Decline of American Power, Era of Rising Struggle
In this document we analyze the current conditions of U.S. imperialism within the borders of the United States, and the current state of the peoples' movements. Starting with a common analysis that flows from a common framework is essential to organizing and party building. Here we use particular examples to illustrate general ideas. There is generally much more that could be said on a particular topic and many other possible examples. The principle purpose is to pull out the main contradictions or contradictions that are new and highlight them.
Imperialism is Capitalism
Imperialism is monopoly capitalism. Imperialism is the figurative 1% of the population living off the blood, sweat and tears of 90% of the population. The top 1%, the monopoly capitalists, own over half of all income producing wealth. The 90% of the population that owns no means of production (farm land, businesses, etc.), and does not have special skills like doctors or lawyers, make up the working class. We have no choice but to sell our labor to the 1%.
Imperialism means a falling standard of living for the great majority. The bottom 90% of the population has, on average, suffered an income loss of more than 10% over the last ten years. The next 9% saw a small increase of about 4% in their income, while the top 1% saw their incomes rise by about 17%. Even within the top 1%, the super rich top 0.1% had their incomes rise by 35%, and the richest of the rich, the top 0.01%, or about 10,000 families saw their income rise by a whopping 76% in just ten years!
The U.S. government follows the Golden Rule – those with the gold make the rules. Just take a look at Congress: the average wealth of a Senator is over $2.5 million, while the typical Congressperson's wealth is over $850,000. The wealth of a typical American is $66,000 consisting of a little equity in their homes, a car and a little savings. There is a real lack of political power for the working class. Movements that challenge the authority of the 1%, like Occupy Wall Street, are crushed by coordinated efforts of local police and homeland security.
The working class also makes up the bulk of the foot soldiers and sailors who police the U.S. Empire around the world. While they fight and die to keep the world safe for U.S. corporations, the 1% reaps super-profits from exploiting much of the world.
In a practical sense it is this economic polarization, this sharpening of the contradictions between the monopoly class and the working class that is the main thing shaping the political situation. The debates in Washington about how severe austerity should be, and the attacks on social services reflect this.
Imperialism within the U.S. borders
An analysis of U.S. imperialism that only looks outside its borders will miss the intense national oppression inside the United States. U.S. capitalism began with the theft of land from the Native Peoples of North America. The theft continues to this day, as what remains of their land is plundered and poisoned by U.S. energy corporations. Reservations continue to have the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country. The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 38% higher than the national rate. Law enforcement agents arrest American Indians and Alaskan Natives at twice the rate of the greater U.S. population for violent and property crimes. On average, American Indians receive longer sentences than non-Indians for crimes. They also tend to serve longer times in prison for their sentences than non-Native Americans.
Over the years, chattel slavery of Africans and their intense oppression under Jim Crow segregation, the seizure of the Southwest from Mexico and conquest of the Mexican people there, and the overthrow and annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai'i led to the formation of oppressed nations within the U.S. with the right of self-determination. It is no accident that right-wing efforts to roll back voting rights for African Americans and Chicanos are concentrated in the South and Southwest, in the African-American and Chicano nations.
Oppressed Nationalities: African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos, Latinos and Native peoples, suffer from oppression across the U.S. Police brutality and mass incarceration of African Americans, ICE deportations of Mexicans and Central Americans and continuing inequality of Arabs, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Native Peoples are rooted in our system of monopoly capitalism.
What this adds up to is that national oppression is real. The fact there is an African American President, with talking heads ranting about a post-racial society, does not change the fact that the U.S. remains a "prison house of nations". The outpouring of protest and anger at the killing of Trayvon Martin makes it clear enough that the African American masses understand that inequality and discrimination have not disappeared.
In the Black Belt South, the national territory of the African American nation, attacks on African Americans take the form of governmental attacks on voting rights, police killings and vigilante violence. In the Southwest, the national territory of the Chicano people, the attacks take the form of governmental attacks on immigrants, racial profiling by law enforcement and racist attacks by vigilantes.
Structural changes shaping politics
All politics is concentrated economics. That is perhaps even clearer at this moment than usual. While the great recession of 2008 is past, the massive economic restructuring that followed means we are operating under capitalism with these specific features:
- It will be years before we see an end to high unemployment.
- Jobs in basic industry such as auto will be more difficult to obtain and these jobs will not pay very well.
- For a substantial section of the working class, working multiple low-wage jobs will become the new normal.
- Capitalists will continue export of capital and jobs outside the country.
- The crisis is coupled with cuts in the social safety net. The size of the urban poor is increasing and there is a continuing downward pressure on conditions.
- Wealth inequality is at historic highs.
- Private employers are divesting themselves of pension and health plans. This creates devastating impacts as the country ages and people exit from the workforce and enter into poverty.
Meanwhile the rich are riding high. The stock market is soaring to record levels along with corporate profits. The rich are intensifying the difficulties we face every day by imposing austerity and further cuts in the safety net.
For workers, austerity is the order of the day. Detroit is a symbol of what American capitalism offers us in the future. The austerity path leads to private brokers looting public art museums and Wall Street stealing workers' pensions. Detroit though is just the tip of the iceberg. The rulers are leaving whole cities and regions to rot.
Government and politicians are attacking on many fronts: attacks on the Post Office; attacks on public employee pension plans; attempts to cut the pay of public employees; cuts or abolition of means tested programs like food stamps. The list could fill pages and pages.
Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans made a budget deal in 2012 that included sequestration. Sequestration is a long word that means automatic budget cuts. The original round of cuts was devastating to programs like Head Start while also cutting some defense spending. A recent budget deal eased about half of the automatic budget cuts temporarily, but working people are still being hard hit by austerity. A good example of this is the cutoff of long-term unemployment benefits, which were in place for the past five years.
The drive to carry out austerity is turning Washington DC and state capitals across the country into political battlegrounds, characterized by government shutdowns and showdowns (debt ceiling) that affect the economy and politics.
The target of the budget cutters is Medicare and Social Security. Ultimately, the rich want to finance their tax cuts through cuts on Medicare and Social Security, and they do not care if that leaves us begging on street corners.
Sharpening contradictions in the political sphere
Budget cuts are pushed and supported by the Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats have held onto power for the past five years. In the 2010 Main Political Report we predicted that the political context for our work would be more favorable and that is exactly what happened. The economic crisis and subsequent stagnation, coupled with profound disappointment in President Obama and the Democrats: the continuous wars, corporate bailouts, mass surveillance and austerity produced a leftward shift among the masses of people, especially young people. Openness to socialism as a solution to this country's problems is at a 40-year high.
We maintain that the capitalists who rule this country have two major political parties – the Democrats and the Republicans. The fact that the Democrats consistently serve monopoly capitalism helps create the basis to strengthen the process of radicalization among the people.
Barring unforeseen developments, we expect the Democratic Party will continue to be the dominant political party on a national scale over the next three years. Changes in the balance of political forces can change the nature of the political debate.
It is correct to say that the Republican Party embodies rightism and reaction, (at the state level, right to work, attack on women's right to choose, etc.). However, given that the Democratic Party will continue to have its hands on the levers of power nationally and in many states, we cannot proceed with an approach of "fight the far right". The main blow must be aimed at those who hold power.
Our expectation is that contradictions will continue to sharpen inside the Republican Party and they will continue to have difficulty finding candidates that are viable both to the base they cultivated with the "Southern Strategy" and on a national level.
Political Repression, a Growing Feature
Repression is the stick that maintains national and class inequality. As a long-term trend, the U.S. ruling class is opting not to purchase social peace. The only other option to maintain social peace is repression. One million African American men are in jail. It is a fact that the U.S. holds political prisoners. Police departments are miniature armies complete with drones, tanks and machine guns. The New York City police department has its own base in the Philippines complete with intelligence officers to interrogate suspects. The NSA is engaged in mass surveillance of phone calls, text messages and emails.
Big parts of the Empire are slipping away. As parts of the Middle East are rebelling, the U.S. is attacking Muslims and Arabs within their reach inside the U.S.
Our organization believes that it is important to defend democratic rights and push back against repression. Through our own experience we learned that this is an important task and we will continue our work to defend Arab Americans, Muslims and others who are under attack, and to demand the release of all political prisoners.
Mass Consciousness Moves Left
Where there is oppression there is resistance. In recent years, there is a resurgence of the peoples' movements of a breadth and depth not seen in decades. A qualitative change is taking place. From this upsurge, the multi-national working class, with the oppressed nations as its strategic allies, can unite other sectors and classes that can be brought together, and build resistance to oppression up to the next level.
At the moment there is a lot of political space to fill to the left of the Democratic Party. That section of political space that is filled by consistent social democracy in Europe has been abandoned in the U.S. for more than a decade. Now that the peoples' movements are on the rise different forces are trying to fill that space. This includes the left wing of the Democratic Party. Some of them are agents of the ruling class, like the Ford Foundation, who are attempting to use NGO formations to bleed off the energy of the peoples struggle into the Democratic Party. Libertarians like Ron Paul also try to capture some of this political space.
Other forces are social democrats masquerading as socialists. This has the potential to confuse and mislead. We should compete for this space and impact its political character. Fundamentally we need to build people's struggles with working class leadership. This means that our transformation/fusion/integration with the masses and rooting ourselves in the working class is particularly important.
Organized Section of the Class
The organized section of the working class played an important role in the overall upsurge of struggle in the past few years. Although most of labor's battles were defensive in nature, powerful class struggles arose, waged particularly by public employees. The "Battle of Wisconsin" and the fight against right to work in Ohio and Michigan galvanized and inspired people inside and outside of unions. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike and their continued campaign in support of public education give an inspiring example of how to bring together the demands of the working class, uniting teachers, parents, and students against the privatization of public education. We now see teachers threatening strikes in school districts across the country, rather than just agreeing to austerity and cuts.
Public Sector union fight backs and successes, while very positive, cannot make up the core of the labor movement. Workers power lies in our ability to withhold labor and stop production. The Longshore Workers remain one of the shining examples for private sector union militancy and success. They defend pattern bargaining and make gains in wages and working conditions through it. Another hopeful example is the organizing within the massive warehouse distribution hubs for Walmart and other box stores. Workers carried out successful strike activity without legal recognition. This is inspiring Walmart workers around the country to carry out job actions of their own.
Part of the struggle for economic justice, the "Fight for $15" campaign amongst fast food workers was in large part initiated by national unions, using a top-down approach. The symbolic strikes carried out by fast food workers provoked a fight back above and beyond what was initially planned. It confirms the truth that when workers see others engaged in struggle they will engage in struggle as well. We need a balanced but realistic evaluation of this fight.
Despite inspiring fight backs, union workers in Wisconsin and Michigan were dealt heavy blows. Twenty four states are now governed by right to work laws. The attacks are coming at the legislatures and in the courts. Overall union density continues to decline. The strength of the organized section of the class is at a 98-year record low. The number of workers in unions today hovers around 11.3%. The disintegration of private sector unions continues, putting further pressure on the public sector.
Attacks on public sector workers cannot be separated from the attacks on women and oppressed nationalities, because public sector workers are disproportionately female and African American. Layoffs and attacks on the contracts of public employees are part of the ruling class strategy to extend the economic restructuring in the private sector to public sector workers.
We Need a Fighting Workers Movement
Unions need to see themselves as leaders of the class, both their own members and the class as a whole. Unions need to fight, not accommodate the boss. Until the strike is reclaimed as the powerful weapon it can be, unions will not be effective. A strike requires militancy, mass mobilization and resources to succeed. The capitalists systematically put in place laws that make it difficult to fight and win easily. We should not hold illusions that electing Democrats will result in laws rewritten in our favor. Instead we need to reject unjust laws and be willing to break them where necessary in order to wage effective strikes and express solidarity with our fellow workers.
The extent to which our unions can be transformed into organizations for class struggle is the same extent to which they will obtain success. The union bureaucracy cannot be relied upon to have this perspective or to act upon it. Where union leaders do, they are part of the struggle, where they do not; they will have to be struggled against.
There is no doubt that the organized labor movement is in a deep crisis. Once again, the majority of national unions, as they did in 2005, are going through a hand wringing exercise to determine which way forward. In 2005, new organizing was determined to be the solution. Seven years and fewer unionized workers later, union leaders are now formulating "social movement" unionism as the solution. In both instances, national leadership of the house of labor failed to recognize that our strength lies in our power as workers and our ability to shut down production and claim the fruits of our labor. In order to survive, labor must return to the strategies that led to our successes in the past.
This does not mean unorganized workers should not be organized into unions. Nor does it mean unions should not form social alliances. A class struggle approach has at its foundation the struggle in the workplace. But workers should be organized into organizations willing to fight, not simply collect numbers and dues. Labor must organize and form alliances in the class as a whole whether organized or unorganized. That is not the same as forming coalitions with non-profit organizations and merging membership lists. Instead it means labor taking up the demands of the class. The Chicago teachers are a good example of what this looks like. Working people in Chicago saw the teachers taking up their banner and demands, and saw the teachers' fight as their fight. To regain power, unions need to be able to bring their members into struggle and advance their conditions.
Battling Budget Cuts and Austerity
The lower sector of the working class, disproportionately oppressed nationalities and women, are facing poverty at unprecedented levels. Many people found that they used up the five-year lifetime welfare limit without any hope of finding a job. Unemployment and underemployment numbers are wildly different for oppressed nationalities than for whites and reflect the uneven nature of the so-called recovery.
Tax cuts to the rich, which started thirty years ago, decimated state budget coffers. States are just recovering from their massive budget deficits. That recovery is largely happening on the backs of public education and other public workers. The sequester cuts further slashed the social safety net at the federal level. For years, states raided federal public assistance dollars to pay for other state-funded programs and to buy down budget deficits.
In 2013, the federal government rolled back the food stamp expansion enacted in the midst of the economic crisis. Later, both Democrats and Republicans passed billions of additional cuts to the food stamp program. The permanent austerity regime is making additional cuts to the social safety net. In addition, some states are going back on the salaries they committed to pay workers in the form of their pensions. These pension cuts and eliminations are devastating to older and retired workers.
Organizations and social service agencies that claim to speak for poor families mainly collaborate with the cut backs and protect their own jobs, programs and funding. In general, fight backs against attacks on the safety net are either nonexistent or weak. There are examples of fight backs for welfare and to restore the social safety net that are led by poor families. Where it is possible to combine militancy and legislative vehicles, cuts were stopped and gains won. Poor people's organizations can succeed through persistence, aiming high and fighting for all that can be won, being prepared for both success and failure on the legislative front, and summing up those lessons learned. For this to happen, a core of activists in the class who are willing to fight has to be built.
The Fight against National Oppression
Because of national oppression and racism, the impacts of economic crisis and the subsequent restructuring are uneven. The majority of oppressed nationalities, particularly African Americans, have higher rates of unemployment, less wealth (in the form of home ownership, retirement accounts, etc.), poorer health care, underfunded and understaffed schools, and face police harassment and brutality on a regular basis. The economic crisis and restructuring led to a decline in the standard of living of African Americans, under the administration of the first African American President. This decline points clearly to the national oppression at the core of U.S. monopoly capitalism.
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 0.7% of the total population; this rises to over 1% for some states in the Black Belt South. One in three African American men aged 20-29 is under some sort of correctional control–either incarcerated, on probation or on parole. As the unemployment rate for this same group goes up to over 20% the state will increasingly turn to incarceration to maintain control. Police brutality and murder by the police will continue to be important issues. In addition, there is a rise in vigilante violence against African Americans with the killing of Trayvon Martin serving as the most prominent example.
The movement for African American Liberation has been in a period of ebb for some time. The message of the African American bourgeoisie is, "We do not need to be in the street because we have a place at the table". However, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013. Despite outrage at that unjust decision, there is no concerted or sustained response so far from the mainline civil rights organizations.
There was sustained struggle by oppressed nationality youth demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, and similarly for Jordan Davis and Kimani Gray. An emerging area of struggle is in opposition to the "school to prison pipeline". This is a campaign against racist laws and police practices that criminalize oppressed nationality youth and labels normal teenage misbehavior as misdemeanors and felonies leading to criminal records and juvenile detention centers. These practices begin with suspension of children as young as preschoolers.
The Chicano national movement is closely linked to the struggle of Mexicano and other undocumented workers from Latin America. Over the past decade immigrant rights organizing was one of the three or four most dynamic areas of struggle.
The Chicano/Latino population – mainly Mexicanos – grew quickly over the past ten years, surpassing African Americans as the largest oppressed nationality grouping in the U.S by more than 7 million. This shift took place a decade ago and Latinos are asserting themselves as a political force. This is seen most clearly around the immigrant rights movement, but also in political races where Republicans claim they intend to cater to Latino voters. That said there are many differences among Latinos.
For example, there are no undocumented Cuban-Americans, which mean their immediate concerns can differ from those of Mexicanos who are part of the newest wave of immigrants in families with mixed documentation. These kinds of differences can make it difficult for Chicanos/Latinos to play the centering political role African Americans played in the past.
We support the struggle for Chicano political power and support full equality, including the equality of languages.
Arab and Asian Americans also face national oppression in the U.S. At times they are portrayed as "model minorities" who succeed by their own efforts and are pitted against the struggles of African Americans and Chicanos for equality. But at other times, such as during World War II when Japanese Americans were put in concentration camps, they were demonized and targeted by government persecution.
Today it is Arab Americans and American Muslims who bear the brunt of political repression and government persecution. Arab and Asian Americans today face discrimination in the workplace, have significant numbers of undocumented immigrants and often face language discrimination. Asian American women suffer from high rates of sex trafficking.
Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and other indigenous peoples in the U.S. face the most intense national oppression, with the highest rates of poverty, poorest schools and shortest life spans. Native peoples continue to fight the ongoing environmental devastation of their remaining lands, including the proposed Keystone pipeline. Their struggle to free one of the longest U.S. political prisoners, Leonard Pettier, continues. There are also many local struggles to defend and expand the sovereign rights of native peoples.
The core of the immigrant rights movement is the struggle of the Mexicanos and Central Americans for full equality, and the Chicano nation's demand for self-determination and liberation. The demands of the immigrant rights movement include legalization of the undocumented, an end to raids and deportations and an end to militarization of the border. The immigrant rights movement is a leading edge of struggle.
Immigration reform is in a very uncertain place. It is unlikely that there will be any immigrant rights legislation before 2015.
Immigration legislation that is now on the table is basically focused on border enforcement and deportations. Current proposals on the table make maintaining legal status and attaining citizenship extremely difficult.
The biggest danger within the immigrant rights movement is whether the masses of people are persuaded by leaders claiming "something is better than nothing" and "we have to follow what the Democratic politicians tell us to do". This will only lead to immigration reform that caters to big corporations and brings down more attacks on immigrants. One need only look at what happened to health care reform, where big health insurance corporations fought to make the law ensure their profits instead of improving the health care needs of working people.
An important section of the immigrant rights movement is not confused by the Democrats. Many of them are undocumented youth or "Dreamers", who are proving a willingness to put their bodies on the line for immigrant rights. A new tactic is to lock themselves down to buses carrying immigrants who are being deported.
The pillars of immigration reform need to be: Legalization for all, no guest worker expansion, no more repression and an immediate end to deportations. These are the fundamental elements of immigration reform that we should fight for and demand from Congress and the President.
A Changed Role for the Anti-War Movement
America is a big Empire and anti-war and solidarity work is important. While we do not expect new big wars in the coming period, the U.S. continues to occupy countries around the globe. It is also possible the U.S. may not pick its next war but instead feel forced to act in a place or time it is not prepared for.
The U.S. anti-war movement has been in a general downturn for the past few years. The struggle against occupation and war will continue however. Likewise we need to continue to support struggles for freedom and liberation, such as in Palestine. The anti-war movement scored a victory on stopping the U.S. war on Syria, where President Obama very much wished to go to war. The movement gave voice and organization to the opposition of the American people to that venture. That, along with international opposition, ensured that it did not happen.
The U.S. interventions in Libya and Syria confused big sections of the anti-war movement and so there is less activity in opposition to those interventions. Our approach is a mass anti-imperialist outlook. We take a firm stand against U.S. intervention. We do not favor, for example in Syria, the line to "oppose the U.S. and support the rebels". We also do not carry out a "support and link all struggles" approach that narrows the movement to the advanced. We need to pay close attention to potential for war in Iran and U.S. interventions into the affairs of Latin America.
U.S. troops have largely left Iraq. Around 45,000 troops remain in Afghanistan, which is down from surge levels of 100,000. There is talk of withdrawing to a residual force of 12,000 in 2014. A section of the anti-war movement is refocusing on drones and drone warfare inside and outside of war zones. For the past decade the anti-war movement focused almost exclusively on the Middle East. It needs to also be aware of U.S. war threats in Europe, Africa and Asia.
The Student Movement Rebuilds
The student movement continues to be an active and vital force, especially where there are conscious elements to push it forward. Some important milestones that recently occurred in the student movement include the success of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) tuition equity campaign in Florida; the creation of the Dream Defenders oppressed nationality student group in Florida; a growing movement of DREAMer Latino students; the large contingent of students who marched against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago in 2012; increased organizing by the Students for Justice in Palestine; and the important role student organizers played in organizing the March on the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2012. While the student movement is not at its peak, these recent successes created the right conditions for the student movement to grow and thrive.
It is important to note that SDS won these victories as the student movement underwent several key shifts, which are creating further opportunities for the student movement to grow. The current incarnation of the student movement is composed mainly of students who started college around 2010 and has a generally social-democratic radical character. This stands in stark contrast to the student movement of 2006-2010, in which anarchism was heavily represented. The current group of social-democratic student radicals are much more open to Marxism than the students of 2006. There was also a shift among college students broadly, not only those involved in the student movement. While college students generally lean toward favoring the Democratic Party, the recent heightening contradictions of capitalism left many disillusioned with mainstream politics. They are open to radical change, and there is a space for Marxism-Leninism.
The student movement organized since the economic crisis in 2008 along two central lines: against increasing corporatization of universities, which reflects the class contradictions of capitalism, and against the increasing repression of oppressed nationalities, as represented by violence against Black youth and the exclusion of undocumented students from colleges and universities.
The increasing corporatization of colleges and universities led to state budget cuts, increased tuition, and an ever growing number of administrators making CEO-like salaries. Students who are graduating with a ballooning amount of student loan debt, are fighting back. This continues to be a major point of struggle on many campuses as the corporatization/privatization of public schools is only growing and intensifying.
The increase in repression of oppressed nationalities, as demonstrated by the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin and his killer's subsequent not guilty verdict, awakened many oppressed nationality students. In particular, the Trayvon Martin case led to the creation of the Dream Defenders, a student organization of primarily Black and Brown students who protested the murder, protested the verdict and then occupied the Florida state capitol in 2013. Like students broadly, many African-American students are disillusioned with Obama and the Democratic Party and are looking for more radical alternatives.
The increasing repression of oppressed nationalities can also be seen in the systematic exclusion of undocumented students from colleges and universities. This struggle is reflected in the SDS Education for All campaign, which fights against state laws that restrict access to college by either banning undocumented students outright or by forcing them to pay out of state tuition. At the same time Obama has deported a record-breaking two million people since taking office.
In the face of these policies, the DREAMers are leading the struggle of Chicano, Mexicano and Latino students. The DREAMers started as a pressure group for legislation allowing a small section of immigrants brought to this country as children to receive legal residency under the proposed DREAM Act. The Act's defeat led DREAMers to take on direct action campaigns with radical actions including sit-ins, protests and struggle against both Democrats and Republicans. Despite the passage of "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA), students are still struggling, as DACA, like the DREAM Act only covers a portion of undocumented people. Students who are part of both of these struggles are joining these movements because they are disillusioned with Obama and the Democratic Party.
Student activism is growing as the contradictions of capitalism, especially in this period of crisis, are alienating students from the Democratic Party and mainstream politics generally. Using this disillusionment, non-profits and NGO's successfully seek to hire and "buy out" good student organizers in order to transform them into liberal or social-democratic organizers, both during college and after graduation. This is a reformist counterweight to the previously mentioned trend toward Marxism within the student movement. It is important that the student movement claims its successes and continues to build militant mass based organizations in order to combat the influence of these groups. The student movement will continue to grow as long as there are groups like the SDS to act as strong, coherent, leading forces with an eye toward building lasting connections and networks and anchoring student activists in struggle.
Women's access to reproductive health care is under full-scale attack in many states. There are attempts to stop insurance companies from paying for contraceptives and to shutdown abortion clinics. Wage inequality, rape, domestic violence and the attacks on reproductive freedom and women's health add up to a war on women. This war is a very old war though, not something new.
Among younger women there is a strong desire for a women's movement to stand up for equality and liberation. Wendy Davis waged a filibuster against abortion restrictions in Texas and captured the imagination of many. Likewise, slut-walks and campaigns against campus rape culture represent fight backs.
Mobilizing working and low income women against those pieces of austerity that have special impacts on our children and ourselves, needs to be seen as part and parcel of the battle for women's liberation. Though it will continue to be a challenge for them to be seen that way by petty bourgeois feminists controlling the major women's organizations.
LGBTQ – Fight for Democratic Rights and Liberation
There are many states where the fight for marriage equality continues. The campaigns in support of gay marriage have a positive impact on some of the issues faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, including bullying, violence and access to health care. The transgender movement within the LGBTQ movement is the leading edge of struggle. It is where these primary issues come together, and it exemplifies the relationship between oppression and resistance. Struggles such as the fight to win justice for CeCe McDonald demonstrate how the transgender movement needs to fight against bullying and violence within society, while at the same time, struggling against the police and courts system that provide cover to the perpetrators of these crimes. The campaign to free CeCe also shows that the Trans movement can lead the broader GLBTQ community in these struggles.
The LGBTQ movement focused on two important battles for democratic rights in the past period. One is still ongoing and the other resulted in a significant victory. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation/gender identity. The U.S. House still needs to act on this bill for it to become law. The win of course was on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The legalization of same sex marriage in seventeen states and counting and the striking down of the ban on Federal recognition of same sex marriage are great victories for democratic rights and a blow against reactionaries.
However as Lenin said, "It is a far cry from equality in law to equality in life." It is important to honor these achievements primarily as fuel for the struggle not the end of the struggle. Under capitalism LGBTQ folks face systemic oppression for defying gender norms that help perpetuate inequalities that help keep the capitalist system in place.
Climate change is a scientific reality that is having a larger and larger impact on economics, politics and the oppressed nations of the world. The U.S. is the world's largest polluter per capita. It is true that some things, like clean air standards, improved in this country in the past few decades. However, the cleaner environment that some experience is based on U.S. capital exporting several of the most polluting industries outside of the United States. Still, many working class and oppressed nationality people live in polluted conditions where they are exposed to daily toxins and endangered by waste storage.
Fracking for natural gas is contaminating wells and linked to unexpected earthquakes. The Goliath of big energy is facing down the David of state level regulators, refusing to submit to any regulation at all. Related to this is an increased push for the construction of nuclear power plants. We have to oppose these new plants. The issue of nuclear waste makes nuclear power untenable. In addition, we must continue to oppose attempts to store waste on Native American lands.
The fight against "Tar Sands" oil and the Keystone XL pipeline is the most prominent environmental issue right now. It brings together mainstream environmental forces, some folks who first came together in the Occupy movement, and Idle No More, a coalition of indigenous forces, to oppose the environmental threat and environmental racism.
Capitalism is not able to stop itself from environmental destruction; profits today will always trump the future. The big corporations are finding new and more destructive technologies to extract natural resources. They are able to unite unionized workers with them in the name of well-paying jobs. While each local issue has its own dynamics, it must be said that it is a horrible choice that capitalism makes workers choose between feeding our children today and poisoning them tomorrow.