Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Trumka and the AFL-CIO leadership endorse Obama. Workers have no voice once again

The best democracy money can buy
I should be elated. I got a personal email from Richard Trumka, former UMW (United Mine Workers) official and now president of the national AFL-CIO. I would like to think that Trumka sent this to me because it's very dynamic and will surely have an impact not just on US politics and the working class movement but it will inspire workers throughout the world as it forces the bosses to run for the exists to use Obama's Afghan phrase.

But you know that's highly unlikely and you're right. . It is stunning though, that Trumka or the AFL-CIO executive can be so detached that they expect the average worker to give their recommendations any serious consideration. Trumka tells me that this afternoon, the AFL-CIO Executive Board voted to endorse a Democrat for President of the United States. Their candidate of choice is Barack Obama.

“The bottom line is this.” Trumka's e mail to me states. "As president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America's working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we're putting our faith in him." The AFL-CIO president wants me to pledge to support Obama and “other working family candidates: http://labor2012.aflcio.org

The militants atop the AFL-CIO admit that they have, "sometimes differed" with Obama but have, "never doubted his commitment to a strong future for working families. With our endorsement today, we affirm our faith in the president. We  pledge to work with him through the election and his second term to restore fairness, security and shared prosperity."

It is hard to imagine where this security, shared prosperity or fairness is coming from as all indicators point in the other direction. The head of my former Union, Gerald McEntee of AFSCME who is a member of the AFL-CIO executive board earns in the region of $500,000 a year so I guess he might have a little more faith that these goals are actually reachable.

It is stunning when you consider the following comments from the top official of organized Labor in the United States: “Brothers and sisters, the coming election is a choice about values. President Obama honors the values of hard work, mutual respect and of solving problems together--not every person for himself or herself.” Incredible isn't it?

Trumka tells me in his e mail that,"each of the Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, has pledged to uphold the special privileges of Wall Street and the 1%". But Obama and the DNC pulled in $15.6 million in  contributions from the financial and banking sector up to last October, "more donations from the financial and banking sector than any of Republican hopefuls", the Washington Post pointed out. I'm sure there has been much more flowing his way since.  Obama even did better than Romney on his "own turf," collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital. Cornell West, the respected black academic referred to Obama as, "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”.

Trumka's reasoning is that I should support Obama and the Democratic Party because he bailed out the banks with our money. Also, he has created health insurance reform that will, "set the nation on a path toward the health security that had eluded our country for nearly 100 years." Says Trumka.  Will it now? I recall the "peace dividend" that we were supposed to be receiving after the collapse of Stalinism and the cold war. That has worked wonders hasn't it? And why do we need a middleman, an insurance company to provide health care? What a waste of resources.

We should support Obama, Trumka adds because he "insisted on Wall Street Reform" which will lead to the end of the deregulation begun under the Democrat Carter and continued through Reagan to the present. Bill Clinton and the Republicans repealed Glass Steagle in the late nineties. But where regulation has been in place, even in some key areas including the financial industry, the regulators simply did their job; they ensured no regulations would hinder the right of capital to seek the highest rate of return unfettered. In the case of the BP spill for example, the government agency responsible for the overseeing of deep sea drilling operations and rules handed this responsibility over to the oil companies that do the drilling.  Talk about the fox guarding the hen house. And regulators and government watchdogs really did a good job at the Massey mine didn't they?

Trumka tells me that the above are some of the "key" reasons workers should support the Democratic Party, a party of Wall Street and its candidate for president of the United States. They will funnel, as they always do, hundreds of millions of dollars of our hard earned dues money in to this campaign. Hundreds if not thousands of staffers will be assigned to the campaign, people you'll never see in the workplace. Thousands of rank and file Union members will walk precincts, make phone calls and register voters to elect this Wall Street candidate. The money wasted runs in to the billions over the years.

There are many other reasons we should support Obama Trumka writes but doesn't elaborate. Perhaps he means the $30 billion, Obama spent on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (one million dollars per person. Remember the "surge”.) Perhaps the open and vocal support Obama gave to the folks in Wisconsin when he walked the picket lines there calling for a rapid victory and the removal of concessions from the negotiating table would be a reason---maybe, if he had done it.

Perhaps Trumka is referring to Obama's public condemnation of the US gulag, the prison industrial complex that imprisons two million Americans, over 50% of them people of color.  Obama's outspoken criticism of the racist US justice system has been well documented-----hasn't it?

Of course it hasn't, neither documented nor stated. Millions, especially the young, know they have been screwed again. It was a bit more complicated this time as the US having a black president was undoubtedly a historical occasion. But like I used to say to well-intentioned women who told me the problem was that men ruled and that women would be kinder, gentler. "Like Thatcher?", I would ask.  No, when you join their team you put class interests above all else

Obama's efforts at regulation and the reining in of the financial sector has nothing to do with creating security, fairness and prosperity for workers and the poor and everything to do with saving capitalism from itself.  His proclamations about poverty and fairness, like Warren Buffet and other wasters' eagerness to pay more taxes arises out of a fear that they have gone too far, that they must act to prevent social unrest and the anger that lies beneath the surface of US society from breaking out in to more open class conflict.

They are afraid of the revolutionary potential of the US working class and that their allies in the leadership of organized Labor will be unable to hold back their rank and file if things continue as they are. “There will be time for them to make profits”,  Obama told the speculators and swindlers in a speech in Chicago in January 2009,  “..there will be time for them to get bonuses…….now’s not that time.”.  Obama is a sharp one alright, not like the imbecile Bush. He is the consummate bourgeois politician

Trumka ends his e mail to me with something I agree with when he writes: "When we come together, we are formidable. And for this election, we are coming together like never before." Well goody. Only we came together like never before I was told, for Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton. My Union turned out 40,000 volunteers for Walter Mondale.  We came together for them that's the problem, or some of us did.

When Trumka ran with the Sweeney slate in the first (and only) contested election for AFL-CIO president in a century, he promised: “While we are always willing to negotiate as equals, the era of union busting, contract trashing and strike breaking is at an end. Today, we say that when you pick a fight with any of us, you pick a fight with all of us! And that when you push us, we will push back."

Tough talk indeed.  Sweeney promised the same but went from threatening to "block" bridges to "building bridges", with the bosses of course. I appreciate that Trumka considers me of some importance that he would send me a personal e mail. But I've heard it all before. We have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the US because we have no choices other than between two Wall Street Parties. Trumka and the heads of organized Labor pour millions of workers' dollars in to and urge us to vote for a party most workers abandoned long ago. Having nowhere to go most have abandoned politics altogether. Some have found refuge in right wing nationalist and racist arenas while many of the apolitical, those disgusted with politicians in general have found the Wall Street movement that has at least changed the nature of the debate and showed that if we have the numbers we can defy their laws.

By refusing to use the resources under their control for the building of a mass movement and  workers independent political party, Trumka and company bear much of the responsibility for the success of the capitalist offensive and unnecessary misery this has brought to the workers of the US, and the world given the importance of US capitalism on the world stage. They are also responsible for the low level of class consciousness in the US compared to workers in many other countries as the absence of a mass workers political alternative to the two capitalist parties means the ideology of our enemies has far more social influence than it need; it has no competition.  Trumka is right that when workers come together we are  “formidable". Workers know that. More importantly the bosses' know that from history which is why they use divide and rule tactics like racism, sexism and immigrant bashing to undermine our class unity; this is why it is crucial for us, particularly white workers in the US, to combat racism, and men to fight for women's rights; it is in our interests to do so. We are only formidable if we come together as a class and rely only on our own power and organization on the job and through an independent mass party in the political arena which can open the road to our collective control over the economic and political life of society as a whole.

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