Learning from Wisconsin

Today’s New York Times published a photograph of Mad Tea Party favorite Guvnor Scott Walker signing legislation designed to further undermine the workers movement in Wisconsin. In the photo, Walker is surrounded by other neo-fascists who are as solemn—yet happy—as Klansmen at a cross burning.
When the right-wing launched the first stage of their attack Public Sector unions in Wisconsin, back in February 2011, militant workers raced to Madison, ready and willing to shut the capital down. At one point as many as 100,000 trade unionists protested what was euphemistically called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair bill,” one that would dramatically undermine the power of public employee unions by stripping them of the right to collective bargaining. Yes that was the “Budget Repair bill,” an assault against Labor. And looking back, clearly the Fix was In.
Leading Democrats made a few calls and convinced the most powerful public employee labor leaders that they needed to recall Guvnor Walker and everything would be fine! “Go home!” they told the workers as tens of thousands demonstrated and camped out, occupying the capital building for weeks, workers more than ready to exercise their democratic rights and resist the attacks!
“Go home!” the so-called “leaders” said, “get out your checkbook, send money to us and we’ll go toe-to-toe in an election campaign and recall that SOB Walker!”
So the workers went home. They went home and walked precincts, circulated petitions, and, at the urging of their “leaders” (and many who meant well) used precious union resources to fight what was essentially a media battle against billionaires who had set the trap—neocons and neo-fascists recently set free by the Supreme Court—men like the Koch brothers, who had been waiting for the moment for decades, wicked scheming reactionaries released like crazed criminals, now able to spend as much money as they wanted on election campaigns where they knew they could prevail.
It was the first round in a fight where the rich set the rules. The workers didn’t have a chance.
If the people and their unions had organized and sticked to their guns, the unions of government employees could have prevailed, and it would have been very unlikely that Walker and his sponsors, the Koch brothers, could have turned the tide so dramatically  that Wisconsin would become an anti-union “right to work” state. What’s more, if the workers had exercised their power, if unions across the state — including in the private sector — had joined together in solidarity, Guvner Scott Walker would not be a leading candidate for the RepubliKlan nomination for president.
The general strike is a powerful weapon but one that should only be used when the workers are tightly organized, when they are ready to act, and, of course, when it is truly appropriate. All these conditions existed in Wisconsin back in February, 2011.
Instead the thousands of workers who were organized, who were ready and willing to act, who had on their own initiative gathered to fight for the rights of their union brothers and sisters who were under attack—instead they were sent home and told to recall the Govnor, to vote for the democrats and everything would be just fine.
Now here we are in 2015, and Labor has taken additional blows to the head— and not only in Wisconsin, but in Michigan! Yes Michigan, the birthplace of industrial unionism, the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1937, where the CIO was launched in a big way. Wisconsin and Michigan were bastions of the trade union movement in the United States. In just four short years, the RepubliKlan changed that. Or did they?
Not so fast Koch brothers!  Back Off Mad Tea Party! Step back crazed reactionaries!
We’ve been beat up before and, unlike you rich folks in your mansions, on your yachts,  flying around in your private jets, we are tough as nails.
Oh we know you have a physical trainer and your own personal gym! We know you are armed to the teeth!
Yes you slapped us in the face, you rubbed our nose in shit, you did just about everything you could to undermine our confidence. But we’re awake now, and we understand that despite all the talk about democracy we can now see exactly where we stand. And we stand with each other, with our class brothers and sisters, all nationalities, male and female, with papers and without; we will gather ourselves together and we will rekindle the fight for our rights. We will do ever so much more than that: we will knock you off your pedestals
And so brothers and sisters, what do we need to do now?
We need to call in the troops all across the nation and rebuild the Trade Union Movement from the grassroots up. Sure let’s use social media and all tools that will help. But we have to get back to basics and not rely on any one tool, thinking that somehow if there is a great website and we send out enough tweets and emails that will by itself build a mighty movement. Sure, we need to use social media. But more than anything, we need to rebuild our unions from the shop floor up, organizing inside, from the company gates, going from one worker’s home to another, using other proven tools such as house meetings, organizing around concrete issues, forming trade union organizations where we can all learn our history, develop our strategy and tactics, link up with other brothers and sisters that want fundamental social and economic change.
And we need to create a vibrant new working class culture, one with music, literature, new magazines and newspapers, online AND the old-fashioned type you can hand to someone at work, in your neighborhood. And for those of us that are union members, we need to get very active in our locals: go to meetings, form militant caucuses, and begin the long arduous task of rebuilding the labor movement.
And let’s begin by defining what that means: We are not “the middle class.” That’s a bullshit term used by politicians and others that attempt to hide our true class identity. We are the multi-national working class. Power to the People.