The events of the past few days have made clear that a proposed $25 billion bailout of the US Big Three auto companies is being used to intensify the ruling class offensive against auto workers and the American working class as a whole.
In an entirely cynical manner, the media and politicians of both parties are issuing pseudo-populist denunciations of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler while seizing on the near-collapse of the companies as an opening to rip up union contracts and destroy workers’ pensions, health benefits, wages and working conditions. This is to be the centerpiece of a ruthless restructuring of the industry, involving the closure of more factories and the destruction of tens of thousands more jobs. The aim is to provide, in the form of a far smaller and more highly exploitative industry, a source of profitable investment for Wall Street bankers and speculators.
The destruction of auto jobs and gutting of all that remains of the gains won by generations of auto workers since the mass sit-down strikes of the 1930s will be used as a precedent for similar attacks on workers in every sector of the economy and every part of the country. As with the Chrysler bailout of 1979-80, but on a far broader and even more brutal scale, mass unemployment will be used as a weapon to bludgeon the working class.
Whether through the bankruptcy courts or a bailout bill conditioned on unprecedented concessions—which the United Auto Workers (UAW) will accept and help impose—the workers are to be forced to labor for near-poverty wages and be stripped of basic health and retirement benefits.
President-Elect Barack Obama, for his part, has solidarized himself with demands for sweeping contract concessions, declaring that any auto bailout be contingent on the industry’s future “viability.” Among his chief economic advisers is Paul Volcker, the former Wall Street banker who was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by Democratic President Jimmy Cater and engineered a massive rise in unemployment, which was used to break the power of the unions and undermine the resistance of the working class to layoffs and wage cuts. The Chrysler bailout was carried out during his tenure at the Fed.
There is only one way to save the workers from the assaults they are sure to face. And that is?
There is only one policy that can defend the interests of auto workers and the working class as a whole. That is a socialist policy of nationalizing the auto industry and transforming it into a publicly owned enterprise under the democratic control of working people. This must be carried out in conjunction with the nationalization of the banks under public control, so that economic life can be based on the principle of production for human need, not private profit.
The design, engineering and manufacture of automobiles involve tens of millions of people around the world and vast natural, financial and human resources. The only way to guarantee decent living standards for all workers and to end destructive national competition is to unite auto workers internationally on the basis of a socialist program.
I know Irene…not what you want to hear, but put yourself in the place of an autoworker….what would you do to preserve your job?