The Spark

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

Oppose the wedges and divisions inside the working class

Mar 27, 2006

In several cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Charlotte and Phoenix, there were very large demonstrations protesting a virulent and racist anti-immigrant bill that passed the House of Representatives last December. In Los Angeles, where several hundred students also staged walkouts in half a dozen high schools the day before, estimates put the number of demonstrators as high as a half a million people.

The bill that provoked such an outpouring would make it a felony for millions of undocumented immigrants to be in this country. Those who aided them would also be considered “felons.”

Fanning the flames of patriotism and intolerance, politicians are trying to divert the rest of the working class from focusing on the extremely unpopular war in Iraq, and the continued attack on education and other vital social programs and the lack of jobs. It is the oldest trick in the book.

As a supposed answer to this outright attack, Senator Edward Kennedy, the liberal Democrat, and John McCain, a conservative Republican, have stepped forward and offered what they say is a more “moderate” and “reasonable” kind of immigration “reform” that includes a “guest worker” program.

Several big churches and unions, with large numbers of immigrants, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Hotel, Restaurant and Garment workers (HERE-UNITE), that supported the immigrant rights marches, have come out in support of the kind of “guest worker” program outlined by the Kennedy-McCain bill. They justify this by saying that it offers a first step for undocumented immigrants to gain more legal rights.

This is complete nonsense. Under the terms of the “guest worker” programs, the bosses could still threaten deportation any time an immigrant worker dared stand up even a little bit for his or her rights.

In other words, the proposal to have “guest worker” program is nothing but another attack against immigrant workers’ rights – just in another, disguised form.

The bosses want “guest workers” to fill the lowest tier of the working class, which is forced to take any job, no matter how miserable, at any wage, no matter how low. The bosses intend to use those “guest” workers as a battering ram against the rest of the working class in order to further drive down the wages, benefits and working conditions of all workers.

When anyone is forced to work for a low wage, everyone’s wages are at risk.

It’s in every worker’s interest to oppose all these attacks and to support full legal rights for anyone who works in this country. All workers should do this not just out of a sense of democratic solidarity – but out of the recognition of the interests that all workers have in common.