Why We Need a Campaign for Economic Rights

The CER has two main objectives; firstly to develop and strengthen the immediate struggles against the government's program of slashing vital social investments and secondly to demand that the basic economic needs of people be met.

The Campaign aims to unite the people on the basis of a positive program -- a program which provides real solutions to the pressing economic problems and helps open the path for the progress of our country. The basis of our program is that every human being, simply by virtue of his/her humanity, is entitled to certain inalienable economic rights -- has the right to food, clothing and shelter, has the right to a secure job or a livelihood at a level commensurate with the degree of development of our society, has the right to income security in retirement or loss of capacity to work, has the right to comprehensive, free medical care, has the right to the best possible education from infant care through the university. The CER holds that it is the elementary responsibility of society and government to provide ironclad guarantees for these rights.

Why do we need the Campaign for Economic Rights? We need the Campaign for the simple fact that these elementary rights are denied the people and because, today, even the few social programs gained by workers over decades of struggle are under attack. We should not need such a Campaign, but we do.

It shouldn't have to be said that in our country, where the people have created an advanced, modern economic base, tens of millions of people are denied the basic necessities of life. It shouldn't have to be said that in a country which is capable of producing enough food to feed practically the entire world, some 50 million people, including 25 million children, live in poverty and do not get adequate nutrition. It shouldn't have to be said that millions are Americans are unemployed and tens of millions can only find part-time or temporary jobs. It shouldn't have to be said that in a country with such a large network of hospitals and health care facilities, with an army of trained health care workers, tens of millions of people are denied access to adequate health care.

The very fact that we have to say these things is a condemnation of the present state of affairs. Precisely because the government officials, those responsible for public affairs, refuse to say or do anything about these things, we -- workers and people -- must speak out and shoulder the responsibility to change these things.

But this is not all. Rather than working to solve these glaring contradictions, rather than putting the vast resources of our country at the disposal of human beings, the government is consciously and systematically making things worse.

Government is shredding the limited social safety net and literally denying millions of people the most elementary conditions necessary to maintain even a bare subsistence. For example, under the new so-called welfare "reform", the Illinois government is denying vital nutrition to children by refusing to provide additional cash assistance for a child born to a family already receiving welfare. Elderly and disabled immigrants are being cut off from SSI, which in most cases is their only means of support. Federal and city governments are boarding up public housing units and simply throwing families into the street, as well as denying housing assistance to millions of qualified low-income, working families. Government is forcing Medicare and Medicaid recipients into managed care plans where they are denied vital medical care. And the list goes on.

How should we judge these actions? If, for example, you go to a bar, drink too much, get in a fight and accidentally kill someone, you will be charged with manslaughter. How then should we judge government officials who cut off assistance to poverty-stricken children, knowing full well that this will result in a higher infant mortality rate, that this will prevent normal physical and mental development, in higher incidence of disease and so forth?

We need the Campaign for Economic Rights to resist and fight the government program which every day is destroying people; we need the CER to demand immediate relief for the poverty-stricken and most vulnerable, to demand that everyone is guaranteed the means of subsistence including food, shelter and clothing, needed medical care and so forth. And still, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We must look at the direction in which things are going. The monopoly capitalist class and the government are carrying out a thoroughly anti-social agenda, which is reaching into every aspect of the life of our country. The new welfare laws are slashing funds for the poverty-stricken and most vulnerable; Medicare and Medicaid are being cut; there is a push to privatize the public schools and even to privatize Social Security, etc.

By imposing this thoroughly anti-social agenda on our country, the capitalists themselves are forcibly raising the issue WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY? Every day we hear the same refrain from the politicians. Everything must be left to the so-called "free market;" the individual must fend for herself or himself; government has no responsibility to guarantee the economic rights or well-being of the people. Last fall at the UN's World Food Conference the U.S. government delegation came out against a resolution which recognized that people have the right to food. The U.S. government took the same position a year earlier at the world housing conference, declaring that people did not have the right to shelter. In commenting on their position, U.S. government officials said they were afraid that by recognizing such a right, the government would be obligated to take certain actions to guarantee it.

How can it be said that society -- the social environment into which we are all born -- has no role to play in guarantying the conditions necessary for an individual to live and develop? Take the question of the right to a livelihood; inn today's world, the individual cannot secure her/his livelihood by hunting or gathering for herself or himself. On the contrary, we live in a modern economy based on a vast social division of labor. What is more, the tools of society -- the means which we all need to transform nature and secure a livelihood -- are already monopolized by a handful of capitalist owners. Thus, from the time of birth, the working class -- the vast majority of the population -- is disenfranchised, denied the means to guarantee their livelihood. Today, aside from millions of unemployed workers, there are tens of millions only able to find part-time and temporary jobs, and practically every worker lives with tremendous job insecurity, worrying about what will happen when her/his company downsizes and restructures. In fact, it can be said that for the vast majority of people, job and economic insecurity is always a major pre-occupation.

When the U.S. government denies the human right to food and shelter, or the right to a secure livelihood, it is really saying that the means of subsistence must remain monopolized by the rich and powerful, by the capitalist class, and that the masses of people cannot even lay claim to the elementary conditions necessary for survival.

The Campaign for Economic Rights is needed not only to struggle against the anti-social agenda but to give our reply to WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY?, to come forward with a vision and a program for a truly human society which guarantees the inalienable economic rights and well-being of every human being. The level of development of our country, as well as the entire history of our people, who have, from the beginning, fought to create a society which guarantees equal rights for all, demands that we go forward. The fact that tens of millions of Americans are denied their most basic rights is bad enough, but it is absolutely barbarous when we remember that our country has all the resources necessary to guarantee the well-being of everyone. Human society has reached the point where we are capable of leaving behind the dark ages when the main pre-occupation was with physical survival and economic necessity. What is blocking the way forward -- what is keeping the people from realizing their inalienable economic rights? It is only the power and privilege of the capitalist owners. It is the fact that the health care system is organized with the motive and aim of maximizing profit, rather than insuring the health of the population, which is the problem; it is the fact that the capitalist class monopolizes the tools of our country and sets the economy in motion solely with the aim of maximizing profit, which prevents millions of workers from having a secure economic existence.

The CER insists that human beings have claims on society, have rights, on the basis of their humanity and not on the basis of their wealth and property. The issue is that we must assert these rights, we must claim them through struggle against the power and privilege of a few. And we must claim them by coming out together. The CER says that each of us can only realize her/his economic rights by asserting these as human rights which belong inherently to everyone. We are saying that these individual rights can only be secured by asserting our collective rights, especially the right of the people to determine their social and economic environment.

Today the capitalists insist that there are no collective rights which belong to the whole people. They actually say that there is no society and that there are only individuals and individual rights. Of course, what they mean is that there must only be "rights" for the individual owners of private property in the means of production and that society must be governed by the law of the jungle, must be an arena in which the rich and powerful prey on everyone else.

In my view, the capitalist class and the anti-social agenda are attacking everything that makes us human, and in particular trying to deny altogether the basic facts of human existence and of the modern world -- to deny its social character, to deny our common humanity. And it is this humanity which we cannot let them suppress; it is this humanity which we must stand up and claim.

Claiming this humanity means that the working class must lead the way in coming forward with a pro-social agenda that recognizes and guarantees the rights of all the exploited and oppressed, of all humanity. There is no other way that we can emancipate ourselves and no other society to which we can aspire. Despite the relentless propaganda of the capitalists, the workers are not like the capitalists -- we do not live, nor do we want to live, by exploiting others. On the contrary, our entire existence and our deepest aspirations are bound up with our social existence. Who does not want to create and live in that kind of society which guarantees the blossoming and development of every individual, the development of the humanity of all?

The immediate challenge facing the working class is to bring such a pro-social agenda into the political arena and contend with the capitalist class over the direction and future of our country.

Such a pro-social agenda must assert the inalienable economic rights of the people and insist that the guiding line of the economy must be to guarantee the well-being of the people. Such an agenda demands that government make the vitally needed social investments to guarantee the rights of the people.


Claiming Our Economic Rights

Every human being, simply by being human, is entitled, by right to:

* Food, clothing and shelter.

* A secure job or guaranteed livelihood, commensurate with our country's high level of development. This includes the right to income security in the event of old age, loss of capacity to work, etc.

* Free, comprehensive health care.

* Free education at all levels, from infant care through the university.

Since everyone is born into society and lives only in and through society, it is the elementary responsibility of society and government to create conditions necessary to guarantee these inalienable rights for everyone.

Recognizing the above, we, the undersigned, are determined to assert and claim our inalienable economic rights. To this end we will help build the Campaign for Economic Rights as a vehicle for uniting the workers and people and empowering them in the struggle to assert their economic rights. We will take part in the immediate action program of the CER, which includes,

  1. Initiating and joining in struggles to demand immediate relief for those denied their economic rights, including struggles to demand jobs and income-support, access to health care, etc.
  2. Demanding that government, at all levels, make the vitally needed social investments to secure and guarantee the economic rights of the people.
  3. Developing a big campaign to mobilize public opinion and bring people into the struggle to claim all their inalienable economic rights.

Anyone interested in joining in this work can contact the Campaign for Economic Rights by calling (312) 409-1127 or writing to: CER, P.O. Box 25716, Chicago, IL 60625