The Spark

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

A rally against the war called by unionists in Detroit

May 2, 2005

The Metro Detroit branch of USLAW (U.S. Labor Against the War) held a rally on April 30. Previously, the branch had gathered over 200 unionists' signatures on a statement denouncing the war, calling on other unionists and their unions to take a stand on it. The statement was published in the local AFL-CIO newspaper and circulated in some plants.

It's obviously a start because the unions should denounce the war and the statement and the call for the rally showed that some union activists are ready to take responsibility to do this.

The rally itself drew somewhat fewer than 200 people. Speakers denounced the lies used to justify the war in Iraq; condemned the deaths of soldiers and civilians, as well as the destruction of Iraq; and urged that the war be stopped so that the money spent on it could be channeled into solving the urgent human needs at home.

So far so good. But most of the speakers also suggested – directly or indirectly – that workers who want to stop the war should put their energies into petitions, e-mails, phone calls, and other means of influencing leaders in the unions and leaders in the Democratic Party.

This is the great disconnect. It's precisely the top leaders of the unions, as well as the whole Democratic Party who have shepherded workers to peacefully accept not only the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also all manner of cutbacks at work and in social services.

It's the disconnect that so many workers encounter when they want to find a way to express their opposition – against the wars, against workplace concessions, against the shredding of basic social services. Yes, workers should be able to sign petitions. Yes, groups of workers should reach out to others and try to gather support and strength. It's one thing that can be done.

But the working class's strength, its ability to enforce its will, has never yet been found in the embrace of the Democratic Party! The same energy that goes into trying to "influence" the Democrats can better be spent in the workplaces encouraging other workers to take a stand against the war, including inside their unions. Take a stand against the war in their family and their neighborhoods, where young people are being pushed into the army.

The ruling class of this country and the two parties that serve it can be forced to step back on the war and other things but only if they fear the force of the workers organizing themselves.