As long as one person exploits another, class struggle will exist. Right now, teachers are fighting against unsafe schools, railroad workers are threatening a strike, Starbucks workers are unionizing, coal miners and bakers are on strike. Besides this, socialist electoral campaigns are finding renewed energy as more people become fed up with the boss duopoly. Austin DSA co-chair Ana P. reports on the situation in the following speech.
By Ana P.
The following was adapted from the opening speech given at Austin DSA’s January 2022 General Meeting.
I am grateful to be here with you today as a member of the largest socialist organization in the country, and one of the biggest member-led organizations in Austin that shows up to fight for the wellbeing of our community.
As we get closer to the two-year mark of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on every social system in the country, it is clear that our Democratic administration is generally apathetic to meaningful legislation that could improve the material conditions of working people in this country.
Teachers are being forced back into schools without any safety plan, renters previously protected by eviction moratoriums are being forced to pay back rent that totals in the thousands, and hospital workers are overwhelmed by an influx of omicron patients and a worsening staffing crisis. Even after almost two years to prepare, convenient and free testing remains a headache for average people and the CDC takes cues from big business to cut the recommended time workers isolate in half. We can’t trust Democrats to fight for legislation like Build Back Better or voting rights, we have to run and challenge their seats.
Socialists across the country are heightening the contradictions between what Democrats promise and reality as they run for office at all levels of government, including three of our own endorsed candidates, which we’ll be hearing more about later. It is clear that if we want real representation in government, we have to build an organization that can develop, support and do the hard work of electing socialists to office.
Electoral campaigns like the ones we’ve endorsed not only give us a chance to get out in the community and talk to people about our socialist vision, they help us train comrades and build out our organizing muscles. If you have been wanting to get involved but don’t know how, coming out to a canvass or a phonebank is the perfect opportunity to meet comrades and learn through struggle.
But we also know that our representatives’ power comes from the community. The scope of the transformation we are fighting for requires a mass movement, and the main leverage our movement has to force capitalists and their politician lackeys to take us seriously is our labor.
Across the country, workers are starting to recognize their collective power to transform their conditions at work. We’ve seen thousands of unionized workers go on strike, and even more talk about the possibility as part of negotiating a better contract. Roughly 1,100 of Alabama’s UMWA coal miners have been on strike since April of last year after Warrior Met slashed their pay, raised healthcare costs and required miners to work 7 days a week up to 16 hours a day. Railroad unions are coming together to threaten a strike against freight giants, teachers across the country are walking out and demanding a safe work environment and thousands of municipal and county workers have authorized strikes in Portland, Oregon and Hennepin County, Minnesota.
But it’s not just union workers. 1100 workers at a Hershey plant in Virginia are filing for a union with BCTGM, and dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have filed with Starbucks Workers United. Here in Austin, restaurant workers at Via 313 staged a protest against management after they unjustly suspended four workers and won.
There are so many ways for socialists to get involved in these fights, from showing up in solidarity when our comrades demonstrate against their shitty bosses to making phone calls or knocking doors for our class-struggle candidates.
We’ve seen what we can do as a chapter when we come together! We defeated the right-wing, reactionary police budget expansion, Prop A. We helped pressure the City Council to defund the police by $150 M. We elected a socialist to the DA’s office and City Council, and passed a local Paid Sick ordinance alongside Houston and San Antonio. Even when the state has blocked our victories, we know they rely on undemocratic control to do so and that eventually working class power will overcome them
Local Republicans and establishment Democrats are already scared of us, let’s make the Greg Abbotts and Joe Manchins of the world shake in their boots.