Why We Fight for a Labor Party: In Response to Sanders and the Greens
By the Editors
Many supporters of Bernie Sanders are saying that if Sanders loses the nomination, they will vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party. This is a dead-end. While we understand the motivation behind the call for an independent “third” party, we disagree with the notion that a multi-class “progressive” party can substitute for the mass political action of the working class and oppressed themselves. This is why we call for a party with a clear class base and program. The Greens are inherently incapable of posing a real alternative to the two-party system because they do not rely on the organizations and struggles of workers and the oppressed.
The U.S. socialist leader, James P. Cannon, writing of the 1948 Wallace campaign, cautioned against diversions from the construction of a class-based party, “The slogan: ‘Build An Independent Labor Party!’ is a slogan for the class mobilization of the workers. In some incomprehensible way this seems to have been transformed in the minds of some comrades as a mere demand to break the two-party system of the capitalists. This is not the same thing at all. It means merely a bourgeois party shake-up and not a class alignment.”
The current campaign could create the conditions for raising more widely the need for a Workers, or Labor, party. If the Democrats take off their kid gloves and go after Sanders with a vengeance, as the Wall Street Journal proposes, this could heighten the divide in the Democratic Party. Already some unions are railing at Hillary for dissing single payer health care. But fighting single payer is required by the ruling class today because Sanders has taken this demand off the shelf, where it has been gathering dust for years, and made its adoption a real possibility.
If Sanders is defeated by this concerted rightwing campaign in the Democratic Party, which is possible, there will be growing resentment among his supporters against the Democratic Party machine. The demand for labor-community candidates at all levels to champion the demands raised by Sanders, including more far-reaching demands than the ones he has raised, and the demand for Sanders’ labor supporters, including its many unions and hundreds of union locals, to break with the Democratic Party and build a new political party will have fresh and fertile ground. Labor-community candidates could act as a bridge to an independent Labor Party.
The oppressed and exploited have risen up time and time again in U.S. history. But each of these mass movements — such as the militant labor movement of the 1930s and ‘40s, the Black liberation struggle, or the movement against the war in Vietnam — was severely stunted, and eventually derailed, by the fact that they remained subordinated to the twin parties of the bosses. A political alternative, a party truly representing the working class majority, was missing.
Particularly in today’s situation of economic crisis, layoffs, mass incarceration, police violence and cutbacks the continued subordination of the trade unions and social justice organizations to the Democrats is political suicide. To move forward workers’ struggles today and tomorrow, there is an urgent need for the labor movement and its allies to break with the Democrats. A new party is needed to express and fight for the needs of all working people and the oppressed, and to break their subordination to the twin-parties of the bosses.
This is why we call for a Labor Party based on the unions and organizations of the oppressed.
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Let’s Begin the Fight Today!
There are various reasons why it makes sense to begin fighting for a Labor Party today.
Fightbacks on the economic arena and the political arena are two sides of the same movement. Victories for independent workers´ politics on the political/electoral stage would build class-consciousness and the workers´ confidence in their own strength, in this way aiding the revitalization of the trade union movement. To say, “Let´s just concentrate right now on the local fightbacks” means, in practice, accepting the subordination of the trade unions to the Democrats.
In addition, a central feature of the U.S. workers’ movement is its explosive character, as the spontaneous mobilizations for immigrants´ rights in the spring of 2006 and the emergence of Black Lives Matter uprisings have again demonstrated. This means that the upcoming mass radicalization of the workers and oppressed will most likely take us all by surprise. In this context, we should begin now to lay the political and organizational bases for this radicalization to be able to express itself politically.
The struggle for a Labor Party remains the principal means today for U.S. workers and their organizations, with their oppressed allies, to break free of the stranglehold of the capitalist parties and move forwards on the road toward the creation of a workers’ government.