Under the guise of a war on terrorism, the U.S. imperialist rulers are terrorizing the working class throughout the world. Having decimated Afghanistan, Bush is now threatening to attack other nations in order to make the world safe for capitalist profit. Bush and the imperialists are sending a message to working people everywhere: challenge the capitalists, and you will be destroyed.
Our anger against the criminal attack on September 11 should not blind us to what is taking place. All the flag-waving and patriotism has given the capitalist rulers a green light to step up their war against the entire American working class – via layoffs, cutbacks in social services and increased repression. The bosses are using divide-and-conquer tactics to hide the fact that their target is all of us. They need to bring down all our living standards in order to shore up their profits, endangered by world recession.
There is now a special campaign against Arab and immigrant workers, as well as Blacks and Latinos. Despicable practices such as racial profiling have become more acceptable since the World Trade Center attack. A key weapon in the capitalist bosses’ assault on immigrants, people of color and the working class at large is the effort to conceal the class war behind incessant pronouncements that “united we stand.”
It is a big lie. There is no “we.” Although politicians have called for “all” to make sacrifices, it is the workers who sacrifice while the capitalists cash in.
Coming during the economic slowdown already under way, September 11 became the excuse for laying off hundreds of thousands, slashing social service programs and opening the budgetary trough for a capitalist feeding frenzy.
Even before the criminal terrorist attack, a $2 trillion tax cut bill was passed to “help the economy,” i.e., to raise capitalist profits. In the same spirit, after September 11 Bush gave away $20 billion to the airline companies – who cut tens of thousands of jobs. More billions are in the works to bail out the insurance industry, in addition to legislation which will limit their payouts and allow them to raise rates.
While corporate “welfare” rages, the poorest sections of the working class face the devastating impact of Clinton’s 1996 “welfare reform.” Bush said he would continue these cutbacks, while hiding behind the hoopla about sacrifice – at the same time that he opened the federal treasury to corporate looting.
Perhaps the best example of how the capitalist system works was provided by Enron. By now, the whole country is familiar with how the executives squeezed every dime they could out of the company and left the workers with nothing. Enron has been getting away with murder for years, ripping off workers in India and other countries with the help of the U.S. government. After taking Enron’s cash for years, the Democratic and Republican phonies in Congress and the White House vie to denounce their former buddies on TV – now that the latter have been exposed as thieves.
On top of the economic attack, Bush has moved in with a package of new laws and proclamations which give the government sweeping police powers, especially against immigrants and non-citizens.
For several decades, the bosses sought to import more low-waged labor than they could recruit at home. Now the recession and the new legal climate of harassment have opened these workers up to vicious attacks.
The “anti-terror” and anti-immigrant measures enacted by Bush and the Congress deny even elementary rights to the most exposed section of the working class. Middle Easterners and Central Asians, already terrorized by racist vigilantes, now also have to deal with government agents. Over a thousand Asian immigrants have been secretly rounded up and imprisoned for weeks without charges or legal recourse.
The centerpiece in the anti-worker offensive is the “U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act.” Sponsored by liberals as well as conservatives, it defines terrorism as “an attempt to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or change “the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.”
On top of the Patriot Act came Bush’s unilateral declaration that he will use military tribunals to try accused terrorists. This means that secret military courts will replace trials by a jury and the government can eavesdrop on attorney-client conversations.
The real aim of these measures is not to defend freedom but the opposite: to make it easier to arrest, jail and even execute immigrants, people of color, and all poor and working people – solely for the “crimes” of struggling against the worsening conditions being forced upon us.
The Patriot Act’s definition of terrorism is broad enough to include strikes or other forms of working-class struggle, as well as political dissent by anyone. It is an attack not just on the most vulnerable workers but on our entire class. It shows that as the economy worsens, the bosses will use all means at their disposal to repress dissent and fightbacks.
John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, urged union leaders at the federation’s convention in December to “take the offensive in a war here at home.” He accused the president, congressional Republicans and corporations of “waging a vicious war on working families.” Yet for all his militant talk, Sweeney has failed to lead a fight to defend the working class from attack. Instead, Sweeney continued to back the imperialist war and to support the Democrats who have been Bush’s accomplices in his war on US working class families.
The situation in the TWU is no better. Toussaint has harped on the changed situation after the criminal attack on the World Trade Center in order to dampen transit worker militancy. Instead of mass action, he wants us to depend on the bosses’ politicians, Democratic and Republican “friends of labor.” Of course, these “friends,” from Hillary Clinton to Fernando Ferrer, not only support Bush’s criminal war but openly supported the use of the Taylor Law against us in the last contract fight.
Transit workers should be concerned about the changing situation. Anti-terrorist hysteria, the suspending of constitutional rights, and the attacks on immigrant workers are only a taste of what’s coming down. At this rate we will be returning pretty soon to the days when workers were shot down and hanged for the “terrorist” crime of forming unions or striking. In fact, Giuliani declared that for city workers to ask for raises after September 11 was “unpatriotic.”
If we don’t stand up and fight these anti-working class attacks the situation will only get worse. Every concession to imperialism’s divide-and-conquer strategy becomes another nail in the coffin.
Instead, we must recognize that defending the interests of transit workers and all workers means taking the struggle to a different level. Every effort to defend past gains, let alone win something new, means we must prepare for a serious confrontation with the bosses and their government. Our fight must become political – not the politics of lobbying or begging the bosses for a few crumbs in return for votes and campaign money, but a political struggle to mobilize our class, the working class, to fight the bosses.
The capitalist system is in real trouble. Wall Street commentators are blaming the terror attack for the recession. In reality, September 11 accelerated the plunge of an already weakening economy. U.S. capitalism is facing the same crisis that has hit capitalism elsewhere. The World Trade Center attacks gave the ruling class an excuse for the profit-gouging they wanted all along.
Liberal populists say that the problem is simply corporate greed. In reality, the capitalists’ personal lust for wealth only serves to drive the pursuit of the profits that their system needs. Despite the upturn in the 1990’s, the rate of profit has dropped since the post-World War II boom ended three decades ago. The imperialists are desperate to offset the tendency for profits to fall. This tendency, built into the system, can only be reversed through a depression or an inter-imperialist (world) war.
Most workers do not yet see that the so-called war on terrorism abroad and the economic and social attacks on them at home are part of the same class war by imperialism, the chief enemy of all humanity. As the struggle grows, workers will learn this lesson, but only if revolutionary workers show the way forward. We in the League for the Revolutionary Party are doing what we can, in workplaces, unions and schools, to help lead the struggles now beginning to break out and the anti-war sentiment as it grows.