Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prop 32, anti-Labor legislation. We can't beat capital with money, they have more of it.


Here we go again with a political struggle over corporate and Union donations to political causes. There have been numerous attempts to pass laws against such donations.  Both Unions and corporations are included in an attempt to obscure the real intention which is to curb organized Labor's participation in the political process.

The issue is Proposition 32 which is intended to "Ban both corporate and Unions contributions to candidates".  The Union hierarchy opposes the measure claiming that loopholes for business exist while Union funds will be shut down and has committed over $8 million so far to fight it, much more than the supporters. The League of Women Voters is also opposing Prop 32, "Because it doesn't affect both sides equally" says Helen Hutchinson, a League  spokesperson. The Union hierarchy pretty much takes the same approach---the legislation is unfair, loopholes will be found etc. etc. The supporters of the Proposition, by claiming to curb all "special interest" monies, a sort of "curse on both your houses" are trying to hide the real purpose of it, an attack on Labor by tapping in to the disgust Americans have with our political system dominated as it is by money, the 1% and their two political parties,

Prop 32 is the latest of a long line of political efforts to curb organized Labor's political activity and millions of dollars of rank and file Union members'  dues money has been spent defeating them in a media war basically aimed at revealing the lies and distortions that hide this reality just like Prop 32 does.

Most Americans due to the corrupt nature of US politics, where big money rules and billions are spent on election campaigns, hate politics and politicians.  They draw the incorrect conclusion, aided by the failure of organized Labor's leadership to provide an alternative, that all politics is bad, that politics by its very nature is corrupt and should be shunned which they do in their millions at election time.

The Labor tops in California, as they do nationally, whine that Prop 32 and measures like it that curtail donations would "limit Labor's chief weapon for influencing the state's politics".  The League of Women Voters claim it's unfair basically as it both sides aren't affected equally.  But why would both sides be affected equally?  Both sides are not equal.

Union officials and Labor cannot compete with the capitalist class when it comes to paying for glossy brochures or TV ads that run in to the hundreds of million of dollars.  The capitalists have more money than organized Labor; they are not called capitalists for nothing. And it is politicians that write laws, politicians that represent the interests of the capitalist class in capitalist parties.  Why would legislation not be biased? We pointed out in a previous blog that despite numerous new tax codes aimed to eliminate a bias toward the rich and the corporations in the US tax code, the rich will not willingly tax themselves, they will always leave loopholes.  As Donald Barlett and James Steele pointed out in their excellent book, America: Who Really Pays the Taxes, there are two tax codes, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.  The same with curbs on donations.

Money is not what Labor possesses that is our "Chief weapon" for influencing politics, state, national or global. It is our Labor power, our power as workers and our special role in the production of the needs of society and as the sole source of profit, of wealth creation. We far outnumber the capitalist class.  The California Labor Federation AFL-CIO has affiliated to it about 2 million workers; the LA Labor Council alone about 800,000 workers. But for the present heads of the organized Labor movement they see this potential power only as a source of electing candidates in to office from one of the two Wall Street Parties; for them politics is sticking a piece of paper in a ballot box every two or four years. Using this power, that built the Labor moveemnt, to fight for gains is out of the question; it would cause all sorts of problems, not least threatening the comfortable relationship the Labor heads have built with the bosses and the Democrats based on Labor peace.

The cause of the recent split in the AFL-CIO that led to the Change to Win Coalition was over nothing substantial to Union members and workers as a whole.  It had to do with organizing new members as a revenue source and how that would strengthen the bureaucracy''s hand with regard to the Democratic Party.

Money is spent on propositions like Prop 32 and other legislation that is beneficial to workers and our families but the Labor tops do not consider mobilizing this potential power to bring the bosses' system to a halt, to shut down production and profit taking.  Strikes occupations generalizing the struggle against capital by linking with all the victims of the market, foreclosures, education, health care, immigrants rights, discrimination in all fields, sex, race, the disabled. And let's not forget internationally---we live in a global economy. Capital abhors borders and so should we. The Labor hierarchy has no alternative to capitalism so mobilizing the power of Labor in an offensive against capital can only lead to chaos.

No, our strength is in our numbers and our social position---we are far more powerful than them which is why they divide us constantly and why racism is so harmful to all workers.

And the idea that they can be fair is nonsense.  Every thinking worker basically knows that.  Not only are we unequal in terms of money. Which class controls the media?  Which class controls TV and the newspapers? Which class owns the universities and the institutes of learning?  In class society the same class that owns the means of producing the necessities of life own the means of producing the dominant ideology.  The dominant ideology in society is the ideology of the class that rules. They don't have to donate more money to influence thinking, they control the workplace, these institutions; they have two political parties workers have not one. They influence us good enough and have their allies atop the Labor movement, in the universities, in the pulpit.

In the last analysis though, consciousness has a material base and we find ourselves always in conflict with the dominant ideology of society's ruling class. We know society isn't fair.  We know we are not free in the real sense.  There are so many expressions in the US that reveal how workers understand quite clearly that we live in a brutal and unfair society and becoming more so.  What to do about it is the issue.

My local paper reveals the contributions some California Unions have made to defeat yet another phony piece of anti-Union/worker legislation:

All this money so that the heads of organized Labor can donate to the Democratic Party, a member of which is Jerry Brown, the governor of California who is savaging workers' rights, benefits and conditions. This money pot will grow as election time (November) nears no doubt.  Coupled with this is the hundreds of millions of dollars and organized Labor's  resources, including its army of staffers that carry out the leadership's  concessionary agenda that will be donated to the Democratic Party and the elect Obama campaign.

This is what the California Labor Federation says about Prop 32.  Why would such legislation limit special interests? Hardly inspiring is it?
"Prop 32 is misleading, deceptive and full of consequences that hurt all of us. It does absolutely nothing to limit special interest influence on politics while severely curtailing working people’s ability to stand up to powerful corporate interests. The result would be a devastating tilt in power to big banks, corporate CEOs and billionaires that would further undermine California’s middle class."I wonder what the legislation would do to the working class if it "undermines" the middle class, surely it'll be worse for us. The California AFL-CIO statement seems to have left the working class out.

Despite our weakened position after years of defeats and cooperation in those defeats on the part of the trade Union leadership at the highest levels, organized Labor has the resources and the structure to not only build our own independent political alternative to the two capitalist parties but the structure and resources to win.  We can change the balance of class forces in US society and that change will come.  It is a historical inevitability in my mind that at some point, this political alternative will arise, perhaps partially only to be driven back then to rise again.  Maybe locally at first, maybe outside the traditional organs of the working class, Unions maybe not.  I have learned in my old age to be a bit cautious.

But one thing I have no doubt about at all, and I think events of the last few years show this.  The working class does and always will fight back against capital.  Great lessons are learned through struggle and each time clashes break out in to the open new methods, or revived methods of the past are used. I am also convinced that as a mass movement arises, it will find political expression, not initially to transform the system but to reform it.  It is that lesson that the system cannot be made nice, cannot be reformed and made human or environmentally friendly that is the greatest lesson of all. It is then that revolutionary socialist ideas become mass ideas.

Then real change is possible

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