Forum: Working class is at the center of politics in the United States today

By Seth Galinsky
October 22, 2018

NEW YORK — The U.S. Senate voted 50-48 today to approve Appellate Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, John Studer, editor of the Militant and a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, said at the Militant Labor Forum here Oct. 6.

“The working class had no interest in either backing or opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination,” he said. “We didn’t have a horse in the race. They are nine black-robed robbers for the ruling class.”

“But that doesn’t mean that who is on the court doesn’t have an impact,” Studer said. “For the working class it’s better to have a Supreme Court that doesn’t try to transform itself into a partisan legislative arm of government instead of one that makes decisions based on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other amendments.

“And we have enormous interest in some of the questions that arose in the furious opposition against President Donald Trump’s nominee,” he said. “Especially in the political rights we have won in blood over centuries of revolutions and class battles, like the Bill of Rights protection of the presumption of innocence.”

Since the 2016 presidential election, liberals, members of all stripes in the splintering Democratic Party, some Republicans and the so-called left have been on a “resistance” crusade. They aim to try and bring down Trump’s presidency, to get him impeached or otherwise ousted. More fundamentally, it’s aimed at the workers who voted for him, or didn’t vote at all — disgusted with both parties — ensuring the defeat of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.

“From the pink pussyhats protest at the Women’s March in January 2017 to the most recent #MeToo ‘We Believe Her’ actions, they paint a picture of a rise of an increasingly backward, racist, sexist and reactionary working class,” Studer said. “But none of it is true.”

The Socialist Workers Party has found the opposite when its members and supporters take their program and literature door to door in working-class neighborhoods, in cities, towns large and small, and rural areas. Working people are interested in discussing the crisis and the line of march forward the Socialist Workers Party presents.

End of the ‘American Century’

Studer started by putting the Supreme Court fight in context — what the working class faces today. The election of Trump was a reflection of the crisis of capitalism — an economic political, social, moral and cultural crisis. It takes place as the “American Century” has come to an end, with the coming apart of the old liberal imperialist world order and the institutions the U.S. rulers used to advance their interests, from NATO to the United Nations. And those that its weaker competitors tried to use, like the European Union.

U.S. imperialism came out the victor in the second imperialist world war. But while Washington is still the world’s strongest imperialist power, it is weaker than ever, Studer said. The future, most people think, is with China, in Asia. But not yet. The U.S. capitalist rulers are still top dog.

The decisive question is which class will rule. The working class needs to break politically with the capitalists’ state and political parties, he said. We need to build our own party, a labor party, and fight to lead workers and farmers to power.

There is an expansion in the economy today. According to official statistics, unemployment is at 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969, although the labor force participation rate remains at historically low levels.

“Do you remember all their talk about robotization, that there are no more blue collar jobs, that the working class is disappearing, that the ‘deplorables’ of the small towns and the countryside should move to the big cities and get jobs in the gig economy?” Studer asked. “Now all of a sudden there’s a shortage of truck drivers, rail, warehouse workers, retail — at least at the wages the bosses are willing to pay.”

Trying to keep enough workers, Jeff Bezos raised the minimum wage at Amazon to $15 an hour. This has drawn sharp interest from workers and puts pressure on other bosses to give in to the demands of those fighting to raise the minimum wage.

Economic growth good for workers

“That’s good for the working class. It’s easier to get or change jobs,” Studer pointed out. “It gives us more confidence to be able to stand up and fight.”

“You can see this in some of the labor actions taking place,” he said. “The teachers who went on strike earlier this year in West Virginia, Arizona, and other states. Hotel workers in Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities. The Los Angeles port truckers who went on strike to fight to be recognized as workers with the right to join unions, and where Teamster and other union officials led a protest against the government’s moves to end Temporary Protected Status for workers from El Salvador and elsewhere, a recognition of the importance of fighting for amnesty for immigrant workers to build unions today.” (See article on front page.)

Some of the economic growth is from the up and down cycles of capitalism and some of it is boosted by the tax cuts and moves on trade relations by the Trump administration. Because of the provisions of the new trade agreement between the capitalist rulers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, some European auto bosses say they will move more manufacturing to North America.

The economic uptick doesn’t mean the carnage workers face has gone away. On the contrary, Studer pointed to the continuing surge in opioid addiction, including by workers on the job. The high rate of suicide among soldiers and veterans used as cannon fodder in imperialism’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries and then abandoned by the government when they return home.

Anti-Trump hysteria not going away

A few weeks ago the Militant had a headline “Liberals’ Frenzy Against Trump Falters in Face of Workers’ Distaste.”

“But that’s not true,” Studer said. “There will be ups and downs. But the hysteria and furor is not going away. It’s a permanent part of bourgeois politics in the U.S. today.”

Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters in California has never backed off from her call to harass members of the Trump administration “and tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

This hysteria is what led to the attempt by Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson to kill as many Republican congressmen as he could at a practice baseball game in June 2017. He shot and nearly killed Congressman Steven Scalise.

Virtually the entire middle-class left is an integral part of the hysteria as they plunge headlong into promoting the Democratic Party. The International Socialist Organization, Studer said, wrote that “the next Congress won’t take office until four long months from now — and the Trump administration needs to be confronted now. If the Republicans get away with confirming Kavanaugh, January 2019 will be far too late to start resisting.” Their “criticism” of the Democrats, is that they are not whipped up enough against Trump.

Workers shouldn’t get caught up in debates over how the Senate organizes its hearings or the procedures it uses, like who gets to speak first. It’s the rulers’ Senate. Workers run into the important issues at stake in the rulers’ criminal “justice” system.

The debate over Kavanaugh affects the working class indirectly, Studer said. We focus on crucial questions like the presumption of innocence.

Studer recalled the case of the nine Black youth in Scottsboro, Alabama, who in the 1930s were framed up and sentenced to death on false allegations of rape by two Caucasian women; of 14-year-old Emmett Till, tortured and murdered in 1955 after he was falsely accused of whistling at a white woman; Socialist Workers Party member and unionist Mark Curtis, framed up on charges of rape in 1988 for his participation in the fight to defend co-workers at a meatpacking plant in Des Moines, Iowa, from the threat of deportation.

Kavanaugh never faced stakes like this. If his nomination had been rejected he was not facing jail time, or lynching, just a return to his well-remunerated Appeals Court gig.

Fight for women’s emancipation

The fight for women’s emancipation was discussed extensively at the Socialist Workers Party-sponsored Active Workers Conference in June, Studer said. SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters gave a talk, “Private Property and Women’s Oppression: The Working-Class Road to Emancipation.”

“There can be no socialist revolution,” she said, “without fighting to end all forms of women’s degradation.”

The oppression of women grew out of the emergence of class society and how the emerging ruling class organized the inheritance of property.

“The dawn of private property and the origins of women’s oppression were the same,” Waters said. It has remained a central aspect as class exploitation has evolved, through slavery, feudalism into capitalism.

The fight to overthrow capitalism, however, opens the door to end women’s oppression. For the first time in human history, human productivity and organization has the potential to meet the needs of all. This means the possibility to eliminate the sway of private property and class rule.

Over the last 50 years women’s growing integration into the workforce, alongside men, and social struggles, have transformed social relations. Just in the last few weeks there have been hundreds of thousands in the streets for women’s right to abortion in Argentina, Ireland and elsewhere.

All women are oppressed as women, Waters said, but how to effectively fight this oppression is a class question.

The #MeToo “movement,” and demands that you have to just believe anyone who charges a man with rape, are not the way forward. “Shaming men” and the like are the opposite of what’s needed and possible to win co-workers and others, female and male, to understand how the rulers use women’s oppression to divide and weaken working people.

Solidarity and working-class unity can be forged in the fight against the bosses’ assaults and by championing the rights of women, Blacks and others. Along this road, Studer said, we can take our destiny into our own hands.