DETROIT, MI — “There are not enough park benches in the state to accommodate all the homeless people that are being created.” That’s how one worker who faces losing her home described the sub-prime mortgage crisis that is affecting one out of every 21 homeowners here. Another said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black. All working-class people are going through the same thing. We’re all just one step from being on the corner asking for food and money.”
The home foreclosure rate here is the second highest in the country, and eight times the national average. Fifty years ago, when GM, Ford and Chrysler ruled the auto world, Detroit had the highest rate of home ownership of any major city in the U.S., and the highest median income. Today, with those same auto bosses fighting for their lives, and being increasingly challenged on their home turf, Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the U.S., with a median household income of only $35,500. Gambling casinos have replaced closed factories and there is hardly a supermarket or movie theater within the city limits. This is one of the clearest examples of the racism that is built into the profit system, as about 75% of Detroiters are black.
Since 2000, the metro area has lost 126,000 jobs. Many of those affected by layoffs and the recent wave of UAW-negotiated auto contracts are also facing foreclosure. In August, foreclosure notices were served on 260 homes per day. In the fall, the Wayne County treasurer’s office published a 121-page list of foreclosures. According to the Detroit News, more than 70,000 homes in the tri-county metro Detroit area entered some phase of foreclosure between January 2006 and September 2007. In some Detroit neighborhoods, the rate was 1 in 7 homes. This represents more than 250,000 active and retired workers and their children. Another wave of foreclosures will hit in March 2008, when many more adjustable mortgages will reset to a higher rate.
HELP WANTED: IN IRAQ
On December 14, hundreds of workers lined up for the “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles Job Fair.” The Army was seeking more than 500 civilian welders, heavy mobile equipment mechanics, production controllers, administrative assistants, supply technicians and quality control specialists. The workers were hoping to earn between $138,000 and $212,000 for working 12-hours a day, seven days a week for 366 days in Iraq!
The deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command said, “When an economy is down, we have more opportunities to get qualified applicants.” The young black worker, who makes $50,000 a year working two full-time security guard jobs said, “…the neighborhood I live in, it’s no different than Iraq. I’m not scared.”
This is a long way from the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, where Army brass was literally under fire, from Vietnam to Detroit, from Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers. It’s also a long way from the role played by young black Vietnam vets and auto workers who rebelled in solidarity with their Vietnamese brothers and sisters. But the collapse of the old communist movement gave the bosses a new lease on life. It opened the door to decades of massive racist attacks with little or no fight-back and very little class consciousness.
CAPITALISM WON’T FALL ON ITS OWN
This past summer, the Detroit News examined economic conditions that sparked the Detroit Rebellion, and found:
•Detroit blacks had less buying power in 2000 than in 1967,
•In 2000, black median family income was down 6 percent from 1970, while white median income rose 18 percent,
•In 2005, blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than whites – the same gap that existed in 1960.
Overall, there is more poverty in the U.S. now than 40 years ago and the poverty rate is about triple for black and Latin workers than for white workers. What’s more, the level of racist police terror and the rate of incarceration are far more oppressive than anyone could have imagined back then. The schools are much worse.
As with every crisis or “natural disaster,” from sub-prime mortgages to Hurricane Katrina, black workers get hit first and hardest. Racism is at the very core of capitalism, created to justify slavery and the very cord that holds the whole profit system together. And while billions are lost on Wall St., and a few heads roll, millions of workers, children and the elderly are having their lives wrecked by the bosses and bankers. Building a mass PLP and increasing the base for CHALLENGE newspaper is the only way to answer the racist horrors of capitalism.
While this sub-prime crisis is very serious for the bankers and bosses, it is important to remember that the bosses can survive any crisis, even defeat in imperialist war. The only crisis they can’t survive is communist revolution. And the future of that movement is in our hands, not theirs.