Ed Winn is a member of the Workers League Central Committee. This speech was given at the Workers League May Day meeting in Detroit, May 1, 1988.
Comrade chairman, comrades, and friends:
It is indeed an honor to speak to all of you, as the chosen candidate of the Workers League in the 1988 elections for president of the United States, on this day, May Day, the international workers’ holiday.
I come before you as the representative of the only movement, the genuine Trotskyist movement in the United States, which thus far has presented its election platform—and whose campaign has been so powerfully received by thousands of workers and youth.
Our program seeks to deliver a most vital message to the working class: to overcome the social miseries of mass unemployment, poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, drug addiction, and war created by the bankrupt profit system of capitalism, the working class must base itself upon a revolutionary socialist program. Our program fights every day for the political independence of the working class, to bring the working class to power, to overthrow capitalism and construct a society based on socialism.
The basic theme of our program centers around three major points:
First, the forging of the international unity of workers of all countries in a common struggle against capitalism; second, the building of an independent Labor Party, based on the unions, to fight for a workers’ government; and third, the implementation of a socialist program to abolish the profit system and replace it with a rationally planned socialist economy.
In the 1988 elections, it is only the Workers League that advances a viable alternative to the capitalist system, which is crisis-ridden through and through. The next capitalist administration will, as before, remain an instrument of the banks and the corporations. Come November, the next administration, if it is led by George Bush, Michael Dukakis, or, for that matter, Jesse Jackson, will seek to impose even more drastic conditions. The working class will be facing social misery far worse than what we are experiencing today, with our plants closing down every day around us.
No matter who is elected, not a single capitalist candidate can create a job, a decent paying job for a worker or youth. Rather, what they will continue to do on behalf of the ruling class—the handful of parasitic billionaires—is seek to impose the crisis of a bankrupt capitalist system on the backs of the working class.
Behind locked corporate doors, the capitalist candidates and their bosses are plotting to destroy what remains of the social welfare programs and seek to launch new military strikes against the working class in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central America.
It is estimated that 40,000 of the world’s children die each day of starvation. This is because most of the vast areas of agriculture remain the private property of a few billionaires who produce food solely for a profit. In New York City, where I am from, a criminal-ridden Democratic Party administration presides over a city where a small group of rich landlords and speculators display the most lavish lifestyles, while over 100,000 of the working class—the homeless—live in cardboard shacks and sleep in the subways or in dilapidated abandoned buildings.
In Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where you are from, parasites in the capitalist class, such as the likes of Lee Iacocca, amass fortunes to the tune of a $18.9 million salary—enough to pay the wages of the autoworkers at the Chrysler auto plant slated to be shut down in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This is done while autoworkers, steel workers and miners are thrown out onto the streets to watch their unions shrivel and die. A flunkey of Iacocca says that his boss is worth his weight in gold. With the price of gold at $450 an ounce, Iacocca has stolen ten times that amount through the brutal greed and exploitation of many UAW members.
Under the Reagan and Bush administration, the trade union movement has experienced the most vicious attacks, beginning in 1981 with the smashing of PATCO, the union of air traffic controllers. They gave the green light to the attacks by Democrats, such as the recent blatant frame-up and jailing of five Kentucky coal miners who went on strike against the coal boss A.T. Massey.
These crimes against the trade unions are either virtually ignored, or even aided, by the union bureaucrats, from Lane Kirkland, to Lynn Williams, Owen Bieber and Richard Trumka. Those labor traitors refuse to lift a finger in defense of the rank and file. That rotten union leadership grovels before the capitalist class and allies itself to the reactionary and chauvinist policies of the capitalist political parties.
As we meet here today, the Democrats and Republicans have already met to pass a bill which they call “radical.” The bill gives a worker 60 days’ notice when his boss is shutting a plant down. And the trade union bureaucracy has the unmitigated gall to call this a “victory”! These spineless cowards have the nerve to call it a “victory” when a worker is told by his boss that in 60 days his livelihood will come to an end and then he has to pack up his tools and hit the street.
Well, on behalf of the Workers League and on behalf of the working class, I’m giving an immediate notice to the capitalist class: those plants, mills and mines belong to the working class. They are rightfully ours and we guarantee that we shall take them over!
This is the fraud of the union bureaucrats and the capitalist politicians. And the biggest fraud of them all is Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Many of the union bureaucrats have latched onto Jackson, solely for the purpose of defending their own personal privileges under the capitalist system and to keep the working class politically hog-tied to the Democratic Party. The capitalists see in Jackson a willing servant. A section of the middle class see in Jackson a glimmer of hope. But we warn workers that through the use of charlatanry and demagogy, Jackson willingly acts as a lightning rod for the capitalist class to deflect the growing threat of a social explosion. The Jackson campaign represents not the growing rebellion of the workers, but the desperation of the capitalist class to prevent a mass revolutionary movement against the capitalist system.
This is why the Workers League election campaign is feared by the ruling class.
Over the past few weeks, our campaign was attacked first by the police at the GM Truck and Bus plant in Pontiac and then again by school officials at Osborn High School in Detroit. They tried to prevent us from presenting a revolutionary socialist program to workers and youth.
The aim of the election campaign is to arm the most class-conscious sections of the working class, who themselves are determined to be guided not by words or phrases, but educated through our platform as a guide to revolutionary socialist action.
Now I’ve traveled to different states, to Alabama, to parts of the Midwest, to the East Coast—and everywhere I’ve gone I have found that the anger of workers and youth expresses the anger that millions of people have towards this rotten, bankrupt system.
The campaign of the Workers League symbolizes the necessity for the working class to take the road to socialist revolution.
I am coming before you today, not simply asking you to vote for me. I ask you to join this party, to join the Workers League and devote your lives as revolutionary fighters in the working class.
Capitalism is a decayed system. The capitalist class has not assembled a single car, rolled a single steel bar, or mined a single ton of coal. They’ve never laid a single brick or driven a single nail or put down a single railroad tie. Those skyscrapers, apartment buildings, auto plants, steel mills, coal mines, and transit systems belong to the working class.
We must take the banks and all basic industry into our own hands, without compensation to the bosses, so that we can finance the rebuilding of schools, roads, bridges and the cities with the money that the capitalist class is sitting on. We must reopen the plants, mills, and mines under our own control.
To fight homelessness, we must take over the real estate monopolies, and launch an emergency program of low-cost, high-quality housing. The working class must take over the utilities so that heat, light and water can be provided at a minimal cost for every home.
The youth must especially fight to take over the education system and put it under the control of the unions and student committees, to establish a high level of education with special job training programs paid for by the bosses. Youth will most assuredly raise the minimum wage and establish full union rights for themselves.
In closing, allow me to paraphrase a statement from the rich legacy of Marxism, written in the Communist Manifesto, that inspiring manifesto of the international working class:
“Socialists tell the workers the truth. They openly tell the working class that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!
“Working men of all countries, unite!”
Long live the Fourth International!
Forward to the world socialist revolution!