RAY O’ LIGHT NEWSLETTER
January-February 2014 Number 82
Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA _
The AFL-CIO Road to Ruin: Part II
Boeing Workers Betrayed by IAM’s Buffenbarger
and the Democrats
by RAY LIGHT
“…objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty bourgeoisie and of certain strata of the working class who have been bribed out of imperialist superprofits and converted into watchdogs of capitalism and corrupters of the labor movement.” (Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” 1916)
In our last issue, our lead story reported on the activities and results of the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention and summed it up as leading the organized section of the U.S. working class “on the Road to Ruin.” We exposed the bells and whistles of a “new” rhetoric of “inclusiveness” as the recycled empty promises of 1995 when current AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka first emerged (with John Sweeney) in the national AFL-CIO leadership. The “inclusiveness” rhetoric,
with its discussion of different levels of membership, was aimed at disorienting and disempowering the current members.* It was aimed at covering up the failure of the present AFL-CIO misleadership to effectively arouse and mobilize the millions of us who are already members of AFL-CIO unions in our contract struggles and other economic and political battles forced upon us by the U.S. ruling class, the aggressive and insatiably greedy monopoly capitalist corporations and banks, and by their political representatives, the “Republicrats.” It was aimed at getting the bankrupt Trumka crowd re-elected.
French Goodyear workers hold two managers hostage in Northern France protesting cuts. Normally the rubber meets the road, here it blocks the door!
*NOTE: [The fact that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), arguably the most democratic, militant and internationalist U.S. union today, felt compelled to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO just one week before the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention, exposes this pro capitalist “inclusiveness.”]
We pointed to a way forward: “In reality, the working class in the USA needs militant trade union and revolutionary leadership willing to educate, organize, mobilize and lead the people to ‘fight the powers that be!’ And that fighting leadership will be carrying outreach [i.e. inclusiveness] to militant forces in the ranks of the Afro-American, Latino and other national struggles, militants in the immigrant rights movement, the environmental movement, etc. — forces that also are willing to fight the powers that be.
“One factor that will speed the development of such forces in the U.S. working class is to ruthlessly recognize how bankrupt the current leadership of organized labor really is.” (“2013 AFL-CIO Convention: ‘Inclusiveness’ on the Road to Ruin,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #81, November-December 2013)
-How Bankrupt the Current Leadership of Organized Labor Really Is-
On Friday, January 3, 2014, it was announced that thirty thousand members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted to accept a concessionary eight year contract extension with Boeing Corporation. In exchange Boeing says it will build its 777X plane and its composite wing in the Seattle-Puget Sound area, allegedly securing the jobs of these IAM-represented workers. On the surface, this development seems to be just another step backward for U.S. workers trying to make the best of a bad situation, faced with the scary prospect of unemployment in the current economic crisis. It does not seem of great significance for the rest of the U.S. working class. However, such a superficial conclusion is dangerously wrong. Why?
In the first place, as Dr. Jack Rasmus has observed, “The new concessions will effectively end workers’ defined benefit pension plan, replacing it with a 401K plan. It will also allow the company to gut or even replace negotiated health care benefits before the Obama ACA program begins taxing those healthcare benefits in 2018 with a 40% excise tax. Furthermore, wages for new hired workers are reportedly projected to decline to levels of minimum wage, to $15/hr. or less, over the next 11 years of the new contract term.” (“Boeing Workers Forced into Massive Concessions,” 1-6-14)
In a substantial and insightful article in 2011, Dr. Rasmus explained that social wages are “deferred wages … most notably Social Security and Medicare taxes …” In his view, the U.S. government focus since 2010 has been on “austerity.”*
*NOTE: [We, in ROL-USA, beginning with the current economic crisis and the advent of the Obama Administration in 2008, have consistently warned about this government-led austerity drive to pauperize the working class and the masses of the USA. Remember that the Simpson-Bowles austerity commission was created, appointed and authorized by Democratic President Obama.]
Certainly, the take-away from the Boeing workers involved in the January 3rd contract extension vote was focused on precisely the “social wages” that Dr. Rasmus analyzed in 2011. The workers’ defined benefit pension plan will be effectively ended, replaced with a 401K plan. And the negotiated health care benefits are placed in a precarious position. Clearly, the IAM workers’ loss of social wages at the hands of Boeing is part of the strategic plan of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism to eliminate these social wages from the entire U.S. working class, as Rasmus lays out well. Thus, the January 3rd vote is a defeat for the entire U.S. working class.
In 2011, Dr. Rasmus pointed out that this latest phase of concession bargaining - giving back the social wage - has “shifted to the political level on a grand scale.”*
*NOTE: [We in ROL-USA refer to “Republicrat Rule” led by Democratic President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner. In 2011, Obama-Boehner did come up with a cleverly concealed but grand plan with which they managed to soak the U.S. population out of more than half of the $4 trillion social cuts they were ultimately after over the following decade. Apparently, Rasmus is referring to the White House/Congress attack on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from Washington, DC.]
Rasmus states that “workers don’t even have the option of voting on the concessions, or striking in opposition …They now have virtually no say in the process short of taking to the streets to have their voices heard.”
In the second place, what makes the January 3, 2014 Boeing vote so significant is that these Boeing workers were (and are) in a much stronger bargaining position than most U.S. workers are today. These IAM members did indeed have a voice and a vote and are organized in their thousands in one of the most cutting-edge industries in the world. On this strong basis, just weeks before, organized by their local union leadership, they had successfully resisted the Boeing Corporation’s vicious take-back contract reopener. Yet, despite their unusually strong negotiating position and their initial successful resistance, these workers were ultimately cajoled and coerced into giving away these “social wages.” Precisely how this occurred thus provides a vivid exposure of the most treacherous enemies of the U.S. working class today. The entire U.S. working class needs to know these truths and to take them into account.
Truth #1: The idea that if workers help to make the company they work for more profitable it will serve as a protection against lay-off or discharge or a decrease in wages and working conditions is a lie! According to The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Ostrower, “Boeing shares … are trading at an all-time high after rising more than 80% last year, making the stock the year’s best performer in the Dow Jones industrial average.” Specifically, “Operating profit at Boeing’s commercial-jet division rose 24% to $4.3 billion in the first nine months of 2013, and full-year profit likely exceeded the high of $4.7 billion set in 2012.” (“Critical Mission for Boeing: Slashing Dreamliner Costs”) Clearly, Boeing Corp. as one of the most successful and profitable U.S. monopoly capitalist corporations in this period did not have even the slightest excuse for demanding from its union workers a re-opening of the existing contract which was nowhere near its expiration date. Nevertheless, so as to obtain concessions from them, Boeing did exactly that.
Truth #2: “Every brother ain’t a brother.” Again, this was not the first but the second time these Boeing workers voted on essentially the same contract reopener. In the earlier vote, mobilized by the local IAM leadership, the Boeing workers voted down the company’s “offer” by a two to one margin. At this critical juncture, IAM President R. Thomas Buffenbarger and the IAM International leadership, over the objections of the local IAM leadership, demanded that the workers hold a second vote on a slightly revised offer.
Compelling this second vote signals the betrayal of the IAM membership by Buffenbarger and the IAM national misleaders. This is all the more true since the IAM/Boeing contract (like most union contracts in the USA today) contains a no-strike clause. Having to deal with a contract reopener in the middle of the contract rendered the workers somewhat defenseless as they only possess the legal right to strike during a contract negotiation after the contract has expired. Having successfully resisted Boeing’s immense corporate pressure once, their own national leadership was exposing them to a second campaign of company threats and intimidation now coordinated with the treachery of the Democratic Party and the IAM national leadership that props up the Democrats and their corporate masters.
As Andy Piascik described it, “The national office of the International Association of Machinists joined the company in a classic case of ‘vote and vote again until you get it right’ even though the local union and 67% of those who voted in November opposed the deal. Moreover, the IAM national scheduled the second vote on January 2-3 when many workers were using vacation days to tack extra time off onto the end of the annual Christmas/New Year’s shutdown. Predictably, turnout dropped precipitously as there was no possibility for in-plant discussion of the company’s demands and possible strategies for resistance because of the shutdown.” (“Why the Boeing Deal is a Defeat for Us All,” Counterpunch, 1-15-14)
Moreover, the “official” tally for this January 3rd contract extension vote had been extremely close. It was reported that 51% had voted for Boeing’s offer and 49% had voted to reject it. Not surprisingly, in light of the fact that serious concessions to the monopoly capitalist corporation were “approved” by a mere 600 votes out of more than thirty thousand workers, a number of union workers expressed a demand for a recount. Buffenbarger and the International IAM officialdom refused such a recount. (Did they have something to hide?!) Piascik had it exactly right: “vote and vote again until you get it right” – then, no more voting!!
Wall Street Counts Its Blessings:
The Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO Misleadership
Seemingly unable to contain his glee at this January 3rd defeat for the working class, (like a football player who scores a touchdown and then performs a victory dance) The Wall Street Journal’s Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. revealingly titled his 1-8-14 Business World column, “Why Boeing’s Win Matters.” Jenkins boldly lays out that, “Just three weeks earlier, the union membership had rejected a similar offer by a two-to-one margin. The reversal may have already delivered the most important business story of 2014.” (My emphasis)
Jenkins opens his article with the following admission: “Boeing’s threat to rip away its new 777X from its unionized Seattle-area workforce if local union members didn’t approve contract concessions, as they did last week” was “never overwhelmingly credible.” (My emphasis) Jenkins then elaborates the reasons: “Boeing was already known to be dissatisfied with the dispersed plane-making that currently has the 787’s wing made in Japan. Boeing’s own new 787 plant with nonunion workers in South Carolina has been slow to get up to speed. A trained and experienced workforce, such as exists in the Seattle area, is not easy to recreate and Boeing is under considerable pressure from customers signing up for deliveries of the new 777X after 2020 to minimize delays and snafus like those that afflicted the 787.”*
*NOTE: [Jenkins actually understates the intense pressure on Boeing to deliver planes on schedule on penalty of extinction by failing to make any mention of Boeing’s monopoly capitalist global competitor, the European Union’s Airbus N.V.]
Jenkins observes: “Thus, many knowing parties detected bluff in Boeing’s stance. And yet it was the union that knuckled under, voting narrowly on Friday to accept Boeing’s terms.” (My emphasis)
Jenkins asks: “Why the big turnaround?” And he answers: “One reason is that just about every elected Democrat and other official in the state of Washington essentially demanded that the union vote again and accept Boeing’s terms.” These included: the Democratic governor, the big city Democratic mayors and state and federal legislators, “including a conspicuously involved U.S. Senator Patty Murray.”* The Democratic politicians in Washington state not only pushed the Boeing workers to make give-back concessions to Boeing Corp. with its already record profits. These stooges for Boeing and Wall Street, Democrats like Governor Jay Inslee and the majority of the legislature, approved an $8.7 billion handout to Boeing on top of that!
*NOTE: [Evidently, Democratic Senator Patty Murray has replaced the long-deceased former Democratic Senator from Washington state, Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA), as “the Senator from Boeing.” In December, Senator Murray, the chairperson of the Senate Budget Committee, had collaborated with House Republican Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the infamous agreement on the budget which bypassed much of the sequester, sparing military appropriations while cutting 1.3 million long term unemployed off from unemployment relief and demanding that new federal employees pay more out of pocket for their pensions, another example of the increasing attack on social wages, and this one, “at the political level on a grand scale,” precisely as raised by Dr. Rasmus.]
Finally, Jenkins also points to “the union’s own national headquarters” as having been aligned with the corporation and the Democratic politicians. Of course, as a Wall Street stooge himself, Jenkins tries to make this intervention by the bureaucratic misleaders of the IAM on behalf of Boeing seem to be justified. But, from the standpoint of the working class, Jenkins clearly exposed the Democratic Party as well as Buffenbarger and his clique as traitors to the IAM membership, to the entire working class and to at least 99% of the people of the USA.
As we pointed out in the previous issue: “In 2008, the AFL-CIO leadership overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Obama-Biden ticket, largely on the basis that, along with Democratic Party control of both houses of Congress, it would ensure that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would become law. This would allegedly usher in a new upsurge in the organization of the unorganized, a rebirth of organized labor in the USA. EFCA was never even brought forward for a vote! Nevertheless, in 2010 and again in 2012 the AFL-CIO chieftains, with nothing positive to show for their previous loyalty, endorsed the Democratic Party down the line. This is the very Democratic Party which in tandem with the Republican Party makes up the ‘Republicrat Party’ that bailed out Wall Street while pillaging the already hard pressed folks on Main Street, including the members of the AFL-CIO.
“Even more treacherously, in what even the bourgeois economists refer to as the ‘jobless recovery’ the leadership of the AFL-CIO has failed to call on its members and the working class in general to march, rally and fight for jobs in the streets of Washington, DC and elsewhere. The one such rally (which the AFL-CIO called jointly with the NAACP) took place in Washington in October 2010, one month before the 2010 Congressional election. It turned out to be a thinly veiled ‘bait and switch’ into a Democratic Party election campaign rally. In fact, The Economist (9-14-13) reported that, despite the appearance of the bells and whistles of the 2013 National AFL-CIO Convention, ‘According to the Centre for Public Integrity, a watchdog, unions gave $10 million to [Democratic Party] super PACs, a type of campaigning outfit, in the first six months of this year, almost six times as much as in the same period in 2011.’ (My emphasis)” (“2013 AFL-CIO Convention: ‘Inclusiveness’ on the Road to Ruin,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #81, November-December 2013)
Drawing on the experience of the Boeing workers’ defeat, Andy Piascik observes: “… the fulcrum of the union bureaucracy’s political strategy remains, even after so many beatdowns, supporting the Democrats …”
The Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO Misleadership Should Count Their Blessings: The Opportunists
In the previous issue we asked the question:
“Can we look to the social democratic ‘left’ in the USA to help provide a new militant and revolutionary direction for the U.S. working class and its allies? The debate among Early, Fletcher/Crosby and Olney about the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention discussed above [i.e. in that issue] can provide a decisive answer to this question. None of them even mentioned the Democratic Party, never mind the need for the AFL-CIO and the U.S. working class to achieve political independence from the Democratic Party wing of the ‘Republicrat’ Party of Wall Street. None of them even mentioned the need for Workers Power in the USA, … And, remarkably, none of them even mentioned that the working class in the USA labors under the capitalist system, where maximum private profit is the engine driving the system, never mind the need for the working class and its unions to have to struggle against capital for decent wages and working conditions, jobs, a comprehensive jobs program like the WPA of the previous Depression era that built new infrastructure in the USA etc.
“What these opportunists, especially the open opportunists such as Fletcher/Crosby, have in common is a general underestimation of the power and initiative of the international working class including the U.S. working class, a hatred for Socialism and Communism, a belief that imperialism is an historical relic, a thing of the past that has already become extinct and need not be struggled against and that Leninism is as extinct as imperialism. Nevertheless, facts are stubborn things.” (“2013 AFL-CIO Convention: ‘Inclusiveness’ on the Road to Ruin,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #81, November-December 2013)
“The only Marxist line in the world labor movement is to explain to the masses the inevitability and necessity of breaking with opportunism, to educate them for revolution by waging a relentless struggle against opportunism, to utilize the experiences … to expose, not conceal, the utter vileness of national-liberal labor politics.” (Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” 1916)
Many of our readers, even many of our own members, may have felt that, in our report on the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in the previous issue, we were “too hard” on the Democratic Party. Even more readers probably felt that we were “too critical” of the AFL-CIO chieftains and their cronies. And an even larger number probably felt that we were being “unfriendly” to our fellow leftists in exposing the fact that they were apologizing to the working class and the oppressed peoples for the AFL-CIO labor traitors and their political leaders in the Democratic Party, the political representatives of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism. We were being downright unpleasant about the fact that these “leftists,” as opportunists, were trying to keep the working class masses from waging a principled struggle against the Democratic Party bigwigs from within and without and against the corrupt labor bureaucracy from within the ranks of both organized and unorganized labor.
But the fact remains that, in the most important trade union struggle in the USA since that Convention, the contract reopener and votes of the Boeing workers and IAM members in the Seattle-Puget Sound area, the political line of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor (USA) represented in that report on the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention, has been proven correct in the crucible of the class struggle experience of the Boeing workers. Had enough of the key local IAM activists and union leaders who had successfully resisted Boeing Corp. in the first contract reopener vote, been armed with our principled Leninist analysis of the Trumkas and Buffenbargers and their Democratic Party leaders, all marching to the baton of Wall Street and U.S. imperialism, this significant battle between labor and capital might well have resulted in an advance for the U.S. working class, from the working poor to the highest paid Boeing worker, and for the entire international working class. Instead, despite an objectively favorable situation for the U.S. working class, rare in this period, the subjective weakness of the U.S. and international working class leadership and movement, the absence of proletarian revolutionary leadership, allowed this confrontation to be turned into just another in a long line of working class defeats.
As we concluded that previous article:
In opposition to the bureaucratic leadership of the AFL-CIO: The Path to Working Class Gains against Wall Street Capital and ultimately for Power for the U.S. working class over capital has to begin with this:
“We’ve got to fight the powers that be!!”
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“Mandela is Dead, So Why Hide the Truth About Apartheid?”
A Comradely Salute to Fidel Castro on the
Occasion of his timely and outstanding article
by RAY LIGHT
Nelson Mandela, the world-renowned South African freedom fighter and politician, died on December 5, 2013 at the advanced age of 95. The praise for Mandela’s life and legacy has seemingly been so strong and universal that it has, temporarily, overwhelmed the actual experience of the working class of the world and of the oppressed peoples.
Heads of state traveled to South Africa from all over the world to attend the funeral service for Mandela. In fact, former U.S. Presidents Clinton (Democrat) and George W. Bush (Republican) and their wives (including the current front runner to be the 2016 Democratic Party candidate for President) traveled with President and Mrs. Obama on Air Force One. U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro were photographed shaking hands with each other on the occasion.
Is it possible that, in this world in which the capitalist masters are running almost everything in the interests of “the 1%” (or one-tenth of one percent) and against the interests of the 99%, the masses of humanity, that Nelson Mandela or any individual could justifiably be universally embraced by both the oppressors and the oppressed?! Are the lions really lying down with the lambs?!
I had written these words in early December prior to receiving comrade Fidel’s inspiring article. It seems to me that he too is concerned about the unrelenting global propaganda campaign launched by U.S. imperialism with the help of compradors, imperialist intellectuals and cultural personages, and opportunist lackeys all aimed at trying to convince the masses of the oppressed peoples around the world that they should forgive their oppressors and seek peaceful dealings with them.
There are a number of marvelous points that comrade Fidel addresses:
1. First and foremost, he makes it clear that two heads of state that shook hands at the ceremony for Nelson Mandela represent governments that, in point of historical fact, fought on opposite sides from each other in relation to the brutal South African apartheid regime. The Cuban government now headed by Raul Castro had historically played a direct military role in helping to dismantle and destroy the bestial apartheid regime. The U.S. government now headed by Barack Obama had historically been a vital support of South African apartheid. In fact, comrade Fidel hurls a challenge that is echoed in the title of his article: “But why do they try to hide the fact that the Apartheid regime—that brought so much suffering onto Africa and aroused so much indignation in most nations throughout the world—was the fruit of European colonial powers and was turned into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel …?” And comrade Fidel concludes his article by again hurling the challenge: “Let the spokesmen of the empire now talk about how and why Apartheid came to life.” This first point strikes a strong blow against any tendency in South Africa, Cuba or anywhere else to use Raul’s diplomatic handshake with Obama to bolster petty bourgeois democratic illusions about the U.S. imperialist empire.
2. Secondly, Fidel gives a detailed presentation of the circum-stances that brought about the participation of Cuban military forces in armed struggle against the South African apartheid troops. This historical example affirms that there can be an important positive role for armed struggle in relation to the oppressor—in direct opposition to the imperialist-led campaign “around Mandela’s personality and in his memory” to disarm the oppressed peoples and the international working class.
3. Third, the comrade affirms the duty of a revolutionary force in state power to extend its support to the international working class and the peoples who have not yet achieved liberation from the yoke of imperialism. Fidel modestly states: “Cuba was strictly fulfilling its internationalist duties by defending key positions and training thousands of Angolans in the use of weapons every year.” At a time when the socialist camp is no more, Fidel’s public affirmation of the Cuban experience in Southern Africa in the 1970’s provides an important standard by which to judge those who claim to represent communist, socialist and anti-imperialist regimes as they go about pursuing narrow bourgeois nationalist agendas today. And one can look back over the years and see that the courageous and generous internationalism of the Cuban leader, Party, government and people has helped Cuba remain independent of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, for so many decades and in the face of so many difficulties, including being only ninety miles from the coast of the USA.
4. Fourth, comrade Fidel criticizes the Soviet revisionist military leader whom the Angolan and Cuban forces had to deal with in the mid 1970’s who helped place the Angolan peoples forces in a vulnerable position. And he makes it clear that this revisionist had nothing in common with “Zhukov, Rokossovski, Malinowsky or any of the many men that brought so much glory to Soviet military strategy.” These were the generals who, with Stalin, conducted the victorious war against German fascism. They were “Stalin’s generals.” This reference helps give the lie to the Trotskyites who claim that Stalin got rid of all the good military leaders, etc., etc. and that somehow the Soviet Union won this world historic victory despite rather than with the invaluable role of its principal leader.*
*NOTE: [Let us recall that Fidel Castro emerged as an important leader in the international communist movement at the beginning of the 1960’s, precisely when the arch revisionist Khrushchev, the most influential traitor in tearing down the legacy of Stalin, was at the height of his power in the USSR and in the large “pro-Soviet revisionist” wing of the newly split movement.]
5. Finally, comrade Fidel demonstrates exemplary revolutionary principles in relation to the USSR. Despite the fact that the already revisionist Soviet Union in its last years before becoming an openly capitalist state had abruptly pulled out of Cuba, leaving the Cuban people, government and party and its leader, Fidel, in an extremely difficult position, in 2014, comrade Fidel states: “Liberation movements in that continent [Africa] had colonialism and imperialism on the rack after World War II and the liberation of the Peoples Republic of China—the most highly populated country in the world—following the glorious triumph of the Russian Socialist Revolution.” Those anti-Lenin and anti-Stalin “followers” of the Cuban Revolution, and the narrow nationalists in all parts of the world who have made successful careers in academia, in NGO’s, in bourgeois nationalist politics, can read this sentence and weep. The Russian Revolution and the Socialist Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin and the CPSU(Bolsheviks) were the broad shoulders upon which the entire edifice of the socialist camp was built in the post World War II period. Despite the apparent statements of comrade Mao to the contrary in the last years of his life, this fact extended to the victory of the Chinese national democratic revolution as well, as comrade Fidel’s statement implies. In our time, it would be difficult if not impossible to be a serious proletarian revolutionary force without an acknowledgement of the world historic contribution of the USSR and its Bolshevik leadership. This reflects the tremendous significance of this valuable revolutionary statement by Comrade Fidel Castro.
Viva Fidel! Venceremos!
* * * * *
Editor’s Note: In our next issue we will have our assessment of “Nelson Mandela and the South African Revolution: A Leninist View.”
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Ranks Of Working Poor Grow –
The “Republicrat” Budget Deal of December 2013
by RAY LIGHT
In December, in order to advance their austerity agenda against the working people of the USA, the Wall Street finance capitalists, the U.S. ruling class, once again, if only briefly, had to expose “Republicrat rule.” The Republican Party and the Democratic Party that together represent the interests of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism had a “Joint Congressional Committee” of twenty-nine “Republicrats” authorized to craft a budget deal that could pass both the Democratic Party-controlled Senate and the Republican Party-controlled House. In reality, the deal was crafted, in secret, by just two of them, Senator Patty Murray, the Democratic head of the Senate budget committee and Paul Ryan, the House Republican budget committee chair. This was no accident. Murray is the “Senator from Boeing” (see lead article in this issue). And Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election, is the leading Tea Party figure at this time.
Despite the supposed “all-out war” between the Tea Party and the Democrats, Murray and Ryan crafted an agreement that passed both houses overwhelmingly. Ever the lackey of U.S. monopoly capital and imperialism through his absolute loyalty to the Democratic Party, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, on December 11, stated, “It is shocking that Republicans have refused to include an extension of federal unemployment benefits in today’s budget agreement.” Trumka dutifully covered up the fact that on December 10th, the Republican Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives had voted 332-94 in favor of excluding an extension of unemployment benefits from the 2014 U.S. federal budget, with 163 House Democrats voting in favor of the plan, while only 32 voted against! And, on December 18th, the Democratic Party-controlled Senate voted 64-36 in favor of the Ryan-Murray plan with all 54 Democrats and “independent” Bernie Sanders, voting in favor.
Trumka’s crocodile tears notwithstanding, on December 28, 2013, as a result of the Republicrat budget deal, overwhelmingly voted for by the Congressional Democrats, 1.3 million long term unemployed immediately lost their unemployment benefits with an estimated 4.9 million jobless workers slated to lose their emergency unemployment benefits over the next year.
In fact, the December 2013 Budget deal is a frontal attack on the U.S. working class and on the working poor in particular. Currently, as a result of the tremendous job loss and the fact that most new job creation is at Walmart, McDonald’s and other fast food chains and other low paying jobs, one in eight households in the USA receives Food Stamps. (Food Stamps are thus a subsidy of Walmart, McDonald’s and other big corporations!) Congress oversaw a 7% food stamp cut when it allowed a temporary increase in food stamps that had been paid to 47 million recipients to expire on November 1, 2013. And both the Democrats and Republicans are proposing further cuts to SNAP (the food stamp program) beginning in February ranging from $4.1 billion in cuts over a ten year period passed by the (Democratic-controlled) Senate to $39 billion in cuts approved by the (Republican-controlled) House over the same period.*
*NOTE: [Other sectors of the working class and 99% are directly targeted by the December 2013 “Republicrat” budget deal to carry more of the government tax burden. These include: new federal workers whose pension contributions are being increased, and veterans whose pensions are having their cost-of–living increases cut. Also, airline travelers will experience a big increase in government taxes.]
Much like the Obama-Boehner deal that seemed to somehow go into effect after arriving “unannounced” in 2011, when the monopoly capitalist-controlled mass media had made it appear that the Tea Party had blocked that “Republicrat” deal, this time, in their December 2013 budget deal calculations, both these political parties remained silent on the $25 billion in cuts in unemployment benefits as well as the projected $8.6 billion in food stamp cuts!!
Clearly, this budget deal is a continuation of the Republicrat assault on behalf of the financial oligarchy, the ruling class of this country, against the working class and oppressed nationalities. It is a continuation of their attempt to place the whole burden of the financial and economic crisis that they created on our shoulders in a desperate effort to save their privileged existence and the capitalist system.
The Significance of the Debt Ceiling Debacle, Sequestration, the Federal Government Shutdown and the 2013 Budget Deal
In the summer of 2011, the Tea Party forces held the federal government hostage, refusing to raise the debt ceiling without equivalent take-aways from social programs. They “blocked” the open $4 trillion agreement between Republicrat leaders Obama and Boehner and caused such nervousness in the U.S. and world financial markets that Standard and Poor actually downgraded the U.S. government credit rating. It was the first time in history that the USA lost its AAA status. This did not stop but merely slowed down the Republicrats who resorted to sequestration as part of a more indirect and protracted method to place the burden of the crisis increasingly on the shoulders of the working class.
We wrote at the time about “The mock battles of the Republicans and the Democrats.”
“Day after day for almost the two full months of June and July, the monopoly capitalist controlled mass media was filled with headline stories about ‘the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.” “Unfortunately, the part of this scenario that portrays Obama and the Democrats as the defenders of the interests of the people is a grand illusion, a big lie. Neither ‘side’ in the ‘debt ceiling debate’ represents the interests of the workers and the oppressed (or even the middle class). The Democrats and Republicans have merely been ‘shadow-boxing’ in order to placate and disorient the masses of the USA into allowing their previously hard-won gains to be taken away. The Republicrats led by Democratic President Obama and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner are working hand in hand to use the current debt ceiling crisis to try to resolve the U.S. economic crisis on the backs of the workers and oppressed of the USA and the world. (The introduction of the tea party members of Congress into the debate, in this period, is significant mainly in helping to determine how quickly, thoroughly and mercilessly will be the fleecing of the masses of the U.S. population by the Republicrat servants of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism.)” (page 3 and 5, “The Debt Ceiling ‘Duel’ of the Republicans ‘versus’ Obama and the Democrats: Illusion and Reality,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #68, September-October 2011)
We continued, “The results of the two months of supposedly ‘ferocious’ battle between the twin ruling class parties were ultimately revealed on August 2nd, as follows: 1. In a repeat of last December’s surprise Obama-Republican “Republicrat” agreements in Congress – there were no tax increases for the rich at all; 2. The majority of cuts on government spending have been deferred until after the 2012 election but it is crystal clear that the ‘Republicrats’ intend to keep the massive and obscene War Budget intact and to place the entire burden of the economic crisis on the shoulders of Main Street, especially the U.S. workers and oppressed nationalities …” (ibid., pages 1 and 2) This led to the use of sequestration.
In this same article, in a section entitled, “Deficit reduction – a code name for fleecing the people,” we pointed out,
“Lenin taught that the more powerful the imperialist country the more rapid decline it can experience. The debt ceiling debate is a reflection in the first place of the current contradiction between two outstanding facts: U.S. imperialism still retains military and diplomatic and financial organization supremacy in the world capitalist system (NATO, UNO, and World Bank/IMF are examples), while it has become the biggest debtor country in the world.
“In this setting, in which U.S. imperialism will have to pay down, if not pay off, its enormous debt, a shrinking public sector is aggravating the jobs crisis, the economic depression for the U.S. working class, already plagued by the shrinking private economy. And the so-called ‘entitlement’ cuts for the masses of the U.S. people projected by the August 2nd agreement will accelerate this jobs crisis, continuing the epidemic of job loss, wage loss, and a deteriorating standard of living for the working people of the USA.
“Drastic reduction in the value of the dollar can drastically reduce the current U.S. government debt owed to banks, sovereign wealth funds, etc. And it can eventually lead to a significant increase in U.S. exports and foreign investment in the U.S., increasing U.S. jobs and tax revenue and further diminishing the crushing U.S. debt over time. However, dollar devaluation at the same time means the impoverishment of the masses of the U.S. people. And, in the final analysis, this will be the one definite result of the current debt ceiling crisis.
“In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Martin Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Ronald Reagan, asserted: ‘A falling dollar may be the only major economic change that can accelerate the anemic pace of recovery and prevent a new downturn in U.S. economic activity. The declining dollar has been the key driver of American exports. … Although exports are only 10% of U.S. GDP, the rise in exports during the past four quarters contributed more than 50% of GDP growth during that period.’ (“A Falling Dollar Will Mean a Faster U.S. Recovery,” WSJ, 8-1-11) Feldstein explains that, unlike ‘Europe’s highly unionized economy,’ ‘in the U.S., where only 7% of private workers are unionized, there is now little danger of an inflationary wage-price spiral.’ (ibid.) In other words, Feldstein is counting on U.S. workers being too weak and divided to mount a powerful trade union and/or political response to a rapid devaluation of the dollar and our real wages, worsening standard of living, etc. …
“Dennis Kucinich, arguably the most progressive people’s politician in the U.S. Congress, recently declared: ‘There is a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the hands of a few and it’s going on right now as America’s eyes are misdirected to the political theater of these histrionic debt negotiations, threats to shut down the government, and willingness to make most Americans pay dearly for debts they did not create.’ (“America’s Wealth is Stolen,” 7-16-11) Kucinich, himself a Democrat, honestly exposed the fact that, ‘President Obama —against all promises — just put Social Security cuts on the table.’” (ibid., pages 8-10)
This same dramatic scenario played out again this past October when, for the first time in twenty years, the federal government experienced a two week shutdown, allegedly because the tea party forces were trying (unsuccessfully) to get Obama to back off the Affordable Health Care Act.
The shutdown did provide the Wall Street ruling class and its Republicrat political puppets with a trial balloon as to how the public sector workers in the federal government would respond to suddenly having their contracts violated and being thrown out of work. So while the shutdown represented the most recent attack on thousands of public sector workers, and on the public services they provide, there was little response from the workers and their union as well as from the public as the focus of “the battle” continued to remain on President Obama and the tea party forces. When the government reopened, the workers received their lost wages, with no guarantee that would happen the next time. However, the ruling class no doubt took note of how little working class and public outcry there had been.
-The December 2013 Budget Deal-
This most recent dramatic clash between and among Obama and the Democrats, the mainstream Republicans and the Tea Party Republicans led directly to the December 2013 Budget Deal . When the smoke cleared, this deal once again demonstrated how the Republican and Democratic Parties work as a “Republicrat team” to represent the interests of the monopoly corporations, the Wall Street banks and U.S. imperialism.
A big selling point of this current budget deal by the monopoly capitalists to the working class and the 99% in the USA is that it will eliminate the arbitrary and unfair sequestration cuts across all programs from infant health and nutrition programs to the giant corporate contracts of the military-industrial complex, whether the program was good or bad. In 2011, House Republicans and the Obama Administration had agreed to cut $1 trillion in social spending programs, mostly education. In addition, they put into effect $1.2 trillion in discretionary cuts that would be deferred to 2013, as we referred to above. Surprisingly to most people, because of how powerful the military-industrial complex is in the USA, about half of these latter funds, called a “sequester,” represented military spending cuts. According to the “Republicrat fairy tale,” repeated ad infinitum by the mass media, sequestration would be so arbitrary and painful to the Republicans who opposed military spending cuts as well as to the Democrats who opposed cuts in social spending that they would be compelled to negotiate a budget agreement that “made sense.”
Accordingly, beginning in March of 2013, the $1.2 trillion sequester spending cuts took full effect for non-military spending. However, the Obama Regime in cooperation with Congress, protected the Pentagon from its sequestration spending cuts. In fact Pentagon spending (not including an additional $100 billion in direct war spending) continued at the $518 billion level of the previous year. And both the Republican House and the Democratic Senate Budget proposals call for increasing military spending to $552 billion in 2014. (See New York Times, 12-11-13, Front page )
Indeed, on the same day it passed its budget, the House immediately voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), locking in 2014 Pentagon spending at a level above 2013. As the Wall Street Journal observed: “The budget deal is ‘nearly erasing the impact of sequestration on the military.’” (12-13-13) Clearly, the December 2013 budget agreement was about “liberating” the U.S. military-industrial complex from any sequestration-related fiscal constraints. And it was about placing even more of the burden of the U.S. and global capitalist economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and oppressed nationalities within the USA.
In essence, sequestration had been a “bait and switch” tactic used by Obama, Boehner and the Republicrats to deceive progressive voters and people and progressive legislators. For many of these forces who might have otherwise resisted the wholesale attack on the U.S. working class and oppressed nationalities that sequestration represented “in the name of austerity and shared sacrifice,” had remained silent on sequestration in their desire to rein in the powerful military-industrial complex.
Even now, the Wall Street-dominated mass media and Republicrat politicians are trying to hoodwink the U.S. people into believing that the elimination of the sequestration provisions for social spending represents approximately the same dollar savings as it does for Pentagon spending. But as the Labor Fightback Network has tallied it up: “The real budget deal thus amounts to $31 billion in domestic spending cuts restored from the sequester—offset by $26 billion paid for by government workers, retirees and veterans, by another $25 billion paid for by the unemployed, and another estimated $8.6 billion by the poor and working poor in food stamp cuts. What the budget deal gives (plus $31 billion) with one hand, it takes away double (minus $59 billion) with the other. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and military corporations get off free.” (Labor Fightback Network, December 2013)
In Ray O’Light Newsletter #59, we entitled one section, “Obama and the Federal Government Preside over the U.S. Empire in Decline.” Its opening sentence was as follows: “Barack Obama is well suited for the difficult task of presiding over an orderly march of the U.S. population to impoverishment in the desperate effort of the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class to save itself and its hegemonic position in the world capitalist system.” We continued: “This march to impoverishment, however, is still only in its beginning stages. And the challenge to the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class and President Obama to lead the masses of working people and oppressed nationalities in the USA to poverty without us opting to revolt, without us turning to socialist revolution for the way out of our difficulties, will only get more difficult.”(March-April 2010)
Like the debt ceiling debate in 2011, the December 2013 Budget Deal is “a new step on the road to our ruin.” Let me repeat the question I asked back then: “When will we workers and oppressed nationalities in the USA begin to revolt against the collapsing capitalist system and its rulers on our path to socialist revolution?”
Still stumped?! See answer below to front page mystery quotation.
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“If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”*
Get Angry, Get Active, Rise Up –
Fight for Workers Power!
The U.S. Congress, made up of a record number of millionaires, is following in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette who said “Let Them Eat Cake” in response to the hungry French masses’ demand for bread. The recent “budget deal,” negotiated in secret between Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and then overwhelmingly approved by Congress, immediately eliminated benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers in the USA and will deny such benefits to future long-term unemployed. As most of these workers will disappear from the “official” unemployment rolls, the “Republicrat” politicians will now be able to claim they reduced unemployment for the working class!
The continuing exposures of whistleblower Edward Snowden have brought to light the fact that the National Security Agency collects nearly 5 billion records a day tracking cell phones. The data is used as a mass surveillance tool in violation of every conceivable right to privacy. These NSA surveillance programs are used by the state apparatus to track cell phones anywhere in the world, retrace the user’s movements and analyze relationships among users.
A recent study by the National Institute on Retirement Security shows that while all nationalities are facing prospects of “downward mobility” in retirement, the problem is most acute for Blacks and Latinos. Fewer than half of Black and Latino workers have any kind of retirement plan on the job and are much less likely than whites to have “defined-benefit pensions” and generally have no money in retirement vehicles, such as IRAs, outside the workplace. This study underscores the need to strengthen retirement benefits, while Democratic and Republican politicians pursue ways to cut and eliminate Social Security.
A case in point: A Federal judge recently approved Detroit’s bankruptcy plans, forced on Black Detroit by the Michigan state government. The focus of the plan is destruction of city workers’ benefits and pensions. The ruling steamrolled right over workers’ union contractual rights and even trumped the Michigan state constitution which guaranteed the earned pension and health benefits to retirees of the city of Detroit.
In December, a Texas judge sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years of probation after he took the lives of four people and paralyzed a fifth person in a motor vehicle accident. Couch had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit and had stolen beer from the local Walmart. The reason for the lenient sentence is that the judge apparently bought the argument of the psychologist testifying for the defense: the psychologist claimed that Couch suffered from “affluenza.” This newly discovered “disease” evidently provides the rich a new way they can get away with murder.
In November Congress and the White House slashed benefits by approximately 5% for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), that is, the Food Stamp Program. SNAP is the largest “anti-hunger” program in the U.S. and provides a very limited safety net to nearly 48 million people. 85% of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or disabled. The rolls of recipients swelled during the economic crisis as did its cost. Now the “Republicrat” Congress is planning even deeper cuts to SNAP while at the same time it refuses to tax the rich or trim the war machine.
the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
Snowden’s revelations … of NSA spying on everyone in the US ... dramatically confirm our exposure of the U.S. Empire’s war of terror at home against us as well as abroad against the rest of the peoples of the world. In their immortal call to the workers of the world, Marx and Engels revealed that we have “nothing to lose but our chains and a world to win.” In the imperialist epoch, Lenin said, “Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (The State and Revolution, 1917)
LET’S STRUGGLE FOR WORKERS POWER IN THE HEARTLAND OF THE U.S. EMPIRE!
TOWARD A SOVIET SOCIALIST USA!
—Ray Light [Introduction, p. xxxi]
(518 pages, illustrated)
(suggested donation $10/copy)
Write to: Boxholder, 607 Boylston St., Lower Level Box 464, Boston, MA 02116, USA
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“The great appear great to us
Only because we are on our knees:
Let us rise.”
— Camille Desmoulins