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A real California tour without Hollywood stars

Published Nov 23, 2010 9:52 PM

John Parker
WW photo: Alan Pollock

Following are excerpts from a Nov. 13 talk at the Workers World Party national conference by John Parker, a leader of the Los Angeles WW branch and a coordinator of the West Coast International Action Center.

Are you ready for your tour of sunny California? We could start by talking about the stars on Hollywood Boulevard. If not, we’ll have to discuss how California leads the nation with 941 charter schools targeting public education and unionized teachers. As Marx exposed long ago, capitalism’s increasingly more technologically advanced production methods need fewer and fewer educated workers.

The real unemployment rate in California is more than 22 percent once you factor back in the underemployed and discouraged workers. Over the past 30 years layoffs have become a way of life for the vast majority of workers. Instead of implementing real solutions to unemployment, the profit-by-any-means capitalist system only allows the option of pitting worker against worker.

California is next to the apartheid state of Arizona, whose racist legislators try to justify SB 1070 using the unemployment crisis. But the unemployment results from the total reorganization of production by giant monopolies. This started with the destruction and offshoring of manufacturing plants in the 1970s. It’s not the fault of immigrant workers, nor would denying jobs to every immigrant worker in this country change one iota the dynamic of globalization’s effects on workers here.

The strength in our demands for jobs correlates with the strength of our unity and solidarity with immigrant workers. That solidarity cannot be sacrificed, and this is uncompromisingly nonnegotiable.

There is a growing movement of militant immigration activists, many of whom are in the Southern California Immigration Coalition of which we are a part. They say that any Schumer-like plans criminalizing immigrants attempt to justify the increasing numbers of immigrants killed at the border between Mexico and California, which has hit record numbers this year.

Los Angeles is the homeless capital of the nation. This housing crisis resulted from the desperate need of financial capitalists to increase their profits cut by the fundamental and inevitable crisis of capitalism: overproduction. California has the highest real number of foreclosures. Empty homes and the homeless sit in torturous view of each other.

As of September, one in eight homes is currently in foreclosure in California. Latino/a and Black people have a foreclosure rate between 1.9 and 2.3 times higher than non-Latinos/as and whites.

Instead of blaming immigrant workers, non-immigrant workers in the U.S. should build unity and expose how bailouts for the banks and imperialist war deny us real government-sponsored jobs programs, like the Works Progress Administration during the Depression.

The drive to maintain profits during this economic crisis creates a new reality for working and poor people, especially Black and Latino/a youth in California who suffer a 40 percent unemployment rate. And we already know the repression and the incarceration rate for Black and Latino/a peoples continues to grow.

The transit cop Johannes Mehserle, who was videotaped killing Oscar Grant in Oakland, will likely spend only seven months in jail. Manuel Jamines, a Guatemalan immigrant and day laborer, was killed by a cop in downtown Los Angeles. James Davis, an 18-year-old Black youth from Watts, was shot in the back while on his knees with hands raised. The cops denied him medical care by a nurse on the scene. Davis died.

The cops’ role is to enforce capitalism’s attempt to maintain injustice, obedience and order while it increasingly and systematically takes away the necessities of life from working and poor people.

On our tour, we did not get to rub elbows with Hollywood stars. But there are some even greater stars, perhaps not from Hollywood, but from South Central and East LA who are today some of the most important forces helping to unify and activate our movement, some of whom spoke at our regional Workers World conference in Los Angeles. These are activists from Union del Barrio, trade unionists, Central America activists from CISPES, people from BAYAN and others.

It is in the interest of all progressive organizations and individuals to set the example for the movement of building nonsectarian alliances with all who have an interest in abolishing capitalism.

We need to recruit and build our branches, while at the same time being engaged in the defensive struggles of our class. We should understand that it’s the movements of the most oppressed hit the hardest by the ruling class today that will lead our class into revolution.