Ray O. Light
2007 Country Report – USA
The main enemy of the international working class and of the billions of oppressed peoples in the semi-colonial and dependent countries of the world is monopoly capitalism and imperialism, dominated today by global finance capital. In the past few decades the accelerated concentration of capital and the extension of its tentacles into the far corners of the earth has become increasingly referred to as "globalization" by both its bourgeois and petty bourgeois proponents and opponents. We proletarian revolutionaries know it to be imperialist globalization, that is, the continuation of the development of imperialism as the highest and last dying stage of capitalism, precisely along the lines illuminated by comrade Lenin more than ninety years ago. As he taught, this era also features the new and rising unfolding proletarian revolution.
The past several decades have seen the rapid emergence of an integrated world economy. Indeed, a number of global and regional political and economic entities such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Trilateral Commission, the World Economic Forum, the World Social Forum and its regional offshoots, Free Trade of the Americas Act (FTAA), Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and most notably the European Union with its euro currency challenging the "almighty dollar" have been created, virtually all of them solidly in the hands of big imperialist powers. Has the formation of such global formations rendered "country reports" like this one unnecessary or less important than heretofore? No, indeed.
In Foundations of Leninism, comrade Stalin points to: "the two sides, the two tendencies in the national question: the tendency towards political emancipation from the shackles of imperialism and towards the formation of an independent national state – a tendency which arose as a consequence of imperialist oppression and colonial exploitation; and the tendency towards closer economic relations among nations, which arose as a result of the formation of a world market and a world economic system." Far from obliterating the political distinctions among nation-states, this economic integration, aggravated by chronic capitalist crises, is serving to intensify national enmities and distinctions.
Imperialist globalization rests in the first place on the nation-state (or multinational state) power – the standing army and the police, the diplomatic corps, the intelligence services, the loyal political parties, the loyal mass media and educational system, the cultural and social features – of the imperialist states. Hence, imperialist globalization does not obliterate the importance of the nation state; quite the opposite.
The chief bulwark of this old and dying system is United States imperialism. Consequently, as a proletarian vanguard organization in the USA, the Ray O. Light Group feels a great responsibility toward our comrades, especially those from the many other lands oppressed, threatened and brutalized by "our own" imperialists, to clearly and accurately share our assessment of the current conditions of the U.S. ruling class, working class and oppressed nationalities within the "belly of the beast". At the same time, we hope that this concrete analysis of the concrete conditions in the USA today serves as a useful guide to action for serious revolutionary forces functioning within the U.S. multinational state.
The Desperation of the United States Ruling Class
For more than fifty years, beginning with the end of World War II, U.S. imperialism has been a virtually unrivalled imperialist power. This fact has enabled U.S. imperialism to bribe and brutalize its own population even more thoroughly than was imperialism’s impact on the handful of very rich and privileged nations of the World War I period, described by Lenin in Imperialism and the Split in Socialism (1916).
But Lenin also taught that the more powerful the imperialist country, the more precipitous its decline. Now, in less than a generation, U.S. imperialism has been transformed from the foremost creditor country in the world into the greatest debtor country. In a similar trajectory to that experienced by oppressed and dependent countries in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the U.S. government is rapidly becoming indebted and subservient to global finance capital. "Net interest payments on debt held by investors both at home and abroad are expected to reach a staggering $261.3 billion in fiscal year 2008, an amount close to half the sum currently spent on Social Security or defense…. In fact, the interest paid to foreigners in 2005 was nearly 44 percent more than the $76 billion that the U.S. federal government spent on child nutrition, food stamps, foster care, and family support combined." (Boston Globe, 4-8-07, p. 29)
The extreme parasitic position of the current U.S. economy based so largely on the labor of the working people of Mexico and Central America and South America, of Russia and the former Soviet bloc, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India and China and elsewhere has placed its parasitic stamp in every sphere of social life in the United States. "A total of 3.2 million factory jobs, or 1 of every 6, have been lost since the start of 2000. (AP)" (4-23-07, Christian Science Monitor) And, in the field of education, for example, the United States is now unable to provide sufficient scientists and engineers; it must import Indian, Chinese and other skilled professionals, even to maintain its current level of production.
The almost unchallenged domination of U.S. society by the U.S. monopoly capitalist ruling class for so long has weakened the ability of the U.S. economy to compete in the increasingly competitive global market. The ability of this ruling class, over the past several generations, to steamroller any internal class resistance to its rule has resulted, for example, in a chaotic and inefficient private healthcare "system" unlike that in any other advanced capitalist country. The obscene mega-profits of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, connected to this anarchic healthcare "system", dwarf even the super-profits of the oil cartel warmongers. The lack of universal healthcare in the USA has, in turn, resulted in a situation where important U.S. employers such as "the Big Three" automakers have closed huge factories in the USA and shifted the work abroad because of the runaway cost of healthcare coverage for U.S. workers.
After more than fifty years as the hegemonic imperialist "superpower", the rapid decline of the U.S. Empire is becoming quite evident. "For the first time, Toyota Motor Corp. has surpassed General Motors Corp. in global auto sales for a quarter, the Japanese automaker said Tuesday." (4-25-07, Christian Science Monitor)
As it has become more and more clear that U.S. imperialism cannot reverse this disastrous economic direction, in order to maintain its economic hegemony, in order to postpone the inevitable day of accountability, when it will be compelled to pay its foreign financial debt, the United States has to be armed to the teeth. The emergence of the Bush Regime with its unending global imperialist war against the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples and against any and all its great power partner-rivals for resources, spheres of influence, etc. is the result. Thus, in the period of the Bush-led War of Terror on the world’s peoples since 2001, the expenditures of the U.S. imperialist state apparatus on military hardware, research and technology, have been greater than all the rest of the major powers’ military spending combined!!
According to Georgetown’s G. John Ilkenberry, as far back as Bush senior’s administration, with its projection of a "new world order", then U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had written that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USA must act to prevent the rise of peer competitors in Europe and Asia. As Ilkenberry put it, "America is to be less bound to its partners and to global rules and institutions while it steps forward to play a more unilateral and anticipatory role…The United States will use its unrivalled military power to manage the global order." (See "America’s Imperial Ambitions", Foreign Affairs, September/October 2002)
Since 9-11, wherever oil and/or natural gas is in abundance, or where strategic transport routes and pipelines for oil and natural gas are at stake, from Georgia in the former USSR to Qatar in the Middle East, to Colombia in South America to the Philippines in Southeast Asia, and especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. imperialism has sent its military to take control of the world’s oil and natural gas supply in order to keep these vital resources out of the hands of its imperialist rivals and maintain its economic hegemony.
The current period in which the Bush Regime has been at the helm of the U.S. ship of state has marked the most dramatic and steep decline of the U.S. Empire. The two years between the 2004 Presidential election and the 2006 Congressional election represented a sea change in the USA. The Iraqi Resistance, the main force on the frontline of the world-wide struggle against U.S. imperialism, has clearly gained the upper hand militarily in Iraq and has forced the bullying Bush Regime onto the defensive, exposing its cowardly and contradictory weaknesses.
Right after 9-11-01, Bush’s rating among the U.S. populace was about 90% favorable. At the time of the 2004 Presidential election when it had already become apparent that U.S. imperialism was still struggling to hold its position both in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush’s rating had fallen to about fifty percent favorable.
When the 2004 election results for U.S. President rolled in, showing that George W. Bush had managed to gain a second term (after he clearly stole his first), most folks outside the USA were shocked. Outside of the hermetically sealed U.S. multinational state, with its mass media at an extremely high level of monopolization and conformity, the fact that the Bush Regime is a regime of war criminals had been obvious. Under the impetus of the world capitalist economic crisis, the Bushites were responsible for the unprovoked war, invasion and occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq, and a new doctrine of "preventive war" (shades of Hitler Germany). At the same time, they were responsible for waging a war at home in the USA itself — including the rapid removal of workers’ rights to overtime protection and on the job rights, union rights, etc., as well as the rapid erosion of civil liberties with the USA PATRIOT Act, increases in police state, intelligence and other surveillance forces, and the establishment of a massive homeland security department. Bush brought unprecedented tax breaks to the super rich, record government budget deficits to the working people and massive unemployment and underemployment to the masses. Despite all these things, this time Bush received a majority of the votes as tallied (51% to 48%); and almost sixty percent of the eligible voters had cast a vote, up from barely fifty percent in the 2000 election before the 9-11 hysteria and Bush’s launching of the unending war of terror on the international working class and the oppressed peoples.
The fact that virtually the entire U.S. society has benefited, however temporarily and however unevenly, from the oppression and super-exploitation of the workers and oppressed peoples of the entire world, goes a long way in explaining the results of the November 2004 U.S. presidential election.
In addition, the U.S. culture, with its pervasive alienation, individualism and fear has produced a growing Christian fundamentalist and evangelical core. This religion is being spread like Christianity was historically spread to the colonies in the early days of capitalism, and for the same aim of conquest. The reactionary and obscurantist domestic culture reflects the violence and parasitism quite natural for the citadel of a global empire.
The monopoly capitalist ruling class in the USA, with generations of blood on its hands, and made increasingly desperate and isolated under the impetus of the world capitalist economic crisis, will not surrender its privilege and power on the basis of an election. Indeed, it cannot ever afford to allow a "free Presidential election" in the United States to take place. Comrades and friends will do well to keep this fact in mind as bourgeois democratic illusions about U.S. "Democracy" ("American Exceptionalism"), and Democratic Party candidates such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are promoted worldwide by social democracy in the run-up to the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.
The extreme parasitism of this long-time imperialist "superpower" has clearly marked the caliber of its political leadership in this time of crisis for the U.S. Empire. The corrupt and degenerate character not only of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their Republican and Democratic Congressional cronies, but also of the media, cultural, religious and big business leadership is strikingly clear to those outside the borders of the U.S. multinational state and to any who have eyes to see.
The Pentagon’s controller in her "National Defense estimates for FY 2008" documented that Bush has spent $2.5 trillion in FY 2003-2007, or $400 billion dollars more in the same fiscal 2008 dollars, than President Lyndon Johnson spent on the U.S. military during the comparable five biggest years of the Vietnam War (FY 1964-1968), despite the fact that Johnson had four times as many troops in the field, well over twice the total troop strength and was also fighting the Cold War!! Just two months ago, the General Accounting Office (GAO) lamented that, "Pentagon procurement is out of control." (See "Uncontrolled Pentagon Spending" by George C. Wilson, a national security journalist, 4-23-07, National Journal.)
Indeed, next to the U.S. military itself, by far the largest other force in the imperialist occupation army in Iraq is made up of U.S. mercenaries working for U.S. private companies, including Cheney’s Halliburton. The domestic U.S. economy is a war economy; and the rapid expansion of the privatization of the U.S. military is reshaping not only the U.S. military presence abroad but also domestic life in the USA itself. For example, Blackwater, one of a number of such private U.S. military companies to emerge in the past decade, also became a powerful and ominous security presence against the poor and working poor of New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The heroic and advancing Iraqi Resistance was the key to Bush’s deep slide in popularity down to a thirty percent favorable rating at the time of the 2006 U.S. Congressional election!! Bush’s Republican Party lost control of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to the Democrats. In this manner, by repudiating the Bush Regime, the U.S. electorate expressed its desire to cut the Empire’s losses in Iraq and bring the U.S. troops home. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is simply the other branch of the U.S. Imperialist War Party. So, Nancy Pelosi, who was about to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives, assured the U.S. ruling class that, in the event of a Democratic Party victory, the Democrats had no intention of impeaching George W. Bush!
To appease the U.S. populace after his election defeat, Bush compelled Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s resignation. But Rumsfeld was the principal proponent of a military strategy that featured a small, well-trained U.S. military, backed by expensive, high tech weaponry. With Rumsfeld gone, Bush has begun to implement his planned increase of U.S. military manpower by a hundred thousand troops. More immediately, Bush "smacked the U.S. voters in the face" by implementing, with new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, a troop "surge" of thirty thousand U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq. Yet no U.S. troop increase can repair the damage done to both of U.S. imperialism’s chief pillars in the Middle East – the Sunni-based reactionary Arab regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. on the one hand, and the Israeli settler state on the other.
One unforeseen consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and its toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Regime had been the creation in Iraq of the first Shi’ite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam !! (Iran is mostly ethnic Persian.) This development tremendously boosted the prospects for the 140 -150 million Shi’ites throughout the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. In particular, it strengthened the Iranian Regime, directly at the expense of the Sunni-based Arab reactionary regimes most closely allied with U.S. imperialism.
In addition, as the only Shi’ite led government prior to Saddam Hussein’s ouster by U.S. imperialism, Iran trained most of the key players in the current Iraqi government and this otherwise U.S. occupation puppet regime in Iraq remained surprisingly neutral during the Israeli war of aggression against Lebanon in 2006. The Israeli settler state, after having so recently adopted a policy of "retrenchment" in the face of the rising Islamic forces, had been coerced into making this war by the beleaguered Bush Regime. The armed forces of Hezbollah, also Shi’ites, had, meanwhile, become a popular and elected leadership force in Lebanon, and they thwarted the Israeli aggression. Consequently, Israel became even more isolated and fragile as a result of this war, as did U.S. imperialism.
The Afghani liberation fighters, whose resolve has also been strengthened by the Iraqi Resistance, have compelled U.S. imperialism and its few allies to increase their troop strength to attempt to avoid military defeat and the ouster of Afghani President Karzai, the former UNOCAL (U.S. oil company) employee.
The success of the Iraqi Resistance helped inspire and fortify the strong anti-imperialist voice of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, the popular election of a number of leftist governments throughout Latin America and the economic-political alliances of these forces, with the Venezuela-Cuba alliance at its core. Bush’s recent tour of Latin America, attempting to halt or at least slow down this development, was shadowed and haunted by Venezuela’s Chavez, the outspoken opponent of "Yankee imperialism" and especially "the devil Bush" in this period.
At the same time, with a bankrupt economy, the Bush Regime has been unable to increase the imperialist bribery of the U.S. multinational working class. Instead, the bribe has been diminished, and the "American dream" is further and further away from the reality experienced by most working people in the USA. In recent months, the housing bubble has shown signs of bursting. This inflationary factor in housing ownership has, up to now, allowed millions of working people in the USA to purchase material goods that they could no longer afford on their wages. Millions had been able to purchase the "good life" beyond their means by relying on credit card debt that could be paid off by the money they accrued through inflation-driven housing appreciation. U.S. bourgeois economists are worriedly speculating on what will happen to the U.S. and even the world capitalist economy if the world’s biggest base of consumers is seriously hindered from such spending in the future.
Consequently, the Bush Regime’s margin for error is growing increasingly small, while the caliber of political leadership based on decades of U.S. hegemonic power in the imperialist camp has deteriorated into blatant corruption of all kinds, bullying, arrogance, ignorance, chauvinism, and rank cronyism. The above helps explain the astounding list of political crises and scandals that have been a constant feature of the Bush Presidency, especially during the post 9-11 period of the so-called "war on terror".
This long list includes: the financial scandal involving Kenneth Lay, the biggest backer of Bush’s first presidential election, who pillaged the retirement pensions of his Enron employees; Cheney’s Halliburton Corporation connection and the no-bid multi billion dollar Iraqi war and reconstruction contracts followed by the fraudulent billing of these war contracts, adding more billions of loot to Halliburton from the public coffers; Bush’s open contempt for the U.S. Congress, evidenced by his many "signing statements" attached to newly enacted laws, indicating his unwillingness to abide by them; the decision not to stand for re-election by Texas Republican Whip Tom DeLay due to exposed influence peddling, including the conviction of Republican bagman Jack Abramoff; the resignation and conviction of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff "Scooter" Libby for "outing" key CIA operative Valerie Plame in retaliation for (her husband) former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson’s exposure of the Big Lie Bush-Cheney justification for launching the war on Iraq; the recent resignation of several top aides of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his own current job jeopardy due to blatant and illegal White House political interference manifested in the firing of eight federal attorneys, either for prosecuting key Republicans or for not prosecuting big Democrats; the resignation of the Surgeon General of the United States and the military general in charge of the famous Walter Reed Hospital, now infamous for the scandalous conditions that seriously injured U.S. soldiers have experienced there, which has underscored the fact that Cheney and Commander in Chief Bush view even "their own" U.S. military troops as mere cannon fodder; the Bush Regime’s criminal abandonment of the largely Afro-American population of New Orleans, especially the poorest sector of the population, to suffer through the horrific conditions of Hurricane Katrina and the breached levees and then their forced dispersion and banishment from their New Orleans home ever since; Bush-Cheney cover-ups of oil company price gouging and record oil company profits – taking full advantage of the destruction of oil production capacity both during the war in Iraq and in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath; the Bush government’s illegal appropriation of private telephone company and banking records of most of the U.S. population; the pedophilia of Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley which led to his resignation from Congress and the decision of Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who covered up Foley’s crimes, not to seek a Republican leadership position in the new Democratic Party-controlled House; the startling forced resignation from a Colorado Christian mega-church of Reverend Haggard, a national leader of the Christian evangelical movement’s support for Bush and the Republican Party; the recent resignation in disgrace of Bush intimate Paul Wolfowitz from his Bush-appointed job as head of the World Bank; the continuing assault on U.S. civil liberties through the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act; the continuing use of and justification of torture, including at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison complex; the debacle of a Bush government deal handing over management of six of the most important U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirate-owned Dubai Ports World at a time of Bush-created anti-Arab hysteria as well as the spectacle of Arab emirs allowing their business crony, George W. Bush, to renege on the deal when it became public knowledge; the recent announcement that Cheney’s Halliburton Corporation is moving its headquarters to Dubai.
No wonder former Chrysler Corporation CEO and U.S. corporate guru Lee Iacocca, recently expressed the outrage of many U.S. ruling class elements with the bankruptcy of the current U.S. leadership when he wrote: "I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions…I’ve had enough. How about you?"
European Union and Japanese imperialist leaders would have never been able to survive such a series of substantial political scandals. Why is the Bush Regime still standing?
At least part of the reason is that there is today no Communist International to unite and lead the proletarians and oppressed peoples of the world to take advantage of the perpetual political-economic crises of U.S.-led imperialism. The absence of a branch of such an International functioning as a genuine proletarian vanguard party within the USA itself at this time renders the subjective peoples movement here too weak to project and sustain a revolutionary path forward "within the belly of the beast."
Much of the rest of the answer stems from the decades-long hegemonic position of U.S. imperialism in the world capitalist economy.
The Concrete Situation in the USA Today
Almost one hundred and fifty years ago comrade Engels, referring to England’s colonial monopoly, observed, "The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable." (Letter to Karl Marx, October 7, 1858)
After decades of U.S. imperialist hegemony in the world capitalist camp: the USA today has a solidly imperialist bourgeois electoral system that promotes two wings of an imperialist bourgeois war party, an imperialist bourgeois mass media in print, TV, radio, et al., and even to some extent an imperialist bourgeois proletariat and anti-war movement and NGO-ridden Afro-American and immigrant rights movements.
Electoral politics: The entrenched character of this imperialist bourgeois Democratic-Republican Party political duopoly is what enabled Bush to announce a troop "surge" in Iraq immediately after the U.S. voters expressed their will to bring the U.S. troops out of Iraq; it is what has allowed him to keep committing war crimes without fear of impeachment! For the loyalty of Pelosi and the Democratic Party is not to its trade union and working class and middle class "mass base" but to U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism, to the U.S. Empire. Likewise, Bush’s loyalty is not to his mass base of right-wing white Christian fundamentalists and their chauvinist poison against "the others", but to his real base of U.S. and international capitalists. This explains Bush’s loyalty to the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) government-owned Dubai Ports World in the face of anti-Arab hysteria and Bush’s "liberal" approach to the question of illegal immigration and "open borders".
The mass media: Even though there is a worldwide acceleration of technology-induced changes in media communications, nevertheless, mass media has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few mega corporations. Especially in the USA, monopoly capitalist control of news information is extremely tight. It is this media that helped convince Al Gore to give up his fight for the U.S. presidency in 2000. It has remained virtually silent on the existence of the Carlyle Group, a giant defense contractor and Saudi real estate company that included both key bin Laden and Bush family and inner circle members at the time of the 9-11 "attacks". In addition, recently, while focusing individual attention on each of the thirty-two victims of a random terror attack at Virginia Tech (mostly white middle class college students), this corporate media has almost never mentioned the approximately similar number of individual Iraqis killed every day since the U.S. invasion and the almost three quarters of a million Iraqi victims of violence in that war and occupation thus far. In this way, the U.S. monopoly capitalist controlled-mass media perpetuates and reinforces the crucial imperialist idea that U.S. lives are more important than those of other ("lesser") peoples and also suppresses the indisputable connection between U.S. perpetrated violence in Iraq and elsewhere with violence at home including at Virginia Tech.
The U.S. working class and trade union movement: In our 2004 Country Report, we pointed out the following: "The AFL-CIO leadership continues to be locked in a long-standing embrace with the U.S. imperialist government going back to its formation at the height of the anti-communist McCarthy period in 1955 following the driving out of the progressive ‘left’ unions and leadership. AFL-CIO head John Sweeney offered full political support to George W. Bush and his ‘war on terror’, serving up the sons and daughters of the working class to be cannon fodder on the altar of corporate profits. … Behind the scenes, the AFL-CIO leadership worked hand in glove with U.S. imperialism’s failed efforts to overthrow the popular Chavez government of Venezuela funneling National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Funds to the Chavez opposition. The AFL-CIO supports right wing reactionary unions from Haiti to the Philippines against genuine class struggle oriented unions. And it was this same ‘social-democratic’ Sweeney and the AFL-CIO leadership that after 9-11, cancelled planned anti-IMF protests scheduled in Washington D.C. as part of their efforts to line up the working class behind George W. Bush." (See "Country Report-USA", Ray O. Light Newsletter, August 2004).
With the AFL-CIO leading the working class in the United States on a course of great nation chauvinism and unity with "our own" imperialists against our best friends around the world, it is little wonder that the union leadership has been completely unable and unwilling to defend even the short - term economic interests of the U.S. working class against capital. The disarmed U.S. working class has taken a beating on the "home front".
Defined pension plans have become relics, replaced by 401Ks where workers invest their own money in the Stock Market subject to the vagaries of Wall Street. Ten thousand workers are killed in workplace accidents each year with 300,000 more dying from occupational disease. Manufacturing plant closings in the United States go unchallenged without even a whimper from organized labor. Until recently the minimum wage stood at a paltry $5.15/hour with no increase in more than a decade and 75 million persons go without health insurance for months at a time in any two year period. Pensions are wiped out either through direct corporate corruption (e.g. the Enron affair) or with the legal stroke of a pen by bankruptcy court judges (e.g. United Airlines). In August 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on consumer income showed that, "Although the U.S. economy grew robustly last year,… wages of full-time workers fell, the number of Americans living below the poverty line rose and more Americans went without health insurance." (ROL Emphasis, Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2005)
It was in this grim setting for the U.S. working class that, in the summer of 2005, on the fiftieth anniversary of the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization, the AFL-CIO was split up. Six large unions, representing about 40% of the entire AFL-CIO, led by the 1.8 million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its President, Andy Stern, formed the Change to Win Coalition (CTW) allegedly so that they could more effectively organize the unorganized millions of U.S. workers.
Those who claimed to want to rebuild the labor movement within the newly formed CTW coalition as well as those who remained in the AFL-CIO flunked an early test. On August 20th, 2005, less than one month after the AFL-CIO "split", 4,400 mechanics, represented by AMFA (Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association), went on strike against Northwest Airlines, refusing to accept massive concessions and job reductions as so many other airline unions had done. Like PATCO a quarter of a century ago, AMFA, an association built on the raiding of other unions, was a pariah in the organized labor movement. Just as with PATCO, if other airline unions had honored the Northwest mechanics picket lines, the strike could have been won. Instead, the strike was lost, and the U.S. monopoly capitalist class was the victor. Unions in both the AFL-CIO and the CTW Coalition represent airline workers. Both consciously refused to stand in solidarity with the mechanics and both share responsibility for the labor setbacks that have occurred since.
The initial company victory in the Northwest strike opened the floodgates for an aggressive corporate drive against U.S. workers and their unions. Northwest went after the rest of their workforce demanding massive concessions from flight attendants, ramp service workers, and pilots. Delphi, the largest U.S. automobile parts maker, declared bankruptcy and demanded drastic wage cuts. Raising the example of the Northwest mechanics, Delphi’s CEO warned the UAW workers not to strike. General Motors then wrested massive concessions from the UAW amounting to $15 billion in savings on health care costs. The pundits of Wall Street gleefully reported in a lead editorial ("Rip Van UAW") in the Wall Street Journal of October 18, 2005, "Two cheers for the United Auto Workers Union … this is a watershed concession by the American industrial workforce in the middle of a contract that doesn’t expire until 2007…"
As we reported at the time, and the AMFA strike demonstrated, the split in the AFL-CIO is not principled on either side. Lines of demarcation have not been drawn on key working class questions – class struggle unionism, labor solidarity, the war against Iraq and Afghanistan, independent working class political action. It is noteworthy that real efforts to link up with the struggles of the international proletariat were absent from the CTW founding convention just as they were from the AFL-CIO Convention.
This "split" does not represent the building of a new CIO. The formation of the CIO in 1935, took place in a period where 1) the working class of the United States was clamoring for and building union and other self-defense organization and was not afraid to use the strike weapon and other mass actions in its fight; and 2) the working class had strong links with the rest of the international working class (through genuine communist leadership of the CPUSA and the Communist International) and years of political education by the CPUSA-led Trade Union Educational League (TUEL). Clearly, this is not the U.S. situation today.
Since 2005, SEIU President Andy Stern, the most imaginative of the "new" CTW leaders, in the name of trying to enlarge SEIU’s membership base the "easy way", has provided a smokescreen of praise for the anti union corporate juggernaut Walmart and made unprecedented "sweetheart" agreements with the largest corporations in the California nursing home industry over the heads of his own membership and staff. This is a bad omen concerning the future of U.S. organized labor as we know it.
In the meantime, in a radical departure from most of the recent history of organized labor in the USA, thirty-four thousand bus and subway workers in New York City, members of Transport Workers Union Local 100, carried out a bold though brief strike against the Transit Authority during the height of the December 2005 Christmas shopping season. With militant and enlightened local leadership, these workers overcame such obstacles as their own national union bureaucracy’s betrayal, the threats of the New York City Mayor, and the fears of the population regarding a prolonged strike during the key holiday buying season of the year. Their strike was a rare shining moment for U.S. workers in this period and provides hope for better days ahead.
The Afro-American people: Among the Afro-American people in their Black Belt South homeland, the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the breaching of the levees in New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast area led to the forced dispersal of more than a half a million people. The brutal treatment they received at the hands of their "rescuers" from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard and other U.S. military troops was akin to the treatment that the Iraqi masses have received from the Bush-led occupation army in their Iraqi homeland. The blood of the poor and largely Afro-American victims of Hurricane Katrina is on the hands of the Bush Regime and its Democratic as well as Republican representatives of U.S. imperialism in Congress just as surely as the blood of the Iraqi people is on their hands. Almost two years later, most of the 70% majority Afro-American population of New Orleans has still been unable to return to their homes!
This has been nothing short of ethnic cleansing for the ultimate profit of the same banking elite that has run New Orleans since slavery times (when New Orleans was the richest city in the USA) and that has run New Orleans in conjunction with the Rockefeller Chase Bank elements for more than a hundred years. This terrible crisis for tens or even hundreds of thousands has underscored the importance of the fight for the Afro-American peoples’ right to return to New Orleans and need for Land and State Power in the Black Belt territory of their homeland.
The continuing systematic police brutality aimed at the Afro-American national minority workers in the U.S. North, and the blatant white supremacy openly expressed by major media personalities such as Don Imus (and including all too many Black "cultural" figures), also underscore the importance of the exercise of the Afro-American people’s national right to self-determination in their Black Belt homeland, which is also the strongest basis for upholding Afro-American national minority rights in the U.S. North.
The resolutions of the Communist International on the Afro-American national question in 1928 and 1930 helped inspire the CPUSA to lead some of the deepest and most profound struggles of the Afro-American people and also aided the international proletariat in understanding the naked imperialist character of the USA. Tragically, today, no substantial Black Liberation Movement has, as yet, been reestablished on the basis of the struggle for Afro-American national liberation leading to socialism, while thousands of Afro-American refugees from Hurricane Katrina remain in an awful limbo existence and their need to return and reclaim their Black Belt home is more urgent than ever. This dispersed community, however, provides an excellent opportunity for cultivating new young Black revolutionaries right now. And there are some ongoing efforts in this direction.
Immigrant workers: In 2006, in a spectacular display of worker activism in the USA, several million mostly immigrant workers demonstrated on May Day, the day of international workers solidarity. Faced with the threat of being criminalized, as provided for by the U.S. House of Representatives bill [HR 4437] passed in December 2005, massive mobilizations of immigrant workers took place in cities and towns throughout the USA in the early part of 2006.
Initially, the mostly Latino immigrant workers were so worried by the HR 4437 "criminalization" bill that there was much confusion on and even support for various more "liberal" Senate proposals, including the bipartisan Kennedy-McCain bill. This was a "liberal" trick-bag where immigrant workers could end up supporting their own semi-feudal enslavement in guest worker programs that might provide a "path to legalization", directly tying their status in the USA to their employment. This latter approach is supported by President Bush, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal and other U.S. monopoly capitalist interests who want to maintain the supply of new vulnerable immigrant workers coming to the U.S. to be super-exploited for maximum super-profits.
The growing momentum in the weeks and months leading up to May Day 2006 was so enormous and so inspiring to the participants that the initial defensive posture of the immigrant rights groups with their demand to block and stop the HR 4437 criminalization bill was replaced by the more militant and aggressive mass demand for immediate amnesty for all undocumented workers in the USA. Thus, at least temporarily, many immigrant workers were able to escape the liberal trap.
Meanwhile, the Congressional debate and the mass movement it spawned represented some of the greatest political difficulties for the Bush Regime caused by the contradictions between Bush’s mass base of right wing, white supremacist fundamentalist Christians who supported the criminalizing House bill and his real base among the monopoly capitalists and imperialists who supported Senate "liberalism". Along with the determined Iraqi Resistance, this phenomenon among the mostly Latino immigrant workers and the exposure of the Bush Regime’s scandalous treatment of the Afro-American survivors of Hurricane Katrina, served as the basis of the 2006 election defeat for the Bush Republican forces.
In the past year, the U.S. ruling class has used increased immigration raids and deportations by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security to "beat down" the immigrant workers and thereby also beat down the rest of the U.S. working poor. Bush has deployed National Guard troops to the Mexican border where they have remained. A fascistic white settler force of "Minutemen" has become an adjunct force at the militarized border. This tendency toward "Fortress America" has been symbolized by the Bush-Congress joint and outlandish determination to erect the infamous seven hundred mile wall on the border.
In the absence of a clear-sighted international communist movement or even a genuine Marxist-Leninist Party in the USA that promotes both immigrant rights in the USA and national liberation movements in Mexico and Central America, the Philippines, etc., the cumulative effect of the attacks and threats to undocumented workers, and the use of NGO’s, liberals and other "friends of the immigrants" has disoriented and disorganized many thousands of immigrant workers. Consequently, May Day this year featured neither the massive numbers of one year ago nor the militancy of the demands. The liberal trap of a regulated multi-year path for undocumented workers to U.S. citizenship, under the authority of their U.S. employers, especially with the Democratic majority in Congress, now looms as a likely outcome. But the struggle continues, and the spirit of mass protest and defiance still burns in the hearts and minds of many Latino and other immigrant workers.
The U.S. Anti-war Movement: Despite the fact that they recognize that Bush launched an unprovoked war against the people of Iraq on the basis of lies and deception, almost none of the forces in the U.S. anti-war movement, including its Trotskyite/Anarchist radical wing, have attempted to mobilize support for the heroic Iraqi Resistance to U.S. imperialism. Most of this white petty-bourgeois-dominated movement, including revisionist and social-democratic cadre linked to United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), view the U.S. war in Iraq as a policy "error" (recently a pundit in The Nation magazine used the term "Reign of Error"); and many do not even oppose the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan at all! Most have a pacifist stand in opposition to workers and oppressed peoples taking power anywhere. Clearly, most U.S. anti-war movement "activists" are defenders of their own privilege as citizens of the U.S. Empire!
U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), connected to the AFL-CIO trade union bureaucracy, has objectively and effectively defended the U.S. Empire. Its main effort has been to aid U.S. imperialism by trying to get the Iraqi working class to renounce the liberation struggle against the U.S. occupation: First, USLAW issued a detailed document entitled, "Profile of US Corporations Awarded Contracts in US/British Occupied Iraq". They stated that the U.S. had won the war and that the Iraqi working class should accept the occupation and focus solely on trade union rights and narrow "economic" questions. Later, when it was clear that the resistance was developing, USLAW attempted to provide legitimacy for pro occupation Iraqi trade unions at the expense of those trade unions loyal to the fight for national liberation from U.S. imperialism. Recently, the Iraqi oil workers struck and successfully delayed U.S. "legal" seizure of the Iraqi oil fields through a projected oil privatization law. In this new context, USLAW has cleverly sought to reach out to the aroused, patriotic, anti-imperialist oil workers, while, at the same time, viciously attacking New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), the initial courageous and outspoken U.S. labor opponent of the Bush-led war on Iraq and the rest of the peoples of the world.
Finally, a large majority of anti-war protesters continue to support Democratic Party politicians such as Gore and Kerry and now Obama and Clinton who promise to be more effective defenders of the U.S. Empire than Bush.
Nonetheless, over the course of the past five years, especially under the impetus of the Iraqi resistance movement, a large number of families of military personnel and U.S. soldiers themselves have become opposed to the unending, Bush-led, U.S. imperialist war of terror against the toiling masses of humanity. Organizations such as Military Families Speak Out and Iraqi Veterans Against the War have emerged and represent a substantial and deep-seated opposition within the U.S. military itself that can only grow in time. Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, has become a powerful and principled symbol of opposition to the Bush Regime on a global scale. (Indeed, Sheehan’s recent public "resignation" from the anti-war movement exposed the unprincipled links between the social pacifist and social chauvinist anti-war movement and the Democratic Party wing of the U.S. imperialist War Party.) Less well known but of real significance in mounting opposition to U.S. military recruitment and retention among workers and oppressed nationalities are: Fernando Suarez, Camilo Mejia, and Ehren Watada. Mainly because of the success of the Iraqi Resistance and also the liberation struggle in Afghanistan, but also partly as a result of this anti-war movement within and among the military and their families, desertions have risen dramatically and U.S. imperialism is unable to meet its manpower requirements. It is plagued by strategic military overreach.
CONCLUSION: U.S. Imperialism is a real tiger and a paper tiger
The analysis presented above demonstrates the great vulnerability of the U.S. led system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. The constant and accelerating crises facing the old and dying system continue to provide new opportunities for revolutionaries in the USA as well as elsewhere in the world to draw strength and unite the proletariat and the masses for the revolutionary overthrow of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism.
Referring to U.S. imperialism in particular, comrade Mao Tse-tung stated: "In past history, before they won state power and for some time afterwards, the slave-owning class, the feudal landlord class and the bourgeoisie were vigorous, revolutionary and progressive; they were real tigers. But with the lapse of time, because their opposites – the slave class, the peasant class and the proletariat – grew in strength step by step, struggled against them and became more and more formidable, these ruling classes changed step by step into the reverse, changed into reactionaries, changed into backward people, changed into paper tigers. And eventually they were overthrown, or will be overthrown, by the people…Hence, imperialism and all reactionaries, looked at from a long term point of view, from a strategic point of view, must be seen for what they are – paper tigers. On this we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers which can eat people. On this we should build our tactical thinking." (Political Bureau Meeting at Wuchang, 12-1-58, cited in footnote on page 98, Selected Works Volume IV)
Possessing this strong orientation, communist forces both within the U.S. multinational state and internationally can hasten the crumbling of the U.S. Empire and lead successful revolutionary struggles that will help usher in an era of national liberation and socialism leading to world peace and communism.
Ray O. Light
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