Wall Street greed IS capitalism
only socialism can guarantee jobs, housing, health care, equality
Published Apr 2, 2009 8:16 PM
The latest trillion-dollar handout to Wall Street banks and the recent assault
on workers in the auto industry clearly demonstrate why the workers and
oppressed in this country must break the chains of capitalist priorities and
mobilize to change things around so that workers come before banks and
Ultimately, the fight is to do away with the profit system and replace it with
a socialist reorganization of society–a society based on human need, not
The Obama administration has given the auto bosses an ultimatum: voluntarily
downsize and force further concessions from the workers or have the cuts
imposed in a bankruptcy court.
Detroit auto barons have laid off 100,000 workers since 2006, established a
two-tier wage system in which the pay for new hires was cut in half, eliminated
the jobs bank, and got the UAW to shoulder health care costs of the workers.
Yet the Treasury and Wall Street wanted more blood in return for the
General Motors submitted a plan promising to cut 47,000 workers worldwide and
shut down five more plants. Chrysler agreed to lay off 3,000 workers. Both
companies strong-armed the UAW into agreeing to future wage concessions and
health care concessions. Yet Washington rejected these plans as inadequate.
Washington, the banks and the bondholders of the auto companies want to go
after the health care benefits of hundreds of thousands of retirees, in
addition to breaking the contract on wages. They are demanding that the UAW
agree to non-union wage levels at Toyota, Nissan and Honda, among others.
Above all, the government is demanding that the auto industry shrink itself
down—meaning cut jobs on a grand scale.
The auto industry is central to U.S. capitalism. It absorbs enormous amounts of
capital. For every worker directly employed in the auto industry, anywhere from
seven to 10 additional workers are employed in the economy. Autos use steel,
other metals, computers, rubber, plastic, glass, wire. Producing a vehicle
involves parts plants, auto dealers, truck drivers. The auto industry is one of
the largest television and print advertisers and the largest purchaser of
microchips. Many more threads are connected to the auto industry, including the
stores in the communities surrounding the auto factories, parts plants and
The crisis haunting the auto industry is sweeping the whole capitalist economy
and represents a growing crisis for the working class.
Breaking out of capitalist framework
The auto workers are told that if they don’t make concessions, the
company won’t be competitive and they will lose their jobs. To accept
this capitalist logic is fatal. The bosses say that if workers at GM make
concessions, then GM will be competitive with Toyota. But as soon as GM lowers
wages, Toyota will tell its workers that if they don’t take cuts, then GM
will win the competition. The one that pays the lowest wages wins.
This type of “concessions bargaining” has become standard
practice—the working class has been pushed into a competitive race to the
Workers must not become imprisoned by the framework erected by capitalism. They
must establish their own legality, their own arguments. Demands like the right
to a job or 30 hours’ work for 40 hours’ pay need to be raised.
This can only be done in the course of struggle.
Republic Windows and Doors workers in UE Local 1110 in Chicago showed last
December how to insist on the rights of the workers over the property rights of
the bosses. Their boss, on three days’ notice, had moved his operation to
Iowa. They seized the factory and held it until Bank of America, which financed
Republic, agreed to give them the benefits and severance pay they were entitled
This heroic example was followed by workers at Waterford Crystal in Ireland,
who explicitly declared they were following the example of the Republic
workers. A similar takeover just took place at an auto plant in Windsor,
In all these cases, workers overrode the property rights of the bosses and
basically declared their right to occupy the plant on the grounds that their
labor had created the factory and everything produced there.
A job is a right!
To combat the epidemic of layoffs, the workers need to take this struggle a
step further and assert the right to a job as a property right. We must expand
the rights claimed by the Republic workers to include not just the right to
severance and other benefits due but the right to the job itself. Workers
create the products or services sold by the employer, thus generating the
profits of the employer and the wealth necessary to build the facilities and
keep them running.
While the Republic victory was a product of their courage and boldness, the
mass support the workers got was crucial. To begin to establish a job as a
right will take mass mobilizations of the working class in a broad struggle.
But this is a powerful antidote to the unending wave of layoffs seen
This principle must also be applied to housing as a right, food as a right,
health care as a right. For those who cannot work, income is a right. It
applies to all workers, employed and unemployed, documented and undocumented,
organized and unorganized—the entire multinational working class, Black,
Latina/o, Asian, Native and white.
Community-labor alliances, People’s Assemblies, and other coalitions need
to be mobilized to unite the various struggles that are now being conducted in
separation from one another. The Bail Out the People movement, based in New
York and spreading to other cities, is trying to accomplish this goal.
People’s Assemblies based in North Carolina and Virginia are being
organized. The concept of unified mass struggle involving the communities and
the workers must be expanded.
The right of bankers and mortgage brokers to throw people out of their homes is
being contested in Detroit, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and other cities.
During the 1930s the movement to stop evictions became a mass movement putting
hundreds of thousands of people back in their homes. The people established the
right to housing through direct struggle.
Capitalism is the problem
The contradictions of capitalism are intensifying at great speed as the crisis
escalates. Because of private property and the profit system, tent cities of
the homeless are spreading from St. Petersburg, Fla., to Fresno and Sacramento,
Calif. This is capitalism–homeless people amidst a glut of empty
Construction workers are unemployed because they produced too many houses to be
sold at a profit. Auto workers are idled because they produced too many autos.
Yet millions of people need autos–especially in rural areas and in cities
where the auto companies have undermined mass transportation.
The U.S. has a minimum of mass transportation and a maximum of polluting
automobiles. Society needs railroad cars, high-speed trains, subways, buses and
all forms of mass transportation. But a railroad or subway car lasts for years.
The auto industry thrives on families having two cars and having to repurchase
every few years, buy parts, and keep the profits rolling in. The oil companies
thrive on selling gas.
People in the U.S. spend more than $2 trillion a year on health care but there
are 45 million uninsured and millions underinsured. The medical-industrial
complex is milked for profit. From the insurance companies to the
pharmaceutical companies to the medical instrument companies to the for-profit
hospitals, health care is a capitalist commodity.
Each day another pundit or politician declares that education is the key to the
future. Yet the public school system is starved and budgets are being cut.
Private, non-union, profit-making charter schools are spreading,
teachers’ pay is dropping and teachers are being laid off so that state
and local governments can pay the bondholders. Millions of youth,
disproportionately African-American and Latina/o, go to substandard schools.
College costs are skyrocketing; college loans are profit centers for the banks
and other lenders. Many students drop out because of debt. If they do graduate,
where will they find a job?
The capitalists, through their media, express public praise of Barack Obama as
the first African-American president while at the same time they foster racist
police departments and occupations of Black and Latina/o communities in order
to repress the youth. The bosses regard these youth as an excess labor force
who, because they are jobless, are not a source of profit. They are abandoned
because the capitalist establishment sees no profit in them and sees no use in
educating and supporting them. Thus oppressed youth must be controlled by
violence and repression, including imprisonment and the death penalty.
And, of course, capital benefits politically by stirring racism to divide the
workers against each other.
Publicly, the representatives of the capitalists condemn undocumented workers
coming across the border. In private, behind the scenes, the bosses foster and
thrive off undocumented immigration to get the benefit of super-profits made
from highly exploited, low-wage, unprotected labor.
Their system is going bankrupt. The cities, roads and bridges are decaying
while they pour billions into wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They call
small countries trying to defend themselves a threat to peace, yet they boast
of more military might than the entire rest of the world combined. They patrol
the seven seas and menace countries, large and small, to advance the profit
interests of the oil companies and transnational corporations.
These contradictions flow from the fact that all capitalist society is run for
profit. All capitalists make profit by exploiting labor and selling what the
Socialism is the solution
The creation of an average automobile, which is assembled from 15,000 different
parts, is the result of a global organization of production. The components,
the design, the engineering come from all corners of the globe.
The construction of a home is also the result of global labor that produces the
raw materials and the various components needed. The same is true of medicines,
hospital beds, medical instruments, and all the expertise that goes into making
up a medical institution.
There are endless examples showing that labor is in fact socialized. It is
intricately interconnected and organized in vast cooperative enterprises by the
bosses. Yet this entire global apparatus of socialized production is privately
owned by a handful of billionaires who operate it, or shut it down, based on
one sole criterion–making a profit.
The decisions they make, all struggling against each other, determine what gets
produced, how many people work and under what conditions—regardless of
the needs of humanity.
The entire world working class operates under the whip of these billionaires.
They have armies of underlings on all continents to crack the whip, speed up
the line worker or the truck driver, pile more work on the nurse or the
fast-food worker, the construction worker, the call center worker, etc. With
globalization, these owners now push workers in every climate, in every
language, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to get the most unpaid labor, the
The pharmaceutical giants spend more money on research trying to beat each
other to the market with yet another painkiller or another cholesterol-lowering
drug than on trying to collectively fight AIDS or malaria because these drugs
find global consumer markets. They operate in secrecy and waste enormous
resources in duplicate research and advertising wars.
In a planned society organized to meet human need, these resources could fund
free, quality health care and shared research to improve prevention while
coping with serious diseases.
Rational social planning on behalf of all human beings is impossible under
capitalism because of private property and the profit system. A rationally
organized society in which the resources and productive forces were socially
owned, and profit was not a consideration, would immediately begin to match up
the growing millions of homeless people with the growing stock of empty homes.
Only the profits of the banks and lenders stand between rational planning of
housing. Affordable, quality housing for all would become a planned objective
of a socialist society.
Educational, environmental, health and all other socially useful and necessary
goals would be set and planned for. Resources would be allocated and
organization put in place to achieve the goals. This is what socialism looks
In order to accomplish socialized ownership, the economy has to be brought into
harmony with the socialized production that already exists. Those who create
all the wealth must own it. Socialism is the only alternative and capitalism
must be pulled down in order to get there.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE