Jan. 6, 2021 Storming of Capitol Fuels Political Crisis — The Solution Is to Bail Out Working People, Not Wall Street!
Statement by Socialist Organizer
NBA star athlete Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors did not mince words when he denounced the way the rioters were treated with kid gloves by the police when they jumped over barriers and busted their way into the Capitol on January 6:
“Nothing has changed: Had these been Black people running through barriers on Capitol grounds, they all would have been shot before they even got to the building. … The policing system was built against Black and brown people. That’s the reason we get shot at for demanding to be treated equally [while] these people are able to bust their way into the Speaker of the House’s office and put their feet on the desk, like they’re sitting at home on the couch.”
Green is right on point. The mob felt empowered. They had been summoned by the president of the United States to storm the Capitol and “take back the country” — an explicit call to lay siege to the Capitol. Trump, who is the person most responsible for the right-wing violence, including five deaths — called them “patriots.”
But the attempted insurrection failed. Trump had gone too far in his desperate attempt to remain in power. Increasing authoritarian rule in the interest of Wall Street, such as has existed over the past four years, was perfectly acceptable to the powers-that-be. Corporate America had seen its profits soar, thanks in large part to tax cuts and deregulation, while millions of workers were losing their jobs, their savings, and their homes.
The band of goons unleashed by Trump, however, risked destabilizing the political regime, already in deep — and growing — crisis, buffeted by a growing pandemic, the onset of a major economic depression, and deep political unrest from all quarters. The stability of the political institutions of capitalism — which Trump has disrupted — was at stake.
The U.S. ruling class — from the top executives of the 150 largest corporations in the United States, to the anti-worker National Manufacturers Association, to the political establishment in both capitalist parties, to the nation’s business media, to the top brass in the Armed Forces — came together with one voice to denounce the “domestic terrorist attack.”
Daimler Corp., which builds cars in the United States, echoed the views of countless corporate CEOs when it stated, “We depend on a reliable and stable political framework.”
Even Trump’s closest allies — including Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and right-wing Senator Lindsey Graham, all of whom had consistently fueled the reactionary violence by falsely denouncing the November 3 elections as illegitimate, jumped ship to preserve the institutions of corporate rule and imperialist domination.
The entire political establishment hailed this “victory of democracy” as the Congress met through the night to certify an election in one of the most reactionary, undemocratic institutions in the nation: the Electoral College, a body that in recent years stole the people’s majority vote for Al Gore in the Constitutional coup of 2000 and for Hillary Clinton in 2016. How ironic that as the Confederate flag was being paraded in the Capitol’s Rotunda, the senators and representatives of the corporate duopoly gathered inside the Congress chambers to implement the final stages of the reactionary deal reached with the slave states at the Constitutional Convention of the early Republic.
The entire political establishment joined President-elect Joe Biden in appealing for “national unity” to “restore our democracy,” to “heal the divide between Democrats and Republicans,” and to “get the economy back on track.” Moderate Biden Democrats, in particular, hailed the Democratic victory in the two Georgia Senate races while urging close collaboration with the “anti-Trump Republicans” to defeat any “pro-socialist” legislative proposals by the Squad and any “pro-Trump” proposals by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, both of whom are positioning themselves as heirs to Trump’s base.
Biden already has made it clear with his cabinet choices that “getting the economy back on track” will mean implementing the corporate agenda — meaning more austerity, privatization, deregulation, and layoffs. Biden’s Wall Street sponsors have announced that the massive debt accrued through the various pandemic stimulus packages will need to be repaid.
The message is unmistakable: The federal, state, and local budgets will be balanced on the backs of working people.
Enlisting support from the labor movement for this corporate “economic recovery” plan is therefore a top priority of the incoming administration. There will be lots of promises and some sops thrown at the labor movement (an increase to the minimum wage and a modest tax increase on the billionaires) to lure labor into this corporatist, co-optation operation. But the unions will be asked to accept major wage cuts (companies are already pressing for wage cuts of up to 30%) in the name of preserving jobs. And if wages are to be maintained, job cuts will be inevitable. Such are the choices that are offered to the trade union movement by Wall Street and the politicians in their pay.
Key to this co-optation effort is bringing Bernie Sanders and his supporters on board, even if only in a subordinate role. Wall Street made it known that Sanders would not be acceptable as secretary of labor; he was deemed too adversarial at a time when labor-management cooperation is the corporate order of the day. (Biden selected Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a former leader of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council, for the top labor post.)
Sanders, however, will be needed as the president’s sidekick. Biden announced that he will be traveling across the country with Sanders, “meeting with working men and women who feel forgotten and left behind in this economy … on our shared agenda of increasing worker power and protecting dignity of work for all working people.”
You can be sure that the Biden-Sanders roadshow will not include promoting Medicare for All (Single Payer), long advocated by Sanders but rejected vehemently by Biden. We can expect this tour to push for an “improved” version of the private-insurance-based Affordable Care Act, which has done little to address the nation’s healthcare crisis during the pandemic. Yes, Medicare for All is a worthy goal, we will be told, but just not now.
You can be sure that the Biden-Sanders roadshow will not include support for the Employee Free Choice Act, long promised by Obama in 2008 during his presidential campaign, but then ignored after he took office. Under EFCA the playing field would be leveled: If a majority of workers in a workplace sign union cards to become members (“card check”), the union is recognized.
It is not even clear that there will be a concerted effort by the new administration to win immediate passage of a watered-down version of EFCA known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. (The PRO Act has many good provisions, but it does not include the centerpiece of EFCA — that is, card check). It is far more likely that the PRO Act will be weakened further through “compromises” and then discarded altogether, as occurred with EFCA. [See sidebar article from our archives on the fight for EFCA in 2009.]
You can also be sure that the Biden-Sanders roadshow will not include support for slashing the war budget to fund human needs and shutting down U.S. bases the world over, or defunding the police and redirecting those funds to social services, or freeing political prisoners, or repealing all the anti-worker “free trade” agreements.
The Tasks Ahead
The tasks ahead in the fight for democracy for working people are multiple.
First, we must understand that the right-wing extremist threat is not going away. Trump’s minions, buoyed by what they consider a successful January 6 “insurrection” and convinced that they speak on behalf of the 74 million Trump voters (which is far from true), are threatening to disrupt the nation’s federal and state capitals on Inauguration Day, weapons in hand.
In addition, Republican legislators nationwide are planning to step up voter suppression and further undermine basic voting and democratic rights on a state-by-state basis. A specific target is Black voters.
The response to these threats must not be to support the ruling class’s “national unity” drive. That is a recipe for disaster and will only fuel the slide toward fascist rule. [See sidebar article on the new role of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the so-called “most powerful man in the Senate.”]
The response must be for the labor movement to champion the struggle for basic democratic rights — not through confrontations with Trump’s goons (which only plays into their hands and prompts more calls for “law and order”) but rather through independent mass actions that give voice to the working-class majority. Independent mass action and working-class unity around a fightback perspective, while fully supporting Black self-determination, are the best way to push back the right-wing racists and their ilk.
More broadly, the labor movement must spearhead the fight for democracy for working people — that is, the fight for clear solutions to our urgent demands for jobs, healthcare, housing, education, equal rights for all, and more.
To ensure that our demands are met, the labor movement must break with its subordination to the Democratic Party. In addition to mobilizing its millions of members, in alliance with its community allies, in independent mass actions in the streets, labor must begin the break with the Democrats in the political arena by forming coalitions with community organizations, particularly from oppressed communities, that run independent labor-community candidates on a local level. (For more information on this effort, go the website of Labor and Community for an Independent Party: http://www.lcipcampaign.org)
Among the demands that provide clear solutions for working people are the following:
– Medicare For All / Single-payer healthcare!
– Employee Free Choice Act Now!
– No cuts in social services; no layoffs or concessions to pay back the capitalist debt — Bail Out Working People, Not Wall Street! Relief Funding Now!
– Guarantee reproductive rights!
– End evictions; guaranteed affordable housing for all!
– Free quality public education; no to charter schools and vouchers!
– Massive public-works funding to put the 30 million jobless people back to work at union scale!
– Massive funding for hospitals, Proper Protective Equipment, and research to address the scourge of COVID-19, which has taken seven times the number of lives of U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam!
– Protect and extend human rights for all; stop the hate crimes against the LGBTQ community!
– Defund the police and redirect the funding to vitally needed social programs; end mass incarceration, free all political prisoners; expand voter participation!
– Stop all deportations of undocumented immigrants, citizenship for all, shut down the detention centers, and repeal the “free trade” agreements that destroy jobs both south and north of the border!
– End the U.S. wars and interventions the world over; slash the war budget and redirect the funds for jobs and social services.
Waging the fight for labor’s independence from the bosses in the workplace and from their representatives in the two corporate parties is the most urgent task of the hour. This is how we achieve the social content of democracy without which all you’re left with is the form, or semblance, of democracy, not its substance.
— January 10, 2021
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Stop the Backtracking: EFCA with Card Check!
[Introductory Note: The following editorial article is reprinted from the September 2009 issue of The Organizer. The editorial was written when the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and therefore had the ability to enact the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), Medicare for All, and more. But the Democrats stalled, bent to Wall Street dictates, and ultimately did nothing. No EFCA, not even a watered-down version of EFCA, was ever enacted. The labor leadership, which could have mobilized millions in the streets to impose EFCA and Medicare for All, did nothing, having remained joined at the hip to the Democrats. Today, the Democrats again control both Houses of Congress. Labor must learn the lesson of 2008-2009: If you fail to break with the Democrats and take bold action, if you cave to the pressures of Wall Street, you will lose support from your union base and you will contribute to the corporate assault on the working class and all oppressed people.]
On Sept. 4, 2009, The New York Times ran an article titled, “Union Head Would Back Bill Without Card Check.” The author, Steven Greenhouse, writes:
“John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL- CIO, has signaled a significant shift to try to move a long-stalled pro-union bill, saying he would support a change that calls for speedy unionization elections, a provision that would replace the much-attacked card-check provision.”
Greenhouse notes that, “The move away from card check would be a victory for the business community,” before going on to point out that even this major concession by Sweeney is not enough for the corporate elite that runs this country. Randel Johnson, a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is quoted as saying that the proposed “snap” elections “would eliminate the ability of the employer to educate its employees about the potential adverse effects of unionization.”
The new AFL-CIO leadership under Richard Trumka must not agree to gut the Employee Free Choice Act. The labor movement will not be able to win its demands if it continues to accept what the Democrats are “willing to put on the table” — rather than fight for what working people need and deserve, which is what “should be on the table.” (our emphasis)
Earlier this year, the AFL-CIO gathered more than 2 million signatures of union members and supporters in support of the EFCA, whose core provision is card check.
Obama, during his entire election campaign stump, had promised EFCA with card check. But no sooner was he elected than he and his administration began to backtrack.
Soon after Arlen Specter, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, and a handful of other elected officials went public to announce their desire to find a “compromise” resolution — one that essentially keeps the anti-union labor laws on the books, but tweaks them a bit.
At the mid-September national AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, Michael Moore received a loud ovation when he challenged the labor leadership to organize a demonstration in Washington, DC for single-payer.
This fighting strategy – this call for labor to mobilize in the streets for the demands of all working people and the oppressed — must be supported. Labor needs to assert its independence in relation to the Obama administration, Pelosi, and the Democrats. It needs to get back into the streets.
The new AFL-CIO leadership under Richard Trumka needs to issue a call for a National Solidarity Day III March — to be held before the end of the year — in support of a real jobs creation program, for single-payer healthcare, AND for a real Employee Free Choice Act — with card check.
— The Editors
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The “Most Powerful Man in the Senate” and How to Defeat His Policies
For many weeks, labor and political activists have been warned that we must lower our expectations about what a Biden presidency can accomplish. First, it was because the Republicans would most likely retain control of the Senate. Hence, progressive policies would be very limited, if any.
Then after January 5, when the Democrats won both Senate seats in Georgia, the explanation changed a bit.
Analysts are now cautioning Democrats against “overreaching leftward … and giving in to pressures from the progressives” because they only have a “small advantage” in the Congress, according to a lead article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 10 titled, “Mob attack divides GOP, but Biden’s job won’t be easier.” The article explains:
“‘The danger for the Biden team is if they come in and try to get as much as they can now without reaching across the aisle,’ said Mary Kate Cary, a top White House adviser to President George H.W. Bush, who is now a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Miller Center at the University of Virginia. ‘If they do that, they’re going to get a lot of backlash.’”
According to John Hudak, a senior fellow at the conservative Brookings Institute, “The center of gravity in the Senate is moving toward the middle, making Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia ‘the most powerful man in the Senate right now.’”
When he first ran for the Senate in 2010, the Chronicle article continues, Manchin bragged that he would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association. “If Democrats really want something, they have to make it work for Joe Manchin,” Hudak said. “That really narrows the window of what Biden could achieve in the near term.”
What conclusion do proponents of these warnings draw? Labor and political activists must not place undue pressure on Biden lest they rock the boat and provoke a voters’ “backlash” that would lead to Republicans taking back the Senate, as occurred in 2010. (In fact, the Republicans would most likely win seats in the House of Representatives in 2022 — and even reclaim the presidency in 2024 — if Biden and the Democrats don’t deliver anything of value to the working class.
This warning to Biden and the Democrats comes from two of the major ruling-class think-tanks. But no warning is really needed: Biden has made it clear that he is fully committed to Sen. Manchin’s “national unity” directives. Time and again Biden has insisted that he will govern by reaching out across the aisle to the moderate Republicans but also to his “good buddy” Mitch McConnell, among others.
This can only mean implementing the anti-worker austerity agenda dictated by Wall Street. This is why the labor movement must wake up before it’s too late and mobilize its members and community partners to fight tooth and nail for the demands that address the needs of the working-class majority and all the oppressed.
Millions of people who voted for Biden want Medicare for All. They want jobs. They want to defund the police so that monies can be reoriented to vital social programs. They want an end to “free trade” agreements that destroy the environment and leave a rust belt in their wake. They want to shut down the detention centers and grant papers for all undocumented immigrants.
These demands can be won. It is up to the rank-and-file and leaders at all levels of the labor movement to make it happen!
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— The Editors