Forty-five labor and community activists gathered in Cleveland on Dec. 7 at the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” regional conference. They came from across the state of Ohio and were joined by guest speakers from California and Maryland. The conference was sponsored by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP), in cooperation with the Labor Fightback Network (LFN) and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).
The call for the conference put forward the need to lay the foundations of a labor-based party rooted in the unions and the Black and Latino communities. It stated, in part:
“With inequality skyrocketing, healthcare and student debt mounting, climate change roiling the planet, civil and human rights under assault, and wages and benefits evaporating, a majority in the United States (57%) are now calling for a major new political party (source: Gallup Headlines, July 19, 2019).”
Four consecutive panels — chaired by Genevieve Mitchell (a leader of the Black Women’s Center in Cleveland) and Don Bryant (a board member of Cleveland Peace Action) — were held throughout the day, followed by an evening dinner with speakers and discussion.
The panels focused on the following issues: (1) Endless Regime Change and Deadly Sanctions vs. International Working Class Solidarity, (2) Medicare for All, (3) Forced Migration and Deportation, and (4) Next Steps Toward Building an Independent Political Party.
In this issue of Unity & Independence we publish the following:
• excerpts from three of the presentations — by Nnamdi Lumumba, Baldemar Velasquez, and Alan Benjamin — to the closing panel on independent politics;
• the Final Declaration adopted unanimously by the conference;
• excerpts from a message to the conference by Donna Dewitt;
• excerpts from a statement in support of the Cleveland conference by the Labor Fightback Network;
• “Some Lessons from the 1996 Labor Party Experience,” by Alan Benjamin; and
• brief excerpts from an article by Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer titled, “Class Struggle Is Still the Issue (reprinted from the Oct. 14, 2019 issue of Counterpunch magazine).
Labor and Community for an Independent Party sold 52 copies of its new 16-page “Who We Are” brochure, with an additional 40 copies taken out on consignment.
The full report on the conference, with the presentations by all the conference speakers, will be available shortly and will be posted to the LEAP and LCIP websites.
We urge our readers to order a bundle of the LCIP brochures for distribution to friends and co-workers by contacting LCIP at <email@example.com>. We also call on you to explore the possibility of running independent labor-community candidates in your cities in 2020 as part of this effort to create the building blocks of a new labor-based political party. — The U&I Editors
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Some of the Presentations:
Nnamdi Lumumba, Convener, Ujima People’s Progress Party
All political parties represent contending classes in society. Political parties are never devoid of class ideas and values; they are all based on class assumptions.
In the United States, we are governed by a capitalist duopoly — Democrats and Republicans. These are political parties that represent the interests of the capitalist class, and their control of the electoral process has undermined the interests of Black, Brown and working-class people.
In Baltimore, politics is run and controlled by the Democratic Party. Every time a police officer beats up a Black youth it’s because they’ve been given the license to do so by the Democratic Party. Every time a Black or Brown family gets thrown out of their housing, or they are victims of abuse, it comes from directives by the Democratic Party. This is true not just in Baltimore; it’s a scourge we face across the country.
So why are the duopoly parties legitimate? Why do people who are working class, who are Black, who are Brown, who are immigrants, who are poor … why do they give their allegiance to political parties who care nothing about them?
The failure to build an independent labor and community party that represents the working class and oppressed Black and Brown folks is largely responsible for this situation.
We need another option politically. Working people need to get their asses out of parties that hate them, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, and that prove it every day.
We need to organize people around their own class interests and their own interests as nationally oppressed people, so that they can solve the problems they face in their lives.
Helping to break the active or even passive support to the two capitalist, imperialist, and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental goal of our efforts as the Ujima People’s Progress Party as we seek to build a Black workers-led electoral party.
While we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed workers on the job as well as in their communities, we affirm that nationally oppressed people have to center the discussion and self-organization around their own specific oppression because, unfortunately, the broader discussion of oppression can become generic. While it is true that we as working people are all oppressed and exploited, we who are Black and Brown aren’t oppressed in the same way.
Having said that, we need to create a mass-based working-class party that says capitalism does not serve you, imperialism does not serve you, sexism does not serve you — and racism does not serve you. Otherwise, we’re just giving our power back to two political parties that have no interest in seeing us move forward.
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Baldemar Velasquez, President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee / FLOC, AFL-CIO
One of the main lessons I have learned from 53 years organizing in the fields across the country is that if you give workers a means to collectivize their voice, they’ll find the means to improve their lives and make their lives sustainable.
When we began organizing cucumber workers in Northern Ohio many years ago, the workers on their own came up with a campaign for card-check [as opposed to NLRB elections — ed note]. The workers began to analyze and organize in ways that were way ahead of the labor movement. That’s how we won our first organizing drive and our first collective-bargaining agreement.
The same is true in politics. When you have politicians who don’t see things the way we do — and who don’t represent our interests — you’re going to have things dumped on you all the time. So we have to collectivize our voice, with a voice that is independent.
We in FLOC have decided to do community organizing in an “associate member” program — including an active youth program called the FLOC Homies Union. Four of our youth organizers have traveled from Toledo and are here with us today. [Baldemar proceeds to introduce each of the youth activists. — ed. note]
We also decided to organize 100 Latino registered voters in a Committee of 100. Some of our elected officials are sympathetic to our issues, but they’re not going to push the issues that are important to us. So we’ve decided that we have to do that ourselves by running folks for positions on a local level that are important to us.
And if we were part of a broad independent labor-community party movement, we could have a real impact statewide and nationally.
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Alan Benjamin, Editorial Board member, The Organizer Newspaper
[Note: The following is Alan Benjamin’s prepared text for the independent politics panel. Because of time constraints, only a portion of this text was presented to the “Break the Grip” conference. — Ed. note]
In June 1976, 1,400 trade union delegates from unions representing close to 2 million workers came together in Cleveland to found the Labor Party. The conference was held under a banner that read, “The Bosses Have Two Parties, Workers Need One of Our Own!”
Though the Labor Party that was formed nearly 25 years ago was placed on hold after a short seven-year existence, the need to build an independent labor-based party that represents the interests of the working class and the oppressed communities remains the fundamental question today. A resolution adopted by the October 2017 national convention of the AFL-CIO affirms the need for an independent labor-based political party.
Those of us who came together to form Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) feel that the time is now to revive the Labor Party movement, but this time incorporating some of the lessons we learned from our experience with the 1996 Labor Party — namely, a Labor Party, if it is to be more than a pressure group on the Democrats, needs to (1) begin running candidates for office at a local level, and (2) build this labor-based independent party in partnership with oppressed communities, including by championing their struggles for self-determination and independent politics.
The Democratic Party does not represent the interests of the working class; it represents the interests of the bosses. It is a party financed and controlled, from top to bottom, by Big Business — by the capitalists.
All attempts to “reform” the Democratic Party are doomed to fail. History has shown this time and again. Bernie Sanders is raising very real and pressing issues for working people, true, and he has galvanized a significant electoral base.
Sanders has been given the leeway by the Democratic Party leadership to raise these issues — from single payer, to free college education, to tax the rich — during the campaign as this helps to legitimize the Democrats, and it puts forward the image (in reality a mirage) of a “broad tent” in which workers and youth can have a say in determining their own future.
There are limits, however, to what Sanders can do. For example, he cannot be allowed to win the primary. In 2016, as former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile was forced to admit, the DNC rigged the primary election against Sanders. And today the DNC is bringing out the heavy hitters, beginning with Barack Obama, not to fight and defeat Trump, but to ensure that Sanders is defeated in the primaries. (Professor Adolph Reed Jr. noted in a recent interview with “Rising” that, “The Democrats fear a Bernie victory more than they fear a Trump victory.”)
Sanders’ role is to bring the disenfranchised and discontented back into the fold of the Democratic Party and to rally his base in support of whatever mainstream candidate the DNC decides to select at the Democratic Party’s convention to run against Trump.
In this regard the recent spat between Sanders and Hillary Clinton is revealing. Clinton, who was interviewed by Howard Stern, chastised Sanders for not doing enough to organize his supporters to get behind her presidential bid in 2016. Sanders replied that this criticism was totally misguided: He did “everything humanly possible,” he said, to support Clinton — who, as we all know, was Wall Street’s preferred candidate.
This brings us to the question: What is to be done?
Workers in this country over the past 150 years have created their own class organizations — that is, trade unions — to advance their interests as a class and as champions of the working-class majority. While the unions have been weakened heavily by the policies of the trade union misleaders, they nonetheless represent the only class instruments available for struggle.
Within the unions, there have always been reform caucuses organized to reclaim the unions for struggle. This is especially true today. Just look at the amazing strike wave of the public-school educators that began in Chicago a number of years ago and that swept both the red and blue states in 2017-2018 in a revolt unlike anything we have seen in decades.
These revolts were initiated by rank-and-file and mid-level leaders in the unions, but they spread rapidly — and they were embraced by the union leaders. Throughout the labor movement, workers are rising up and demanding that their voices be counted.
In the political arena, however, the unions remain tied at the hip to the Democratic Party. This is the number one obstacle to building working class power and advancing the interests of the working class and all oppressed people. That is why, more than ever, the trade unions need to break with the Democrats and build their own party, in alliance with the communities of the oppressed.
Helping to break those ties of subordination to the bosses’ parties — breaking the grip of the two-party system — must be, therefore, one of our central tasks. The immense human and material resources of the labor movement must be placed at the service of building a labor-based party that contends for political power.
The Labor Party that was founded in Cleveland in 1996 had a short existence, and was placed on hold. Does the Labor Party’s failure to take root invalidate our struggle to build an independent labor-based political party? Not at all. A long-time labor activist in Kansas City, Bill Onasch, put it this way a few years ago in a contribution to the balance-sheet of the 1996 Labor Party experience:
“The need for a Labor Party has never been greater. While the 1996 Labor Party passed away, it leaves behind a rich legacy of program, policy and democratic decision-making that is worth preserving. There’s no need for future activists to reinvent the wheel before they can roll.
“While this planting failed, the crop we hoped for remains needed more than ever, and the seed bank preserved from the initial effort can take root again under more favorable future conditions. Like resilient family farmers, we don’t abandon our field; we seek another chance to plant.”
We on the Organizing Committee of LCIP believe that this “other chance to plant” is now. Workers are on the rise. Millions of people who support Bernie Sanders will be shut down once again by the DNC; they will need a place to go — an independent labor-based party — to continue to fight the good fight. There is an opening here for independent politics such as we have not seen in a long while. The time is now!
This is why the LCIP Organizing Committee is submitting for your consideration and vote a Declaration in support of LCIP and its objectives.
The LCIP campaign has two intertwined goals: (1) running independent labor-community candidates for local office rooted in assemblies to which the candidates are answerable, and (2) promoting the campaign for an independent labor-based party within the trade union movement, in keeping with the October 2017 resolution of the national AFL-CIO convention.
The proposed Declaration also references the Open Letter that 19 Cleveland-area trade unionists, including a number of you in this room, sent in January 2015 to the delegates of the North Shore (Ohio) AFL-CIO Federation of Labor urging the Federation to run independent labor candidates for public office. Though written four years ago, the message in this Open Letter is as relevant today as it was then, if not more so. Similar Open Letters need to be written today by unionists and community activists across the country.
So, to conclude, we urge you to support the proposed Declaration and to join us in building the foundations, brick by brick, of a labor-based political party that serves the interests of the working class and all oppressed people.
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Declaration of the “Break the Grip of The Two-Party System” Conference (Cleveland, Dec. 7, 2019)
The Time Is Now to Lay the Foundations of a Labor-Based Political Party!
[Note: Following are major excerpts from the Final Declaration that was adopted unanimously by the Cleveland conference. It was submitted by the Organizing Committee of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), one of the conference sponsors. The full Declaration can be accessed at http://www.lcipcampaign.org.]
We are living under a capitalist system that only knows how to stem its growing crisis by fueling speculation and war spending, on the one hand, and by slashing workers’ wages and working/living conditions, on the other.
Working people and all the communities of the oppressed are in a dire situation because the bosses have been able to count on their twin parties — the Democrats and Republicans — to do their bidding over decades.
To beat back this racist and anti-worker offensive by the employers and the politicians in their pay, we must build democratically run coalitions that bring together the stakeholders in labor and the communities of the oppressed, so that they have a decisive say in formulating their demands and mapping out a strategy.
Most important, we need to put an end to the monopoly of political power by the Democrats and Republicans. The labor movement and the leaders of the Latino and Black struggles need to break with their reliance on the Democratic Party and build their own mass-based independent working-class political party — a Labor-based Political Party rooted in the struggles of the unions and all the oppressed communities.
Two Intertwined Campaign Objectives
More than 700 leading labor and community activists have endorsed a Statement — at the initiative of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — that calls for running independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2020 at the local and state level, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass labor-based political party.
The LCIP Statement of Purpose lays out the campaign’s two-pronged objectives:
“Our first objective is to promote running independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2020 at a local and state level around a platform that embraces workers’ and communities’ pressing demands. …
“Our second objective is to promote widely in the trade union movement a committee that advocates for a Labor-based Political Party. A resolution adopted by the October 2017 national convention of the AFL-CIO affirmed that, ‘whether the candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of labor and working people have generally been set back.’ A second convention resolution concluded that, ‘the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics.”
The independent candidates and coalitions, moreover, cannot be limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in the platforms, projecting these struggles into the electoral arena. This will help to cement the alliance between labor and the oppressed communities.
Cleveland Roots of this Campaign
In January 2015, following the electoral debacle of the Democratic Party in the November 2014 mid-term elections, 19 Cleveland-area unionists distributed an Open Letter to the Delegates of the North Shore (Ohio) AFL-CIO Federation of Labor that drew some central lessons of the Democratic Party defeat in the elections and urged the North Shore Federation of Labor to run independent labor candidates for public office.
Though written four years ago, the message from these Cleveland unionists is as relevant today, if not more so. Open Letters like this one need to be written today by unionists and community activists across the country.
The Open Letter stated in part:
“In our view, labor — together with our community partners — needs to run its own independent candidates for public office and not rely on any political party to do for us what we must do for ourselves.
“In a nutshell, here is the problem. We depend on politicians in Washington to advance the interests of the working class majority. But these politicians in turn depend on big donors in order to get elected and re-elected. … Independent labor/community candidates could stand up to Wall Street. These independent candidates would be accountable to their base and vote for us.
‘We urge labor to take the lead in organizing a massive political and activist coalition that would truly represent the needs of the working class. … This worker-based coalition would contrast with the top-down Democratic Party, which gets 70% of its funding from Wall Street, giant corporations and the banks, and which is controlled by wealthy special interests. Labor’s recurring support for the Democratic Party has gotten us no appreciable gains.
“It’s time for a change! It’s time to develop an effective alternative!
“What is urgently needed now, we believe, is a debate throughout the movement regarding what must be done to gain real clout in the political and electoral arena. … We urge and hope that the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor will develop a strategic plan that lays the basis for running independent labor/community candidates, with the goal being to build a local and statewide political organization that could become an independent political/activist party.”
We, who have gathered at the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 7, 2019, declare our support for Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). We invite union members and community activists across the country to join us in building the foundations of a labor-based political party that serves the interests of the working class and all oppressed people. Please promote this campaign in your unions and community organizations, as well as among your friends and colleagues.
The Time is Now!
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Message to the Conference by Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus, South Carolina AFL-CIO
I commend the Labor Education and Arts Project(LEAP) for their continued efforts to address the concerns of a two-party system controlled by the one percent of those with wealth and that continues toblatantly disregard the concerns and struggles of working people. I add my voice to those in the Labor Fightback Network (LFN) and the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) attending the conference to address these issues with a continued sense of urgency that is strongly felt among voters across the country.
Health care continues to rank as a priority issue. The number of Americans without health insurance increased in 2018 to 27.5 million people, according to a report issued in September by the Census Bureau. Medicare for All has reached the time of essence. This was even noted in The Atlantic Magazine, which stated: “Medicare for All strikes many as the easiest way to stop the health-care madness.”
In recent labor negotiations during the GM/UAW strike, the issue of health care was used as a tool by employers to threaten the security of union members and their families. GM cut off health-care benefits to striking members. That action became a rallying point for “Medicare for All.” Taking health care off the bargaining table became a new bargaining tool for union members.
It didn’t take long for GM to recognize the dilemma created by their careless move, and health care was immediately reinstated to the striking members.
The time is now for Medicare for All. I have no doubt that leaders gathered in Cleveland today at the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” will be instrumental in making this happen.
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Statement by the Labor Fightback Network in Support of the Cleveland Conference
The people of the United States deserve better than what two-party politics has delivered on the important issues — jobs, healthcare, equal justice, peace, and the environment. In fact, large numbers of people are ready to move toward independent politics. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57% of the people see the need for a third major political party.
We may not get too many more chances to give an organized expression to this quest for independent, working class politics. Civil and labor rights are already being strangled by the powerful corporate front group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is pushing anti-protest and anti-labor laws, and by far-right politics promoted by SCOTUS, among others.
With 80% of us now living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, a precarious nation is at its limits. Ominous economic data and politics as usual suggest that working people will be subjected to another economic downturn and another rigged Democratic primary. By taking steps now, we can be prepared to offer a genuine alternative in the face of those crises. Without it, Trump and the far right will continue to fill the growing void in political representation.
It’s time to reclaim what we have lost and to demand equal rights, fair pay, and dignity for all.
The twin parties of Big Business fatten at the trough of health care, which is nearly 18% of the U.S. economy. Spending twice as much on health care per capita as the other industrialized countries, we in the U.S. have by far the worst outcomes in terms of infant mortality and longevity; 27.4 million people are still without health insurance.
The Republican and Democratic parties maintain the unjust, unequal and inefficient status quo in order to preserve the cash flowing from the profiteers. They are bought and owned by the commercial health insurance corporations, hospital chains, and the Wall Street drug cartel.
Dominated by the marketplace and finance capital, our health-care system is a story of haves and have-nots, with services and facilities shut down in working-class communities, particularly in communities of color, while gargantuan health-care empires grow through mergers and takeovers. A single-payer financing mechanism, such as expanded and improved Medicare for All, will value each one’s health and life equally, undercutting this drive toward inequality and weakening the grip of Big Capital on our lives. But the old parties of the bosses block us at every turn, terrified that we are finding the path to victory over their crushing oppression.
The Republican Party is known for its anti-labor positions, so union workers have tended to support the Democrats to fight for U.S. workers and low-income people. Democrats, however, have failed to push for meaningful labor law reform, leaving loopholes and free rides for corporations. Democrats could have repealed the part of the Taft-Hartley Act that allows states to pass “right to work” laws.
Barack Obama won the election in 2008 by promising workers that once in office he would enact the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have removed the main obstacles to organizing unions in the workplaces across the country. During Obama’s first two years in office, the Democrats held a majority in both Houses of Congress. Passing EFCA was doable. But the Democrats betrayed this promise and and followed the lead of Big Business, which funds both the Democrats and the Republicans.
Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million, with African Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. This was fueled by both major parties competing on “tough on crime” agendas.
Bill Clinton handed a huge gift to the private prison industry with the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill. This legislation gave federal approval for states to pass even more punitive laws and harsher practices by prosecutors and police, incarcerating more people and with longer sentences. The 1994 law shaped Democratic Party politics for years to come.
By deporting a record number of immigrants, Barack Obama earned the name “Deporter-in-Chief.” Guantanamo is still holding 40 men indefinitely. Now under Trump, asylum seekers, immigrants, and Jewish and Muslim Americans are facing increasing discrimination and the wrath and violence of hate groups.
Our bloated military budget has averaged around $700 billion annually since 2008, only fueling more wars and devastation. The U.S. “war on terror” — a bipartisan war on working people at home and abroad — has claimed millions of lives and is expected to cost taxpayers $6 trillion!
Candidates from both parties are heavily funded by top weapons contractors at the rate of $26.5 million in 2008 and well over $30 million in 2016. A Just Transition to a peace economy is necessary, but there will be no peace as long as both war parties are allowed to remain in charge.
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Some Lessons Learned from the 1996 Labor Party Experience
By ALAN BENJAMIN
The 1996 Labor Party collapse can be attributed to many factors. One is the LP leadership’s refusal to stake out a genuinely independent course against the Democrats and Republicans, something that required jumping into the electoral arena — even if only at the state and local level in the beginning stages.
At the founding convention of the LP in Cleveland in June 1996, Louisa Gratz, president of the large ILWU longshore local in Los Angeles, submitted for a vote an amendment to the strategy document that called on the Labor Party “to endorse independent labor candidates on the state or local level that conform to the platform as adopted at this convention. No national, state or local LP organization shall endorse candidates of other political parties.”
The amendment was rejected, but many of those who voted against the amendment stated that at the next LP convention the issue should be revisited.
Jerry Zero, president of the large Teamsters local in Chicago, put it this way in an interview at the founding convention with Labor Beat:
“It’s been a good debate. A lot of delegates want to run people for office immediately, some people want to wait. Myself, I believe we should wait a little while, get a little stronger — and the next time around, at our next convention, we ought to be ready to run candidates. If we’re not ready, we’re not much of a party.”
Jerry Gordon, who at the time was a convention delegate from the Cleveland LP chapter, told Labor Beat:
“I wish that the amendment by the Los Angeles ILWU local had passed, so that we could more rapidly put forward Labor Party candidates, at least at the local level. That will be an ongoing struggle. But I am pleased that the convention decided that the LP will not be endorsing any candidate of the bosses’ parties in the period ahead. We closed that door. That was a major step forward for the convention.”
The next Labor Party convention took place in Pittsburgh in 1998. Again the issue of running independent LP candidates came up — and again it was rejected. Many delegates urged the LP leadership to get the electoral ball rolling at a local level. The LP-affiliated unions represented more than 2 million workers, these delegates insisted. The LP organizations could build coalitions at a local level, win some key elections, and set an example of how an electoral strategy, promoted in tandem with a labor fightback strategy, could help build the Labor Party and attract new unions and members.
LP founder Tony Mazzocchi, leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) union, and the rest of the LP leadership refused to budge. They adopted a resolution on electoral strategy that relegated the task of running candidates to some distant point in the future.
We also should recall that at the second LP convention in Pittsburgh, Ralph Nader appealed to the LP to run LP candidates on a local and state level. He offered to assist the LP in the process, pledging to galvanize his huge base of supporters for this purpose. “I am a Labor Party member at heart,” Nader told the convention.
But Mazzocchi refused to heed Nader’s words. He and the other LP leaders did not want to press the unions that had endorsed the Labor Party to take further steps — one at a time, carefully — on the road to a clean break with the twin parties of the bosses. This pushed away the activist base of the LP and ultimately, it also pushed away many of the unions and locals that were willing and ready to move electorally against the Republicrats.
Failure to run candidates was not, of course, the sole reason for the demise of the Labor Party. It is not possible to separate developments in the Labor Party from what was happening in the broader labor movement. Even a more solid initial effort to launch the LP, with model election campaigns in various cities and stronger chapters, would have been confronted with the immense and renewed pressures of “lesser-evilism” that swept through the entire labor movement following George W. Bush’s “selection” (because the election was, in fact, stolen) in 2000.
Following the 2000 presidential election some of the national unions that had launched the LP, including the OCAW, began to disengage from this project. The 2002 LP convention in Washington, D.C., was nothing like the founding convention. The only high point was the “Clean Break Strategy Forum” held on the fringes of the convention that attracted 300 LP delegates committed to running LP candidates at the local level. Meeting organizers and speakers included Baldemar Velasquez, Donna Dewitt, Jerry Gordon, Eduardo Rosario, and Nancy Wohlforth, among others. The meeting laid the groundwork for the future.
The Labor Party founded in Cleveland in 1996 didn’t get everything wrong when it adopted an electoral policy in 1998. One of the strengths of Mazzocchi is that he insisted that all LP candidates had to have a real base in the unions and that they must reject all fusion campaigns. He understood that there would be huge pressures on the Labor Party, when it began to run its own candidates, to run on “fusion” tickets or otherwise have the LP candidates come out in support of Democrats on a national level.
Resisting this pressure is the hallmark of a genuine LP effort. This is critical not only from the standpoint of promoting a clean break with the Republicrats, it is a guarantee that the candidacy itself will be placed at the service of working people and their struggles. The Labor Party adopted a very progressive program — with a call for single-payer healthcare, the repeal of Taft-Hartley, free higher education, a major slash in the war budget so that funds can be directed toward meeting human needs, etc. The only way LP candidates can be held accountable both to the LP program and to the Labor Party as a whole, is to run strictly on the LP platform. Accountability is at the heart of an independent labor movement.
In its statement in support of the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” conference in Cleveland on Dec. 7, the Steering Committee of the LFN stated the following in relation to the 1996 Labor Party:
“The 1996 Labor Party Convention in Cleveland — attended by 1,400 delegates from 9 international unions, over 300 union locals, state and regional bodies and 40 chapters nationwide — did accomplish adopting a constitution and program. Reconnecting with that effort today should be a top priority of the U.S. labor movement.”
That is what Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) has set out to do, strengthened by the lessons learned from this important and valuable 1996 Labor Party experience.
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Class Struggle is Still the Issue
By ANN ROBERTSON and BILL LEUMER
[Note: Following are brief excerpts from a must-read article that was first published in the October 14, 2019, electronic issue of Counterpunch magazine.]
n the 1930s the working class rose up and through massive demonstrations and strikes succeeded in pressuring politicians to impose restraints on their employers. By winning the right to unionize, workers were able to expand unionization until 35 percent of the workforce was covered. This was a major cause of the rising standard of living of the working class during the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
However, during the 1970s the corporations launched their counter offensive. They started playing hardball with union organizing and gradually succeeded in reducing the unionized workforce to its current rate of 10.5 percent. The standard of living of the working class has experienced a steady decline.
- Between 2003 and 2013 the net worth of the median household dropped 36 percent.
- Between 1999 and 2014 income of the median household dropped by over $4000 a year.
- In 2013 labor compensation as a share of the economy dropped to its lowest point since 1948.
- Involuntary part-time work has grown 40% since 2000.
- The number of hours people in a household work has gone way up as women have entered the labor market to help the family make ends meet. In 1960 slightly more than 40 percent of women between 25 and 54 were in the workforce. In 2018 the number was slightly less than 80 percent. The need for both adults in the family to work has placed significant strain on the household.
- Traditional pensions, which are a relatively secure retirement plan, have dropped. In the past they covered almost half of the workforce. Now they cover less than one-fifth. Instead, more workers have 401k retirement plans, which usually provide less money for retirees and, because they are tied to the stock market, are not guaranteed. Hence, it is now predicted that half of California retirees will face “significant economic hardship” when they retire.
- Inequalities in wealth have been constantly expanding. In the 1940s and 50s, 73 percent of newly created wealth went to the bottom 90% of the population. Now virtually all new wealth goes to the wealthiest 10% of the population.
A Steady Decline Whether the Democrats or the Republicans Hold the Reins of Government
The Democratic Party can brag that it is the lesser evil when compared with the Republican Party. But the results of the working class relying on the Democratic Party have been disastrous: The standard of living of the working class has been in a steady decline whether the Democrats or the Republicans hold the reins of government.
Even Robert Reich, life-long Democrat and Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, described the Democratic Party in these terms (November 2016):
“It was the Democrats’ embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump.”
“Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security….
“They stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class – failing to reform labor laws to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violate them, or help workers form unions with simple up-or-down votes.”