What Do All Working People Have in Common?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

What do all working people have in common, regardless of so-called race or skin tone? A precarious existence under the domination of a political and economic system that has concentrated power into the hands of a tiny minority of the nation’s (and world’s) people — the big bankers and corporate owning class. This is the one percent of big capitalists who have accumulated the lion’s share of the wealth created from the labor of the world’s working classes. Even our rulers in their own newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times (among others) have been unable to deny this globally apparent fact. The One Percent rules!!

How have they managed to keep this concentrated power for so long in the face of the systemic failures that have deprived millions of life, liberty, and the means to survive, much less pursue happiness. The answer is that they have dominated (by owning it) the mass media, controlled the two main political parties, and worked overtime to undermine and destroy any independent centers of working class power, starting with the trade unions, but including systematic attacks on alternative political ideas and strategies that try to unite workers (socialism, communism, even an understanding of democracy that would include economic as well as political control). In addition to this, historically, our rulers have promoted divisions among the workers.

The bottom line is this: Under the rule of capital, workers and their families neither create jobs nor do they take them away.  The capitalist bosses do this.  Yet they never accept any responsibility for the failures of their system that leave millions without work, without homes, without medical care, even without enough to eat!  And when workers have tried to organize against this they have been met with police and sometimes military violence. You can still watch the film of the Chicago police shooting striking Republic Steel workers (all of them white) in the back as they tried to flee from police violence during a strike in the Great Depression.  And there are many, many instances of this in our history.  The police since their inception have in fact been “a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo.” Alex S. Vitale develops this insight in his important history of the police, The End of Policing, (available for free from Verso).

And our rulers have been clever and devious.  All the way back in colonial times they came up with a way to keep workers from coming together to use their numbers against the economic and state power of the owning class.  The racism that was spread to rationalize the destruction of Native America, and the enslaving of Africans, by trying to characterize them as somehow “inferior,” and therefore deserving of the brutal, sometimes genocidal, and always super-exploitative treatment,  has been a persistent and useful tool of our wealthy ruling class for centuries  They have succeeded all too well in selling this racism to some of the least aware white workers in this country, but those days may have seen their end with the Black Lives Matter movement — IF it can keep focus on the absolute necessity to bring together as many working people of all tints as possible.

All of us have something to fight for.  We cannot expect to keep our own rights if we do not stand up for the rights of others. We need to hold this capitalist system to account!  It has left huge numbers of people without control over their lives and facing a future of vast uncertainty. There needs to be permanent employment at living wages adequate to feed and house all of us.  There needs to be health care for all as a human right. Everyone should have unrestricted access to an educational system that teaches us what we need to know to live together, including a truthful assessment of our history.

Instead, what we have now is a system where people who have to work for a living fear for their lives on a number of fronts, starting with the mis-managed covid pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people, the vast majority working people. Add to this the endless wars waged by the big bosses of the United States (military-industrial complex) to preserve their empire and line their own pockets. These wars disproportionately kill peasants and people from the working class, including the US soldiers sent to fight in them as well as countless civilians throughout the world, almost always poor people, women, children and the aged who cannot flee the bombings. There needs to be an end to these imperialist wars.  Above all, now, there needs to be an end to police violence against our Black brother and sisters! And an end to ruling class violence against workers everywhere.

We need a society based on caring, cooperation, and production for human needs and in a way that enhances human existence and preserves the earth that gives us all life.

Chuck Churchill is a retired lecturer in history. He taught at Cal State Chico and Oregon State University. He is the author of Through the Needle’s Eye: Elite Rule and the Illusions of Freedom.