General Gordon Baker, Jr., a co-founder of Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, spoke briefly on the impact that robotics was having on particularly the black workers in the auto industry in Michigan. This segment was part of a longer interview done by “Chicago John” Hough and posted in September 2011.
As far back as the “turn of the century,” in the early 2000s, having organized the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, General Baker along with Nelson Peery, had been warning that the introduction of robotics and artificial intelligence into the point of production, was going to lead to several processes in political economy that would tend to “break capitalism” and decimate our working class.
What Gen is talking about in this video is the tendency to create a permanent class of people pushed outside of production and marginalized to a point where the family’s quest is for “survival, plain and simple.” This process began with the black workers in auto, and spreads outward from there. Everywhere the marginalization process in U.S. communities of the 21st century has begun with black workers, and workers of color generally.
“And lo and behold, Chicago, by the time we finished most of those battles, then we’re confronted with this thing where uh, where all the robots began to enter the plants. And all the work that you’d done to advance your cause, and the tactics for jobs and things, are now being eliminated in mass by robots. And uh, the whole struggle for equality in the workforce, been transferred to the struggle for survival. Survival, plain and simple because we got, we not no way, we got no way to live.
“So that poses the question we got now. Really, I mean, without jobs, how we supposed to live? There are no jobs on the horizon. But does that mean, does a job mean, that’s your ticket to livelihood? I mean, you can’t live without a job? Is that, is that the kind of contradictions in the world we fighting for? Uh, because it’s clear to us now, that the robots were so much more productive than we were, so they don’t need us in the workplace.
“So now we gotta pose the question about, how we gonna live, in the current world? So you’re talking about a real change in the system that we’re living under, and the people’s perspective of it. I mean, a job has been a, it’s used as a discipline in the family. You know, the kids get old enough, you say, ” get out and get a job!” Now, how you gonna do that now, when there ain’t none?
“You know I mean, so this whole question of jobs, and how we live, what kind of society we’re gonna have, and who got a right to live and who doesn’t? Who can eat, and who can have a home and who can’t? All those questions are being thrown into–it’s a moral question, that we got to deal with. And even though we fight to resist the attacks that are put upon us, we gotta have, kind of a vision of, what kind of a world do we want? You know, what direction we want to go in?”