Beyond the 2020 Electoral Circus, A Workers’ Rebellion Is Brewing

Originally published on 10/5/2019

[Note: The following article by Paul Street is reprinted in an abridged form from TruthDig.]

Let’s be brutally honest and unsentimental: There are few, if any, serious prospects for attaining the transformative change we need through the current United States elections and party system.

But that’s no reason to give up on progressive change. Over time, signs and models of real popular resistance have emerged from beyond the quadrennial electoral extravaganza that is sold to us as “politics” — the only politics that matters. Examples include: the inspiring fights many rural, red state communities undertook against federal immigration raids in 2017 and 2018; the successful strikes teachers’ unions (most recently in Los Angeles) have fought on behalf of public education; public sector unions’ successful fight against a right-wing Supreme Court decision meant to wipe out their membership base; and airport and airline workers’ recent halting of Trump’s ridiculous government shutdown through the exercise of their strategic workplace capacity to idle capital and disrupt profits. Sara Nelson, the fiery head of the flight attendants union, called during the shutdown for a “national general strike.”

Could this growing working class insurgency beneath the headlines take a meaningfully independent electoral form beyond the reach of capital?

The Labor Community Campaign for an Independent Party [LCCIP — recently renamed LCIP — Ed.] is an effort to put real organizing meat on the bones of two resolutions passed at the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention. “Whether the candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party,” the first resolution stated, “the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of labor and working people have generally been set back.” The second resolution concluded that “the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics.”

Moving seriously on that language to make it more than just noise means connecting with working people on the jobs and in the communities where they live. As LCCIP endorser Chris Silvera, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 808 in Long Island City, N.Y., told me last week, “We need to start small, where people work and live. We need to build up from where we can actually win: city council, then maybe mayoral, then gubernatorial.” Silvera added that “a desperate working class” doesn’t have the resources to decide presidential campaigns, [but] they do have time and energy for backing local and state candidates who advocate for working people and communities on issues directly relevant to their lives.

Another LCIP advocate is Nancy Wohlforth, a former member of the AFL-CIO executive board who describes herself as one of labor’s “notorious third-party activists.” Wohlforth said she thinks the presidential spectacle is out of play for progressives because “everyone” is understandably “on the bandwagon to get rid of Trump.” But on a local level, she said, “We can have some movement.”

LCIP sponsor Donna Dewitt is former chair of the South Carolina AFL-CIO and current chair of the South Carolina Labor Party. She said she has little interest in the presidential candidate circus atop the Democratic Party. Instead, she dedicates her energies to fighting on local and state issues and finding working-class progressives to run for electable offices.

How long before a real labor-and community-based 21st century people’s party could run viable candidates and win races for national office, including the presidency? Who knows? It’s not about the crystal ball. Rather, it’s about many-sided organizing and building out from the bottom up to create a powerful grassroots movement that connects local community and workplace activism to the broader political economy to address interrelated national and global crises of democracy, inequality, human and civil rights, peace and (last but not least) livable ecology.

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