Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at the Central United Methodist Church annual banquet dinner held at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. Azikiwe attends the event every year. (Photo: Leona McElvene), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
From Detroit, Lansing and Washington, Wall Street sets the economic agenda
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following talk was delivered at a public forum sponsored by Workers World and the Harriet Tuban School on December 8, 2012 in the Detroit.
Our forums are always done in a timely fashion politically. In following developments in the United States political economy we can anticipate what major trends are coming that are of significance for the working class and the nationally oppressed.
This meeting is taking place just one day after the release of the official employment figures for the month of November 2012. These statistics claim that over 145,000 jobs were created resulting in the decline of the unemployment rate by 0.2 percent, from 7.9 to 7.7.
Yet if you read beyond the headlines it reveals that approximately 350,000 have left the workforce in recent months and this attributes to the purported decline in the rate of joblessness. Mind you the corporate media never emphasizes this fact and neither does it probe what types of jobs are being created.
Are these temporary jobs that are typically added for the end of the year season in anticipation that there will be an increase in consumer spending? Also what are the salary and benefit ranges of these jobs: are they low wage and devoid of healthcare coverage and vacation time?
What is needed and which we provide is a broader and deeper perspective on the labor market and the overall social conditions of working people and the oppressed in the U.S. This discussion cannot take place outside of the broader trends of increasing and deepening poverty inside the country and the further imposition of cutbacks, wage reductions, the slashing of benefits and the decline in public sector services.
Living in Detroit we are provided with a real life case study of the ravages of modern day capitalism. Being an industrialized city, we were among the first hit by the re-structuring of capitalism.
The city has lost over one million residents in the last sixty years. Millions of jobs have preceded the people and more jobs are leaving due to the enactment of measures that are designed to ensure the supremacy of the banks and transnational corporations.
Since Detroit is an overwhelmingly African American city we are also attacked in a manner that has strong racial overtones. The implications through the state government, the mayor’s office and the corporate media are that because we are black that somehow this negatively impacts our ability to govern ourselves.
Even though Mayor Bing is African American, he has never been associated with the Black struggle and comes from a sports and business background. Bing didn’t even live in the city prior to running for mayor and was recruited by the banks and corporations to run Detroit in order to oversee the destruction that is being carried out in the current period.
The Detroit Crisis and the Banker-Controlled State Government
A tremendous campaign to defeat Public Act 4 was carried over the last year and a half in Detroit and around the state of Michigan. From legal actions to petitions drives and mass rallies, the people spoke out saying that they did not want the state-appointed agents of capital directly running their municipal and educational affairs.
This sentiment culminated with the voter rejection of Proposal One, a referendum on the so-called “emergency manager” law, better-known as the dictator law. Despite the propaganda and psychological operations conducted by the corporate media and the state government and their agents within the Detroit City Council and Mayor’s office, the law went down in flames at the ballot box.
Rather than accept this political reality, the functionaries of capital are acting as if the elections never took place. They immediately came up with the tired and rehashed notion that Detroit would run out of cash by the end of the month. This was done in the Spring in order to convince five members of the City Council to vote to liquidate their limited powers to unknown individuals appointed by a racist governor who is a multi-millionaire.
Hence, the 5-4 vote on April 4 to adopt a so-called “financial stability agreement” was not only a sham but represented the absolute poor judgment of these would-be rulers. After the petitions to repeal Public Act 4 were certified and the suspension of the law came into force, the local and state officials acted as if nothing had changed.
They soon re-enacted the previous emergency financial manager law, Public Act 72, which had been repealed by the passing of Public Act 4 in early 2011. Instead of emergency manager, they reverted back to emergency financial managers in the majority African American cities and school districts across the state.
The return to Public Act 72 was in itself illegal and this is being challenged in court as we speak. Nevertheless, this indicates the degree of desperation of the ruling class in the U.S. They cannot afford even bourgeois democracy anymore. It has become an annoyance for them because in some cases it interferes with the speed in which they seek the total evisceration of the gains made through labor and national struggles over the last eight decades.
Holding all tax funding that could assist Detroit and other cities in paying workers, keeping the street lights on, making buses run on time and supplying some education to the youth, as far as the ruling class is concerned and their surrogates, these necessities take a lower priority than paying the banks and providing incentives for the corporations to super-exploit the workers and oppressed. The bankers say that the residents of Detroit owe them nearly $17 billion for outstanding debts resulting from credit default swap loans and bond sales whose values are often shifted by the banking-led rating firms.
Just recently the rating agencies downgraded Detroit credit-worthiness because the voters had the nerve to vote down the dictator law. When the corporate media reported this to the public it exposed who is actually running Detroit, the state of Michigan and municipal finance across the country.
Today the municipal bond market is a $3.7 trillion industry. After the collapse of the credit card, student loan and housing industries, the municipal bond market can be viewed as another “new frontier” of capitalist exploitation.
As the workers and oppressed were robbed and enslaved by the credit card industry and the student loan system, later of course predatory lending—where people were encouraged to turn their homes into master and visa cards—poverty has increased in the U.S. and imperialist war is the order of the day. Between the defense and intelligence services in the U.S., there is over $1 trillion wasted each year, these funds could be used for the alleviation of the municipal debt and the rebuilding of the cities.
The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) for the last decade has said: “Money for Our Cities, Not for War.” The constant provocative actions by successive U.S. administrations aimed at the oppressed nations and the socialist states is also designed not just to exploit them but to further the suppression and exploitation of the workers and the oppressed here inside the leading imperialist state in the world.
The Role of Washington As an Agent of Wall Street and the Pentagon
Both dominant political parties inside the U.S. serve the interests of the racist, capitalist and imperialist system. We can see this clearly in recent developments: although the Democrats have a different social base, the leadership of that party manipulates the workers and oppressed and take measures consistently that go against the interests of the majority.
Let us just look at the discussion surrounding the so-called “fiscal cliff.” In a conversation with an area peace activist this week I mentioned that the government only speaks about what to cut and take away from the people and never on how to construct on behalf of the 99 percent. She was struck by this statement and repeated it and said that everyone should view the situation in this regard.
This conversation took place on the same day as the right-wing politicians in Lansing took the first vote in their efforts to institute right to work laws in Michigan, a bastion of organized labor and national struggles. On December 6 several people were arrested in Lansing and the workers were peppered sprayed for loudly opposing the vote to impose even lower wages without benefits on the people of Michigan.
On December 11, the unions and others are scheduled to return to the State Capitol building to protest the next phase of the right to work for nothing saga of the conservative officials in Lansing. We must attend and support this day of action and bring to it a program of uncompromising struggle, which apportions blame on the real culprits, the corporations and the financial institutions which have ruined Detroit, Michigan, the U.S. and indeed the world.
Our Role in the Current Struggle
As we have done for the last five years, we must continue to place primary emphasis on the role of the banks in the present crisis, a terminal worsening of the social conditions of the workers and the oppressed which can only be overcome through mass revolutionary struggle and socialist revolution. To prepare for these tasks we must organize and mobilize the workers and oppressed in their struggle to overthrow their ruling class masters.
Our leaflets, placards, posters and banners are designed to focus on the need for the people to act independently of both the ruling class parties. The workers and oppressed need their own organizations and political party—these groups will be able to act in the interests of the majority and not those of the 1 percent.
We have played a role in the struggle against Public Act 4 over the last year. We can continue in this present battle against the right to work law and the expanding enactment of austerity.
Until the workers and the oppressed get at the principals responsible for their social plight we will continue to fall victim to the false leadership of the Democrats and their functionaries. It is past time for the surfacing of a new leadership that will re-orientate and re-organize the workers and the oppressed in the battle to halt austerity and the re-building of the political movement for progress and development.