United States

For the past twelve months, the spirit of revolt and revolution has swept the planet. One Arab dictator after another has fallen. The world has watched as hundreds of thousands “fought like an Egyptian” in Wisconsin. The European masses have protested by the millions against the most vicious austerity in decades. The Occupy movement channelled the frustration of a generation and sparked the imagination of millions.

On February 10, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 and the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) conglomerate announced that the company had finally agreed to recognize the union’s right to represent workers at the company’s new grain port in Longview, Washington. The announcement followed a concerted struggle by longshore workers in this normally quiet corner of the Pacific Northwest, who were accompanied by mass solidarity pickets organized by the Occupy movement.

In their relentless quest for profits, big business must continue to drive down workers' wages, benefits, and conditions—and unions are in their way! Recently, the Indiana state legislature and governor made it the first industrial state in the Northeast/Midwest to adopt so-called "right to work" legislation. This law is intended to weaken and destroy the unions. This is a warning to the labor movement!

Controversy has erupted over the Obama Administration’s directive that all employers, including religious employers, include birth control coverage in their insurance benefits. This once again reminds us that the hard-fought struggles for reproductive freedom and women’s rights in America is far from over.

We recommend a viewing of this 30 minute documentary on poverty in the USA by the BBC’s Panorama team. Millions unemployed. Millions hungry. Millions homeless. Millions without access to health care. These are the facts of life in America at a time when corporate profits, worker productivity, and income inequality are at record highs.

We all observed dramatic battles by organized labor in 2011. There were the broad militant struggles in Wisconsin by public workers responding to the vicious attacks from right-wing Republican Governor Walker. During the summer, CWA & IBEW members went on strike against Verizon. They battled against the demand for givebacks from the very profitable Verizon company. In Ohio, the labor movement mobilized its forces to repeal anti-labor laws by referendum and won a terrific victory, gaining 61% of the vote.

We republish here a graph that was originally published in the New York Times, based on figures from “The State of Working America” by the Economic Policy Institute. It covers the period from 1913 to the present, with a focus on the period after 1947. This is significant because 1947 can be considered the starting point of the post-Word War II economic boom, a period during which the capitalists were extracting so much profit from the workers that they were able to throw them a few extra crumbs. The mass workers’ movements in the 1930s and the strengthening of the unions after the war had taught them a few lessons about how to try to maintain relative class peace.

“Marx was right!” For Marxists, this is not a particularly profound revelation. We have long known that the German revolutionary's analysis of capitalism was as fundamentally sound as the capitalist system itself is fundamentally unsound. But let's face it: for decades, we've been in a small minority, fighting against the stream and against the odds. After spending a long time in the “wilderness,” that is beginning to change. The fact that the more serious capitalist economists are forced to admit the correctness of ideas they once ridiculed is an important symptom of a transformation in public consciousness./(Editorial for Socialist Appeal USA Issue 65/)

The Occupy movement has many people looking to past movements to see what we can learn from them that can help us in today’s struggles.  The period of the 1960s and early 1970s was one of upheaval around the world: May 1968, the Tet Offensive, the revolution in Pakistan, etc. The USA was not exempt from these powerful social movements. In the 1950s, the movement to end Jim Crow segregation helped to spur on movements against the U.S. imperialist war on Vietnam, large strike movements by the working class, and the movements for equal rights for women and the LGBT community.

For 30 years, American workers have been under assault. For decades, there were very few fight backs, and even fewer successes. Between 1973 and 2007, private sector unionization decreased by over 75 per cent and wealth inequality increased by 40 per cent. Strike levels fell to record lows. Politically, things shifted ever further to the right as the Democrats and Republicans fell over each other to carry out the wishes of the capitalists.

On Tuesday, November 8th, Ohio workers went to the polls and repealed Gov. John Kasich’s (R-OH) infamous, anti-union Senate Bill 5 (SB5). The lopsided 61%-39% vote represents a major victory for organized labor, which harnessed its significant resources to help achieve the victory. Labor spent $2.6 million to send out 825,000 pieces of mail, flyer over 3,000 worksites with over 4.1 million leaflets, and knocked on over 1 million doors.

Rather than wither away, Islamophobia has only become stronger as we are gripped with political and economic crisis. As with other forms of xenophobia, it functions to identity “boogiemen” in order to deflect blame away from the failure of capitalism to deliver. In this way it is remarkably similar to the function of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.

On November 2,Oakland saw one of the biggest demonstrations in years with different sectors of the working class coming together to make their voices heard and successfully shutting down one of the biggest ports in the United States. It was a clear indication that the U.S. workers are reaching the limit of what they can take. However, the media did very little to report on these actions; instead it focused on the graffiti, smashed windows and confrontations with the police that involved a small minority, a small and unaccountable group at its fringes. This is a blatant attempt to demonize the movement and to present a violent image of it as a movement headed by anarchists and


On October 25, people on the streets were confronted by hundreds of riot police launching anti-riot grenades. Plumes of tear gas rose as protesters fled from the rubber bullets of the police. The scene we have described was not in the streets of Tunis, Cairo or Homs, but occurred in the streets of Oakland, California in the United States. On that Tuesday, the police forcefully evicted the occupation taking place in Oscar Grant plaza, renamed so after the police killing of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Eve 2009 in the city of Oakland.

The mainstream media has made much ado about the fact that #OccupyWallStreet does not have a unified, cohesive message. In trying to belittle it, they smugly point out that the occupy movement is an amorphous and heterogeneous mix of people. Every shade of political opinion and ideology is present: Makhno anarchists and Ron Paul libertarians; Trotskyist socialists and New Age neo-hippies; Anonymous and Zeitgeist; atheists and hard core believers; the homeless and those who have quit their jobs to become full time protesters against unemployment.

A letter from a student at New York University (NYU), Cecillia Gingerich, who was a member of the University of London Marxist Society while studying in London in the spring of 2010. She is now a participant in Occupy Wall Street and in her letter gives a first hand account of her experience of the movement from the beginning.

Yesterday Wall Street was rocked by a mass demonstration of over 15,000 people protesting against “corporate greed.” The crowd jammed the square and stretched for blocks along Broadway. This unprecedented protest was a manifestation of the mood of anger, bitterness and frustration that has been accumulating for years in American society, which had already previously erupted in the big demonstrations and walkouts in Madison, Wisconsin, culminating in the occupation of the Capitol.

“Enough is enough! We are the 99%!” This is the sentiment being expressed by the brave youth now occupying Freedom Plaza in New York City, just a few feet away from Wall Street. This is the pent-up feeling of millions—no—billions of people around the world. Enough unemployment! Enough war! Enough poverty! Enough discrimination!