This is a follow up to the statement on where we go from here after the Kshama Sawant victory and other developments that some of us signed and posted on January 30.
As readers of this blog are aware there is much discussion on how to take the movement forward after the victory in Seattle, the big vote in Minneapolis, the election of trade unionists in Ohio and also the many campaigns on minimum wage, jobs, and low wages in general such as at WalMart and Fast Food. There are also numerous struggles around the environment, police brutality, the mass incarceration in the country, racism and sexism, wars and occupations abroad etc. These discussions have tended among some on the left to focus on whether the movement would be taken forward best by building a party although what type of party is not made clear except that it would be independent of the 1%.
The authors on this blog and the signers of this statement would like to repeat and elaborate our position a little. Some of us who have developed this blog and who were in the CWI and expelled from the CWI have argued for years for the setting up of minimum wage clubs. There seems to be some support for this now among the SocAlt organization. This is very good and a real step forward.
There is momentum behind the $15.00 an hour wage demand. We therefore unconditionally support it and the setting up of clubs/committees around this demand. But we would like to raise a few points for discussion. A $15.00 an hour wage would be a very big step forward for hundreds of thousands workers. However for many workers it would still mean living in poverty and having to take more than one job. This demand also does not have great attraction for the worker who is already getting more than $15.00 and hour. Should we perhaps consider taking the movement forward on the basis of setting up around the demand, $15.00 an hour or a $5.00 an hour increase whichever is the greater? This is a slightly more awkward demand, as it does not so simply flow off the tongue, but it would have a better chance of bringing in the better paid workers. In fact, the authors of this blog have been raising a $20.00 an hour minimum wage for some time now. But we would like to raise for discussion the idea of $15.00 minimum or a $5.00 raise which ever is the greater.
On a couple of other points. While we support the $15.00 an hour campaign and the setting up of committees to fight for this, we ask Comrades to take note of the recent struggles on wages in Walmart, fast food, the struggles on the environment, police brutality, jobs, racism, sexism, wars and occupations. With this in mind are we being too narrow by just having a campaign on the $15.00 minimum wage? Is there a danger of us now lagging behind what is possible? To this end we would like to raise for discussion the idea of building a broader movement as the way to build on the recent successes and the obvious mood for change. .
Should we perhaps lead with the $15.00 minimum wage or $5.00 raise which ever is the greater as the cutting edge but along with this have a series of demands on the other issues. Then a series of demands which take up all the areas where the capitalist offensive impacts the working class. Perhaps this might be better. Draw up a sort of charter/program/list of demands/ for the movement. This would be more likely to make possible the building of a broader movement rather than just a minimum wage movement. It was in our opinion, correct to focus on the minimum wage in the past and in the recent elections, and it is still correct to make this demand the cutting edge, but given the successes and the mood that has been shown to exist, should we now not be drawing up a series of demands to try to draw together a broader movement? We would not want to be left behind the movement by focusing too narrowly.
Whichever approach is taken on this issue of demands, it is very important to seek to ensure that whatever movement is built is not taken over and derailed by the liberal wing of the Democrats and their fellow supporters of capitalism, the trade union leaders. So as well as making the demands above and fighting for these demands it would be vital that this fight would be carried out by means of direct action. To many people direct action means masked youth breaking windows and fighting cops. To us, direct action means something else. It means mobilizing masses of workers and youth to prevent the capitalist offensive carrying on with business as usual.
For example: Where workers are not being paid what they should be paid, the employers should be identified, all their businesses should be identified, these businesses should then be picketed with flyers and occupied when we have the resources. The owners homes neighborhoods, their churches, their clubs, where they shop etc. should all be flyered. These flyers should explain what these employers have been doing, forcing people to live in poverty etc. Their faces should be put on these flyers. Give the capitalist offensive a face and a name. This campaign should then be developed to where we would try to organize a complete boycott of all these employers. None of their businesses or homes should be serviced or supplied in any way. There would be a complete cut off. They would not be served in the stores, at the gas station, they would not have repairs done at their homes, their electricity should be cut off, their water supply, etc. These actions could begin to take on the form of mass direct action to inform and mobilize the working class. They would in fact take on the form of strike action as the workers would be withdrawing their labor from in any way supplying the 1%. What we are advocating is a boycott/strike with teeth.
Very few workers in the US are organized. To those who are organized we are in favor while they participate in the kind of direct action explained above that they take direct action in their workplaces and their unions by occupying and holding and striking these workplaces and by linking with other struggles that are going on outside their workplaces. We also advocate that direct action should not be confined to taking on the bosses. The union leaders are conscious and determined agents of the bosses at this time. Trumpka head of the AFL-CIO was seen giving a standing ovation to the main representative of the capital offensive and war criminal Obama in his state of the union address. Direct action should be taken by the workers in their own organizations and workplaces by building fighting democratic opposition committees in the unions and the workplaces to build a new leadership in their organizations.
Very many workers in the US hate the bosses and want to do something about the capitalist offensive and would be prepared to take such action as suggested above. This in turn would develop collective action on a mass scale and in turn would, if properly developed, lead to the organizing of the working class into fighting democratic organizations; that is, fighting democratic unions.
Finally to the issue of a new political party either socialist, or a left or workers party. We are entirely in favor of the working class having its own political party. It was the authors of this blog who came up with the initiative that led to the building of the Labor Party Advocates and came up with its slogan - "The Bosses have two Parties the Workers should have One of their Own." However it is a question of consciousness and timing.
Far more workers and activists would be prepared to join together to build a broader movement to fight the capitalist offensive around the sort of anti capitalist offensive demands referred to above than would be prepared to join a socialist party or left party or workers party at this time. For this reason we think that it is better to build a broader movement on the victories and the mood to struggle that exists rather than pose in front of the many, many campaigns and workers that they should join a party. The authors of this blog, believe such a step would exclude many potential fighters from coming together in struggle if this was to be posed as the immediate way forward. It would most likely also exclude the many forces who were around Occupy and it would also most likely exclude many conscious workers and activists who would be cautious about joining a party which at this stage would be in danger of being dominated to a great extent by left groups with their history of sectarianism, ultra leftism and opportunism.
With regard to electoral action, we do not believe the system can be changed through elections, by voting in this or that politician. But we would disagree with those that refuse to participate in the electoral process altogether. It is important for socialists and all anti-capitalist activists to use the electoral process to engage in a dialogue with the working class, to use elections to counter the arguments of the 1% and struggle for the consciousness of the working class. An elected office should be used to build the direct action mass movement that can lead to the transformation of society.
The world is in turmoil. From Bangladesh to South Africa, Egypt to Cambodia, Europe to Latin America, China to the former Soviet Union millions have taken to the streets. While there are confusions of a quite serious nature in some of these struggles, such as Ukraine, in the main, the world situation is dominated by workers fighting back against the capitalist offensive of the 1%. The objective situation facing activists, anti-capitalist forces and revolutionaries is more favorable than for decades. This makes it all the more important that we judge the mood and consciousness correctly, that we do not run ahead of what is possible and that we do not lag behind what is possible. At times like these comradely collective discussion is essential and also continual dialogue with the working class to assess the mood and consciousness.