Faced with unemployment, poverty and huge budget cuts, millions of workers and radicalized
young people across the globe are organizing numerous mass movements and campaigns against big business. We saw the half-million strong demonstration of the trade unions in Britain in March, the repeated general strikes in Greece and Portugal, the mass demonstrations in Ireland and Iceland, and the magnificent movement of the Wisconsin working class in the beginning of the year in the U.S. The new movements include the indignados who are now occupying public squares and parks in Spain, Italy and Greece as well as the emergence of UK Uncut, which has staged coordinated mass mobilizations and protests exposing big businesss tax evasion in Britain over the past year.
US Uncut is a grassroots movement that has led over 300 actions nationwide since February of this year, concentrating their fire on ExxonMobil, General Electric, Bank of America and Citigroup all of which paid a grand total of $0 in federal income taxes last year! On June 4, US Uncut as preparing for a protest dance-in at Apple stores to protest the fact that Apple pay[s] 85% less than they should in taxes while the public services we all depend on get the axe, according to the organizers.
Inspired by the growth of UK Uncut, US Uncut has launched direct actions against corporate tax cheats, linking them with the massive public service cuts across the U.S. by both Republicans and Democrats, from Washington all the way to the state level across the country.
US Uncut highlights the fact that nearly two-thirds of U.S. corporations dont pay any income taxes, abuse tax loopholes and practice massive offshore corporate tax evasion which accounts for up to $1 trillon in lost tax revenue every decade. The group demands an end to corporate tax evasion. If just the top banks, oil and coal companies actually paid the I.R.S. corporate tax rate of 35%, they would be giving back $62 billion this tax season: almost double the current $38 billion in proposed federal budget cuts. While these giant corporations are raking in huge profits and evading taxes, they also spend millions in lobbying to make sure that politicians in both political parties protect these corporate interests.
While the scope of the grassroots protest movement in the U.S. has not reached the level of widespread publicity of UK Uncut, they have begun to reach a wider audience of radicalized people. In the absence of an organized opposition movement from the unions, there is definitely room for movements like these to grow as opposition to cuts intensifies. As in the U.K., US Uncut has helped expose the lies from the mass media and the government that there is no alternative to cuts.
US and UK Uncut operate without structures, on the basis that anyone who wants to can organize a protest. This has advantages, making it easy for people new to protest to organize an event through Facebook or websites. However, it also has limits. There is clearly a need for a democratic forum where activists can meet and discuss proposals for new actions, take decisions on strategy and allocate responsibilities, following through on decisions and linking up with other movements. Without organization and democratic structures there is no way for activists to learn lessons and for the movement to develop with democratic accountability.
US Uncut claims to be a horizontal movement without leaders, simply using social media and direct action to defeat the attacks. While sharing the view that an energetic mass movement can defeat the cuts on the local or national level, there is a limit to what can be achieved though facebook and other social media. We need a presence in our communities, colleges and workplaces. We need events where we can invite new people to participate in building the struggle and where they can learn and be integrated into the movement.
Socialists advocate linking student and community direct action and protest campaigns with the unions especially in the public sector. We advocate using demonstrations, occupations and strike actions to fight the cuts. The enormous potential power of the working class can be seen in the revolutions unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt and Tunisia, the dictators
were forced to flee when the working class came out on strike and threw its weight behind the movement. In Wisconsin, an escalation of strike action by the workers, starting with a 24-hour general strike of the public sector in the first instance and escalating with actions throughout the Midwest, would have been the most effective way to defeat the anti-labor measures of the right wing there.
It is not enough just to expose corporate greed. We also have to broaden the movement to challenge the power structure in our society. Speaking at a US Uncut rally against Bank of America at Union Square in New York City on April 15, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for Truthdig.com Chris Hedges made a brilliant speech that laid bare how our problems are linked to the very essence of capitalism in this period of deepening crisis:
We stand today before the gates of one of our temples of finance. It is a temple where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others. … The financiers, the bankers, the corporate mandarins and the leaders of our two major political parties, all of whom profit from this system … take from us our rights, our dignity and thwart our capacity for resistance. They seek to make us prisoners in our own land. … Human suffering, wars, climate change, poverty, it is all the price of business. …
And after looting the U.S. Treasury these corporations demand, in the name of austerity, that we abolish food programs for children, heating assistance and medical care for our elderly, and good public education. They demand that we tolerate a permanent underclass that will leave one in six workers without jobs, that condemns tens of millions of Americans to poverty and tosses our mentally ill onto heating grates. … It is what the god of the market demands.
Socialists campaign for the rich and big business to pay their taxes. But as Hedges points out, the god of the market, capitalsm, demands a system based on the exploitation of the majority in order to maximize the profits of a few. Big business and Wall Street will fight tooth and nail, using their control of the mass media and their political system against regulation and taxation. To be effectively implemented, even the demand for the rich to pay the taxes they owe would require the complete nationalization of the banking and finance industry. A recent study pointed out that ten banks in the U.S. now control 60% of the economy. Left to themselves, the capitalists will find a thousand and one loopholes to escape measures to control them.
In a recent column on Truthdig.com, Chris Hedges points out:
And no one in the Congress, the Obama White House, the courts or the press, all beholden to corporate money, will step in to stop or denounce the assault on families. Our ruling elite, including Barack Obama, are courtiers, shameless hedonists of power, who kneel before Wall Street and daily sell us out.
Hence the need to link our demands to stop corporate tax evasion to a socialist program to bring the big banks and other huge financial corporations into public ownership, to be run by the vast majority of society. To achieve these demands will require that we build a new independent political organization that represents workers, young people and the poor.