Tag Archives: Detroit

Building for May Day Amid Capitalist Carnage in Detroit

DETROIT, April 6 — “Why are we marching? What are we going to get out of it?” she asked. A PLP member responded, “We’re marching to build a movement. We’re marching to show the workers in NYC, and those we bring, that there’s a movement growing that’s out to overthrow this system and fight for communism, equality, no bosses and no profits.”

“YES!” shouted the American Axle worker from the couch. “That’s what we need!”

That exchange captured the mood of the May Day committee meeting here last week. Bringing a busload of workers and youth to march on May Day will be our answer to the overwhelming racist oppression that has laid waste to Detroit and stolen the future from our youth. This is our answer to the bankers and auto bosses who grab billions in salaries and bonuses while destroying jobs and boarding up homes.

Here, more than 50% of all black males are unemployed and the jails are full. There are no supermarkets or movie theaters but there are curfews against our youth and plainclothes cops harass students inside the schools. Forty thousand homes are boarded up, more empty homes than homeless people, because under capitalism if the bosses can’t sell it for a profit, it can’t be used, no matter what the need.

We met in the shadow of GM world headquarters, while the Obama auto task force, led by two former investment bankers, was forcing chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner into a retirement worth about $23 million. With the global financial crisis deepening, the federal government is taking direct control of the fascist restructuring of the shrinking auto industry. GM was given 60 days to come back with a bigger list of plant closings and job cuts, and still more wage, health care and pension cuts from the UAW. Chrysler was given 30 days to form a partnership with Fiat. These conditions must be met in order to get more government money. If not, both companies will be forced into that financial chop shop known as bankruptcy court.

The ruling class is using Obama to whip the auto industry into fighting shape after having been routed on their home turf. CEO Wagoner’s ouster means an even more fascist crackdown on GM workers who should realize they are in great danger. GM’s pro-capitalist UAW “partners” will be asked to deliver even deeper wage and benefit concessions, including retiree health benefits. The message to the workers is clear: if you don’t give it up, we’ll take it in bankruptcy court. Many illusions that auto workers have in Obama are being challenged, if not smashed.

Fiat said it was eager to merge with Chrysler, especially after Obama said he would bless the deal with $6 billion in federal aid. G.M. said it would “take whatever steps are necessary to successfully restructure the company.” So far, all is quiet at UAW headquarters at Solidarity House, as these miserable low-lifes finally face their own mortality. They hitched their wagon to U.S. imperialism 50 years ago, and now they are feeling every bit of the decline of their masters.

Unlike them, we shed no tears for the bosses. We will build a new communist world on their graves. We fight for the laid-off truck driver and his family, the high school students, the hospital, county and hotel workers, the American Axle worker and his partner and their 8-month old baby boy. After the four-month American Axle strike in the winter of ‘07-’08, two-thirds of the workers lost their jobs, and wages were cut in half. At the ratification meeting at King H.S., workers tore up the contract and shouted down their leaders. One year later, the flicker of communist revolution still burns. This May Day it will burn a little brighter.

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Lesson of Mack Ave. Wildcat: Scratch A Liberal, Find A Fascist

In December, Justin Ravitz died. He was the judge in 1974 who tried to jail the Chrysler workers who led the Mack Avenue Sit-Down strike. In August 1973, 350 workers seized the plant after a comrade was fired for his role in an anti-racist health and safety struggle, and reported to work the next day, refusing to leave.

Chrysler security was driven out of the plant, and the next day, the workers faced off against the Detroit police chanting, “FIGHT BACK! – FIGHT BACK!” It finally took 1,000 thugs organized by the UAW, just about everyone on the payroll and many KKK members, to violently retake the plant for the bosses. A white comrade and a black worker who gave crucial leadership to the action were arrested and each charged with two counts of felonious assault.

Ravitz had a reputation as an anti-racist lawyer and criminal court judge. He was involved in the legal dismantling of STRESS, a police undercover unit that murdered 20 people, 17 of them black, and fought to have more black people on juries. He called himself the only Marxist judge in the U.S., banned the American flag from his courtroom in protest of the Vietnam War, and refused to stand for the pledge when he was sworn in. But when it came to prosecuting PLP and communist-led workers, Ravitz was on the side of Chrysler, the UAW leadership and the Detroit police.

At the time, the bosses were still trying to retake control of the major cities, after the armed rebellions of the late 1960’s. Henry Ford and the New Detroit alliance of bosses, bankers and politicians were calling the shots in Detroit, pulling the strings of Coleman Young, a former Communist Party auto organizer and Detroit’s first black mayor, and a City Council of preachers and fake radicals.
PLP relied on auto workers and youth to wage a political defense around the city, exposing Ravitz and the bosses he served. Every notice posted inside the plant soliciting prosecution witnesses was torn down in minutes. Literature saturated numerous plants, Wayne State University, and unemployment and welfare offices, calling on workers and students to defend PLP, the Mack Sit-Down and exposing Ravitz, the UAW leaders, and the rest. Many supporters attended the trial, and many more gave money. The black worker who was arrested, a Vietnam vet, joined the Party on the very day he was called to testify.
Ultimately, the case was tossed out. There was a provision in the law at the time that the prosecution had to produce witnesses from a cross section of the population that witnessed the alleged crime. The Chrysler bosses, UAW and the Detroit police could not produce one Chrysler production worker to testify against the defendants. Not one. Case dismissed. Ravitz was beside himself, and scolded the cops and Chrysler bosses for failing to make their case.

A lot has happened since then, and today Detroit is a shell of what it was. Every anti-racist “reform” has given way to more and deeper racist oppression, from mass unemployment and poverty to crumbling schools and over-crowded jails. The infant mortality rate here is comparable to that of the poor countries in the Caribbean. This is the legacy of the reformers like Ravitz, who above all else were loyal to the profit system until the end. And we are better off for having fought them.

Mack Ave. Defender

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Red Mechanics Needed:Detroit: Totaled by U.S. Capitalism

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.

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