But What Will We Fight For?

What follows is the speech Mary Anne Hering made in a meeting in Detroit.

I am Mary Anne Hering, candidate for Dearborn School Board/Henry Ford College.

We have been living through a crisis the capitalists created and a social crisis created by the push of the capitalists to protect themselves by driving working people backwards.

For the working class, it’s an emergency. It couldn’t be more obvious: emergency measures are needed.

First, jobs. The previous two speakers already said it: if money were put into repairing, upgrading and providing the roads, schools and public services needed, millions of jobs could be created. But to the extent that’s not enough, layoffs and job cuts should be banned. The work that exists should be shared out among everyone, with no loss in pay. If the companies say they can’t provide the jobs and the wages, then let’s look at their accounts. If they refuse, then their whole business should be taken away from them.

Second, income. Everyone who works should have a decent wage. Everyone on a pension, Social Security, disability, and other income support should have enough to live comfortably. And our incomes should be indexed, tied directly to prices so the money we get increases just as soon as prices increase.

Public money should be spent on public services and education. Money accumulated in private accounts from years of profit should be used to provide jobs and incomes NOW. But that money has to be taken out of the hands of the capitalists who use it for themselves only.

Workers, acting together, collectively, can open up all these financial deals that are carried out in secret. All of us, taken together, can find where the money is hidden, money for jobs and wages, money in the public treasury for good schools for our children, money for decent public services.

We can show that the money is there, but we will have to fight to take it.

Having told you it’s going to take a fight, bigger than any we have ever seen, now I’m going to tell you we’re running in elections.

You and I know that voting, that elections in general don’t change things. Elections, like the rest of this political system, are held firmly under the control of the capitalist class. We see that the two big parties dominate. They’re twin parties, both serving the capitalists.

But we intend to use this election to say things that no one else is saying. We intend to use it to put forward a program based on what  the working class needs, to let working people have something to vote for that they can really agree with.

Our situation won’t be changed with a vote – we know that, and we will go on saying it. But a vote for candidates who stand for a working class policy based on a working class fight can help prepare for that fight. In fact, it is the only useful vote. When workers vote for the Democrats or Republicans, both of whom go on serving the capitalist class, that really means throwing their vote away.

It’s true, there is no fight now. And often, today, we hear people say “People won’t fight” or “When will people fight?” You’ve probably said it yourself!

But history shows that sooner or later, oppressed people rise up – whether slaves in slave revolts, workers in the strike waves of the 1930s, black people in the fight against the deep racism of this society. Working people rise up. And they fight. Sometimes for a very long time. Look at the struggle of black people, most of them workers – nearly 30 years of continuous, deep-rooted struggles, from the early 1940s to the early 1970s.

No, the problem is not, will the working class fight. The problem is, for what goals? Too many times before, when people fought, the fights were diverted, the struggles were led into a dead end. Despite gains made by the movement, finally the organizational results of the movement were used against the very people who had risen up and fought. The working class movement faced a trade union apparatus that was imposed over the head of that movement to control it, divert it, divide it. The black mobilization, including the urban insurrections, found itself facing a Democratic party that presented itself as the spokesman for the movement, absorbing some of its leaders, taming its militancy.

Both movements, which at one point had challenged the very framework of the capitalist system, were used to pull people who had fought back into that system.

That’s why we say, the issue is not whether we will fight, but what we fight for.

This capitalist class, grabbing for every drop of profit, will push people to fight. And our problem, then, will be to make the bosses pay for their own crisis; our problem will be to win what WE need, to protect our lives, the lives of ordinary people.

Where it will start, or what will impel it, we don’t know. Will it be another Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown murder; another Right to Work Legislation; another water shut off so that people can’t use a toilet or have drinking water; another attack on retirees’ pensions and health care? Or something else entirely?

We don’t know. But what we do know, is that the next time, we cannot do the same things again – make a big fight, only to hand back everything we fought for. We do know that in this next fight the working class has to fight under its own banners, for its own policy, its own program.  This time we have to fight for what we really want.

This is why we are running. To say these things that no one else is saying. To give working people something to vote for – not the lesser of two evils, but something they can really agree with.

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