Socialist Party of Michigan Statement on the U.S. Automotive Bailout
Adopted Unanimously at the SPMI State Membership Meeting on January 10th 2009 in Detroit
The tenuously averted collapse of the U.S. automotive industry directly follows the arrant exposure of sheer parasitism and insolvency that now characterizes the hegemonic financial sector of advanced capitalism. While coinciding with news of Toyota’s 1.7 billion dollar financial setback and first operating loss in seventy years, the American automotive industry’s looming threat of extinction is no mere consequence of the reverberating effects of the financial crisis, but every bit as much a contributing cause.
Despite compounding efforts, in recent years, to uproot its organized workforce’s most hard-won historic gains, today’s highly mechanized; overproductive, internationally developed automotive industry can no longer encapsulate the same labor value within each individual vehicle it markets, as once was the case. Such endemic losses in the real economy of good and service production present a catalyst not only to the vast financialization of advanced capitalism, but also the increasing detachment and predation of its commanding speculators…
Such realities are no less evident in the markedly divergent responses the owners of the U.S. automotive and banking industries received from U.S. federal government to their requests for bailouts of fourteen and seven-hundred billion taxpayer dollars, respectively. While ultimately the financial sector directly received virtually the whole looting it demanded with approval from both corporate parties in Congress, as well as massive added bonuses from the Fed, the comparative clout of the leading U.S. auto executives was sufficient for access to the federal purse only upon a protracted allocation by the White House following the Senate’s purportedly rejecting deference.
No such political figures, however, were any more inclined to examine the automotive industry through class-neutral lenses. Instead, both opponents and reluctant supporters of the auto bailout in the Senate, many of whom had been most vehement about passing the preceding financial bailout as a “clean bill” free of any executive pay caps, feigned the most fervent of moral indignation against UAW workers’ audacity in their decades of struggle to ultimately retain just under 1/4th of the value that their labor alone contributes to automobile production revenues.
Although, in contrast to the financial sector, the political reach of the automotive industry is not far enough to constitute a compelling force in each such, disproportionately southern, Senator’s state, all such Senators were keenly aware of their own states’ corporate linchpins’ commonly held interest in vanquishing the model gains automotive workers have collectively achieved and sustained, and casting them into forgotten history. In the objective of such Senators, a bailout of such an increasingly informidable manufacturing industry could only be tolerated if accompanied by a sweeping assault in the class struggle.
Reflecting the consensus on such a sentiment, among all interested parties, in so far as it pertains to automotive workers alone, the Bush regime, with full support from Obama, attached the auto bailout agreement to the appointment of a “Car Czar” whose function is to dictatorially impose the forms of “restructuring” necessary to ensure the solvency of the industry in accordance with the White House’s established “guidelines.” In addition to massive operations cuts, estimated to result in the rapidly forthcoming elimination of tens of thousands of more Michigan jobs, both inside and outside the automotive industry, the guidelines established for the Car Czar’s implementation and enforcement include further drastic cuts to automotive workers’ wages and supplemental unemployment benefits, the ability of GM to pay half of its already reduced “VEBA” health care obligations in company stock rather than currency, and the declaration that UAW compensation arrangements must be made competitive with non-union ‘transplants’ of Asian and European auto manufactures operating in the United States. Moreover, the Car Czar has final say on any renegotiated labor agreements, holds the power to nullify new and existing contracts by sentencing the companies into bankruptcy, while the UAW, by the same threat under the agreement, is prohibited from going on strike!
The provisions to the automotive bailout and despotic powers granted to the wholly unaccountable “Car Czar” are an unprecedented assault on the most fundamental labor protections and civil liberties of all workers in every industry. Not even did the 1947 Taft Hartley Act present such a danger to the right of working people to organize and struggle collectively at the point of production as this agreement, to which the most numerous and affected grouping involved had no say in its ratification. While the former allows for the President to temporarily order striking workers back to work, this agreement establishes an arrangement and future precedent in which the U.S. President, in collusion with union workers’ corporate bosses, can indefinitely eliminate workers’ right to strike, collectively bargain, or maintain the benefits they had long before already successfully achieved.
The Socialist Party of Michigan calls upon all Big Three automotive workers to militantly organize against this agreement and to strike, occupy plants, and take whatever other action may be necessary to resist any such attack by corporate capitalists or the capitalist state on the most irrevocable rights of every person who works for a living. We further call upon all working people outside of the auto industry to walk off the job at any point automotive workers at any of the Big Three find the need to do the same in defiance of the same capitalist state that asserts its rule over all of us – officially throughout the U.S. and in practice throughout the planet.
As with the entire financial sector, the Socialist Party of Michigan further calls for the immediate socialization of the automotive industry under public ownership, democratically determined macro-economic planning, and workers self-management at the point of production. Such a socialization project should not be limited to automobiles themselves, but should be incorporated into a massive nationally coordinated and community-based transportation utilities program. Such a program would maintain and re-hire the entirety of the existing and laid-off automotive plant and engineering workforce for ecologically attentive projects ranging from the development of electric and renewable-fueled automobiles, major improvements to the efficiency, range, and sustainability of existing public transportation systems, the widespread development of foot and bicycle paths, and the development of nationwide high-speed railway systems ultimately connecting all major cities throughout the United States.