The November 6 Election and what lies ahead
The November 6 Election and What Lies Ahead
The November 6 election was a devastating defeat for the far right, but was
it a victory for the working class?
Clearly, the Republican Party leadership is the avowed enemy of labor.
Romney attacked unions throughout his campaign. He opposed every public
program designed to promote the health and welfare of the American people.
He advocated privatizing Social Security and voucherizing Medicare. He
urged turning Medicaid entirely over to the states. He supported union-
busting Scott Walker in his bid to remain governor of Wisconsin and he
hailed enactment of a “right-to-work” law in Indiana. He blasted the
teachers’ union in Chicago and elsewhere. He called for trillions in tax
breaks for the millionaires and billionaires, while cutting workers’ benefits to
fund it. He endorsed government’s dictating to women on questions
involving their reproductive rights. He denounced undocumented workers
and called for their “self-deportation.” He argued for additional billions for
the military and a more belligerent foreign policy, escalating the threats
against Iran. And the positions he espoused were all part of the far right’s
But is the Democratic Party the answer to Romney and the far right?
Labor has been in the forefront of the fight to preserve Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs. Yet President Obama has
already made clear his desire to join with Republicans in cutting these
programs, declaring in an October 24, 2012 AP interview that he is
“prepared to make a whole range of compromises,” even though this will
rankle his own party. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are already on board.
The AFL-CIO has issued a strong and uncompromising statement opposing
cuts to Social Security and Medicare so the scene is set for a major
confrontation with the Obama administration and its Congressional
supporters on this issue.
None of this should come as a surprise. Political parties represent classes and
both the Democrats and Republicans are corporate parties. The Democrats
get 72% of their funding from big business — the Republicans get an even
higher percent — and who pays the piper calls the tune.
What the Past Four Years Have Wrought
For the past four years (and well before then), the labor movement has been
under savage assault on every conceivable front. At a time of economic
crisis — and with severe austerity measures directed against the working
class and the poor being unleashed — it is no exaggeration to say that labor is
fighting for its very survival.
We see this on the collective bargaining front, where major employers like
Caterpillar and Verizon demanded and received significant concessions from
their unions, despite the companies making record profits.
We see it in Wisconsin’s and other states’ assault on public employees’
bargaining rights, and Indiana’s vote adopting “right-to-work” legislation.
We see it in the escalating bipartisan campaign to undermine and cut Social
Security and Medicare, along with measures to destroy retirement security.
We see it with the foreclosure of millions of homeowners and the imminent
foreclosure of millions more. We see it with enactment of a deeply flawed
health-care program, which, despite containing some positive features, will
drive up costs and fail to guarantee quality health care coverage for all.
We see it with the record number of deportations.
We see it with the declining standard of living for the working class while
corporate profits and stock prices have soared.
We see it with the “Free Trade” agreements with Colombia, South Vietnam
and Panama ─ vehemently opposed by labor ─ that Bush couldn’t get
approved but Obama pushed through with bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, labor’s priority issues have been ignored. These include a jobs
program that would put tens of millions of workers back to work; Medicare
for all; reform of the labor laws and restoration of the right to strike; the
Employee Free Choice Act; repeal of repressive anti-labor legislation; and
retirement security ─ not robbing Social Security while cutting into federal
workers’ pension funds to pay for payroll tax cuts.
One of the greatest scandals of the 2012 presidential campaign was the
refusal of the Obama administration to press measures to bring relief to the
tens of millions of impoverished Americans, whose numbers grow rapidly
by the day.
On foreign policy, Obama promoted the corporate, anti-worker agenda: an
expansionist policy designed to find new areas of the world to exploit,
indiscriminate use of drones, continued occupation of Afghanistan for more
than two years, threats and preparations for war against Iran while tightening
sanctions, support for right-wing and repressive governments around the
world that repress unions and protect U.S. corporate interests (e.g.,
Colombia, Bahrain), and maintaining the astronomical Pentagon budget.
Considering all of the above, can it really be claimed that winning four more
years for this administration was a victory for the working class?
What Lies Ahead?
Labor’s subservience to the Democratic Party has cost the working class
heavily, so we in the Emergency Labor Network welcome AFL-CIO
President Richard Trumka’s call for a break with that state of affairs and for
building an independent labor movement. For us, this includes giving
consideration to establishing a new political party – a workers’ party led by
the organized labor movement and its community partners, with a program
that truly reflects the needs and interests of the great majority.
Regardless of which of the corporate parties controls the government and
dominates its branches, the November 6 election solved none of the big
issues confronting the American people. The hunger and homelessness; the
home foreclosures; the corporate foreign policy; the assaults on the
environment; the attacks on labor and on Social Security, Medicare, and
Medicaid; the Bush tax cuts; all of these issues and more will still be with us
after November 6.
As for the AFL-CIO and its taking a strong stand against cuts to Social
Security or Medicare, this is all to the good. But it is just the starting point
and it will not mean much in the absence of an all-out campaign that goes
beyond traditional lobbying. It is high time that in accordance with our best
traditions, labor mounts street demonstrations of the most massive kind, akin
to Solidarity Day I and II actions in the nation’s capital. Imagine the
potential in reaching out to the more than one hundred million people on
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to join in such an outpouring, along
with labor’s community allies.
We have demands to raise: Hands Off Our Cherished Safety Net Programs!
Expand Medicaid Coverage in Every State! Put America Back to Work by
Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure and Implementing a 21st Century
WPA Program! Money for Jobs, Health Care, Housing and Education — Not
for Wars and Occupations! Bring All the Troops Home From Afghanistan
Now! Amnesty for all Undocumented Immigrants! Freedom and Justice for
We must not let Obama’s victory on November 6 th delude us into thinking
our fight is over. Indeed, with both the president and the Congress ─ in
varying degree only ─ determined to follow Corporate America’s lead in
imposing severe austerity measures on our already severely wounded
working class, we dare not let down our guard; dare not fight for anything
less than real political change…and fight for it even harder than before
No less than the very lives and fortunes of working people, the unemployed
and underemployed, and of all rank-and-file Americans are at stake. And
only a united movement of the working class, joined by hundreds of
thousands of its community supporters, can win the tough battles that lie
ahead. But such a movement can win them! So let us waste no time in