Democratic Party corporatists triumph by losing in Wisconsin

Mission accomplished. Genuine revolt and dissent was channeled into the Democratic Party and neutralized.

Matt Stoller

By calling for a recall instead of a general strike after Walker stripped collective bargaining rights and cut benefits for workers, labor and Democratic leadership in the state diverted and then subverted populist energy, channeling it into an electoral process.

A prime function of the Democratic Party for decades has been to siphon real protest into itself where it then renders it inert. The Democratic Party pretends to be the friend of social movements before trying to co-opt and neutralize them. Peter Camejo explains this eloquently in his 2004 Avocado Declaration. This is exactly what happened in Wisconsin. Rather than pushing for a general strike, Democrats forced the dissent into a recall election which they then lost.

Then, Barrett, an anti-labor centrist, won the Democratic primary by crushing his labor-backed opponent, Kathleen Falk. Finally, Barrett himself was destroyed by Scott Walker, who outspent Barrett 7-1 with corporate money. In other words, first, liberals lost a policy battle, then they failed to strike, then they lost a primary election, then they lost a general election to the most high-profile effective reactionary policy-maker in the country. The conservative beat the moderate who beat the liberal. And had Barrett won, he wouldn’t even have rolled back Walker’s agenda. Somehow, in a no-win electoral situation, Democrats and labor managed to lose as badly as they possibly could.

Peter Camejo, emphasis added

[The Democratic Party acts] a “broker” negotiating and selling influence among broad layers of the people to support the objectives of corporate rule. The Democratic Party’s core group of elected officials is rooted in careerists seeking self-promotion by offering to the corporate rulers their ability to control and deliver mass support. And to the people they offer some concessions, modifications on the platform of the Republican Party. One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of the stability that is essential for “business as usual.” It does this by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing. Together the two parties offer one of the best frameworks possible with which to rule a people that otherwise would begin to move society towards the rule of the people (i.e. democracy).

Editorial cartoon sympathetic to the Populists. The Democratic Party pretended to befriend the Populist Party of the 1890’s, diffused its impact, then backstabbed it.

Ass-whipping in Wisconsin

Zazzle bumpersticker

Marc Cooper on Facebook

Regarding Wisconsin: I’m reposting a comment below from my pal and long time community organizer Horace Small who fully gets what happened tonite. His words: “Bro…this wasn’t a defeat…it was an ass-whipping. In any political street fight, you got to come out with all guns blazing. And money doesn’t matter…FIELD ORGANIZATION does. They needed to know who was going to vote by name, address, phone number, what time they were gonna vote, did they need a ride, did they need child care. You always counter big money with superior field…the way Paul Wellstone did. Like I said to you before, bro…the dems and labor have got to spend some time taking a long hard look at themselves. Do the dems have the expertise to save Obama in November? Is anyone gonna take labor seriously in November? If I’m Obama, I’m sweatin…”

The Democrats came armed with a wet noodle to the Wisconsin gun fight. Obama couldn’t even be bothered to show up or lend support. And how could anyone take labor seriously considering it is mostly a toothless dog with no bite left and its leaders generally are the 1%.

Kudos to Greg Mitchell who is one lefty willing to understand a defeat is a defeat. If I hear one more Ed Schulz-John Nichols rant about how Wisconsin is some sort of victory for liberals, I will scream.

MSNBC ‘coverage’ of Scott Walker’s win was laughably biased and almost comical in its attempt to paint the Walker victory as somehow not an ass-kicking for Democrats. Then, they tripped all over each other trying to rationalize that Obama surely needs to appeal to people who would never vote for him anyway so that explains his refusal to help and besides Obama is polling better than Romney in Wisconsin so really it was almost a victory, wasn’t it?

We just got cable TV after two years of not having it. I had labored under the now-clear delusion that MSNBC had actual political coverage and real analysis. But based on what I saw tonight, it’s just pap and cheerleading for one side, if not outright delusional.

Wisconsin. We’re not winning, not even close

I haven’t blogged much about Wisconsin for two reasons. First, based on my experience organizing anti- Iraq war protests, getting hundreds of thousands in the streets is no guarantee that demands will be met. You may just be ignored. Second, there’s been no call to arms from the major unions, no talk of massive solidarity strikes or walkouts. The hierarchy of the big unions are part of the problem, not the solution, and there’s no indication they will do the right thing.

Marc Cooper

I followed the Saturday rally in Madison of 100,000 or more quite closely, mostly because I was sick at home and had time to do it and also because my daughter Natasha was there writing about it. Truly inspiring to see so many different types of folks come out into the streets to defend basic rights. This was a Heartland of America moment, for sure.

The anti Iraq war protests were sometimes huge, often heartening – and accomplished little. The Wisconsin protests seem the same. It’s going to take more the hundreds of thousands in the streets saying Hooray for our side to get real change.

But we were not winning. This was not, as Nichols put it, a “momentary legislative defeat.” It was, instead a jolting tectonic shift that, if not properly recovered from, could become the beginning of the end of American trade unionism as we know it.

There is absolutely NO guarantee that there is anything “momentary” about this.

The response from the Democratic Party and big labor has mostly been crickets.

Now, I fear, it’s time for another round of kabuki. Hundreds of thousands have been raised in the name of the Wisconsin fight. OK, but where does it go and what will it mean? A demonization of the Republican right and stepped-up GOTV efforts by unions on behalf of Democrats. Fair enough. But it all seems like a hamster running on a cage wheel.

What is going to allow this movement to become a movement and if it does, where will it go and what will its political expression be? Elect Democrats?

The Democratic Party has been virtually mute on this, no big surprise there. They abandoned the unions and the working class in everything but name long ago. Thinking they will actuallly support labor in any meaningful way is delusion.

For real change in this country. we need something along the lines of a major populist uprising that has no ties to either party.

Wisconsin unions have a choice: militancy or death

Wisconsin unions can now either give it all they’ve got, or they’re done for.

Right now, after Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Senate Republicans have pushed through this step in the decades-long corporate assault on labor, the unions really have their backs against a wall.  Membership has declined, manufacturing has gone oversees, the national Democratic Party has abandoned them, and the cancer of the corporation has metastasized over not just government, but society.  If the unions don’t rediscover their past, if they don’t turn around their more recent history of capitulation and infighting, they’ll die soon enough anyway.  It’s their choice:  militancy or death.

At solidarity rallies and on blogs and in Madison itself, people are fond of saying that because of the unions we have weekends and eight hour workdays, and we don’t have child labor, and so on.  And they’re 100 percent right.  Most of the greatest gains of labor came in the early 20th century, when they knew that it wasn’t the Democrats who they must support, but themselves, and when militants like the Wobblies would come out by the hundreds of thousands, and solidarity meant putting your body in the way of the bosses, not just signing an online petition.

Now, I’m no labor historian, and I’m not even a union member, and ultimately the people of Wisconsin must be the ones to decide what to do.  This is a suggestion, friendly and urgent.  But I do believe in that great maxim of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a fight.”  And man, has it been great to see labor get back some of its fighting spirit in the past few weeks!  But, to quote another great dissident, Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Many people in leadership positions in the labor movement – and this has been seen in the environmental movement, civil libertarian groups, and generally in politics, this is not an attack – since its heyday have been too quick to place their own well-being over the well-being of the movement.  That either has to end or these leaders must realize that, in the long term, those two goals are one and the same.

Scott Walker’s attack on labor has, for the moment, been successful.  It is just one more nail in the coffin of the movement.  It is one more step to complete domination for the corporate bosses.  And so, given that situation, the unions can either choose to give half-hearted resistance or to go all-out.

What would militant resistance look like?  Perhaps a general strike.  Many people in Wisconsin, including labor leaders, have been talking about it and some have officially endorsed the idea.  Whatever form it comes in, it is sorely needed.  Not just for Wisconsin, but for anyone who is not in the top of the economic pyramid.

The unions could fight and lose.  But if they don’t fight, if they don’t give it their all, they will surely lose.

Wisconsin, the Koch Brothers, Scott Walker

It’s not like what the Koch Brothers and Scott Walker are attempting is something new. Big money continually tries to subvert and influence politics. But usually it’s done more subtly and out of sight. The banksters do their influence-peddling behind closed doors so the public has much less idea what’s going on. But Scott Walker in particular has all the subtlety of an elephant with diarrhea. That’s why this is so public. Plus, the left has done a fine job in exposing it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. ‘Our side’, i.e. Democratic politician and their big money backers subvert and corrupt politics too. The problem isn’t so much loose cannons like Walker but a system that is mired in campaign contributions, where money and influence directly corrupt and endanger the political process. That’s the problem, and both parties and their backers are equally guilty.