Why Cops And Their ‘Unions’ Have No Place In The Labor Movement

This article originally appeared at Talking Points Memo.

By Becca Lewis

Class Struggle Workers - Portland at protest against Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.
Class Struggle Workers – Portland at protest against Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd, 31 May.

Amidst nationwide protests ignited by the racist police murder of George Floyd, union members everywhere are asking: how can labor throw its weight into the fight to uproot racist repression? 

Using our collective power as workers is key. The multiracial working class makes the country’s wheels turn, and can bring them to a halt just as quickly. We have the power to shut down factories and docks, farms and urban transport, food plants and phone service. And now is the time to use it.

But it’s also high time the labor movement cleans its own house. In fact it’s long overdue. As mass anger at police killings shines the spotlight on police forces’ role as enforcers of racist repression, the time is now to carry through the demand long raised by class-struggle unionists, summed up in the slogan: “Cops out of the unions.”

In the weeks since Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, cops have responded to mass protests by unleashing more violence on protesters. Yet brutal attacks by police across the country have not stifled the voices of millions. As we march, we chant to remember and honor those, like George Floyd, whose lives were cut short by endless racist terror.

Breonna Taylor, shot dead as she slept in her bed in Louisville.

Jamel Floyd died in New York after guards pepper-sprayed him in his prison cell.

Derrick Scott in Oklahoma City, who – like Eric Garner and George Floyd – died saying, “I can’t breathe.” One of the cops holding him down responded: “I don’t care.”

Here in Portland, Oregon, we remember Jason Washington, a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, shot dead by university police.

Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland

And in recent days, we learned Atlanta police shot and killed a 27-year-old black man named Rayshard Brooks.

Photo Jun 19, 1 14 08 PM
Juneteenth: 19 June 2020, Oakland, California, at rally occasioned by the shutdown of all U.S. West Coast ports by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in protest against racist police brutality.

As the list keeps growing, we in labor’s ranks join millions searching for an answer to how and when police killings and brutality will end. Workers like me want police “unions” ousted from the labor movement and want cops of all kinds removed from unions and union bodies now: this will be a crucial part of unchaining labor’s power in the fight against racial oppression.

The fact is, we face a glaring contradiction with the inclusion of police in the labor movement. The struggle against racist oppression is crucial to labor’s cause, but the professionals of repression are included in one labor body after another. Freeing labor from any and all affiliation with the cops is crucial to the revitalization of unions, which is a matter of life or death for the labor movement. Yet despite recent efforts by the Writers Guild of America, East and others to rightly call for the expulsion of the International Union of Police Associations from the AFL-CIO, the push has been met with resistance – the AFL-CIO rejected WGAE’s call earlier this month. When members of the labor officialdom try to stop or divert this vital fight, they are wielding the very outlook and policies that have drastically undercut and weakened our movement for years.

We must resolve this contradiction now if labor is genuinely going to unite with the aspirations of a new generation of workers who want to uproot racism – and if the labor movement is going to transform itself into an instrument for the emancipation of the working class and the oppressed.

As a longtime union activist here in the Pacific Northwest – a region plagued by far-right and white-supremacist forces, as well as attempts to impose union-busting “right-to-work” laws – the fight to oust cops from the unions is linked to all of our efforts to put workers’ solidarity into practice. When trade unionists here mobilize against racist attacks and provocations by far-right and fascist groups, police use the tools of their trade – batons, teargas, flash-bang grenades and pepper balls – to repress the anti-racist protesters.

A vivid example occurred in 2017 after a local fascist stabbed to death two people who opposed his racist rampage against teenage African American women on the MAX light rail train. Days after the attack, far-right groups staged a dangerous provocation in our city. Portland Labor Against the Fascists brought out members of 14 unions to stop it. As has repeatedly occurred, a year after the incident, Portland police were caught coordinating with the far-right groups holding a similar rally. The police encouraged the far-right provocations and provided some of those carrying them out with escorts and transport.

Today in Portland, as elsewhere, many of our fellow unionists who work in media have taken to removing logos from their clothing and cameras while covering protests because — like legal observers dragged off to jail when cops yell “round up the green hats” — journalists have been targeted by the police.

Labor playing the role it must in the fight against racist repression is flatly counterposed to harboring organizations whose purpose is to push the claims, and shield the crimes, of the police. And that is precisely what cops’ so-called “unions” are all about. When Minneapolis banned “warrior training” for cops last year, the police “union” even announced that it would provide such training for free.

While labor bodies like WGAE push for disaffiliation with the International Union of Police Associations, the effort is just one drop in one very large bucket. IUPA is just one of the entities representing the demands and interests of the repressors in blue. “We have a dozen affiliate unions that represent law enforcement in some form,” the AFL-CIO Executive Council noted in its June 10 statement opposing WGEA’s demand. Instead, it’s calling for police groups to adopt a “code of excellence.” This would be the equivalent of cops taking a knee before they go out yet again to bust heads and round up anti-racist protesters.

While police associations are not workers unions, many actual unions (AFSCME, the CWA, SEIU, Teamsters and others) have brought “law enforcement” and repression-industry sectors into their ranks. Having professional strikebreakers in the unions — when unionists face repression from cops and guards in every strike — is a recipe for defeat.

Class Struggle Workers – Portland at an anti-racist protest called by IBEW Local 48, 18 June 2020.

The AFL-CIO leadership’s position would only discredit unions in the eyes of a new generation that must be won over to the cause and struggle of labor. And it delivers a slap in the face to countless unionists subjected to police violence, teargas and sonic weapons for protesting racism or standing on a picket line. The officialdom claims that maintaining the affiliation of police is a question of – wait for it – “unity.” Cops’ billy clubs may “unite” with our heads, but real unity of workers, against racist repression, means uncuffing labor from “unity” with those swinging the batons.

The shopworn claim that it’s just a “few bad apples” involved in police brutality across the U.S. is starkly exposed by current events. When police terrorize black communities, target protesters and break up union pickets, they are literally doing their job — a role integral to the profit system, in which racial oppression has always been key to capitalists’ wealth and power. There is no reform or code, no set of rules or oversight that can change the basic role of the police, and they don’t belong in our unions in any form.

Just digging into the history of the police in America, which began as slave patrols, reveals how central it has always been to racial oppression.

After the Civil War, the promise of black freedom through Reconstruction was betrayed. As industry grew, labor — both black and white — faced bloody police intervention. As black workers took the lead in bringing the 1877 labor upheaval into the South, the cops were there to bloodily break up interracial workers’ struggles. When Democratic Party “Redeemers” imposed Jim Crow, the cops were there to enforce “law and order.” Up North, police joined post-WWI pogroms against black communities, while police frame-ups and vigilante lynchers took the lives of immigrant workers like Sacco and Vanzetti, IWW bard Joe Hill, his Native American comrade Frank Little and innumerable other heroes of labor.

Down the decades, from police massacres of striking dock workers in San Francisco and “Little Steel” strikers in Chicago, to the police murder of black teenager Larry Payne in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike to today, strike-breaking and racist repression are central to the history of labor struggle, and of the police.

When police aren’t enough, companies rely on assistance from security guards like the Pinkertons (currently known as Securitas Security Services), infamous for strike-breaking as “just part of the job” of protecting capitalist property and making sure that bosses can keep unions in check.

On June 2, Minneapolis Public Schools voted to cut ties with the police department. This important step should spread to other cities. And it means opposing any attempts to replace them with private security guards or some other police department, which would mean more of the same.

Today, all labor faces the old question: Which side are you on?

When painters, construction workers, stage hands and others formed Class Struggle Workers – Portland six years ago, we saw the need to end labor’s subjugation to the bosses’ institutions, politicians and parties, and for building a workers’ party. One of our key inspirations was black and white unionists’ struggle to oust police from the municipal workers union in Brazil’s “Steel City.” Our founding program states: “Police, prison guards and security guards are the armed fist of capital, part of the apparatus of anti-labor, racist repression: they must be removed from the unions.”

To unchain the power of labor in the fight against racism and repression, this contradiction must be resolved.

If not now, when?

Becca Lewis is a member of the IATSE L. 28 union and a founding member of Class Struggle Workers – Portland. She works as a carpenter for the Portland Opera and a stagehand. She writes in her individual capacity.

CSWP Calls for Workers Action in Coronavirus Crisis

Disponible aquí en español.

In the current coronavirus/economic crisis, working people – and particularly those who live paycheck to paycheck – are being pushed into unbearable situations. Many are forced to make agonizing decisions when it comes to going to work, often with inadequate safety and labor conditions. Those who are thrown out of work are left to fend for themselves. Those least able to protect themselves face financial ruin burdened with medical bills beyond their means.

In this crisis, Class Struggle Workers Portland calls on unions and all workers to demand the following in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis:

  • All workers who are unable to work as a result of the virus – including any who feel that their continued presence on the job puts their health at risk – shall be paid in full for all time missed until they are able to return to work, with no penalty or disciplinary action from their employer.
    • All workers who continue to work shall be furnished with all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary, as determined by the workers themselves. All workplaces shall adopt immediate safety measures including frequent sanitizing practices, handwashing facilities, and physical separation as much as is required to protect them.
  • Unions must vigorously defend the health and safety of their members and others, including in categories that have been ruled essential services. Utilities workers unions should announce that they refuse to cut off services due to non-payment for the duration of the crisis.
    • All testing and medical treatment should be free and available on demand.

The current Portland Sick Leave law only allows employees to accrue 40 hours of paid leave per year. As many businesses have been ordered to close for at least four weeks in Oregon, the situation for those workers is dire. Without immediate assistance, they not only may lose their housing, but also their health insurance. There should be unlimited sick pay at the highest level. The same should apply to those who need to care for family members.

Labor must demand that working people must not be sacrificed as businesses and services are shuttered. All are affected. Portland schools closed, teachers will continue to be paid, but the classified staff will not. We protest this outrage, and demand that all staff be paid.

In Seattle, Teamsters are calling for all Uber and Lyft drivers to receive $1,000 a week in compensation for lost work. This should be a demand on employers and governments across the country. The CSWP says, rather than vague calls for relief, unions must immediately begin organizing to demand full pay for all workers who have lost time as a result of the virus.

Unions should also take the lead in forming health and safety committees, to be elected at every workplace, both union and unrepresented, to ensure that all safety measures are being enforced for all workers, and that all necessary equipment is available. Unions should make every effort to ensure that unrepresented workers also have access to every protection. No work should be performed until these basic safety practices are in place.

Schools closing has put a tremendous strain on working and low-income families, and women in particular, as someone must care for the kids. Workers organizations must demand free, high-quality child care facilities for all who need them, including organized educational services.

The fact that everyone must have a home is even more obvious and urgent during a pandemic. A militant workers movement would work with tenants and homeless organizations to stop evictions, take over unoccupied apartments, investment properties and second homes of the wealthy and occupy hotel space to provide housing for the homeless instead of the huge profits of speculators and price-gougers.

Many of the most vulnerable in this crisis are immigrants, who face not only loss of income, lack of medical care and their children being deprived of school, but the ever-present threat of deportation. Now in California, New York and elsewhere , I.C.E. is taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown  to make more raids and arrests. Unions must demand: Stop the raids and deportations! Shut down the immigrant detention centers (concentration camps) – Free the detainees to return to their families and communities! I.C.E. out of Portland!

The ruling parties are exploiting this crisis, with the Democrats whipping up hysteria on one hand, in a cynical attempt to score points in an election year, while Trump tweets out an image of himself fiddling as Rome burns, exploits the crisis to push fear of “foreigners” and hands out $1.5 trillion in free money to Wall Street.

The working class needs a party that can fight for free healthcare for allfull paid leave for all workers who are unemployed, displaced, sick, or otherwise unable to work because of the virus, and immediate safety measures to protect workers who must still go to work. The urgent need for an international revolutionary workers party could not be more clear as the pandemic unfolds.

A mass, militant workers movement with a class-struggle leadership would establish workers commissions at workplaces to decide appropriate measures, including shutting down where necessary, with no loss in pay, or continuing production with needed safeguards.

Ultimately, it will take a planned economy capable of redirecting production and distribution of medical equipment, safety equipment and basic necessities for a large-scale outbreak, with workplaces organized with the safety of workers as a central priority, in order to effectively fight a pandemic. That means a fight to end this capitalist system of profit-driven chaos, incompetence, racism and exploitation, and establish a workers government.

With the lives and livelihoods of so many workers and oppressed people in the balance, the only way forward is class struggle.

June 4: Portland Labor Mobilizes to Stop Fascist Provocation

The Internationalist website published a report on the June 4 Portland Labor Against the Fascists mobilization. Read the article here.

The June 4 rally of white-supremacist and outright fascist Trump supporters in Portland, OR was protected by triple lines of heavily armed police. However, it was surrounded by far greater numbers of furious protesters outraged by this brazen provocation barely a week after the double murder by a local Nazi. One of three protests, a mobilization called by Portland Labor Against the Fascists, brought out several hundred union members and supporters, including members of at least 14 area unions.  The labor mobilization stood its ground to the very end, with non-stop chants and speeches that reverberated throughout the area for over six hours until the last of the racist and fascist scum exited on buses protected by the police. This marks the first significant working-class action in the U.S. against white supremacists in decades. June 4 points to the potential for organizing workers defense guards that could send the fascist vermin scurrying back into their holes. It was an important first step in bringing out the power of the labor movement in defense of working people, immigrants, Muslims and all those targeted by the all-round reactionary offensive coming out of Washington. And it sharply posed the need for a workers party fighting to overthrow the capitalist system that breeds fascism, and to replace it with the liberating rule of the working class.

It Will Take Hard Class Struggle To Defeat “Right to Work”

From Bridge City Militant No. 4 (Spring 2017)

The labor movement in the United States is under full-scale attack, and its leaders are laying down and playing dead. They have no plans to fight the rightist capitalist onslaught spearheaded by Donald Trump. Worse yet, having been burned by their support for Democrat Hillary Clinton, top labor leaders are doing everything they can to play ball with labor-hater Trump.

In an interview with Fox Business Network, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka praised Trump’s cancellation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and his talk of rebuilding infrastructure. “If he does something that’s good for the economy and workers, we’re going to be behind him,” he summed up, adding lamely: if not, not. Others were totally positive. When Trump called construction union leaders to the White House in late January, the head of NABTU (North America’s Building Trades Unions) Sean McGarvey crowed, “The respect that the President of the United States just showed us… was nothing short of incredible…. We have a common bond with the president.”

Laborers’ International Union president Terry O’Sullivan issued a press release saying “LIUNA is ready to work with the new Administration in the coming years to strengthen our country.” Doug McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, was downright fawning. After Trump declared “I love Doug,” McCarron gushed to the media the president’s inaugural speech was “a great moment for working men and women in the United States.” But behind the love fest, working people will get screwed by a president who has declared that wages in the U.S. are too high, has fought unions at his Las Vegas hotel and elsewhere and supports union-busting “right to work” laws.

Various commentators have argued that the construction union leaders are being played. For sure. But then they are also getting played when they regularly back the Democrats. Labor will always get screwed so long as it is chained to the parties of capital. But forging those chains is how the sellout labor bureaucrats got in office, and how they got where they are today: facing the abyss.

The paralysis of union tops in the face of threatened “right-to-work” legislation or a potential Supreme Court decision that would do the same to public sector workers, is a declaration of bankruptcy. It demonstrates again that their fundamental loyalty is to the capitalist system, not the working people they claim to represent. What’s needed is to build a fighting opposition inside the labor movement based on a program of sharp class struggle, against the suicidal class collaboration of the present pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy. There’s got to be a clean sweep, or the unions are going down.

“Right to Work” and Racist American Capitalism

A year ago, labor unionists breathed a sigh of relief as the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 4-4 tie vote, killed Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association by letting stand the ruling of the appeals court. Funded by deep-pocketed anti-union “think tanks,” the lawsuit sought to cripple the unions financially by outlawing the “agency shop,” the requirement that employees at an organized workplace pay union dues or an equivalent. The target was public sector unions (representing 35% of the workforce) which because of their political connections have been able to withstand the union-busting onslaught that has decimated labor in the private sector, where union membership is down to 6%.

Now anti-union forces are gearing up for another attempt with a new Supreme Court. Meanwhile, in January Kentucky enacted a double-whammy “right-to-work” law coupled with a “no-right-to-strike” provision for public employees. Missouri passed its “RTW” law in February (it already had a public sector strike ban). And on February 1, a bill for a National Right to Work Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by two of the most reactionary Congressmen in the country, Steve King of Iowa and Joe Wilson of South Carolina. If neither of them is formally part of the right-wing Republican Freedom Caucus it is because this pair stands even further to the right.

Wilson is a Tea Party asset and a virulent immigrant-basher whose main claim to fame was to yell “you lie” (about immigration reform) at Barack Obama during a 2009 presidential address in Congress. Steve King is, if anything, an even more unabashed racist, sporting a Confederate battle flag on his desk, claiming Obama favored blacks and saying that “white people” have a “superior culture.” He declares that Islam is “antithetical to Americanism,” says that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” and wants to eliminate citizenship for all those born in the U.S. in order to produce an “America that’s just so homogeneous that we look a lot [sic] the same.”

It’s no wonder that spewing out such garbage, King is a hero of fascist and fascistic “white nationalists.” He is not only opposed to gay marriage, but even to civil marriage. And it’s entirely predictable that such a race-hater would also be a labor-hater. The fact is that the campaign for open-shop “right to work” laws, now threatening a nationwide offensive, was championed from its beginning by racist ideologues who oppose unions because in order to be effective, the unions must organize black and white workers together.

“Right to work” as a deceptively-named political movement was launched in the 1940s in Texas by a prolific right-wing political organizer named Vance Muse. Muse’s modus operandi was to rake in funds from some of America’s most powerful capitalist families – the Sloans (General Motors), Pews (Sun Oil), and Duponts, along with leading southern grandees – while hobnobbing with fascist groups like the Klan and “silver shirt” leader Gerald L. K. Smith. Muse organized a Georgia convention of a “Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution” in 1934 chaired by former National Association of Manufacturers president John H. Kirby and featuring Smith and other fascists.

Two years later, Muse launched the Christian American Association in Texas. According to the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas Online, “The Christian Americans worked for passage of right-to-work laws in sixteen states,” starting with Florida and Arkansas. According to “Limiting Labor: Business Political Mobilization and Union Setback in the States” by Marc Dixon in the Journal of Policy History (Vol. 19, No. 3, 2007):

“The Christian American Association was the first in the nation to champion the ‘Right-to-Work’ as a full-blown political slogan. Vance Muse became intrigued by the use of the Right-to-Work term in a 1941 Labor Day editorial in the Dallas Morning News that called for an open-shop amendment to the constitution. After traveling to Dallas and consulting with the editor, Muse was encouraged to use and promote the idea of Right-to-Work. This became their primary cause and they campaigned extensively for Right-to-Work legislation throughout the country, and especially within Texas.”

Muse and the fascist forces he mobilized with industry backing opposed unions because, in Muse’s words, the agency shop meant that “from now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” (Gerard Colby, Du Pont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain [1984]) Muse was joined in his efforts by his older sister Ida Darden, who was notable as the publicity director of the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in 1916, and the editor of the Southern Conservative newspaper from 1950 to 1961, which campaigned against unions, civil rights, modern art and Hollywood movies.

Christian American lobbying led to laws in Texas limiting picketing and other union activities. But while far-right and fascist organizations such as Muse’s groups were early and strident advocates of open-shop laws, they were not alone. Dixon writes that by 1947, when “right to work” was made law in Texas, its major backer was the Texas Manufacturers Association, headed by Herman Brown of the Brown & Root construction firm. By this time, the TMA kept its distance from Vance Muse and allied far-right groups. And the anti-labor forces were not the only ones to make racist appeals. In opposing “open shop” laws, Harry Acreman of the Texas AFL “invoked race as an issue, arguing that Right-to Work would end segregation in southern workplaces,” as Dixon noted.

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal, labor officialdom has been in the Democrats’ pocket. While the Republicans opposed unions outright, FDR sought to hogtie them with government control, from the 1934 Wagner Act to the WWII War Labor Board. The kept labor bureaucracy went along with its wartime no-strike pledge, while the government jailed the Minneapolis Teamster leaders and Trotskyists for opposing the imperialist slaughter. Since a mainstay of FDR’s “New Deal coalition” were the Southern Dixiecrats, in opposing anti-labor legislation the craven union misleaders appealed to these racists for support. That doomed the postwar attempt to organize the South (Operation Dixie), which could have succeeded had the CIO fought Jim Crow segregation.

That was when employers’ “right-to-work” drive could have been stopped cold. Instead, you got the “open shop” South, a bastion of anti-unionism. And under the Democratic administration of Harry Truman, the 1948 Taft-Hartley Act was passed outlawing the closed shop and banning communists from union leadership positions. Although the AFL and CIO tops claimed to oppose that “slave labor” law, they refused to strike against it, meekly submitting to the dictates of capital. Meanwhile, as part of the anti-Soviet Cold War, liberal Democrats purged the unions of the “reds” who had built them, laying the basis for the subsequent witch-hunting associated with Republican senator Joseph McCarthy. And McCarthy’s chief witch-hunter, Roy Cohn, was the mentor of Donald Trump.

Forge a Class-Struggle Leadership of Labor to Defend All the Oppressed

Today, the drive to roll back the remaining gains of the industrial unions that were born in the class struggles of the 1930s is intensifying in the context of a political crisis of U.S. imperialism. A bogus “democracy” elevates a fake-populist billionaire and woman-hating media personality into the Oval Office. Once ensconced, Donald Trump promises a skeptical Wall Street (which considers him unreliable and favored Democrat Hillary Clinton) mountains of golden loot from the federal treasury, while throwing a few crumbs to some gullible labor fakers. His arch-racist attorney general Jeff Sessions vows to ratchet up police repression. And whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria, he reinforces the key structural element of American capitalism since it was founded on chattel slavery: the division of American workers along race-color lines and the brutal racial oppression of black people.

So how do the AFL-CIO leaders plan to fight the threat of national “right-to-work” legislation or court-ordered “open shop” rules that would cripple unions? Answer: they don’t. There are no plans for mass mobilization, besieging Congress and the Supreme Court or jamming Wall Street to shut down the center of world financial capital. At most they talk of stepping up “education” campaigns to convince workers to join the union. Even at that level union leaders remain beholden to the bosses, relying on dues check-offs which give management the power to turn off the financial spigot whenever it wants. In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers won’t get union dues subtracted from salaries in January until March. A class-struggle leadership would collect the dues itself.

The only way to defeat this anti-labor onslaught is not to seek a new “New Deal Coalition” that would continue to subordinate the working class to one party of racist U.S. imperialism, but to drive out the pro-capitalist bureaucracy that chains the unions to the Democrats and forge a class-struggle leadership of labor that defends all those oppressed by capitalism.

In the Pacific Northwest, CSWP has played a leading role fighting the threat of “right-to-work” union-busting. In September 2013, Wyatt McMinn, vice president of Local 10 of the International Union of Printers and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and a CSWP spokesman was arrested and threatened with a year in jail for protesting a meeting of the union-hating Freedom Foundation. The class-struggle unionist, a founder of CSWP, was eventually found not-guilty, a victory for labor solidarity and the more than a dozen union and labor councils that endorsed his defense.

Two years later, in the fall of 2015, as Friedrichs loomed at the Supreme Court, members of CSWP, elected from their unions as delegates to the Oregon state AFL-CIO convention, brought a motion that “area unions should prepare a major region-wide stop-work action against this effort to impoverish workers.” The resolution won significant support but was shot down by the state AFL leadership, which has repeatedly refused to fight union-busting with industrial action, instead devoting itself to lobbying Democrats. One of their main arguments is that opinion polls show “the public” as being hostile to unions. But as the experience of the 2011 labor uprising in Wisconsin against an anti-labor governor showed, once unions began acting like defenders of workers, public support soared … and then plummeted when protests were called off in favor of voting for Democrats.

As we wrote in Bridge City Militant No. 2 (Winter 2016),

“Above all, every union needs to begin preparing to fight the coming union-busting onslaught in the streets and in the workplaces. We need to form committees in every local and every workplace to prepare to tie up metro Portland like the workers in Wisconsin shut down Madison in 2011 – but Wisconsin shows that we can’t let the fight be diverted into the dead end of electoral support for the Democrats or any capitalist party. We need a class struggle workers party: not just a vote-getting apparatus but a party to organize and lead the fight for the oppressed and exploited, using the powerful weapons that our class has.”

The AFL-CIO tops went on to throw millions of dollars to Hillary Clinton and her pro-“right to work” vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine. This set the stage for a demagogue like Donald Trump to reap protest votes from workers and the unemployed suffering the ravages of the capitalist economic crisis, and the bipartisan job-killing policies implemented by Obama that have devastated the industrial “rust belt.” Class-struggle unionists called instead to break the Democrats’ stranglehold on labor, and in August 2016 Painters Local 10 passed a groundbreaking resolution calling for “No Support to the Democrats, Republicans, Or Any Party of the Bosses,” and instead “call[ing] on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party, and build a class-struggle workers party.” This, and not belly-crawling before Congress, the courts and the capitalist politicians, is the way to bust the union-busters! ■

Labor Must Fight to Defeat Attacks On Immigrants and All Workers

For Worker/Immigrant Mobilization to Stop Deportations!

From Bridge City Militant No. 4 (Spring 2017)

These are dark days for immigrants, Muslims and their families, while the working class as a whole is under attack. Immigrants fear the unexpected knock on the door; children worry if their parents will be home when they return from school. Rumors of raids fly, sowing panic and confusion. Muslims and other religious minorities fear attack in their homes, at their mosques and workplaces or in public by fascistic terrorists incited by Trump’s deranged rants. And while significant numbers of workers voted for Trump because of the anti-worker policies of the Democrats, the Republicans (with the support of the White House) are pushing hard for a national “right-to-work” law aimed at destroying unions.

CSWP and IUPAT Local 10 banners at ICE Out of Oregon protest, 6 Mar 2017
CSWP and IUPAT Local 10 banners at ICE Out of Oregon protest, 6 Mar 2017

It is urgently necessary for the power of the working class to be mobilized to stop the raids and deportations, to defend immigrants, black people and all those threatened by racist persecution, and to bust the would-be union-busters!

Since Trump inherited the formidable machinery of anti-immigrant repression constructed under the Obama administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has increased the number of arrests by about one third. Actual deportations have not yet reached the Democrat Obama’s record. First there was the “Muslim ban,” presently held up in the courts. Now the immigration police are ordered to go after anyone who “in the judgment of an immigration officer … pose[s] a risk to public safety or national security.” In other words, anyone who “looks” like they don’t belong in a racist’s fantasy-America. In his speech to the Congress, Trump promoted the “VOICE” initiative, a federal program designed to stir up xenophobic hatred by publishing a police blotter of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants. Then the government floated its sadistic intention to separate the children of refugees seeking asylum from their parents.

The government says that 680 immigrants were arrested in one week. One woman in El Paso, Texas was arrested by ICE at the local court house during a hearing in which she had sought protection against an abusive boyfriend. In Phoenix, Arizona, Guadalupe García de Rayos had lived and worked without papers in the U.S. for over 20 years, since she was 14 years old. She had agreed to voluntarily report to the immigration authorities twice a year in exchange for staying her deportation. But when she reported on 8 February, she was arrested. Hundreds of people, including her children, gathered at the ICE office and bravely sought to block the van that was taking her away.

In Montrose, Colorado, Bernardo Medina was kidnapped by ICE agents and imprisoned in a “detention facility.” Medina is a natural-born U.S. citizen, but ICE police told him “You don’t look like you were born in Montrose.” In Woodburn, Oregon, eleven agricultural workers on their way to the fields were taken by the ICE police on Feb. 24, with seven held in the Tacoma immigration jail and all scheduled for deportation. Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the legendary boxer, was detained and questioned for two hours about his religious beliefs at a Florida airport. Each day brings news of a new atrocity.

Locally, another case that has gained notoriety is that of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23 year old Mexican immigrant living in Seattle who was brought to this country as a child and has no criminal record. ICE took him and his father on 10 February. He was held in the Tacoma jail until March 29 on $15,000 bail. Ramirez Medina is a “Dreamer,” whose deportation was “deferred” under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – until now. Near-daily protests have demanded his release, along with freedom for the thou- sands of other immigrants held there. Recently, hundreds of prisoners at the ICE jail in Tacoma are taking part in a rolling hunger strike, with daily vigils and rallies by their supporters outside.

Break ICE Terror With Workers Action!

What is happening here? The government – supported by Democrats and Republicans alike – whips up racist prejudice with its obsessing over crimes by those it declares “illegal.” Of course, one could just as logically publish a blotter of violent crimes allegedly committed by white men, or left-handed Lutherans aged 30-49, or any arbitrary category: what is at work here is the logic of racism and nationalist prejudice. In fact, undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely than U.S. citizens to commit crimes, particularly violent crimes. The sadistic, cynical “VOICE” initiative is copied directly from the Nazis, whose propaganda obsessed over “criminal Jews” in order to dehumanize an entire people. Every American is under the eye of a secretive state police (Geheime Staatspolizei in German), which can kidnap those it declares “illegal” and drag them before deportation tribunals: what we call “ICE” the Nazis called the Gestapo. And why not call the network of secretive “detention centers” by their right name: concentration camps where tens of thousands languish for months with no rights to speak of.

Dedication of “The Dockworker” statue in Amsterdam, commemorating the February 1941 general strike against Nazi deportations of Jews.
Dedication of “The Dockworker” statue in Amsterdam, commemorating the February 1941 general strike against Nazi deportations of Jews.

Trump is not a fascist. Neither was “deporter-in-chief” Obama, whose immigration policies are the basis and model for Trump’s. The reason for the similarities between the ugly official racism in fascist Germany and “democratic” America is the need of the ruling capitalist class to regiment the population for war abroad and police state at home by demonizing and attacking an “enemy within.” CSWP says to our fellow workers: we must not be neutral in this war of terror being waged against our neighbors and fellow workers. This assault on the rights of all of us must be defeated, and the working class – immigrant and native-born together – has the power to defeat it.

It is all the more necessary for the labor movement to take a clear and principled stand for full citizenship rights for all immigrants because the racist war on immigrants is demagogically sold to us by Democrats and Republicans alike as if it were in the interest of “legal” workers, with the lie that “illegal” immigrants are “stealing our jobs.” Nothing could be more false! “Illegal” undocumented workers’ wages and lives are cheaper for the bosses because they are discriminated against and oppressed, because they are cut off from the rest of the working class by official and unofficial prejudice. Under capitalism, no worker’s livelihood is secure, and the only way we can defend ourselves is to stand together and prevent the bosses from pitting us against each other. Today that means what point 7 of the CSWP program says:

“Fight racist discrimination and anti-immigrant prejudice in our unions. Mobilize labor’s power to stop deportations. Full citizenship rights for all immigrants. For union action to stop I-9 and ‘no match’ firings and ICE factory raids. No to racist ‘English-only’ laws or rules.”

By all indications this May 1 (International Workers Day) will be a big “Day Without an Immigrant” protest/strike, possibly similar to the historic protests in 2006 that revived May Day in this country. In March SEIU-United Service Workers West, the California mega-local, declared that it would strike on May Day, calling for a “general strike.” But when progressive union leaders and their leftist publicists speak of a “strike” or even a “general strike,” their aim is not to shut down production but to jazz-up a class-collaborationist protest/festival, and mobilize the “base” for the Democratic Party of racism and imperialist war.

A strike is not an individual choice to take an afternoon off for a protest march, but an organized deployment of specifically working-class power that strikes at the heart of the capitalist system, its profit-making machine. Workers seeking to organize such actions will often find that the first line of opposition facing them is not a line of riot police but the leading bureaucracy of their own organizations, committed to labor “peace” and class collaboration.

The Trump regime is as fragile as it is fearsome. But the Democratic Party’s “resistance” won’t bring it down. Democrats are partner parties with the Republicans in union-busting and immigrant-bashing. They just want union and Latino votes, and a war with Russia. The key is for the workers to unite and fight for our own class interests. Protests against deportation should be backed up by solid strike action. Already immigrant workers around the country risked their jobs to boldly take part in the 16 February “Day Without Immigrants.” They must not stand alone! Workers defense guards based on the unions must be prepared to defend mosques and immigrant communities. The anti-fascist mobilization resolutions adopted by a number of local unions are a step in this direction.

Above all, we need our own party, a class-struggle workers party to lead the militant defense of our rights. Such a party can only be forged in the struggle to break the workers organizations from the bosses’ Democratic Party, and drive out the pro-capitalist bureaucracy that chains the unions to this party of racism and war. This is the mission of CSWP. Join us! ■

Sindicato de pintores de Portland dice: ¡Al diablo con los partidos patronales! ¡Construir un partido obrero de lucha clasista!

El siguiente artículo fue publicado originalmente en el Bridge City Militant No. 3, verano/otoño de 2016.

En una decisión histórica, la asamblea del Local 10 del Sindicato de Pintores y Drywaleros (IUPAT, por sus siglas en inglés), aprobó con votación unánime rechazar a los partidos Demócrata y Republicano, lo mismo que a “cualquier partido de los patrones”, y a “instar al movimiento obrero a que rompa con el Partido Demócrata y construya un partido obrero de lucha clasista”. La resolución fue presentada por miembros del CSWP, y es el resultado de años de paciente trabajo político de educación y lucha. Miembros de base del sindicato hablaron apasionadamente acerca de la necesidad de organizar nuestro propio poder como trabajadores y de sólo confiar en él.

El impulso a favor de la resolución creció debido a que los miembros del sindicato enfrentan la misma realidad espantosa que la población en todo el país: como dice la resolución, “la elección presidencial de 2016 nos ofrece ‘elegir’ entre un payaso delirante y racista, por un lado, y un representante de carrera de Wall Street” (dejamos a los lectores que decidan quién es quién). La noticia de nuestra resolución recorre el país, pasando de miembro a miembro, de local a local. Los trabajadores están hartos de que “los patrones tengan dos partidos que representan a su clase, mientras que millones de trabajadores no tienen ninguno”. Dos días más tarde, como si lo hiciera para enfatizar lo que decimos, el candidato demócrata a la vicepresidencia, Tim Kaine, promotor de la política rompesindicatos denominada con el eufemismo “right-to-work” (derecho al trabajo), arribó a Portland para participar en una exclusiva reunión en un club campestre para recaudar fondos en la que cada boleto de entrada costaba 27 mil dólares, organizada por prominentes empresarios republicanos.

Así el Local 10 dio un paso firme y significativo hacia la independencia política de la clase obrera. ¿Qué sigue? Los militantes clasistas esperan promover el ejemplo del Local 10 para promover iniciativas, aquí y en el resto del país, por lo que aboga la resolución: construir un partido obrero de lucha clasista.

A lo largo de la historia de Estados Unidos, los sindicatos han estado políticamente encadenados a uno u otro de los partidos que representan al capital, limitándose así a la imposible tarea de presionar a los representantes políticos de los patrones y a buscar al que entre ellos represente al “mal menor”. Cuando los trabajadores comiencen a movilizarse para romper estas cadenas, como esperamos en el CSWP que augure la decisión de Local 10, se abrirá toda una serie de cuestiones políticas que nunca han sido ampliamente discutidas en el movimiento obrero norteamericano. ¿Cómo debería ser un partido obrero? ¿Qué debería hacer? ¿Qué significa “lucha clasista”?

No a los verdes ni a otros seguidores quemados de Sanders

Uno de los factores que han contribuido al apoyo a favor de nuestra resolución en el Local 10, y su creciente resonancia a escala nacional, es la desilusión que sienten muchos de los partidarios de la “revolución política” de Bernie Sanders. Millones en todo el país están empezando a entender que esta “revolución” era un engaño desde el principio. Muchos de los supuestos “radicales” y “socialistas” mostraron su verdadero pelaje al alentar el apoyo a favor del senador de Vermont, que es de hecho un político del Partido Demócrata. Nosotros no. Dijimos la verdad en el número 1 del Bridge City Militant, a saber, que “quienes apoyan a Sanders ciertamente son bobalicones del partido predilecto de Wall Street: ‘energizando’ a las ‘bases’ –los trabajadores, la gente pobre, las minorías raciales oprimidas y las mujeres – para que voten a favor del partido de sus opresores que supuestamente representa un ‘mal menor’. Es pura estafa”. No nos dejemos estafar de nuevo.

Ahora que ocurrió lo inevitable, muchos partidarios de Sanders están abandonando a los demócratas para votar a favor de la fórmula del Partido Verde compuesta por Jill Stein y Ajamu Baraka. Sin embargo, el Partido Verde es un partido capitalista tanto como lo son los partidos Demócrata y Republicano. Y la línea de clase es fundamental. Aunque algunos supuestos “radicales” llaman a “romper con el sistema bipartidista”, o promueven un vago “partido del 99%” (que incluiría a buena parte de los patrones y a sus matones a sueldo, los policías), lo que importa no es número de partidos que contiendan, sino cuál es la clase que representan. Que no acepten ningún sustituto: lo que necesitamos es un partido para los trabajadores.

La plataforma del Partido Verde es un revoltijo de ilusiones liberales, evidentemente preparado bajo la influencia de cristales sanadores y vapores homeopáticos. Fundamentalmente, lo que hace es consagrar el derecho a la propiedad privada capitalista. Una vez que se acepta como base el sistema capitalista, las diversas propuestas de reforma en la plataforma del Partido Verde, algunas de las cuales se podría apoyar en lo abstracto, no son más que pura palabrería hueca.

Pero la plataforma verde tampoco es un simple conjunto de buenas ideas equivocadas. Propone un futuro de guerras imperialistas para EE.UU. siempre y cuando estas guerras sean autorizadas por las Naciones Unidas. ¿La ONU? ¿Esa covacha de ladrones que actualmente provee una hoja de parra a la ocupación de Haití y que nació en la genocida guerra dirigida por EE.UU. en contra de Corea? El partido Verde está, desde luego, a favor de la “paz”. Dice que hay que reducir el presupuesto militar norteamericano a la mitad: eso representaría un presupuesto militar anual de 350 mil millones de dólares (¡!). Bajo estas condiciones, muchos generales asesinos del Pentágono encontrarían buen cobijo en el Partido Verde. Los trabajadores con conciencia de clase, en cambio, nos oponemos a “nuestro propio” gobierno en sus guerras, intentando movilizar el poder proletario aquí y más allá de las fronteras nacionales.

El hecho de que los patrones no necesiten de los servicios del Partido Verde no lo hace menos capitalista, ni lo convierte en un aliado de la clase obrera. Se trata de un refugio para demócratas sin techo. Pero la clase obrera, la vasta mayoría de la sociedad norteamericana y la clase cuyo trabajo produce toda la riqueza del mundo, no necesita un campamento político para los desamparados. Lo que necesitamos es nuestro propio instrumento político, uno que movilice y coordine el poder que tenemos como clase.

¿Qué debería hacer un partido obrero?

Un partido obrero de lucha clasista encabezaría la lucha en las líneas de piquete y en la calle: para paralizar las ciudades en protesta contra la epidemia de asesinatos policiacos racistas. Organizaría acciones como la ejemplificada por el Local 10 del ILWU en Oakland el Primero de Mayo de 2015 en contra de los racistas ataques de la policía.

Para hacer jirones las leyes antisindicales como la Taft-Hartley y promover la sindicalización en las industrias no organizadas, montando masivos piquetes de huelga que los esquiroles no se atrevan a cruzar. Para desmantelar los campos de concentración en los que están encerrados miles de nuestros compañeros y compañeras inmigrantes, detener las redadas del ICE y exigir plenos derechos de ciudadanía para todos los inmigrantes.

¿Cuántos movimientos contra la guerra ha habido? Es preciso liberar a nuestras hermanas y hermanos de clase en todo el mundo de la pesadilla de la guerra imperialista: hay que hacer huelga contra la guerra, boicot sindical a embarcar y desembarcar cargamentos bélicos. Esta lucha no puede parar y no podrá triunfar hasta que la clase obrera esté en el lugar que le corresponde, como dirigente de este país. Eso es a lo que nosotros del CSWP nos referimos con lucha clasista.

Claramente, nuestra perspectiva es hoy por hoy la de una pequeñísima minoría en el movimiento obrero. Sin duda, la mayor parte de los trabajadores sigue teniendo ilusiones en la “democracia” de los patrones y tiene la esperanza de reformarla para hacerla más justa para las personas que se encuentran en la base de la sociedad. Los actuales dirigentes de los sindicatos han hecho sus carreras sobre la base de la traición a los trabajadores y ofreciendo sus servicios para entregarnos como víctimas-votantes a los partidos patronales. La lucha por un verdadero partido obrero habrá de librarse en contra de los burócratas vendidos que dirigen hoy en día a los sindicatos.

En la actualidad, para muchos las palabras “política” y “partidos” se refieren al cínico juego electorero en busca de puestos, todo dentro de los márgenes de lo que resulta aceptable a la democracia del dólar de los patrones. La mayor parte de los países de Europa y de muchas otras partes del mundo, desde Brasil hasta la India, han tenido experiencias añejas con partidos “obreros”, “laboristas”, “socialistas” o “comunistas” que son importantes socios en la administración de los gobiernos patronales. En este país, ha habido una serie de intentos que no maduraron de construir “partidos laboristas” sobre la base de un programa diseñado para no hacer daño a los demócratas y burócratas sindicales. En Oregon y en algunos ostros estados existe el “Working Families Party” [Partido de las Familias Trabajadoras], que no es en lo absoluto un partido, sino un cínico fraude cometido en contra de la membresía sindical por parte de los jefazos. Su candidato a la presidencia es… Hillary Clinton. ¡Vaya broma!

Pero como señaló Karl Marx hace un siglo y medio, “toda lucha de clases es una lucha política”. En esta época de capitalismo decadente, toda lucha para defender los intereses más elementales de los trabajadores choca contra los límites de la propiedad privada. Lo que se necesita es un partido obrero que esté listo y dispuesto a llevar la lucha hasta su conclusión necesaria.

El hielo comienza a resquebrajarse. Mucha gente puede ver lo escrito en la pared. Nosotros del CSWP queremos llevar el mensaje a los trabajadores de todo el país de que necesitamos luchar por la independencia política. Y aunque los primeros pasos puedan ser parciales, no dejaremos de insistir en que es preciso formar el único tipo de partido que realmente puede luchar en defensa de los intereses de la clase obrera y los oprimidos hasta el final: un partido con un programa de lucha clasista que luche por un gobierno obrero. Esta lucha requiere un núcleo duro de militantes clasistas arraigados en las organizaciones obreras y entregados a la lucha por este programa. El CSWP busca construir ese núcleo. ¡Súmate a nosotros!

¡Ningún apoyo a los demócratas, republicanos ni a ningún partido patronal!

Resolución aprobada unánimemente por el Local 10 del IUPAT en su asamblea del 17 de agosto de 2016. Disponible aquí en inglés.

Considerando que los patrones tienen dos partidos que representan a su clase mientras los millones de trabajadores no tienen ninguno, y

Considerando que el presidente demócrata Barack Obama despachó a la Guardia Costera para proteger a los esquiroles en contra del Sindicato de Estibadores y Almacenistas (ILWU, por sus siglas en inglés) durante el lockout (paro patronal) de 2013-2014 de los trabajadores portuarios del Noroeste del Pacífico, y

Considerando que la gobernadora demócrata Kate Brown se opuso al –y socavó– movimiento por un salario mínimo de 15 dólares por hora en el estado de Oregon, y

Considerando que en 2014 los demócratas se unieron a los republicanos en el Congreso de la Unión para aprobar una desastrosa “reforma” del sistema de pensiones, lo que permitió a los patrones evadir sus obligaciones y estafar a nuestros jubilados, y

Considerando que los dos mandatos del demócrata Barack Obama han sido ocho años de guerras sin fin en el Medio Oriente, África del Norte y Asia, resultando en indecibles sufrimientos humanos, millones de refugiados y ataques contra nuestros derechos democráticos en este país, y

Considerando que la administración del Partido Demócrata ha deportado unos 5 millones de inmigrantes, lo que constituye un récord, y

Considerando que en todo el país, desde Oakland hasta Baltimore, la policía a órdenes de alcaldes demócratas asesina con regularidad a hombres y mujeres negras con impunidad, y

Considerando que la elección presidencial de 2016 nos ofrece “elegir” entre un payaso delirante y racista, por un lado, y un representante de carrera de Wall Street, y

Considerando que el candidato demócrata a la vicepresidencia, el gobernador del estado de Virginia Tim Kaine, apoya las leyes rompesindicatos del “derecho a trabajar” (que prohíbe contratos que estipulan la adhesión sindical de todo el personal representado), y

Considerando que los demócratas y republicanos son, y siempre han sido, partidos rompehuelgas y guerreristas de los patrones, y

Considerando que en tanto el movimiento sindical sigue apoyando uno u otro partido patronal estaríamos condenados a la segura perdición, en virtud de lo arriba expuesto

Resolvemos que el Local 10 de la IUPAT no apoya ni a los demócratas, ni a los republicanos ni a ningún partido o político de los patrones, y

Resolvemos que exhortamos al Sindicato Nacional a repudiar su respaldo a Hillary Clinton para la presidencia, y

Resolvemos que instamos al movimiento obrero a que rompa con el Partido Demócrata y construya un partido obrero de lucha clasista”. ■

NYC: Class-­Struggle International Workers Founded

From Bridge City Militant No. 3.

Nueva York, 17 de agosto: TIC en la manifestación en defensa del magisterio mexicano y brasileño en lucha, parte de un día de acción trinacional Brasil/México/EE.UU.
NYC, 17 August: TIC in a picket of the Mexican consulate, part of a tri-national (Brazil/Mexico/U.S.) day of protest in defense of the teachers in Mexico and Brazil.

NYC: Class-­Struggle International Workers Founded

We reprint below our translation of the declaration and program of Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (TIC, Class-Struggle International Workers), a new organization similar to CSWP that has been founded by immigrant workers in New York City. The original Spanish text can be found here.

“Neither Illegal, nor Criminals, we are International Workers”

Presently, up to 15 million immigrant workers, along with our families, reside in the U.S. without the documents demanded of us by the bosses of this country. Lacking basic democratic rights, we take on difficult and often dangerous work for poverty wages. Truly, we are what Karl Marx called over a century and a half ago, wage-slaves.

We international workers are the scapegoats for all the evils produced by capitalist society. We are called “criminals” and “illegal aliens” when we have committed no crime. We are accused of stealing the jobs of U.S. workers, when we do the jobs no one else would want to do. We are accused of taking advantage of welfare programs, when we are not eligible for any of them. In fact, undocumented workers pay up to 50 billion dollars into Social Security every year, and we will never get back a single penny.

What’s more, many of us were forced to emigrate because our livelihood was destroyed by the free-trade agreements and cruel wars unleashed by the U.S. that beset our native lands. But we aren’t just victims. Major sectors of the U.S. economy depend on immigrant labor. We form an integral part of the working class in this country. We have the power to liberate ourselves, and all the oppressed!

Various TIC founders have participated in important social struggles, for unionization and against all forms of injustice. We have learned from our own experience that what we need, and what we must organize, is a leadership adequate to the struggle we face, that is, a class-struggle leadership.

To do our part in this great undertaking, we have decided, working alongside the Internationalist Group, to form Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas on the basis of the foregoing program:

Union Power! If we Play by the Bosses’ Rules, We’re Bound to Lose

In 2012, a group of brave workers at the Hot and Crusty bakery in Manhattan decided that they couldn’t bear their cruel exploitation any longer, and moved to unionize. After 55 days on the picket line, they won. In 2015, tired of miserable wages and dangerous working conditions, hundreds of warehouse workers at the photography equipment retailer B&H. inspired by the example of Hot and Crusty, launched their own union campaign, scoring another win. But we know that all victories in the class struggle are temporary so long as the system of production for profit remains. Unionize the unorganized! Picket lines are class lines – they mean don’t cross! For fighting unions with a class-struggle leadership! For total independence of the unions from the state!

The Bosses are Afraid of Us, Because We are not Afraid

In 1886, the International Workers Day, May 1, was established when a workers demonstration that demanded an eight-hour work-day was attacked by the police, resulting in numerous casualties and leading to the state execution of the workers leaders, the eight Chicago Martyrs. Today, 130 years later, undocumented immigrant workers suffer 12-hour days and work-weeks of 48, 56 or 72 hours, for starvation wages. We won’t take it any more! In 2006 millions of immigrant workers stopped work, reviving May Day in the U.S. We demand a drastic reduction in work hours along with a whopping raise! For day-laborers, without any job security, we fight for a union hiring hall. We need free, high-quality comprehensive and universal health insurance and health care. At the workplace we fight for union committees with the power to shut down unsafe work.

Struggle, Win, Workers to Power!

We know that every class struggle is a political struggle. In this election year 2016, the Republican candidate fans the flames of racist hate against Mexicans, Arabs and Muslims while he harasses women. The Democratic candidate wants to launch new wars in the Middle East, and is responsible for the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras. TIC opposes all capitalist parties and politicians. We who lack the right to vote call for the formation of a workers party to fight for a workers government.

We Don’t Beg, We Demand: Full Citizenship Rights!

In his 2008 electoral campaign, the liberal Democrat Barack Obama promised “immigration reform.” But eight years later we have nothing. Instead, the Obama government has deported nearly five million immigrants. The odious raids go on, and there are tens of thousands of immigrants in what are really concentration camps. We call for immigrant-worker mobilization against racist attacks, to put an end to deportations, to close the detention camps and win full citizenship rights for all immigrants.

Women’s Liberation: Duty of All Workers

March 8 is International Women’s Day, which commemorates the death of over 100 immigrant women workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York in 1911, which was the spark for the unionization of the garment industry. Women workers shoulder a double work day, at the job and both before and afterwards in the home, where they are burdened with the responsibility for domestic labor in the family. They are constantly hounded by sexual harassment and unequal treatment. They are even denied control over their own bodies. TIC fights for equal pay for equal work. Around the world, we fight for free abortion on demand, at the sole decision of the woman. We demand free, 24-hour child care. Along with machismo, homophobic prejudices are a weapon of the exploiting class: every class-conscious worker is duty-bound to defend the democratic rights of gays, lesbians, transgender people and all the oppressed.

Black Liberation: Key to Workers Revolution in the U.S.

In this country, founded on slavery, the oppression of black people has been fundamental to capitalist rule. We immigrants are well aware of how the ruling class seeks to use us against our black sisters and brothers. We have already seen how police murder of black people goes hand-in-hand with the targeting of all immigrants by the repressive forces. The police are the armed fist of capital, racist to the core. We demand: cops out of the unions! Against racist killings, mobilize the working class! Revolution is the only solution!

Asian, Latin, Black and White, Workers of the World Unite!

Since the time of the First Workers International, the workers of all countries have had to unite our forces to win. We defend our African, Arab and Asian sisters and brothers against racist hatred! From the Middle East to Latin America, we fight for workers action to defeat imperialist war! From China to Cuba, we oppose efforts to reestablish the rule of capital.

International workers: we have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win!

New York, 12 August 2016 ■

Se fundó Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas

Del Bridge City Militant, N° 3. An English translation is available here.

Ciudad de Nueva York: Se fundó

Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas

Nueva York, 17 de agosto: TIC en la manifestación en defensa del magisterio mexicano y brasileño en lucha, parte de un día de acción trinacional Brasil/México/EE.UU.
Nueva York, 17 de agosto: TIC en la manifestación en defensa del magisterio mexicano y brasileño en lucha, parte de un día de acción trinacional Brasil/México/EE.UU.

“Ni ilegales, ni criminales, somos obreros internacionales”

Hay actualmente hasta 15 millones de trabajadores internacionales junto con nuestras familias que residimos en Estados Unidos sin tener los documentos que nos exigen los dueños del país. Carecemos de derechos democráticos fundamentales mientras realizamos trabajos duros y en muchos casos peligrosos, recibiendo una miseria como pago. Somos realmente, como escribió Karl Marx hace más de siglo y medio, esclavos asalariados.

Los trabajadores internacionales somos tratados como chivos expiatorios por todos los males que produce esta sociedad capitalista. Nos dicen “criminales” e “illegal aliens” cuando no hemos cometido ningún crimen. Se nos acusa de robar los empleos de trabajadores norteamericanos cuando hacemos faenas que nadie más quiere hacer. Nos acusan de abusar de los programas sociales cuando no somos elegibles para ninguno de ellos. De hecho, los trabajadores indocumentados pagan hasta 50 mil millones de dólares al año al Seguro Social, del cual no vamos a recibir ni un centavo.

Es más, muchos de nosotros fuimos obligados a emigrar porque nuestro propio sustento fue destruido por los tratados de libre comercio y las cruentas guerras desencadenadas por EE.UU. que han acechado nuestros países. Pero no somos mereamente víctimas. Grandes sectores de la economía norteamericana dependen de la mano de obra de los migrantes. Formamos parte íntegra de la clase obrera de este país. ¡Tenemos la fuerza para ser los protagonistas de nuestra propia liberación, y la de todos los oprimidos!

Varios de nosotras y nosotros ya hemos participado en importantes luchas sociales, de sindicalización, de solidaridad y en contra de todo tipo de injusticia. Hemos aprendido de nuestra propia experiencia, que lo que precisamos, y lo que debemos formar, es una dirección a la altura de las luchas que nos incumben, es decir, una dirección de lucha clasista.

Para hacer nuestro aporte a esta gran tarea, hemos decidido, trabajando en conjunto con el Grupo Internacionalista, formar Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas sobre la base del siguiente programa:

¡Unión, fuerza, solidaridad! Jugar con reglas del patrón es segura perdición

En 2012, un grupo de valientes trabajadores de la panadería Hot and Crusty de Manhattan decidieron que no podían aguantar más la explotación despiadada y tomaron la decisión de sindicalizarse. Después de 55 días en la línea de piquete, ganaron. En 2015, cansados de salarios miserables y condiciones de trabajo peligrosas, cientos de trabajadores almacenistas de la tienda de materiales fotográficos B&H, inspirados por el ejemplo de Hot and Crusty, lanzaron su propia campaña de sindicalización logrando otro triunfo. Pero sabemos que toda victoria en la lucha de clases sólo es temporal mientras persiste el sistema de producción por la ganancia. ¡Sindicalizar a los no sindicalizados! La línea de piquete es la línea de clase – significa ¡No cruzar! ¡Luchamos por sindicatos combativos con dirección clasista! ¡Por la total independencia de los sindicatos frente al estado!

Los patrones nos tienen miedo, porque no tenemos miedo

En 1886, se estableció el Día Internacional de los Trabajadores, el Primero de Mayo, luego de una manifestación obrera que exigía la jornada laboral de 8 horas, y que sufrió un ataque policíaco que cobró varias vidas y llevó a la ejecución de los dirigentes obreros, los ocho mártires de Chicago. Hoy en día, 130 años más tarde, se suele imponer a los trabajadores inmigrantes indocumentados una jornada de 12 horas y una semana laboral de 48, 56 o hasta 72 horas semanales, por un salario de hambre. ¡No aguantamos más! En 2006 fue un paro de millones de trabajadores inmigrantes lo que reavivó el Primero de Mayo en EE.UU. Exigimos una reducción drástica de la jornada de trabajo y un enorme aumento salarial. Para las jornaleras y los jornaleros, sin ninguna estabilidad y seguridad de trabajo, luchamos por una sala sindical de contratación. Necesitamos seguro médico completo y atención médica, gratuita de alta calidad. En los lugares de trabajo luchamos por comités sindicales con el poder de parar la producción cuando hay condiciones inseguras.

¡Luchar, vencer, obreros al poder!

Sabemos que toda lucha de clase es una lucha política. En este año electoral de 2016, el candidato republicano azuza el odio racista en contra de mexicanos, árabes y musulmanes a la vez que hostiga a las mujeres. La candidata demócrata quiere lanzar nuevas guerras en Medio Oriente, y es responsable del golpe de estado de 2009 en Honduras. Los Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas nos oponemos a todo partido o político capitalista. Los que no tenemos el derecho a votar llamamos a formar un partido obrero que luche por un gobierno obrero.

¡No rogamos, exigimos, plenos derechos de ciudadanía!

En su campaña electoral de 2008, el demócrata liberal Barack Obama prometió una “reforma migratoria”. Sin embargo, ocho años más tarde no hay nada. En su lugar, el gobierno de Obama ha deportado a unos 5 millones de inmigrantes. Las odiosas redadas siguen, hay decenas de miles de inmigrantes encarcelados en lo que son verdaderos campos de concentración. Llamamos a la movilización obrera e inmigrante en contra de los ataques racistas, a poner alto a las deportaciones, a cerrar los centros de detención y lograr plenos derechos de ciudadanía para todos los inmigrantes.

Liberación de la mujer: tarea de todos los trabajadores

El 8 de marzo es del Día Internacional de la Mujer, que conmemora la muerte de más de 100 trabajadoras inmigrantes en el incendio del taller de sudor Triangle Shirtwaist en Nueva York en 1911, que fue la chispa para la sindicalización de la industria costurera. Hoy las trabajadoras cumplen una doble jornada de trabajo, tanto en sus empleos como antes y después en la casa, donde se les impone la responsabilidad de hacer las tareas domésticas de la familia. Están constantemente acosadas por el hostigamiento sexual y un trato desigual. Se les niega hasta el control sobre sus propios cuerpos. Las y los Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas exigimos: al salario igual, trabajo igual. En el mundo entero, reivindicamos el derecho al aborto libre y gratuito, a decisión exclusiva de la mujer. Exigimos guarderías gratuitas abiertas las 24 horas al día. Tal como el machismo, los prejuicios homofóbicos son un arma de la clase explotadora: es deber de todo trabajador consciente defender los derechos democráticos de gays, lesbianas, personas transgénero y todos los oprimidos.

Liberación de los negros, clave para la revolución obrera norteamericana

En este país, fundado sobre la esclavitud, la opresión de los negros ha sido fundamental para el dominio capitalista. Los inmigrantes estamos bien conscientes de cómo la clase dominante busca usarnos en contra de nuestras hermanas y hermanos afroamericanos. Ya hemos visto cómo a la par de los asesinatos policíacos de negros, todos los inmigrantes están en la mira de las fuerzas represivas. La policía es el brazo armado del capital, racista hasta la médula. Exigimos, ¡Policías fuera del movimiento sindical! ¡Contra los asesinatos racistas, movilización clasista! ¡La revolución es la única solución!

Asiáticos, latinos, negros y blancos, Obreros del mundo ¡uníos!

Desde tiempos de la Primera Internacional Obrera, los trabajadores de todos los países tenemos que unir nuestras fuerzas para ganar. ¡Defendemos a nuestros hermanos africanos, árabes, asiáticos en contra del odio racista! Del Medio Oriente a América Latina, ¡luchamos por la acción obrera para aplastar las guerras imperialistas! De China a Cuba, nos oponemos a los intentos de restablecer el dominio del capital.

Los trabajadores internacionales no tenemos nada que perder más que nuestras cadenas. ¡Tenemos un mundo que ganar!

Nueva York, 12 de agosto de 2016

Para más información sobre Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas, llame a (212) 460-0983, o escriba a internationalistgroup@msn.com ■

Painters, Drywall Finishers say: Break with the Democrats! For a Class-Struggle Workers Party!

From Bridge City Militant No. 3. Available in Spanish here.

Painters, Drywall Finishers say:

Break with the Democrats!
For a Class-­Struggle Workers Party!

In a historic decision, the 17 August meeting of Painters and Drywall Finishers, IUPAT Local 10, voted unanimously to reject the Democratic and Republican parties or “any Party of the Bosses,” and to “call on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party, and build a class-struggle workers party.” The resolution was introduced by CSWP members, the result of years of patient political education and struggle. Union members spoke passionately from the floor about the need to organize and rely on our own power as workers.

Momentum for the resolution grew as members came up against the same bleak reality that people across the country are confronting: as the resolution states, “the 2016 presidential election offers us the ‘choice’ between a raving, bigoted clown and a career representative of Wall Street” (we leave it to readers to decide which is which). The news has been buzzing from member to member, from local to local across the country. Workers are fed up that “the bosses have two parties to represent their class while the millions of working people have none.” Two days later, as if to emphasize our point, Democratic VP nominee Tim “right-to-work” Kaine jetted into Portland for an exclusive, $27,000-per-ticket country club fund-raiser hosted by prominent Republican businessmen.

So, Local 10 took a very bold and important stand for working class political independence. What now? Class-struggle militants hope to promote Local 10’s example to encourage initiatives, here and across the country, for labor to do what the resolution says: to build a class-struggle workers party.

Throughout the history of this country, the unions have been in political chains, tied to one or another party representing the interests of capital, limited to the hopeless task of pressuring these political representatives of the bosses and seeking the “lesser evil” among them. So when the workers begin to move to break those chains, as we in CSWP hope the decision of Local 10 portends, it opens a whole series of political questions that have never been widely discussed in the U.S. labor movement. What should a workers party look like? What would it do? What do we mean by “class struggle”?

No to the Greens and other Bern-outs

One of the factors contributing to the support for our resolution in Local 10, and its growing resonance nationally, is the disillusionment felt by many partisans of Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution.” Millions across the country are realizing that this “revolution” was phony from the start. Many so-called “radicals” and “socialists” showed their true colors by encouraging support for the Vermont senator who is a de facto Democrat. Not us. We told the truth, in issue No. 1 of Bridge City Militant, that “Sanders supporters are certainly chumps for Wall Street’s preferred party: ‘energizing’ the ‘base’ – the workers, poor people, oppressed racial minorities, and women – to vote for the ‘lesser evil’ party of their oppressors. It’s a con game.” Let’s not get conned again.

Now that the inevitable has happened, many Bernie supporters are deserting the Democrats for the Green Party ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. But the Green Party is a capitalist party just as much as the Democrats and Republicans. And the class line is fundamental. While some supposed “radicals” call to “break with the two-party system” or promote some vague “party of the 99%” (which would include most bosses and their hired thugs, the police!), it’s not the number of parties that matters, but which class they represent. Accept no alternatives: we need a party for the workers.

The Green Party platform is a mishmash of liberal wishful thinking, evidently developed under the influence of healing crystals and homeopathic vapors. Fundamentally, it enshrines the right of capitalist private property. When you start by accepting the basis of the capitalist system, all the various reform proposals in the Green platform, some of which are supportable in the abstract, are just empty talk.

But the Green platform isn’t just misguided good ideas, either. It proposes a future of imperialist war for the U.S., so long as these wars are sanctioned by the United Nations. The UN? The den of thieves that currently provides the fig-leaf for the imperialist occupation of Haiti, and was born in the genocidal U.S.-led war against Korea? The Green Party is for “peace,” of course. Cut the U.S. military budget in half, it says: that would be $350 billion per year! On those conditions, many a mass-murdering Pentagon general could find a comfortable home in the Green Party. Class-conscious workers, on the other hand, oppose “our own” government in its wars, by seeking to mobilize workers power here and across national boundaries.

Just because the bosses have no need for the Green Party doesn’t make it any less a capitalist party or an ally of the working people. It’s a home for homeless Democrats. But the working class, the vast majority of U.S. society and the class whose labor makes all the wealth of the world, doesn’t need a political homeless camp. We need our own political instrument, one that mobilizes and coordinates the power that we have as a class.

What Should a Workers Party Do?

A class struggle workers party would lead the fight on the picket lines and in the streets: to shut down the cities in protest against the epidemic of racist police murder. Build on examples like the Oakland, CA ILWU Local 10 May Day 2015 against racist police attacks.

To rip up the anti-union laws like Taft-Hartley and roll the unions on into the unorganized industries, by building massive picket lines that scabs won’t dare to cross. To tear down the concentration camps holding thousands of our immigrant sisters and brothers, stop the ICE raids and demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants.

How many anti-war movements have we been through? Free our sisters and brothers around the world from the nightmare of imperialist war: strike against war, “hot cargo” shut down war shipments. This struggle cannot stop and won’t succeed until the working class is in its rightful place as the rulers of this country. That’s what we in CSWP mean by class-struggle.

Clearly, our perspective is currently a tiny minority in the labor movement. No doubt most workers today still hold illusions in the bosses’ “democracy,” and hope to reform it to make it fairer to the people on the bottom of society. The current leaders of the unions have built their careers on betraying the workers and serving us up as voter-victims for the bosses’ parties. The struggle for a real workers party will be a fight against the sellouts running the unions today.

Nowadays “politics” and “parties” are often thought of as meaning the cynical game of vote-getting and office-hunting, all within the bounds of what is acceptable to the bosses’ dollar democracy. Most countries in Europe and many other parts of the world, from Brazil to India, have long experiences with “workers,” “labor,” “socialist” or “communist” parties that are important partners in the administration of the bosses’ governments. In this country, there have been a series of half-baked attempts at a “labor party” built on a program designed to be harmless to the the Democrats and the bureaucrats. In Oregon and some other states, we have a “Working Families Party,” which is not a party at all, but a cynical fraud committed against the union membership by the labor tops. Its presidential candidate is … Hillary Clinton. What a joke!

But as Karl Marx remarked over a century and a half ago, “every class struggle is a political struggle.” In this epoch of decaying capitalism, every struggle to defend the most basic interests of the working people runs up against the limits of private property. What’s needed is a workers party that is ready and willing to take that struggle to its necessary conclusion.

The ice is starting to break. Many people can see the writing on the wall. We in the CSWP want to bring the message to working people across the country that we need to fight for political independence. And while the first steps may be partial, we won’t stop advocating for the only kind of workers party that can actually fight for the interests of the working class and oppressed all along the line: a party with a program of class struggle, fighting for a workers government. This fight will require a hard core of class struggle militants in the workers organizations dedicated to this program. The CSWP seeks to build that hard core. Join us! ■