Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's time for organized Labor's rank and file to remove the class collaborators.

Obama, Soros and Clinton. Friends of the working class?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Here we are in a presidential election cycle and by all accounts from academia to the numerous polls from the mass media, the two parties of the US ruling class field the two most unpopular candidates in history.

We pointed out on this blog last week
that what this reflects is the deepening political crisis of US capitalism as the relative stability and domination of its two political parties begins to fracture.  The US bourgeois with few exceptions, cannot find a candidate they like and this unelected oligarchy that rests on the capitalist mode of production is forced to unite to a great degree around its best option, the Democratic Party and its candidate, the warmonger Hillary Clinton. The misogynists among them will swallow their pride and put their class interests first. There are a couple of exceptions as the bizarre among them like hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah support Trump along with the KKK, some cops, border guards and other extreme right wing figures

The emergence of Trump has upset the apple cart and the politics of fear is in frenzy mode. We are at the end of the world if we don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. We must take the lesser evil to save civilization. The Sanders option is no longer on the table as this populist demagogue did what he promised if he failed to get the Democratic Party nomination, support and campaign for Clinton. His campaign up to his betrayal was a fraud. He is a despicable character as far as this writer is concerned.

The lack of any serious alternative for working class people has led to millions of Americans abandoning the electoral process altogether. The antiwar president Barak Obama whose emergence brought hope to the disillusioned white liberals and African Americans alike failed them as his allegiance to his class and capitalism remained strong.

Despite the poor choices for the ruling class, having the monopoly in the political arena controlling the two major parties is a plus even as this monopoly begins to crack. It is almost certain we will have our first woman president come November.

Readers of this blog are aware that we support the Green Party and its candidate Jill Stein. This is the best option for working class people and we have urged former Sanders supporters that have come in to the Green Party to campaign and work in this party to make it a workers party, a socialist party (it already has an eco-socialist plank in its platform) and wage a campaign to change what is a dysfunctional and undemocratic internal structure.  A significant vote for Stein would affect the political direction of the country no matter who is in office as it would change the balance of class forces in the political arena and it could be seen as a real alternative to the two parties of capital.

We have argued that the Green Party is not a workers party, nor a capitalist party, and its future is not yet determined. Our Alternative to Sanders that we published over a year ago explains how we arrived at this position.

As we pointed out in earlier commentaries, the Greens and Stein will be blamed in this situation if Clinton has a narrow victory or if Trump were to win which I think is highly unlikely. Facts For People wrote in a statement in September:
“No, the fault will lie elsewhere; it will lie with the trade union leaders who control the two trade union federations, the American Federation of Labor and the Change to Win Coalition.  We know them as that dog that never barks except to echo the policies of the bosses and the Democratic Party.”

Many young people among the millions of unorganized workers that have no union do not see, so cannot grasp, the tragic betrayal of the working class by the heads of organized labor. We have used the term “passive” to describe their policies but this is not correct. The strategists atop the AFL-CIO and the CTW coalition are aggressive indeed, but their aggression is placed at the service of the bosses’ and their main political party, the Democrats. Through their adoption of the Team Concept, the view that workers and bosses have the same economic interests, they cooperate with them on the job forcing concessionary contracts on their own members, (contracts they don’t have to work under) and in the political arena by supporting the Democratic Party, the dominant capitalist party on the planet.

As I pointed out in a previous commentary, my former union, AFSCME, has 1.6 million members, approximately 3,400 local unions, 58 district councils and affiliates in 46 states according to its website. The SEIU has two million members.  The LA Labor Council represents about 800,000 workers in crucial industries and LA ranks about the 16th largest economy in the world among countries. California is the 6th largest economy in the world and is a fairly heavily unionized state with about two million workers affiliated to the State Federation of Labor AFL-CIO. The Chicago Federation of Labor has half a million workers and 300 union locals affiliated to it. AFSCME, provided some 40,000 volunteers for Mondale during his 1980’s presidential campaign. This is some potential power it can’t be denied.

But it is not simply the body count. Over decades, the heads of organized labor have handed billions of dollars of their members’ dues money to the Democratic Party and its candidates only to be rewarded with concessions, cuts both in wages and benefits but also in social services. Each election cycle we are warned that if we don’t elect the bad guy we’ll get the worse guy. Naturally, with a strategy like this, millions of workers have abandoned electoral politics altogether.

With the rise of Trump we are warned of World War 111 if we don’t elect Hillary Clinton and the trade union hierarchy joins with conservative Republican politicians and billionaires alike in the campaign to elect a proven hawk who will continue the assault on US workers including women, and will without hesitation continue the murderous US foreign policy that has slaughtered millions since the beginning of the millennia destroying nation states along the way.

From January to August this year unions spent $110 million on getting Clinton in to office, a 38% increase from the same period in 2012. Almost every large union is spending more than ever before seen in modern elections.”, the Wall Street Journal writes, though compared to what the capitalist class spends this is peanuts. The AFL-CIO has spent $11.4 million on outside political groups and the NEA, the largest union in the country (teachers) has spent $14 million.  Presidents of some of the public sector unions, AFSCME, NEA and the AFT actually organized a rally in West Philadelphia for Clinton and Kate McGinty another Democrat running for US Senate. Then hundred of volunteers went “…door-to-door in the city’s battleground neighborhoods and urge people to vote for Democrats.”, the Journal reports.
The tragic result of the union hierarchy's marriage to the Dems
In IOWA at a rally organized by Hard Hats for Hillary much of the talk was about how bad a businessperson Trump is, “He doesn’t pay” says one union member.

As this rally was taking place, “…a super PAC led by the AFL-CIO, other unions and environmentalist Tom Steyer dispatched 150 canvassers that evening to talk to voters on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf.”, the Wall Street Journal writes,  The group, called For Our Future, said it has raised $60 million this election, and has knocked on more than one million doors in Ohio alone.”
Remember that line in the Godfather when Don Corleone warned that one should keep one’s friends close but one’s enemies even closer. That is the strategy of the Democrats and the section of the US capitalist class they represent. The trade union hierarchy likes to rub shoulders with billionaires and sees them as friends. The billionaires on the other hand uses them, keeps them close by because they know that the rank and file of the trade union movement are not their friends, are their class enemies, and the trade union leadership will not be able to contain them indefinitely.

In Nevada, millions are being spent on the Senate race with nice friendly Democratic billionaires like George Soros and Tom Steyer on the one hand and Charles Koch on the other. Soros is worth $25 billion, Steyer $2 billion and Koch $42 billion.  The union leadership are with the former, billionaires just like us working folks. 

The focus on the Senate race is a reflection of the fact that many traditionally Republican donors are not supporting Trump and instead trying to salvage the party’s position in the Senate. The US Senate is a thoroughly undemocratic institution with each state getting 2 Senators. So a state like Utah with population of 3 million has the same number of Senators as California with a population of 40 million. The purpose of this is to undermine the power of the urban working class.

In Las Vegas, UNITE/HERE, the culinary union representing restaurant and casino workers is paying 100 union workers on leave from their jobs to do full-time political work for the Democrats and the national union expects to spend $3 million there according to Bloomberg BW.

It is clear that organized labor has the structure and organization to offer workers and the middle class an alternative, an independent workers party. Only the leadership prevents this.

The trade union leadership has the same world view as the bosses’ They worship the market and see no alternative to capitalism. For them, to use the resources at their disposal to actually fight for their members and workers as whole can only lead to chaos, and mobilizing the power of their members to shut down production is a terrifying thought. They are there to provide labor power at a price that makes US capitalism competitive.

It is this feature rather than corruption or their perks and obscene salaries that are at the root of their betrayals and refusal to go on the offensive.

But they are not alone. There are thousands of small locals led by rank and file members that refuse to wage the struggle within organized labor that can change the disastrous course the present leadership has set. No union local can win alone or without drawing in the working class communities in which we live and work.  This may be because they don’t know how to wage this difficult internal battle or because they too have found a niche for themselves that is comfortable. It is the membership’s job to combat this, to change the leadership and build oppositions based on an offensive program and strategy. There must be a struggle for the consciousness of the members of the union just as there must be a struggle for the consciousness of the working class in society as a whole.

Various lefts and other anti-capitalist activists in the unions must do the same. The bureaucracy’s full time apparatus is full of members and former members of socialist groups who have entered the leadership with the wrong methods. In general, due primarily to sectarianism, and shifting at times from ultra leftism to reformism, the left has failed the working class in and out of unions.  The left through its policies is isolated form the working class in general.

We learn through the struggle for reforms, from the everyday battles to improve our material conditions. In the course of the struggle to change the world around us, we draw certain conclusions, we see that we have to do more and eventually that the system we know as capitalism cannot be reformed, it cannot solve the environmental crisis. It cannot end hunger, poverty, the misery so many workers face in this country and throughout the world.  Socialists can help this process along, can, if we have a significant presence, hasten it and hopefully play leading roles as we win workers to democratic socialist ideas. But to do that we must participate in the struggle for reforms and in the war for the consciousness of the class as a whole.

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