Apr 25

SPMI Statement on the Rising Michigan Home Foreclosures

Home foreclosures nationally last year rose 42% to a record of .54% of Americans with a mortgage facing foreclosure in the last quarter of 2006. According to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, Michigan, along with Indiana and Ohio, is now leading the nation in foreclosures with a foreclosure rate of 2.39% and a delinquency rate of 7.87% in last year’s final quarter.

Last January alone 11,554 Michigan homes were foreclosed upon – one for every 366 houses in the entire state. In only one year, this amounts to a 147% increase. Facing the highest levels of foreclosure in the state are the working class communities of Wayne County; the county which encompasses the city of Detroit. In January Wayne County reported 6,653 home foreclosures or one filing for every 124 households – a 50% increase from only the previous month. Currently in a number of Detroit neighborhoods, more than half of the homes on the market are foreclosed properties. Even in the relatively more affluent neighboring counties of Oakland and Macomb, the rate of foreclosures has risen 338% and 108% respectively in the past year.

The national rise in the rates of foreclosure have largely been attributed to the explosion in recent years of predatory, and often fraudulent, sub-prime lending practices in which lenders have intentionally confused working class borrowers with low-credit about the amount they would ultimately owe and encouraged them to take out loans far beyond what they could afford.

In Michigan in particular, however, the recent explosion of foreclosures is symptomatic of the state’s economic fall-out resulting from the race to the bottom of its top employers. Since 2001 Michigan has lost 336,000 jobs. Over 40% have come from layoffs by automakers and automotive suppliers resulting in the loss of one in three Michigan plant jobs since 1999. Following the Ford Motor Company’s decision to eliminate 40,000 union jobs, the Chrysler corporation announced plans to cut 13,000 North American jobs followed by a threatened sell-off of the company. In the same month of March, pharmaceutical conglomerate Pfizer announced plans to shut down its Ann Arbor research facility and export 2,100 Michigan jobs

While Michigan workers bear no responsibility for their executives’ reckless business decisions or the endemic crises of the profit system, it is Michigan workers who are forced to sacrifice their livelihoods while each of the executives and major shareholders of these companies walk away with millions, if not tens of millions of dollars. Neither the state of Michigan nor the United States as a whole provides any kind of social safety net on par with even the rest of the developed capitalist world. While our ruling class can reap short-term profits from these lay-offs, wage-cuts, and foreclosures, the Michigan workers who created the wealth lining their coffers are now threatened with poverty, unemployment, and in many cases homelessness.

The Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) has recently introduced a proposal calling on Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm to exercise provisions of the Michigan Constitution which would allow her to declare an emergency moratorium on home foreclosures and plant closures and lay-offs. While we fully support these demands, we also recognize that they will be unable to find any expression through the Democratic Party which is nothing less than an instrument of the class responsible for these escalating social disasters. The Socialist Party calls for an immediate end to home foreclosures, a 100% capital flight tax on all corporations and capitalists who attempt to leave the state and unemployment compensation at 100% of a workers previous income for the full period of unemployment or retraining. We further call for the automotive industry and pharmaceutical industry to be placed under public ownership and worker control and for the nationalization of the banking industry in the interests of human needs rather than private profits.

Reliance on corporate politicians or the dictums of union bureaucrats is a dead-end that can only result in increased betrayals and the escalation of attacks on the rights and living standards of working people. The only avenue for reversing this decline, much less establishing a social safety net, is a movement of mass strikes, direct actions, and independent political mobilization by Michigan’s working class.

Sep 14

SPMI Statement on the Detroit Teachers' Strike


The Detroit Federation of Teachers, influenced by deteriorating conditions and a long term educational effort by militant rank and file teachers, recently took an heroic stance in their two week long strike against the Detroit Public Schools district management, a gang of liars and manipulators and wasters of money. The teachers said very clearly that, regardless of any court orders and injunctions, they WOULD NOT go back into the schools until there was an acceptable contract agreement that was then ratified by the membership. And so, even after a court injunction against them from supposedly “liberal” judge Susan Borman to return to the classrooms during negotiations (an age old ploy to weaken strike struggles and disunify strikers), the teachers held strong and remained on the picket lines.

Many rank and file teacher spokespersons are comparing their struggle to the US civil rights movement, the fight for Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi, the Underground Railroad, the union struggles of the 1930’s, and the American Revolution itself. They are saying clearly that unjust and oppressive laws must be broken, violated, disobeyed. That this is a well established American tradition; a right and DUTY in order to defend Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These rank and file leaders are absolutely right.

Then, during a secret, closed negotiation “meeting” on September 11th, the union President and executive board were bullied and threatened by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick ( a notorious would-be union buster, privatizer, and corporate servant), by “liberal” governor Jennifer Granholm, and by a host of other “dignitaries”, and they tentatively approved what is reported by rank and file spokespersons to be a contract proposal that is filled with concessions and surrenders that will continue the hostile and crisis ridden reality for teachers and students in the Detroit school system.

This is unacceptable, pure and simple, and many Detroit teachers saw it that way, said so, and voted as such at the mass teachers’ meeting on the night of Tuesday September 12th, even though the union brass tried time and time again to close debate before everyone, especially militant rank and file leaders, had said their piece. Rank and file militants made it clear that teachers have fought too long to let this concession ridden contract go through now, and that it would only make their problems and the problems of students and the community worse. However, many teachers at the meeting, a SLIGHT majority, felt that if the strike went on they would be intensely up against the whole political machine/corporate media/repressive apparatus in their struggle to get a just and livable contract. They obviously felt, tragically, that the proposed contract was about as good as they were going to get, and so the next day the teachers went back into the schools, awaiting a formal balloted vote to soon be completed.

We of the Socialist Party of Michigan feel that the slim majority of teachers have more than likely made a serious error here and that the arguments of the militants should have been given more consideration by them. But it is not our call. It is up to the teachers themselves. And given the array of forces against them, and the cowardly surrender by the “leadership’ of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (and the silence of the other “leaders” of other unions, whose main occupation for years has been ramming concessions down the throats of their own members), the rank and file teachers can’t be fairly seen as having been too timid themselves.

The stark fact is that in order for teachers or any other workers to make significant gains in this day and age there is going to have to be a deep going sea change in the nature of the unions, peoples’ movements, and the political/attitudinal orientation of social struggles. It’s going to take the united, militant, class struggle motivated mobilization of THE ENTIRE LABOR MOVEMENT (made up of fully democratic, mass, rank and file controlled unions), THE WORKING CLASS IN GENERAL, THE COMMUNITIES AT LARGE, all progressive social activists and forces, students, the poor and unemployed and all popular layers of society working together and in tandem. If there was going to be a real victory for the Detroit teachers, these kinds of multiplied forces would have had to come to their aid and support. Only then could the majority of teachers have felt strong enough to persevere as they fought on against the anti-labor atmosphere that permeates today’s society. Otherwise, some kind of sell out or concession contract was almost inevitable. And so it happened.

However, even though it only went so far this time, the Detroit teachers have provided an example, in mild form, that unions and workers everywhere must begin to emulate, extend, and deepen— We must build the forces to massively violate the anti-union, slave-labor laws of this country, such as Taft-Hartley. TO HELL WITH INJUNCTIONS AND COURT ORDERS! Picket massively. Shut down struck facilities. KEEP SCABS OUT! Carry out support strikes, secondary boycotts and hot cargo agreements and actions. OCCUPY STRUCK FACILITIES. DEMAND THAT CORPORATIONS AND ALL EMPLOYERS OPEN THEIR BOOKS TO THE WORKERS. NO BUSINESS SECRETS! If they’re really “too poor” to meet just worker demands, let’s see the evidence. If the capitalists and their fellow travelers in the social services can’t run things in a rational manner, LET THE WORKERS CONTROL THINGS THEMSELVES!

And do it all regardless of what judges, two faced union hacks, politicians and police and so on say. If the system cracks down, attacks people, jails people, fines unions, accuses them of being “criminal enterprises”, etc., for fighting for their rights, then CALL GENERAL STRIKES and bring the whole country to a standstill. MAKE ANTI-LABOR LAWS UNENFORCEABLE. Write our own labor law in the streets. We’re a long way from all that, but every example, even modest ones, help to make the point over time.

But business as usual thinking and acting among union officials will not carry out such a militant approach. ONLY RANK AND FILE CONTROLLED UNIONS AND STRIKE COMMITTEES, taking part only in COMPLETELY OPEN NEGOTIATIONS, will have a chance of carrying the day. NO SECRET NEGOTIATIONS! And only complete solidarity, in MILITANT DEEDS, not just words, involving the whole labor movement, can bring to bear the muscle to back it all up.

The days of concessions and give backs and surrenders must now be over, for all workers everywhere. IT HAS GONE TOO FAR! IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE STARTED AT ALL! Ultimately the whole working class — skilled, and “unskilled”, union and non-union, employed and unemployed, white and blue collar, industrial, service and agricultural, public and private sector, the homeless, marginalized, and super-poor. — must be united and become organized and mobilized to fight back and take back/create anew what is ours by right: Decent employment at good living wages/salaries, good health care for all, full union rights and the full right to strike, full democratic rights, real economic democracy and workers’ power, decent and safe neighborhoods, GOOD AND FULLY-FUNDED SCHOOLS, an end to imperial wars of conquest, good and affordable housing for all, and a host of other basic HUMAN RIGHTS.

It will all take a huge, massive struggle in this country to get these things. It will take the spirit and militancy of the 1930’s and the 1960’s combined to even have a crack at it. But we can do it if we unite and fight together and don’t give up or give in. The Detroit teachers have given us a courageous and heroic example of where to start. Let’s join with them and with all working people everywhere.


Sep 08

SPMI Statement on Proposal 2: the Michigan "Civil Rights" Initiative

On November 7th Michigan voters will be asked to decide on a state Constitutional amendment to eliminate much of the still grossly insufficient progress that has been achieved in recent decades in the ongoing struggle against the systems of institutional racism and sexism. The deceptively named Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will not only eliminate all public sector affirmative action programs in the state of Michigan, but will also likely eliminate gender specific services such as women’s healthcare. The MCRI is the Michigan version of the 1996 and 1998 California and Washington Civil Rights Initiatives, all three of which have been led by millionaire businessman Ward Connerly. The MCRI is supported and funded by a litany of corporations, millionaires and white supremacists from right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch to the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The consequences in California and Washington have been devastating with drops in minority representation wherever the proposal took effect, particularly in employment and education. After the California initiative passed, dozens of employment programs pertaining to minority and female recruitment, appointment, promotion, transfer, training, and career development were immediately eliminated. Similarly educational and financial aid programs for women and minorities were abolished and minority enrollment in Washington and California universities has rapidly declined. Despite the fact that Michigan’s college-age population is nearly 20% African American, African Americans compose only 5.9% of the student body at the University of Michigan, even with the meager affirmative action programs that exist today. Judging by its effects in other states, the University of Michigan successfully argued in the 2004 Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, the elimination of affirmative action is expected to cause minority enrollment to drop by an additional 75%.

Like the anti-gay marriage amendment of 2004, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is yet another attempt by capitalists and extreme reactionaries to divide the working class in the struggle against its common oppressor and to rollback the victories against systematic discrimination that it has achieved. The Socialist Party of Michigan calls for the expansion of affirmative action programs and the establishment of reparations in both the public and private sector as part of the struggle to abolish the real system of racial preferences in our society: the statistically indisputable white privilege that remains omnipresent throughout all of our institutions. We call on all Michigan workers to unite against this proposal and continue the struggle for the social equality