Gary Walkowicz, Working Class Party candidate in 2020 for Michigan's 12th Congressional district, spoke at the party's convention on June 26th, 2022. A video recording and the text of his speech follow below.
Two years ago, during our election campaign of 2020, we talked to many people about all the crises that the working class was facing and how workers could make a fight to address those crises. We stand here today in 2022 and we can talk about many of the same problems for the working class, except that these crises are even worse today. And in 2022, there are new crises.
Today, as the corporations continue to raise prices every day, the government tells us that the official inflation rate is over 8 percent, which is the highest it has been in the last 40 years. The real inflation rate for the working class, the prices we pay for the essential things that we need to live – food, gas, housing, transportation – is certainly much higher than 8 per cent. Gas alone has gone up more than 100 per cent.
This inflation is a direct attack on the standard of living of working people. Every single day, when corporations raise prices and our paycheck stays the same, every single day we are falling farther behind. Every single day our standard of living is going down. It is the same as if our bosses were cutting our pay, day after day after day.
To buy anything, we have to have a job. And there are 800,000 fewer jobs today than before the Covid pandemic stated in 2020. The government tells us that the unemployment rate today is under 4 per cent. But when people say that figures don’t lie, but liars can figure, they are talking about the government’s unemployment report. The government deliberately doesn’t count millions of people who want to work, but don’t have a job. They fail to count millions of people want to and need to work full-time, but they can only get part-time or temporary jobs. And if there are companies today saying that they have jobs available and need more workers, the truth is that these companies pay wages
that are too damn low for people to live on. If a job doesn’t pay you enough to live on, that’s not even a real job. If we look at the labor participation rate today, that is, if we look at the percentage of working age people who have a job, that percentage rate is lower today than it was before the start of the recession of 2008.
When we campaigned two years ago, in 2020, we were in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Who would have thought that two years later, in 2022, that hundreds of people would still be dying of Covid every day? How is it possible, that in the richest country in the world, that we have one of the highest death rates in the world? We have the highest death rate among all the most developed countries in the world. How is this possible? It is possible because for decades the public health care system in this country has been stripped of the money it needs. During both Republican and Democratic administrations, public money has been taken away from public health care and this money has been given to the banks, to the corporations, and to filthy rich people who use it to speculate on Wall Street. The result of this theft is that, as of today, over one million people in this country have died of Covid -- most of them ordinary working-class people. They were our elders, our friends, our neighbors and our family members. The number of people in this country who have died in the two years of the Covid pandemic is about equal to all the soldiers from this country who died in the Civil War, World War One and World War Two – all 3 wars COMBINED!
Another casualty of the Covid pandemic has been the education and the social development of our children. They lost a year or more when schools were closed down and they never had the opportunity to regain what they lost. It was the children of the working class who suffered the most. It was our schools that were closed because they were not equipped to have children there safely. The same way public money has been taken away from public health, it has also been taken away from public education. When Covid hit, public money could have
been put into the schools to equip them to have children there safely. But the ruling capitalist class, and the politicians who serve them, instead continued to funnel money away from public needs and put it into the pockets of the wealthy. Corporate and bank profits have soared during the pandemic.
A crisis that continues for the working class, especially for the black population, is the issue of police brutality and murders by cops, many of them clearly racist. Our campaign in 2020 came during the year of massive protests that followed the video-taped murder of George Floyd. Millions of people went into the streets in thousand of cities across the country. These protests forced the authorities to prosecute the police in a few cases. But the cops continue to kill working-class people. In this country, an average of 3 people are killed by the police every single day. A large proportion of them are young black men, but they are also white, Hispanic and Native American.
Another crisis is the move to the right that we see in this country. Two days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, meaning that for many millions of women it will now be against the law for them to choose to have an abortion. Women are being told that they no longer have the right to control their own bodies. This ruling is especially aimed against working class women who don’t have the same options to seek an abortion in another state. But this new legality is also part of a bigger picture; it is part of a move to the right in this country. And when we look at history, we know that any move to the right, legal or otherwise, is ultimately aimed against the working class. A growing right-wing movement is a threat to the working class.
Today, in 2022, the working class is also facing a new crisis, and a new threat to our future – the threat of war. Today it is the people of Ukraine, especially the working class of Ukraine, who are the immediate victims of war. They are the ones dying and made refugees from the war in Ukraine. This war is a result of Putin and the Russian regime starting a brutal war of aggression, invading Ukraine, in response to decades of aggression by the U.S. government and NATO against Russia. The Ukrainian people are caught in the middle. And so are the Russian people who are paying the price for the economic sanctions and whose young men are being drafted into the Russian army. Today the U.S. government keeps this war going by sending billions of dollars, week after week, to supply weapons to the Ukrainian government. The people of Ukraine and Russia pay the main price for this war. But the working class here also is paying a price. It is our money, public money that could be used for public needs here, that is being used to continue this war. Just as it is our money, public money that could be used for schools and roads and public health care, but is instead used to fund the U.S. military budget.
The military budget of the U.S. government is many times bigger than any other country in the world. This military budget is used to pay for an aggressive policy where the U.S. government sends troops and builds bases in 75 countries, all for the protection of the interests of U.S. banks and corporations around the world.
The working class here pays the price for this. We pay for the money that is used to protect the profits of U.S. capitalists. And the working class here, and around the world, will pay an even bigger price if the war in Ukraine escalates into a bigger war. We will pay a bigger price if the U.S. government and the other capitalist governments bring us to another world war. Today the war in Ukraine has a very big risk to pull us into a bigger war in the future.
So what we see today is – a standard of living that is being lowered every day; schools and roads and infrastructure that are deteriorating; a health care system that can’t protect people from a pandemic; a growing racism and threats from the extreme right wing; wars and the threat of bigger wars – this is what the working class is facing today.
But as the working class faces these crises, the working class also has answers to these crises. That is what we have to say, that is what we will talk about in our campaign for the Working Class Party in 2022.
The first thing that we have to say is that the working class cannot solve these crises by looking to the very people whose system caused these crises in the first place. We can’t look to the politicians, either Democrat or Republican, politicians who govern this capitalist system only for the benefit of the capitalists. When we petitioned to get the Working Class Party on the ballot in 2016, we said that the capitalist class has their two parties, we said that the working class needed its own party. That is true today, more than ever.
In our campaign in 2022, we will say to those workers that we are able to reach, we will say that the working class has simple, direct answers to the crises we face. In order to catch up with what we have already lost to inflation, we need immediate wage increases. We need wages that can provide a decent living for us and our families.
To keep up with inflation in the future, when prices go up, our wages should go up – immediately. When prices go up, pensions and social security should go up – immediately.
The money is there to provide all the essential services that people need. The money is there to provide good health care for all people, to have good schools for all children. The money is there to fix the roads, bridges, water and sewer systems. Today that public money is taken away from public services and is given to the banks, the corporations, and the Wall Street speculators by way of tax breaks, subsidies and grants. The money is given to military contracting companies. But the working class can take the money back. We can take the money that our labor produces and we can use it, not for corporate profits or war, but for our own needs.
All of these things can happen. But it will only happen when the working class recognizes that we have the power to address the problems and the crises we are facing. We make everything run, and we can make everything stop. Look at what happened when a few truckers blocked the Ambassador Bridge. What would happen if millions of workers use that power? Not only can we make everything stop, we can also use our power to change the whole society, to organize and direct the society to make it work for the benefit of all people. These are the things that we want to say in our campaign for Working Class Party.
We also want to say to people that the working class cannot make the kind of fight that is needed if we are divided. The capitalists use every means to divide us. They exploit the whole working class, and further exploit the black population. White workers have to see that we are all part of one working class and can’t allow the capitalist class to use racism to divide us. We also can’t let them divide us in any other way – not native-born workers against immigrant workers, not men against women. All working people have the same enemy – it is our bosses. And the whole working class has every reason to make a fight together against these bosses.
We know that an election campaign is not a fight. We know that voting in elections is not going to change things. But today we can use elections as a way to reach more people, to discuss more widely and bring these ideas to the working class. Nobody else is saying what we say. We use elections to say these things to more people.
We know that for the working class to make the kind of fight that is needed, the working class will need its own political party to organize that fight. We know the Working Class Party that we started in Michigan is not that kind of political party today. But we can use the Working Class Party as one way to help the process of building the party that the working class needs.
It is important that the Working Class Party exists. We are the only ones using elections to say the truth – that the working class has its own class interests. We are the only ones saying that the working class has its own power and that we can only depend on ourselves to solve our problems. That’s why our campaign for the Working Class Party in Michigan, Maryland and Illinois is important.