March 20, 2011
Across the country, millions of workers are taking part in meetings, demonstrations and other actions to oppose cutbacks in social services and the wave of government attacks which are trying to hamstring or eliminate altogether public employee unions and suppress the collective rights of these workers.
The Workers Party encourages everyone to take part in this growing protest movement.
At the same time, we emphasize the necessity to go beyond simply reacting to this or that attack. We must be pro-active rather than reactive. The working class and people must take the initiative into their own hands by putting forward their own aims and agenda for society.
Today, the working class is facing a number of serious challenges.
The Fight Against New Forms of Exploitation
For one thing, even as the Wall Street Bankers are reaping unprecedented profits and the Obama administration has again cut the taxes paid by the corporations and the very wealthy, the workers are facing increasing poverty, exploitation and economic insecurity.
All along the line, the capitalists keep imposing new and more intense forms of exploitation on the workers. Corporate downsizing has become a permanent feature of economic life, destroying the jobs of millions and forcing every worker to live with continuous job and economic insecurity. Tens of millions of workers have been pushed into the "contingent workforce" where they can only find part-time or temporary jobs which do not even provide a minimal livelihood. Wages and benefits, including health care and pensions, continue to be cut.
With the active support of the government, the capitalists are attacking such social insurance programs as workers' comp, unemployment insurance, medicaid, etc. The aim is to eliminate any guarantee of even a minimal economic existence in order to create a growing pool of desperate workers, increase the competition for the limited number of jobs and thus drive down the wage levels of the whole working class. In addition, the capitalists and government are working to gut or eliminate the few labor laws which offer some small guarantees of workers' rights – such as laws restricting overtime work, laws protecting workers from occupational disease and dangers, and laws which recognize the right to unionize and strike.
The workers must squarely face up to the way things are going. The capitalists want to eliminate any and every restraint on their system of profit-making, to eliminate unions, to eliminate any legal standards which limit the degree of exploitation of labor, to eliminate social insurance programs which guarantee a minimal existence and set a minimal standard. The capitalists aim at destroying every gain achieved by the workers through decades of collective struggle. The capitalists aim to wipe out any collective rights for the workers and to attack every expression of class solidarity. The capitalists want to reduce the workers to the status of individual slaves, with no rights recognized by the society except the "right" to be mercilessly exploited by the "free market" system.
An All-Sided Anti-Social Agenda
And this is not all. The capitalists are not only stepping up the direct exploitation of the workers at the point of production, but also carrying out a thoroughly reactionary, anti-social agenda in all spheres of life.
The capitalists and their government have declared war against the very concept of social responsibility. They are slashing needed investments in social programs all along the line and thus depriving millions of the poor and most vulnerable of any means of subsistence. Medicare and Medicaid, along with other public health programs, are being slashed. Even as the public schools crumble from lack of investments, government – at all levels – keeps slashing school funding. Our country's stock of public housing as well as funding for housing assistance are being gutted, while millions and tens of millions of Americans, including the disabled and elderly, are forced to live in substandard housing or even made homeless. Even Social Security is under attack.
As part of this anti-social agenda, the government is privatizing vital public services and turning our country's public infrastructure over to the private sector. Everything from garbage collection, to welfare programs, to Medicare and the public schools is being put up for grabs. This privatization of our country's public infrastructure is robbery on a grand scale. It is also part of the program of denying any social or governmental responsibility for the well-being and rights of the people. Again, the "free market logic" of the anti-social agenda denies that the people have any rights whatsoever. The only "rights" recognized are the "rights" of the biggest capitalists to monopolize everything and anything and to increase the exploitation of the people to the maximum. The most elementary rights of the people are denied so that all the funds in the public treasury as well as all the resources of the country can be put at the disposal of the biggest monopolies and bankers.
And of course, these profound and intensifying economic contradictions are reflected in all aspects of social life. Just look, for example, at the all-sided decay and corruption of the political system. The legally-sanctioned two-party monopoly of Republicans and Democrats is completely alienated from the people. These politicians are all bought-and-paid-for by the monopoly corporations and, in turn, pay back their sponsors by helping them loot the public treasury. Everywhere people feel and know that the current political set-up, rather than empowering people and guarantying their role in governance, only entrenches the power and privilege of the economic elite. There is a profound political polarization developing all across the country.
How must the working class respond to these economic and political challenges? The working class must respond by organizing itself as a class and coming to the forefront of the struggle of all the people who want to defeat the anti-social agenda and open the path for the progress of our country. The working class must rally the whole people around a pro-social agenda which defends the rights of all and offers real solutions to the pressing economic, social and political problems.
The workers must cast off any illusions in the present economic and political system. The anti-social offensive of the big monopolies is the inevitable product of capitalism in crisis and decline. The monopoly capitalists can offer our country nothing but more exploitation and poverty. As their political system rots, they more and more openly resort to ruling by dictate and arbitrarily trample the rights of the people underfoot. Something new is needed and that something new must begin with the working class – the class which has no stake in the present system, the class which can only emancipate itself by coming forward as the ardent defender and fighter for the rights of all humanity.
Coming out as a class and placing itself in the forefront of the struggle against the anti-social agenda means that the workers must come into the political arena with their own aims and agenda and rally the whole people around a positive program. The workers must create new political space in which people can get together, politicize themselves, prepare the necessary tactics and organization and come out to contend with the capitalists over the fundamental direction of our country.
To assist the development of this independent politics, the Workers Party has put forward the program of economic rights, democratic renewal, and a democratic foreign policy.
The program of economic rights asserts that human beings are entitled, by right, to food, clothing and shelter; to secure jobs or livelihoods, to health care, education and so forth. These inalienable rights must be recognized in the fundamental law of the land and government must make all the needed social investments to guarantee these rights in practice. The program of democratic renewal aims at breaking the stranglehold that the two big parties and big money exercise over political affairs.
The workers and people must be empowered to play a direct role in governance and given the power to directly nominate and select the candidates for office. Everyone must have an equal right to elect and be elected and public officials must be subject to recall at all times. The program for a democratic foreign policy goes directly against imperialist war and militarism and demands an end to U.S. interference and intervention in the affairs of other peoples.
The goal of our Party is to create a new, socialist society which eliminates the exploitation of human beings and guarantees all the inalienable economic and political rights of the people, and in which the political power belongs to the workers and people themselves.
The task of the times is to bring this program to the center of the political life of the country. This takes many forms. It includes building the mass workers' press as a means for stimulating the widest possible discussion and for rallying people around the independent politics. It includes developing the various campaigns such as the Campaign for Economic Rights. It includes organizing discussion and study circles, as well as public meetings and rallies. It includes initiating and joining in mass actions which further mobilize people into the struggle to claim their rights and play their independent political role.
The bottom line is that the workers face not only serious challenges but also great possibilities for advance. There is a profound polarization and large numbers of people are straining for the way forward. All the conditions cry out for the working class to come into the political arena as an independent force with a program that can open the path for the progress of our country.