Monday, May 8, 2017

Anthony Mazzochi, Afscme Local 444, Labor Party Meeting

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Back in 1989 my local, Afscme Local 444 in Oakland CA,  organized and endorsed a meeting on the need for a Labor Party based on the trade unions and invited Anthony Mazzochi, the former OCAW official to speak at it. This came about because Sean O’Torain (John Throne) one of the authors on this blog, who was in NYC at the time, had contacted Mazzochi and met with him. Mazzochi was the only labor official at the time traveling the country talking about the need for a Labor Party based on the trade unions.

Mazzochi had shown interest in organizing a meeting to have him speak as long as he was invited by a union.

I was active in my local and also a plumber at the water utility in the East Bay Area. I was also in Labor Militant then, the US section of the, Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). Labor Militant changed its name to Socialist Alternative in the late 1990’s.  Five of us, along with the most unionized branch in the US at the time, were expelled from Labor Militant in the late 1990's. 

After the NYC meeting with Mazzochi, myself and Roger Martinez, another member and officer of AFSCME Local 444 met him at a Labor Notes conference. We approached him and raised the issue of a meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was open to it but again stressed that he would need to be invited by a union. We agreed, and we had Local 444 invited him. I had tried to organize a similar meeting after that with Sanders and Jackie Stump, the write in candidate during the Pittson strike.

In December 1989 we had a meeting at the AFL-CIO building where my local had its office and this video is of that meeting. I had managed to get a couple of Afscme locals to endorse the meeting , 2700 and 512 as well as Afscme District Council 57, a Northern CA council of about 26,000 workers and 25 locals at the time I think. The largest Teamster local, #70 also endorsed it (in the labor movement this doesn’t mean they help organize for it). I recall going to see Chuck Mack myself and having a long discussion with him on the need for a Labor Party.  He was also the head of the Teamsters Joint Council. SEIU 616 and 265, ILWU local 6, and HERE 28 also endorsed it. I was a delegate to the Alameda Central Labor Council at the time and it was there where I tried to get other locals on board.  The meeting was chaired by my friend and president of Local 444, Marvin Cain. We had all been through a strike 4 years earlier.

The meeting was a great success. There were a number of members of left groups there although none of these individuals got their locals to endorse the meeting which is usually the case.  There were also regular workers including a number of them from my local. For a long time after this, no Democrat could get an endorsement or money from my local and the LP was talked about throughout my workplace. I took Mazzochi around my workplace and introduced him to co-workers and my immediate supervisor. I had picked Mazzochi up at the airport and put him up for the night. He was a bit nervous about the neighborhood I recall and headed up to the Berkeley/Kensington area for the rest of his stay.

Myself, Sean O’ Torain,  and John Reimann who along with me handed out thousands of fliers publicizing the meeting, and I can’t remember who else, met after the public meeting at a local Hoffbrau and discussed our views with Mazzochi.  While we supported Mazzochi's efforts it was our view, and the view of the US section of the CWI (Labor Militant), that a Labor Party would not be built in the way Tony Mazzochi envisaged, that a Labor Party would arise out of a mass movement and in particular turmoil within organized labor itself.  We believed that there would be a severe crisis in US and world capitalism and that this crisis would force workers in to struggle, in to their traditional organizations and this then would cause splits along the lines of the rise of the CIO in the thirties and new John L Lewis type figures would emerge and eventually a Labor Party would be born out of these developments.

This did not happen and it is my view still today that we were wrong but mostly on timing. I do believe now that given the situation that exists and has existed within organized labor for some time that a serious movement of the working class will develop first outside these organizations but that the trade unions will be affected by these events and the movement will carry in to the ranks of organized labor.  I think we are seeing this develop in the present period.

 The CWI comrades that eventually expelled us, particularly the East Coast and  one comrade in Chicago, completely changed their position with regard to LPA and Mazzochi's approach. Many of them were inexperienced at working in the unions and became quite enamored at being able to rub shoulders with a top labor officials. They suddenly argued that a Labor Party would be build by patiently explaining the need and benefits to the one's and twos. They also abandoned the idea that we all held that the Labor Party that was  had its founding conference in Cleveland should not run candidates. This was Mazzochi's view and many of the left hangers on who were involved once a section of the labor bureaucracy entered it.

I just recently found a copy of this video after losing my original in a house fire. These are just a few quick thoughts and memories from 28 years ago.

1 comment:

jubilee.shine said...

Trump Trouble and the Democratic Revolution

Like the undead monster electrified by America’s Dr. Frankenstein of white supremacy chartered as the Republican Party, Trump tramples the bourgeois vestiges of U.S. democracy collapsing the constitutional countryside into shock and awe.

Feeble town leaders of the Democratic Party and affiliated official Labor and “non” profit hopefuls poke with sanctimonious sticks from their duck and cover disarray, hunkered down behind thin excuses for their election catastrophe with no sense how they exhumed the confederacy and weaponized its corpse with finance capital and martial dominion. The #Resist.ants measure organization by retweets, likes and shares but provide little in the way of program, strategy or campaign to defend ourselves from increasing attacks and return fire through counter-offensive fights for revolutionary democracy.

At this moment more than ever all workers, democratic forces, oppressed peoples, progressives and revolutionaries must unite in struggle for Peoples’ Democracy, actual majority rule. The liberation struggles of the 20th century have accomplished in part equality de jure, by law, climaxed with Obama's election, and which is now being systematically dismantled by the Alabama cadaver of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, now head of Trump’s Justice Department and tasked with legalizing US apartheid. This is what W.E.B. Dubois and Amiri Baraka described as the Sisyphus Syndrome of the rock being pushed back down on your head every time you roll it up the hill.

We must summarize these insurgencies in their triumphs and tragedies to understand clearly what are the forces against us, what is the way forward and how to achieve equality de facto, community control over the resources and policies that determine our lives. America has never been a democracy and it is the democratic struggle where fascism and monopoly capital are on their weakest ground.

We must build immediately a political organization to explicitly and exclusively represent the interest of workers and oppressed peoples, under a clearly defined program for Peoples’ Democracy, and formalize a Workers’ Party through two-tiered strategy to challenge the Democratic Party heads up in local elections where we currently claim the organizational strength to win, and to isolate and defeat the Republican Party in elections where we yet lack the independent organizational strength to win heads up against the Democratic Party, as we build and grow. This offensive/defensive strategy allows us to attack from our strength and simultaneously defend from our weakness created by disorganization.

Trump must be brought in line with the Constitution, law and the structures of bourgeois democracy but there can be no illusion that these will contain him, as Germany’s Weimar Republic crumbled into nazism, without the fullest concerted fight on all sides to complete the American democratic revolution.

Build the Peoples' Democratic Workers' Party!
Unity & Struggle
Cliff Smith
May 16, 2017