The City administration has been conducting an offensive against the workers and poor people in general in New York City. Mayor Giuliani has imposed increased fines and other penalties against cab drivers. He is trying to ban or restrict food vendors from midtown Manhattan and the financial district, in the interest of the expensive restaurant owners and fast food establishments. He has laid off hundreds of workers in the municipal hospitals. The city day-care workers have gone without a contract for 3 years. Tens of thousands of welfare recipients are being forced into slave-labor "workfare" programs, including thousands certified as disabled. This is an attack on the wages of all workers, who will be forced to compete with people thrown off the welfare rolls. The transit workers are threatened with losing jobs through One Person Train Operations (OPTO) and replacement by workfare workers. Students at the City University system (CUNY) are facing the elimination of remedial programs. Police brutality is continuing unabated, as the shooting of a squeegee man, Antoine Reid, a few weeks ago attests. The brunt of these attacks, in this racist system, inevitably falls on African-Americans, Latinos and members of other oppressed nationalities.
The cab drivers have held a series of strikes and demonstrations. The food vendors have also held a large rally. On June 18, local 1199 held a mass march of over 20,000 people in their demand for a decent contract. Workfare workers have long been demanding to be treated as regular workers, unionized and paid union wage rates. Last summer, tens of thousands of people rallied against the brutal police torture of Abner Louima in Brooklyn.
What is needed is a united fight. The cab drivers have taken a bold step in calling for joint action by those under attack. It is one thing for one group of workers to demonstrate or go on strike, even if they have the sympathy and support of other workers. But it would be much stronger if any group of striking workers received the active support of other workers through support strikes. This could lead to a city-wide general strike that would put tremendous pressure on the city administration and the whole local ruling class!
It is no accident that the most active opposition to these attacks so far has come from groups outside the trade union movement, like the cab drivers. The working class is being stifled by the oppressive weight of the trade union bureaucracy. These "labor lieutenants of the capitalist class" have sold out the interests of the workers to their capitalist masters. For example, immediately after the spirited march of the hospital workers, Dennis Rivera, the leader of 1199 and a vice-president of the Democratic Party in New York State, agreed to a sellout contract that would have workers buy out at least 3-5,000 jobs with money from their own pension funds. The bureaucrats are hardly even willing to call the workers out on strikes in one single industry, much less call for united actions.
But it is the working class that has the real power to shut the city down, as they produce all the goods and services that make the city function. As one example, a transit strike is in practice a "general strike," as no one can put in a full day's work. In order to mobilize the power of the working class, the workers must expose, isolate and oust the union bureaucrats.
The U.S. has a long and militant history of such general strikes, usually when workers in one industry, under attack by the capitalists and their government, have received support from their class brothers and sisters. In 1919, a strike of shipyard workers in Seattle led to a general strike. The strikers formed a Workers' Council (modeled after the Soviets, the ruling organs of power after the Socialist Revolution in Russia in October of 1917), that ran the city for 5 days. In 1934, the San Francisco general strike came about in support of the longshore workers. In 1946, there was a general strike in Rochester in support of striking municipal workers. Many of these strikes were led by communists or workers with revolutionary socialist convictions.
The attacks on the workers and their allies are being carried out not only by Republicans like Giuliani. The Democrats are just as much a part of these criminal attacks. Just look at the nation-wide "workfare" program signed into law by President Clinton, which is forcing millions off welfare rolls who must either starve or accept any job. As Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto, "the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." As long as the capitalists are in power, they will exercise their dictatorship over the working class and its allies. The workers can and must band together to maintain their standard of living and the few rights that they have under this system, but they will still be subject to exploitation and oppression. It is only through a socialist revolution, in which the working class takes over the property of the capitalists without compensation, that they can build a planned, socialist society that will meet the needs of the working people. Such a society, a dictatorship of the workers over the overthrown capitalists, will finally lead to communism, a society without classes.
Support the Taxi Drivers and All Working People!
Unite to Fight the Capitalist Attacks!
Lay the Groundwork for a Socialist Revolution!
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