The Necessity for Independent Working Class Politics
January 19, 2016
Already this year, even in the monopoly-owned media, the political economy of the working class is making headlines. As with all such acknowledgment of the movement of the working class, the reports are hysterical distortions aimed at blaming the working class for all of the ills of the society. Today, the brunt of the attacks are directed against the California teachers whose successful struggles in defense of public education are being avenged. Not only collective bargaining rights but also freedom of association in the arena of political action is in danger. Scabs who want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn decades of labor law in the name of the “right” to cross the picket lines are being portrayed as defenders of “democracy” against “totalitarian” unions.
Attacks are being prepared not just against the California teachers, but against teacher’s unions in Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia and Prince George’s County, MD, Boston, Indianapolis, New York and many more locales across the country where the teachers and their unions have been making huge sacrifices in defense of the right to public education...
So too, other public workers in sectors such as health care, transportation, social welfare programs, prisons, and park service are under attack. In attacking the individual and collective rights of public employees who provide such essential services as first responders, social workers, lactation specialists, restaurant inspectors, street cleaners, garbage collectors, railroad engineers, court reporters, etc., the government has the economic motive of turning more of its funds directly over to the private sector capitalists.
The attacks on public employees also have an important political motive. By trying to undermine the collective strength of public workers and marginalize them, the government seeks to remove a major roadblock to its program of privatizing public services and putting everything at the disposal of the monopolies. Public employees and unions are an important organized force which have been and will continue to be essential to the defense of the interests of the whole people, especially on the front of struggling to defend and extend guarantees for fundamental social aims such as the right to education and other public services.
And the attacks on public workers are only one part of an all-out offensive directed at erasing any and all individual and collective rights gained by the workers over decades of struggle. All along the line, attacks on social legislation such as welfare reform, public health care and social services as well as the dismantling of labor legislation such as workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, laws restricting child labor and overtime, etc. – is a program for reducing the price of labor power.
Such inroads for the political economy of the working class are the product of countless struggles of the working people, which not only created a minimum floor which increased the general level of wages but also forced society to recognize that workers had at least some measure of rights as human beings.
This recognition gave the workers certain economic claims on society, claims on production which are guaranteed through the creation of a social sector of the economy, which to a certain limited extent restricted the political economy of capitalism and commodity production. In denying these rights and privatizing the social sectors of the economy, the capitalists are not only forcing down wages but denying that the workers have any existence, any reason to live, other than to be exploited by the capitalists if and when needed. . . .
These conditions must be changed.
For the Unity of the Working Class
The unity of the working class is continually being upset by both the spontaneous forces of anarchy and competition engendered by capitalism as well as by the conscious plans of the capitalists themselves. These factors, however, can only retard but never suppress or eliminate the every-growing unity and self-conscious organization of the workers. In order to strengthen the unity of the workers, the Workers Party wages a continual struggle against the forces of disunity. This struggle is directed against the influence of capitalist ideology and its proponents within the working class movement.
For many years, the capitalists have built up and relied on an extensive labor aristocracy, as the principal vehicle for infiltrating the working class movement, splitting the people and liquidating the workers’ struggles.
The labor aristocracy, headed up by the trade union bosses, is a stratum completely separated from the lives and concerns of the workers. Today, most of the top union leaders are real bureaucrats who never worked a day in their lives; instead they were trained in “labor relations” at the leading capitalist universities and think-tanks and then placed, by the capitalists, at the head of various unions. The trade union bosses, with their 6-figure salaries, their control over multi-billion dollar pension funds, their positions within the government and often even on the boards of directors of the big corporations, follow the same life-style as the capitalists themselves. In return for these bribes the trade union bosses represent the interests of the capitalists within the working class movement.
At all times the labor aristocracy is a vehicle for the infiltration of capitalist ideology and politics inside the working class. Of course, the labor aristocrats are die-hard defenders of the capitalist system and sworn enemies of the independent working class movements, the Workers Party and socialism. Moreover the labor aristocrats enthusiastically promote every poisonous campaign launched by the capitalists – the trade union bosses call on the workers to accept “productivity drives” and wage cuts to “make America more competitive;” the labor aristocrats are rabid supporters of U.S. imperialism, its domination of other nations and its war program; the labor aristocrats use workers’ funds and organizations to electioneer for various capitalist politicians, especially the Democratic Party, and try, with all their might, to keep the workers under the political tutelage of the capitalists.
Along with the labor aristocracy the capitalists also rely on numerous opportunist political groups, including social-democracy, the modern revisionists of the CPUSA, the trotskyites, Maoists, etc. The capitalists also foster and organize such trends as reactionary nationalism amongst the oppressed nationalities.
Opportunism, like the labor aristocracy, is financed, advertised and assisted in every possible way by the monopoly capitalist class and the capitalist state; these trends draw their membership largely from the ranks of the labor aristocracy and the upper petty bourgeoisie.
Although opportunism takes many forms and adopts various disguises, its role is to hinder and disrupt the process of the independent self-conscious organization of the working class. Opportunism opposes both the preparation and carrying through of the struggle for working class political power and socialism as well as disrupts and liquidates the immediate and partial struggles of the masses. Negating the fundamental historical truth that it is the masses of people who make history, the opportunists see the only decisive struggle as the one between factions and sections of the capitalist rulers. Therefore the opportunists are sworn enemies of the independent movement of the workers and constantly seek to subordinate the workers to the political tutelage of the capitalist parties, especially the Democratic Party. A tiny “ultra-left” wing of opportunism espouses anarchism, anarcho-communism, etc., and hangs around the edges of the working class movement, trying to divert its movement with various conservative dogmas, dressed up as “revolutionary communism,” etc.
That is what is blocking the way.
Today in fact, opportunism and revisionism have become part of the official ideology and state system of capitalism.
No, the workers cannot afford to let their very struggle – their very lives – develop spontaneously. They cannot afford to remain aimless individuals at the mercy of the capitalist exploiters and the contradictions of capitalism which keep tearing society apart. The workers must assert themselves by asserting their own aims and organizing their movement for emancipation on the basis of a conscious plan and organization.
The struggle against the labor aristocracy and political opportunism is a constant part of the class struggle of the workers against the capitalists. The experience of the workers movement, of the anti-war and anti-racist struggles, of the environmental movement, shows that the masses cannot take even one step forward without coming out in opposition to and struggle not only against the capitalists but also against the forces of disruption within the workers movement.
The Workers Party wages continuous struggle against the labor aristocracy and opportunism from the perspective of advancing the immediate struggles of the masses and preparing the conditions for socialist revolution. This struggle is not waged as a thing in itself but always as part of the over-all class struggle. Our starting point is always the interests of the masses, the unity of the masses, and the struggle of the masses. In the course of the day-to-day struggle as well as the political struggle we expose the ideology and politics of the opportunists and the labor aristocracy as roadblocks to the struggle, as the politics of class compromise and surrender. The struggle against the policy of compromise and surrender maximizes the immediate struggles of the masses by strengthening their consciousness and fighting spirit and by broadening the mobilization and organization of the masses themselves.
In order to carry through the struggle for emancipation, it is necessary that the forces of compromise be completely isolated and their influence expelled from the ranks of the working class.
At the same time, the Workers Party always works to go broader and deeper amongst the working class and broad masses, to mobilize and organize them as the builders of their own independent movement. The Workers Party holds that the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved by the workers themselves. Thus, the starting point of the Party’s work is to bring into political life the masses of people who are locked out and excluded from the political mechanisms set up by the capitalists and the opportunists. The Party’s experience is that only by bringing revolutionary politics – The Marxist-Leninist politics of emancipation – to the people can we break the stranglehold of bourgeois politics and release the people’s initiative.
These two-fold tactics of 1) uncompromising struggle against the politics and ideology of opportunism, and 2) the ever-broader and more thorough-going mobilization and organization of the masses are key to advancing the working class movement.