By the Editorial Board
Over the past year, workers in the US have been walking off the job, going on strike, and fighting against their bosses for higher pay and better conditions across various sectors in a surge of workers’ struggles. As they have throughout history, workers in the heart of US imperialism have courageously demonstrated they are willing and able to fight. The surging struggle raises a key question: how can these battles achieve still greater victories and deliver what workers ultimately deserve—a way out of the system built on their exploitation? To begin to answer that, we must see that a strike is not only a fight for better working conditions; it is a battle in the fight for Power for the working class—the proletariat.
Following a lull in major workers’ mobilizations during 2020, major strikes in 2021 have taken place at large, well-known companies across the US, from those involved in food production at Frito-Lay, Nabisco, and Kellogg’s to heavier manufacturers such as John Deere and the Allegheny Technologies steelworks. Outside of the points of production, this year has seen huge numbers of striking teachers, transportation workers, and health care workers. As reported in Tribune, workers actions and strikes in smaller, non-unionized workplaces have also been a large part of the increased activity of the workers’ movement. While driving workers harder, many of the companies made record profits over the past two years of economic crisis, and then claimed they couldn’t pay more when workers pressed their demands.
Growing workers’ struggles are always the cause for optimism, not only because they show the revolutionary potential of the working class, but because struggle breeds struggle. Yes, economic conditions drive workers to strike, but it is also when workers see other workers fight that they become more aware of their own power, and rebellion catches fire, spreading from workplace to workplace.
With all this strength, the fact is that the US working class is still lacking the necessary tactics and strategy to win a full victory over their exploiters. Struggles are often weakened or derailed because of the absence of greater revolutionary objectives and militant leadership. While workers may achieve basic economic victories, most striking workers find themselves undercut by their own sell-out union leaders, who work in collusion with the bosses. This was seen in the Nabisco and Kellogg’s strikes, where many workers expressed their dissatisfaction with final contracts negotiated by union leaders which failed to address key demands.
On Nabisco picket lines in Portland this year, workers and their supporters held their ground against company guards and delivery trucks attempting to cross picket lines, but this militancy was not the norm. In the John Deere strikes, which began with high energy and wide community solidarity, pickets were targeted with legal injunctions by the bourgeois (capitalist) State, which were enforced by union leadership.
As Chairman Gonzalo, leader of the Communist Party of Peru, said, workers “should feel clearly the power that they have when their strikes stop production.” Workers’ labor-power, which drives production, is where their strength lies. If strikes are de-fanged by the union bureaucrats and adhere obediently to the laws written by the same capitalists workers are struggling against, this power is neutered.
Acting within the workers’ movement on behalf of the capitalists, the sell-out leaders of trade unions want to gut the workers’ movement of any militancy. Opportunist politicians and organizations, particularly those aligned with the Democratic Party, chain the workers to the very system of exploitation that drives our class’s rebellion. They drag workers’ struggles into the dead ends of the voting booth and toothless reforms, which brings demoralization and disunity to workers.
For revolutionaries inside unions, it is necessary to expose the traitorous nature of the union bureaucrats, while developing struggle outside of the union that is not bound by the capitalist ruling class’s terms of engagement. However, only 10% of US workers are unionized, which means most workers don’t face the dual threat of the bosses and sell-out union bureaucracy. No matter the conditions, it is the task of revolutionaries to unite as many workers as possible in the struggle for political power for the proletariat.
The revolutionary worker can begin winning over his fellow workers by treating revolutionary politics as a tool to solve problems. By identifying the enemy—whether that is the company, or the union bureaucracy—the revolutionary worker agitates to his fellow workers on the basis of their demands. For every betrayal by the union bureaucracy, or every gross example of exploitation or tyranny from the boss, the revolutionary worker highlights these contradictions in order to raise the consciousness of his fellow workers. The revolutionary worker’s relentless optimism transforms every grievance into another stepping stone on the path to revolution, inspiring other workers to demand their total liberation from the imperialist system, and nothing less.
Workers must take up the red flag for socialism, to seize state power and gain control over the means to produce everything that society needs to function. This can only be done through wielding revolutionary violence in an organized, disciplined fashion against the enemies of the working class, from the scabs to the bosses, from the police to the politicians.
Proletarian revolutionaries belong on the front lines of rebellion—whether the waves of labor strikes or uprisings against racist police brutality—but they cannot sit on their hands relying on the masses’ spontaneity. For the revolutionary worker, every shift is a chance to further the working class’s understanding that what they fight for today can only be defended tomorrow through socialist revolution.
The Tools for Proletarian Revolution
A strike, like all battles, is not a pleasant conversation between two equal parties. It is an antagonistic struggle between workers and the owners of capital. The organized and armed force of the bourgeois State confronts workers when they rise up, because the capitalist ruling class will not willingly concede to demands or hand over the reins of society to the working class without a fight. It rests on revolutionaries to develop the organizational forms necessary to lead armed struggle which can oppose and eventually destroy the bourgeoisie’s Power.
Prior to World War II, the proletariat in the US had a party that was truly their own, which led the way in the fight for Power: the Communist Party (the CPUSA). But the CPUSA was liquidated under revisionist (that is, false Marxist) leadership. A key moment in this liquidation was when the revisionists, in alliance with the State, kicked Communists and militant workers out of the unions. The organization that today claims the name of the CPUSA is nothing but a hollow shell, and this is why revolutionaries call for the reconstitution of the CPUSA.
The Communist Party, because it is the Party distinct from and opposed to the parties of the owning class, must be clandestine to become a war machine for conquering Power. The Party leads a People’s Army, and a United Front of all the people who will benefit from the workers’ control of society. Together, these three instruments of the revolution, first laid out by Chairman Mao Zedong during the Chinese Revolution, organize the workers’ and people’s movements to fight for a new society, the Party leading them in a People’s War against the old State. These organizational forms will take time to develop, but without them, the workers’ movement will continue to tail behind the agenda of the capitalist ruling class.
A Communist Party is guided by the lessons learned by proletarian revolutionaries through the history of class struggle, which are contained in the ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the third and higher stage of Marxism. This living doctrine is essential. Maoism is an indispensable weapon, because it is Maoism that gives the proletariat the awareness of its own existence as a class. With it, the working class becomes aware of the necessity of smashing the capitalists’ backwards system.
Imperialism is sick and dying, experiencing economic crisis after crisis that result in massive layoffs; the growth of the monopoly corporations built on the devastation of small businesses; inflation that kneecaps any meager wage increases, and more. All of this is exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and the ruling class’s genocidal handling of the people’s health. Going into the next year, workers will not lack in their reasons or willingness to strike and mobilize for better wages and conditions as the general crisis of imperialism continues. The proletariat’s fight for their daily demands is crucial, and with revolutionary politics, leadership, and organization, the class will be unstoppable.
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