So Chrysler and GM are returning to the US working class for another $26 billion. GM has threatened that it will need $100 billion from the taxpayer if it forced to file bankruptcy.
In return for receiving these billions that workers will have to borrow, burying future generations in debt, GM promises to close five more factories and eliminate another 47,000 jobs. On top of this, the UAW officials, have reached tentative agreement with the auto bosses on a number of Labor cost cutting measures according to the Wall Street journal, There are no details but if history is any guide, work loads will increase, speed ups will occur, and work rules that protect us on the job will be eliminated.
This does not seem like a deal that any worker would negotiate. It's not of course. We don't have anyone speaking for us in the political arena and there's no one at the table with GM who is fighting for worker's interests, autoworkers or any other workers. Union leaders are cooperating in this destruction of worker's living standards and Union rights that took a century to win. The memory of the great sit-down strike in Flint from 1936-7 has been cast in to the dustbin of history not only by the auto bosses but by the Labor leaders themselves who are terrified of a re-occurrance of the militant traditions of US Labor.
The auto bosses are economic terrorists. Like their counterparts in finance capital, they blackmail and terrorize communities in to accepting conditions that protect their interests and safeguard profit. They set worker against worker, community against community threatening to take the means of production that they own to all corners of the earth in the search of the cheapest Labor power. It matters not to them, the color of the skin, the language of the worker or their religion. Their quest for surplus value has no time for such superficial barriers.
The economist Karl Marx wrote over 150 years ago:
"Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere."
Does this not describe the present state of affairs? And all the propaganda about patriotism and how we are all one nation. The auto companies whose profits have been made by three or four generations of US workers and workers throughout the world are now terrorizing them; purposely maintaining an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty.
Not so long ago GM was discussing closing a plant. If my memory serves me right, Ypsilanti Michigan and Arlington Texas were competing for GM's favors. Each community of working people offering sacrifices in order to sway the auto barons to keep their plant open and close the other. I think that Arlington won but that plant was closed in the end anyway.
The auto bosses are terrorizing communities again. Not only are the books of these companies closed and hidden from public view, they refuse to give any indication where the job cuts will come. Every worker knows the massive pressure and anxiety that comes with the thought of losing one's job, the means by which we keep a roof over our heads and feed our kids. Each community is terrified they will be the one. "we call it frozen fear, frozen frustration within the city of Warren about what's going to take place next." Says the Mayor of that city. For those whose jobs will be eliminated, it's more like horror, for this is America; you have no money you die.
For the auto bosses, this is a conscious strategy. It divides workers. It pits us against each other in different communities, in different countries. This makes a united resistance much harder to develop. As long as we are competing with each other, we aren't thinking about uniting in opposition to the auto bosses and their friends in Congress.
We built Unions to protect us from competition---to protect us from the market. We are not like chairs or cars. We have a consciousness and we can organize. But like the entire leadership of organized Labor, the leaders of the UAW have no fundamental disagreements with the auto bosses and are in negotiations with them not to defend the interests of workers by offering an alternative, they have no alternative. They are wedded to the idea that the only solution is the market and that worker's must compete with each other in order to help the employer drive their rivals from the market place, both domestic and foreign. This is a recipe for disaster and it is what they are defending in negotiations with the auto bosses. They are begging for a few crumbs from the employer's table.
They also bear responsibility for the crisis that this will mean for workers and our families. The drug abuse, domestic violence, resorting to crime and even suicide are the results of the insecurity and misery that flow from these events. Scrambling for crumbs from the auto bosses' table also leads to nationalism and racial division of all kinds as Union officials echo the arguments of some section as of the capitalist class for protectionist measures, "We need Americans to start buying the Big Three" says Jeff Manning, president of a UAW Local in Kansas City. (1) We only have to think about this for a minute to recognize that what we are saying is that they should ;ay workers off somewhere else; it's a bosses dream. It might be American workers at the foreign plants here or it might be workers in other countries. Either way, it weakens us and is an obstacle to building the unity and solidarity that is necessary if we are serious about putting a stop to these attacks on our hard won rights.
The main point for us as workers to understand I think is that it is not the individual boss or the size of their obscene benefit package that is the problem. It is the system itself, the way production in society is organized. The conditions Marx describe above are a normal part of an economic system where the means of production are in private hands.
Instead of the divisive collaboration that the present Union officials offer we must present an alternative that can unite all workers. A solution that doesn't pit workers in one community against the other, one country against the other for the necessities of life.
To start with the present situation in auto we should demand the following:
• No concessions---no job losses. "Job Creation, Not Job Destruction - Not one layoff"
• Open the books of the Big Three
• Public ownership of the auto industry under democratic worker's control and management
• Immediate reduction of the workweek to 30 hours with no loss in pay
• Organize all non--Union and foreign owned plants
• Reduce dependency on auto and convert the auto industry in to a transportation industry focused on electric mass transit.
• A massive infrastructure Rebuilding Plan. Only 10% of the current administration's plan goes to infrastructure."
• Public ownership of the banks and finance industry and formation of a central institution that can ensure the wealth created by our Labor is used for the benefit of society as a whole
• Build a mass party of the working class that can challenge the monopoly of the capitalist parties in the political arena.
(1) WSJ 2-18-09