As Karl Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto, the relentless assaults of the bosses drive working people to come together, to form unions and to fight to defend themselves. As these struggles come together, he said, “every class struggle is a political struggle.”
This is a life and death question for the working class. What is the road to working-class political action that can win?
The trade unions in the U.S. are weak and membership has plummeted. Only 6.4 percent of workers in private industry are organized in unions today. The officials of our unions have tied the labor movement to the bosses’ political parties, especially to the Democratic Party. Instead of organizing workers to rely on ourselves and our allies to battle attacks from the employers and their government, they say we should rely on “friends of labor” in the Democratic Party to take care of us. The results are clear — disaster.
The problem is that the Democratic Party — like its twin, the Republicans — is a capitalist party that defends the interests of the boss class. The two parties trade places in power every few years, but, whichever is in office, the bosses are on top.
The Service Employees International Union officialdom announced on Labor Day they were going to use the union’s 2 million members and $100 million for “an extensive campaign” to turn things around. How? A big drive to elect more Democrats in 2018.
The states the SEIU officials target include Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where workers voted for change with Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but didn’t get it. So in 2016 they voted for Donald Trump, because they were sick of both parties, which do nothing to tackle the worsening conditions workers face. Workers tried to show their anger, to find a way to register a demand for change, to “drain the swamp.” Millions, disgusted, didn’t bother to vote.
Liberal Democrats, “socialist” Democrats, “friends of labor” Democrats — all do the same. Whatever they say, their goal is to keep the private profit, dog-eat-dog capitalist system afloat. They balance the budget on the backs of the working class, prosecute the imperialist rulers’ seemingly unending wars, deprive workers access to medical care we need and can afford, and, like in Houston, tell working people when Hurricane Harvey approached, “You’re on your own.”
Scott Courtney, an executive vice president of SEIU, outlined their plan in a Sept. 4 opinion column in the Washington Post entitled, “The Democratic Party Needs to Become a Workers’ Party.”
“It’s not hard to understand why so many people say politics has nothing to offer them anymore,” Courtney admits.
“If the only choice at the voting booth is between the lesser of two evils,” he says, “you still end up with evil.”
Agreed. So shouldn’t workers rely on ourselves and use our fighting capacity to take on the bosses and their government? And shouldn’t we break forever from the bosses two-party shell game and build an independent working-class political party, a party with a revolutionary political perspective like the Socialist Workers Party?
Courtney never mentions one word about organizing to build the unions or strikes or social struggles to defend our interests. Union officials will use the millions they control to turn us right back into the Democratic Party. They hope to recruit “an army of tens of thousands of volunteers” from the working class. “For workers in this country to start moving forward, the labor movement needs to force Democratic candidates to support unions, the right to form unions, higher wages for workers and universal health care,” he says. This will “give voters a reason to stand in line at the polls again.”
The SEIU officials made this the center of the Fight for $15 protests in Chicago — where I work at Walmart — and elsewhere on Labor Day, featuring liberal Democrats running for office in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan.
But this is exactly the class-collaborationist course that has led the labor movement to the disastrous place we are in today. We can’t tie our future to promises of a friendlier, more “progressive” Democratic Party.
Working people need to recognize what we know from bitter experience — there are two classes under capitalism, the bosses and the workers, and the capitalists have two parties and we have none. Our unions need to break with the Democratic Party, to organize our own party that can mobilize the millions of nonunion workers and the unemployed, to rely on the power of our class and its allies — the vast majority — to strike and demonstrate in the streets to fight the carnage conditions we face.
Such a party can fight for a federally funded public works program to provide millions of union-scale jobs rebuilding Texas, Florida — and Caribbean nations, including the U.S. colonies of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — crippled by the capitalist rulers’ dog-eat-dog system that leaves working people open to the fury of hurricanes and other “natural disasters.” We can fight for the expropriation of the pharmaceutical and hospital monopolies to turn health care into a human right, not a for-profit racket.
And we can fight to unify the working class, demonstrating for amnesty for undocumented immigrants, against racist cop assaults, in defense of a woman’s right to abortion and opposing Washington’s wars abroad.
This is the road toward building a revolutionary working-class party that can lead the fight to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers, put a workers and farmers government in place, and join the fight for a socialist world.
On the Picket Line
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