The Metropolitan Transit Authority and police authorities from the NYPD to the FBI are trying to hunt down activists organized by Occupy Wall Street who closed off subway turnstiles and chained open gates at several stations the morning of March 28. The participants billed the event as a “fare strike,” inviting passengers to ride for free. The tabloids have been hyping the witchhunt of radicals, and the NYPD has put up “Wanted for Criminal Tampering” posters in subway stations asking riders to help identify the allegedly dangerous Robin Hoods.
This cop campaign is a crock! The MTA bosses are the real criminals here, along with their handlers on Wall Street. All along the MTA has been cutting back services and raising fares, as part of the capitalist class’s effort to make working-class and poor people pay for the economic crisis triggered by the financial collapse of 2008. On top of the multi-trillion-dollar bailouts handed to the bonus-grabbing bankers and financiers by the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve, the MTA (like other public agencies) hands over a huge portion of its budget to Wall Street to cover its debts – incurred by the practice of subsidizing the wealthy by selling them tax-free bonds.
In the absence of massive resistance to the capitalist attacks by the trade unions and other large working-class organizations, it is no wonder that groups of radicals would undertake small-scale actions to bring some relief to the public. But as we have argued in our analyses of the Occupy phenomenon:
The Wall Street protests need to be transcended by a movement of mass struggles by and for the prime victims of the economic crisis – working-class and poor people, and especially Blacks, Latinos and immigrants. That meant mass demonstrations and strike solidarity to start with, leading to wider strikes and workplace occupations. The theme needed to be demanding an end to cutbacks, layoffs and foreclosures and calling for a major program of public works to provide jobs for all. (See “Occupy Wall Street: A Marxist Assessment”.)
Several subway station agents are already being harassed by the MTA in connection with the “fare strike.” In this context, an article by Pete Donohue appeared in the Daily News of April 2 suggesting that subway conductor John Ferretti, a supporter of the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Revolutionary Transit Worker bulletin, was one of the underground “chain gang.” The article claimed that Ferretti “bears a striking resemblance” to one of the activists caught on an MTA surveillance camera in Brooklyn..
Along with this slanderous insinuation, the News article was full of radical-baiting and false information. But it did report Ferretti’s denial that he had been a participant, along with his statement of sympathy for those opposed to “Wall Street greed and the unequal distribution of power and wealth in this country.” Nevertheless, the article was a transparent set-up. Ferretti is a well-known militant in the transit union, and management would love any reason to get rid of him. They have referred him to the NYPD for investigation, even though they could easily confirm that he was nowhere near Brooklyn when the surveillance video was recorded.
According to the civil service newspaper The Chief, President John Samuelsen of the subway workers’ union, TWU Local 100, said he would not disown the action: “If it’s true that members of my union are participating in the protests, that’s their business.” It was not clear whether Samuelsen is committed to defending any activist or union member who might be persecuted by the authorities. He must do so, and should call on the rest of the unions to join the TWU in this. Local 100 must follow up its step toward legal defense. Again, it is the MTA and Wall Street who are the real criminals tampering with the livelihoods of transit riders and all working-class people.
As we explain elsewhere (see Revolutionary Transit Workers No. 54), Samuelsen is one of several union leaders who have saluted Occupy Wall Street but refused to use their authority to organize the massive mobilization the working class needs – if it is to confront Wall Street and the whole capitalist class. Tactics like the “fare strike” let union leaders off the hook by focusing on small, anonymous groups instead of demanding mass action from those with the power to lead it.
All over the world, governments are cutting back on both public services like transit and laying off the workers who provide them. The money “saved” by decimating vital services goes to banks, corporation and capitalists who hold transit and government bonds. The capitalists can no longer make sufficient profits from productive investment, so they have to take back gains which workers won in previous decades. The cops, courts and politicians enforce this class robbery. We stand with all actions to defend working people from these attacks. But to stop these attacks once and for all, it is essential to work to build the world party of socialist revolution.