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As Phony "Fiscal Crisis" is used to Attack Workers, Effective Fight-Back Needed!

by The Revolutionary Tendency
[Photo: 13,000 People protesting new “right to work” law in Michigan on December 11, 2012. Protesters remained, despite being pepper sprayed by cops. Photo by AFCME]
As Phony "Fiscal Crisis" is used to Attack Workers, Effective Fight-Back Needed!

Statement of the Revolutionary Tendency

In Wisconsin, a phony "fiscal crisis" is being used to rip-up over half a century of workers' hard won rights.

With the federal reserve funneling tens of billions of dollars into the banks at essentially 0% interest, trillions of dollars spent on war, trillions of dollars given to "bailout" Wall Street, trillions of dollars spent on the mass incarceration of the poor, and hundreds of billions of dollars paid to businesses as part of the "stimulus" bill, we can see that the capitalist government can find plenty of money when the profits of the wealthy are at stake. Yet, when it comes to workers, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker uses a phony "fiscal crisis" to bust unions, slash wages by over 10%, and rip-up over half a century of hard won workers’ rights.

It is not the job of unions and revolutionaries to give helpful hints to the capitalist government about how they could better finance their criminal operations. Not even a "millionaires" tax will make their government kinder and fairer to the working class, because the problem is not a lack of money. The problem is the priorities of those who rule. More money in their government coffers won't give the working class better wages, education, workers pensions, health care, and jobs programs. Only effective fight-backs by the working class can win those things.

On a national scale, Obama and the Republicans have been using a similar phony “fiscal crisis” to attack basic gains of the working class like Medicare and Social Security.

The problem is a government that solely represents the capitalist class and has the exact opposite priorities of those of the working class. Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama spent together two trillion dollars in the last presidential election. That money was given to them by America’s major capitalist interests. Everywhere one looks, it’s plain to see that this is a government whose politicians are bought in every election cycle by the capitalist class. Instead of giving such a government helpful hints about their finances, the only way to deal with a government so arrogant in its attacks on the working class is to fight. Governor Scott Walker, however, took a gamble. He took a gamble that the working class and the unions didn’t know how to fight back and would fail in their resistance to his measures. So far he has been right.

Riding on the coat tails of that gamble, Michigan and Indiana have now passed anti-union laws themselves, making these so-called “right to work” states. Over ten thousand workers protested in Lansing. Michigan on December 11th, but unless more effective methods of struggle are resurrected from the fights that created unions in the first place, more dominoes will fall in the anti-union offensive of the U.S. ruling class.

Instead of effective action, the Michigan union bureaucracy tried to fight back against the growing anti-union sentiment of bourgeois public opinion through a referendum that would have made the right to collective bargaining a constitutional right, but would have also outlawed strikes by government employees. Yet, the right to strike is the only effective weapon of the working class in collective bargaining. This shows the depth of our crisis, today’s overpaid and ineffective union officials are willing to give away even the right to effectively fight back. The fake “socialists” of the ISO also joined in the chorus of supporting this anti-worker referendum and blamed its defeat on it not having enough activism to back it.

In Michigan, and elsewhere, a real struggle by labor for jobs, education, health care, quality housing, and collective bargaining would find many allies among the ghetto poor who have been abandoned to capitalist decay and the lack of an effective fighting multi-racial working class movement.

Likewise, in Wisconsin, instead of effective action, the “leadership” of the union bureaucracy funneled the mass struggle of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets into support for the Democrat Party and into the capitalist courts.

The union bureaucrats carried out a failed attempt recall Republican Governor Scott Walker and replace him with a Democrat. In reality, the Democrats just have a different strategy against the working class than the Republicans. While the Republicans openly crush unions to carry out austerity, Wisconsin’s Democrats also agreed on massive cuts and squeezing workers dry, they just opposed the most radical anti-union measures of the Republicans. The Democrats prefer to pose with union bureaucrats as “friends of labor” as a way of tricking the working class into accepting austerity with less of a fight.

The union bureaucrats also funneled the fight out of streets and into the capitalist courts. On February 18, 2013 the latest ruling of those courts has been to uphold Scott Walker’s attacks on the right to collective bargaining. Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets ready for effective action, but the union bureaucracy has worked to stop a general strike from happening and have, so far, literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

In addition to the union bureaucracy, various reformist “socialist” currents, like the ISO, have stood in the way of needed action since 2011 by arguing that a general strike is not possible. Such self-defeating prophecies are worse than useless. The most important question is advocating an effective fight by the needed means, not giving-up on that fight before it has been fought, as the ISO have.

Union workers have two choices. One is to allow a historic and crushing defeat of our rights to collective bargaining and with it see our wages, benefits, safety, and other work conditions sharply decline. The other choice is to fight and win a historic victory for the working class through a general strike. The call for a general strike was a popular chant in the mass protests of 2011 and was even adopted by Wisconsin’s South Central Labor Federation (SCLF), but the union bureaucracy did its best to subvert that popular sentiment. In the face of the latest judicial defeat, mass protests and the demand for a general strike must be resurrected by fighting rank and file workers from below.

An effective general strike can’t be limited to one day or a three day "general strike" as a symbolic protest either. What is at stake is no less than decades of hard fought victories for the basic right to collective bargaining. The collective power of the working class must be brought to bear through a general strike that is not ended until those in power make concessions to our demands. This is our only power to stop Scott Walker's crushing attacks on the right to collective bargaining. If the movement of 2011 cannot be revived at the present time and a general strike cannot be carried out, at least those of us spreading this message will be building a movement preparing people for what is needed in the next face-off with the next Scott Walker.

The role of unions is not one of being lawyers for the working class and getting the supposed “lesser of two evils” elected into office. The role of unions is to effectively fight-back through strikes. A victory in Wisconsin or Michigan would be a first step in forcing the capitalists and their government to back off as they attempt to make the working class pay for the crisis of their system by sucking the working class dry. A victory in Wisconsin would be a victory that would strengthen the hand of labor as we face bipartisan attacks on Social Security and Medicare coming out of Washington DC.

The Revolutionary Tendency fights for these kinds of victories as part of a transitional struggle to bring power to the multi-racial working class. Yet, even as it gets more and more difficult to extract reforms from the capitalist government, we are not satisfied by simply being thrown a few crumbs from their table. We fight for a socialist future where the capitalists are expropriated without compensation and everyone is guaranteed a job, housing, health care, education, clean environment, and workers democracy. As Leon Trotsky declared in the Transitional Program, “If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish.”

Also see:

Court Rules Against Workers in Wisconsin!
Statement by the Revolutionary Tendency

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Revolutionary Tendency
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