Biden’s Cynical Calculations at the UAW Picket Line

The ongoing UAW strike represents a historic opportunity for the labor movement, which all workers and all revolutionary youth must vigorously support. In a new twist, Joe Biden—an enemy of workers the world over, and head of the most reactionary imperialist power on the planet—showed up in Michigan yesterday to “support” striking workers.

Biden’s appearance on the picket line is far from the norm, as many have observed. Needless to say, US presidents have historically opposed the struggles of the working class, whether through outright hostility or the appearance of mediation. In fact, no fewer than five US presidents have sent federal troops to break up striking workers. Indeed, “Scranton Joe” has been silent about the SAG-AFTRA strike all summer, and urged Congress to illegalize the railroad workers’ strike that loomed late last year.

This all makes perfect sense, since “the executive of the modern state,” as Marx explained, “is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Biden, head of the most reactionary imperialist power on the planet, showed up in Michigan yesterday to “support” striking workers. / Image: UAW, Facebook

Cynical calculations by Biden and Trump alike

However, with the 2024 presidential campaign on the horizon—and in a context of growing support for unions and growing discontent among millions of workers—both Biden and Trump are forced to cynically vie for support from union workers. This has resulted in the surreal and disgusting spectacle of two bourgeois politicians competing to prove who is the bigger “friend of the unions.”

Complete with ball cap, windbreaker, and megaphone, Biden did his best to present a convincing charade as he became the “first sitting president to join a picket line.” For his part, Trump is bailing on yet another irrelevant Republican presidential debate and heading to the Motor City to court blue-collar voters.

However, Biden’s considerations go beyond the upcoming election cycle. The president and his ilk are well-aware of the volcano of class struggle they are sitting upon, which is just waiting to explode. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 67% of Americans support unions, up from 48% in 2009, while three out of four Americans support the UAW strike.

Biden is acting on a well-known principle: keep your friends close—and your enemies even closer. If a crisis for his class is coming, in the form of a historic upsurge in the class struggle, then it’s best to get out ahead of it as much as possible.

The US working class is stronger than ever—but it needs a proper leadership

This bizarre development could only happen in a country where the working class constitutes the overwhelming majority of society, yet lacks a leadership that understands and is prepared to unleash its unstoppable potential power. There is not yet even a reformist workers’ party in the US, much less a serious class-struggle leadership.

It is certainly symptomatic of the volatile period we live in that the sitting US president feels compelled to appear to support the UAW. / Image: UAW, Facebook

It is certainly symptomatic of the volatile period we live in that the sitting US president feels compelled to appear to support the UAW strike. White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, even argued, “[Biden] is pro-UAW. He is pro-workers. He believes there could be a win-win agreement here, but he’s always going to stand on the side of workers.”

None of this is true, of course, but the White House is forced to say it nonetheless—and we can expect Trump to make a similar case.

This whole episode reflects two key dynamics:

  1. The growing class-consciousness, pro-union sentiment, anger and willingness to fight of the working class
  2. The lamentable state of the labor leadership in this country

Unfortunately, instead of explaining the absurdity of a capitalist politician like Biden claiming to “support” this struggle, UAW President Shawn Fain stood beside him and tacitly seemed to support Biden’s photo op.

Meanwhile, the liberal “socialists” over at Jacobin magazine, true to form, are gushing about the supposed “power … of a US president standing shoulder to shoulder with striking workers.” This is an astonishingly bad conclusion to draw from this calculated circus act. Nonetheless, it is par for the course for people whose role is to inject pessimism and confusion into the workers’ movement. The role of genuine socialists is to explain that Biden is a class enemy and that the working class needs its own party—not to foment illusions in collaborating with the capitalist Democratic Party and thereby “pressuring” Biden to support the struggle.

All of this goes to show why we need to build a genuine mass communist party, with branches in every workplace, union, campus, and working-class neighborhood—a task which the International Marxist Tendency has begun.

  • Victory to the UAW workers!
  • For a mass communist party!
  • Down with Biden, Trump, and the entire capitalist system!

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