The printed version of the following Bulletin of the League for the Revolutionary Party was distributed in New York City on March 5, 2009. This bulletin contains two articles, Workers and Youth Unite to Stop the Cuts! (below) and Youth and Revolution, at the bottom of this page.
At last! Finally, at least some of the leaders of New York’s unions have felt forced to mobilize a protest against attacks on health care, education and other vital social services. All are threatened by the “doomsday” budgets and anti-worker demands of Democratic Governor David Patterson and billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The capitalists have driven the economy into disaster. Now they and their friends in the Democratic and Republican parties are trying to make us pay for it! Today’s protest should be just the beginning of a growing campaign to mobilize the working class against attacks on our jobs, social services and living standards.
In the context of the current economic crisis, the proposed budget cuts are a grave threat to the working class. Massive action is needed to stop them. After all, the proposed layoffs will condemn many to permanent unemployment. Cuts to high school education, and tuition hikes at city and state universities, will kill young people’s dreams for the future. And as Local 1199’s commercials have stressed, the threatened cuts to health care will literally kill people.
In other countries in response to the crisis and similar attacks on jobs and social services, there have already been massive protests, rebellions on the streets and even general strikes. But growing protests building toward mass strikes are the last thing on the minds of our union leaders. In New York, they intend on today being the first, and the last, big protest against the budget cuts. At the end of the day, they plan on telling us to go home and support their lobbying of politicians. This strategy threatens to leave the working class powerless and sold out.
The union tops can be pressured to mobilize further protests, but it won’t be easy, and we won’t get anywhere if we are polite and patient. A big and angry protest that denounces any talk of “shared sacrifice” and compromise may scare them into more action.
A massive working-class fightback is sorely needed. But far more is at stake than just defeating the immediate attacks on our jobs and living standards. Capitalism is headed for another great depression. The 1930s depression put the world on course for a period of murderous Stalinist and fascist dictatorships in Europe and the global carnage of World War Two. Capitalism’s slide into another depression threatens humanity with an even more catastrophic repeat of its bloody “solution” to the last one – unless workers’ struggles, both here in the U.S. and around the world, grow to challenge the system. A world of abundance and freedom is possible, but only if capitalism is overthrown.
By fighting for a perspective that can take forward our class’s immediate struggles, we in the League for the Revolutionary Party seek to convince more and more of our fellow workers that the only real solution to the growing nightmare of life under capitalism is the system’s overthrow by working-class socialist revolution.
For decades now the working class has been told to sacrifice, and the capitalists have laughed all the way to the bank. And now they want us to pay for their falling profits again, with cuts to social services, massive and growing unemployment, and falling living standards. A real working-class-wide fightback is needed, including general strikes that can stop the capitalist attacks.
But the leaders of the unions have already accepted the idea that workers should pay a price for the capitalists’ crisis. Instead of denouncing any talk of workers’ sacrificing for Wall Street’s profits, they are emphasizing a call for “shared sacrifice” by both workers and the capitalists. They openly accept the need for cuts while proposing that some can be avoided through what the union leaders themselves describe as only “slight” increases in taxes on the wealthy (see their website at www.fairsharereform.org) that would still leave the rich paying lower taxes than in many other states.
The union bureaucrats’ proposal for a “slight” hike in taxes on the wealthy wouldn’t come close to funding the social services needed by the working class – but it is not meant to. Even though workers’ organization, fighting spirit and political consciousness today is very low, the union bureaucrats still worry about the danger of getting thrown out of office by an angry rank-and-file if they betray the ranks too openly. The union tops’ proposal to tax-the-rich aims at making it easier for them to get away with accepting budget cuts, as well as givebacks in future contract negotiations, by creating the appearance that they have at least won some concessions from the Democrats and Wall Street. Further, they hope a small gesture by Democrats toward workers’ anger at Wall Street and the rich will allow them to continue to urge support for Democrats come election day as a way of avoiding mobilizing the ranks of workers in struggle.
It is anything but fair for the working class to share in the cost of a crisis that the capitalists created. What neither the politicians nor the union leaders tell us is that the state’s and city’s interest and dividend payments to Wall Street on old loans and bonds more than account for their current budget deficits. Many of these loans have already been repaid many times over, but the government continues to enforce Wall Street’s demands for interest payments get priority over public services.
A real answer for the working class is to reject further payments of the debts altogether. Workers should fight for their unions to take up the demand to Repudiate the Debts to Wall Street!
With the working class in every city and state facing budget cuts, the unions should mobilize a national campaign of struggle to stop the attacks on the working class. We need to demand that the federal government stop handing trillions to Wall Street in bailout money, and instead Nationalize the Banks without giving a penny to their owners. And we need to demand policies that really address the urgent needs of the working class, like massive Public Works to provide Jobs for All!
A striking example of union leaders getting in bed with management can be seen in the case of healthcare workers’ union SEIU1199. Not for the first time, 1199 delegates were recently subjected to the appearance of their own bosses on the stage of the Emergency Delegate Assembly called to organize today’s protest. The reason is that 1199’s campaign promises to win more taxpayers’ money for the bosses’ hospitals and nursing homes! Those same bosses will continue to under-serve and over-charge patients and won’t hesitate to try to screw the workers in the next contract negotiations. But health care workers will be much less prepared to fight back thanks to their union leaders’ collaboration with management.
Meanwhile, two hospitals in Queens have just been closed after their private owner filed for bankruptcy. The 1199 leaders could have organized occupations of the hospitals and rallied broad working-class support. Instead, they organized a few relatively small protests in Queens and Albany before allowing the closings to go ahead, at the cost of 2,500 jobs and the loss of vital health care services for the borough.
Quality healthcare will always be out of reach for the working class for as long as the healthcare system is dominated by capitalist profiteering. The real answer to the health care crisis for both workers and patients is to fight to nationalize health care, without a penny’s compensation to the bosses. Free, Quality, Nationalized Health Care for All!
The bureaucrats who sit atop the unions see no alternative to the capitalist system, and therefore accept that in the face of budget crises and falling profits, the working class must sacrifice. This is not simply the result of a lack of imagination: the bureaucrats enjoy privileged positions as brokers between the workers and the capitalists. So they seek to balance the capitalists’ need for profits with their own need to keep control of the workers and prevent upsurges of militancy from throwing them out of office.
For decades they have avoided mobilizing mass struggles, insisting that the only way to advance working-class interests is by helping elect Democratic (and sometimes Republican) “friends of labor” politicians and then lobbying them for change. The result has been steadily falling wages, cuts in social services, lost jobs and a terrible weakening of the unions themselves.
Republicans are generally the preferred party of big business, but the Democratic Party is also a capitalist enemy of the working class. It has been used by the ruling class with great success to curb rising struggles of the workers and oppressed and enforce cutbacks and other anti-working class attacks that the Republicans could not get away with.
The example of New York Governor David Paterson should be the final proof that the union bureaucracy’s support for the Democrats is a dead end. For years he posed as a progressive reformer, and the unions backed his rise to power. Now he is threatening the working class with the greatest budget cuts in state history. But the election of Barack Obama as president has given the union bureaucrats’ strategy a new lease on life.
President Obama continues to enjoy tremendous popular support. Hopes are high that he will save the people from the worst effects of the economic crisis, oversee a new age of justice in the country, and end the U.S.’s bloody warmongering abroad. In a country built on racist oppression, Black people in particular have understandably celebrated his extraordinary ascent to the presidency.
As the economic crisis deepens, and the consequences for the working class mount, there will inevitably be rising demands for Obama to do more to address workers and poor people’s suffering. The effects of the economic crisis are already hitting people of color hardest, and it won’t be long before many are struck by the fact that America’s first Black President is presiding over an historic deterioration of conditions for the masses of Blacks and Latinos in particular.
The working class will have to overcome its illusions that Obama is on its side. Revolutionaries look forward to participating in struggles to put Obama to the test of demands that he address the working class’s needs. However, we make clear in advance that we believe Obama is as committed to enforcing the interests of the imperialist capitalist system as every other Democratic and Republican politician. His presidency will mean more war abroad and continued attacks on working-class living standards at home.
The disastrous presidency of George Bush, combined with Obama’s vague but eloquent promises of change, have won the new president great popularity. But the U.S. capitalist ruling class was also desperate for change, and their overwhelming financial and political support for Obama was key to his victory. Decisive sections of the ruling class knew they had to improve America’s image abroad or else risk facing massive anti-imperialist struggles, especially in the Middle East and Latin America. And with the economy teetering on the edge of collapse, many influential capitalists, saw in Obama the candidate best able to argue for sacrifice from the working class.
Since his election, Obama has quickly proven his loyalty to the interests of U.S. imperialism. From tacitly endorsing Israel’s massacre in Gaza, through his approval of murderous U.S. missile attacks on villages in Pakistan, to his escalation of the colonial occupation of Afghanistan and continued occupation of Iraq – the new president already has blood on his hands.
At home, Obama played a key role in rallying support for Bush’s $750 billion bailout of Wall Street, and since taking office he has rewarded the bankers and stock brokers who drove the economy into crisis with over a trillion dollars more in taxpayers’ money.
New York union leaders favorably compare Obama’s budget spending on education and health care to the governor and mayor’s proposed cuts. But Obama’s funding of health care and education amounts to only a fraction of what is being cut. While Obama has bailed out Wall Street, he has left states and cities on the verge of bankruptcy, leaving it to local politicians to do the dirty work of budget cuts, layoffs and anti-worker contract negotiations with unions.
But even this state of affairs will not last. After running up the national debt through one bailout after another, Obama is promising to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term in office. His top economic advisers are already telling the press that one of the ways they plan on doing this is by groundbreaking attacks on Social Security as well as other attacks on working-class living standards.
The current economic crisis is not going away. It is not simply the result of corporate greed or corruption or bad decisions by politicians, though there continues to be plenty of such outrages. Nor is the crisis just a regular downturn in the business cycle, to soon be followed by an upturn. It is the unavoidable result of the very nature of the capitalist system.
Bankers and stock brokers were forced to drive down worker’s wages, expand their financial speculation and amass enormous debts because their real rate of profit-making at the heart of world’s industrial economy has been stagnating for decades. As the profit crisis grew, its first victims were the masses of the Third World, who suffered terribly in the debt crises of the 1970’s and ’80’s. The crisis then brought down the Stalinist state-run capitalist economies of Russia and Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s and early ’90’s. Now the same crisis has broken out in the U.S. and the world’s other great economic powers. Obama’s bailouts can at best only delay an inevitable collapse into depression.
The system’s profits come from the exploitation of the working class. Only a dramatic intensification of exploitation can help revive capitalist profits. And the system needs a depression to wipe out weaker capitalists and restore the fortunes of the most powerful. Only more violently repressive, dictatorial forms of rule will be able to enforce such conditions on the masses.
Capitalism only survived its last great crisis in the 1930’s thanks to depression, fascist and Stalinist counterrevolution, and a world war that claimed the lives of millions. Capitalism threatens the same again unless it is stopped. This time, humanity’s very survival is at stake.
For thousands of years, society has been divided into classes of exploited and oppressed masses on the one hand, and an exploiting, ruling minority on the other. This was unavoidable because only a relatively small surplus of the goods that people needed could be produced, and ruling classes wielded power based on their control of that wealth. The ruins of ancient civilizations tell the story of those doomed societies.
Capitalism, however, has brought into being for the first time in history the productive powers of technology and trade that make possible the production of an abundance of every human need. It is finally possible to bring an end to the war of all against all over scarce resources. A classless society of freedom and plenty, a communist society of peace and cooperation, can be made a reality.
The trouble is that the enormous productive capacity of the world economy is restricted by private ownership and profit. Further, the capitalists have organized armies of cops and soldiers to defend their property and maintain their rule. They will not give up their power peacefully. It will take revolutions to overthrow them.
However the capitalists have also brought into being the class capable of overthrowing them: the working class. The working class has no interest in capitalism’s continued existence and every interest in overthrowing it. Drawn from across the globe into cooperative labor in the factories and workplaces of the world, the working class can unite against its rulers through collective organization and struggle. While it does not seem obvious today, the experience of capitalist exploitation and the struggle against it will over time drive the working class to embrace the revolutionary communist political perspective that explains their interests and charts its course to freedom.
The ruling class does its best to divide the working class with racism and nationalism, sexism, homophobia and religious bigotry. They concede privileges to some workers in order to maintain their rule over all. But the working class has a fundamental interest in uniting against such divisions. And the most oppressed and exploited sections of the working class will play a leading role in showing how to fight the system.
What is most important today is that the most class-conscious, revolutionary-minded workers build a revolutionary party that can offer leadership to its fellow workers in their immediate struggles against the capitalists’ attacks, while pointing to the only solution to the crisis: workers’ socialist revolution. The League for the Revolutionary Party is dedicated to the task of organizing and educating the most militant, revolutionary-minded workers and youth as political leaders of their class. We urge all those interested to contact us and discuss these issues more.
The working class is just beginning to face the terrible consequences of the economic crisis. But as always in such times, young people are feeling the crisis most sharply.
Workers fear for their jobs above all else and want to protect the living standards of themselves and their families; but many young people fear for the future in an even broader sense.
We were told that if we studied hard and stayed out of trouble, we could make decent lives for ourselves. Are these promises proving to be lies? The lives of our parents haven’t been easy, so what hope is there for us? After high school, or for a lucky few, after college, will there be any jobs to take? What sort of world do we find ourselves in? One endlessly torn by war and economic depression?
As the entire working class tries to come to terms with the crisis, questions like these, as well as young people’s undefeated sense of rebellion, are the keys to the future.
The bitter truth is that the current economic crisis is not going away. Capitalism is plunging toward depression. It offers the world nothing but worse poverty and exploitation, racist and anti-immigrant oppression and bloody imperialist war.
The capitalists’ attempts to make the working class pay for their economic crisis with mass layoffs and cuts to social services and wages will only intensify. All great economic crises have triggered massive working-class struggles. This crisis will be no different. The working class will have no choice but to fight back with massive struggles.
In these struggles, young people will play a key role, as they have in the past. Some workers may at first hesitate to fight back for fear of losing more if they do so. But young people have less holding them back, and their rebellions can help lead the rest of the working class in a struggle to save humanity from the horrors of life under capitalism.
The first great rebellion of this world economic crisis broke out in Greece. There, the killing of a 15 year old boy by police on the streets of Athens (police brutality is a worldwide problem) triggered massive protests by young people. In the context of an economic crisis that was dooming them to a miserable future of low-wage, part-time work or unemployment and poverty, the youth sensed that the police are there to keep them in their place. They occupied schools and colleges in defiance of their administrators. Demonstrations of tens of thousands grew into riotous rebellions. Protesters fought the police in the streets for a month.
However the struggle in Greece exposed the working class’s crisis of leadership. Older workers sympathized with the youth rebellion. Many wanted the working class to join it in a broader struggle. But the leaders of the trade unions and left-wing parties were committed to working within the capitalist system. These bureaucrats feared that if the working class united with the youth, a potentially revolutionary struggle could develop. The trade union leaders limited a planned general strike to no more than a day, and otherwise prevented the working class from joining the youth rebellion.
The problem was that there was no alternative political leadership in the working class that could throw the reformist leaders aside and take the struggle forward. As a result, the mass struggles eventually died down.
The working class in the United States faces a similar crisis of leadership. The leaders of the unions also seek to limit working-class struggles to what the system can afford. They work to prevent the working class from fighting for its interests by insisting on support for the system’s other capitalist party, the Democrats.
The working class needs a political leadership that won’t restrain struggles to what the system can afford because it is dedicated to its overthrow: a revolutionary socialist party leadership.
As the economic crisis of capitalism deepens and the working class regains a sense of its tremendous power in struggle, it will question and test the possibilities of reforming the system. Growing numbers of workers will become open to socialists’ arguments for revolution. But to do so, workers will have to throw off old ideas and habits.
Young workers, however, are not burdened by the dead weight of long-held ideas and will more readily embrace the revolutionary perspective. They can thus play a crucial role in building the new revolutionary political leadership the working class needs. To do so they will have to combine their rebelliousness and ongoing struggles with a study of the political theory that explains the crisis of capitalism and the socialist solution, Marxism. The League for the Revolutionary Party is dedicated to doing all that it can to help these efforts, and we urge all interested workers and youth to contact us. There isn’t a moment to waste!