Gary Walkowicz: Speech: WCP Convention

At the Working Class Party convention a year ago, we talked about all the different crises that the working class was facing. Today we could stand up here and say many of the same things that we said a year ago, because today the same crises continue – with this difference, today, the situation is worse than it was a year ago.

The Covid crisis has made worse many problems that already existed for the working class – starting with the problem of low wages and high unemployment. The level of unemployment today is still much higher than it was before the Covid pandemic began. The capitalist bosses are claiming that it is our fault, that they can’t find enough people to fill the jobs because people don’t want to work. Lies! Lies! Lies! Start with the fact that many people still can’t work because of Covid-related health issues and the lack of childcare. And for the people who can work – yes, people don’t want to work – not for the low damn wages that they want us to work for, wages too low to provide a decent living for us and our families.

The Covid crisis made worse the problem of education for the children of the working class. Schools in our neighborhoods were already overcrowded and underfunded, never provided with enough money so that working class children could get the education that they deserved. When Covid hit last year, the government would not spend the money to build more schools and provide more classroom space and provide ventilation systems that could have let children continue their education in-person. Our children had to stay home, losing the social interaction that is vital to a child’s development. Children instead got a very limited online education, and they got that, only if parents had the means and the time to help their children, things that are much more difficult for working class parents. This year, the bosses wanted our children back in school, mainly so that their mothers would come back to work, but they still haven’t spent the money to make the schools safe, instead just suggesting or mandating masks. So now our children are back in school, and the bosses and politicians try to have us divided, arguing with each other about whether to mask or not mask; when we should be all sticking together, asking them, why isn’t money being spent to make the schools safe for children so they can be educated together without masks.

This year, the same crisis of global warming and climate change that we talked about last year is getting worse, or at least more obvious. In Michigan, in just the last two months, how many times have our basements flooded and the freeways been submerged and our power has gone out? We have lost food, furniture, household goods and even cars, none of which we can afford to lose. Across the country and around the world, every week and even every day we are seeing floods, wildfires and droughts, killing people and impacting the lives of tens of millions. It is the working class which suffers the worse effects of climate change. The wealthy who run society have the money to live wherever they want, away from floods and fires; the working class doesn’t have that option. The wealthy class build mansions for themselves that are stronger and safer to withstand storms, and if they suffer damage, they just build another mansion. The working class doesn’t have that option.

Last year, the working class, and especially the black population, came out to deal with issues of racism and police brutality. Police murders of working-class people, especially young black men, have been going on for decades. But after the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd was recorded on video, millions of people went into the streets to protest. But it tells you something when it took these massive protests across the whole country just to force the prosecution and conviction of one individual cop. Even after Derek Chauvin was charged and convicted, police killings of working-class folks and young black men have continued. It’s clear the problem is not just a few rouge cops, but something wrong with the whole system itself.

And, of course, overshadowing all these crises during the last year has been the Covid pandemic itself. A year ago, in 2020, we were hoping that by 2021 we would be out of this crisis and things would be back to something more like “normal.” And yet here we are in September of 2021, a year-and-a-half since the pandemic started, and people are still dying of Covid and all of our lives are still disrupted, especially in the working class.

The bosses’ capitalist system completely failed when confronted by the Covid virus. In previous decades, they had decimated the public health care system, taking public money away from health care and handing it over to banks, corporations and wealthy investors. When Covid started, they did not spend money on widespread testing and contact tracing and training more medical staff, the things that could have slowed down the spread of the virus.

Medical science knows how to address deadly viruses like Covid. Today, the knowledge and technology exists to rapidly develop vaccines that can protect against viruses and drastically reduce death and serious illness. But in this capitalist system, profit always comes first, profit comes before the health of human beings. Pfizer and the other drug companies did not develop the vaccines until they were assured of massive profits. And even today, many countries in the world have only gotten small amounts of the vaccine. These countries could produce the vaccine themselves. But the drug companies and the governments of the wealthy countries won’t let them, because they want to protect the profits that are tied to the patents of big pharma. The result is that Covid continues to spread in other countries, and the more it spreads, the more chances for it to mutate. And so today, the more contagious Delta variant, that developed in India, is now infecting people in this country.

Around the world, over four million people have died. In this country, over 650,000 people, that is one in every 500 people, have now died from Covid. The people who run this capitalist system have completely failed to use the wealth and resources of society to contain the virus. But instead of taking responsibility for their failure, they instead try to put the blame for the spread of Covid on unvaccinated people.

The vaccines, at least so far, do seem to be mostly safe and effective and the majority of the population has gotten them. But there are still many people, mostly in the working class, who have hesitated to get vaccinated. In rural areas and in large cities, many people don’t have access to doctors, good medical care and medical advice. Many people don’t trust what they are being told by the government and by profit-hungry drug companies. Who can blame them for that? Instead of trying to address these problems – by making sure people have information they can trust, and by providing easier access and paid time off work to get the vaccine, instead of solving these problems – Joe Biden turns the problem upside down and wants the vaccinated part of the working class to put the blame on the unvaccinated part of the working class.

But the working class should be placing the blame where it belongs. The people who run this system have had 18 months to contain Covid. And they have failed. And it was the working class that has paid the biggest price. We were the ones doing those essential jobs. Without having access to enough protective equipment, nurses, meat-packing workers, agricultural workers, grocery store workers and many other workers died. And it was our elders, crowded into under-staffed, cost-cutting nursing homes, who died.

The working class has paid the price for the system’s failure to contain Covid. Just like it is the working class that has paid the price for the capitalist system’s failure to provide decent-paying jobs for everyone who wants one. It is the working class and our children paying the price for our failing schools. We are the ones paying the biggest price for climate change. And it is the working class that is paying the price for a system that promotes and encourages racism and police brutality.

But if the working class is the victim of all these crises, it is also the working class which can find the answers to deal with these problems. The answer is not to look to the very people whose system caused all these crises. The answer is not to look to the politicians running the system that is responsible for these problems. The answer for the working class is this: We have to recognize that we are all part of one working class -- black and white, women and men, immigrant and native-born, vaccinated and unvaccinated. We have to recognize that our interests as a working class are different from those of our capitalist bosses and their politicians.

The answer for the working class is to recognize that we have the power to address the problems and the crises we are facing. Workers are the big majority of this society. We make everything run. That gives us power. Not only can we make everything stop, we also have the power to reorganize the whole society, to make it work for the benefit of all people.

But to do that and to organize that kind of fight, the working class needs its own  political party.

We know that the Working Class Party that we started in Michigan is only a pale hint of such a political party. We know that voting in elections is not going to change things, only a fight by the working class can do that. But we also know that we can use elections in order to be able to discuss more widely the power that the working class has. We know that we can use elections in order to say that the working class has different interests from the capitalist class and that the working class needs its own political party. We know we can use elections to say that the working class has answers to the problems and crises we face.

In Michigan, the Working Class Party ran 3 candidates in 2016; we ran 11 candidates in 2018; and we ran 12 candidates in 2020. The Working Class Party ran a candidate in Maryland in 2020. Candidates who support the Working Class Party platform have run in Chicago and Los Angeles. We are looking for more candidates to run in Michigan and elsewhere in 2022.

The more candidates that we run, the more chances we can say what needs to be said. The capitalist bosses and their politicians have the money and the media behind them, telling lies to the working class, telling us we have to depend on them to solve our problems. That is why it is important that the Working Class Party exists. We are the only ones right now saying the truth -- that the working class has its own class interests and its own power; and that the working class can only depend on itself.

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