The “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” has attracted working people who hope that the power of the labor movement can be used to defend a section of the working class that has been under an especially vicious attack since September 11, 2001.
The U.S. ruling class seized the opportunity to step up its one-sided war against the working class at home and to wage unilateral wars for imperialist domination abroad. Well before the bombs started dropping again on Iraq, the Bush administration had rounded up, detained and deported thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant workers in the U.S. are subject to a double-barrelled attack, both racist and anti-foreigner. Immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia have been singled out since 9/11. Latinos have faced intensified harassment and attacks at the borders. And the stepped-up armed border patrols in the Southwest have led to hundreds of deaths each year. The truck filled with dead and dying immigrants in Texas last May was only the most publicized horror.
The ruling class’s purpose is to weaken and divide the working class. The capitalist system is in the grips of a worldwide economic crisis. As the imperialist powers dig their claws of debt and exploitation into oppressed countries, they have sent plagues of war, famine, unemployment and misery sweeping across Asia, Africa and Latin America. They have driven millions of workers to leave their homes and seek a living in the imperialist countries themselves. They seek to mislead native-born workers into blaming immigrants for their losses.
Most immigrants never leave super-exploitation behind. Arriving in the U.S. and other wealthy nations, they are forced to take the lowest-paying jobs with the most dangerous working conditions. The capitalists use them to drive down the wages of the whole working class. At the same time, the ruling-class politicians use their “War on Terror” to whip up chauvinist hysteria against immigrants and try to keep the working class from realizing our real interest in uniting to fight the real enemy: the capitalists. The capitalists aim to weaken the entire working class in order to keep profits up.
Many immigrants have played a major part in fightbacks against exploitation in the recent past. In the recent past the bold action of immigrant Latino janitors in Los Angeles and elsewhere provided a key spark for a growing amnesty movement. The struggles by immigrant workers, chiefly Mexican in origin, won concrete gains.
The AFL-CIO has organized the “Freedom Ride,” a series of rallies across the country, to make a show of defending the rights of immigrants. The growing proportion of immigrants in unions and in jobs the unions seek to organize is a factor pressing the union officials to act. However, despite immigrant workers’ record of class struggle, most of the stops on the “Ride” are little more than photo opportunities aimed at lobbying Congress. The closing events in New Jersey and New York are being promoted as carnivals, with vendors, barbecues and musical performances. None of them are aimed at mass working-class struggle, like strikes and general strikes, that can really begin to build a defense against the anti-immigrant attacks. Although thousands of working-class people and other immigrants are participating in the rallies, the only thing that they are asked to do is register to vote – for the Democratic Party, a key instrument in the capitalists’ anti-worker attacks.
The Democrats under Clinton passed anti-immigrant laws like the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, allowing the use of secret “evidence” to justify the indefinite detention of immigrants targeted by the government. This laid the groundwork for Bush and Ashcroft’s “USA Patriot Act,” which extensively broadened these powers. It also was supported by the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress,
Moreover, the AFL-CIO, like most of the Democratic politicians, support the imperialist wars and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. A leadership that defends imperialist militarism and domination abroad cannot be trusted to defend immigrants at home, who are also victims of imperialism’s attacks.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council’s statement on immigration of July 31, 2001 calls for a broad legalization program for undocumented workers “who have been working hard, paying taxes and contributing to their communities.” This sounds good but it is hedged: at a time of increasing joblessness, all workers, employed and unemployed, deserve equal rights, including citizenship for those who want it. To fulfill such a demand the labor movement must fight for jobs for all, spelling out the massive public works program that would make full employment possible.
What’s more, the AFL-CIO statement opposes the entry of undocumented workers, many of whom are fleeing economic deprivation and political persecution in their home countries. This stance in effect blames immigrant workers for denying opportunities to U.S. workers and driving wages down. Despite their words of support for immigrants who have reached this country, the labor officials are playing the game of racist politicians who use immigrants, especially the undocumented, as a scapegoat to divide workers and prevent a united struggle against falling wages, job cuts and slashes to social benefits.
Capitalism has created a world economy in which goods can span the globe, yet the workers who create them are imprisoned within borders. Already there is more than enough production worldwide to satisfy humanity’s basic needs for food and shelter, and untapped potential to do so much more. By taking state power, workers can implement the changes we need to create a society of abundance for all from the fruits of our labor.
The only way to end the torrent of attacks on workers, especially immigrants and people of color, is to put an end to capitalism and create a society run by the working class. Instead of extortionate debt repayments to the banks, we demand repudiation of the imperialist debts. Instead of new technologies putting workers out of jobs, a sliding scale of hours to distribute all work evenly. Instead of capitalists moving factories to find the cheapest labor, international planning to help the poorest of countries rise to the level of the richest. Instead of national chauvinism and hatred, the common fraternity of humankind.
As capitalism shows its true face of misery and war, more workers will seek to join the socialist revolutionary struggle for a truly human future. This movement for genuine communism has a name, the Fourth International, World Party of Socialist Revolution. To achieve the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the most politically conscious workers must come together to build a genuine revolutionary party. The League for the Revolutionary Party, together with our comrades internationally in the Communist Organization for the Fourth International, seek to provide this revolutionary leadership and build this revolutionary party, the re-created Fourth International. If you agree with these ideas and this struggle, do not hesitate to contact us. We have a world to win, and no time to waste!