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Political problems and revolutionary potential

Published Nov 19, 2009 9:51 PM

Excerpted talk from Secretariat member Fred Goldstein, at the Nov. 14-15 Workers World Party National Conference in New York.

We are a party of fighters, but we also must carefully analyze what is going on around us and what direction things are taking.

Opening Plenary Session: The capitalist crisis, the coming class struggle, the Obama administration, and the fight for a socialist future. Speaker: Fred Goldstein.

Using Marxism is the surest guide. Marx showed over 150 years ago that as capitalism grew it would bring more and more workers into a vast socialized network of production all over the world. But the entire economy, all the means of production and services would be privately owned and run for the profit of the owners.

Marx showed that the tendency of the capitalists in pursuit of maximum profits was to make more and more efficient machinery—more technology, computers, software, robots, etc.; to put more of workers’ skills into machinery, making the workers less needed and reducing the skills needed so they can pay workers less and get more production. That way the bosses get more and more surplus value.

Marx also showed that this historical tendency of capitalism would lead to the eventual pauperization of the workers and their families and that sooner or later it would put more and more of a strain on the system, and finally lead to a collapse and to conditions for revolution.

This is the process that is now going on before our very eyes!

The capitalist system never really had a normal economic recovery from the Depression. It survived a growing pre-revolutionary sit-down strike movement among the workers by plunging into a catastrophic world war which killed 50 million or more.

Right now there is a deepening jobless recovery, and this is just the beginning. There are greater crises ahead.

To get a sense of where this capitalist crisis is going for the workers and for society as a whole, take the example of the recovery of Ford Motors. Ford went from losing billions of dollars to racking up a billion in profit in the last quarter. Mind you, this profit went up while sales went down.

How does this happen? Partly it was the government-subsidized Cash for Clunkers program. But the big story is that Ford laid off 53,000 workers and shut down 15 plants since 2006. It means that in order to retain profitability, the auto industry is shrinking production because they cannot sell at a profit.

But what happens when the auto industry shuts down plants? It means that dealerships shut down. Communities are destroyed. More than that—jobs are lost in parts plants, in steel, in rubber, in glass, in plastic, in paint, in fabric, in microchips, in robot production and so forth. Mechanics and salespeople and clerical workers lose jobs.

This vicious chain affects most all of the industries, chain stores, shopping malls, restaurant chains, because the profit system has reached a point where workers have been made so productive at creating wealth that they are thrown out of work. As capitalism pauperizes the workers, who will buy the cars? The system destroys its own markets. Capitalism is reaching the limits of the system of exploitation.

The government and the experts keep looking for positive signs. A positive sign to them is that “only” 510,000 workers lost their jobs last month. But they cannot tell you how the close to 30 million unemployed or underemployed workers are going to be put back to work in a shrinking economy.

This affects not just employed workers but youth, single mothers on welfare, the elderly; it affects all those who are not owners. To the capitalists the youth, especially Black and Latino/a youth, are completely dispensable. The bosses have no jobs for them. They can’t be exploited for profit. So capitalism does not care about them.

Mothers on welfare—who are doing the invaluable service of bringing up children, a function without which society could not exist—are outside the chain of production and are not a source of profit, so the capitalists are quite willing to let them go under. The same holds for the elderly. It is all about profit.

What makes this crisis different from previous crises in the past 70 years since the Great Depression? In the past the capitalists have used military spending, wage cutting, pumping money into the banks, creating bubbles—the dot-com technology bubble, the housing bubble, and so on. But these means of solving the crisis have been exhausted. That is what is different.

The problems

To come back to the present: As society gets poorer and poorer, as the crisis deepens for workers and the communities, the material basis for rebellion and struggle are being created.

But because of the decades of attack and the severity of the crisis, it takes time for the workers and the oppressed to rebel on a large scale. No one knows when or where such a rebellion will begin. But because of the delay, the big business and the reactionary, racist, anti-women, anti-lesbian, -gay, -bi and -trans forces, are winning most of the political and economic struggles.

Above all, there is the constant attempt by the capitalist establishment, which fears a rebellion, to divide the working class by inciting racism, sexism, bigotry and anti-immigrant chauvinism.

These are all problems arising out of the fact that the workers and the general movement are not yet in the field threatening the establishment.

The inevitable awakening

All these attacks are bound to arouse a reawakening of the struggle. Already beneath the dark cloud of reaction there are rays of light beginning to shine through. The struggle of the Republic Windows and Doors workers who occupied their plant was a great inspiration and a model for the future. It made an impression on workers everywhere, not just in the U.S. The long heroic battle of the Stella D’Oro workers showed a mood of fight-back. The SEPTA transit workers of Philadelphia have won a victory, as have the SK Tools workers after a nine-week struggle of the Teamsters Local 743.

The Bail Out the People Movement led a Jobs March in Pittsburgh at the G-20 to bring the unemployment crisis to the G-20 conference. There followed a March for Jobs in Boston. There was a labor-led march of several thousand that crashed the American Bankers Association meeting in Chicago.

The student movement is beginning to bubble up in the fight against cutbacks, and student-worker organizing networks are beginning to grow.

The tasks

The task of our party is to rise to the occasion to meet the challenges of this new period of deepening crisis and awakening struggle. Our aim has always been to build a party of the working class. It is the working class that makes everything move, gets everything of value done.

We want to do everything we can to foster resistance to the crisis, the fight for jobs, the fight against foreclosures, and the fight for health care, education and to save the environment. But the overall purpose is always to undermine the capitalist social order.

For the capitalist system there is no way out but deepening crisis. For the working class and the oppressed there is a way out—the way of struggle and mass mobilization.

Our task as a party is to fight for a new socialist order in which this vast global productive apparatus will be owned and run by the workers, the source of all wealth, for human need and not for profit.

Down with capitalism! Long live socialism! Build Workers World Party and build a workers world!

See www.lowwagecapitalism.com for the entire talk.