The pace of events continues to accelerate. You can feel it in the air ‑ there is a rumbling beneath the surface of American society, and it is clear that sooner rather than later, all the pent up pressure and frustration will burst onto the surface. Most people do not learn from books: they must go through the school of hard knocks called capitalism. It is their own experience of the insecurity, injustice, and decaying chaos of capitalist society that finally forces them to realize that its existence and the existence of humanity are no longer compatible. In the coming decades, the fate of humanity will be decided one way or another: socialism or barbarism.
The U.S. is rapidly losing its already tenuous grip on the world, and the long-oppressed people of Latin America are at the forefront of the struggle to overthrow centuries of imperialist exploitation. In this issue of Socialist Appeal we pay special attention to recent developments in this region, namely the elections in Bolivia and Venezuela. Although each reflects a different stage of the revolutionary process, they form part of a bigger picture: the Latin American Revolution. This represents a mortal threat to the entire capitalist system.
Revolutions do not respect borders. The danger of events south of the Rio Grande spilling across into the U.S. is one of the main reasons for the recent spate of reactionary anti-immigration pronouncements and proposed laws. Under the guise of the “war on terror”, they are preparing public opinion for the repression and deportation of the most revolutionary layers of this massive and dispossessed population. The working class must stand united against these attacks on our rights and freedoms, against all forms of discrimination, and against the bosses’ “divide and conquer” policies.
Working people need to stick together in face of the all-out assault on our rights, wages, conditions, and dignity. The conduct of the MTA, the city and state of New York, the corporate media, and the union “mis-leadership” during the aborted TWU strike in New York City made this crystal clear. Under pressure from the rank and file, New York’s Transit Workers’ Union Local 100s called a strike involving over 33,000 workers and brought the nation’s largest transit system to a halt.
The bosses, with the full support of the billionaires-club government, have launched an all-out assault on the trade unions (at Northwest Airlines, General Motors, Delphi, Ford, etc.), and hope to use this attack against the TWU as a battering ram against the entire labor movement.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which ended the year with a $1,000,000,000 surplus, claimed it had no money to meet the workers’ entirely reasonable demands. Once again we were told that while profits skyrocket, the workers that created that wealth must tighten their belts. The strike revealed clearly the chasm that exists between working people on the one hand, and the bosses and their state on the other. Declaring it an “illegal” strike, the authorities threatened stiff fines, court actions, and layoffs. If this is a “free” country, how can these workers be forced to work? It is clear that the bosses want to invalidate the unions’ fundamental right to bargain collectively.
As usual, the Democratic Party played a pernicious role during the dispute, as they have on the question of the Iraq War and the entire conduct of the Bush Administration. A complete break from this degenerate and rotten party is in order. They cannot serve both working people and their corporate masters. Now, more than ever, we need a party by and for working people.
Despite the media’s hysterical shrieking, millions of workers supported the strike, despite the inconvenience. They understand instinctively that these workers were standing up against forces that are affecting us all. The potential for a transformative breakthrough on the labor front was there. Unfortunately, the union leadership caved under the pressure, and sent its members back to work without a contract, thereby dramatically reducing their bargaining power and eroding their confidence.
Now, although pension benefits have been left alone, union members have lost even more in the form of higher health care costs and lower wage rises. Millions of dollars in draconian fines still hang over the heads of the strikers, and many TWU members are justifiably embittered and outraged by their leadership’s conduct during the strike.
Nonetheless, the short-lived strike showed the colossal potential power of working people when they unite. Not a wheel turns, not a light shines without the working class! It also highlights the tremendous amount of energy that will be required to break through the resistance of the bosses, the government, and the trade union leadership. By taking the unions on one at a time, they hope to avoid a direct confrontation with the class as a whole. So far, their tactic has worked. But sooner or later, there will be a breakthrough and when it happens it will mark an explosive change in the situation ‑ a revolutionary situation. In this issue, we also look at the extremely important development of the UAW “Soldiers of Solidarity”. All support to the Soldiers of Solidarity in their struggle against the predatory automakers: militant action based from the rank and file is the way forward!
As for President Bush, his approval is mired in controversy and discontent: an unpopular war, corruption scandals, post-Katrina bungling, domestic spying, and a clear lack of direction. He is already becoming a lame duck president, with 3 years left in his 2nd term. As we’ve explained in the past, with colossal arrogance come colossal mistakes, and it seems he and his clique may have finally gone too far. What little political capital he may have had has long since been used up.
The state of the economy is a major contributor to this general feeling of discontent. First time jobless claims are on the rise, and existing home sales continue to fall, with the number of houses on the market at the highest level since 1986. Indebtedness remains at unimaginable levels, and the danger of a bursting housing bubble increases every day. This is the reality of life under capitalism in the world’s wealthiest nation. For the overwhelming majority of humanity, things are even worse. Enough is enough! 2006 is the year to start turning things around. Great events are on the horizon, and with them, many opportunities to build the forces of revolutionary Marxism in the U.S. and internationally. Join the WIL in the struggle for a better world.