DETROIT, MI, November 18 — The recent Congressional hearings on a possible $25 billion bailout of GM, Ford and Chrysler reflect the depths of the global economic crisis. The Detroit Big 3 auto bosses are clinging to life, despite shedding more than 150,000 jobs and getting billions in wage and benefit concessions from the workers in the 2007 contracts. Auto sales in October dropped to an annual rate of 10.8 million vehicles, the lowest in 25 years.
There are roughly 240,000 Big 3 workers, although only about 140,000 are UAW members, a 50% decline in three years and shrinking with every plant closing. This crisis shows that capitalism can’t meet the needs of the international working class and must be overthrown with communist revolution.
The effects of this crisis have an especially racist character. A large number of black and Latino workers will lose their jobs and their health insurance, leaving them open to drastic cuts in public services, all of which will further decimate their neighborhoods in cities like Detroit, Flint, Chicago and others. Our response to this crisis must be expanding the base for CHALLENGE and PLP among auto workers, while moving them into action against the system.
The more the UAW leadership allies itself with the bosses, the worse things get for the workers. With mass layoffs industry-wide, GM, Ford and Chrysler workers can unite with Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and BMW workers facing the same attacks. We can also reach out to millions of workers in parts-supplier plants, union and non-union.
But that won’t come from the UAW leadership that rides on the same corporate jets to sit beside their masters and beg for a bailout. We can form unemployment committees in our local unions and shops and unite across borders and across company lines.
Three million jobs are tied to the auto industry as well as the pensions and healthcare benefits of almost one million retirees. All this is at risk as GM burns through over $2 billion a month in cash reserves, having lost $20 billion from January to September. If GM goes under, it could take Ford and Chrysler with it, raising the possibility of a “foreign-owned” auto industry, as in Mexico and Canada. What was unthinkable a year ago is now possible.
Also, U.S. auto makers are not as critical to war production as they were 70 years ago. A “defense” industry has emerged with companies like General Dynamics, Navistar, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin at its core (Chrysler sold its tank plant to General Dynamics about 20 years ago). GM, Ford and Chrysler produce no weapons of war now, despite decades of U.S. military aggression. In a future World War against a major imperialist rival, many “foreign-owned” auto and supplier plants could be converted to war production virtually overnight.
If there is a bailout, it will likely come as the new Obama administration guts the basically worthless auto contracts. SUB pay (Supplemental Unemployment Benefits) is almost sure to go, and wage-cuts are imminent like those imposed on the parts suppliers, especially the bitter three-month strike at American Axle.
While some bosses may perish, the racist profit system will survive. We have no interest in waving the bosses’ flag or sacrificing for their profits. We need to fight back and refuse to pay for the bosses’ crisis, while building a mass, international PLP to lead the fight for communist revolution.