The Spark

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

We Need a New Detroit for the Working Class, Not for Wall Street

Aug 17, 2015

The following was taken from remarks presented at the Spark Summer Festival in Detroit, Michigan on August 9, 2015.

The Gentrification of Detroit

Today’s Free Press headlines described the Ilitch Olympia Development Project here in Detroit in glowing terms. Mike Ilitch is redeveloping 50 blocks and five neighborhoods surrounding a proposed $450 million arena. This redevelopment area is bounded on the south by I-75, on the west by 3rd and Grand River, and on the east by Gratiot and Mack. The area is currently inhabited by primarily lower income workers, including homeless men & women. It is also home to the charity organizations that give many support, including Salvation Army and Harbor Light.

The upper class has a plan for Detroit, and no, it is not about “cleaning up the city.” It is about converting a certain area of Detroit into THEIR CITY: Downtown, the “Entertainment District” – Ford Field (the Lions), Comerica Park (the Tigers), the Ilitch stadium (the Red Wings). Bars, restaurants, high-rise condos....

Their new Detroit will include, as well, a section of the city running east and west along the riverfront, and another section that runs up Woodward to Grand Boulevard. This adds the Riverfront Parks and also the Cultural District to the “Entertainment District”; the Wayne State University area has been renamed “Midtown.” It includes museums, stores, restaurants and the main library for the city. They are even installing light rail up Woodward Avenue so they can have a shuttle.

So, they have decided that current residents will have to go. And not just the poor, but everyone and anyone who is in their way. Already, rents in the Wayne State area have shot up, pushing middle class and working class people out.

Yes, the wealthy have a plan, and it doesn’t include us, the working class. They have millions, they have planners, they have politicians in their pockets. Where did the Ilitches, Morouns, and Gilberts get their money? From us, of course – tax breaks, and giveaways of public property.

Leaving the Working Class Neighborhoods in Ruins

What the planners are NOT DOING is including the working class in their improvement plans. They are not creating real jobs in the city. Of course they will shout about how building a stadium and neighborhoods will bring jobs. They open a few high-end specialty stores and it makes the six o’clock news. But we need real jobs; manufacturing jobs that pay real money that allow us to pay medical, education and other bills as well as basic housing. We cannot pay the bills on service jobs.

Detroit covers 150 square miles. The wealthy are not going to fix up the urban neighborhoods, east side, west side, north or south side. Wall Street earned tremendous profits on the mortgage scam that forced 100,000 families to leave Detroit. In addition to abandoned homes, those in power have allowed the centers of working class neighborhoods to rot, and then closed down schools that serve as the core of communities. This trend is extending to Dearborn and Southfield, one-time bedroom communities of Detroit. Look at the closure of Northland Mall that has served as the anchor for Southfield and Oak Park for years.

And without real transportation to the suburbs, workers are fenced in. Even the jobs women have traditionally done in the suburbs, like home health aides for the sick and elderly, are impossible to get to.

Incarcerating Our Youth

Incarcerating the younger generations is the system’s proposed solution to unemployment. Both Democrats and Republicans changed laws radically, following the urban rebellions, to do “containment” on this population. The War on Drugs was and is a War on Us.

Prisons are taking our best hope, our young black men and women who are the most politically conscious, and locking them away on trumped up charges; taking our vanguard, those most motivated and not afraid to fight. Without hope, poverty turns our young inward on their own communities. So how can we break out of this urban detention center?

We Need a Workers’ Party

If we want a future, we need a strategy. And to have a strategy that addresses working class interests, we need a political party.

A working class political party has existed before, and in other countries when the trade unions split, with more radical union members forming their own organizations.

Today, after the many betrayals of the unions, it can look impossible for workers to fight. The bosses can seem too strong, and they are strong. But when the working class unites, and when fights begin and spread, the workers are stronger. We need a party to coordinate those fights.

Today, the upper class is using US against US; using workers to protect THEM and THEIR WEALTH. The police, the Army, the National Guard, they are all workers who should be protecting us, the working class, and our interests.

We are the working class, and we make everything run and we can make it stop. The upper class is cutting back on jobs and wages, and closing schools and leaving our new generations with LESS than what we had. It doesn’t make any sense. We could have EVERYTHING if we organize and fight for it.

We have to fight. The Democrats and Republicans won’t do anything for us. Obama can’t change it – he has the same policy as the upper class. He defends their interests.

We should use our forces to take back what they took from us and stop going backward. We need to organize and fight for a new policy, a workers’ fight; and to do that, we need our own party.