, some workers become demoralized and embittered, making them susceptible to rightist conspiracy theories and sectarian anti-union “anti-bureaucratic” demagogy. They can become the feeding ground for rightist and fascist-minded groups, fostered by a wing of the bosses for future use when workers rise to challenge their rule.
Others seek to remain true to the struggle they fought but cannot see beyond a vicious cycle of defensive battles and temporary lulls, waiting to fight again another day.
Militant workers don’t need to wait for another day. The road forward is political. It is the building of a proletarian party, which draws on the continuity of more than 150 years of working-class struggle, and charts a course toward political power.
At the same time, such a revolutionary road forward is not easy to see today; it requires political imagination and a sense of history. The recent period is unusual. For some two decades there have been no revolutionary forces leading workers’ battles to end capitalist exploitation and replace it with workers power anywhere in the world. Nothing in the labor movement today is even moving beyond economic solidarity to begin fighting around burning social questions.
In 1917 the Russian Revolution was a beacon to workers around the world. In 1959, when Fidel Castro led a triumphant Cuban people to power in Havana, overlapping with the proletarian Black rights movement that smashed Jim Crow segregation in the U.S., a new generation was won to revolutionary politics.
In 1979, workers and farmers in Nicaragua, Grenada and Iran overthrew tyrannies beholden to imperialism, inspiring tens of thousands. Into the ’80s one of the most profound revolutions in African history conquered in Burkina Faso, drawing attention across the continent and others worldwide.
In the 1980s and into the ’90s, new generations of Cuban revolutionaries gained experience and confidence through mobilization in Angola, where they were decisive in defeating the South African apartheid army and hastening the fall of that racist regime, and in volunteer brigades in Cuba that strengthened the revolution.
As the Socialist Workers Party, a proletarian party of industrial workers, engages with others in the unfolding class struggles it looks to recruit and win allies to advance the interests of the working class. The party acts on the assumption that the opportunities and challenges that confront our class will be similar for the next several years, as the bosses keep pushing and workers are forced to respond.
The SWP must become more deeply integrated into the fights unfolding today, using its propaganda arsenal—the Militant newspaper and Pathfinder books on the lessons of previous revolutionary working-class struggles—to advance the discussion about the need to construct a revolutionary party to help mobilize the fight for workers’ power. The party seeks to expand this propaganda systematically among working people in rural areas outside the city limits where party branches are located and among workers who are Black.
The party will announce candidates around the country and nationally, presenting an independent working-class course of struggle.
The March 10 meeting is an opportunity for us—party members and others resisting the bosses’ attacks and discussing the road forward—to come together. Join us!
Ad for March 10 meeting
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