Presentation by Saladin Muhammad, Southern Workers Assembly, to the Opening Night Session of the Third National Labor Fightback Conference in Cleveland, Ohio (July 21, 2017)
This is a crucial time for the Labor Fightback Network to be meeting. It is a moment in an historical period when the contradictions of capitalism and the US system of top-down democracy controlled and manipulated by the 1-percent are open for all to see. These contradictions are usually taking place behind closed doors. People are getting a glimpse of aspects of what US fascism might look like.
This period has been developing over the last 40 years under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It can be shown how each administration and major political party has established social policies and new structures that have politically, economically and socially created the conditions and political climate for the election of the Trump regime and his promotion of white nationalism as the social base for his neo-fascist agenda.
While uneven, the objective conditions caused by the crisis of capitalism have a shaped a spontaneous anti-racist and working-class consciousness. It is developing among the millennials, but it has not gone deep enough into the organizations of the working-class, especially the trade unions.
The main example of the class struggle led by the millennials, has been the Fight 4 $15 and a Union. They have connected to Black Lives Matter protests.
With few exceptions like the shutdowns of West Coast longshore workers, the resistance has mainly taken the form of a spontaneous protest movement. Most of the activists in Black Lives Matter and the Fight 4 $15 and a union have no trade union and labor movement experience.
Business unionism that only sees the working class as an economic force, without regard to the structural racism and women’s oppression that creates a margin of super profit that is responsible for the massive wealth divide, cannot help to transform the spontaneous struggles into a conscious anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement.
The unity of the multinational working class must be forged through struggle by labor’s rank-n-file based in principles of social movement unionism, independent political action and recognizing the right of self-determination of nationally oppressed sections of the multinational working class to call on the working class to support their struggles as if they were their own.
It is also important that the labor movement as the most organized and resourced anchor and base for the working class to be positioned to strategically impact US and global capitalism and to help sustain long-term struggles.
Structural racism and the ideology of white supremacy became a fundamental part of the development of US and global capitalism’s accumulation. The imperialist structure of the US State and the Manifest Destiny philosophy of many of the founding fathers, from the very beginning of the development of the US republic, established forms of domestic colonialism in the treatment the indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other oppressed peoples and annexed territories.
The US South, the main region of plantation slavery, for the genocide and forced migrations of the native nations and hundreds of thousands of Native peoples, has been a region essential abandoned by the labor movement as a force fighting for the working-class unity and power.
In addition to the use of robotics, a major part of the US capitalist crisis has been promoting regional shifts and restructuring of its manufacturing base to the low-wage and low–union South. This led to the forcing down of wages, concessionary bargaining and business-union economism that gave way to the Democratic party’s passage of NAFTA, workfare, cutting of welfare and the passage of the “3 Strikes, You’re Out” law. Right-to-work laws spread during the period of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.
There were no real choices in the two major parties for the 2016 presidential election. The poor voter turnout made this point. The distrust for both candidates should be viewed as distrust for both major parties.
Labor’s rank-n-file must see this as an opportunity to help build an independent working-class political and social force. But a catalyst is needed to help ground a new social movement in the demands of the most oppressed and exploited sections of the US multinational working class that suffer racist national oppression that politically and social subjugates.
The national sentiment shaped by the spontaneous struggles of the Black and Brown millennials can become a catalyst if widened and deepen by the trade union rank-n-file.
Several organizations are stepping forward as endorsers for the holding of a National Assembly for Black Liberation to bring the many battlefront struggles rooted in the Black working class that has grown to effect widening sections of the larger US working class like issues of healthcare, clean water, environmental racism, affordable housing, labor rights, women and gay rights, imperialist wars — and for independent political action, among others, to hammer out a program of action that a Draft Freedom Manifesto has been developed for discussion and refinement to help give political focus and context to the spontaneous struggles as flanks of a struggle for transformative power.
We feel that we should use the anger against the racist Trump regime to launch a mass campaign to mobilize the many battlefronts under the slogan of Impeach Trump: Build People’s Power.
We understand that elements in the Democratic Party are calling to impeach Trump as part of a campaign for winning Congressional seats in the 2018 elections. We must point out that without an independent political and social base of power that empowers the working class in the workplace, community and the many institutions throughout society impacting our lives, that we won’t have the base for contending and transformative power to make radical and revolutionary changes.
The Black masses being a target base for the Democratic Party, requires that the Black liberation movement focus on building mass-based forms of people’s independent democratic power, including running independent political candidates out of the working-class battlefronts that are accountable to people’s power commissions in those battlefronts.
This campaign must tie the battlefront struggles against state and local government and corporate targets to the national demand of Impeach Trump: Build People’s Power. This is a call for the Black liberation movement to launch a campaign and movement strategically aligned with other movements mainly in the working class, for popular and dual contending and transformative power. This would lead into a National Assembly for Black liberation.
We need the Labor Fightback Network to promote and organize a trend in the labor movement in support of the struggle to Impeach Trump and Build Peoples Power as a campaign to not only defeat the Trump regime, but to build a movement for independent political action as part of a struggle for popular and dual contending power.
The Southern Workers Assembly that was formed in 2012 to build a rank-n-file network of social movement union cadres will be holding the 8th session of the SWA’s second Southern Workers School next weekend. We will deal with making this campaign part of their training and work in their workplaces, communities and trade unions.
We must see this as a protracted struggle that organizes to alter the balance of power favoring the working class and anchored by its most oppressed and exploited sectors. This period offers an opportunity to launch such a movement that begins to move labor and the social movements off the defensive.
Organized labor is needed to help launch this campaign outside of the control of the Democratic Party.
Impeach Trump: Build Peoples Power!