Dear capitalists and friends of capital,
You threw the world into financial collapse in 2008. In the intervening years, through “too big to fail” excuses, austerity programs, union busting and deficit fear mongering, you’ve managed to burden workers with the task of mopping up your sorry mess. By dint of extraordinary sacrifice, despite the demoralizing anxiety of massive unemployment, we have met most of your demands, mostly peaceably. Your profits are safe and the stock market has rebounded, even if our retirement savings, job security, and benefits packages haven’t.
Fair is fair, after all, so here are our demands. Here are the rudimentary protections that workers expect from the employers they enrich with their labor and the government they empower with their votes:
1.) Tax the rich. The more you own, the more you owe. The more you benefit from “market-oriented” policies, the more you should pay to help those whom the same policies force into conditions of poverty and precarity. We demand a progressive income tax that progresses all the way to the top, with commensurate increases in estate and capital gains taxes, the revenue to be allocated to public education, job creation programs, and the social safety net.
2.) Jobs for all. Everyone who can work-regardless of race, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status-has a right to a job with fair pay, security, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. No more using high labor costs to justify exporting oppressive labor practices; no more passing off part-time, low-wage jobs as a solution to the unemployment crisis; no more blaming workers and their unions for your unwillingness to create jobs. No more scabs, no more lock-outs, no more intimidation. We demand that wages and hours be determined on a sliding scale: wages increasing with prices, and hours varying (without reductions in compensation) to ensure full employment.
3.) People before profits. Food, water, energy, shelter, education, and health care are basic human rights whose distribution cannot be governed by market considerations. We demand that these sectors be re-organized on a worker-owned or state-run basis. Furthermore, we demand an end to the privatization of national security, military operations, and the prison system: areas where for-profit firms are guilty of shameful abuses of human rights and civil liberties.
If these needs can be met under the current economic organization of the United States, we encourage you to meet them. Our program is not only just, it is eminently rational. It will curb dangerous financial speculation, level out the income inequality that makes real democracy impossible, and build a healthy, prosperous, and highly innovative nation of workers who will make American industry the marvel of the world-not only for its productivity, but for its fairness and sustainability.
If these needs cannot be met within the current mode of production-as I suspect they cannot-then they are revolutionary demands for a new economy, and a different mode of production. In that case, we welcome your collaboration in building a better world, but we do not require it. The working class will see to it that these needs are met, one way or another, at the ballot box, on the picket line, and in the street.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels claim that “[the capitalist class] is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to the slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him rather than being fed by him… [The existence of this class] is no longer compatible with society.” Prove Marx and Engels wrong, or the workers will prove them right.
Here’s hoping, and working, for the latter!