Thursday, September 3, 2015

ISO: Vague on Sanders and Wrong about Organized Labor's Power

But  he's a corporate party's candidate
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Since Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, announced he would run for president as a Democrat, the amount of support he has garnered has surprised everybody, including Sanders no doubt. Among the left and many socialists there is an ongoing debate with some socialists and socialist organizations supporting him and others not.

Those of us around Project for a People’s World and Facts For Working People completely understand why so many people especially young people, are drawn to Sanders' campaign. But we do not support Sanders and one of the major reasons is that he is running as a Democrat. There is no possibility that Sanders’ reform program will be adopted by the Democratic Party and he knew that before he ran. Sanders has also pledged to support the Democratic nominee if it is not him which is most likely.

I read one of the most recent articles on Sanders’ campaign in today’s Socialist Worker, the paper of the International Socialist Organization. A regular reader of our blog sent it to us suggesting it was a very similar position to ours.  The reader was mistaken although on the surface it could appear that way.

We agree with the ISO and those other left activists who argue that we cannot support Sanders. But when many of those people who have illusions in Sanders realize that it is not all they thought, it is not enough to have opposed Sanders and the Democrats by arguing that,  “….we should use the current political atmosphere to build an alternative.”, as the ISO does.

Todd Chretien, the author, goes on to mention Jill Stein and the Greens as well as Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Alternative member elected to the Seattle City Council whose organization supports Sanders, but this is rather vague.  The ISO does not put a clear alternative, a viable alternative in our opinion.

We have to have a concrete alternative and it’s important we have it now, prior to when the love affair with Sanders collapses.

We argue that those that are drawn to the Sanders campaign should instead join the Green Party, vote for its candidate and beyond that fight to make it a workers party and also fight to make it a socialist party as none of our problems can be resolved within the framework of capitalism. This is our alternative to Sanders. You can it read here. 

Todd Chretiin makes another statement that is simply incorrect and that's putting it mildly.  He writes: “The power of the labor movement has been broken, destroying millions of lives in the process--a mere 11.2 percent of U.S. workers now belong to a union, including just 6.6 percent of private-sector workers.” (my added emphasis)

This not true at all. Even with the declining numbers of workers organized, there is still tremendous potential power slumbering in the lap of organized labor.  This potential power is suppressed by the stifling bureaucracy that sits atop the labor movement. With their control of the apparatus and an army of full time staff, any movement from below that challenges their collaborationist policies and threatens their relationship with the bosses based on labor peace is suppressed. I have written many times on this forum about why this is so.

So it is not that the power of the labor movement has been broken as Todd Chretien claims, it is that the power of the labor movement is held back by its own leadership; a very different thing.

There are literally thousands of activists in the labor movement, many of them socialists.  The present right wing bureaucracy in the unions is able to play the role that it does because there is no organized opposition to these policies despite these thousand of activists.

The ISO article makes no mention of the labor hierarchy and their role because the ISO has members in leading positions in the labor movement and instead of helping to build fighting rank and file caucuses in the unions that can change the present leadership’s course, they play the very same role. In the face of the employers’ offensive and the labor hierarchy’s capitulation they join the latter. Comrade Chretien is not a fool, he doesn’t mention the leadership at all because him and the ISO are in a vulnerable position on that question.

There are many examples of the ISO’s refusal to wage an open campaign against the labor officialdom’s catastrophic polices and the teachers union in Chicago is a recent one. The Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union is Jesse Sharkey, a socialist and ISO member.  In the present struggle against Rahm’ Emanuel’s attacks on Chicago schools, already closing 50 of them, Sharkey tells WGN radio, “We don’t think it’s a good time to be asking for big raises or really expensive reforms.” How many times have we heard that from a full-time labor official? He has not distanced himself from the concessionary approach of the union’s president and union leadership in general explaining to the ranks why the leadership capitulates and what must be done to turn the tide, that a struggle with the bureaucracy is inevitable and genuine fighting opposition caucuses must be built to change course and take the struggle forward if change is to come.

This approach makes it difficult if not impossible to point to the role the bureaucracy plays in suppressing organized labors’ power and why the leadership is not mentioned in Chretien's article as a major contributor to labor's declining influence and decades of defeats and setbacks.  It would mean explaining why you don’t challenge it and offer an alternative. Comrade Chretien’s claim that, “The power of the labor movement has been broken,” is to cover for a sit back and do nothing policy with regards to the bureaucracy’s class collaborationist role. It is also damaging in the sense that as a movement arises it will inevitably come in to conflict with the present leadership and ignoring them does not help prepare rank and file activists for this inevitability.

Here are some recent postings about the Chicago teachers on this blog.

Chicago teachers are angry. But protests are not enough

Chicago teacher's leader lets Rahm Emanuel off the hook

Karen Lewis and CTA leadership help Emanuel out, support cuts in education

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