Dec 7, 2015
Workers at the three American auto companies came close to permanently rejecting the contracts negotiated by UAW leaders. First with Chrysler; then, GM; then, Ford. This had never happened before in the whole 79-year history of the UAW. And workers did it with little organization.
This was something extraordinary.
Certainly, they were outraged that all three companies, turning in record profits, were not ready to return most of the sacrifices workers made during the last decades.
They were fed up, frustrated by hours that kept them chained to the plants, drudging away under conditions not far removed from the ones that had once prompted workers to organize a union.
They were angry that their kids and grandkids will not have the same possibility they once had to find a stable job.
When they saw how current retirees were disregarded once again, they knew they would have little hope of retiring in any thing other than poverty.
And all of this in a period when the auto companies and their executives were rolling in money, billions and billions of dollars, tens and hundreds of billions of dollars in a few years time.
But what really steeped the workers’ anger was the stance of the union, calling on the workers to put the companies’ interest first.
Auto workers had come face to face with the reality of what most unions are today and have long been: henchmen for the capitalist class, an apparatus inside the working class to control workers who resist.
But even when unions try to fight for the workers’ interests – and there still are some, in some situations – even then, they run up against the hard fact that the decisions made about what happens are never made at one plant or by one company.
It is the capitalist class as a whole that today determines the fate of the whole society. This tiny minority, this minuscule class that has its hands gripped tightly around the throat of the whole country, settles our fate, every one of us.
But this capitalist class is only a minority, a tiny minority. What gives it power today is its ability to act as a single class on all important questions. That is, it has organizations that unify it. It controls and uses the two big parties, it has the whole state apparatus at its disposal: cops, courts, legislatures. It has armies, it effectively owns the dictators that run other countries.
In the face of this unified class, this organized class, the working class has only unions, organized by company or even by workplace or even by only part of a work place. Most workers aren’t organized at all.
The situation is absurd. The working class is by far the biggest class and the most important. Workers make everything run – factories, offices, banks, schools, even the prisons themselves. And yet the working class doesn’t benefit from its dominant role. It is not organized as a single class.
The working class needs its own party, a party whose aim will be to organize the fights and struggles of all working people, a party based on the conviction that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common” – in the words of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), 110 years ago – a party that understands that racism is a cancer inside the working class, dividing us.
More than 100 years ago, Eugene Debs spoke at every gathering of workers, up and down this country, calling for a single working class party that would organize “not to conciliate the capitalist class, but to organize to fight against it.”
Those words from over a century ago wait to be realized in our day.