Sunday, July 5, 2020

Proletarians of All Countries, Unite! • The Emancipation of the Working Class Must and Can Only be Conquered by the Workers Themselves!

Iran Revolutionary Guard Chief Assassinated; U.S. Soldiers Deployed; Retaliation Expected

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division prepare for rapid deployment to Iraq following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. (AFP/Getty)

THE ASSASSINATION OF General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, the elite overseas unit of the IRGC, has brought tensions in the volatile region to a breaking point.

The January 3 execution took place shortly after Soleimani arrived at Baghdad International Airport from Lebanon and met with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, second in command of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Shi’a-based militias attached to the Iraqi Armed Forces. The two men, along with a small entourage, left together. On their way to their destination, they were killed by four Hellfire missiles fired from two separate Reaper drones.

The assassination, a clear act of war, was allegedly in response to the December 31 partial occupation of the U.S. embassy complex by Iraqi Shi’as, including elements of the PMF. That, in turn, was in response to U.S. airstrikes against the Kata’ib Hizb’allah militia, a part of the PMF, in Iraq and Syria.

Donald Trump (CNN screen capture)

Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago resort retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., President Donald Trump insisted that the assassination of Soleimani was somehow an act of insuring peace. “We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump told his sycophantic audience. “We did not take action to start a war.” He continued by painting Soleimani as “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world” who was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks.” In fact, far from stopping a conflict from breaking out, Trump’s successful assassination plot has accelerated the push toward another war — possibly the prelude to a world war.

In response to the murder of Soleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed “harsh revenge” against the U.S., while the Tehran government called the assassination “state terrorism” in a letter to the United Nations. One of Germany’s newspapers of record, Die Zeit, compared the killing of Soleimani to that of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which was the spark that set off the First World War. The governments of Russia and China, along with other states, called the act a willful violation of international law.

As we go to press, it is clear that some kind of retaliation by Iran is imminent. It is likely to be a direct military action by Tehran against U.S. interests inside Iraq, either inside Baghdad’s “Green Zone” or against one of the many military bases that house U.S. soldiers. What form it takes remains to be seen.

However, regardless of what comes next, it will only be the opening salvo in a drawn-out conflict that points toward an all-out war between rival imperialist cartels. Even if the coming retaliation by Iran is the last shot fired for some time, that period can only be seen as the calm before the next tempestuous outrage.

The showdown between rival cartels has been building for some time — indeed, since the end of the Cold War. Washington’s push for control of the Middle East oil spigot, beginning with the 1991 Gulf War, was part of an overall strategy to maintain U.S. dominance through military power while its economic position was eroding. By controlling the flow of oil to Europe, Japan and China, backed by a Navy and Air Force that can reach around the globe, Wall Street saw a chance to bend these countries’ productive powers to its will.

The overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003 opened the door for Iran to rise and begin reasserting itself as a regional power. It has strengthened its ties throughout the “Shi’a Crescent,” which stretches from far-western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, as well as with the Yemeni Houthis and Islamist groups like Hamas, while improving its alliances with Moscow and Beijing.

Tehran has emerged as a strong pole of opposition to both the U.S.-backed coalition led by Sa’udi Arabia, and to Washington’s long-standing ally, Israel. However, both Iran and its Shi’a-majority neighbor, Iraq, have been gripped recently by popular protests, as well as by occasional strikes and workers’ actions, over low wages, eroding living conditions and worsening corruption. Protests in both countries were brutally crushed. In Iraq, this bloody repression was carried out by Iranian-aligned Shi’a militias; Soleimani was its architect.

Iranians protest Washington’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, while Iran’s ruling classes prepare for a new war. (AFP/Getty)

As a result, Trump’s assassination of Soleimani needs to be seen in the larger context of inter-imperialist maneuvering. The attack was a signal not only to Iran but also to Russia and China that the U.S., in spite of all its talk of achieving “energy independence,” intends to continue having a dominant presence in the region. In reality, the U.S. still depends on Middle East oil, for stability in world prices, for emergency production and for keeping its Gulf Coast refineries operating. Therefore, it will not concede one inch to regional or world rivals.

The central importance of those three factors in keeping Wall Street from entering into an economic tailspin, as well as the aforementioned control of oil flow to their rivals, makes the threat of full-scale war, including a third world war, very high.

Workers — in the U.S., in Iran, anywhere — have no side in the wars of this decadent imperialist epoch. Through world capitalist production and its market, states are grouped into cartels under the dominance of one or more great powers. Even the smallest, weakest country stands somewhere on the imperialist ladder, under the protection of a master.

Even those reactionary states that posture as “anti-imperialist” or even “anti-capitalist” hold a place in the cartel system, with their rhetoric only serving to thinly mask their own appetites — propaganda for the hungry fool.

However, while we have no side, we do not stand neutral or indifferent to war. Communists fight for workers to resist the ruling classes’ drive for war through its own actions and self-organization aimed to bring about the defeat of “our own” exploiting classes through transforming imperialist war into class war.

Concretely, this means advocating and fighting for strikes, occupations and secondary boycotts (“hot cargoing”) to prevent the movement of troops and materials, as well as mass strikes and actions to shut down production and paralyze the exploiters’ ability to make war, not just in the U.S., but internationally, in all the belligerent and profiteering states.

A coordinated internationalist strategy, based on a communist program, that can draw together the nucleus of a proletarian communist international. This how the working class can begin to put an end the threat of war.

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Outcome of French Workers’ Struggle against So-Called ‘Pension Reform’ a Critical Moment in World Class Struggle

Workers in Paris join a night protest against Macron’s so-called “Pension Reform.” (AP)

AFTER A MONTH of mass strikes, mass protests and pitched battles with the cops in the streets, French workers are at a crossroads. Whatever happens next in this struggle will have long-lasting effects, not only for the working class of France, but for workers around the world.

The current series of battles began on December 5 with strikes and mass protests against efforts by the government to “reform” the pension system and reduce the living standards of all workers. The “reform” would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and would switch the calculation of pensions to a “points” system that would see retirement payouts fall on average between 20 and 30 percent — not only for future retirees, but also for current ones.

Working women and those with unstable employment will be hardest hit, as the new scheme does not account for the effects of short-term layoffs, job staggering, family care and wage inequality.

More than 1.5 million workers marched and went on strike throughout France on this “day of action” called by the unions. Rail traffic and mass transit came to a virtual halt as workers joined the protests. Seven of the country’s eight oil refineries were shut down. More than one-third of government workers and half of all teachers joined the marches and went on strike. Strikes by airport workers, especially air traffic controllers, closed most of the country’s largest airports. Truck drivers set up 15 blockades on the major highways.

Five days later, another 880,000 participated in marches across the country, including students and hospital workers, as well as a large contingent of “Yellow Vests.” Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe stated that he would push through the pension reforms despite opposition.

Shortly after the protests on Dec. 10 and Phillipe’s statement, the unions called a second “day of action” for a week later. In the days preceding this next mass protest, more strikes were called. The main ports of Marseilles and Le Havre closed, as did the eighth oil refinery. Electrical power workers also downed tools, causing rolling blackouts.

Nearly 2 million workers went on strike and marched during the Dec. 17 “day of action,” with increased participation by transport and educational workers. Only the day before, the minister in charge of implementing Macron’s “pension reform” was forced to resign after it was revealed he was receiving money from private pension insurance corporations in exchange for his services.

Striking workers and young people march during the massive Dec. 17 day of action protests in Lyon, France. (AP)

Since that time, strikes among rail and mass transit workers continue, as do local and regional protests, as Macron and Phillipe continue to move ahead with implementing their “pension reform.”

When he came to power in the summer of 2017, Macron vowed to continue the work of his predecessors, conservative Jacques Chirac and social democrat François Hollande, by continuing to dismantle the labor laws established after the Second World War and crushing the ability of workers to organize and fight against the exploiting classes.

Through a succession of presidential decrees (Ordonnances) imposed in the name of “EU directives” — directives usually drafted by France and Germany — Macron has changed key sections of the labor law to meet the demands of French capital, backing it up with brutal police repression. Indeed, the wave of violence against workers in France is the worst since the Vichy regime during the 1940-1944 Nazi occupation of the country, including the authorization to use live ammunition against the “Yellow Vest” protesters last March.

During the last month of workers’ actions, the violence has only intensified, with recently-retired Army Chief of Staff (and likely future presidential candidate) General Pierre de Villiers declaring on RTL radio: “A gulf has emerged between those who lead and those who obey. This gulf is profound. The ‘yellow vests’ were already a first sign of this…. We must restore order; things cannot continue this way.” The message is clear: The exploiters and their state will, if necessary, drown the French working class in blood in order to defeat them!

Into the middle of this rising workers’ militancy being met with increasing police repression has stepped the unions, with one single mission … to negotiate the workers’ surrender to Macron!

From the beginning, the unions in France have done nearly everything in their power to limit, isolate and sabotage the strikes. Even before the December actions began, the unions attempted to negotiate a “grandfather clause” in Macron’s “reform,” creating a permanent two-tier retirement system and sacrificing younger workers. When workers started staging wildcat strikes and protests against “pension reform,” the unions stepped in to stop them. In fact, the unions themselves are divided, with two of the federations, the corporatist CFDT and UNSA, not opposing Macron’s plans.

Throughout December, the union leaders made regular pilgrimage to the prime minister’s residence to plead for a crumb from the master’s table, only to find none offered. Thus, while the “left” unions meet as the Intersyndicale to figure out the best way to fully capitulate to Macron while maintaining control of their memberships, they all present a united front against the workers, pushing off any future “days of action” — in fact, any action — to a time and place when it will no longer matter and the momentum of struggle has been lost.

The fact is that there is nothing to negotiate with Macron-Philippe, the ruling classes or their state. The central task for French workers now is to continue the strikes and protests, not as impotent “days of action,” but as daily struggle that builds self-organization and coordination, that unites the current general assemblies, along with strike assemblies and general struggle groups, into workers’ committees and assemblies of action that include workers, both public and private, takes control of the movement out of the hands of the treacherous unions, and can organize effective self-defense.

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How a Viral Cultural Outburst Defines the Anger of the Younger Generations by Erasing the History of the Older Ones

The following is the product of a series of discussions among members and supporters of the Workers’ Group on the cultural phenomenon known as “OK Boomer.” The purpose of these conversations was to understand not only the motivations behind the phrase, but also the social contradictions that allowed it to become so widespread. A more comprehensive document, addressing the broader social, political, and cultural questions surrounding the use of this phrase, will appear in the next (Summer 2020) issue of our theoretical and discussion journal, Class Line.

WHEN TALKING ABOUT the reasons behind the “OK Boomer” phenomenon, it is important to start with a general historical context. In this case, we will need to start with the general cultural tendency of inter-generational conflict and tension.

Generations, as we know them, are a capitalist creation. Each generation roughly coincides with a necessary change in the way that the mode of production interacts with society as a whole, with common experiences tied directly to the ebb and flow of capitalist society. This in turn reflects changes in production and exchange designed to meet the general needs of capitalism that arise when a new wave of both exploiters and exploited appear.

Culturally, this development, this shift in focus, fosters secondary antagonisms toward newer generations among the exploiters. This happens because the concrete by-products of generational development are lower profits and the need to invest capital to remain competitive. Through bourgeois ideology, these antagonisms filter down into all classes as a kind of ritual hazing that is reproduced with every new generation. Thus, every generation faces these antagonisms and every generation, as it matures, will reproduce and use them.

This typecasting aids capitalism by creating specialized, niche markets that cater to one group of people, and by reinforcing other antagonisms the exploiting classes use for maintenance and intensification of their rule.

As capitalism continues its decay, this antagonism has taken on a special malignancy, with each succeeding generation having a sharper and more destructive experience.

It was inevitable that this intensified antagonism — e.g., “Millennials are killing [fill in the blank]” — would lead to a backlash. This is especially true since, as it became more hostile and unacceptable, few spoke up to denounce it. Hence, “OK Boomer,” an equally unhealthy and unacceptable response — but also understandable, given the conditions.

Ironically, even though Millennials are regarded in the media as the creators of “OK Boomer,” it did not, in fact, come from them. According to the publicly known, agreed-upon history, it was a pair of Generation Xers that invented the phrase and released it on the Internet. And yet, Millennials take the heat for that, too! Is it any wonder why younger generations are so salty and angry that they would resort to using such a phrase so much?


COMPARED TO MANY of the slurs older generations hurl at the younger ones, “OK Boomer” is a relatively tame response. Why then should we care so much about its use, especially since, like all such responses, it is likely to fade away over time?

Some advocates of the use of “OK Boomer” argue that it is not intended as an attack based on generations. Rather, they argue, it is based on a particular worldview that predominates in the Baby Boomer generation: privileged, arrogant and conservative. According to this argument, a 20-year-old who demonstrated such a viewpoint would receive an “OK Boomer” just as easily as a 60-year-old.

This argument, however, contains its own refutation. By stereotyping the Baby Boomer view in this way, by generalizing the views of some as the views of all, it reveals itself as a discriminatory attack on that generation.

Stereotypes by their very nature are inaccurate. And it is the inaccuracies of the “OK Boomer” stereotype that make it dangerous, not to the older generations, but to the younger ones. By generalizing the Baby Boomers as a bulwark of reaction, “OK Boomer” erases an entire generation of militants from history.

The ideology behind “OK Boomer” looks to erase any awareness of the struggles waged by that generation, especially those by workers, such as the 1968 strike at San Francisco State University.

Far from the stereotyped perceptions of Baby Boomers currently being promoted, it was this generation that threw itself into the fight against war, both in the streets and within the ranks of the military. It was the generation that fought racism, segregation and police repression (Civil Rights Movement; Black Panthers) — that fought sexism, sex discrimination on the job and social inequality — that fought homophobic bigotry and violence, often initiated by the cops (Stonewall Rebellion) — that fought rampant pollution, smog and environmental devastation.

It was the generation of workers that engaged in strikes, mass protests and wildcat actions over more than just “bread and butter issues;” strikes against the war in Indochina, against racism and against capitalist production itself were common. Some of these actions shook the very core of capitalism and, in a few cases, even directly challenged its rule.

However, with two words, these militants — some of whom gave up everything they had, including their lives, in the course of struggle — are completely erased from history.

The danger of erasing these people from history is greater for the younger generations than for the older ones. For those who know history, the similarities between the Baby Boomers and those generations struggling for social change today are uncanny. This is true both for the issues that are important to them, but also for the problems that surround the movements that they are building.

By erasing past generations from history, current generations are denied the ability to learn from their mistakes. By erasing their experiences and the lessons they offer, current generations are doomed to walk the same path, thus becoming what they now despise.

In recent years one of the most striking differences between older and newer generations has been a greater awakening of and reach toward class consciousness. Unlike generations of the past, influenced by the myth of the Great American Classless Society™, the younger generations began to show an increasing awareness of class and its importance. For this reason, the ruling classes needed something that could erase the lessons of past struggles (the most important of which was the role of classes and the class struggle). “OK Boomer” serves this need perfectly.

The material privileges enjoyed by the Baby Boomer generation were a direct consequence of the mass slaughter of tens of millions during World War II.

As for the privileges enjoyed by the Baby Boomers, they didn’t magically develop. They were a result of the military victory of the imperialist Allies in World War II. Tens of millions of workers were killed or maimed to secure dominance of Washington and Wall Street over its great power rivals. Part of that was pacifying workers (and their new families) with bribes: cheap housing, free or low-cost education, jobs with decent wages, and so on.

Thus, it can be rightly said that part of the rationale behind “OK Boomer” is an unconsciously reactionary desire to replicate the conditions following WWII — i.e., U.S. domination through the slaughter of millions — for the benefit of the younger generations.

As we mentioned above, this question raises many more issues that we cannot explore in the space available here. The next issue of Class Line will carry a more detailed analysis, as well as supplementary articles.

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Real Motivations for Removing Trump Exposed as Impeachment Hearings Go Public

Is … Is this a defense? A demand? A delusion? An ultimatum? A cry for help?

AS WE GO TO PRESS, the first round of public impeachment hearings in committees of the House of Representatives are coming to an end. The second round of hearings, which are expected to last until mid-December, will likely end with formal impeachment charges voted on by the House.

It has been a little over a month since the House voted to proceed with an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, ostensibly over his role in holding back hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine.

In return for releasing the aid, Trump sought information that could discredit his likely Democratic challenger in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden, specifically about Biden’s son, Hunter, who held a lucrative $50,000-a-month position on the board of directors of Burisma, the country’s largest natural gas and oil extraction company, since 2014.

While this may legitimately raise some eyebrows, it is hardly unusual. Capitalism regularly makes use of quid pro quo, sweetheart deals and behind-the-scenes maneuvering as part of its day-to-day functioning. Much more revealing, though, is how the exploiting classes moved past the attempted quid pro quo, focusing on the specific quid that was offered in exchange for the quo.

What gored the exploiting classes’ ox? It was not Trump’s sleazy effort to dig up some dirt on Biden. If it was, the Democrats wouldn’t be fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the former vice president and his son completely out of the process. In fact, the quid pro quo itself is not even an issue, insofar as it being seen as a breach of ethics or violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Democrat Adam Schiff (left) and Republican Devin Nunes, leading members of the House Intelligence Committee involved in the impeachment hearings.

It only factors in due to what Trump was holding back as part of his side of the deal: $390 million in lethal military aid to Ukraine. Almost six years ago, in January 2014, the U.S. bankrolled a coup in Ukraine to the tune of $5 billion. Using neo-Nazis as shock troopers, the goal of this coup was to secure a strategically-vital region on the southern flank of the Russian Federation that could be used as a base of operations by the U.S. and NATO in the event that a new cold war ever turned hot.

But, for the last five years, the war has been hot, with Ukrainian soldiers fighting pro-Russian militias and, quite likely, Russian “volunteer” military units in the Donbass region. The last two years of the Obama administration focused on reorienting the U.S. from fighting the “war on terror” to preparing for inter-imperialist Great Power conflicts, such as war with Russia or China.

This preparation continued into the Trump administration. However, conflict soon broke out between the White House and the state apparatus over whether Russia or China was the bigger threat. For the state (the military, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.), it was unquestionably Russia. And any show of friendship toward Russia or its leaders was seen as weakness and tantamount to treason.

This has been the basis of the last three years of anti-Russia hysteria from the Democratic Party and its mouthpieces, from the accusations of interference in the 2016 elections to the Mueller report to now. Desperate to regain power in Washington and finish the job started by Obama, the Democrats have aligned themselves with the state apparatus to see to it that Washington is returned to the road to war against Moscow — a road to the next world war.

The end result is that the impeachment hearings have been initiated and pushed forward on perhaps the most thoroughly reactionary basis possible.

The state apparatus steps forward: Career diplomat Jennifer Williams (left) and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

The so-called “choice” being offered by the U.S. exploiting classes is either side with Trump and his radical reactionaries, and excuse or even accept the numerous crimes against human decency he and his faction of the exploiters have committed, or side with the state apparatus and Democrats, and sign off on a renewed war posture against Russia that can only end in a nuclear moment.

In our view, that is not a choice. That is a mortal threat to all of humanity.

It is time for the working class, not just in the U.S. but around the world, to stand up and put an end to this madness, to organize ourselves as a class, to build the organs we need to wage an effective and successful fight, especially an international proletarian communist party, to liberate ourselves from capitalism.

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As Populism Surges among Democrats, the Ruling Classes Step Up Their Efforts to Maintain Ideological Dominance

The leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for president after the fourth televised debate last October.

THE 2020 PRIMARIES and caucuses for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president begin in less than two months, and the state of the campaigns, particularly the ongoing success of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, continue to vex the party leadership and the faction of the exploiting classes supporting it.

This surge in left populism among Democrats, on a scale not seen since the days of William Jennings Bryan at the end of the 19th century, has led to all kinds of efforts to cut this movement off at the knees: whisper campaigns, media falsifications, social media hatchet jobs, intra-party bureaucratic maneuvering, almost endless talking-head gossip.

The big bogeyman, according to the Democratic leaders and their Wall Street masters, is “socialism.” It it also Trump’s favorite specter. While each side uses it for their own ends, the convergence on this line of argument should give pause.

Nevertheless, large sections of the Democratic Party base continue to cast their lot (in lieu of their vote) with the populists — either the one who is using vague socialist phraseology (Sanders), or the one who is not (Warren) — forcing the exploiters to take stronger measures to maintain dominance.

Of course, the point of their stepped-up intervention is not to engage in a great “battle of ideas” with the populists, but to close down the thinking process entirely, to narrow down the differences in opinion and solution, and restore “normalcy.”

This is why the last six months have seen numerous Democratic “superstars,” up to and including former President Barack Obama, offer up warnings to the party about “crazy stuff” like extending Medicare to all, or that the “moderate” Democrats, independents and “moderate Republicans” [sic!] “are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds … or the activist wing of our party.”

And if it’s not Obama, then it’s someone like liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz pleading with the Democratic base, saying “don’t go socialist,” because Trump might use that in the election (as if accusing Democrats of being socialists is something never done before by the Republicans).

Certainly, someone can look at all this and simply declare it to be part of the latest temper tantrum by Wall Street. And they would not necessarily be wrong. But there is something deeper, something more institutional to these attacks.

It was revealed to a large extent by one of Obama’s comments at the Democracy Alliance donor gathering in Washington, D.C., last month.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Obama told the crowd. “They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

This world view, also expressed in the famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” is properly known as the ideology of Whigism.

Those of you who remember your U.S. (or British) history class from school may recall hearing about the Whigs. Your teachers were referring to the political parties, which is different than Whig ideology and historiography. Whigism as an ideology is the view that human history and society is made up of a long series of incremental improvements that come together into an inexorable march toward liberty, progress and enlightenment.

While the Whigs as a political movement in the U.S. only lasted about 24 years before shattering into several factions (some of which helped to form the new Republican Party in 1856), Whigism increasingly became a dominant bourgeois ideology, especially when there was a need to defend against other world views that could destabilize
the exploiters’ order. Indeed, Whigism in America was born out of the 1832 fight against the populism of Democratic President Andrew Jackson.

For nearly two centuries, Whigism has occupied a leading position in the ideologies motivating bourgeois politics and elections. That is, until now.

For the first time in 188 years, there is a real chance that neither of the candidates of the two major parties in the U.S. will carry forward the ideology of Whigism. To make matters worse, in the eyes of the ruling exploiters, both parties’ standard bearers could be avowed and unapologetic populists.

Hedge (funding) their bets: Just to be sure that the Democratic Party fulfills its role for Wall Street and the ruling exploiters, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has made an offer to buy the presidential nomination outright.

The lack of a viable candidate standing as the torchbearer of Whigism has pushed the exploiting class toward undertaking extreme measures. (Former Vice President Joe Biden is apparently looked upon as a “Mr. Magoo” candidate who is expected to crash any time.) Enter Michael Bloomberg.

The billionaire financial services and media magnate, and former mayor of New York City, has jumped into the race specifically to counter the two populists, as well as offer a more stable “moderate” option for the exploiters to support. Bloomberg’s $37 million ad buy at the end of November was one of the largest single purchases in electoral history, especially for a primary contest. It was aimed specifically at undermining the progress made by Sanders and Warren in promoting their platforms.

In fact, looking at the strategy Bloomberg is employing, it is clear that he is conducting a campaign to ensure that the party never again falls out of Wall Street’s hands. His focus on Super Tuesday is designed to collect enough delegates to deny any candidate a majority at the Democratic National Convention next July, giving him and his fellow exploiters a veto over who will be chosen.

In the end, there’s very little that Democratic primary voters can do about this situation. In a period where the Democrats’ only real slogans are, “Anybody But Trump,” and, “Vote Blue, No Matter Who,” the rise of a slightly-more coherent and colorless version of Trump to be the party’s standard-bearer should come as a surprise to no one.

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The Humiliating Defeat of GM Workers Offers Many Lessons about Today’s Trade Unions and Tomorrow’s Labor Struggles

As we go to press, it has been announced that a tentative agreement has been reached between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler, effectively ending 2019 contract negotiations. Moreover, it has been reported that Gary Jones has resigned his position as UAW president, in an effort to avoid being removed and stripped of his pension. Look in future issues of Workers’ Path to Power for analysis on these and other important developments.

The Problem with Reforming Unions

WHEN A STRIKE ends, especially in defeat, talk inevitably turns to the future and what needs to be done. Discussion focuses on how to ensure that the failures, the betrayals and the defeats become a thing of the past. The starting (and, often, ending) point of these talks is union reform.

For almost as long as there have been unions, there have been calls for union reform. In this respect, union reform was a part of unionism itself, not a challenge to it. The reformers were there as a kind of steam valve that could be utilized to release the pressure and stresses that workers felt as a result of the unions submitting to the demands of capital.

Union reform movements continue to play this role today. They allow workers to vent the feelings of anger, frustration and betrayal they develop during the course of a defeated strike in a manner that, in the final analysis, does not challenge the unions themselves or even the bureaucratic officials running them. Indeed, these reform movements don’t even cause the bureaucratic officials enough consternation to interrupt their nightly rest.

(Some “official” reform movements, such as Teamsters for a Democratic Union, even provide a safety net for bureaucrats, giving them a path to redemption … and power).

Of course, there are reforms and there are reforms. Some might even package up their reforms as a kind of “revolution” in the union, or see the best road to reform through the switching out of one union with another. Whatever the form chosen, the content of the union and of unionism remains unchanged.

Nevertheless, we proletarian communists mustn’t be cynical when workers themselves call out for reform, even if we understand quite well that they do not resolve the fundamental problems of unions as labor contractors and mediators of the price of one’s ability to work.

We should always bear in mind that workers struggling with coming to an organic class consciousness are going to start with reform, since that is the only form of opposition with which they are familiar. At the same time, it is our responsibility to be honest with our fellow workers, to point out the sordid history of union reform, to work with them so they can analyze for themselves and understand why these movements are a dead end.

Central to this is explaining that no amount of reform can change the character of unions under capitalism as labor contractors and wage mediators. The labor laws adopted by the exploiting classes, especially throughout the 20th century, require unions to take on these roles and operate within the framework of capitalism. This was not so much a choice, but rather the price of legalization. If the unions did not accept, they would not receive legal protection or recognition by the state.

Union reformers and leftists appeal to the UAW and GM to keep the “Poletown” (Detroit-Hamtramck) assembly plant open. Reform elements simply refuse to recognize the role of the union as a mediator of the price of one’s ability to work, including the number of workers needed by the exploiters.

This is why unions, no matter how many reforms are enacted, how “militant” or “rank-and-file” the leadership is, or how sincere the pledges to fight for the membership, cannot act as organizations for the defense of workers’ rights and living standards beyond the most narrow of economic issues. This means that gains they might make today are under constant attack and will be reversed at the first opportunity. Moreover, many issues workers raise today, such as an end to mass precarity (e.g., making large sections of the workforce temporary), are increasingly political and require a measure of state intervention to maintain. Thus, unions won’t even seriously consider them as legitimate demands to advocate.

Unions capitulated to capital in order to become legal and their bureaucratic officials respectable. Meanwhile, workers were left to twist in the wind, subject to an intensified wage slavery and lacking any viable alternative.

Beyond Unions and Unionism

It is clear today, based on the lessons of the last century, that the existing unions and union models (corporatist/business, “rank-and-file,” “revolutionary”/syndicalist, and so on) have long since become obsolete as instruments for the workers’ class struggle, both in an historical and practical sense. No amount of reforms, “boring from within” or “capture of the summit” can change their basic character.

However, what is not obsolete is the desire for workplace organization. That basic impulse among workers to unite and defend their class interests, from the immediate to the historic — that impulse that once motivated the formation of the earliest unions, as well as other forms of workers’ organizing — is perhaps more important today than at any time in the past. Indeed, it is the self-organization of the class into its own bodies of struggle that drives the fight against capitalism today.

A glimpse of this kind of workers’ self-organization could be seen in the mass wildcat strikes of maquiladora autoworkers in Matamoros, Mexico, last February. Facing off against the bosses, the charro unions, the capitalist state and various NGO leftists who are tied to the AFL-CIO and the U.S. government, tens of thousands of workers organized to defend their own rights and livelihoods, building workers’ assemblies to organize, expand and coordinate strikes at over 85 auto parts factories around the central demands of a 20 percent raise and a 32,000 peso bonus.

After nearly two months of fighting, which slowed down (and, in some places, shut down) production in North America, the maquiladora workers won their demands. Moreover, they were joined in victory by others in the area, most notably teachers, who were able to win their own raises and bonuses.

But Matamoros is not an isolated incident. Over the last 50 years, in Europe, Asia and Latin America, some of the most intensive strikes have seen workers break with the unions, establishing strike committees, workers’ committees and assemblies as the means of waging their own fight for the well-being of themselves, their families and their class.

Striking autoworkers in Matamoros, Mexico, fighting against both the bosses and the unions, meet as a workers’ assembly to hear reports from the strike and coordinate their actions. Such bodies have surpassed unions as genuine organizations for defending workers’ rights and livelihoods.

In periods like today, where large class battles are few and far between, the rise of these mass class-struggle bodies are inevitably a temporary phenomenon. It is only when the class is in an ongoing state of open struggle — when strikes, occupations, mass strikes, etc., occur on an almost daily basis, such as when entering a revolutionary period — that these organs look like something more permanent.

(In a period of workers’ revolution and the victory of the workers’ republic, these bodies will assume a semi-permanent character as key bodies responsible for production.)

Nevertheless, other, smaller, class-struggle bodies may emerge in these periods, such as workers’ discussion circles or agitational struggle groups. These often emerge relatively spontaneously, without any kind of prodding or outside guidance. Working with and, to the extent it is possible and principled, within these bodies is key to intervening in our class to move beyond mere unions and unionism.

At the same time, proletarian communists can have both a complementary and parallel role to that of the discussion and struggle groups. For example, we can support, encourage and publicize the formation and work of such class-struggle bodies, not only through literature, such as articles and leaflets, but also through promoting engagement with these groups by their fellow workers, both inside and outside of the workplaces they cover.

That said, our role is not simply to be a passive tag-tail of the class struggle groups/assemblies, nor is it to substitute ourselves for them in any way. Rather, our role is to intervene in these bodies and movements on a conscious, organized political basis, directly connected to the proletarian communist organization as a fraction or section, with the goal of winning our fellow workers to the program for a workers’ republic and workers’ control of production.

This would be a two-fold mission. First, educating about the history and lessons of the class struggle, and how they apply to today’s and tomorrow’s battles, especially how even seemingly narrow economic conflicts have, at their root, an inescapable political character.

Second, our organized intervention would assist the class-struggle groups in avoiding the errors that would drag them on to the path of mere unionism. Often, demoralization due to a lack of struggle can pull these groups toward desperate attempts to hold on to its numbers and even its existence. History shows this only results in them transforming into unions and losing their overall class-struggle character.

Finally, we must realize that progress will move at the pace of the class struggle, not our own. We must be realistic in our intervention, be patient and prepare for the long haul.

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Indigenous workers march in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, against the reactionary coup.

BOLIVIA HAS BECOME the latest entry on the long and repetitive list of countries targeted by the Great Power cartels of imperialism in its drive to re-divide the resources of the world to their advantage. Since the initiation of the coup d’etat on November 10, which brought down the populist regime of Evo Morales, Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, continues to balance precariously on the brink of civil war.

While the immediate pretext for the coup was a series of contrived “anomalies” related to the October 20 general elections, mostly with the unofficial “quick-count” vote tally, tensions between the Morales government and the exploiting classes had been building up to a breaking point for years.

Riding a wave of working-class and poor-peasant opposition to resource privatization and superexploitation, Morales and his MAS (Movement Toward Socialism) party came to power in early 2006. Almost immediately, they set to work terminating some of the most egregious of the deals with international mining firms; while ultimately paying out nearly $2 billion in settlements, the actions nearly tripled the size of Bolivia’s economy, which allowed Morales to fund social welfare programs and improve the social position of large sections of the indigenous petty bourgeoisie.

As Marx so aptly pointed out almost 170 years ago, such “reforms” put in place by petty-bourgeois democrats, social democrats, populists, and the like, are little more than bribes, “a more or less disguised form of alms […] to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable.” As for the workers themselves, “one thing, above all, is definite: they are to remain wage labourers as before.” (Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, March 1850)

The termination of these agreements, and the transfer of a fraction of the associated wealth to social programs, drew the ire of world imperialism, primarily that of the U.S., Canada and the European Union. It should come as no surprise, then, that these Great Powers either aided or supported the coup, as well as the orgy of reactionary violence now on display in all the major cities of Bolivia.

The radical petty bourgeoisie was the motor-force driving the overthrow of Morales. Large sections of the class felt threatened by the shift away from lucrative (for them) partnerships with world capital, as well as by the inclusion of ever-larger sections of the indigenous population in the ranks of the exploiting classes. The attempt to expand the ruling classes to include those from indigenous groups — unheard of in the history of Bolivia — not only stirred up fears of proletarianization among the white/mestizo population, but also brought out racist, anti-indigenous sentiment combined with Christian theocratic bigotry.

This has set the stage for radical reactionaries, such as Luis “Macho” Camacho and his Santa Cruz Civic Committee (which have close ties to the fascist Falangist party), to act as the vanguard of reaction, leading attacks on working-class and indigenous neighborhoods, dragging people out of their houses and beating them. The military regularly flies bombers over these neighborhoods and police are using live ammunition and tear gas to break up any demonstrations that take place.

Meanwhile, the response of the Left has been that of pathetic prostration. Having been bound hand and foot to the capitalist state, the main trade unions and indigenous organizations have been able to muster little more than idle threats. They, and the so-called socialist and communist groups on the Left Wing of Capital, have acted as little more than a tag-tail for the spontaneous resistance that has arisen in indigenous areas like El Alto, just outside of the capital, La Paz. Their central political demand is for a bourgeois Constituent Assembly.

Evo Morales resigns as president of Bolivia, Nov. 10.

While it is certainly not unusual for imperialism to orchestrate “regime change” in states being exploited for their resources, it must be said that the overthrow of Morales represents something new. Bolivia is the subject of the first “green” coup of the 21st century. That is, the ouster of the MAS government was designed specifically to fulfill the needs of world imperialism to shift toward a more “eco-friendly” form of exploitation of the planet.

Bolivia claims the largest reserve of lithium in the world: up to 70 percent of the global supply. Lithium is to the imperialists’ “green new deals” what oil was to industrialization in the 20th century. Without it, the electrical storage and transmission technology needed for large-scale energy generation without fossil fuels is nearly impossible. The Morales government understood this and sought to have any deals to extract lithium be a co-venture with Bolivia’s domestic industry on an equal basis, as well as comply with the wishes of local (mostly indigenous) communities. While Chinese firms were willing to work with the Bolivian government to develop new ways to extract lithium and share profits, American and Canadian companies saw these as a direct impediment on the superexploitation of necessary resources in “their” hemisphere.

It is no wonder that the stock of both U.S.-based Tesla and Canada’s Pure Energy Minerals rose dramatically in the days following the coup. Both corporations stood to benefit substantially from the new regime holding power in La Paz.

For the workers in Bolivia, the path from resistance to power is twofold. First, the expanding and consolidating of the organs of resistance that have sprung up spontaneously in response to the coup. The popular assemblies of workers, peasants and poor people that arose within hours of the ouster of Morales to coordinate resistance and protests should be extended to every factory, mine, mill, shop, working-class neighborhood and city throughout the country. Together with the organization of workers’ self-defense groups, these bodies can serve as a center of workers’ organization and resistance in the wake of the failures and betrayals of the trade unions, indigenous community organizations and political parties that have been tied to the capitalist state and system. Moreover, they can demonstrate in action the central importance of organizing and maintaining the independence of the working class in the face of external class pressures, primarily coming from the MAS and their dependencies.

Second, there is an urgent need for our fellow workers in Bolivia to study carefully the lessons of the class struggle in order to begin to develop a proletarian communist program and party that can aid the working class in achieving its self-organization and self-emancipation from capitalism. Such a party, as part of a proletarian communist international, would be able to assist in preparing our class to fight in future battles with the exploiting classes, and to organize and take power in its own name.

This fight for the future must start today. The lessons of Bolivia’s “green” coup, the failures and betrayals of Morales’ MAS, the Left and the unions, and the role of workers’ self-organization, must be assimilated and fashioned into a weapon for the great class battles to come in the next period.

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Greta Thunberg, Climate Change and the ‘Greening’ of Capitalism’s Desolating Nature

Extinction Rebellion protesters during the recent “climate strike” in London. All their claims about an “emergency” have less to do with the environment and more to do with the potential loss of their social positions as capitalism crumbles.

THE UNITED NATIONS’ annual “Climate Week,” culminating this past September 23 with a summit meeting of most of the world’s leading capitalists and their politicians, was less of a policy gathering and more of a coming-out party for the new wave of eco-capitalist rock stars, with top billing at the media circus going to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg came to prominence in 2018, when she began protesting outside the Swedish parliament, calling for a student strike to stop climate change. Since then, she has become the poster child for “green” capitalism, meeting with all manner of celebrities, politicians and CEOs. Her arrival in New York City by yacht on August 28 began over three weeks of appearances, meet-and-greets, protests and speeches, culminating in a “climate strike” protest in Battery Park on Sept. 20.

However, it was her speech at the UN summit that garnered Thunberg the most attention. Proclaiming humanity to be at “the beginning of a mass extinction,” she chastised those in attendance for stealing “my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” concluding that, “if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” In response, the politicians and capitalists sympathetically nodded and offered up such platitudes as, “my generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change” (UN Secretary-General António Guterres), and “we need such a youth to help us to change things” (French President Emmanuel Macron).

Greta Thunberg

Why did the world’s exploiters fall over each other to ingratiate themselves on Thunberg? The answer is found in the vision and perspective that she and her companions in organizations like Extinction Rebellion (XR), which plays a
central role in many of the “climate strike” actions, have chosen to put forward.

It goes without saying that climate change is real and presents a serious problem for humanity to overcome — a serious problem that demands an immediate and comprehensive response. However, the perspective put forward by Thunberg and XR is hyperbolic to the point of recklessness. Put simply, humanity is not facing extinction because of climate change. Even the worst-case scenario put forward by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise of 8°C in global temperatures over the next century, will not cause our mass extinction. Indeed, humans have survived such a climate shift before … during the stone age, without the benefit of modern technology and modern science.

So, if humanity is not facing extinction, what is? And, moreover, why the falsification? Second question first. The need for falsifying the scientific conclusions stems from the necessity to rally young people of all classes into taking immediate action without the benefit of having thought through the implications of their acts. As for what is facing extinction, it is not humanity, but capitalism as it exists today, specifically its ability to maximize profits through the discovery and exploitation of new wellsprings of natural resources around the world. It is not humanity that they worry will be extinguished in a century, but the social positions and living standards of the exploiting classes who are at the core of the movement.

To put it another way, Thunberg says she wants us to “act as if your house is on fire.” But her solution is to make an alliance with the arsonists so they can have another 100 years to keep doing what they do best: making the world burn!

The reality of the cross-class “green” movement: pushing liberal legislation that alibis capitalism while corralling young people into an alliance with exploiters.

All of the grandiose speeches, millenary apocalypticism, neo-puritan moralism, performative martyrdom, puerile “militant” theatrics, and so on, does not hide the fact that they are promoting unity with the people who own and control the system of exploitation that has trashed the planet — albeit with a fresh coat of “green” accents, meant to make it palatable until the next century. Such a program can only be seen as conscious deception. It is shameless and despicable.

Unlike these “green” grifters, communists understand that the climate crisis is inseparable from capitalism, and its mode and methods of production. Over 150 years ago, Marx explained how the cultivation of land, natural resources, agriculture, as well as the production of commodities, etc., that is not “consciously controlled” and planned for need, not profit, “leaves deserts behind it.” (Letter to Engels, March 25, 1868) — i.e., “that climate and flora change” over time as a result of the anarchic process of production of commodities for profit.

To fight climate change, it is necessary to organize and fight for revolutionary change — for a working-class revolution based on a proletarian communist program that will dismantle the old mode of production and build a new one that is consciously controlled by our organized class, that is not only sustainable but also restores the balance in the shared metabolism of humanity and nature.

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Protesters in Tripoli, Lebanon, hold up their cell phones with the flashlights on as a symbolic message that they will be seen and not be ignored.

OVER THE LAST few months, we have seen a wave of mass protests sweep across multiple countries on at least four continents. Indeed, we have seen over the last 11 months protests, strikes and uprisings against the exploiting classes, its state, institutions and acts of austerity.

This wave of class struggle began last December with wildcat strikes, led by working women, at factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, China, Hungary, India and Romania, as well as popular (cross-class) revolts in Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia. In Sudan, a three-fold rise in bread prices sparked riots and a popular uprising that ultimately ousted the long-time dictator, President Omar al-Bashir.

At the same time, a series of weekly protests against rising fuel prices was initiated by the popular movement known as the “Yellow Vests.” The protests grew increasingly sharper as 2019 began, forcing French President Emmanuel Macron to make concessions to the protesters. However, the demands of this cross-class movement had grown by that time and the protests continue to this day.

February saw wildcat strikes break out in Iran (again!) and Mexico. The previous November, Iranian workers staged a genuine mass strike in southwestern region of Khuzistan, with workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory going so far as to explore the organization of a shora (workers’ council) and workers’ takeover of their workplace. Workers continued their strikes and protests in early 2019, including at the steel plant in Hawaz.

In Mexico, nearly 100,000 workers in Matamoros, in the maquiladora zone on the border with the U.S. began a mass strike against both the bosses and their trade union stooges. After three weeks of struggle, which included facing down the threat of military intervention by “leftist” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and with the help of striking teachers in Michoacán, who blockaded roads and railways, most workers were able to win their demands of a 20 percent wage raise and bonus.

For several months, events seemed to die down. However, September saw popular (cross-class) protests pick up across the Middle East and the Americas. In Egypt, thousands took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities against corruption and growing poverty. More than 3,500 have been detained by the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and thousands more injured.

Half a world away, in Haiti, ongoing protests against food and water shortages, price hikes, looting and roadblocks have turned into daily popular protests against corruption and a demand for the resignation of the president, Jovenel Moïse, have effectively shut down the capital, Port-au-Prince.

At the beginning of October, popular protests and riots broke out in Iraq and Ecuador. People took to the streets of Amara, Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and Nassiriya to protest against unemployment, lack of social services and corruption. They were met with bullets (real and rubber), water cannons and tear gas. At least dozens have been killed and thousands have been injured in the clashes.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the Oct. 1 announcement of an end to fuel subsidies set off a powerful wave of popular unrest and protests, led mainly by indigenous Ecuadorans, that was able to take control of the capital of Quito and force the government of President Lenín Moreno to flee the city and set up shop in the coastal town of Guayaquil.

By mid-October, popular uprisings began in Lebanon and Chile. In Lebanon, the announcement of a tax on WhatsApp messaging sparked mass protests across the country that cut across ethnic and religious lines, forcing the prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, to not only withdraw the tax but also demand that no new taxes be imposed on the poor and working class in 2020. But this has not stopped the protests, which now seek the ouster of al-Hariri’s government and a “revolution.”

Chile: Over 1 million march on the capital, Santiago, to demand the ouster of President Sebastián Piñera.

At the same time, in Chile, mass popular rejection of a rise in mass transit fares announced Oct. 1 have transformed into the largest protest movement in the country since the end of the August Pinochet dictatorship. At the time of this writing, millions have joined the popular movement, including large sections of the working class. Moreover, the movement itself has begun to take on a character of a mass reckoning over the end of the dictatorship and the “transition to democracy.”

(There are, of course, other events that are continuing to unfold, including the mass protests in Spain, Hong Kong and, most recently, Guinea. These will be addressed in future articles in WPP.)

There is a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth of a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The events of the last year are indeed a great tale of cross-class uprising, with great sound and fury. But does it all signify nothing? Were events to continue and be left to their own devices, the unfortunate answer would be yes. On their own, as they are current constructed, with the de facto political program and leadership left in the hands of the petty bourgeoisie, either of the community leader or trade union bureaucrat type, these cross-class popular movements cannot do anything but fail.

Militancy is an expression of committed action, not a substitute for program. All the militancy that can be mustered by humanity, if used for reformist ends, can, at best, only achieve a reformist conclusion.

It is inevitable that mass social movements, even one for workers’ revolution and the overthrow of capitalism, will contain within it both backward-thinking workers and even non-workers. That is why there is a need for a conscious proletarian communist political leadership, organized into a party that is strictly proletarian in program and makeup, internationalist, and part of a world party of proletarian revolution, within such movements.

It would be the task of such a party to actively intervene, winning its best workers to the communist program, while also educating our fellow proletarians on both the important tasks of the day, as well as the dangers inherent with the presence of elements of the exploiting classes in the movement. At all times, the proletarian communist party must serve as a guardian of the historic interests of our class.

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The Humiliating Defeat of GM Workers Offers Many Lessons about Today’s Trade Unions and Tomorrow’s Labor Struggles

Part One

THE END OF THE 40-day strike by the United Auto Workers against General Motors has left many autoworkers across the U.S. with feelings of anger, frustration and some serious questions about where they and their co-workers go from here.

When the strike began on September 16, many of the over 49,000 autoworkers belonging to the UAW were not only supportive of the action, but also very clear about their demands and what they would consider a victory: the end of the multi-tier system, an end to the growing number of temporary workers by giving them permanent status, a rollback of the concessions handed to the company by the UAW in every contract since 2007, a commitment to not close any more plants, and a guarantee that new products are built in the U.S. by UAW autoworkers. Modest thought they are, these demands would have been the first gains that workers would have made in contract negotiations since the late 1970s.

Moreover, because of the practice of “pattern bargaining,” not only GM, but also Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers would have benefited from the fulfillment of these demands.

However, it was clear very early on that the demands of the autoworkers — their open and adamant support for their temporary co-workers, their belief that over a decade of “sacrifice” to keep GM afloat after its bankruptcy and government bailout should be rewarded, and so on — were not shared by the UAW officials chosen to negotiate with GM management. This should have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the UAW.

The reality is that the UAW as an institution never wanted to go on strike; the reason they authorized it was fear and pressure. But we’re not talking about fear of and pressure from the autoworkers themselves, but fear of and pressure from the ongoing federal government investigation into the close ties between the UAW officials and the management of the Big Three auto manufacturers.

Over the past years, numerous investigations into incidents of corruption, embezzlement and graft by top UAW officials have moved from Regional officials into the heart of the union’s headquarters and uncomfortably close to the office of union President Gary Jones. Several past presidents, vice presidents and regional officials have been indicted or designated as “persons of interest” by the government for their roles either in the use of union funds to enrich themselves or in the receipt of bribes from management to ensure that concession deals are pushed through.

The investigations have so eroded morale and trust among autoworkers that the UAW was desperate and willing to try anything to restore even a small portion of confidence in their leadership, including resorting to a strike — albeit one that was heavily stage-managed.

In many respects, the strike, as organized, was little more than theater. The UAW gave GM ample time to build up a stock of vehicles and other necessary products to help them weather the work stoppage. By the time the action began, GM had a solid supply that could last them 87 days. In other words, even a strike lasting two and a half months would not harm GM’s ability to sell vehicles with desired options, thus allowing them to continue to generate profits while not having to pay for the power needed to produce vehicles (be that the labor-power of the autoworkers or the electricity needed for the machines).

Picket by UAW members (mostly union officials) in front of General Motors world headquarters in the early days of the strike.

Moreover, it is abundantly clear now that the strike was designed to fail. This is not only because, as usual, it was governed by the “injunction politics” that have robbed workers of their ability to win battles against the exploiting classes for decades, but also because it was never meant to hurt the company or its shareholders (the UAW being a major one). The demands of the workers were never seriously considered to be part of the agenda, only a propaganda tool to keep them “on the line.”

And then there was the mysterious meeting between GM CEO Mary Barra and her top staffers, on one side, and UAW President Gary Jones and Vice President Terry Dittes a few days before the tentative contract was announced. Little has been said or confirmed about this meeting, but what has been leaked centers around two words that no worker wants to hear: Taft-Hartley. If the rumors are true, the meeting was to inform the UAW that if a deal was not reached soon, then President Trump would have invoked the Taft-Hartley “slave-labor” act and ordered autoworkers back to the plants, deal or no deal.

The Problem with Unions

Even though unions represent only 6.3 percent of all workers outside of government jobs, they continue to be seen as the only effective means of fighting for the interests of the class in the workplace. This is understandable, from an historical perspective, but nevertheless a core problem for workers today.

Historically, unions have been seen as a primary means for workers to organize and defend themselves from the daily attacks by the exploiting classes. From the first craft unions of the 19th century to the industrial and amalgamated unions of the 20th and 21st, unions are still seen as the only viable means of securing and ensuring job security and a better standard of living — even if, in reality, none of these are actually achieved.

The enactment of laws like the National Labor Relations Act fundamentally changed the character of unions. No longer were they, or could they be, an organized expression of the demands and desires of workers themselves. Capitalist “legalization,” with its labyrinth of bureaucracy and regulations that demanded a mirror within the unions, transformed them into a collective mediator and negotiator of the price of a worker’s ability to carry out labor. Thus, instead of its main mission being to defend what workers have won in the past, its role is now to create an “equitable” agreement with the exploiters on their terms. “Stability” and “fairness” — and, most of all, preserving capitalist “competitiveness” — is the order of the day. The workers be damned.

In addition, the legalization process took workers themselves out of the very functioning and leadership of unions, with positions above the local level increasingly (and now consistently) being filled mainly by elements from the exploiting classes: lawyers, “labor relations” experts, professional statisticians and consultants. Occasionally, they include a few workers who once worked for a few months on the floor, mostly for color and cover. Is it any wonder that the staff workers at any large “international” union headquarters are often subjected to the most disgusting union-busting methods?

This transformation, which actually began more than a century ago (the first targets being the railroad unions), initiated the process of integrating unions into the capitalist system as the aforementioned collective mediators of the price of labor-power. That transformation also opened the floodgates, accelerating and intensifying the flow of the exploiters’ ideology into the working class.

GM autoworkers in Flint, Mich., rally on the picket line on the first day of the strike, Sept. 16. After 40 days, these same autoworkers returned to the plant with a contract virtually identical to the one that motivated them to strike in the first place, but with worse provisions for temporary workers.

The dominance among unionized workers of nationalism, sectoralism and chauvinism, as well as the intensifying of the ideology that tells workers they are “dummies” and incapable of running things for themselves, is specifically designed to maintain the class-based divisions that keep all workers in a position of precarity, fear and subordination.

An excellent example of this is the reaction of the UAW and many autoworkers to the wildcat strikes by Mexican workers in the maquiladoras against the Big Three. Last February, when tens of thousands of autoworkers struck in Matamoros against the low wages and horrific working conditions in the factories — two things that autoworkers in the U.S. and Canada have complained about since the beginning of outsourcing — the response of the UAW was to … hold flag-waving nationalist rallies and call for a boycott of products made in Mexico! At a time when cross-border solidarity between U.S. and Mexican workers, fighting for the same demand against the same companies, could have hobbled the Big Three and weakened them in advance of contract negotiations here, the UAW strengthened the hand of the bosses by keeping workers divided along national lines and preventing real unity.

The view of the unions that gains can only be fought for when the companies are profitable does nothing but shackle the well-being and interests of workers to that of their exploiters. Even worse, it keeps workers divided against themselves, even within a single industry. The needs of the working class are subordinated not only to one sector of the capitalists, but even to a sub-sector, where groveling is the only accepted form of survival.

[CONTINUED IN NEXT ISSUE]



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