Inflation is the latest way the capitalist system’s crises are deepening the oppression of workers around the world. Capitalism is driven by competition and profit accumulation and generates global economic and political instability. While inflation is depriving U.S. workers of some of life’s necessities, the U.S.’s export of inflation to other countries is even more devastating. Such an absurd and abusive system cries out for a more sensible alternative.
Workers in southern and north-western Pakistan have been devastated by severe flooding over the last several weeks. Thirty-three million people are affected, mainly being displaced, by what may be the worst flooding in the history of Pakistan. The official death count from the floods is at about 1,400 people; unofficially, the estimate is over 4,000 dead. There is nothing natural about the scope of this disaster. The blame is squarely on capitalism. Namely, climate change, mass poverty and neglect of developing infrastructure, all caused by the drive for ever increasing profit at the expense of the working class. Many reforms, like decent housing and new sewers, would save many lives and spare many workers the loss of their homes, but those reforms seem like a distant impossible dream. In fact, the situation keeps repeating and will continue to worsen as capitalist crises only get more severe.
Worsening climate change brought heavier rains than usual into this region which destroyed the homes and belongings of millions of poor workers, who the capitalist system sees as expendable. Many of those displaced and killed were among the millions of workers in Pakistan who were forced out of the countryside by the abject poverty of the agricultural system under capitalism that leaves small farmers on their own. Recent droughts, also worsened by climate change, left family farmers in the impossible position of staying on their barren land to starve or heading into the cities to find work at poverty wages (ARY News, 9/2). These workers were forced by the conditions to settle on the banks of rivers, among the riskiest places to live but one of the few ways in the cities for the working class to have access to water.
Anatomy of a Strike – Class Struggle or Business Unionism
During August, 2022 in Prince George’s County, MD, 170 paratransit operators of Metro Access in the Amalgamated Transportation Union (ATU 689) walked off their jobs to demand increased wages, more sick leave, and improved health and retirement benefits. Metro Access transports people living with disabilities to medical appointments, grocery stores, and social events. Most are too poor to have cars or pay for cabs or Uber and need transport that accommodates wheelchairs.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the bus and subway systems, contracted out Metro Access to the billionaire French Transdev Corporation known for its anti-union activities. In 2019, WMATA bus operators working for Transdev struck for 85 days to achieve pay parity with other WMATA drivers. These contract arrangements weaken the ability of workers to organize larger strikes and forge solidarity across the work sites.
We’ve all heard the news by now: the more than 150,000 people who live in Jackson, Mississippi haven’t had drinkable water in their homes since late July and no water at all from August 28 until September 7. As of then, you could at least flush a toilet. Even the local elementary school had to close. It is no surprise that 82% of Jackson’s population is black and 27% are poor.
Not only do tens of millions of people around the world hate capitalism and want to see it replaced with a society run by and for workers, but they have felt that way for many generations. 125 years ago, Edward Bellamy wrote the novel Looking Backward, a powerful and intelligent critique of capitalism, a system that Bellamy considered cruel and wasteful. It was written at a time of great inequality and great workers’ struggles and also soon after Karl Marx had published his searing analysis of capitalism in the Communist Manifesto. Marx also raised ideas about how a post-capitalist communist society would work, most profoundly from each worker according to ability and to each according to need. Looking Backward is Bellamy’s vivid description of the egalitarian society that he saw replacing capitalism.
The August 8 raid by the FBI on Donald Trump’s residence and playground in Mar-a-Lago certainly got everyone’s attention, especially Trump’s. And while the legal battle is playing out over Trump’s taking boxloads of Top Secret and Classified files to his basement (and what was in his safe?), this really reflects something much deeper than the specific criminal acts that are alleged. It could more accurately be described as “The Empire Strikes Back!”
The increasing political divide in the US, reflected on almost any issue from immigration to abortion rights to vaccines, reflects the debate going on in the political class over how to save the US empire. As US imperialism faces ever greater challenges internationally, this debate takes on a more urgent, and sometimes violent, nature. The US empire is slipping away and there is a fierce struggle going on over how to save it. Basically, we are witnessing what goes on inside the loser’s locker-room, with each side blaming the other, and all of them being at least partially right!
Covid-19 has re-emphasized the inequities of capitalism, displaying how it leaves the aged, those with chronic illness, and those with low-paying jobs who labor in close-packed, unprotected workplaces and live in crowded housing more vulnerable. Even without Covid-19, capitalists treat older workers, whether sick or retired as surplus, disposable people who drag down profits and require costly health care. Under capitalism, the ruling class values workers only by their ability to produce and thereby create profit.
This article will discuss the politics of disability from a class perspective that supports the participation and inclusion of all workers in society according to their abilities and preferences. It argues against creating another category of identity politics.
To quote Ahilan Kadirgamar, a political economist at the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the uprising is “a revolt and not yet a revolution, because it doesn’t want to change fundamental social relations… or property relations.”1
All of us who yearn to see a mass movement of workers united across national, racial and gender lines against capitalism and imperialism should remember and learn from the life of Walter Rodney. A Guyanese historian and activist who was murdered by his own ruling class in 1980 at the age of 38, Rodney understood the pitfalls of pseudo-socialism and neocolonialism like few others. And also like few others, he combined a profound understanding of history from a Marxist perspective, the ability to convey his knowledge and learn from broad swath of workers, and a commitment to actively participate in workers’ struggles. It is that combination that made him so dangerous to the Guyanese rulers.