From the Editors
As we head into the final stretch in the 2008 presidential elections,
America’s workers are living with uncertainty. The economy continues to
slide into crisis. Millions are losing their jobs, their health care,
their homes. Millions more have already been plunged into one level or
another of poverty. The financial system is shaky. People are afraid
and demanding change.
Those of us who are struggling for a decent life must ask ourselves,
what has held back the process of improving our lives, and what do we
need to do to move the process forward? The answer is simple to say,
but can be hard to do: We have to stop thinking with the ideas of the
corporations that run this country and start thinking for ourselves, as
workers. We have to break the ties that bind us politically to the very
people who are eliminating our jobs, cutting our wages and benefits,
and driving us into poverty.
It’s critical that we see the elections in their historical context.
That context is the profound changes in the economy that have occurred
over the past 40 years. Computers and robots have been brought into the
production process in a big way. More and more production is carried on
with little or no labor, and millions of jobs have been permanently
eliminated or reduced to part-time, contingency or low-wage jobs. A
whole new class of dispossessed people is being created—millions who
are cast out of the economy and are struggling to survive on little or
no work—while at the other end of society, a tiny class of billionaires
and the corporations they control amass huge fortunes.
Last year, the ranks of the richest Americans included 482
billionaires, with a combined wealth of over $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile,
one American in three had a net worth of less than $10,000 in 2004. As
poverty has grown, the economy has been kept afloat with credit
extended to businesses and workers, and with speculation in areas like
real estate. Now that the real estate bubble has burst and the economy
is sliding into crisis, millions of people face losing what little they
There is no question but that these labor-replacing technological
changes will transform our society; the question is who will control
the transformation, and in whose interest will society be changed? In
the hands of the workers, the new technology can help us build a
society of abundance, free of poverty and fear. In the hands of the
corporations, the new technology means more wealth for the few and more
poverty and fear for the many.
The corporations have been successful over the years in promoting the
notion of America as a classless society, where we all have the chance
to make it, or even to get rich. But the ongoing destruction of jobs
and our standard of living is opening people’s eyes. The workers are
beginning to see that, no matter how hard they work, their lives and
their families are being destroyed through no fault of their own, and
neither the corporations nor the government are doing anything about it.
People with a program and a vision of what’s possible can bring about
change. The key is getting ideas out to people, so the workers can see
what kind of society is possible and start thinking for themselves. In
the battle for the minds of the people, the elections are a forum where
this dialogue about change can go on. We must stand on the demands of
the dispossessed, the demands of those who are being stripped of what
they have and plunged into poverty. Because they are fighting for life,
they cannot compromise, and they are forced to fight for a new society
that will serve the needs of the workers. Their struggle will point the
way forward for all of us.