Monday, January 2, 2017

De Blasio: We can't rely on you and the Democrats.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444. retired

This all sounds very good. Here we have an important official in the Democratic Party. He is the mayor of one of the most prominent and famous cities in the world, New York City.

He is in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party I would say, if there is such a thing.  In other words, he represents the liberal bourgeois. In the US the capitalists have two parties, the Democratic Party, once the party of the slaveocracy, and now one of the world's major capitalist political parties, and the Republicans, the party that became the party of the industrial capitalists, once known as the party of Emancipation, and now a mixture of traditional conservatives, white nationalists, Nazi's and christian fundamentalists.

What de Blasio is saying here sounds very nice and all that but in reality its more of the same old nonsense. As a long time trade union activist, one thing that jumps out at me in particular is that he never mentions organized labor or workers at all unless I missed it.  Wages, jobs, all this stuff are missing because he will do, in economic hard times, what they will all do, attack wages, jobs, health care, social services etc. He has to, he is in a party that is funded by capitalists and functions as a defender of the capitalist system. He is not Trump, that is true. But you see, the parties of the capitalist class function like the cops do, one is nasty and slaps you around a bit or beats you up perhaps, and the other one is a nice guy, offers you smoke a cup of coffee, talks nice.  But they are both after the same information. De Blasio doesn't say much about the $700 million a day or so the US spends on its wars.

If anyone doubted that Hillary Clinton would bomb the crap out of civilians, they would be terribly disappointed, or not so terribly, her victims in that regard would be foreigners. She never condemned Madeline Albright, a mass murderer, for saying that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi civilians (mostly women and children) due to the US imposed sanctions was "worth it". Clinton said that the torturer Mubarak was "like family" and Obama never abandoned this member of the family until it was no longer possible to hold on to him.

De Blasio cannot defend us. He cannot defend immigrants, he cannot defend workers, he cannot end racism. Flint, is surrounded by perhaps more fresh water than  anywhere else in the world yet Flint's residence don't have healthy, clean water to drink.

The mayor talks of lawyers. What can lawyers do?  Trade unions weren't built by lawyers. These were illegal institutions. Workers that "combined" and what that meant was that if a few of them got together to talk about how they could collectively defend themselves against the bosses and improve their living conditions and wages, they were prosecuted under conspiracy laws and laws against combination.  Racism is illegal and I am one that believes that on an individual level people are much more tolerant, but as far as society goes, things have gotten worse. We have some two million in prison in this country, over 50% of them workers, people of color.Lawyers can't stop this madness.

Wages and working conditions have deteriorated to third world levels. What can lawyers do about it?  The Unions? Take the UAW or my former union Afscme. The leadership of these organizations are like de Blasio, they look to lawyers, the courts and the bourgeois institutions to defend workers, their members. They see unions as employment agencies with them as the CEO's. They are "labor brokers" like Manpower or Labor ready.  The labor leadership gives millions of dollars to de Blasio's party and thousands of volunteers at election time plus they have whole armies of lawyers. Yet this has not stopped or even slowed the decline of wages, working conditions or labor's power.

Like the fraud Sanders, de Blasio talks a fine line. Sanders talks of revolution, the need to fight, just like de Basio here. What Sanders didn't say, and de Blasio like him, is that working people, specially oppressed minorities and marginalized communities cannot rely on the courts or capitalist politicians and their parties to defend us. Unions were built through heroic struggle in the face of the most violent repression. Women's rights weren't won through the courts, through fancy talk in the capitalist courts. Lawyers, and decent ones, existed in abundance all through one of the most the vicious regimes in history, the Apartheid system of the US South that was only broken in its most overt forms though the civil rights movement, a mass direct action movement that violated their laws. The so-called party of the people, the Democrats, wouldn't even seat Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democrats as voting delegates at the 1964 Convention. More than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses since the late 1990, a huge percentage of them veterans. Lawyers didn't prevent that, they can't. And I'm supposed to be afraid of Iran.

If we look at all the social legislation that arose in the 1930's: what was happening on the ground? Mass strikes in the South, they were defeated but hundreds of thousands were involved. The three General Strikes in 1934, San Francisco, Toledo, and the victorious Minneapolis strike all led by socialists or revolutionaries.  The great 44 day sit down strike in Flint. The workers wrote the governor that if he called in the troops they would not leave, they were prepared to die. That's our history. People joke about Flint because it is a poor town and many of its residents are black as well. I felt so proud when I first went there, a city with such a heroic past that all Americans should know about as we've all benefited from it.

Thousands joined the Communist Party, the possibility of a Labor Party was in the air and could have arisen were it not for Lewis by some accounts. The bosses and their politicians simply codified what was already taken in the streets and the workplaces of America, just like the legislation that arose in the 50's and 60's that we all benefited from, the black revolt was embarrassing the US internationally just as the colonial revolution was expelling the British from Kenya and other colonies. It is out of these objective conditions that the great American revolutionary Malcom X arose. And as far as the Great Depression, it was the war and the death of more than 50 million people that saved capitalism that time.

Lewis played a progressive role for a period but when we limit our goals to what is acceptable to capitalism and its political parties, we can only go so far. That is one of the main reasons the trade union leadership betrays us, their own consciousness, their view of the world that accepts capitalism as the only way society can be organized and the market as the answer to all things.  History is littered with genuine heroic people who ended up betraying those very people or the class they claimed to represent.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions as the saying goes.

I remember a janitor at work once telling me during negotiations that perhaps we need to hire a professional, get a lawyer to negotiate for us. "Do you think the UAW doesn't have lawyers" I replied and went on to describe what they have lost over the past period. And all through relying on lawyers and the courts.  I told him he was an economist as I have told many workers. he looked stunned. But you pay rent, you have bills to pay and you feed and clothe a family, you are an economist. You know what you need to do as does every woman whose does unpaid labor in the home does.  You don't need a lawyer to tell you. Plus, lawyers cannot advocate breaking the law which is the only way society changes in any significant way.

"I need you to be active"
I told him. We had a solidarity committee during that negotiations that had a couple other unionists on it and we approached welfare offices, unemployment offices, the community and other workplaces to try and make our struggle the community's struggle as we were fighting for jobs as well.  The problem was that 95% of our members were not involved.

I explained that we need a lawyer to look at the final document to ensure it says in writing what we meant verbally. This is not a commentary to thrash lawyers. Our union had a very good lawyer who was helpful to us and to me on more than one occasion, but working people are in poor shape if we rely on de Blasio, Sanders the Democratic Party or the courts to protect us from the savagery of the market. We must reject the idea that we have to respect protocol or work through the established channels, it's a trick, we've made no advances that way.

I remember when the totalitarian regime we knew as the Soviet Union collapsed. Many workers thought things would really improve, all that money spent on arms and the Cold War could be used for social projects. But things have gotten worse. The old US/USSR bi-polar relationship created relative peace compared to today as US capitalism has declared perpetual war on the world in defense of profits and now Russia and China in particular are racing to compete for global influence as new market driven regimes.

The working class is the historically progressive class. It is the class that hold the future in its hands. This is why nationalism, racism, sexism, religious and all forms of social discrimination are damaging to us, weaken working class unity and strengthen our enemies.

Malcolm X once said that you can't have capitalism without racism. I agree with this. It flows from this also that we must then rid ourselves of capitalism and replace it with a democratic socialist society. A global community of democratic socialist states.

And we can't eliminate capitalism or build the alternative without working class unity. All that undermines working class unity is harmful to our interests. It is harmful to the planet and to the future of humanity.

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