Gov’t shutdown a workers’ lockout
The following is excerpted from a talk given by Steve Millies at a Oct. 4 Workers World Party meeting in New York City.
More than 800,000 workers were thrown out of their jobs on Oct. 1 when the U.S. government shut down. Hundreds of thousands more were told to work without pay by their bosses.
Nine million mothers and their children who depend on the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program were prevented from accessing information. Hungry families needing to enroll were out of luck.
What was Wall Street’s initial reaction to this catastrophe? That same day the Dow Jones industrial average went up 62 points.
Even though the stock market has fallen since then by a couple of hundred points, it’s nothing like its reaction on Sept. 29, 2008, when it fell 777 points when the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout was initially rejected by the House of Representatives.
What do capitalists care about millions losing access to food? They’re starving people all over the earth to keep food prices high.
Do you think Dow Chemical is alarmed that over 90 percent of the employees of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board have been let go?
Let’s make it very clear: Millions of people are suffering and tens of millions more are threatened by the shutdown of government services, like the WIC program. These programs have been won through decades of struggle.
But the capitalist state hasn’t been shut down. The U.S. is still occupying Afghanistan while it continues to threaten Syria. The Pentagon continues to assassinate with drones. The National Security Agency is spying on everybody.
La Migra’s immigration enforcement continues to deport immigrant workers and their children. Thirty thousand immigrants are locked up in jails, many of which are run by private, extremely profitable outfits.
The capitalist state isn’t about helping people with Social Security or food programs. The capitalist state is cops, jails, brutality and death.
And this organized violence on behalf of the rich hasn’t been shut down at all.
Lockout against Black workers
The government shutdown is really a lockout of hundreds of thousands of union workers by the biggest employer of all, the capitalist state.
It’s a racist lockout of the Black city of Washington, D.C., which has been denied statehood for decades because it would mean two more African Americans in the U.S. Senate.
This lockout is aimed, first and foremost, at Black workers, but it affects the entire multinational working class.
During the last four decades of deliberate deindustrialization, hundreds of thousands of Black workers have been thrown out of steel mills, auto plants and other shut-down factories. Many of the better-paying jobs still held by African Americans are government jobs.
More Black workers earning $55,000 or more are employed by the U.S. Postal Service than any other company. African-American homeowning neighborhoods like St. Albans, Queens, N.Y., are filled with public workers.
The union-busting campaign against government workers hasn’t been waged by the Tea Party alone.
Vice President Al Gore went around the country bragging that the Clinton administration had fired 100,000 federal employees. What Prince Albert didn’t mention was that 47 percent of those given pink slips were Black.
The Tea Party bigots in Congress are allowed to carry out this lockout by big capital.
It’s not just the billionaire Koch brothers who are pulling the strings. The entire capitalist class is for cutbacks.
Capitalist history repeats
It’s through cutbacks and wars that the rich have gotten through every previous capitalist economic crisis.
The capitalist world market was born through the African Holocaust and the extermination of Native peoples in the Americas. It also included wholesale attacks on poor people in Western Europe.
English King Henry VIII hanged 70,000 so-called vagabonds who were really homeless people. Five centuries later, moneybags Mayor Mike Bloomberg wanted to charge homeless families for sleeping in shelters.
While African children were being thrown to the sharks in the Middle Passage, workers in what were to become capitalist states in Western Europe were being starved and actually decreased in height. That’s how severe the cutbacks in food were at the beginning of capitalist era, during the Industrial Revolution.
Just as capitalism was born with cutbacks, it’s decaying with even more.
The whole Tea Party crew in Congress could be brought to order by Wall Street, if it wanted to. House Speaker John Boehner’s suburban district is between Cincinnati and Dayton. Proctor & Gamble runs Cincinnati. General Electric has a big aerospace plant in Boehner’s district.
But neither Proctor & Gamble nor GE has any inclination to do so.
Capital has to expand or die. And the only way capital can even maintain itself during this economic crisis is by stealing even more from the working class, which includes more than 20 million unemployed.
Last year Con Ed conducted a 27-day lockout of its unionized workers. This lockout ended only when a dangerous storm, a derecho, was approaching. The capitalist class needs an electrical system to exploit workers and make profits. But even this necessity took second place to the war against Con Ed workers.
Con Ed is the same outfit that removed without a backup a vital feeder cable that powers Metro North’s electric trains on the New Haven line. Sixty thousand commuters have been affected by this capitalist utility’s recklessness.
The electrical grid is a prime example of how industry is really socialized production that’s strangled by private capitalist ownership. Over the last decades Con Ed has had a string of electrical blackouts. But this capitalist utility won’t fix the problems. There’s no profit to do so.
‘Injustice in health care shocking
The ostensible reason for this government lockout — this shutdown of government services — is the start of the Affordable Care Act.
Fifty million people without health insurance have been eagerly waiting for this law to take effect.
But millions of people who desperately need health care won’t be getting any help. John Roberts and his fellow Tea Party judges on the Supreme Court allowed states under Tea Party rule not to increase Medicaid coverage.
Immigrant workers won’t get any help from this law at all. That’s a racist attack on millions of our fellow workers. It’s like reinstating Jim Crow hospitals, where Black patients died in ambulances going past them.
But our criticisms of this law have nothing to do with the Tea Party racists who spat on Congressperson John Lewis. Lewis was viciously clubbed by Alabama State Police in Selma while fighting for voting rights with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
For want of a dentist, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache on Feb. 25, 2007. This Black child died in Prince Georges County, Md., where tens of thousands of government workers are now out of work because of the shutdown.
Do you think the Tea Party bigots care at all for Deamonte Driver or the 50 million people without health insurance? Neither does the entire capitalist class.
After decades of demands for public health insurance, the Affordable Care Act was only passed with a whole series of sops and giveaways to Aetna, United Health Care and the rest of the gigantic insurance outfits.
So why does the capitalist class allow it to be endangered now, upon its inauguration?
It’s sort of like the timid liberal who was summoned to a red-baiting congressional committee during the anti-communist witch hunt. The liberal cried, “I’ve always been an anti-communist.” To which Joe McCarthy replied, “We don’t care what sort of communist you are.”
To many in the capitalist class, it doesn’t matter that the Affordable Care Act is meager legislation that guarantees more profits for the medical insurance complex.
The super-rich don’t even want to give the appearance of reform. All they want is to attack, attack, attack poor people all over the globe.
How can we turn this around?
Without the masses’ intervention, this government lockout and the so-called federal debt ceiling will be used to pass cutback legislation. The Democrats will call this a compromise that we’re supposed to be relieved to hear about.
It will be a rotten compromise. Two years ago, President Barack Obama offered a trillion dollars in cuts to Social Security and other vital programs. It just whetted the Tea Party’s appetite.
We need to struggle, struggle and struggle still more. Fannie Lou Hamer didn’t wait for the Democratic Party to do something, because the white Democrats were the ones who tortured her in Mississippi.
All through her life Fannie Lou Hamer struggled. So did thousands of other courageous fighters.
That’s how millions of workers were organized into unions in the 1930s and how segregation was defeated in the 1960s.
We need to build peoples’ assemblies everywhere to fight police killings of poor people, every cutback and every rich-man’s war.
We need to assemble to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and the MOVE 9. We need to fight to free CeCe McDonald. We need to assemble to bring home the millions of sisters and brothers who are in prison. The Cuban 5 must be freed immediately and their jail cells occupied by five CEOs of Pfizer, Merck and other drug profiteers.
We need what the people of Cuba have — free health care for all!
This weekend the International People’s Assembly Against the Banks and Against Austerity is convening in Detroit, a Black city that was economically destroyed by finance capital.
On Oct. 22, people will be rallying in cities against police brutality and mass incarceration.
On Oct. 24, we’ll be fighting for a $15 minimum wage. We need to fill Herald Square in New York.
Struggle is the only way we can defend ourselves and our families.
Both Herman Wallace and General Giap struggled all their lives.
During 47 years of imprisonment, including 41 years of solitary confinement, Herman Wallace never gave up. Neither can we.
General Giap showed the people of the world how to defeat the French and U.S. war machines.
The capitalist class has shut down government services. We will give Wall Street a Dien Bien Phu — a socialist revolution!
Long live the memory of Herman Wallace and General Giap!