The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Take Back the Wealth Stolen from Us!

Aug 29, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of August 22, 2022.

For that one percent, which owns over 90% of all company stock, inflation has fueled a bonanza. Millionaires became billionaires. Billionaires became ... zillionaires.

But for the rest of us, inflation has been a disaster. Our standard of living—that is, what we can buy with our weekly wage—has plummeted.

There’s a clear, simple response to that. Our wages have to go up. Go up now. Go up the full amount to make up for every cent we lost.

There’s wealth enough in this system to pay for it. But it’s been stolen from us. It sits in the investment accounts and offshore accounts of the very wealthy. They sink it into speculative ventures. They throw it into the casinos on Wall Street. They use it to buy up property—and more property. They waste it on giant yachts docked for 11-and-a-half months of the year, so they can take a cruise when they feel like it. They waste it on luxury apartments that sit vacant most of the year.

Money has been accumulating, year after year, in the hands of a very tiny minority of people: the ones who own the big companies and the banks, the capitalist class.

That wealth comes from our labor. Those of us who work for our living produce all the goods and services that everyone in the country consumes. But we don’t enjoy our own labor’s full benefit. An enormous part of the wealth our labor produces goes to enrich a class of super-wealthy parasites.

We’ve got to take this money back, this wealth our labor produced, but which was stolen from us. We can’t trust government to do it for us. In fact, government is part of the problem. Under these two big parties, Democrats and Republicans, government took public money to add to the wealth hoarded by a voracious capitalist class. Trump’s corporate tax cuts, Biden’s infrastructure plan—they were just two different ways to funnel more money into the grasping hands of a greedy class.

So, to come back to the main point: in order to defend ourselves, we have to put our hands on the wealth our labor produces. Regardless of what the problem is—inflation, unemployment, working conditions, the lack of public services, bad schools—the solution is the same. We have to put our hands on the wealth our labor produces, including all the accumulated wealth stolen over the years.

This year, there have been a few attempts by workers to catch up with inflation, to take some of this money back: strikes in some auto parts plants, in food processing plants, in some longshore ports, and mines. Even if it wasn’t possible for any of those strikes to catch up with most of what has been lost, they were important. Part of our class was ready to fight. Without a fight, we win nothing.

It’s true, we can’t win much in a time like this—IF we fight alone, in just one workplace; IF we wait on contracts that expire at different times.

But that’s exactly the point. Nothing says the fight has to stay in just one company. Nothing says fights can be made only when a contract expires.

Union contracts were written years ago to handcuff workers, to make it almost impossible to strike when a strike is needed. Contracts divide the work force, industry by industry, company by company. They ignore the majority of today’s work force that works in companies without a union.

So, ignore those contracts. We need a wider perspective. Think about ourselves as part of a class. Ask ourselves, “How can we bring other parts of our class into this fight—and every fight?”

Our class is a powerful class, key in the economy, able to shut it all down. But how do we get to the point that the whole class fights at the same time, using its power? That is the question. And there are no shortcuts. But when any fight starts, workers in it can try to spread it. Going to other companies in the same industry, but also to other industries, and above all to workers not in a union today, asking others to join—that’s how a fight spreads. A single strike, if it spreads, holds the potential to engage our whole class, our whole powerful class.