Class struggle trade union caucus
Below is a revised version of our original bulletin. Although we did raise the demand for a workers government in paragraph 4, we had advanced the workers party slogan in two other places without stressing the need for a workers government. It was also rightfully brought to our attention that the workers party slogan did not really clearly define what type of working class party we are calling for. We are certainly not calling for a reformist labor party that will apply patches to try to fix this bankrupt economic system of capitalism.
Class Struggle Bulletin #1 – Rank-and-File Fighting Union Caucus (Eastern Iowa)
Iowa labor leadership gearing up for the Democrats in 2012
as the working class and oppressed face capitalist austerity…..
We need to build class struggle rank-and-file committees that will
defend the unions and build a fighting workers movement!
Break with the Democrats/Republicans!
For a workers party that is irreconcilably opposed to capital!
For a workers government!
As capitalism reels from its worst crisis since the Great Depression, the working class, the Black/Brown communities, immigrants, women, the poor, students, the elderly…..all are under attack as the capitalist ruling class ratchets up the rate of exploitation and rolls back the social gains of previous struggles. In the Midwest a series of labor struggles have gone down to defeat: Wisconsin and Indiana, the Roquette lockout in Keokuk, the Building and Trades strike in Iowa City. And right now 1,300 American Crystal Sugar workers have been locked out since August, 2011.
What we are witnessing in America is the decimation if not the outright destruction of the organized labor movement along with broad attacks on all sectors of society. Private sector unionism is at 6.9% while the public sector (37%), the last bastion of organized workers is under heavy attack. And what is left of organized labor has been atomized, with the traditions of labor solidarity and militancy largely destroyed by insipid legalism and political support to the Democratic Party and electoral politics. The servile, sellout union leadership has truly done their job well as the “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class”.
The union tops main focus is electoral politics and lobbying at the same time as they push “share-the-pain” concessions. Support for the capitalist Democratic Party permeates down from the highest AFL-CIO/Change to Win Federation officials through to the lower echelons of the union bureaucracy. And when they are not supporting the Democrats, then it is usually the Republicans, but not always. In 2000, United Electrical endorsed anti-immigrant chauvinist Ralph Nader, who was the candidate of the “for a kinder, greener capitalism”, middle-class Green Party.
Our independent rank-and-file union committee calls for the complete political independence of the working class from all capitalist parties. We call for the creation of a multi-racial class struggle working class political party based on the principle that labor and employers have nothing in common that will educate, organize and lead the working class and the oppressed to fight the ravages of capitalism and for a workers government. The workers movement was built through hard class struggle and can only be defended through class struggle, not pro-capitalist political parties no matter how liberal or “progressive”. Decades of support for the Democrats has done little but bring organized labor and the working class as a whole to the brink. It doesn’t work.
Even many leftists are incapable of politically breaking from the Democratic Party as they provide a left cover for the Democrats. Local Iowa City Leftist writer Paul Street uses left-radical Howard Zinn’s arguments to justify political support to Obama in 2012 in a recent online article:
“…..the radical American historian Howard Zinn put it well in March of 2008…..
“…..Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes – the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth…But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice…. Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore…..” – (Election Madness – Howard Zinn)
…..What you do or don’t do on Election Day is a tiny matter compared to what we can and must do together to build left movement capacity and presence beneath and beyond the major party, candidate-centered, and mass-marketed election spectacles.”
Reflections on the Quadrennial Extravaganza – Paul Street
One problem with this is that Mr. Street and Mr. Zinn muddy the political waters about the urgent need for the political independence of the working class. This article also presents a liberal, classless perspective of protest pressure politics on the Democratic Party (i.e. a militant form of political lobbying) and not a working class political program of struggle. Not to mention that in the real world it is never just about two minutes in the voting booth. A little political support quickly turns into one whole hell of a lot of political support, especially for labor:
“Labor appears squarely back in the Democrats’ corner for the 2012 election — pushed there in large part by Republican attacks on collective bargaining rights for public employees……
…..Organized labor is now expected to match or slightly exceed the estimated $400 million that unions spent to help elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008, according to Marick F. Masters, a business professor who studies the labor movement at Michigan’s Wayne State University…..
…..One of the biggest unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, plans to put in as much as $100 million this year — money that will largely benefit Obama and other Democrats at the local, state and national levels……”
Unions return to Democratic fold for 2012 election – LA Times
And this is not even foremost about the money. Labor leaders are not talking about organizing the unorganized or even their membership for anything but primarily the Democratic Party and elections. Union resources, energy and time are going to political parties that are engaged in capitalist austerity, attacks on the Black/Brown communities and immigrants and waging imperialist war abroad. But most importantly, this is impeding and destroying working class consciousness as the Democrats are presented as the solution rather than the organized power of the workers. A clear working class line in the sand needs to be drawn over the question of supporting the Democrats.
There is virtually nothing that the Democratic Party could do that would break the labor tops’ sacred bond with the Democrats. Former Iowa Democratic Governor Culver furloughed state workers. And recently President Obama was mobilizing the Coast Guard for military strike-breaking against the ILWU Local 21 Longshoremen’s struggle in Longview, WA. Our union leaders are supporting an open strike-breaker for the 2012 elections!
Locally the Johnson County AFL-CIO central labor council officials of the Iowa City Federation of Labor are winding up for the 2012 political season which is “critical”. This is the same old “sky-is-falling if we don’t elect Democrats” rhetoric of every election season. The union officials of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFSCME, SEIU and UE-COGS already had an early start by trying to mobilize union members to canvass for Democratic Iowa Senator Liz Mathis in the special November election. And the leadership of UE-COGS, the University of Iowa Graduate Student Teaching Assistant union, while certainly more dynamic than the other union leaders, are also jumping on the 2012 Democratic Party bandwagon:
“What has happened in Wisconsin and Ohio has set an example for what right-wing corporate Republicans want to do. It shows how difficult it is to do anything after the fact of elections. But unlike Wisconsin and Ohio in 2010, where a harsh anti-union agenda was not a part of the Republicans’ election campaigns, here in Iowa we now see what is coming and will not be taken by surprise. A line has been drawn in the sand and I am cautiously optimistic that it is a fight that we can run on, we can win, and thereby continue to protect our union rights. We will be gearing up for this fight in the 2012 elections.”
Labor Win in Iowa State Senate Race: What It Means
Political Action Chair for UE Local 896-COGS
Chapter 20, Iowa’s Public Sector Collective Bargaining Law, is under threat. Governor Branstad wanted to revise it in 2011 in such a way as to make it so much worthless paper and ink. But campaigning for Democrats is not going to defend the rights of workers or any of the oppressed. In fact, the mass outpouring of support for the Wisconsin labor struggle that won sympathy from broad layers of that society was derailed and defeated by the union leadership’s diversion into the impotent Recall campaign. Collective bargaining for most public sector workers is effectively gone in Wisconsin. This was a major defeat for American labor. The sentiment for a General Strike that existed was dissolved into support for the Democrats. What was required was mobilizing workers for massive strike action. A much more difficult task to be sure, but there was no other way.
Iowa’s public sector collective bargaining law was passed by a Republican Governor and Senate in the context of illegal teacher strikes at the time. This is what we need. Some good old-fashioned working class struggle. The Longview ILWU Local 21 Longshoremen’s struggle against EGT in Washington points the way forward. This is the type of struggle that built the unions in the first place.
“What’s the alternative?” Gerald McEntee, AFSCME president, told the Washington Post in October about supporting the Democrats. The labor tops truly have no solution to the crisis of capitalism but the same old song-and-dance. Our rank-and-file caucus does have an answer to that question.
We need to build independent, organized, rank-and-file class struggle caucuses and committees in the unions based on a clear political program of class struggle in opposition to the misleaders of the union bureaucracy. These caucuses/committees need to fight for leadership of the unions and labor organizations to build a fighting workers movement. No concessions! Organize the unorganized “wall-to-wall” ! Break with the Democrats/Republicans! For a class struggle workers party that will fight for a workers government!
Our union/worker caucus is looking for a few good worker militants willing to fight for a political program of struggle, both within the local labor movement and among the unorganized. Join us!
*** Organizational affiliation for personal identification purposes only
Unofficial, independent Rank-and-File Fighting Union Caucus composed of individual members of SEIU Local 199*** and AFSCME Local 12***. Our caucus platform was developed in consultation with public workers in Iowa (SEIU 199 & AFSCME 12), California CDPH (CAPS, AFSCME & SEIU 1000 members) and California SF Superior Court (SEIU 1021) members & retirees.