The Spark

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

Editorial:
Stop the Attacks on the Working Class!

Jan 12, 2009

We are living in the midst of a financial crisis, marked by serious failures in the banks, other financial companies and the stock market, leading to a severe recession that is taking its toll in jobs and wages.

It's not the first such crisis. We"ve been caught on an economic roller coaster for three decades. But today's financial crisis is the most severe yet. It has disrupted the banking system of every major country in the world, all at once, including China and India. It is hitting production and the real economy in every part of the world, all at once. For the first time since the 1930s, we are caught in a global crisis.

Nowhere in the world is there enough demand for goods and services, nowhere is there demand that could restart the economy.

Just the opposite. The response of almost every employer has been to do what they had already been doing, to try every trick in the book to reduce the jobs, pay and benefits of their workers:

  • by cutting jobs and increasing the workload of those left,
  • by farming out jobs to lower-paid sub-contractors,
  • by lowering the starting wage,
  • by letting inflation eat up wages,
  • by requiring more co-pays on benefits,
  • by pushing 401(k)s instead of pensions,
  • by changing classifications,
  • by eliminating overtime pay, cutting holidays, etc. etc. etc.,
  • by dropping pensions and medical coverage for retirees,
  • and by two-tier wage deals that openly cut wages for the future generations.

Who's going to have the money to buy the cars, the houses, the refrigerators, the microwaves, the TV's – not to mention even all the small items found in every household? In the working class – very few.

Look at the scam these crooks have been running: After handing out a few trillion dollars to banks and other companies, Congress refused to give the auto companies a measly couple billion, telling them if they couldn't come up with a plan to restructure, they should just declare bankruptcy instead.

Right on cue, the three Detroit companies came back to Congress with a "restructuring plan" – which called for enormous concessions from their workers.

Less than a week after the auto companies released their plans, the Democrats submitted legislation to Congress: In exchange for loans to the auto companies – the Democrats attached conditions – requiring the companies to carry out all of their plans – that is, extract those big concessions from the workers.

Then less than two weeks later, Republican President George Bush made it more specific. He attached special conditions to the government loans given to the auto companies – conditions which were nothing but the same demands the auto companies themselves had already put in their plans.

And then Bush's Treasury Secretary added another condition: that if there were a strike at any of the companies, that company had to give back its loan immediately!

Finally, Democratic President Barack Obama, who could have rejected this open blatant attack, said only that auto workers would have to make some sacrifices, without saying what they were.

It's a political campaign – directed initially against auto workers. But if this push in auto succeeds, it will very rapidly be pushed onto the whole work force.

So, what can be done about it? In the first place, those workers in auto who want to try to organize for a NO vote have to do it.

What can bring such attacks to a screeching halt? We should face this clearly: Nothing less than the kind of fights carried out in the later years of the Great Depression can stop such an attack – struggles by workers who took over factories, demonstrated by the tens or even hundreds of thousands in the streets, surrounded sheriffs to stop evictions, shut down government in city halls around the country, etc.

Yet we think there is a way to make a campaign against these attacks, a campaign that has the possibility to be picked up by other workers. And we know that such campaigns in the past were the kinds of things that encouraged people to start fighting in their own workplaces.

Furthermore, we know full well that if no one tries to make an open public opposition to these attacks, things will only get much worse, and get worse much faster.