On Wednesday, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality hosted an informational meeting in the Michigan League to teach students about the upcoming protest against General Motors, a company that has been a source of layoffs in Detroit since the decline of the auto industry in Michigan.
The International Youth and Students for Social Equality is an on-campus club established in 2007 as a student organization of the Socialist Equality Party. The party has taken a stance against the exploitation of the working class and against war since their national founding in 2006.
In the beginning of the informational session, attendees were provided with a information sheet detailing the effects of the GM plant closures. The sheet explained that while GM is making billions in profit, the white-collar workers they employ are being eliminated and their communities are being torn apart.
“Workers in the US, Canada, Korea and Brazil are thrown into the streets, their communities are destroyed, and the profits they produced are handed over to the financial aristocracy which lords over society,” the paper stated.
Alex, a member of IYSSE who asked only to be acknowledged by her first name, then introduced how the GM closures affect workers and how a socialist point of view could benefit the working class internationally.
“Our goal is not to appeal to the capitalist executives who fundamentally oppose the interests of the workers,” Alex said. “Rather, it is an initial step to mobilize the working class who creates all of society’s wealth based on its own social strength.”
She also encouraged students and faculty in the session to attend the rally being held at the Detroit General Motors plant on Sat., Feb. 9 in support of the workers being laid off.
“We encourage everyone in the meeting to attend the rally,” Alex said. “The February 9th demonstration is truly a world historic event. It is a part of a global resurgence of a class struggle after decades of its oppression by the trade unions. … The rally is being led by workers for workers.”
She then introduced Sam Wood], Information junior and president of IYSSE at the University of Michigan. Wood echoed many of Alex’s sentiments, and began by speaking about five main aspects the IYSSE brief would explain throughout the session. This included details on the GM closures, class struggles internationally, the breakdown of capitalism and why this all connects to students and young people.
“This (the layoffs) will be devastating to auto workers and the surrounding communities,” Wood said. “In November of last year, GM revealed plans of laying off 15,000 workers in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.”
Wood also mentioned similar job cuts occurring at other automobile companies around the area.
“Similar cuts have been announced at Ford Motor Company where they plan to eliminate the second shift in the massive Flat Rock, Mich. plant which would be wiping out more than 1,000 hourly jobs,” Wood said. “This is coinciding with Ford’s announcement in 2018 that they will carry out a global restructuring plan which will result in the loss of 25,000 jobs.”
Wood also explained the effects of plant closures are not isolated. Instead, contingent industries are hurt and international losses cause disastrous effects worldwide, he said.
“The ripple effect of the closures will be seven to nine times the number of workers being laid off,” Wood said. “This is due to job cuts at supplier plants, trucking companies, restaurants, and other service industries, and this means any from 42,000-54,000 jobs will be wiped out.”
Wood also mentioned the lack of aid provided by unions both in the United States and internationally to the working class.
“Unions have collaborated with the auto-companies for decades and are destroying jobs and attacking the wages and conditions of workers and are doing nothing to stop the plant closures,” Wood said.
Lastly, Wood addressed the role socialism plays in providing a chance for the working class to collectivize and defend themselves against capitalist exploitation.
“We are calling for workers to fight for industrial democracy, workers control of production, and the transformation of GM, Ford, other auto-giants and public enterprises to be democratically controlled and collectively owned by the working class,” Wood said.
Alex then moved the discussion through introducing the effective struggle and strike of Maquiladora workers that has resulted in their needs being heard
“These are workers that work 12-hour days, six days a week, for nine dollars a day,” Alex said. “The workers realized that by mobilizing their own forces, they could improve their conditions.”
LSA junior Alexis Doreste attended the event as a member of IYSSE because many of the events happening the United States remind him of how his home, Puerto Rico, plunged into poverty.
“I heard about the giant layoffs happening throughout the Midwest area and this all reminds me of my home, Puerto Rico, and the things that led to the poverty rate that exists there right now like corporate subsidizing, layoffs accumulating and a shift to relentless capitalism,” Doreste said.
Italian language lecturer Roberto Mosciatti came to the session because he was interested to see the practical implications of his studies in political theory and capitalism.
“I was curious about what is happening in Detroit and part of my theoretical work involves themes of capitalism, socialism and globalization so I was curious to see some of my ideas’ practical implementation by taking into account concrete struggles,” Mosciatti said.