Over the past year, there have been more labor strikes and marches than in recent memory. Across the country, working-class people have been standing up against the capitalist elite and their state in increasing numbers and in diverse locations. From factory closings to Supreme Court rulings, labor issues have been on the news cycle more and more frequently as organized labor continues to mobilize. The reason for this mobilization is not merely to demand more money and equitable wages, but also to reveal that the contradictions of capitalism are becoming more and more exposed, and effecting more and more working people and families. The concept of a general strike, not heard in the US since the days of Eugene Debs, has returned to popular political discourse and once again puts the capitalist elite on edge.
The leading element of that class and all its bigotries, The Trump Administration, could be protested for just about everything it does. Its attack on the working class of America has been swift and significant. The Trump Administration attacked the working class directly by repealing pro-labor laws of the past, attacking public education, and attacking minority groups.
Teachers have been striking year-round all over the country due to the divestment of public education and the state investment into private education, creating an even more elitist and segmented education system. Just this week, on Feb.13 2019, 37,000 Denver teachers walked out on strike for better wages and funding for their students. In Arizona, known for its social conservatism, registered Republicans went on strike demanding higher taxes to fund schools. These strikes that defy traditional political boundaries between “red” and “blue” states underlines the growing class consciousness in the United States. The labor struggle, long dormant, is now leading the charge in a reawakened class-conscious movement against inequality.
Despite these grassroots movements, labor unions continue to lose legal powers and have less political influence. Labor laws nearly a century old have been repealed. Collective bargaining rights continue to be trampled on. Despite a good economy, wages have fallen and factories have closed. Massive protests were seen in North America when GM closed half a dozen plants. United Steel Workers were ready to strike for higher wages. These same workers, in the millions, are also told how great the economy is doing. Trump’s tax cuts, touted as a boon to workers, has instead punished them with higher taxes, and brought back only 6% of the money corporations keep abroad in tax-free bank accounts.
Alongside the attack on labor is the increasing threat of white supremacist and far right violence, aimed particularly at people of color and women. Physical attacks by police on minorities continue as their rights get stripped away, and a recent study found that 100% of terrorism in 2018 were committed by fascists. The fascists are succeeding in creating massive hostility towards those outside of America in order to empower the imperialist cause to divide workers, and subjugate them to capitalist interests at home and abroad, like in Venezuela.
This all culminated with the 2019 Government shutdown which happened as a result of disagreement between the Democratic House and President Trump over funding a wall between the United States and Mexico, a highly imperialist, xenophobic, and racist policy that has become nothing more than a dog whistle for fascist aggression against immigrants. The shutdown left over 800,000 government workers without pay for weeks. Following the reopening of the sectors of the government that were shut down, many of the lower paid and “unskilled” workers were refused back pay, such as contractors, which Trump has specifically denied back-pay to.
The reopening of Government and the end of the shutdown was the result of the Association of Flight Attendants threatening to go on strike and shut down many of America’s airports. The fear not just of the massive loss of profit such a strike could cause, but also of the spreading of this strike struck a deep fear into the ruling elite and brought the weeks-long impasse to a hasty end.
When the government reopened, the head of AFA called for a general strike if the government went back into shut down. This terrifies the elite more than anything, and lead to an unfavorable compromise from Trump. The unification of the working class, which would be needed in order to carry out a general strike, would not just bring the market to a halt but would unite the working class in a way that both exercises and demonstrates their power.
Because of this, it appears that the Democrats and Trump have reached a compromise in which part of the wall is funded. Both the Democrats and Republicans are upset, accusing their leaders of respectively caving to the other side. This is the wrong conclusion. Neither side caved, they did what was necessary to keep the working class from mobilizing, from experiencing its own power.
All human beings are unified through labor, the working class is unified by its place in the system, as the source of profit, the target of exploitation. Yet, the working class are subjected to all kinds of internal divisions stoked by far-right activists. But the conditions of the working class, across all industries, are diminishing greatly. Because of this, the veil held over the contradictions of capitalism is being lifted: soaring stocks but lowering wages, schools with minimal funding but textbooks that refer to slaves as interns, more imperialism, more spreading of democracy, more destruction and displacement.
But these increasing contradictions have also been met with a growing labor movement that cuts across the political spectrum and fights bigotry with working class unity against greedy and indifferent bosses. As the contradictions lay bare before the working class the more its members are compelled to organize, first within each’s industry, and then, with each other as a class. It is imperative that the American working class recognize itself as a class again.