Monday, January 20, 2014

Socialism at the Ballot Box: discussing electoral gains

Below is a video of a meeting in New York City where the recent success of electoral campaigns by socialists in Seattle and Minneapolis are discussed. The election of independent union candidates in Lorraine County Ohio is also of some interest. We have commented on these developments in previous blogs and have added a revised version of those comments below the video. As we have pointed out before, the founders of this blog believe the building of a broad direct action movement would be the approach best suited to building on these successes at the present time. There is some discussion of this in the video.
We have recently had two significant events in labor politics in the US. The most important was the election of Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City council. Her main campaign demand was for a $15.00 minimum wage. She also spoke against the corporate control of the country.  During her campaign the locally based Boeing Corporation threatened its workers if it did not get its way it would move its plant and take away the jobs. Sawant correctly responded by calling for the workers to occupy the plants and also for what she calls “democratic ownership” of Boeing. The fact that Sawant got elected with these policies shows that there is an anger in the wider population against capitalism and its profit addicted system.

Across the country in Ohio there has also been an important development. The Lorraine County Central Labor Council put up its own candidates for the local elections, running against both the Republicans and the Democrats, and all but two were elected. There are now two dozen trade unionists in office on an Independent Labor Ticket in the area. This development while important has to be watched closely as one spokesperson for one of the elected candidates spoke of the successes bringing the “Democratic leaders to their senses.” This a mistaken view. It is different from the victory in Seattle where the campaign wants to build a movement opposed to both capitalist parties as opposed to simply pressuring the Democrats.  

These developments, especially the one in Seattle which has at its core the socialist group Socialist Alternative, raises important questions for working class activists, youth and the anti-capitalist movement as a whole. Specifically, where should these movements go from here?  There is talk of trying to run 100 candidates similar to Sawant in electoral areas across the country. This is an ambitious project and would have to be fully supported. But this is not the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is on what program should such candidates run?  And flowing from this, on what basis should the movement try to consolidate itself organizationally?  Through the building of a broader direct action movement, or should it seek to build a left party, a socialist party or a Workers’ Party with roots in the unions? 

Facts for Working people believes it is the building of a broader movement based on direct action tactics that is most in tune with the consciousness and organization of the movement at present. There are many anti-capitalist activists and groups throughout the country. There are tens of millions of workers and youth who are angry at the system and what it is doing to them but can see no way to do anything about this except in their own localized sector. For example, the actions around Walmart, and fast food, the struggle for a $15 an hour minimum wage and those campaigns against environmental destruction, racism, sexism and police brutality.

These are important actions and show that things are stirring. The successes in Seattle, the high vote for the Socialist Alternative candidate in Minneapolis, the election of the trade unionists in Ohio, can be the basis for building a broader movement against the capitalist offensive.  If this offensive was halted and thrown back, the consciousness and confidence of the working class would be raised enormously, a new movement would be built, and this in turn would once again put on the agenda the big issues, specifically capitalism and the alternative. Socialism would once again become an issue for working people.

FFWP believes that this broader movement can be successful if it bases itself on the immediate needs of all workers and youth and puts forward demands that directly challenge the capitalist offensive and carries out direct action tactics in pursuit of these demands.

This approach should be taken within organized labor at all levels with a struggle against labor management cooperation and the Team Concept. Instead, fighting opposition caucuses should be built in the unions, the workplaces and our communities. On these basic demands and this approach, it would be possible to build this movement and bring millions of people into action.  

We believe this approach is the best way forward at this stage for a number of reasons. In spite of the millions of people who think the present capitalist system is rotten, there is a caution and lack of clarity about there being an alternative, especially, a socialist alternative. So asking these millions to join a socialist or worker’s or labor party as a first step, could possibly act as an obstacle to the movement’s progress rather than as a stepping stone on which it could go forward.

Whatever form this movement takes, the numerous left groups will move toward It. While this is inevitable and would bring resources, it also brings dangers. These groups usually meet seperately and decide on their policies. They then intervene in the movementvoting as a bloc. This is damaging.  It undermines the democratic decision making process and a policy of one person one vote.  A movement dominated by such groups would most likely put off the broader layers of workers, experienced and inexperienced, who are essential to its development.

However a broader movement based on direct action while capable of challenging, halting and throwing back the capitalist offensive would not be capable of solving the problems working people face.  The problem is capitalism and until it is overthrown the problems will not be resolved.  Therefore it would be necessary to build a revolutionary socialist current within the mass direct action movement. This current would have to openly explain the need to end capitalism and establish democratic socialism and build a force on this basis. However it would have to do so within the broader movement without forcing the movement to adopt its position.

The mobilization of millions of workers in this way would  create the opportunity for a revolutionary current within this movement to become a mass force. This current, which would work within and be an organic part of the broader movement would have to work in a non-sectarian way. It would have to be part of the new movement, learn within it and as part of it, learn along with the working class the lessons of the struggles while at the same time helping the working class gain knowledge of the struggles of its own past, victories and defeats.

While the FFWP believe’s this approach is what can best build on the gains in Seattle, Ohio, Minneapolis and the struggles that are taking place daily, we accept we do not have all the answers.  There are other opinions. We welcome and stress the need for open and democratic discussion.

Let us build this movement on this basis:

What we want: A working people’s charter

A $15 an hour minimum wage or a $5 an hour wage increase whichever is the greater
A guaranteed job for all
A Publicly funded health system free at the point of use
A federally funded education system at all levels
Affordable housing for all
End the the mass incarceration of people of color, youth and workers
An end to racism and sexism
Massive infrastructure spending including for mass transit
Withdraw US troops from all wars and occupations
Make the 1% pay.

Facts For Working People and some of our readers, would like to organize a meeting to discuss these developments and how we can help to strengthen the movement. 

At this point in time, such a meeting if it were to take place, would be best held in the Midwest/Chicago area.

If you are interested in helping with this process, contact us at:
In Chicago: Sean:
SF Bay area: Richard:

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