Monday, February 21, 2011
"In a move of unusual barbarism and savagery, Republican Governor Walker of Wisconsin is attempting to loot the wages and pensions of state workers, while at the same time stripping them of the right to collective bargaining which they have exercised for many decades."
Washington DC, Feb. 20, 2011 – After four decades of disillusionment, and demoralization, disorientation and rout of the labor movement, the mass strike is once again abroad in the land. In dozens of state capitals, reactionary Republican governors and runaway legislatures, trading on the primitive slogans of the astroturf “Tea Party” movement, and controlled by sinister billionaires like the Koch brothers, are attempting to implement their lunatic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation for the super-rich, while attempting to shift the costs for Wall Street’s world economic depression onto the backs of working people. The reactionary attack is now so ferocious that it is goading increasing numbers of American working people into actions of self-defense, leading US workers to put aside the apathy and passivity which have prevailed in the labor movement since the Nixon administration.
In a move of unusual barbarism and savagery, Republican Governor Walker of Wisconsin is attempting to loot the wages and pensions of state workers, while at the same time stripping them of the right to collective bargaining which they have exercised for many decades. The workers, students, and citizens of Wisconsin and surrounding states have responded to Walker’s challenge by occupying the state capital and maintaining a continuous presence in downtown Madison. The situation, bearing certain formal similarities to Tahrir Square in Cairo, is now a focus of national and international attention.
De Facto General Strike of the Wisconsin Public Sector
For the first time in a very long time, the American people are fighting back, waging class defense against the merciless class hatred and class warfare coming from the plutocratic 1% who own almost 40% of the total assets of this country, while the bottom 40% of Americans own less than 1%. The Wisconsin public unions are in a de facto general strike, shutting down schools and other offices, and enlisting other segments of the population in their support. The national media, engaged at the moment in a cheerleading campaign in favor of CIA destabilizations across the Middle East, are hesitating to condemn the strikers until they get a pretext.
It is imperative that the Wisconsin public sector unions win their fight, and force Governor Walker to back down. But already, their union leaders and Democratic politicians have unilaterally given up on defending them against the wage and pension prongs of Walker’s class war assault. This preventive surrender is very unwise, to say the least. Why not wait for concessions from Walker before giving up anything? If the labor movement refuses to try to defend even the existing reduced standard of living of US workers, then no success will ever be possible.
The biggest problem for the Wisconsin public sector workers is that none of the leaders, so far as is known, has had the ability to propose a broader program than just the idea that state workers who have collective bargaining should be allowed to keep it. This is true and right, but it is also far too narrow, and will not be politically successful over time. Successful movements cannot simply advance the interests of their own limited group. They have to articulate a broader interest of the whole society, in which disparate strata of the population can see their own aspirations being expressed. The Wisconsin workers are doing this implicitly, but now they must do it explicitly, for all to see.
Who Will Pay for the Depression – Wall Street or Working People?
The big question right now is, “Who will pay for the depression?” Will it be the Wall Street parasites, who caused a crisis and who have insisted in an obscene display of $150 billion of bonuses in 2010, or will it be working people and the middle class?
If Wisconsin public-sector workers don’t want Governor Walker to flay them alive, they need to come up with some policy answers. If they don’t want the state budget to be balanced at their expense, and they need to specify where indeed the money should come from. Is there no significant mass of wealth which is currently untaxed, where a modest levy might provide the revenue to get the state out of its budget difficulties?