Obama in Detroit: A fighting Labor Day speech

obama speaks

Those who have not had a chance to listen to President Obama's Labor Day speech in Detroit yesterday should make it a priority to do so. It is a preview of Thursday night's speech before a joint session of Congress on the jobs crisis.

In both tone and content this was a fighting speech.

President Obama is expected to outline a program for job creation through rebuilding the country's crumbling infrastructure.

If this type of concrete initiative aimed at creating jobs for those who are really suffering is realized, it has the potential to create the basis for united grassroots movements to develop.

A new upsurge of struggle involving millions of working- and middle-class folks potentially could develop that could not only make their lives better but take the political initiative away from the right.

It's still the economy, and the president knows it.

A multiracial coalition of organized labor and civil rights groups along with millions of working families who are not in unions can be mobilized and activated in the streets, legislative halls and at the voting booth into a powerful force capable of countering the racism of the Republican, tea party Libertarian axis

In Detroit, the president made points that he has not emphasized since the campaign. He said pointedly, "Our economy's stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits."

He continued. "Our economy is stronger when we've got broad based growth and broad based prosperity."

Speaking to the need for a jobs program, Obama referred to the two parties working together last year. But, he added, if they (Republicans) don't want to work together, "we're not going to wait for them. "

In anticipation of the coming struggle, he challenged the Republicans to "prove the they will fight for tax breaks for the middle class as hard as you fight for tax breaks for the wealthy".

He spoke in support of the unionized workers in Wisconsin and Ohio. He said, "as long as I'm in the White House, I'm going to stand up for collective bargaining.

He spoke out against "right to work" laws, which are being pushed by the right wing in a number of states.

Trying to find compromise with the extreme right is like trying to reason with the politically irrational. So far those efforts by the president have resulted in concessions.

This struggle is not an academic exercise. It's a power struggle around some basic class and democratic questions.

The stakes are high. Issues like taxing the rich, single-payer health care, saving public education, Social Security, Medicare and civil rights and saving the environment are life or death issues, especially for millions of working people.

This is a struggle that cannot be won without involving masses in struggle. The president alone cannot win the fight.

The Republicans will raise hell in the Congress and on the campaign trail about the possibility of spending tax money to meet the infrastructure and jobs crisis.

This time the progressive forces will not be caught napping: besides, the left invented hell raising.

The president cannot win this battle alone, just like FDR and other more liberal presidents couldn't. That was one of the themes of Obama's Detroit speech. He called on organized labor and the people to help win this battle.

Everyone needs to hear the speech he made on Monday and gather families and friends to hear his speech Thursday night.

As Sam Webb and others have written recently, I think a progressive political storm is building in the country against the right.

Obama's speech in Detroit reflected that. Let's hope Thursday takes this fighting spirit even further.

Photo: White House

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • As HenryCT writes, the task is to organize, and mobilize-with direct action, that, as Jarvis writes, the issues involve life or death for workers, lends itself to the broad, broad, depth and area of the terrain of warriors in the coming battle for jobs, jobs, jobs.
    People's organizations, from labor, civil rights, Constitutional rights, immigrant rights, and environmental rights must do organization of those not in labor organizations-or maybe in no organizations-those in neighborhoods, fields, and unorganized workplaces.
    One of the worst things to do is "wait for" anything or anybody-including president Obama-because of the life and death issues for workers and M L K's legendary awareness of "the fierce urgency of now".
    It is time to construct timetables and set concrete goals to mount an agreed upon system of unity and action to demand this round of federal jobs-what is, as Richard Trumka says, is the "opening bid" to help put the whole of the United States of America to work, and back to work in a new, massive way-this is the people's organizations responsibility, the responsibility of the CPUSA to call for the great numbers of people to mobilize, and coordinate the fight for jobs, jobs, jobs.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 09/09/2011 12:15pm (4 years ago)

  • Talk, even "tough talk", is cheap. It's when it comes to actually fighting the Republican right that Obama invariably wimps out. He just sold out the environmental movement the other day by lowering ozone standards and is probably getting ready to sell them out again on the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline issue. We all know that Obama can give a good speech--especially when he is campaigning. I am waiting for him to actually start fighting for us in real life. Frankly, I have pretty much given up on the guy.

    Posted by John Whiskey, 09/08/2011 10:58pm (4 years ago)

  • If Obama actually beats out a fighting path - good for all of us. If on the other hand, it's lukewarm proposals, halfway measures, or less, we shouldn't be surprised. Action speaks louder than words.

    In either case we are responsible for raising the expectations of our neighbors and colleagues that people have a right to jobs at decent, union wages, people have the right to affordable healthcare, education, housing, food, peace and justice.

    Let us fully realize that the politicians in Washington, under capitalism, won't do our jobs for us.

    We are the ones responsible to mobilize people to unite, to take action to meet our needs.

    Posted by HenryCT, 09/08/2011 1:26pm (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments