Red Ideas, Worker-Student Unity Can Boost Contract Fight

LOS ANGELES, CA, Nov. 26 – “Whatever the changes are, they’re not going to benefit workers like us,” said a long-time CHALLENGE reader at my school. “Obama represents the rich in this country, just like the other guys [Bush and McCain],” he told his co-worker. I went to distribute CHALLENGE to this group of campus workers who are in the middle of a union contract fight for higher wages and to safeguard pensions. Many are now regular CHALLENGE readers, which has helped show the connections between their contract fight, the budget cuts, and the wars for oil profits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking at the post-election headline in CHALLENGE (“Obama to Workers: Sacrifice to Save Racist Capitalism”) a group of us began to talk about Obama’s victory.

One worker echoed a very common idea on campus that, at least now with Obama, we could expect some things to change for the better. Another worker who has been reading CHALLENGE for a year pointed out we could expect “change,” but it wouldn’t benefit the working class. Some others agreed, saying that Obama’s policy on immigration, for example, isn’t any better than Bush’s.  (Obama supports further militarizing of the border, a slave-labor guest worker program, and fascist control of the immigrant workforce known as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”) I asked the worker, “Do you think Obama is going to change the fact that you and others  have to work two or three jobs to survive?” The worker agreed that the problems most important to him probably wouldn’t “change for the better” because of Obama’s win.  He decided to take CHALLENGE, and we agreed to talk more after he’d read the paper.

Some workers are sharing CHALLENGE with co workers. One reads CHALLENGE articles out loud during lunch and the workers then discuss what they mean. This has helped strengthen the worker student alliance around PLP’s politics.

Student CHALLENGE readers on campus led the struggle to expose Obama’s pro-war, pro-Wall Street stance before and after the election. They organized a post-election panel of different student groups to discuss what the election really means for workers and students, with the Muslim, Republican, African-American, and Labor Rights student organizations participating on the panel. The turn-out was modest, but the discussion was sharp. One long-time CHALLENGE reader on the panel argued that the financial crisis and the Iraq war are the products of imperialism, a system rooted in racism, war and exploitation. The speaker also showed all the ways that Obama supports the agenda of the U.S. capitalist class, from national service to expanding the military to more wars in Pakistan and possibly with Iran.

Surprisingly the Republican speaker argued that now “the nation” needed to unite behind Obama. “The U.S. is fighting it out right now with other countries…We need to make sure we stay on top in the world, because if China or Russia get the top spot, then we all lose. But if the U.S. stays the main power in the world, then we all benefit,” said the young Republican.

Obama and the ruling class want to win students and workers to believe that if the U.S. is strong, then all “Americans” will be better off, to get the working class to sacrifice for “our nation.” One PLP member pointed out that all workers always stay at the bottom under capitalism, no matter which group of bosses is on top. So, workers and students should fight for internationalism and solidarity across borders.  We should fight against the racist nationalism and patriotism that Obama, McCain, and other politicians are promoting. Others on the panel and in the audience agreed.

By building CHALLENGE networks and fighting for a worker-soldier-student alliance, we can expose these fascist lies that promote patriotic sacrifice and racism among workers and students. This will help in creating a base for our ideas and for the struggles in the future. As the capitalist crisis deepens, the struggle to expand CHALLENGE networks will politically prepare our members and friends to take greater leadership with PLP in the fight for revolution.

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