[act-ma] 10/16 - WWP Discussion: The Capitalist Economic Crisis & the Struggle for Socialism!
boston at workers.org
Wed Oct 14 16:08:09 PDT 2009
in this email:
1) 10/16 - The Capitalist Economic Crisis and the Struggle for Socialism!
2) Workers World Party National Conference
3) Workers' unity needed to counter ultra-right mobilizations*
*/Workers World Party Discussion:/*
*The Capitalist Economic Crisis and the Struggle for Socialism!*
*Friday, Oct. 16 -- 6:30 pm*
*284 Amory St.** (The Brewery), Jamaica Plain*
(two blocks from the Stony Brook T stop on the Orange Line)
Refreshments & childcare
In September, 263,000 more jobs were lost. Official unemployment edged
closer to 10 percent, going from 9.7 to 9.8. This was larger than
predicted by capitalist economists and is the result of 21 consecutive
months of economic downturn, the longest streak in 70 years. The
official unemployment rate would have been higher than 10
percent---except that 571,000 workers dropped out of the work force and
therefore were not counted among the unemployed.
*Join members of Workers World Party for an important discussion on the
growing capitalist economic crisis and the significance that it has for
the struggle for a socialist future.*
*/Topics for discussion will include:/*
* Workers -- unemployed and employed -- need a real JOBS program
* How to organize and fightback against attempts by the ultra-right
to use racism to divide workers
* Why youth need education and jobs not war and prison
Nov. 14-15 - New York City
*Workers World Party National Conference*
*/1959-2009 - 50 Years of Struggle
/Preparing & Organizing for the Future
for more information - www.workersworld.net <http://www.workersworld.net/>
*Capitalist impasse and socialist future
Longest economic downturn in 70 years: JOBS PROGRAM NEEDED NOW
Workers' unity needed to counter ultra-right mobilizations
By Fred Goldstein
Published Sep 23, 2009 7:43 PM
The recent mass mobilization of racists and right-wingers of all stripes
in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country requires the
attention of the working class, white workers especially. In the face of
mounting racism and efforts to divide the workers during an economic
crisis, the struggle for class unity is more pressing than ever.
While these right-wing demonstrations are numerically small, and may
eventually die down, they are politically significant because they
represent a de facto bloc between important sections of big business and
the racist ultra-right, based upon an immediate common objective: to
push back the program of the Obama administration.
Whether this is just a bloc convenient for a particular conjuncture that
will dissolve depends upon the fate of President Barack Obama's program,
the course of the economic crisis and the development of the class struggle.
The social and political soil for further inflaming racism is fertile.
There are short-term, specific economic interests that the health care
industry and Big Oil (ExxonMobil, Chevron, etc.) have in fomenting
anti-Obama sentiment, and there are long-term strategic interests that
the ruling class as a whole has in stirring up racism.
As far as the right and the ultra-right are concerned, as long as there
is an African-American president in the White House and an increase in
unemployment, bankruptcies and economic hardship, the basis for racist
mobilization will continue to exist.
At the same time, the economic crisis, which is striking relentlessly at
the entire multinational working class, provides a profound and powerful
basis for a united working-class fightback. Preparations must begin now
to mount a strong, anti-racist, pro-working-class counterattack against
both the economic crisis and racist division.
Concerning ruling-class politics, it is important to trace the evolution
of recent developments.
Throughout August the capitalist media depicted the right-wing and
racist intervention at the town hall meetings on health care as an
expression of grassroots anger against the prospect of government
intervention, excessive government spending, and fear of losing health
care, among other things.
It was clear to anyone paying attention that the outrageous attacks on
Obama, the racist signs and slogans, including ugly pictures and
drawings of all types, had nothing to do with health care or government
spending. Actual mentions of health care were a thin veneer covering
racist attacks on the first African-American president. They actually
popped up in a forest of other slogans about Obama being like Hitler and
attacks on socialism, abortion and undocumented workers.
The so-called "tea party" in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12 has also been
depicted as a manifestation of grassroots protest against upcoming
legislation on health care reform and environmental protection,
including limits on industrial pollution. Tens of thousands attended
this event, many with right-wing and racist slogans directed at Obama.
These orchestrated events have been on the increase since the right wing
first initiated them in February against the Troubled Asset Relief
Program bailout of the banks. When directed against the banks, they were
quite small and not very widespread. Fox News did its best to make these
pathetic showings of a handful of ultra-right stragglers look like a
The Republican Party at first made a gesture toward the ultra-right and
tried to strike a blow against Obama by voting against TARP. But Wall
Street cracked the whip and forced a re-vote, and the TARP $750 billion
bank bailout passed. One by one a majority of the right-wing legislators
took the floor to explain why they were changing their votes. None gave
the real explanation. Their Wall Street masters gave them unequivocal
Because the demonstrations were against the banks, they were small and
scattered. They continued to be small on tax day, April 15, when the
issue used to attack Obama was still the bailout of the banks and the
stimulus package, both programs that the ruling class as a whole favored.
*Health insurance companies and Big Oil move in*
But once the health care legislation came on the political agenda, the
ultra-right, with their racist poison, took a step forward--especially
in the so-called "town hall" meetings. In these meetings the ultra-right
were joined by the health care industry.
UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint, two of the largest health insurance
companies in the country, sent memos to their employees to take part in
the town hall meetings and do lobbying. They also sent talking points
along with the memos. They are both under government investigation in
California for these activities. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 3)
UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint were caught because their e-mails were
leaked to the media. But other such companies undoubtedly participated
in the so-called "grassroots" upsurge.
Around the time of the right-wing town hall offensive, Big Oil, which
had been lobbying behind the scenes to kill Obama's environmental
legislation, decided to follow in the footsteps of the health care
The cap-and-trade program to put limits on allowable pollution by
corporations and require them to purchase pollution permits was regarded
as an unwarranted restriction on profits. Furthermore, in the fall,
environmental legislation is coming before Congress. After that, the
international follow-up to the Kyoto Accords is scheduled for
negotiation in Copenhagen. The polluters want to tie Obama's hands in
Congress so that he cannot even negotiate on significant reductions of
carbon gas emissions.
A memo leaked from the American Petroleum Institute, the central
organization of Big Oil, and published by Greenpeace revealed the API
plan to establish "Energy Citizens" rallies across the country. The memo
called upon member oil companies to recruit employees, retirees and
contractors to participate in anti-climate control rallies in 22 cities.
The coal industry, railroads, utilities, the National Association of
Manufacturers, and other big-business polluters have joined Big Oil in
its campaign to create an anti-environmental "grassroots" campaign. The
oil companies planned to field over 200,000 so-called volunteers and
provide buses, rally financing and other support.
*Big firms work with ultra-right*
Who did the health care industry and the polluters work with? The two
principal organizations operating both campaigns are called Freedomworks
and Americans for Prosperity.
Freedomworks is headed by right-wing politician/ideologue/organizer Dick
Armey, the former House majority leader from Texas. Other right-wing
racists helped form its leadership, including billionaire Steve Forbes,
the late Jack Kemp, and C. Boyden Grey. Freedomworks collaborates with
Newt Gingrich, among others.
Because of all the recent publicity, Armey recently resigned from his
position with DLA Piper, a high-powered global lobbying firm. DLA
Piper's clients include the DuPont Corp., BP America, Edison Electric
and Alliant Energy, among other energy-related polluters.
The firm also represents military contractor Raytheon, pharmaceuticals
Sanovi-Aventis and Medicines Co., Qualcomm, the Royal Bank of Scotland,
and various other giant companies.
Armey and Freedomworks constitute a convenient nexus between big
business and the ultra-right. Up until the Obama administration took
office, Freedomworks was mainly a networking organization that carried
out occasional, limited campaigns. These included a campaign to
privatize Social Security in 2006, a campaign against Obama's program of
aid to people facing foreclosure, and several right-wing electoral
Another nexus is Americans for Prosperity. According to Kert Davies,
research director for Greenpeace, this group "is doing both attacks on
cap-and-trade and attacks on health care, funded by Koch Industries ...
a big oil company. So this is a coordinated attack. And as you know,
it's ... bigger than these issues. It is an attack on Obama's power
base." (Democracy Now, Aug. 21)
Since the health care industry, Big Oil and other big-business
industries began artificially manufacturing "grassroots" political
opposition to the Obama program, Freedomworks and Americans for
Prosperity have been catapulted into the national spotlight. They have
gone from behind-the-scenes networking and sporadic public activities to
mobilizing demonstrations on a national scale.
Such organizations can easily be dissolved or supplanted by others, and
are not a threat in and of themselves. But they are a transmission belt
of funds and resources, both from the big bourgeoisie and the petty
bourgeoisie, that are used to create an arena for organizing by
*Right-wing strength exaggerated*
The right wing appears much stronger than its actual representation in
the population. Millions of white workers voted for Obama. It is
doubtful at this point that they are being swept into a racist backlash.
The strength of the right is exaggerated both because the ruling class,
including their media, want it that way and because the working class
has not yet moved onto the arena of struggle to challenge the economic
Obama's candidacy was predicated on getting the troops out of Iraq and
achieving a domestic program of reforming the health care system,
reversing the destruction of the environment, and reviving the
educational system, among other things. The reforms proposed were mild
But big business has been on the gravy train since the end of the Jimmy
Carter administration in the late 1970s, when deregulation began in many
areas of capitalism. Then, under Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes, the
corporations have had a veritable free hand to expand their profits and
exploitation--facilitated by the destruction of anti-trust laws, NAFTA
and the repeal of depression-era banking restrictions.
The bosses want nothing to interfere with this system. They are
determined to push back any reforms that diminish their
profits--including even the mildest health care reform or restrictions
on pollution. Hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate wealth are
ultimately at stake. There is nothing that the oil and coal companies,
the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and all the rest of
the profiteers won't do to get their way.
That is their immediate cause for fanning the flames of racism and
getting behind right-wing propaganda about "big government" and
"socialism." The right-wing ideologues and the corporations have a
common interest in promoting such poison.
But all this seems far weightier than it actually is regarding the
general population. And that is because the working class has not yet
entered the arena of struggle.
The situation is still at the point where it takes former President
Carter to acknowledge the hostility to Obama is racism. As New York
Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote: "Did we really need Jimmy Carter to
tell us that racism is one of the driving forces behind the relentless
and often scurrilous attacks on President Obama? We didn't know that? As
John McEnroe might say, 'You can't be serious.'" (Sept. 19)
While it was progressive for Carter to call out the racism behind the
anti-Obama campaign of the Republicans and the ultra-right, the
African-American population and the working class should not have to
rely on a representative of U.S. imperialism to fight their battles.
After all, as Herbert pointed out, Carter once defended neighborhood
"ethnic purity" during his presidential campaign. In addition, Carter
turned his back on millions of poor women, disproportionately Black and
Latina, when he refused to override legislation banning the use of
federal funds for abortion. At the time Carter was asked at a press
conference if this was fair. His infamous and callous response was:
"Life is not fair." (National Black Network, July 18, 1977)
*Obama and Carter*
The media have pitted Carter against Obama on the question of race.
Obama has denied that race has motivated the hostility to him and
attributed it to fear of government. It is easy for Carter to come off
smelling like a rose because now that he has no authority, he can say
what he likes. When he was president and had the authority to act on
behalf of the poor and the oppressed, he declined to do so.
Obama, on the other hand, is caught in a vise-like dilemma. As
president, he is supposed to represent the overall interests of the
ruling class. Were he to open up a struggle against racism, he would be
abandoning his role as representative of the collective interests of the
ruling class and would become an advocate for the oppressed.
Precisely because he is African American and is president, even the
slightest tilt in an openly anti-racist direction could be a great
stimulus to the anti-racist struggle and lead to destabilizing the
racist status quo. The ruling class, however, would regard such a
development as a gross violation of his office. Jimmy Carter, on the
other hand, is not endangering the status quo.
This became evident during the Professor Henry Louis Gates affair when
Obama said the Cambridge cops "acted stupidly" and was then forced to
take it back. The fact that the establishment allowed a local cop and a
local police department to defy the president of the U.S. and to refuse
to apologize for an egregious case of racial profiling shows how
sensitive the ruling class is to Obama's tilting even slightly toward
criticizing racism or the racist police.
In the Gates case, Obama could not even defend one of the most
prestigious members of academia against the police thug who illegally
arrested him. Now, in the case of the so-called anti-health care reform
demonstrations, Obama cannot even defend himself against racism. He is
in the utterly contradictory position of being the first African
American to head the capitalist state---which is, among other things, a
racist state, the same racist state that Carter loyally served when he
In any case, the arguments put forward by both Obama and Carter obscure
the class truth of the present situation. It is the racist ruling class
that is ultimately behind the town halls, the "tea parties," and the
arch-racists like Rep. Joe Wilson.
It is the working class that must lead the real struggle on the ground
to beat back the racist attack. The unions and the community
organizations should take over the town hall meetings and the streets
with demands for jobs, health care, housing and an end to racism.
Out of the population of 300 million people in the United States, 100
million are now people of color. That proportion is rising. The working
class is becoming more and more multinational, and the long-term
strategy of the ruling class is to keep the workers from uniting.
Racism has been a prop for U.S. capitalism since the days of slavery. It
has been used economically to extract super-profits from the
African-American, Latino/a, Indigenous and Asian populations. And it has
been used to politically poison white workers and keep them from uniting
against the class enemy.
But the needs of the class struggle can turn this around. It should be
remembered that the Ku Klux Klan reached its height during the 1920s. In
1924 tens of thousands of KKK members held a march in Washington, D.C.
The Klan spread its influence far beyond the South. It included
governors, mayors, state legislators and judges.
But then came the upsurge of the working class in the 1930s. The Klan
showed its anti-union colors as workers all over gravitated toward the
Congress of Industrial Organizations and industrial unionism. Union
organizers promoted Black-white unity, a necessity in the struggle to
organize. The Klan, always an instrument of capital and the big
plantation owners in the South, turned its fire against the unions.
The KKK opposed the Unemployed Councils; it opposed the Textile Workers
Organizing Committee, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, the
sit-down strike movement, and the class struggle in general. It carried
out floggings and murders of labor organizers. But in the long run, it
lost out to the industrial union movement. While it retained strength in
the South, it was pushed back for decades by the rise of the class struggle.
The road to beating back the racists today is the same as the road to
beating back the effects of the capitalist crisis--the united class
struggle and mass mobilization of a labor-community alliance.
White workers must recognize that racism is the tool of the class enemy.
As Karl Marx wrote 150 years ago in the first volume of "Capital": "In
the United States of North America, every independent movement of the
workers was paralyzed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the
Republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the
Black it is branded."
An injury to one is an injury to all.
/Fred Goldstein is the author of the recently published book "Low-Wage
*Workers World Party
boston at workers.org <mailto:boston at workers.org>
wwp at workers.org <mailto:wwp at workers.org>
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