Excerpts taken from a talk given by John Parker, of the Los Angeles Workers World branch, at the Workers World Party National Conference in New York City on Oct. 8-9.
California is waging a war on the working class and is targeting public sector unions, blaming them for the economic crisis because they “greedily” want to hold on to decent health care and don’t want to lose a month’s pay. Also, they’re targeted because these workers don’t want the children and elderly whom they serve to be denied health services or educational opportunities that could provide them with more of a chance of surviving in a state whose Black unemployment rate has climbed to more than 19 percent.
Gov. Jerry Brown can’t find a budget that cuts deeply enough into the working class, especially hitting public sector workers, and which puts further regressive taxes on workers, not corporations, not the rich.
Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa’s budget proposals didn’t even hint at going after the richest, the corporations, not even the oil companies. He didn’t mention the upside-down tax structure that allows California’s richest to pay less tax than the poorest.
Studies show that if the richest families paid the same proportion of taxes as the bottom 50 percent, $490 billion would be generated nationally. California’s figure would be $40 billion. It would cover the $28 billion budget gap and would erase Los Angeles’ $1 billion budget deficit that’s mostly being squeezed from public sector workers.
By going after the richest families’ tax loopholes and balancing out the unfair effects of regressive taxes, there would be enough money to end all budget cuts and fund a real jobs program. California could generate $10 billion by requiring the highly profitable oil companies to pay an oil extraction tax that every other state collects. Interest payments could be withheld from the banks that ripped everyone off, and that are still stealing homes and profiting off that theft, while getting government bailouts.
There is no reason for the cutbacks.
This isn’t just about winning the fight over budget deficits. If it were won, it would only be a temporary victory if a fundamental reason for the shortfalls — the capitalist crisis of overproduction — were not addressed by exposing what this system really looks like. Capitalism doesn’t need a major overhaul; it needs to be replaced by socialism.
We need to break through the view, even held by some who oppose the budget cuts, that capitalism must be saved.
The ruling class aims to divide the workers and is scapegoating immigrants and Black youth in California, criminalizing and incarcerating many. The reality that prisoners face is little known.
Let’s enumerate the strengths of our class: As witnessed by the courageous Pelican Bay prisoners who began a hunger strike to protest torture and horrific conditions, many of our class are fed up and starting a new era of fightback in California. This motion is affecting the many who are in progressive, anti-war, union, national liberation, women’s, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer and student organizations.
This new fightback is shown in the gigantic anti-war marches after Sept. 11, by the one-and-a-half million immigrants and their supporters who joined the 2006 boycott, and by the many rallies against bank bailouts, corporate greed and foreclosures throughout California. The number of those willing to fight for change is great, and it is growing.
Our party has earned the confidence of the most active and militant organizations representing these ranks. We can be key in unifying these forces to create an unconquerable force ready to go on the offensive and wage real class warfare.
Our challenge in California is to help unify and win activists to this movement. Many are new to politics and activism. We must make sure they aren’t railroaded into supporting Ron Paul, to settle for the Democratic Party, or to cave in to nonstruggle, apathy and demoralization.
Our party and our closest allies in California have too much experience in the struggle and are too strong to allow that to happen. Our strength is already shown in motion around the country,
We’re in the California Wall Street occupations. Our Marxist, pro-struggle literature is getting a tremendous response. We’ll make the most of this new era of class struggle and bring it as far as it can go — and then build on that.
The overwhelming strength and courage our class possesses against the ruling class is exemplified by Troy Davis. On his way to death, he could have focused on himself, but he said we must not stop fighting until victory is won.
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