Conference to Defeat Austerity set for March 24 in Detroit

A National Conference to Defeat Austerity will take place in Detroit on Saturday, March 24, at St. Matthew’s-St. Joseph’s Church, a historic Black church in the heart of the city.

The call for the conference, initiated by the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, states:  “We extend an invitation to all progressive activists and organizations to participate in this important conference, the purpose of which is to map out a strategy for defeating the war being waged by the banks, corporations and government against the workers and oppressed. Capitalism cannot continue unchallenged while our very lives are being jeopardized by the ruling elites who are determined to grow richer and more powerful at our expense, while whipping up white supremacy, an anti-immigrant offensive, attacks on women and anti-LGBTQ bigotry to keep our class divided.”

Austerity means the direct rule by finance capital over cities and even countries, where the banks impose drastic cutbacks in services, wage cuts, destruction of pensions and privatization to ensure the payment of debt service on fraudulent and usurious loans.

The call for the conference further states: “Detroit, along with colonized Puerto Rico, has been at the epicenter of bank-imposed austerity against the workers and oppressed in this hemisphere. But every U.S. city … has felt the brunt of this attack in the form of cutbacks, school closings, mass transit cuts, water shutoffs, gentrification and destruction of public service unions.

“The Trump tax plan and Pentagon war build-up continue the massive transfer of wealth to the rich at the expense of the poor. This war by the banks on the workers and poor is an international phenomenon spanning every continent. On March 24, we will hammer out a program on how to fight back against the war by the corporations, the banks and their lackeys in government at all levels on the workers and poor.”

The Moratorium Now! Coalition has been a leader in the fight against the massive home foreclosures that devastated neighborhoods throughout Detroit. More than 65,000 bank foreclosures — the product of racist, predatory loans — drove a quarter-million residents out of this majority-Black city.  The coalition’s campaign for a moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions included intervening in the courts and streets to save hundreds of families from losing their homes.

When the city was placed under emergency management and then into bankruptcy in order to guarantee the payment of debt service to the very banks that destroyed Detroit’s neighborhoods, Moratorium Now! intervened in the bankruptcy proceedings and was the only community organization to participate in a historic trial that challenged the interest rate swaps that bankrupted the city.

National and international support

The National Conference to Defeat Austerity has been endorsed by most of the community organizations and leaders in Detroit who have been fighting mass water shutoffs, tax foreclosures, education cutbacks, union busting, low wages, attacks on basic human needs for the poor, gentrification and the drastic pension cuts imposed on Detroit’s retirees. Locally, the conference has forged an excellent relationship with organizers for the National Poor People’s Campaign, which is planning mass civil disobedience in 25 state capitals, including Lansing, Mich., on May 11.

The conference against austerity is also beginning to gather national and international support, including endorsements by the Baltimore Bus Transit Union; Parents to Improve School Transportation in New York City; Dave Welch, postal worker and San Francisco Labor Council delegate; several representatives of the National Writers Union, UAW; and teachers in Chicago whose union has filed a class action lawsuit challenging the banks’ interest rate swaps.

Representatives from the Refund America Project, the preeminent organization that has documented the role of the banks in bankrupting cities and public utilities across the U.S., will be addressing the conference and sharing their terrific research.

A leader of the Puerto Rican electrical workers is expected to attend. Highlighted will be the devastation wreaked on the island by the effects of major hurricanes exacerbated by infrastructure sacrificed to pay for debt service to the banks.

Several international working-class leaders engaged in the fight against austerity are expected to send statements and reports to the conference, which will feature international workers’ solidarity in the fight against capitalist austerity, especially solidarity with immigrants inside the U.S.  The International League of People’s Struggle has endorsed the conference, and speakers from Bayan will report on the workers’ struggle in the Philippines.

The conference will also include workshops and practical training sessions on how to raise an anti-capitalist perspective in the day-to-day struggles of the workers and the poor. It is expected the conference will adopt a series of transitional demands that speak directly to this task.

For more information about the National Conference to Defeat Austerity, go to the facebook organizing page, @DefeatAusterityNationalConference; email moratorium@moratorium-mi.org; or call 313-680-5508.

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