Work in the Two-Party System
| May 28, 2015 | 9:54 pm | About the CPUSA, political struggle | No comments


Editors’ Note: A reader called our attention to an article by William Z. Foster. Despite some old-fashioned terms here and there, sixty five years after its publication, it has a remarkable echoes in present-day politics and debates in the union movement.

By William Z. Foster
Political Affairs, January 1959

It is a peculiarity of the American labor movement that the trade unions have no mass Labor Party, or other mass party. For many years past – for well over half a century, in fact – they have concentrated their political work heavily upon voting for the policies and candidates of the two old bourgeois parties, Democratic and Republican, with the emphasis on the former.

The general result is that the workers as a whole, following variations of the Gompers “reward your friends and punish your enemies” policy, have remained deplorably weak politically. They have had very little representation in the various governmental bodies, their political policies are inadequate and sketchy, and their understanding of the class struggle is heavily tinctured with bourgeois illusions.

On the other hand, the various radical parties (and there are several of them) are frustrated in their growth and are essentially sects. This process has gone on until the present day, when the so-called two-party system is deeply entrenched in the labor movement, and the workers have built up much political machinery in all the key industrial states within the framework of the Democratic Party.

Throughout the bulk of these years, the Left parties generally followed the policy of attempting to build independent mass parties (they originally got this idea from the German Socialist Party over two decades before), instead of working with the masses. For many years, up until the latter 1930’s, this was also the definite policy of the Communist Party, which had inherited it from its forerunners.

The result was a serious split in the ranks of the working class, with almost the entire Left on the sectarian end of the split, and defending it with all sorts of so-called revolutionary arguments; while on the other hand, most of the organized workers, who were chiefly conservative, insofar as they were politically active, supported one or the other of the two old parties. This has gone on until the present day, until now the two-party system is more marked than ever.

The Communist Party, with its Marxist-Leninist spirit and policy, was the first of the several Left parties (except for the scraggly policy of the Socialist Party) to begin to make a break with this long-prevalent policy of having no truck whatever with the two-party political system, regardless of the isolationist consequences of their attitude.

In the latter 1930’s, when the CIO began to develop, the Communists, who were in working alliance with the progressive or middle group in the CIO unions, began to participate in PAC and in the manifold working-class formations inside the Democratic Party, supporting certain candidates, advancing policies, etc. This continued on a large scale in the CIO unions, with the Communists as participants in the political work, until the split of 1949 (with the partial exception of the American Labor Party period).

The weakness of the Communists in this work, however, was that they did not theorize it, and undertook it only half-heartedly. Undoubtedly, this active participation in the workers’ formations within the two-party system was one of the major factors in the building of the mass strength of the Communist Party during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

In 1948, the Communists made a partial and disastrous departure from their policy of working within the framework of the two old parties, by the establishment of the independent Progressive Party. The formation of this party was one of the most serious errors made by the Party during the entire period. This isolationist policy pulled large numbers of members out of the Democratic Party, and most of them never returned; it also broke up the Left-Center alliance in countless unions.

The weakening of the work of the Communists in this vital branch of mass political activity was hastened by a series of events of the period: by the Browder revisionism of 1943-1944; the Progressive Party split of 1948; the split of the CIO in 1949; the Party mistakes, both Left and Right, of the 1940’s and 1950’s; and the revisionist Party crisis after 1955.

The development of revisionism had definitely as one of its major results the weakening of the Party work in the old political parties – characteristically, the revisionists had their eyes focused on the Right-sectarian bastardization of the slogan of the united party of Socialism, and the prevention of the Party from getting into real mass work.

The Two-Party System

The great bulk of the workers support the two old party tickets, with two-thirds or more supporting the Democratic Party, and hardly one-third, if that, supporting the Republican Party. In the recent November election, of the approximately 45 million votes polled by the two old parties, probably in the neighborhood of 20 million or more were cast by workers, with another 10 million or more cast by farmers, Negroes, and other Labor Party elements – with the usual huge majority going to the Democrats.

On the other hand, of the five independent, Left-wing parties (Communist, Socialist, Socialist-Labor, Trotskyite, and Independent-Socialist), hardly one hundred thousand votes were cast, combined, all over the United States, which obviously is not the total Socialist strength in this country.

This shows at a glance that the enormous majority of the workers, insofar as they vote at all, are voting the two old tickets. It also indicates that the main electoral mass work of the progressives, as things now stand, lies within the scope of these two mass parties, which control the election vote of the great toiling masses. And of course, these two parties are the controlling parties of the government.

In the work of the progressives, functioning in the unions and mass organizations, within the two old parties, consideration should be given to the following:

The Left forces should propagate their progressive program and line in the old parties, with the stress upon the one which currently contains the mass of the workers, and undertake to mobilize the workers and their allies in these parties for the eventual formation of the Labor Party at an appropriate political time.

The CP works upon the theory that it is impossible for the workers to win complete control of either the Democratic Party, or the Republican party, they being too closely controlled by the monopolists, and that eventually the workers and their allies will have to form an independent Labor Party. It is possible for labor, however, to win control of many key sections of the organization, to win some significant political concessions, and to raise important class issues, as was done in the recent election within the Democratic Party on the question of anti-right-to-work laws.

Undoubtedly, strong organization can be built up in such states where the working masses are politically active, as, for instance, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, California, Washington, and other states.

The progressives should actively combat all illusions among the workers and others in the old parties (without making them splitting issues) that the Democratic Party, or may it be the Republican Party, can be won as a bloc by the workers. We must focus the attention of the masses on the eventual perspective of the Labor Party, as their next big step to a mass and class political organization, without rushing into premature, split movements.

It is important for progressives to work definitely at building strong worker organization and program inside the Democratic (and where possible, the Republican) Party. This they should do in such a way as not to play into the hands of the reactionaries, who are quick to use the demagogy that the workers are out to “capture” the organization, and to carry through various political “plots.”

The workers in these parties should work firmly and persistently, and not rush hastily and without proper consideration, into splitting movements.

Reformists and opportunists of all shades have long since dabbled with political activity within the Democratic and Republican Parties. For the most part, however, they have immediately shed therewith their previous radical pretensions.

The Left-wing has worked with labor and others functioning politically through the Democratic Party (and also in the Republican Party) as early as 25 years ago and it has continued it ever since, especially since the workers began to be active in the building of the CIO.

The difficulty of the Left at the time was that it did not clearly theorize its course in the old parties. The general result was that its work was spasmodic and sketchy, and it made many needless and harmful opportunist and Left-sectarian mistakes. When it realizes clearly where its political action can take them, such errors and lost motion can readily be avoided.

In this general work, the Left must especially seek to cooperate with the middle or progressive group of workers and their leaders. Many conservatives are now displaying a measure of political activity, and they should be worked with; but the center forces are vastly more active and effective, both in their program and their organizational work.

The Labor-Negro-Farmer Party

The Communist Party should orient (as it has done for the past 40 years, not always too clearly) upon the proposition that the American working class will eventually free itself from the bourgeois control of the two-party system, and build a mass party of its own. This, as American labor history indicates, probably will eventually take the form of a combination of workers, Negroes, farmers and petty-bourgeois elements. These will comprise a large majority of the American people as a whole, and such a party would have the potential of securing a majority in the elections on an anti-monopoly program.

The formation of the Labor-Negro-Farmer Party (whatever its eventual popular name may be) in the United States, would mark a huge step forward for the American working class and its allies. It would enormously increase their representation in innumerable governmental institutions, as well as facilitate in general their political fight, and clarify their understanding in the class struggle.

The Labor Party in the United States will probably not have, certainly at first, a Socialist program – owing to the non-Socialist ideology of the American working class. The Communists, however, should actively propagate Socialism in all their Labor Party work. Under no circumstances should this point be neglected. But Socialism should not be presented as a splitting issue.

We should not assume, also, that the development of the Labor Party in the United States will be directly parallel with that of Great Britain. The work of the Left in the two old parties, for the Labor Party, should be characterized by firmness, persistence, and resolute advocacy of the Labor Party. It should not be made the object of thoughtless and light-minded splitting movements.

The building of the Labor Party will undoubtedly represent a serious struggle and cover various phases. Past experience shows that many working class organizations will be built up in the process within the ranks of the old parties. Examples of this are the AFL and CIO, COPE and PAC. A number of other organizations will develop.

This was the case with the old Progressive Party, the Commonwealth Federation, the EPIC movement of California, state and local Farmer-Labor Parties, etc., in the past. At the present time there are the workers’ independent organizations in Michigan, and many other forms in other states. All these should be supported, bearing in mind the need to avoid useless, harmful and premature splits.

A special form of intermediate organization developed between the building of primitive formations within the old parties, and the formation of a definite Labor Party; this was the American Labor Party in the State of New York. Such organizations, while actively striven for, should not be organized until there is the proper groundwork. The life experience of this organization, which has been but little studied by working-class leaders, should be carefully gone into.

In the Labor Party work, inside of the old parties and independently, a major effort should be concern with dovetailing the work in both spheres. This was one of the strong points of the earliest years of the New York ALP. The workers in the ALP could work in complete harmony with their brothers and sisters who had not yet taken similar steps by breaking with the old organization and setting up an independent organization.

In the Labor Party work, in all stages, it must not be forgotten that the trade-union movement is the backbone of the Labor Party. Consequently, all organizations looking to the strengthening of the movement must have a solid core of organized labor strength.

Especially is this the case when the movement reaches the point of actually forming the Labor Party. It is impossible to establish an effective Labor Party movement without a solid trade-union foundation. This the workers have experienced time and again in their several generations of effort to create the Labor Party.

When the situation is deemed ready for the formation of the Labor Party, as nearly as possible the whole labor movement must be involved. A characteristic attempt to form the Labor Party without a solid trade-union backing was the Progressive Party of 1948.

In the labor movement, it is important that the principle of independent action be established so that labor and its allies shall not be controlled by hostile class elements. There should be active campaigns begun to establish working relations between all the anti-monopoly elements, which could eventually come to make up a Labor Party.

The membership of the Labor Party should be based upon the affiliation of organizations as well as the formation of groups on the principle of individual membership. The Communist Party would seek affiliation with the Labor Party, but it would not let this become a splitting issue.

The Communist Party

The Communist Party must be actively built in every phase of the Labor Party movement – to create the organization of the workers in the major parties, to build the Labor Party, and to fulfil the thousand and one tasks that the Party confronts in the class struggle. We must remember that the independent role of the working class is the ultimate status we are driving at, and that hence the importance of the Communist Party must not be underestimated.

The Communist Party, with its Socialist objective, should operate on the principle of the Vanguard Party, and play an independent role. Its members should permeate every phase of the Labor Party work. It should strive to win all the other Left forces to its Labor Party policy. The entire Left and radical movements should have one – a substantially unified – policy.

In general, the CP should oppose the putting up at this time of general Left-wing election tickets, covering all offices. Such a tactic puts the Left forces in direct opposition with the body of the workers who are still supporting the Democratic Party. So far as possible, the various branches of the movement – old parties, Labor Parties and independent tickets – should dovetail with one another.

Independent tickets should be put up, both of a general and specific character; but so far as practical, these should be directed against reactionary elements on the old part tickets. Above all, the Labor Party movement must aim at a unified strategy throughout all its phases.

The CP should take an energetic stand against useless splitting tactics on all levels of the movement. It cooperates freely with other Left forces, but it does not support them in splitting tactics which conflict with the interests of the workers. The CP at all times should retain full freedom to propagate its Labor Party policy, as well as its general line. It combats illusions of the workers as to the permanency and other alleged benefits of the two-party system.

In keeping the Labor Party issue to the fore at all times, the CP should make no agreements with other parties soft-pedalling this issue. It shall not, however, introduce the Labor Party issue into any given situations regardless of the effects it may have upon the general movement.

The system of election primaries, as well as all other such machinery, need to be fully utilized, to see to it that workers and Negroes are nominated in greater numbers on the old party tickets.

The CP should carry on a permanent and active educational campaign for the Labor Party.

During the course of the history of the labor movement, there have been numerous issues upon which the Left-wing forces found themselves taking a very different line from that followed by the masses. Often this could be corrected, to the general profit of the labor movement and also of its most advanced sections.

It has fallen to the task of the Communist Party, to have corrected some of these sectarian errors. Now it is necessary that this whole matter of electoral policy be very deeply probed and analyzed, and clearly stated.

It is high time that this was done. The Party needs to probe the entire political situation, especially all its two-party system aspects. The Party should examine its own experience, as well as that of others, in this matter, and draw all necessary conclusions.

It is fitting that the Communist Party, as it has done on many other occasions, should take the vanguard position in bridging the gap between the electoral work of labor, functioning in the Democratic Party, and that of the independent Left.

If this is done promptly and well, it will mean the material strengthening of the Party and the general labor movement in many respects

Last Cuban Doctors Who Fought Ebola Back Home
| May 28, 2015 | 12:12 pm | Cuba, Ebola | No comments
May 27, 2015 
Elio Delgado Legón

All the Cuban doctors have now returned from fighting Ebola in Africa.
HAVANA TIMES — The last Cuban health workers who were combatting the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry returned to the island this past 22nd of May.
For over six months, a brigade of 256 health professionals, belonging to the Henry Reeve internationalist work team, combatted the deadly virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, putting their own lives at risk for the sole satisfaction of fulfilling their duty, and in response to the petition made to Cuba by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and World Health Organization Chair Margaret Chan.
An initial team of 158 medical doctors and nurses returned to Cuba from Sierra Leone and Liberia on March 23. Since then, small groups of doctors have been returning to Cuba, until all of those mobilized to Western Africa (where, next to physicians from other countries, they saved lives and halted the spread of the epidemic), had come back. There were two regrettable losses, victims of malaria.
Another brigade from the same contingent traveled to Chile to help save lives and treat those affected by the floods that recently scourged the north of the country.
More recently, following the large-scale earthquake that shook Nepal on April 25, another brigade was deployed to the Asian country, where it set up a field hospital equipped with a surgical unit, a recovery ward and an intensive care unit.
These are only the most recent examples of the immense medical efforts Cuba undertakes around the world, in solidarity with all who require their services anywhere, and it discredits all who deny Cuba’s status as a medical force to be reckoned with, a status it has achieved despite having had to develop in the grip of a tight blockade imposed by the United States over fifty years ago.
The above claim is backed by the declarations made by Dr. Luis Di Fabio, Cuba’s representative before the Pan-American and World Health Organizations (PHO/WHO), who recently stated before the press that Cuba’s primary healthcare system is excellent and that its sanitary system is unique, comprehensive, free and fraternal – and that it ought to be implemented in other countries.
Di Fabio also underscored the medical cooperation initiatives that have been undertaken by Cuba in 151 different countries since the 1960s, initiatives that have involved 325,000 health professionals and have benefited more than a billion patients.
He also referred to Cuba’s medical cooperation efforts (undertaken jointly with the PHO and WHO) in Brazil’s Mais Medicos program, where the island has sent over 11,000 medical professionals to offer services in more than 4,000 municipalities, benefiting 63,000,000 locals who didn’t have access to such services before. He stressed the qualifications of Cuba’s human resources and stated that many of the medical doctors trained in Cuba are today health ministers in their respective countries.
Lastly, he referred to efforts aimed at taking such medical universities to East Timor, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Eritrea, where Cuban professors are training medical personnel to help achieve mass health coverage in those nations.
I have paraphrased the declarations made by Luis Di Fabio, a UN expert who has been in Cuba for quite some time and is aware of the results reported by Cuba’s health system (as well as the dififculties the country has had to face (owing to the way in which companies refuse to sell life-saving medications to Cuba), so that you don’t have to take my word for it. Considering only what this ongoing revolution has done for the health of the Cuban people and many other peoples around the world, we can say that it’s been worth the sacrifice.
Primary elections reaffirmed opposition’s confidence in CNE
| May 28, 2015 | 12:11 pm | political struggle, Venezuela | No comments
Caracas, 26 May. AVN.- Once more, Venezuelan opposition asked the National Electoral Council to organize its primary elections, held on May 17 in order to choose, this time, its candidates for parliamentary elections scheduled for late 2015. It was a matter of an internal election that reaffirms the confidence in the automated voting system that, ironically, the opposition attempts to delegitimize every time it loses a ballot.
Even though revolutionary leader and expert in electoral issues, Jorge Rodriguez, called opposition primaries, “falsarias” (false primaries) for being the biggest failure of citizen participation in elections of the opposition with only 7.2% of registered voters, there are two positive aspects of this election to highlight: first, the use of the fingerprint scanners and second, the opposition did not use the voting notebooks.
“The only positive balance is that they can no longer say that the electoral system is fraudulent, that voting machines alter the results, and can not say anymore we can not use fingerprint scanners because in this election the Venezuelan right used voting machines, fingerprint readers and electronic notebooks,” Rodriguez said Monday at a press conference.
“They can not say that what helped them for their elections yesterday is not going to help when holding parliamentary election, nor claim fraud,” said the revolutionary leader.
This represents a significant step forward within a sector that has systematically used notebooks and fingerprint readers as a means to try to cast doubts on transparency and expertise of the Venezuelan electoral system.
On April 2014, after former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles lost elections against President Nicolas Maduro and claimed a “fraud” that left 11 people dead and a 100% audit of the polling stations, the right-wing used the voting notebooks as the main argument of its campaign against the electoral institution.
Capriles insisted that the notebooks should be reviewed, even though this is a residual of the manual system that was fully automated after a long process of research and investments which began in 1972 and consolidated in 2004 with the complete automation of a voting platform, continually being updated and considered the safest in the world.
The notebooks are actually a backwardness of manual system. Automation isolated any defect that could lead to electoral fraud, so widespread in the 1970s in Venezuela.
These notebooks used to be signed after the voter printed his or her choice through the voting machine. Given that they are hand tool, they are not exempt from human error, as for example voters who signed in the line which does not correspond to them or those who put their fingerprint and did not sign, or those that instead of signing, wrote a check mark on or a cross.
This is why authorities devised the use of fingerprint readers –improved machines now called Integrated Authentication System (SAI, Spanish acronym)– which are devices connected to each of the voting machines to identify voters through their fingerprint.
They safeguard the principle of “one voter, one vote” by identifying voter through fingerprint and preventing usurpation of a citizen in any form and also preventing double voting.
The use of these machines makes unnecessary the use of voting notebooks, as the SAI saves and supports data and fingerprints of voters who must be identified to enable the voting machines.
Rodriguez stressed that the Venezuelan electoral system is “so reliable that the opposition used it in their primaries”. This same system will organize the internal elections of Voluntad Popular (People’s Will) party, led by Leopoldo Lopez, currently being prosecuted for his involvement in the attempted coup and terrorist acts that left 43 people dead in 2014.
Campaigning With Bernie, Then and Now
| May 27, 2015 | 8:38 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments
Why Labor Should Give Sanders Strong Primary Election Support

Campaigning With/ Bernie, Then and Now

Source: CounterPunch
When I first met Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders, he was a pretty marginal figure in his adopted state of Vermont. It was 1976 and he was running, unsuccessfully and for the fourth time, as a candidate of the Liberty Union Party (LUP).
Never heard of it? Well that’s understandable because only Vermonters are still afflicted with its enduring flakiness. Liberty Union (LUP) was a radical third party spearheaded by opponents of the Vietnam War who had, like Bernie, washed up in the Green Mountain State as “the Sixties”
At its historic peak, the LUP garnered maybe 5 or 6 percent of the statewide vote for some of its more presentable candidates. In short, nothing like the winning margins racked up in recent years, in state legislative races, by the far more savvy and effective Vermont Progressive Party (VPP). The VPP now boasts a ten-member delegation in Montpelier, the state capital, and attracts growing union support.
During Bernie’s quixotic mid-70s bid to become governor, I accompanied him to a meeting of local granite cutters, teamsters, and electrical workers. This was not a “flatlander” crowd, nor one dominated by full-time union officials. His audience was native-Vermonters, some of them Republican, who were still punching a clock at local quarries, trucking companies, and machine tool factories in an era when the future home state of Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont Teddy Bear Co. still had impressive blue collar union density.
These local union delegates had come together to make candidate endorsements under the banner of the Vermont Labor Forum, a coalition of non-AFL-CIO unions. So Bernie delivered what is now known– due to its unchanging nature over the last four decades—as “The Speech.” (For one of its longer iterations, in hard copy form, see his 2011 book by the same name.) Sanders’ message to the Labor Forum was that corporations were too powerful, workers were getting screwed, and both major parties were beholden to “the bosses” (or, as Bernie might call them today, “the billionaire class,” a social category not yet invented forty years ago).
Lesser Evilism, Then and Now
Sanders’ appeal for working class support in 1976 seemed most persuasive to rank-and-file representatives of the United Electrical Workers (UE). They were, of course, members of a left-led national organization, which had long favored “independent political action.” However, in deference to their more cautious colleagues, the UE members politely went along with the Labor Forum majority, which, per usual, voted to endorse Vermont Democrats that year, despite Liberty Union’s far greater degree of union friendliness.
This labor tendency to gravitate, in conservative fashion, toward the least problematic of the two major parties is still with us today, of course. Every election cycle—in every part of the country—AFL-CIO unions and unaffiliated labor organizations make pragmatic calculations about who to endorse and spend money on. Rarely do they take a chance on third party candidates, no matter how ardent their support for labor causes. Even a union rank-and-filer who runs against a corporate Democrat (for example, Howie Hawkins, the blue-collar Green who challenged Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York last year) finds it hard to collect labor endorsements.
A few union leaders have issued recent threats to withhold future support from Democrats who back President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership deal but Hillary Clinton certainly won’t be punished in that fashion. By the 2016 general election—and much sooner, in the case of some national unions—organized labor will be in full “lesser evil” mode once again. The only place in the nation next year where union members will have viable, pro-labor third party candidates to support, at least at the state and local level, is Vermont. And, for that, the U.S. labor movement has Bernie Sanders and other Vermont Progressives to thank.
When Sanders comes knocking on their door, looking for support in his presidential primary challenge, trade unionists in other states should remember his long history of helping Vermont workers get their act together, in politics, organizing, and contract strikes. It’s a track record that few “friends of labor” can match.
A Choice, Not An Echo
Bernie got his own electoral act together by “going local” in 1981. Instead of persisting as a fringe candidate in futile statewide races, he joined a four-way contest for mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. His successful campaign was backed by the Burlington Police Officers Association, which provided a key endorsement and funding after a contract dispute with the incumbent mayor, a five-term Democrat. Sanders won by ten votes.
As mayor, Bernie immediately hired a new human resources director for Burlington. This union-friendly lawyer worked to improve relations between city hall and local cops, firefighters, and other municipal workers represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). During his four terms in Burlington, Sanders continued to champion the cause of workers, tenants, the poor, and unemployed, while revitalizing the city.
“I was fighting for working families,” he recalled in a 2014 interview. “We were paying attention to low and moderate income neighborhoods rather than just downtown or the big-money interests. In fact, I went to war with virtually every part of the ruling class in Burlington during my years as mayor. “ The result, according to Sanders, was that  “large numbers of people who previously had not participated in the political process got involved.”  Sanders supporters won up to six seats on the city council and campaigned as the Progressive Coalition, forerunner of the statewide Progressive Party founded in 1999.
National Union Hesitancy
But even a left-wing independent with a laudable record of labor advocacy, at the municipal level, found it hard to attract national union backing for higher-level challenges to both major parties. In 1988, major unions ignored Sanders when he ran for Congress against a Democrat and Republican. The latter won, but two years later, Bernie ran again and ousted the GOP incumbent, with more union support this time. Only gradually and very slowly has the country’s longest serving independent in Congress received the kind of national union funding that he should have gotten from the very beginning. (For details and a useful comparison with Hillary Clinton’s top donors, see here.)
On Capitol Hill, Sanders blazed a trail not followed since Vito Marcantonio served six terms in Congress as the lonely tribune of the NYC-based American Labor Party in the 1940s. Fifty years later, Sanders helped create a left pole for mainstream labor’s soon-to-be-thwarted campaign to reform the National Labor Relations Act during the Clinton Administration. He introduced a “’Workplace Democracy Act’ to comprehensively reform and strengthen workers’ rights…to improve living standards for American workers, which have fallen precipitously.” Sanders also promoted the idea of “economic conversion”—converting Pentagon-dependent manufacturing firms into producers of socially useful goods–a cause since downplayed or abandoned by major industrial unions themselves.
Back in Vermont, Bernie used his Congressional office to help workers get better organized, in their workplaces and communities, even when the labor movement lagged behind in both areas. Sanders not only urged Vermonters to “Vote Yes” in union representation elections, he actually convened annual meetings of local labor activists to help them develop more successful organizing and bargaining strategies, in the private and public sector. To stimulate new rank-and-file thinking, Sanders and his staff invited out-of-state labor speakers who were part of national efforts to revitalize organized labor. He has been a staunch and longtime ally of the Vermont Workers Center, the statewide community-labor coalition that fights for single payer healthcare, immigrants’ rights, paid sick leave, and other working class causes in the Green Mountain State.
Which Side Are We On?
When Verizon workers that I represented in Vermont opposed the company’s sale of its northern New England landline operations in 2006, Bernie was campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat that he now holds. He held a public forum highlighting the reasons for our “Stop The Sale” campaign and brokered a meeting with the proposed buyer, FairPoint Communications, that enabled us to confront its top managers about their company’s record of anti-unionism elsewhere. More recently, as labor opponents of the sale predicted, Verizon’s successor has floundered financially and tried to impose contract concessions on its workforce of several thousand. During their four-month strike last year, FairPoint union members had no stronger political ally, in public and behind the scenes, than Bernie Sanders.
Bernie’s four decades of active engagement with workers’ struggles in Vermont has provided a model for the Vermont Progressive Party’s own strong labor orientation. The VPP’s elected steering committee now includes key union activists in Vermont; its public office holders–on the Burlington City Council and in the state legislature—regularly join union members at strike picket-lines, rallies, and press conferences where Democrats and Republicans are, of course, rarely to be found. Members of my own union and others have been recruited to run as candidates for what has become the country’s most successful state-level third party. (For more on this trend, see here.)
It’s an axiom of labor solidarity that help received, in a period of need, will be reciprocated, down the road, in similar fashion. Vermont union members learned long ago that the mutual benefit derived from their work with and for Bernie Sanders goes far beyond the results of labor’s usual (and sometimes tawdry) transactional relationships with public office holders. That’s why trade unionists in Vermont have turned out for Sanders as much as he’s been there for them over the years. Let’s hope that their union brothers and sisters, in other Democratic primary states, will be able to figure out which side they should be on, without the benefit of such long personal association.
It’s promising that many rank-and-file activists have already signed up to join the “Labor Campaign for Bernie“. And, of course, the Vermont State Labor Council is urging the national AFL-CIO to support him as “the strongest candidate articulating our issues.”
But, if the rest of organized labor just plays it cautious and safe, jumping on the Clinton bandwagon instead of rallying around Bernie, it will be one more sign of diminished union capacity for mounting any kind of worker self-defense, on the job or in politics.
Steve Early is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area currently working on a book about progressive municipal policy making there and elsewhere. He is the author, most recently, of Save Our Unions (Monthly Review Press, 2013). He can be reached at
The Corporate Media Would Like You to Think Bernie Sanders Can’t Win
| May 27, 2015 | 8:35 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Thu May 21, 2015 at 06:01 PM PDT


The corporate media would like you to think Bernie Sanders can’t win the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton. And they’re doing their damnedest to make their own preference into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Columbia Journalism Review looks at how the media is covering Bernie Sanders’ entry into the 2016 presidential race, and it isn’t pretty. They start with comparisons to the out-of-touch press coverage of the Truman-Dewey race (culminating in the humiliatingly wrong headline in the Chicago Tribune: “Dewey defeats Truman” ), and go from there:

[You] could not have been surprised by the reception Bernie Sanders got last month when he entered the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Sanders…quaintly maintains that people and the planet are more important than profit. Not long ago such beliefs fell well within the waters of the main stream where politicians swam, but the current has since been rerouted, and Sanders now paddles hard against the left bank. For not going with the flow, and for challenging Hillary Clinton, the big fish many elites have tagged as their own, Sanders’s entry into the race was greeted with story after story whose message—stated or understated, depending on the decorum of the messenger—was “This crank can’t win.”The trouble with this consensus is the paucity of evidence to support it. “This crank actually could win” is nearer the mark. But having settled on a prophecy, the media went about covering Sanders so as to fulfill it. The Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders’s straight-news story didn’t even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton got. As for the content, the Times’ reporters declared high in Sanders’s piece that he was a long shot for the Democratic nomination and that Clinton was all but a lock. None of the Republican entrants got the long-shot treatment, even though Paul, Rubio, and Cruz were generally polling fifth, seventh, and eighth among Republicans before they announced.

Other coverage of Sanders ran to caricature, as in Paul Kane and Philip Rucker’s personality piece in the Washington Post, which opened, “He seems an unlikely presidential candidate—an ex-hippie, septuagenarian socialist from the liberal reaches of Vermont who rails, in his thick Brooklyn accent, rumpled suit and frizzy pile of white hair, against the ‘billionaire class’ taking over the country.” The Post’s pieces didn’t lead with Clinton’s hippie past or her age (she will be a septuagenarian in 2017) and didn’t say she rails when she discusses her more ardently held positions….

Other major news organizations ignored Sanders as nearly as they could a sitting U.S. senator who entered the presidential race. ABC’s World News Tonight gave his announcement all of 18 seconds, five of which were allotted to Clinton’s tweet welcoming him to the race. CBS Evening News fitted the announcement into a single sentence at the end of a two-minute report about Clinton.

The usual excuse for this sort of coverage is that Sanders is a long-shot. But that hasn’t stopped the media from covering other long-shot candidates in an even-handed way:

Ted Cruz, for example, received his serious, in-depth treatment in the Times’ news columns even as its analysts were writing pieces like “Why Ted Cruz Is Such A Long Shot.”

Why the difference in type of coverage for Sanders versus all the others, even the fringiest fringe candidates crowded onto the running boards of the Republican clown car?

The difference is that Cruz has not erected a platform whose planks present a boardwalk of horror to the corporate class atop the media.

As CJR points out, this narrative of he can’t win, while it might be convenient to the corporate owners of the media and of much of the political process, has no actual historical validity at all.

I’ll skip lightly over the conspicuous fact that any frontrunner can have a Chappaquiddick, a deceptively amplified “scream,” or a plane crash. Instead, let me dwell on the simple fact that over the last 40 years, out of seven races in which the Democratic nomination was up for grabs—races, that is, when a sitting Democrat president wasn’t seeking reelection—underdogs have won the nomination either three or four times (depending on your definition of an underdog) and have gone on to win the presidency more often than favored candidates.

Jimmy Carter wasn’t even on anyone’s radar at this point in the campaign and polled at 1 percent among Democratic voters. But he won, because the other candidates were insiders, and voters had had it up to here with insiders.

If you don’t see a parallel to the present moment—a discontented time of Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Moral Monday, Fight for $15, the People’s Climate March, Move to Amend, and other anti-establishmentarian agitation—you’re either asleep or a publisher.

Likewise Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were dark horses who came out of nowhere, polling-wise, this early in the game, to win their respective races.So, don’t be so quick to swallow what your corporate media overlords are trying to feed you. Don’t brush off a Sanders run as some sort of ridiculous impossibility.

As Sanders says, “Don’t underestimate me.” He’s in it to win, and the history might be more on his side than the corporate media would like you to know.

Bernie gives ‘em hell on CNBC
| May 27, 2015 | 8:32 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Tue May 26, 2015 at 09:38 AM PDT


Bernie Sanders continued bringing the truth to the media world on CNBC’s John Harwood.

“I think it’s sick, and I think these people are so greedy. They’re so out of touch with reality, and they think they own the world, and the idea that me or anybody else are challenging them and saying maybe, just maybe, there’s something wrong with 99% of all new income going to the top 1%. Oh, this is Hitlerism to suggest that? What a disgusting remark. If you’ve seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle-class to the top one ten of one percent, in our view, you ought to transfer that back. When radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, I think the highest marginal tax rate was ninety percent or something like that.”

Let me answer it this way, John. I think there is obviously an enormously important role for the free market and for entrepreneurial activity. I worry how free the free market is. In sector after sector, you have a small number of companies controlling a large part of the sector.Certainly, in my view, the major banks should be broken up. We want entrepreneurs and private businesses to create wealth. No problem. But what we’re living in now is what I would call—what Pope Francis calls—a casino-type capitalism, which is out of control, where the people on top have lost any sense of responsibility for the rest of the society. Where it’s just “It’s all me. It’s all me. And to heck with anybody else.” I want to see the result of that wealth go to the broad middle class of this country and not just to a handful of people.

Bernie Sanders blows Wolf Blitzer’s mind with a simple idea
| May 27, 2015 | 8:27 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Fri May 22, 2015 at 12:40 PM PDT

Bernie Sanders blows Wolf Blitzer’s mind with a simple idea ( guess it doesn’t take much)


Who says Bernie Sanders can’t win?  If he keeps coming up with simple mind blowing ideas like he did on CNN the other day , he is going to win a lot of votes!  Simple yes, mind blowing, only if you are an elite pundit like Wolf Blitzer who apparently doesn’t get out much…  More after the psychedlic squiggly…..

On a May 19 CNN broadcast with Blitzer, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan to eliminate college tuition by taxing Wall Street speculation.
Sounds pretty simple and straight forward doesn’t it?  Yet, Blitzer just couldn’t wrap his mind around it…..  watch………

Blitzer asked time and again, ” you mean you are going to tax Wall Street? as if he just heard that aliens had landed on the White House lawn.  Yes Sanders replied over and over again.  A small tax on transference of money that will in all likelihood raise about 300 billion dollars, more than enough to keep our college grads from starting out life deep in debt.

I confess I don’t know much about Wall Street operations ( I just know they are crooks)

but maybe another Kossack who knows about this can explain it.   I just know that it is a simple plan, and apparently would work.

It is so refreshing to hear a politician talk directly about how he or she would fix a problem. It is apparently so rare that it caught Wolf Blitzer off guard.  Thank God we have Bernie in the race! He is going to bring a breath of fresh air into the campaign that with Bush and Clinton on the horizon, so desperately needs it!

By the way, who says he can’t win??