Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wall Street Greed Is Capitalism: Only Socialism Can Guarantee Jobs, Housing, Health Care, Equality

Wall Street greed IS capitalism

Only socialism can guarantee jobs, housing, health care, equality

By Fred Goldstein
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 corporations.

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 corporate greed.

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 bailout.

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 dealerships.

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 bottom.

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 to.

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, Canada.

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 recently.

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 houses.

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 workers produce.

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 most profit.

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 like.

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.
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