Democrates and Labor Leaders Unite with Republicans to Bleed Workers Dry
With all the diligence and sincerity of the warden accompanying the condemned on the last mile, California’s Democratic Party politicians are rallying the faithful to do the dirty work of the ruling class, promoting passage of Propositions 1a thru 1f, on May 19th.
The budget deal cut in Sacramento on February 19th is the latest example of how incapable the politicians are of leading a fight for social and economic justice. Uber liberal Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D) and with the rest of the Democratic Assembly and Senate, have betrayed their ostensible class allegiance and shown their total ineffectuality as defenders of and fighters for the needs of the working class, students, elderly, disabled and the poor.
Here is how Ammiano, the so-called “friend of labor,” trips all over himself while throwing the executioner’s switch for the working class and holding out false hopes for manna from the new Messiah in Washington:
“The process was not perfect and difficult decisions had to be made. No one is happy about the service cuts, layoffs and tax increases that were a necessary part of this plan. In voting for this budget, I want to acknowledge that we have made painful cuts to vital human services that serve the poor and the elderly as well as deep reductions in education spending for our schools. We did so with great reluctance in the hope that some of these cuts will be restored through the recently passed federal stimulus bill.” (Tom Ammiano Press Release, Feb. 19, 2009)
The websites of other state representatives are full of similar excuses. These are not “friends of labor,” but servants of the ruling class. Not one of them shows any backbone, and like Assembly member Wesley Chesbro (D), of California’s 1st Assembly District, they try to cover their tracks with the justification that it could be much worse:
“This budget package was a compromise of deep cuts and revenue increases that required both sides of the aisle to make concessions. The cuts we made are the most severe in the history of California budgets. All Californians will be asked to make sacrifices, either in the form of service cuts or paying a little more in taxes to return our state to solvency. If we had not acted on this solution now – if we had waited any longer – the pain for all of us would have been worse.” (Wesley Chesbro, Feb. 20, 2009)
Only a month after the budget passed, Obama came to visit California and shared the stage, all buddy-buddy, with Schwarzenegger. The very same week that workers, students, and parents across the state took to the streets to oppose budget cuts, the President and the Governor came together to praise each other and express their mutual support for one another’s unworkable solutions to the economic crisis, which entail cutting social programs, education, wages, and benefits across the state and nation. Obama supporters who see their schools being closed by the Governor need to start asking which side is he on.
These pawns of the ruling class assume the job of selling cutbacks to us wholesale, as they rally forces to pass the proposition package on May 19th. What they call compromise and speak of as “pain we all have to share” is no less than the ruling class’s plan to balance the budget crisis on the backs of the working class. While workers, their families, the elderly, and the disabled are being asked to accept regressive taxes, layoffs, furloughs, and cuts in education and social services, there is little in the “compromise” that threatens to cause any pain to the top one percent who hold the reins of the economy, or the top five percent who serve as their lackeys.
The budget “compromise” perpetuates the state’s structural economic and political stalemate based on the continuation of regressive taxation and protection of the wealth of the corporate elite and super rich. Funding previously allocated via propositions 10 and 63 (1998) will be redirected via propositions 1d and 1e to pay for programs that should be paid by the General Fund. Money allocated to education by proposition 98 is now being held hostage, only to be restored by the passage of proposition 1b, which in turn is tied to the regressive taxes (the cornerstone of the plan) in proposition 1a. The future revenue stream of lottery sales, originally slated for education, will be sold off for a $5 billion lump sum payment.
None of the substantial structural problems strangling the California budget were addressed in the “compromise.” Without addressing the two-thirds budget rule, the property tax freeze for corporations written into proposition 13, the state’s regressive taxation policies, and the power of the prison-industrial complex, there is no short or long term solution short of more pain for California’s working people. Everything was compromised. Instead of leading their constituency in a battle to enforce the majority’s will, the Democrats allowed themselves to be cornered and maneuvered into participating in the attack on the interests of their constituents by a discredited minority party.
Observers must question whether the Democrats are totally incompetent, or just liars. Their actions force us to conclude that either their compassion for the working man is feigned, or their skills at political maneuvering are pathetic. Even with a majority of California voters in their camp, they are totally ineffectual. Faced with the two-thirds rule for passing a budget, and the lack of revenue due to proposition 13’s legacy, they throw up their hands and are utterly stymied. The Democrats are not a party committed to organizing and fighting for the interests of working people. Its politicians are nothing better than unabashed snake oil peddlers, a fact easily discerned by reading their self-congratulatory web sites, their second-rate rhetoric, and their total commitment to maintaining the parasitic institutions of the status quo.
Meanwhile, Labor’s misleaders are falling right into line behind them, throwing hard-earned dues dollars into the campaign to pass the propositions. The California Teachers Association (CTA), which to date has endorsed proposition 1b, has given money to the Budget Reform Campaign (BRC), which supports all six propositions. In return, the BRC has funneled funds back to CTA’s efforts. This pay-to-play and go-along-to-get-along strategy is a dead end for labor. Had only a fraction of the money the organized labor movement has wasted on the Democrats been put into strike funds, building class solidarity and preparing for strike action, labor currently would be armed, both organizationally and politically, to defend its own interests in a militant manner, as the French workers have recently done with some success. But the current pack of union leaders are so enamored with their Democratic allies and business unionism that they are now incapable of mobilizing the membership.
These so-called leaders would sooner break bread with the governor then take up labor’s militant tradition and organize a fighting social movement. If the unions are to become vehicles capable of defending and advancing the condition of the working class, its current class collaborationist leaders need to be swept aside, and replaced by democratic trade union militants committed to the advancement of working people’s social and economic power.
The working class needs its own political movement committed to breaking labor’s century-long reliance on the Democratic Party, and building an independent working class political party capable of replacing the failed institutions of the bosses’ government with democratically run institutions of workers’ self-governance.
To achieve our ends, a program of clear demands and goals is necessary to mobilize, organize and prepare the working class for the enormous tasks at hand.
Without a political party that is totally independent of wealthy corporate interests, we have no voice. Hence we demand: Break with the Democrats. Build an independent Labor Party based on organized labor and the oppressed.
Without education, we have no ability to earn a living and understand our world. Hence we demand: Free public education for all from pre-school to university level, with stipends for full-time students.
Without affordable, quality health care, our bodies and lives are sacrificed on the altar of profit. Hence we demand: Free universal health care for all. Cut out the insurance companies. For a medical system run by councils of doctors, nurses, technicians, staff, and patient advocates.
Without jobs, we have no subsistence, and without leisure time, we have no outlet for creative expression. Hence we demand: Thirty hours work for forty hours pay. Share the socially necessary labor, to guarantee jobs for all. For a massive public works programs to build and maintain infrastructure and provide productive employment for all.
Inflation or deflation can destroy people’s standard of living. Hence we demand: Institute a sliding scale of prices and wages tied to the cost of living index.
Without a means to facilitate the continued supply of resources and materials, production comes to a grinding halt. Hence we demand: Nationalize the banking and credit system under workers’ control.
Without a major change in our relationship with the natural world, our planet faces devastating environmental degradation and the increasing possibility of catastrophic climate change. Hence we demand: Massive funding for the development of clean renewable energy sources. Immediate commencement of an all-out global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt practices such as clear-cutting and strip-mining, and develop clean technology and renewable energy.
Overseas wars and US military installations in over one hundred countries around the world serve only the interests of the multinational corporations, the oil companies, and the war profiteers. Hence we demand: Close all military bases abroad, and bring all military personal home.