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Election is Over—So Who is the Real Party of the Working Class?

Just as Joe Biden declared victory in the recent presidential race, the GOP suddenly claimed itself to be the real party of the working class. Right-wingers—from the White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere to Breitbart News—highlighted Donald Trump’s success in winning not just 48% of the popular vote but also the largest share of non-white voters of any Republican since 1960.

Senator Marco Rubio: “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working class coalition,” reacting to the election results.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley Tweeted: “[…]the future is clear: we must be a working class party, not a Wall Street party.”

Truth is, none of us had really seen any future for the working class under either party’s leadership—be it with the Wall Street (Democratic) Party or the Main Street (Republican) Party. Conditions have plummeted for all workers both before—and after—Trump.

During this pandemic, mass unemployment has climbed up to higher than it’s been since the recession of 2008. Millions are unable to pay their rent. Many lost their health care when they lost their jobs. 200,000—especially Black and Brown working people—died from COVID-19. There’s job insecurity, rising costs of living and widening wealth inequality.

In wake of the current crises, the two ruling-class parties no doubt had to step up their game. But instead of addressing public atrocities, each party co-opted the notion of “working class”—to lull us to sleep.

Republicans, on the one hand, encouraged different groups of workers to rise up and point fingers at other groups as the culprit—the reason for their misery. “Working class” conveniently serves as a tool to pacify the mass grievances by fanning nationalist dignity and racist sentiments within a subset of workers, often defined by race.

This tactic already allowed Trump to tap into inter-ethnic divisions in the past 4 years, pitting citizens against immigrants, and everyone against Blacks. They flamed the xenophobia and competition that the system had already created among groups, lying and spreading rumors to generate more hatred among us.

Democrats, on the other hand, lean into progressive sloganism to “represent all Americans”, where the “working class” became only one among many identities. They then smugly promoted prioritizing the interests of other groups of more marginalized races, genders, etc, while using it as a cover to suppress real calls for change. In the past election, they indulged in vilifying White Trump supporters as, according to CNN’s self-righteous news headline, “once again showing who they are” for being racist and uneducated.

By contrast, they hailed Black voters for their loyalty in pushing for a Biden win in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia. They denounced Latinx voters for losing Texas and Florida. Albeit with a different tactic, the Democrats achieved the same effect as the Republicans of compartmentalizing interests among the 99% —to intensify  their capitalist extractions from every group, particularly people of color. As we became preoccupied with fretting about each of our own privileges, the Dems are able to deepen our infighting under the “all American” banner.

Here we are, in corporate America, baffled by having two parties both claiming to represent the working class, yet, both scheming to further divide the working class. If we allow ourselves to get caught in this limbo, we surrender to bipartisan interests to exploit all of us, regardless of race or immigration status.

But who is the real working class? 

Many working people say that we all have different interests, and that an analysis centered on “class” is outdated and meaningless. Some will say that middle-class workers benefit from the exploitation of immigrants—nannies, gardeners, home health aides. Tech workers, drivers, artists say they are not workers, but independent contractors, self-employed. Unionized workers say immigrant workers can’t be organized, because they’re “lucky to be here”, or better off here than where they came from. Unemployed workers and prisoners (who aren’t paid to work) say they’re not workers because they don’t have a job. 

No doubt there are specific differences among workers, but are they significant enough to keep our fights separate? In fact, both parties spread the myth of limited resources—scarce jobs and public moneys—that say, well, you all will have to fight among yourselves to get. Despite our different situations, we all still have to work to have a place to live, eat, and support our families. We all are being robbed by this system that enriches the big corporations and investors with the labor that we produce—whether what they’ve stolen is our pay, our time, our health, our public resources, or our communities.

The entire year of 2020 only goes to show that many of us are in the same boat—losing ground and struggling to make ends meet. Let’s not forget that during the largest health catastrophe, Democrats and Republicans bridged their divide in passing the CARES Act, sending a significant portion of the hundreds of billions to benefit millionaires and large corporations. Since April, the stock market has skyrocketed. Tax breaks for millionaires will cost taxpayers an estimated $90 billion this year alone.

Where did all that money come from? Us. What we often forget is that it’s us, working people, who produce the profits and the wealth that the system depends on—whether we are middle-class, immigrant, unionized, or unemployed workers. And we, in fact, have the power—if we also bridge our divides—to take back the wealth stolen from us. 

The 2020 Election result was undeniably a win for the working class—not because of Biden’s half-hearted promises to unite all Americans—but because of our successful mobilization and repudiation of Trump’s blatantly racist mantras, which widened the cleavages within the working class—especially with his criminalization of Blacks and immigrants. As a class, we boldly claim our victory: we used Biden’s opportunist unseating of Trump to successfully dispose one of the two ruling-class parties. That is, we used the nominal contradictions between the two parties—one vows to embrace everyone, and the other vows to cast down certain groups—to advance our mass interests. 

If we truly want our own “party of the working class,” our immediate task is to restore our shattered mass base politically. Do the next 4 years not serve as a good opportunity? Without Trump—the perfect villain who galvanized the Democrats—Biden can no longer depend on anyone in the White House to serve as his foil. Instead, with his own Party of Wall Street having a long history with tech businesses and elite corporations, Biden’s rosy promise of representing “all Americans” is doomed to fall apart… We must be ready to organize, hold him accountable, and prepare to take him down once he fails us.

This is how we will lay our groundwork. We bring together working people around demands that both benefit all of us and enable us to organize together with equal rights—starting with the eliminating the criminalization of Blacks and immigrants. These demands serve not only to build unity, but also to lay bare the true nature of our system. They enable workers to see why we need to come together now to push for more than what is deemed politically feasible. 

There’s No Unity Without Equal Rights for All Workers

Reposted from Concerted Activity:

After winning the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history, Biden has pledged to unite our country. But what does that mean when the elite two-party system continues to exist and serve the ruling class? The Biden administration will rely on empty representational politics to prove unity, and will most likely fail to enact any laws or policies that will end the historic criminalization of Black and immigrant workers. This should come as no surprise since maintaining divisions between working people ensures the stability of the power structure that robs working people of their time and lives. We as working people can wait and see, or we can take up Biden’s pledge as an opening to organize for real unity of the working class to put forth our interests.

Dividing the working class is one of America’s oldest traditions. W.E.B. DuBois emphasized the role and agency of Blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He believed a worker-ruled democracy would replace the slave-based plantation economy. However, he concluded, “So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro, just so long was a labor movement in the South made impossible.” Decades later, César Chávez would fight against the collusion between employers and the government in exploiting immigrant workers, resulting in degraded conditions for all workers.

This American tradition persists into the present day. And, politicians and bosses maintain it for their benefit. During the eight years leading up to Trump, Obama encouraged the fissuring of the working class. Obama’s backers such as immigrant rights groups allied with big business calling for legalization, cultivating the image of the hard-working immigrant worker while downplaying the worsening conditions for all workers. This led to rising national chauvinism, as anti-immigrant sentiment put the blame on immigrants for the growing income inequality. The result? Obama bailed out corporate America, while workers who did return to work after the 2008 Recession worked longer hours for less pay.

Criminalization has long been used as the mechanism to super-exploit and divide the class. From chattel slave laws and the Black Codes to modern day mass incarceration and the billions-dollar prison labor industry, Black workers have been criminalized and been dealt a cycle of poverty, mass unemployment, and racism that excludes them from jobs, housing, and healthcare. Nearly two-thirds of the 2.3 million in prison are Black, Latino, or non-citizens where the work is compulsory for no or very low pay, e.g. $.23/hour. Criminalizing workers has become how the system deals with poverty, unemployment and maintaining social control. Black workers bear the brunt of brutal police violence as a result of this criminalization, and which ignited this year’s protests.

While Black workers are criminalized for not working, immigrants are criminalized for working. From European indentured servants, to Chinese railroad workers, to those who came as spillover to the Bracero program, to the modern-day undocumented immigrants, certain workers have been criminalized for working, and robbed of the wealth they produce. Big labor unions and civil rights groups helped Reagan pass the employer sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 that made it illegal for undocumented workers to work.

The crux of this criminalization casts Black workers as lazy and as criminals when they are shut out from good jobs, and, undocumented workers as the intruders who steal “Americans” jobs— even when they have been denied the right to work.

Biden has no plans to end this American tradition. Like the Democrats before him, he seeks to bestow a few benefits upon one group or the other, and then let us fight against one another. He will seek to grant amnesty to a few immigrants, but maintain an underclass of undocumented workers. He will prop up the small business and entrepreneurial class of the Black elite by addressing the racial wealth gap and reparations, but will leave most Black workers’ conditions unchanged. He will seek to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour.

But $15 an hour and closing the racial wealth gap means little when an underclass of undocumented Black, Asian, Latino and other immigrants can be forced to work long hours at sub-minimum wages, leaving millions of other workers underemployed or unemployed. The limited scope of any reparations, aggressive taxing of the rich, or any income redistribution will only intensify the divisions and criminalization of workers.

When workers see other workers as the enemy, it is easier for the 1% to loot the many. No wonder the U.S. is home to staggering inequality where the wealth of 640 billionaires is equal to 59 million Latinos and three-fourths of all Black wealth; and the top 70 billionaires’ wealth equals the total home equity of all Black and Latino households combined.

So how can Biden speak of unity when he does not plan on ending the criminalization of Black and immigrant workers? He should learn from the mistakes of his predecessors like Obama, whose fueling of divisions and bailing out of corporations created the conditions for Trumpism to rise. Let’s not allow a repeat of this. We should hold Biden to his call for unity but demand real unity that requires decriminalization.

Decriminalizing Black and immigrant workers—by measures such as repealing the employer sanctions provision—ensures that all workers have the equal right to organize. This will lay the foundation for us to fight collectively as a class. Only then can we reap the benefits of that organizing: to improve our working and living conditions by uniting against our exploiting bosses and developers who rob the wealth we make. United in interest and dependent upon one another for our success, working people can reverse the downward spiral of epidemic wage theft, declining wages, longer hours, and unemployment, and forge a fighting path to improve the lives of all of us.

America’s Unfinished Revolution: Where Do the George Floyd Protests Go From Here?

The Indypendent, June 5, 2020

It takes but a few minutes for the ruling elite to recast collective calls for an end to state violence against black people into images of the criminality of black protesters and to call for an end to looting

How quickly the government wants us to get back to the status quo where the ruling elite has been looting from the working poor every single day of our lives. Looting from the labor of black workers through over 200 years of slavery in our country. Looting from the labor of black workers in the 100 years of convict-leasing and forced contractual tenant-farming under the Black Codes. Robbing working people — and always the hardest hit black and brown people among them — their schools, their homes and communities, their labor, their health, their rights, and their lives

The real role police play in our society is to flex the muscles of the ruling class and to maintain the ruling class’s interests.

Even during the three months of this pandemic, a handful of billionaires have already looted $434 billion from the backs of the working people while people continue to suffer.

If we’ve learned anything from the legacy of the Black Codes — created by former slaveholders after the Civil War to re-enslave freed blacks into a system of enforced labor, perpetual inequality and second-class citizenship — we know that all this looting by the ruling elite cannot occur without a legalized system of criminalization and state violence. 

In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall looked at the law-and-order policies that mirror Reagan’s manufactured campaign against drugs and muggings in the black community. 

Hall argues that at every turning point or crisis when people come together to challenge the legitimacy of the government, when we unmask the illusions of our “civil democracy,” that the ruling elite do two main things to hold on to their power in order to continue looting from working people. A) They refashion and rename the laws that criminalize sections of the working class, legally making them an underclass of second-class citizens without rights. B) They intensify state violence and terror. “Law and order.”

While Derek Chauvin and his fellow police officers must be prosecuted and convicted of homicide, we must see what the real role police play in our society. It is to flex the muscles of the ruling class and to maintain the ruling class’s interests. To manage dissent as our collective exploitation deepens. To keep order as the disorder in our lives becomes unbearable. Police violence sets the stage for intensifying inequality so the ruling class can manage to maintain order as they continue to loot from us.  

Police power is sanctioned by laws of criminalization. Thus, the slave laws became the Black Codes after the Civil War, and then the Drug Reform Act after the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. 

During the same year that Reagan signed into law the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and introduced the mass incarceration system we know today, he also signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act and a provision, called the employer sanctions provision. Following the same form of the slave laws and Black Codes, this law makes it a crime for undocumented workers to sell their labor freely, relegating them into an underclass of workers with no rights. 

At a time when workers across racial divides were just beginning to unite and fight for better conditions, not only did this law lead to the criminalization and incarceration of countless undocumented workers, but it put undocumented workers against other workers, particularly poor black workers, forcing them into a cycle of unemployment, underemployment, mass incarceration and poverty. 

So at this critical juncture, when we face another turning point, a crisis of legitimacy, what will be the result of the spontaneous actions of the multitudes of people that have united together to denounce our government:

Will we release some steam for a few days, be satisfied with the prosecution and (if we’re lucky) conviction of a few cops, accept a few reforms of a police system that will never be accountable to anyone else but their maker — the ruling class? Will we settle for mere survival, be content not to be killed, so that we can live under the peace of everyday violence and robbery forced upon our communities, our health, and our lives?

Will we hang onto illusions that equate equal opportunity with being as exploited as a vanishing group of white, middle-class workers are or as a few black and brown faces rising into positions of power and wealth? That is not the liberation of us all. 

If we’ve learned anything from our history, it is that our history’s turning points failed to turn toward true transformation and liberation for people because at each critical juncture from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement to the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, ruling power has hereto been able to disunite working people: poor white farmers from freed slaves, industrial from agricultural workers, citizens from immigrants. Consequently, it has succeeded in deceiving people into accepting reforms that served only a fraction of the working class while undermining the collective unity of the 99 percent. 

We must see that these state-sponsored killings are a war, not only on black people but on all working people. It is time that working people, the 99 percent, provide political leadership, starting with a clear demand to end the criminalization that divides working people and fight for equal rights for all workers. Only then will we be able to unite together against our common oppression and exploitation and realize our unfinished revolution. 

Working People Need Equal Rights to Fight Back During the Pandemic

It is clear that the government has failed us.

Across the U.S. working people are suffering from either record-high unemployment or being forced to work in unsafe conditions without any health protections.The government has allowed our frontline health care workers–doctors, nurses and home attendants–to work long hours without basic protective equipment. Housing and food insecurities ravage communities as families find themselves on the brink of homelessness and poverty. On both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans have cut deals to use billions of dollars in taxpayers money to enrich the CEOs of large corporations, while thousands of workers still have not seen any type of relief.

From the beginning, the government has failed to conduct widespread testing, treatment, and isolation of the coronavirus, allowing the pandemic to spread, and is now pushing workers back to work under these dangerous conditions! While it is imperative that working people come together to fight for ourselves, we also find ourselves more divided than ever.

Across the country, workers from nurses and home-attendants, to sanitation workers, to workers of big-box stores like Target and Amazon are organizing and going on strikes or sick-outs. But it is not enough to demand protective equipment, hazard pay, or rent relief. The current crisis reflects deep-seated systemic inequalities and division that has been growing for working people long before this. And because not all workers have the right to organize, these gains will inevitably be limited to one group of workers in the exclusion of others, while the government continues to divide the working class and weaken our collective power.

At the root of the division among working people is the employer sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986). This law criminalizes and creates an underclass of workers without any rights by making it illegal for undocumented workers to work, and therefore to organize for better conditions. In effect, this law gives employers the power to smash organizing efforts of workers by pitting undocumented workers, who have no rights, against others. Time and time again, working people have seen that any attempt to organize and ensure safe working conditions has been undermined by this division.

Both Democratic and Republican Parties have been exploiting this division among working people for the benefit of the 1%. While Republicans like Trump fuel hatred towards the undocumented immigrants and call for their deportation, Democrats like Cuomo preach love towards them even while they force them to endure deplorable working conditions like 24-hour workdays in the NYS home healthcare industry. Both sides of the aisle act to divide working people, detract workers from holding our common enemy accountable, allowing the super-rich to profit off our backs. It is no coincidence that, as labor conditions continue to decline, the super rich continue to see their profits increase, comfortably sitting on top of a weakened and divided labor force.

We need the right to organize and the right to refuse to work so long as the government refuses to protect our health! Without the equal right to organize, any refusal to work is a hollow demand. Let’s unify working people for our common interest and join us to demand that the government:
1. At all levels, establish disaster relief funds for workers affected by COVID-19, regardless of immigration status
2. Ensure equal rights to organize and unionize by:
– Protecting the rights of all workers under the National Labor Relations Act, regardless of immigration status
– Ending the criminalization of undocumented workers by repealing the employers’ sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act
– Establishing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers

President Trump Raises the Spectre of the Yellow Peril to Divide Americans and Shortchange Working People in $1 Trillion Stimulus Package

Source: Common Dreams: President Trump Raises the Spectre of the Yellow Peril to Divide Americans and Shortchange Working People in $1 Trillion Stimulus Package

Months before the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the U.S., neighbors and friends stopped letting their kids play with my son, eyeing me with sideway looks when I said hello to their children on the street. 

Although I have not been attacked or cursed at, as some other Asian Americans have been, the silent social exclusion began long before Trump started calling for social distancing, a reminder that I am still seen as a foreigner, even though I was born and raised in this country. 

Framing the virus as a foreign threat Trump not only seeks to deflect blame for his inaction, but it allows him to further his efforts to criminalize immigrant workers in this country. 

Trump has long framed the spread of the coronavirus as a foreign threat to spare him of his responsibility and failure to take action to protect Americans from this crisis. Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office, slashed CDC’s budget, criticized media outlets who covered the spread of COVID-19  for “panicking markets”, while reassuring Americans that the virus would just “disappear.” It is no wonder that we are woefully short of test kits, and people are being turned away from hospitals. 

By framing the virus as a foreign threat Trump not only seeks to deflect blame for his inaction, but it allows him to further his efforts to criminalize immigrant workers in this country. 

On February 28, at a South Carolina rally Trump used the crisis to push his divisive immigration policies saying, “Border security is also health security” and criticized, albeit inaccurately, “the Democrat policy of open borders” for bringing in the virus into the country. 

On March 11, before Trump imposed a travel ban, the president shared a tweet by the conservative youth activist Charlie Kirk, who branded the disease the “China virus,” writing, “Now, more than ever, we need the wall. With China Virus spreading across the globe, the US stands a chance if we can control of our borders. President Trump is making it happen.” 

In the U.S. during the 1880s, as the nation was recovering from the Civil War, propaganda of the “Yellow Peril” stoked divisions among Chinese and Irish workers in the American West. Fears of Chinese immigrants taking jobs away from Irish immigrants turned into outright attacks of the Chinese, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Similarly in the South, former slaveholders spread propaganda that newly freed black workers would take away jobs from white workers, sowing divisions among workers, and building support among poor whites for the passage of Jim Crow laws and the re-enslavement of African-Americans. Meanwhile, the robber barons of the railroad, banking, and manufacturing industries, benefited from this disunity, impoverishing workers while enriching themselves.

This past Wednesday during a news conference Trump, again called the COVID-19 virus the “Chinese virus,” and defended White House officials’ use of the phrase “kung flu,” while he introduced the $1 trillion economic stimulus package. How much of our taxpayers’ money will working people actually receive? While Congress chips away at the paid sick leave, not only exempting employers with over 500 employees, but now allowing employers with less than 50 workers to be exempted, Trump extends billions in bailouts to the airline and cruise industry. Haven’t we learned from corporate bailouts of 2008, that wealth does not trickle down? And while Americans still are waiting for test kits and 27.5 million Americans without insurance will not be able to afford treatment, Trump seeks to help the private healthcare industry profit from America gaining exclusive rights to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

So while Trump criminalizes and blames immigrants for this crisis, the government seeks to get away with excluding undocumented immigrants from any sort of governmental relief, while allowing employers to continue to super-exploit them. It seeks to get away with hoodwinking the working Americans to blame “the yellow peril” and other immigrants so that we do not hold the government accountable for using this crisis to further deepen the wealth gap, enriching the robber barons of our time. 

We need to come together, as working people, to make sure that any government response to the coronavirus prioritizes the needs of working people, and is not used by private corporations to enrich themselves off this crisis. ALL working people should have equal rights to free testing and treatment, housing relief, direct economic assistance, and paid sick leave. All states should take California’s lead and ensure that all workers qualify for unemployment benefits, regardless of their immigration status. 

Criminalizing immigrant workers and dividing working people will NOT bring about public health security. But ensuring equal rights to universal healthcare and economic relief will.