On Saturday, October 2, tens of thousands of workers from all over the US., attended a rally for jobs, justice and peace in Washington D.C. The rally was organized by the big unions, civil rights, peace, social justice and ecology groups. It was an expression of anger against the politicians in Washington and in state and local government who have served the corporate agenda. It was also an expression of people’s hopes for a better life for themselves and their children.
Last week there were also demonstrations and actions by millions of workers in Europe. In Spain there was a one-day general strike – where workers in both the public and the private sector stopped work and brought the country to a standstill. Workers demonstrated across Europe, from Ireland to Greece. In France, millions of workers demonstrated several times in recent weeks, protesting the French government’s attempt to raise the age of retirement and change their pensions. Fifty thousand workers from all over Europe demonstrated in Brussels, Belgium, at the European Parliament.
The Washington demonstration marks the first time in decades that U.S. workers have protested at the capitol. European workers have been much more active, with millions of people repeatedly and actively protesting the actions by their governments to protect the profits of the bosses and bankers at the expense of everyone else. In both the U.S. and Europe workers are protesting the unemployment, increases in taxes, the cuts to education and other social services. Workers are rightfully fed up with sacrificing our standard of living, our wages and our quality of life for the profits of the rich.
Union leaders have told workers, both here and in Europe, that because of the seriousness of the worldwide economic crisis, sacrifices are necessary. These union officials say we must put our hopes in elections. They ask us to have faith in the Democratic Party, or the Social Democratic parties in Europe, even though all of these parties have repeatedly betrayed our interests. And in both Europe and in the U.S., when the union officials have called for protests, the mobilizations have been limited to one-day actions. The protests were organized to let off steam or reinforce the need to vote, not to organize a real fight.
Nonetheless these rallies, demonstrations and strikes clearly show the potential of what could happen. They show that people are not satisfied with the conditions they confront and they may be ready to do something about it. They show that the working class has the numbers and power to impose its will on both the US. and European governments and the bosses. The power of the workers is considerable. Without the workers, society stops. Without the workers, nothing would be produced, nothing would work and nothing would run. Without the workers, there is no electricity, no drinking water, no products, no transportation, no health care, education or social services.
But for a fight to begin, the workers need to stop following the union officials who try to limit and channel our anger in a safe direction. The workers need to stop putting faith in the Democrats or their counterparts in Europe. Instead the working class, on both sides of the Atlantic, needs to depend on its numbers, its power, its own leadership and its own organization. Then we will see a real fight that has a chance to win.