The papers and news shows are filled with talk about the General Motor's bankruptcy and how terrible it is going to be for the corporations, the bondholders, the rich and powerful.
Almost nothing is being said about the workers – except, that is, endless recriminations about their so-called lavish benefits, plush working conditions, and fat paychecks that, if you believe what you hear, are almost singlehandedly responsible for the plight of the Big 3 today.
The goal of this campaign is to marginalize their plight and turn the rest of the workers against them. In this distraction, the capitalist class can obscure the underlying cause of these problems and blunt the leadership this section of the workers has historically exercised over the entire working class.
Neither the autoworker – nor any other worker – created the economic system of capitalism. Nor do they have power over it or the state that oversees it. They were not the ones who created the robotic production lines, or laid off the workers it replaced. They didn't have any control over the vast system of buying and selling within which they are enmeshed. Like every other worker they can only live as long as they can work.
The same technology that is decimating the lives of American workers has the potential to provide for all. The problem is our class doesn't control that technology, or the state that protects those who do. That control is in the hands of the capitalist class and they wield it in their class interests, not in our interests.
American industrial workers hold an historic place in the American working class. In the 1930s they played crucial roles in unionization, and in the 1960s in fights to open the shop floor and skilled trades to minorities and women, to clean up the conditions on the job, and to garner raises in pay and benefits. These improvements rippled throughout the entire working class, paving the way for better working conditions and pay for all workers.
Ultimately, it was their labor that was the foundation for the American capitalist class to rise to its dominant position in the world. For this reason, for a time, the capitalist class conceded to the industrial worker a relatively good standard of living, decent benefits, and a stable living.
No more. Who can deny that the 840 robots to be installed in GM's Lordstown plant will do anything other than eliminate the need for labor there as well? And multiply that a thousand times, a hundred thousand times over, around the world in every industry, shop, and office.
In 1966, Chrysler employed 66,000 workers in Detroit alone. Today, it employs 35,000 nationwide. Sixty-five thousand workers are at GM, but due to the bankruptcy conditions it will be less than half that by the time they are through.
Those few who remain have been forced to swallow the government's demands for more cutbacks: loss of vacation time and cost of living raises, reduced break time, and reductions in wages in some cases to $14 an hour. Besides accepting worsening work conditions and terrible pay, Chrysler and GM workers were forced to give up the right to strike to 2015. We say forced because when a person is looking at cuts or no job at all, there isn't much choice.
Thousands more are being cut adrift as plants close and production is slashed in those that remain. They join thousands of those before them laid off, fired, and downsized from plants throughout the region, and now scrambling to make it on food stamps, minimum wage jobs, or living on nothing at all, destitute and homeless. All that will be left is a life of instability and few prospects.
Working for the time being or cut loose, these workers are now joining the ever expanding ranks of the new class being created by robotics.
It is not only their numbers, or even their concentration, which makes these workers decisive to the cause of revolution in this country. It is also their continuity in the communities of the region – generations in the plants, and in the unions – and their collective class experience of their battles for a better life raising up the living standards for all. It is their skills, their knowledge of organization, their ties, by a million different threads, to the same stratum of the class throughout the country.
Conscious of their class interests, and armed with a battle plan to achieve their immediate needs, they can be turned toward revolution, and can bring the rest of the class with them.
This decisive section is already moving into activity, and the ruling class is already waging a fight for not simply their organizational leadership, but to shape their minds and vision to side with ruling class against their own class interests. If this bid is left unchallenged, not only the workers of the Rust Belt, but all of society will fall prey to the fascist forces coalescing to restructure society around the fascist corporate state.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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