Low wages, police terror, and the need for revolution

Based on remarks at a joint forum of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) and Workers World Party in New York City on Jan. 3.

We have heard a lot about the disaster that is unfolding before us. The rise of police repression and brutality — with millions of people locked up and the police choking, brutalizing and killing people — accompanied by the economic crisis.

The good-paying industrial jobs that once existed for working-class people in this country have been eliminated. The new generation of workers faces a lifetime of short-term, low-wage service sector jobs.

It is important to make this link. That’s why in FIST we have been talking about a “low-wage police state.” The reality is that because of technology and de-industrialization, millions of people, especially youth, aren’t profitable any longer, so they aren’t hired. Instead, they are being locked up in prisons. The economic crisis and rise of police repression are  linked.

But why is the future that millions of young people have to look forward to  turning out to be such a nightmare?

Throughout U.S. society, there are different answers. Conspiracy theories are on the rise now, with many people blaming some secret, shady group for leading society in this direction.

The Democrats blame it on the Republicans. The Tea Party and the Libertarians say it’s because the U.S. isn’t “purely capitalist.” Every  political faction or grouping, representing every class or strata, has a different explanation. Which is the right one?

‘Profits in command’

A good place to start is to look at those who have fought back. Who has made the most progress in the struggle against racism and economic suffering in the U.S.? One of the most militant anti-racist organizations in the 20th century was the Black Panther Party. At every anti-police brutality rally today, young people are wearing T-shirts with images of Huey Newton, Fred Hampton or Angela Davis.

The youth who are part of today’s mass uprisings, as well as millions of others, love the Panthers. How did the Panthers explain the problems of U.S. society? Their required reading was “The Little Red Book” written by Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Revolution. He defined the capitalist system as “profits in command.”

That sums it up. The new generation of workers is making very low wages because this means higher profits. The less the workers are paid at Starbucks, McDonald’s and Rite Aid, the more profits are made by the storeowners.

Unemployment means more profits, too. With more people competing for jobs, the bosses lower wages, gauging that many workers will accept these low-wage jobs because they’re the only ones available to them.

Banks are raking in money from student loan debt. Young people desperate to get a job and support themselves spend tens of thousands of dollars for college, hoping they can become more qualified. They get into debt, while banks get richer.

Additionally, all over this country private prisons run for profit are being set up. Wells Fargo, a bank that has foreclosed on and evicted thousands of families in places like Michigan, Ohio and California is the primary shareholder in “Corrections Corporation of America.” Imprisoning youth makes more money for corporations and banks.

The high-tech weapons police are using in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere are manufactured by the same corporations that supply the Pentagon, including Lockheed Martin and General Electric. The corporations that make billions of dollars from war, death and destruction abroad are reaping megaprofits from selling U.S. cops their tools of repression. The war profiteers are profiting from the war at home against Black and Brown people.

Houses aren’t built in this system so people can have shelter. They are built so landlords and banks can make profits from selling or renting them.

Food is produced so that big business owners of farms, factories and stores can make profits.

Schools exist so children can learn to be good, obedient workers, not so they can learn to become productive members of society.

The police don’t exist to protect us and keep us safe; they serve to protect the property of the rich. The police have responded to the rising “Black Lives Matter” protests across the country by arresting people, macing them and so on.

But when the Ku Klux Klan has a rally, not only do police not arrest or beat the Klansmen, they guard them against angry protesters, including oppressed people. The same goes for police protecting anti-immigrant bigots or the Tea Party. This is because these ultra-right-wingers and the police are on the same team; they serve the billionaires and the bankers.

The so-called “founding fathers” were slaveowners and rich people who wrote the U.S. Constitution, which said Black people are three-fifths of a human being. Today, the government serves Wall Street and the billionaires.

The Black Panthers understood this. That’s why they opposed this system of “profits before people.”

‘Fight! Don’t Starve!’

Why do we have programs like Social Security or the right to unionize on our jobs? Because the workers fought for these benefits. Organizations, including the Communist Party, organized unemployment councils in the 1930s and led the fight for government benefits.

During the Depression, when people were starving, the CP said, “Fight!  Don’t starve!” When families were evicted, the CP led unemployed workers to break the locks and move families back into their homes.

Even if the Democrats talk about the need to bring “good paying industrial jobs” back, they neglect to say that jobs in basic industries weren’t always good paying jobs. In the 1920s, workers at steel mills, garment factories and auto plants made poverty wages — about what fast food workers make today.

But organizations, including the CP, organized sit-down strikes where workers occupied their factories until they got better wages and union recognition.

‘Science of revolution’

Many of the organizations that fought for radical changes believed in Marxism-Leninism, which isn’t a religion or dogma, but the science of revolution. They sought to build organizations of workers and oppressed people who could fight injustice and push back billionaires and bankers and win victories.

But Marxist-Leninists of yesterday and today haven’t just used its science in daily battles; they strive to overthrow capitalism altogether. The workers who make the banks, factories and all companies operate should own them and run the economy. The state designed by slaveowners should be replaced by a new kind of state, based on “People’s Power.”

Socialist revolution means the organizing of society so that everyone has a job and is included in the process of building society. Socialism means a society where everyone has food and a home. It means a society where the government actively mobilizes against racism, sexism, bigotry against lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer people and every other form of oppression.

What is communism all about?

The government and media say communism is a “foreign thing.” The hammer and sickle, which symbolize communism, are not foreign symbols. The hammer stands for the workers, who build things with it. The sickle stands for those who grow food, the millions of agricultural workers. Together the hammer and sickle emblem represents labor — which produces everything. Every product in every store has been manufactured, packaged, shelved and sold by workers.

The “working class” isn’t just made up of people with a certain income or those who work on assembly lines. Everyone who works for a living is part of the working class.

From our work, somebody else gets rich. The factories, the banks, the stores, the hotels and the restaurants have owners. These capitalists reap profits from our hard work. Because of this set-up, our society is distorted and filled with repression, racism, poverty and discrimination.

The drive for profits is pushing humanity in a very dangerous direction.

The billionaire capitalist class is setting up a possible war against Russia or China, which would have catastrophic consequences and kill millions. If this happens, it is our duty to tell the workers in this country to turn their guns around and make war against the warmakers.

Workers World Party and FIST say that the world doesn’t have to be this way. We who are Marxist-Leninists have a job to do. We have to stand in solidarity with the mass uprising going on against police terror. Also, we have to find a way to transform this mass rebellion against the racist cops into a rebellion against the entire racist system.

We have to find a way to show the low-wage workers who are organizing and the young people in the streets what so many fighters in the past knew — that we need a revolution and a new society.

If asked who are communists, we can say that communists are the fighters against injustice, who brought the 8-hour workday and union rights, who joined with the Black movement to organize against Jim Crow segregation, and who built an anti-imperialist movement against the Vietnam war. Communists seek a society where the people are on top and billionaire exploiters have to face justice for the crimes they have committed against the people.

If asked how to get to communism, the first thing to say is: “We’ve got to smash the low-wage police state.”