From Class Struggle 65 Feb/March 2006
Was it lightning strikes, ‘vulture’ capitalists, Bushite de-regulators, or an absent union that caused the Sago disaster? This is the checklist the US reformist ‘left’ which thinks that US capitalism can be reformed. But it’s none of these. US Imperialism cannot be reformed. It is on the warpath abroad and at home. The Sago dead, like the Iraqi dead and the Bolivian dead, are symbolic of US imperialism’s march to destruction as it tries to avoid its life and death crisis of falling profits. Only an international socialist revolution can stop this collapse into barbarism.
US imperialism and the Sago Mine Disaster
The loss of the 13 Sago miners (12 dead and one severely brain injured) of West Virginia in early January was the direct result of the mounting attacks by US imperialism on its working class, in an attempt to take back concessions and cut labor costs to compete with cheap labor in Asia and Latin America. While these attacks are made worse by the Bush administration and the failure of the union leaders to challenge the bosses, the underlying cause is the crisis of US imperialism and the attempts by the US ruling class to make the US working class as well as workers globally pay for its crisis.
US imperialism’s crisis is a crisis of overproduction of capital. In the 1970s the US economy faced falling profits due to the rising cost of capital investment in plant and machinery. Its solution was to export surplus capital to less developed countries to take advantage of cheap labor and raw materials. The super-exploitation of cheap labor and plundering of resources in the semi-colonies was achieved by the institutions of the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation acting in the interests of US finance capital. So-called neo-liberalism or globalisation are both words that describe but do not explain the US drive to escape its crisis of falling profits by the classic Leninist export of capital. The result is that US corporates are today producing most of their profits offshore in so-called ‘outsourced’ plants.
Nevertheless, the super-profits from US global expansion have been insufficient to resolve the crisis of overproduction and allow a return to an upward cycle of capital accumulation. The great mass of surplus capital remains outside the productive circuit as money in the form of ‘fictitious capital’ speculating in shares, futures and exchange rates. US capitalism has come up against the fundamental contradiction of capitalism – that the working class will no longer sit back passively and allow the forces of production (including its own labor and lives) to be destroyed to restore private profits. The plundering of labor and raw materials in the semi-colonial world is facing resistance from workers and poor peasants across Latin America, Asia and in parts of Africa. Inside the US the drive to restructure industry cut costs of production is now facing a potential revolt. The fundamental class contradiction in US capitalist society, long suppressed by its imperialist role, is re-asserting itself as an awakening of the working class to confront US imperialism at home and abroad.
US imperialism has always relied on waves of migrant workers and black workers to work for low wages to keep the bulk of services in America running. Some graduated upward into the labour aristocracy to join that layer of privileged workers who backed US imperialism so they could get high wages. Today, however, the crisis of US imperialism has trapped a large stagnant pool of labor, usually living in poverty – like the black population of New Orleans abandoned to Hurricane Katrina – and repressed as a ‘criminal underclass’ on the streets and in the jails. They do not see anything progressive about US capitalism.
Not only that, the crisis has forced the capitalists to attack large sections of the former privileged aristocracy of labour – high paid mainly male unionized workers in steel, auto, airlines etc. Over the last decades these former world-beating industries have gone into decline as low wage and high productivity foreign competitors have taken increasing shares of the US and world market. In most cases the ‘foreign’ competitors are actually US global corporates like the Auto industry which has closed 100s of US plants and ‘exported’ 200,000 jobs since 2000. The result has been that the US corporates have used their global expansion to drive down labor costs at home in an attempt to compete with themselves. The established union leaderships have gone into ‘partnership’ with the bosses to ‘save American jobs’ by negotiating massive cutbacks and takebacks in jobs, wages and conditions in the hope of retaining the privileges of a minority of the US labor aristocracy and their own privileges as a union bureaucracy.
But the existing unions’ leaderships’ complicity in saving US capitalism at the expense of millions of workers whose labor capacity is being destroyed is beginning to create divisions in the ranks. The attempts by the AFL-CIO to defend American jobs by blaming foreign workers have failed and brought about a decline in the unions. More and more workers are awakening to the fact that US corporates are dominating the global economy and going to war to assert their primacy. Within the ranks of the labor movement there is a growing recognition that US workers must unite with foreign workers employed by the same corporates in common fight to limit their power and greed. The AFL-CIO has split and increasing grass roots dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party is challenging the grip of the bureaucracy on the unions. Into the breach left by the discredited ‘old bureaucracy’ and its failed strategy of defending jobs, steps the ‘new bureaucracy’ of the left aligned with the World Social Forum, presenting a new vision of the ‘peaceful, democratic road to socialism’.
Central to this reformist perspective is the bureaucratic bloc formed around the defence of Cuba, the Bolivarian Revolution, the MAS in Bolivia, and the anti-war movement against the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. This defence hinges on the ‘democratic’ labor movement in the US preventing the Bushites from invading these countries, which would then be allowed to develop their own resources rather then be plundered by US corporates. Thus the predatory role of US global corporates will be replaced by a ‘fair sharing’ of national resources between the indigenous and national populations and US investors. Back in the USA, the money wasted on military invasions and the armaments industry will go to much needed public health, education and social services. This unholy alliance of social democracy, Stalinism, Castroism and fake Trotskyism comes to the rescue of US imperialism by keeping alive the illusion that it can be pressured from below to adopt a form of ‘market socialism’.
Critical to this ‘left’ perspective is the active role of organized labor in stopping the supposed greedy, rogue, anarchic, warmongering, ‘dark’ side of imperialism from manifesting itself in ruthless attacks on workers. This explains much of the reformist left response to the Sago Mine disaster.
Could Sago have been saved by the union?
Of course industry must be unionized. Cost cutting in the coal mines has a bloody history. Disasters were commonplace until workers organized to demand improved safety standards. The unionization of the mines was the only way to defeat these terrible conditions. US mine workers fought many battles to get union cover. But today their unions have become open partners with the bosses in cost cutting. The level of health and safety protection has fallen dramatically. At Sago the Mine Safety and Health Administration recorded 208 violations of federal mine rules in 2005, including 18 orders to shut down parts of the mine while faults were corrected, yet there was no order to shut down the mine completely.
At Sago mine 13 miners lost their lives because the employer would not pay for radio telephones or concrete barriers against explosions that would have cost a tiny fraction of its multi-million profits. Meanwhile, state regulation agencies under Bush have been filled with former coal industry executives who refuse to close dangerous mines. The UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) claims that the single factor that could have closed down the mine was missing at Sago– the union! Here is its statement released shortly after the disaster:
“International Coal Group (ICG), the US-based company responsible for 12 mining deaths last week in the state of West Virginia, operates 21 US coal mines in America, all non-union. Yet, three emergency-response teams from nearby United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) staffed mines, plus the ICEM affiliate’s Health and Safety director were involved in rescue efforts at ICG’s Sago mine on 2 January after 13 miners became trapped following a gas explosion.
ICG has become a major eastern US coal supplier to utility companies at a time of high demand and high prices. The company is a creation of Wilbur L. Ross, a bankruptcy buyout opportunist who has a two-decade-long record in steel, textile and now coal bankruptcies. Ross uses US court bankruptcy proceedings to gain tax deferrals and cancel workers’ bargaining rights, pension benefits and retiree health care.
ICG bought bankrupt Horizon Natural Resources, Anker Coal Group and CoalQuest Development, among others over the past few years. ICG gained a stake in Anker, the former owner of Sago, in the early 2000s and increased his holding as the company weakened and entered bankruptcy in 2002.
He only recently finalised buyout of the company for US$173 million, adding some eight coal mines and loading facilities to ICG. Also in late 2005, Ross took ICG—founded only in 2004—public, infusing US$250 million cash into the firm, and causing Ross to state: “It’s all new money for the company. Neither my firm nor the founding shareholders are selling any stock on the offering at all.” Rose’s controlling stake increased from 9.2% to 13.7% on the initial public offering.
It is evident Rose’s “new money” and current coal revenue profit-taking are not intended for miners’ social welfare, whether it be retirement benefits or job safety. On 30 August 2004, 17 UMWA members were arrested by police when they and 800 others protested before a US bankruptcy court in Louisville, Kentucky. Some 3,000 UMWA members, both active and retired, were about to lose job security, and health care coverage as Ross and IGC took control of Horizon at a discount value in the bankruptcy court. . .”
But would the UMWA have made a difference? These workplace deaths can be multiplied across all the industries from steel to auto to airlines, key sectors of which are unionized. Over 100,000 workers lose their lives every year through industrial accidents. It is true that Wilbur Ross who bought the unsafe Sago mine has build his empire by scavenging companies and using bankruptcy laws to take back wages and conditions won by generations of workers. A prominent fundraiser for the Democrats, Ross makes a point of selling himself to union bosses as ‘saving jobs’ after firms have gone into bankruptcy. It seems that some union bosses’ actually believe Ross and ‘partner’ him to restructure US industry to ‘save American jobs’.
Where the UMWA and similar unions exist they have collaborated in Ross’s ruthless practices. In steel and textiles Ross restructured companies with huge loss of jobs, pay and conditions and in each case got the approval of the respective union chiefs. According to Andrew Pollack in Monthly Review Zine:
[Ross’s] “ . . . first big move was his February 2002 purchase of bankrupt LTV Corp, waiting until LTV had shed its health-care liabilities and dumped its pension obligations on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Ross paid $90 million in cash and took on $235 million in assumed liabilities -- in return, he gained assets worth $2.5 billion. LTV became part of Ross's International Steel Group. After replacing defined benefit pensions with 401(k)s, Ross instituted an incentive pay program in which workers got paid more for beating production goals. The ISG cut man-hours of labor per ton of steel from two-and-a-half to one, a saving equaling $45 on a ton of steel selling for $300.
Because Ross had "saved" steelworker jobs -- even though their pay and benefits had been slashed -- USWA President Leo W. Gerard said the investor was "a breath of fresh air. Wilbur and his people actually cared about what we had to say." Apparently, all it takes to make a union bureaucrat happy these days is a friendly capitalist ear.”
Pollack says this was true of the textile industry as well:
“Steel union head Gerard's fondness for Ross was matched by a glowing endorsement from [textile union] UNITE HERE head Bruce Raynor, who said "I really think the future of domestic manufacturing is people like Wilbur Ross."
In the Auto industry Ross is said to be eyeing Delphi where CEO Miller (who took Bethlehem Steel to bankruptcy before Ross bought it cheap) is threatening bankruptcy if workers do not take a 2/3rd pay cut and loss of pension rights. The current struggle at Delphi is to reject the deal struck between Miller and the UAW union bureaucrats and a potential Democrat ‘job saver’ buyer like Wilbur Ross.
Whether in steel, textiles, coal or auto, as proven collaborators with the bosses, the leaders of all these unions must be held responsible for the many defeats of workers under the US anti-union and bankruptcy laws. Why is this, when unions are commonly understood as acting in the interests of workers? What explains the active ‘partnership’ of the US union bosses with corporate bosses in restructuring US industry?
The labor bureaucracy
The fact is the union leadership collaborates with the capitalist class to subordinate and exploit the working class. More specifically it dominates the unions so as to contain dissent arising from the massive cutbacks and takebacks. As the crisis of US capitalism has developed in the last two decades the reactionary role of the unions has become more blatant. Now unions openly advocate win-win ‘partnerships’ with the employers to increase profits and, they claim, wages. But of course as the deals with Ross prove, the cost of keeping some jobs is the destruction of many more. The reformist left keeps pointing to ‘sellouts’ and ‘deals’ done by bureaucrats, but sees these betrayals as evidence of a wider ‘corruption’ found in the ruling class. And just as the Enrons can be brought to justice, rogue bureaucrats can be challenged and replaced. Yet this does not account for the systematic treachery of union officials. How to explain this?
The classic Marxist explanation has two legs. First, the labor bureaucracy is a layer of union officials that originates in the relatively privileged aristocracy of labor (those workers whose wages and conditions are raised because they work for monopoly corporations who super-exploit the semi-colonial or ‘poor’ countries). It functions to mediate between the labor aristocracy and the employers. Trotsky referred to them as ‘labor lieutenants’ of business. It is their job to collaborate with business in the super-exploitation of foreign workers so that the labor aristocracy at home can share in some part of this bounty. US unions have come to play the role of partner in US imperialism to ensure that the aristocracy of labor gets is share of imperialist super-profits. Monthly Review reports on recent examples of this international class collaboration by the AFL-CIO to promote US ‘friendly’ regimes in Venezuela and Haiti.
Second, is the bureaucracy’s ideological role in promoting the fetishised view of capitalism as one of market relations between individuals. It accepts that the market’s normal state is one of equilibrium, and that crises and wars are disturbances caused by the behavior of the rich, powerful ruling class who cheat and prey on the weak and poor. The purpose of organized labour is to checkmate the power of global elite and allow the market to be stabilized, and equalized, by a ‘mixed economy’, sometimes called ‘market socialism’, today better known as the public/private partnership (PPP). This world view is presented as ‘realism’ or ‘common sense’. It is the ideological basis of the class collaboration or ‘partnerships’ between unions and bosses.
This is why the bureaucrats’ response to bosses attacks is to negotiate and concede cutbacks and concessions in order to save some jobs and some plants (and the union) but never to challenge the ultimate right of boss to hire and fire, and to even hire and fire on behalf of the bosses. The result has been the decimation of whole industries and the destruction of a large part of the US work force. Job losses and disillusionment with unions has seen the membership of unions sink to an all-time low at around 13% (36% public sector and 8% private sector). The recent split of the SIU and Teamsters from the AFL-CIO to form the breakaway labor federation Change to Win group was an attempt to meet this crisis by spending more money on recruitment. But it did nothing to challenge or change the class collaborationist role of the labor bureaucracy. According to Labor’s Militant Voice it entrenches the bureaucracy’s hold over these unions by taking away what little autonomy local labour councils have left.
The current strikes at North Western Airlines, and NY Transit, and the looming fightback at Delphi, all illustrate the widespread complicity between the bosses and the AFL-CIO union leaders that has led to decades of defeats in the major steel, airlines and Auto industries. It is not a case of a few union sellouts, or leaders making mistakes or misjudgments. The labour bureaucracy specializes in sell-outs. They are chronic collaborators. Proof? Look at the ongoing NY Transit dispute.
Local 100 boss Roger Toussaint had a deal lined up with his ‘Partner’ the MTA, but was undone by the determination of the state governor and NYC Mayor Bloomberg to cut public funding to transit services of the largely black and migrant workforce by destroying their pension rights. The 36,000 transit workers anger boiled over and an illegal strike was on. Mayor Bloomberg called the strikers ‘thugs’ and threatened heavy fines and even imprisonment. Though the majority of NYC commuters supported the strike, Toussaint consulted with other top bureaucrats, not his membership, about how to end the strike.
According to one report:
“Toussaint then nervously turned for help to Bruce Raynor, the general president of Unite Here, and a top dog in Change to Win, [The same Bruce Raynor who regards bosses like Wilbur Ross, as “the future of domestic manufacturing”! ] and Mike Fishman, president of the city's giant union of building service workers, Local 32BJ of SEIU. These two big shots had been strong supporters of Mayor Bloomberg's recent reelection victory. After talking to His Honor, they assured Toussaint that, while they had no formal guarantees, if he called off the strike City Hall would make sure negotiations would be fair. Others began to lean on Toussaint to cave as well such as Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council and United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.”
After 3 days facing massive financial penalties and assured by the Change to Win officials that Bloomberg would go easy on them, Toussaint fixed a deal where transit workers would keep their pension rights but start paying for health insurance! Members angry with both Toussaint and the deal narrowly rejected the offer. Governor Pataki and the MTA came back with a worse deal and a threat to force the union into arbitration. The rank and file is currently divided with a minority actively rejecting both the new offer and arbitration (as of 1 Feb)
Toussaint, Raynor and McLaughlin are not isolated cases. They are fully paid up members of the labor bureaucracy. It is clear that the role of the labor bureaucracy subordinates the rank and file to the bosses and the state, but how do we overcome this problem?
First, we neither gloss over this problem claiming as does Workers World Party, which as the main force behind the International Action Center signed a statement calling for a January 12 protest rally in NYC labelling Wilbur Ross a ‘vulture’ and Roger Toussaint a ‘hero’. This is an opportunist signing up to the bureaucracy as a ‘progressive’ force on the side of labor able to checkmate ‘vulture’ capitalists. It is no accident that the WWP regards Cuba as ‘socialist’ and is uncritical of Chavez’s ‘21st century socialism’ in Venezuela. The WWP backs the labor bureaucracy at home and abroad.
Second, we don’t try to sweep the bureaucracy under the carpet like the Socialist Equality Party which correctly condemns the bureaucracy but wont fight it in the unions. Its position on the NY Transit strike is to leap over the demand for a general strike to call on all the workers of New York to join a new socialist party. This is un-Marxist and sectarian. So long as key sectors of industry are bureaucratically unionized, and the majority of workers remain un-unionized, revolutionaries have to fight to re-build the labour movement on the basis of rank and file democracy. Articles condemning the labor bureaucracy will not convince unionized workers to break with them. This requires a concrete program of fight inside the unions and for an independent workers political voice.
Building rank and file democracy
As Marxists we know that US imperialism is in trouble and that it can only solve its crisis by attacking workers at home and abroad. These attacks will necessarily generate fightbacks even by unorganized or non-unionized labor. The ‘old’ labor bureaucracy’s strategy of defending the US aristocracy of labor is bankrupt. The ‘new’ bureaucracy seeks to contain the new labor fightbacks within the a reformist perspective of the World Social Forum. This reformist perspective sows illusions in the US imperialist state able to pursue a peaceful, non-exploitative international role in collaboration with democratic nationalists, or even 21st century socialists, in the semi-colonies. This perspective is ‘social imperialist’ because it covers up the fact that the social reforms in the US will be still be paid for by the superprofits won by deals between ‘democratic’ imperialism and the national bourgeoisies at the expense of the workers and poor peasants. It is in the interest of the ‘new’ bureaucracy to promote this democratic ‘alternative’ because it is bought and paid by capitalism to keep the working class tied to the state. The first step in building a rank and file control of the unions is to break all ties to the state!
Revolutionaries begin with the fact that workers control of production is the only real basis of workers power. We have to build independent workers organizations to establish workers’ control. Despite its bureaucratic leadership, the existing labour movement is an historic gain we cannot write off. The AMWU in particular played a leading role in the class struggle unionism of the 1930s that led to the formation of the CIO. It has won major victories right up to the 1980s. As Trotsky said those who cannot defend the old gains cannot win new ones! Therefore work in the labour movement is ABC for revolutionaries. Our tactics must be to lead the rank and file in rebuilding the unions as ‘schools for revolution’. We have to be the best fighters in the frontline of rank and file rebellions against union boss sellouts to break the ‘new’ bureaucratic trap!
Two current fightbacks show that rank and file fightbacks are beginning to emerge. It’s early days yet and these struggles run the risk of being sidelined by a new layer of ‘left’ bureaucrats who step forward to replace the old bureaucrats who have lost credibility. Breaking with both layers of the bureaucracy is the urgent task ahead!
At Northwestern Airlines, the 4,400 mechanics who are striking against the employers drive to outsource 90% of the jobs and impose big wage cuts and takebacks, are in a democratically controlled union. The mechanics joined the Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) in the 1990swhen their existing union, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), forced them to accept major concessions by bureaucratic methods. The IAM is now an open strikebreaking union, while other airline unions are supportive but have not gone on strike. The AFL-CIO leadership has refused to endorse the strike. The Teamsters (one of the main unions in Change to Win) is also hostile. To overcome these divisions driven by the bureaucracy, the mechanics have formed a fightback organization Airline Workers United to fight for rank and file unity across all the unions in the airline industry and to mobilize support from outside the industry. This is a move in the right direction but so far it has limited it self to ‘pressuring’ of politicians to change the bankruptcy laws, diverting the struggle from building national, coordinated strike action.
The second example is at Delphi a major multinational supplier of auto parts to General Motors. The response of the workers at Delphi points the way forward not only for the auto industry (currently facing many plant closures and over 60,000 job losses) but the whole of US industry. CEO Miller’ threat to bankrupt Delphi (formerly part of GM) to impose cuts and takebacks has jolted the workers into forming a militant rank and file group Soldiers of Solidarity to resist the ‘sweetheart’ deals being made between the bosses and the United Auto Workers union (UAW). While its efforts are also directed at putting pressure on the employers and politicians, the main thrust of SOS is mass industrial action. There is much talk of a return to the militant sit-down strikes of the 1930s such as that at Flint in 1936. The strength of the sit-down strike is that it keeps the workers inside the factories. More immediately a series of rank and file meetings across the country has debated the ‘work to rule’ tactic as a preparation for strike action. The immediate response of Miller was been to threaten closure of plants working to rule. This should be all the workers need to push for factory occupations and the demand that the industry be nationalized under workers control, along with health, education, banks and so on.
These are important fightbacks, yet the development of SOS and of militant rank and file control of the unions as ‘schools for revolution’ across the US, requires a revolutionary leadership. The main problem is that the Trotskyist movement that was active in the leadership of the major strikes of the 1930s does not exist today. Consistent with their ‘social imperialist’ perspective, the fake Trotskyists in the unions are intent on forming a new ‘left’ bureaucracy to limit the rank and file to pressuring the corporates and lobbying congress for ‘fairer’ laws and universal healthcare and pension reforms funded by taxing the rich. What they deny is the super-profiteering role of US imperialism abroad in paying for these social ‘reforms’ at home. Breaking with the ‘new’ bureaucracy means therefore, confronting US imperialism by smashing the roots of its global superprofiteering and oppression.
Break from the ‘new’ bureaucracy!
To develop SOS into a model for rebuilding the unions, the rank and file must control the unions. This means holding mass members meetings where decisions are taken by show of hands, elected and recallable delegates, election of strike committees, pickets and self defence groups, unions united nationally and internationally across the industry by rank-and-file-based congresses that can mount united front actions to force on the bureaucracy demands they cannot fulfill. Neither the AFL-CIO nor Change to Win leaderships represent the interests of rank and file workers. Neither backed the TWU wildcat strike in New York with anything more than words. The rank and file must coordinate national organizations, and demand that the bureaucrats of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win call for national workers conferences and fund and back illegal strikes and nation-wide strikes to break the power of the corporates and their anti-union laws. Strike action must always point towards the political general strike to bring down the government and to create a Workers and poor Farmers’ Government.
Such transitional demands cannot be met by the old or the new labor bureaucrats. Their exposure as bosses’ agents will educate and mobilize the rank and file to dump their misleaders and take over the leadership. That militant leadership must follow the principles of workers democracy. All negotiations should be done by delegates elected by the rank and file. Union officials should be elected each year for a fixed term, immediately accountable to the members, and paid no more than the average wage in the industry. The books should be open to all members and all union assets, bank accounts, etc open to member scrutiny.
Trotsky wrote that unions in the epoch of imperialism were subordinated to the state. His central demand was to break with the state and its class rule. Today this means breaking with the ‘left’ ideology of ‘social imperialism’. US labor must reject state reforms paid for by imperialist profiteering by plunder and war. Employers must be forced to carry the full cost of workers health, education, housing and pensions rather than state or federal welfare services.
The reformist left is calling for universal state funded universal health care in which they will fill the new jobs created to administer these services! This is central demand of the Change to Win federation. Some fake Trotskyist groups are also backing this reform. Dianne Feeley in the fake Trotskyist group Solidarity argues that the only way that everybody will be covered by health insurance is through universal state provision (Against the Current, Jan/Feb 2006). But there is no chance that unions that today take wage cuts to pay for health care can tomorrow mobilize enough pressure politically to force bosses to fund a federal health system. State provision of welfare services always offers loopholes for the bosses to cut their contributions. Workers have shown that they have the industrial muscle to refuse to pay for their pensions and health care and to demand that the bosses also pay for pensions and unemployed support.
For example, Roger Toussaint and his bureaucratic cronies tried to do a deal with the NY City Mayor which kept existing pension rights, but imposed a 1.5% payment for health insurance that would in future rise faster than wages! The rank and file refused to vote for a wage cut to pay for their health care! When NY City and NY State as public employers try to impose health costs onto workers what chance is there that workers can vote in a federal health provision? Yet when workers refuse to pay they show the potential power that can win successful occupations and nationalisations without compensation under workers control.
The only way forward is strike action on the job to break the bosses’ repressive laws that threaten fines, dismissal or imprisonment to make workers pay for their own health, education and welfare. The bosses’ use the bankruptcy provisions to break labor agreements and cream off vast profits. They ignore the labor laws and health and safety regulations which causes the deaths of more and more workers like the Sago miners. Workers must break these laws and enforce their own health and safety standards as the measure of their own control. Work to rule, sit ins and occupations are the necessary steps to workers’ control and workers’ ownership. They create organs of dual power from which the revolutionary workers can take state power. There can be no shortcut in which a workers party negotiates the expropriation of private property and compensation to the bosses as the fake Trotskyist SEP says in its 2006 election program.
Just as workers must reject social reforms at home paid for by imperialist profiteering, so they must unite their forces with workers and peasants everywhere who are super-exploited by imperialism. We do not mean the ‘fake’ internationalism of the WSF anti-war movement that calls on Troops Out of Iraq because of the loss of American lives and the US$2 trillion cost of the war! We are for the defeat of the US in Iraq! We are for smashing the US military at home, the Patriot Act and its concentration camps! We do not call Chavez’s ‘21st century socialism’ internationalism when it sells oil to the US to invade and plunder Iraq. We must be for a socialist revolution in Venezuela, Palestine and Iraq! We are for the political revolution in Cuba and the return of Guantánamo!
Real internationalism means that US miners fight the mine bosses in the US, in China and Latin America. The Sago miners are no different to the miners of El Teniente in Chile, Turbio in Argentina, Barakova in Ukraine, Mutun in Bolivia or Fuksin in China. US workers must join forces with all workers in every country to fight for the expropriation of the property of the landlords, the banks and the corporates. Only by such a common struggle can the national divisions that separate workers and poor peasants in different countries be overcome, and a new world made possible!
For a mass Labor Party with a socialist program!
The revolutionary transformation of unions into workers’ councils or soviets is our goal!
Along the way we must break from the bureaucrats and their funding of the party of US social imperialism, the Democrats. To do this we must call for a real workers party based on democratic unions to be built. Trotsky argued that in the US in the 1930s the labor movement had yet to find its own political voice. He took into account that workers would not jump out of the Democrats into a mass revolutionary party overnight, but would support a Labor Party in which revolutionaries raising the transitional program could be instrumental in transforming it into a mass revolutionary party as part of a new revolutionary international. Over 60 years later the need for a Labor Party is even more urgent.
- Jobs for all on a living wage!
- 30 hours work for 40 hours pay!
- No concessions on wages, jobs, health or pensions!
- Strike to make the bosses pay for full pension and health care!
- If bosses threaten redundancies and bankruptcy demand they ‘open the books’!
- Occupy under workers control all plants threatened with closure!
- Open the borders to economic and political worker migrants!
- US troops out of Iraq, Haiti, Cuba and bases in Asia and South America!
- Victory to Iraq! Defeat the main enemy at home!
- Strike against the US war industry and build soldiers committees against the war in Iraq!
- Nationalize industry, transport, communications and banks without compensation under workers control!
- For a Workers and small farmers government and a planned socialist economy!
- For a Socialist United States of the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego!