Michigan: Front Line in the Fight for Democracy
The latest round of the destruction of society is reflected graphically in the battles in the states over the budget cuts and the attacks on public workers, particularly in the Rust Belt states – Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania – but sweeping across the country. As value falls, revenue for the states falls, and coupled with more tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, budgets are balanced on the backs of the workers. Following in the wake of massive layoffs and dispossession in the private sector, public workers are now facing firings or furloughs, wage cuts, and raids on their pension funds, along with the tearing up of collective bargaining agreements and the destruction of public employee unions.
The battle may take on the appearance of a struggle over resources, and indeed for the workers bearing the brunt of this assault, it is a battle for the necessities of life itself – food, shelter, health care and education. Yet it is now becoming more than an economic battle, or even a fight-back to defend what is being taken away. This is now a decidedly political fight. The corporate class has openly taken over government and is employing it as an instrument of brute force to impose its will. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state of Michigan, where the legislature has passed an Michigan: Local Government and School District Financial Responsibility Act (Public Act #4), empowering the governor to take over whole towns, cities and counties, and replace elected officials with a corporate manager who can then nullify any existing contracts, including those with labor unions.
Michigan is a harbinger of a fascist solution on the move. Not only the destruction of economic resources but also the destruction of democracy itself is the the direct consequence of what is happening there. Let there be no question about it: the two are inextricably linked. The ruling class is moving politically to secure private property in its interests, and to impoverish and dispossess the working class, the vast majority of the American people, of the very means to life itself. But that also means that the battle of the working class is now a political battle. The battle to secure the necessaries for a full and decent life is at the same time a battle for democracy. The question now is: in whose interest does the government operate? Will it be a government operated in the interests of the corporations, or will it be a government of, by and for the people (the working class)? The option is clear: either we, the people, will take over the corporations, or the corporations will take over society. Private property will rule, or we will make private property public property.
It is no accident that in Michigan one of the towns to be taken over by the new Public Act #4 was Benton Harbor, a small, mostly African American, mostly impoverished town on the banks of Lake Michigan.Racism allowed the corporate state to attack Benton Harbor, but the cause lies with the decline of value and the destruction of capital itself. The attack is really aimed at the working class as a whole. In this country, white supremacy and race are the product of the development of capitalist economic conditions, and the ruling class has no qualms about employing them to maintain its own supremacy.
That is why politically the way forward for the workers hinges on class unity. If we don’t stand with the workers of Benton Harbor, then we all lose. White supremacy is an ideology of all-class unity that divides worker from worker and ties workers to the ruling class. The lessons of populism show that calls for solutions on behalf of the people that fall short of working class unity around a common program and that do not reject all-class unity, are destined to fail.
More and more the call to “tax the rich” resonates among the workers, and that is a step forward, because it represents one form that making private property public can take. That battle, though, must be linked to the whole battlefield that is developing over nationalization. Nationalization in the interests of the corporations is the ruling class solution, but nationalization in the interests of the people, that is, making private property public property, is the political line of march for the working class toward a cooperative society. Again, it is a matter of which class can wield the power to obtain its own interests. One solution is fascism, the other is democracy.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011