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Food Stamps under Attack; For Working Class Retaliation in the One-Sided Class War!
[Photo: Deputies taking a beating from workers at the Battle of Deputies Run. This battle took place during the Trotskyist led Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934. The strike escalated to a general strike and was victorious.]
Food Stamps Under Attack
For a Working Class Response in the One-Sided Class War
By Steven Argue
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a farm bill that would eliminate food stamps for 47 million Americans. This is the first time since 1973 a farm bill has advanced without food stamps. Explaining the move, Representative Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) said, “What we have carefully done is exclude some extraneous pieces”.
Backing the legislation are the far right, including FOX News, who are having a field day presenting anti-poor propaganda. As these people foam at the mouth it is important to look at who would be hurt by the elimination of food stamps:
*47% of food stamp recipients are children
*30% of food stamp recipients are the working poor exploited in jobs that pay so little they don't cover the bills
*21% are aged or disabled people who are recipients of supplemental security income
It appears unlikely that legislation similar to what passed in the House will pass in the Senate or be signed by Obama, but drastic cuts to food stamps may well be in store. While the Democrats are currently opposed to Republican attempts to eliminate food stamps, there is little reason to think they won't jump on board for cuts to the program. We should remember Bill Clinton's extreme cuts to social programs when he carried out his campaign promise of "ending welfare as we know it". In addition, Bill Clinton also carried out his campaign promise of putting 100,000 more cops on the street.
This latest Republican assault on food stamps is all part of the “good cop” “bad cop” tactics of capitalist class that rules America. The ruling wealthy class funds and supports both the Democrats and Republicans as part of a strategy to get what they want. Their "bad cop" Republicans go to the public with absolutely devastating and insane proposals like eliminating food stamps. Then, the "good cop" Democrats step in, appearing to be our saviors by proposing the program be continued, but only under the condition of deep cuts.
In Wisconsin in 2011 a similar strategy was advanced. The Republicans proposed the destruction of Wisconsin public sector unions. The Democrats instead advocated massive and unacceptable cuts to wages and benefits. “Good cop”, “bad cop”.
As the Republicans moved ahead with their proposal, the working class of Wisconsin erupted into mass protest against government union busting. This was a time when the working class of Wisconsin could have carried out a general strike against the proposals of the Democrats and Republicans until demands were met. Instead, the union bureaucrats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by funneling the mass anger of tens of thousands of workers in the streets into support for the Democrat Party. Their strategy was to recall Republican Scott Walker and replace him with a Democrat. Even that useless strategy failed.
American elections are a one sided shell game in the class war against the working class where only the candidates of the wealthy are funded and are given the coverage in the corporate owned media needed to win. It is their turf, not ours, and not the place where the working class presently has any chance of winning.
Central to fighting back against the one sided class war currently being carried out against the working class and poor in America will be the building of a revitalized labor movement. To do so will take fighting to end the current policies of the union bureaucracy of supporting our class enemies in the Democrat Party, for money currently given to Democrats to be put into strike funds, for an end to porous picket lines and an end to adhering to court injunctions, for the resurrection of solidarity strikes and general strikes beyond what is done by the ILWU on the West Coast, and for an end to the rank and file allowing the union bureaucrats to sign sweetheart contracts with management behind the backs of the membership.
Before 1934, the working class of the United States was getting pulverized, in large part due to the ineffective tactics of the union bureaucracy. It was a situation very similar to today. In 1934 this all changed with three major strikes that were led by reds. These were the Minneapolis Teamsters strike, led by the Trotskyists of the Communist League of America, the San Francisco Longshoreman's strike, led by the Communist Party, and the Toledo Auto Light strike, led by the left socialists of the Workers Party (which later joined the Trotskyists).
These three strikes were the beginning of a labor upsurge that greatly improved the lives of the working class of the United States through collective bargaining. It also forced the ruling class to begin giving us the New Deal in 1935 which included a minimum wage, an end to most child labor, Social Security, and jobs programs. While this was only a beginning to what we deserve, they were still victories, and those victories were won through militant industrial actions with red leadership.
As the working class of the United States gets beaten down further and further, and even Social Security and food stamps are being moved to the chopping block, the lessons of 1934 are still relevant to today. To learn those lessons, this author strongly encourages people to read "Teamster Rebellion" by Farrell Dobbs and "The Big Strike", by Mike Quin.
In addition, class enemies of the working class must be chucked unceremoniously from the unions. Specifically, cops and prison guards have no place in the union. Their role is one of racist police terror, political repression, strike breaking, holding the poor in prison for slave labor, and holding our political prisoners captive for the ruling capitalist class. As Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky pointed out:
“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” –Leon Trotsky, “What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat”, 1932
Inside of racist America, a mass incarceration of the poor, especially the poor of color, has taken place, while at the same time the multiracial working class and poor are subjected to a lack of healthcare and dramatic drop in our standard of living. The inner cities of America have, by and large, been abandoned by the same capitalists that got rich off of the jobs that they have now exported, just as the victims of hurricane Katrina were left to die by this same racist system.
Yet the capitalists continue to profit from this misery and “justify” it through racism. The capitalists profit from the mass incarceration of the poor through the prison industrial complex where they get almost free labor and they get additional money from the increasingly privatized prisons. A good percentage of those people being rounded up for these modern day plantations are people of color, while America’s racist police are now modern day slave catchers.
One reason why the United States is so hateful and mean in regards to social welfare programs is the racist idea that Black mothers might benefit from those programs. Part of the assumption is that Blacks are to blame for their high levels of poverty rather than the racist system that has discriminated against Blacks for generations and continues to do so. Of course, more white people than Black people benefit from the meager amounts of social welfare that are still available, but when the ideology of racism infects a white victim's head, it makes them far less susceptible to things like facts and reason. This is another reason why the multiracial struggle against racism in America is central to the fight to emancipate the entire working class.
Meanwhile, this summer, the capitalist courts of America have repealed the 1965 Voting Rights Act that gave southern Blacks the right to vote. In addition, they have declared that it is legal to stalk and kill a Black teenager for no reason other than his race.
Social welfare programs have already been cut far too much in America, by both the Democrats and Republicans, as both parties pour gigantic government subsidies into the banks, military production, prisons, and other capitalist enterprises to assure that the massive profits of wealthy capitalists continue to expand. This is all on the backs of the working class. One of the subsidies not cut from the current farm bill passed in the House is the big agricultural subsidy for ethanol. This is a subsidy that causes hunger and starvation by turning food into fuel and, by doing so, drives up the world price of food.
Enough food is currently produced to feed every person in the world. Yet the capitalist system assures that food will not be properly distributed. After the capitalist counter-revolution in the USSR people went hungry in the former USSR for the first time in many decades. Life expectancy also dropped by ten years in the first ten years of capitalist restoration. Cuba at that time, which is under economic blockade from the United States, also lost their key trading partner of the USSR. This could have caused starvation had Cuba been capitalist. Humanitarian organizations credit Cuba’s socialist food distribution for preventing a humanitarian disaster.
Cuba and the USSR since Stalin do not offer the type of socialist system the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) fights for. This is in part due to the fact that Cuba lacks, and the Stalinist USSR lacked, the democratic rights of a true workers democracy. Yet, they do show what is possible with a planned socialist economy. Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, under the U.S. backed Batista dictatorship, farm workers of the Rockefeller owned United Fruit Company would be unemployed and starve during the off season. The Rockefellers, an American capitalist family, were expropriated of their Cuban land holdings by the Cuban Revolution. The Cuban Revolution also rapidly ended starvation for farm workers during the off season.
Likewise, the planned socialist economy of the USSR turned one of the poorest countries in the world into an industrial powerhouse capable of defeating two major imperialist invasions (including the Nazis), and rebuilding twice to provide everyone with a job, housing, education, and health care.
While the Revolutionary Tendency doesn’t fight for the Soviet Union’s model of political organization from Stalin on, because such a model lacked essential workers democracy, we do see much potential in organizing a socialist planned economy which will be run for human and environmental needs rather than for capitalist profit. Such a socialist economy will provide everyone with food, a job, housing, education, health care, and a cleaner environment.
“Nice future,” cries the skeptic, “but when will such a thing actually happen?” Obviously, a timeline cannot be set. Proletarian revolution and socialism are what is needed, so this is what we organize and fight for. In the meantime, it remains revolutionary socialists who make the biggest difference in the daily struggles, despite our small numbers. This is because we provide a memory of methods of class struggle that have worked. It is also because we don't buy into the lies of the Bill Clintons and Barack Obamas of the world. The Revolutionary Tendency organizes for new strikes like the 1934 general strikes led by reds, and for new socialist revolutions. Join us.
Hands off Food Stamps!
No War but the Class War!
-Steven Argue for the Revolutionary Tendency
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