By Larry Holmes
Oct 26, 2008 10:29 PM
What will YOU do about the worst capitalist crisis since the 1930s?
Uniting & fighting back is no longer a choice; it’s a matter of survival
Most people have heard that the economic nightmare—the “greed and profits before society” that the capitalist system is plunging us into—is the worst crisis since the so-called Great Depression of the 1930s.
What you won’t get from the capitalist mass media is how the crisis of the 1930s transformed tens of millions of frightened workers and desperately poor people of all races and nationalities into a fighting force organized on the basis of class solidarity in an epic struggle against the capitalists and their government. By the end of the 1930s, it was not the super-rich, but the organized working class that seemed all powerful and unbeatable.
Working and poor people, devastated by the depression, entered the 1930s destitute, broken and hopeless. Yet by the time the decade was over, the working class had won great battles, first by organizing itself into Unemployment Councils and tenants unions and later into giant labor unions.
Social Security, Medicaid, millions of jobs created by giant public works programs and the right to unionize were among the major achievements of the struggles of the 1930s.
With the help of communist activists dedicated to fighting on behalf of the working class, people organized to stop landlords and banks from evicting families from their apartments or homes.
Workers in the auto, steel and many other industries discovered new tactics in their fight to win the right to belong to a labor union. In addition to going on strike, sometimes the workers decided to stay in the plants and factories where they were striking. They took them over until they won their demands.
A leaflet urging people to attend what became one of the most famous mass protests against unemployment in New York City’s Union Square in March 1930 simply read, “Fight or Starve.”
That was one of the biggest lessons that the working class learned during the 1930s— either we push aside all that divides us, and anything that someone can use to divide us like class, and fight like hell or we will not survive.
This lesson is as relevant today as it was 75 years ago. Whether we unite and fight back will be a matter of survival for most of us this time as well. Let there be no doubt: Unless you’re rich, chances are either you will lose your job—some of you already have too little pay—and find it almost impossible to find a job or you will lose a place to live. Many will lose their student loans. Others will lose their pensions and find themselves burdened with debt and no health insurance. Many more of us will be homeless and hungry.
The cultural ideas and norms of recent times—ideas and norms invented and perpetuated by the capitalist system, the billionaires that it serves, their media, their schools, their hierarchy where most of us work and their political system—have not prepared us to act in our own interests in concert with others.
The ideas reinforced every day are that if you fail, it’s your fault alone. The rich are rich because they’re smart. Human nature is innately bad so don’t trust those like you; you’ve got to compete with them. Along with these lies, there is the big one that “things will get better sooner or later” because “this is the greatest country and capitalism is not only the best system, it’s the only one.”
The basic conspiracy afoot here is designed to keep us divided, confined to our own personal worlds, essentially left alone to deal with the crisis and the capitalist class that’s at war with us 24/7.
With the incredible stresses of today, people certainly deserve the right to put their headsets on and zone out to the great music they’ve downloaded on their Ipods. Or veg-out on the several thousand cable stations on their TV (if their cable hasn’t been turned off due to lack of payment). Or spend hours online, which is both social yet isolating at the same time. One can, of course, abuse substances of choice, but ultimately that does more harm than help.
Most people probably think, with good reason, that capitalism’s most effective social control mechanisms are its racist police, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, courts, jails and the Pentagon, all now under the umbrella of “homeland security.”
Obviously government repression is a problem. However, in and of itself, it’s not enough to control the masses or stop us from rebelling.
Equally, if not more effectively, are the ways in which the system works very hard to program us not to unite and fight.
What the system does is a lot like what’s depicted in the movie “The Matrix.” In the real capitalist matrix our comatose bodies are not warehoused somewhere, while our drugged minds stumble around in a computer-generated dream world. Still, the function of the real capitalist matrix is more frightening and diabolical because it’s not a movie.
The capitalist system works hard to keep our political consciousness paralyzed and in a coma in order to make us passive, regimented, disconnected from each other and thereby easier to exploit, which is what the parasitic capitalist system is really all about.
In order to unite and fight for our right to a job and a place to live, to healthcare and education, to all that we need and deserve, we’re going to have to break out of the capitalist matrix. Some will break out before others, but most of us will make it out.
In the movie, Neo is given the choice between the blue pill which equals blissful ignorance, and the red pill which is the path to the truth and to revolutionary action. With every passing day, more and more workers will take the red pill. Which one will you take?
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Karl Marx was right, capitalism is rotten and doomed, part 4
Larry Holmes, member of the WWP secretariat, speaking at the Workers World Forum, Oct. 17, 2008, NYC.