The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Nobody But Obama" hurricane gathers strength over Labor Day 2011

We have not reached the nadir of labor's obeisance before Washington and Wall Street's axis of capitalist evil, and at this point I cannot honestly say the tunnel is even in sight.  So far we are green-lighted for opportunism all down the tracks.  Struggles which will seem immense factors in the rebirth of a revolutionary socialist mass movement in the United States, like the February and March strikes and sit-ins in Madison, Wisconsin, were swallowed up in Democratic Party reformism before broader forces could be brought to bear and a rank and file leadership could develop.  Future struggles will overcome these shortcomings, but from the bottom of the forty year hole labor has dug itself today, the sky seems very far away.
On Labor Day President Obama spoke to a labor rally in Detroit.  For future generations living in a socialist order of global plenty, I should explain that Labor Day is to May Day what Velveeta is to cheese.  If you don't know what Velveeta is, consider yourselves lucky.
John Rummel of will now give us the play-by-play:

President Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka were joined by Detroit's own Aretha Franklin, who ended a four song set with her "Respect," fitting for the tens of thousands marching that day and demanding respect for the work they do, day-in and day-out.

Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," received a rousing ovation after her call for respect for "the man in the Oval Office."

The president, who came on stage to chants of "four more years," linked recovery and prosperity to the labor movement "I want everyone to know that as long as I am in the White House I am going to stand up for collective bargaining," Obama declared.

Would it be kvetching here point out that President Obama is not in favor of collective bargaining?  Is actually opposed to it?  That Obama's pro-labor leanings or credentials are a folie a duex of various right and left wing bourgeois and ALF-CIO fundraisers? 

"When working families are doing well, when they're getting a decent wage and they're getting decent benefits, that means they're good customers for businesses. That means they can buy the cars that you build. That means you can buy the food from the farmers. That means you can buy from Silicon Valley. You are creating prosperity when you share in prosperity.

"When I hear some of these folks trying to take collective bargaining rights away, trying to pass so-called 'right to work' laws for private sector workers - that really mean the right to work for less and less and less - when I hear this talk I know it is not about economics but about politics."

Is Barack Obama seeing the light?  I think the article's writer John Rummel may hope readers think so, otherwise why permit such long swaths of bloviation unchecked by reality to appear below his by-line? readers are pro-union stalwarts, and all Obama voters to a person.  When Obama in a speech stands up for collective bargaining rights for "private sector workers" is is important to take note.

Underlining the administration's intention to signal strong support for unions, Vice President Joe Biden, in a speech the same day in Cincinnati, said the union movement is in a fight for its life and that the "other side" is determined to take away its right to exist. Biden said unions are the only non-governmental group that has the power and capacity to stop the onslaught against the middle class. "The middle class in under attack because labor is under the most direct assault in generations. The other side has declared war on labor's house and it's about time we stand up."

Were I in the audience, the first question I would ask the Vice President is, "What's all this 'we' stuff, Mr. Biden?"  Denouncing the "other side" to the choir in church on Sunday is bravery of the first order.  Not as brave as telling unionists it is up to them to defend the middle class his own administration is marauding-over, but close.  What causes the most concern is Rummel's comment that Biden and Obama both spoke at public rallies on Labor Day to underline "the administration's intention to signal strong support for unions."  While anyone intending to signal an intention is free to do it in the United States, I think Obama and Biden may have visited these rallies for higher reasons than those of 'administration.'  They were there to tell the labor leaders that Obama/Biden 2012 will nail the coonskin to the wall in their all-our war to defend labor's house.

(Parenthetically, we men of 1988 expect a little higher grade of pro-labor rhetoric from Vice President Biden.  Or should I say, pro-Labour rhetoric.)

Saundra Williams, chair of the Detroit rally and president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Labor Council, led the crowd in a "Good Jobs Now" chant. Michigan is suffering double digit unemployment and a new report, citing 235,000 state residents out of work six months or longer, added urgency to their cry.

United Auto Workers (UAW) union Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams put it bluntly: "We don't care about the debt ceiling, raise it. We have 13 million out of work. Put their asses back to work."

During his remarks President Obama said that next Thursday he will address the nation on jobs and, in a hint about the speech, said, "We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding."

U.S. Congressman Sander Levin blasted Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's contempt for the UAW and the jobs of autoworkers. In 2008, with GM and Chrysler facing bankruptcy, Levin reminded everyone of Romney's comments: "If auto companies get a bailout, you can kiss the auto industry goodbye."

President Obama was a singular voice standing by the industry and today, it is "roaring back," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Teamsters International President James Hoffa [my Hoffa link, not John Rummel's--JR]  said to the president, "This is your army, we are ready to march."

Michigan Congressman John Conyers said, "When we go back to Washington next week, our message to Congress and the president is, 'jobs now,' not just for Detroit but everyone in the nation."

Labor officialdom in the United States has no perspective other than supporting employers and bourgeois politicians.  They, not the Tea Party or the Republicans or the Rick Perry Dominion, put the torch to labor's house decades ago.  Winning it back will not come via voting against our interests and in favor of another Wall Street darling, or even voting for the same Wall Street darling a second time. 

As a revolutionary socialist myself, I have some very definite ideas about what workers should be doing instead of voting for Obama or Perry or whoever ends up running for office a year from now.  My ideas come from a very few basic propositions about the world we live in today, and the period we are going through as a class internationally:

1.  The Tea Party is a vote-catching machine to snare disaffected and immiserated middle class and proletarian voters fed up with electing officials who act against their class interests.  It is not the NAZI party or a bunch of 'fuhrers' or Christian fascists.  Oddball conspiracism and contrarian pragmatism are part of middle class politics in the US, and have been since the defeat of Radical Reconstruction.  Andrew Cuomo and Scott Walker and Barack Obama are bigger and more effective enemies of labor than any Tea Party outfit.

2.  The Democratic Party and its allies [acknowledged or unacknowledged] among liberals and the left [MSNBC,, The Nation, World Can't Wait] will increase the drumbeat over the next 12 months that a defeat of Obama will spell the end of civilization.  We cannot be sanguine about the polarization that will take place around the election, and the way normally sensible fellow-activists, unionists, and many socialists will be effected.  Those of us who remember the 1964 and 1984 elections should not be too arrogant on this question, either.  By this time next year the drumbeat will be deafening to "defeat the Right at all costs" regardless of the fact that, as the debt ceiling debate clearly demonstrated, Obama was to the right of everyone else in either party.

3.  Follow the lines of actual resistance: support and reinforce them, spread the word about them.  Make them count. 

4.  When discussing the 2012 election, be civil and patient and listen.  If co-workers or fellow activists ask you to vote for Obama, allow them to present their case.  Then present the case for revolutionary socialism as you understand it. 

5.  Two days after the election, many will awaken from their months-long public-relations-induced blackout, and we will need to work with them again.  So don't go around calling them "A sell-out Chicken Little in an Orange Jumpsuit" before the election, please.

6.  In the furious hurricane of Nobody But Obama that is coming, remain calm: you are not in this alone: talk, share, and discuss with comrades.

Jay Rothermel


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