I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts.
Articles on the US Labor Party
1. Q&A on the Labor Party page 2
Justice #1, September 1997
2. Ohio State Labor Party Founding Conference page 3
By Philip Locker
Justice #2, October 1997
3. New York State Labor Party Says “Let’s Run Candidates” page 6
By Sean Sweeney
Justice #4, December 1997-January 1998
4. Pittsburgh Convention of the Labor Party page 9
Justice #13, November 1998
5. Becoming Electoral: The Best Way to Build the Labor Party page 13
By Ramy Khalil
Justice #13, November 1998
6. NY Metro Chapter Elections Marred by Fraud page 15
By Alan Jones
Justice #19, March-April 2000
7. How NOT to Build the Labor Party page 20
By Alan Jones
Justice #20, June-July 2000
8. Why the Labor Party Should Support Nader page 24
By Philip Locker
Justice #21, September-October 2000
9. The Fight for a Workers’ Party Continues page 28
By Ramy Khalil
Justice #30, June-August 2002
Q&A on the Labor Party
Justice #1, September 1997
Q: What is the Labor Party?
A: The Labor Party was formed in June 1996. Backed by ten labor unions and hundreds of endorsing and affiliating 300 other labor bodies, the Party stands for a constitutional right to a job at a living wage (not less than $10 per hr.), free education, universal health care, and an end to bigotry and discrimination.
Q: Do I have to be in a union to be involved in the Labor Party?
A: No. The Labor Party is for all working class people, whether you are in a union or not. The Party is based on the unions because that’s where the workers are presently organized. Also, the unions are part of the AFL-CIO which still gives millions of dollars to the Democratic Party. The Labor Party is trying to get the unions to commit their resources to the Labor Party instead.
Q: Can I vote for the Labor Party?
A: Not yet. The Labor Party is not running any candidates until 1999 at the earliest. The Labor Party’s leaders feel that the Party needs to be much stronger before it can start to run for office. Many Party members, however, feel that running candidates in carefully selected and well-prepared campaigns is a good way of reaching new people and training the troops for actions.
Q: What’s JUSTICE got to do with the Labor Party? Why do we need both?
A: Supporters of JUSTICE helped create the Labor Party and now we are trying to turn it into a real force. We feel that the Labor Party can become a major player in U.S. politics, a party that fights for us and alongside us. We urge our readers to join us in the struggle.
We also feel that the Labor Party should run candidates sooner rather than later.
As socialists, we firmly believe that the things the Labor Party is trying to achieve—such as good-paying jobs for all—will require an economy that is completely different from the capitalist economy we have now. Also, the large banks and major corporations are doing great by this system, and they will fight like hell to keep things going their way. JUSTICE is working with other socialists and activists in the Labor Party who feel that the system can’t just be made worker-friendly by passing a few laws. If elected, the Party will need to replace capitalism with a system based on democratic control of the economy by working people.
Ohio State Labor Party Founding Conference
By Philip Locker, Cleveland LP Chapter, Delegate
Justice #2, October 1997
On Saturday September 20th, 1997 history was made. Delegates representing several unions and community chapters in Cleveland and Toledo founded the Ohio State Labor Party (OSLP). In the relatively short time span of seven hours, we hammered out state by-laws, established an organizing plan, and debated political resolutions.
The impressive team of speakers included John Ryan, Cleveland AFL-CIO Executive Secretary, Baldemar Velasquez, Farm Labor Organizing Committee President, Ed Bruno, Labor Party New England Regional Director, and Bill Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO President. Labor bodies with delegations included the Cleveland AFL-CIO, GCIU locals 15N & 546M, CWA local 4340, Bakers Union Local 19, AFSCME local 3360, FLOC, UE District Council 7 and several more. The two OSLP community chapters, Cleveland and Toledo, also participated. In addition many individuals attended as observers or as at-large delegates, coming from all over the state.
Nearly seventy people attended the Convention. With such a large number of union affiliations there could have been many more. Unfortunately, while many union leaders have officially endorsed the LP, they do not build the LP on the ground, including campaigning among their own members. In contrast, supporters of Justice mobilized 14 people. Incredibly, these were the only young people at the convention.
The debate centered around two issues. Labor activist Mike Ferner, who several years ago ran a serious campaign for mayor of Toledo against the Democrats and Republicans on a union ticket, submitted a resolution calling for further discussion and debate in the Labor Party about the proper role of corporations in a democracy. Delegates spoke in favor of the resolution, adding that we must examine the complete undemocratic nature of our economy, the incredible economic power concentrated in the hands of a few big businesses to make economic decision that effect millions of working people. The idea was further raised that the LP must begin to ask if this is a systemic product of our economic system, capitalism, and whether this system works in the interest of workers. The issue of an economic alternative to the market was raised. What would be the Labor Party’s response if it took power and capital “went on strike”?
Supporters of Justice advocate the necessity of public ownership of the leading 500 big corporations that dominate the economy and putting them under democratic workers control and management. These points were received in a very friendly tone, and it was agreed to examine the issue further.
The main area of debate concerned the LP’s electoral strategy. Delegates Jerry Gordon and Barbara Walden submitted a resolution stating the LP’s current and future commitment never to endorse or support any candidate of either big business party, Democrat or Republican, which easily passed. More controversial was another resolution, which stated that the OSLP urges the upcoming second national LP convention to adopt a viable electoral strategy around clear political, organizational, and legal criteria, of running independent LP candidates where we have sufficient resources and support, as a critical way to educate workers, publicize the LP program and build the LP. This sparked a fierce debate lasting 45 minutes. Many speakers spoke passionately for and against, with both sides receiving loud applause. All agreed it was the most memorable part of the convention.
The question of electoral strategy only poses the more fundamental question of how do we build the LP? How can the LP become a party of several hundred thousand members? Supporters of the resolution argued that, like the 28th Amendment Campaign, an electoral strategy must be seen as a party-building tool, and not judged on if we gain an immediate victory (either winning the 28th amendment or being elected).
The Need for an Electoral Strategy
Elections are the only platform with a large enough scope to build a party of several hundred thousand members. The current strategy is limited to a narrow field of trade-union activists. This layer now knows of the LP, and many have joined. How do we reach a wider layer? The only way is by standing in elections (in selected areas where we can run a serious campaign). This would open many doors: corporate media would publicize the LP and we could directly debate the candidates of big business and force them to address our program. Elections are a rare time in this country when most people are thinking about politics. Many will not consider us a real party unless we stand in elections. A small victory would be a tremendous encouragement and a concrete example to show to the labor movement.
The pro-electoral resolution was defeated, due to the union block votes (although in the voice vote, the delegates were evenly split). More importantly, the resolution forced this key issue to be discussed and debated. A surprising number of important LP activists voted for the resolution. Baldemar Velasquez, President of FLOC and National Co-chair of the LP supported the resolution. So did Mike Ferner, who originally was against the resolution, but was convinced in the course of the debate.
Many lessons can be learned to help other LP activists prepare for their state conventions. The state conventions should not take place merely to set up formal bodies and structures, but as levers to build the party on the ground. We must organize, mobilize, have public meetings, and bring car loads of activists and regular people to these events. State conventions are an excellent opportunity to start an intensive campaign to win affiliations of new local unions to the LP. They are a great forum for LP members to discuss the critical issues facing the LP.
Altogether, the convention was an excellent step forward. The foundation has been laid in Ohio for the LP to start getting down to the real business of building a mass party.
Supporters of this newspaper will continue to build the Labor Party. Socialists have a critical role to play in this process. We must be the best builders of the Labor Party in practice, and also raise the crucial—and critical—issues facing the Labor Party.
New York State Labor Party Says “Let’s Run Candidates”
By Sean Sweeney, Vice Chair, NY MetroChapter
Justice #4, December 1997-Jaunary 1998
As the early winter rain poured hard in the streets of Schenectady, little could dampen the spirits of the 120 delegates and observers who met in the Holiday Inn to launch the New York State Labor Party. After a lively but friendly debate, the New York gathering overwhelmingly passed resolution calling on the next full convention of the Labor Party, scheduled for Pittsburgh next November, to pursue “a viable electoral strategy” and to establish clear “organizational and political criteria” for running candidates. The Labor Party is presently non-electoral. The Schenectady vote offered a clear sign that this policy could be changed in Pittsburgh.
An Important Breakthrough
“This was an important breakthrough,” said health care worker Margaret Collins, “When I moved the resolution, I knew we would get support. The union delegates were mainly rank and filers. They understand that carefully planned electoral work can build the party and involve more people into our effort.”
Brought before the convention by the LP’s New York Metro Chapter, the pro-electoral resolution had called for an electoral strategy “independent of the parties of big business.” However, an amendment moved by a CWA local – and carried by a large margin – called for LP candidates to simply “be members of the Labor Party and uphold the Party’s program.” The debate revealed that some LP supporters would still like the option of endorsing Democrats or to involve the LP in fusion campaigns. Several delegates spoke against the idea of fusion with “progressive Democrats” a strategy that has shipwrecked the movement for independent working class political action before. “We’ll continue to fight against the fusion illusion,” said Teamster member El Jeer Hawkins from Harlem. “I joined the Labor Party because I want to put my efforts into building an alternative to big business politics. If there are any good Democrats left, they should get out of their rotten party and help us fight for economic and social justice.” Hawkins recently helped set up a LP committee in Harlem as part of the NY Metro Chapter.
Resolution Against Police Brutality
Another important resolution was moved by Larry Adams, President of Mailhandlers Local 300 calling for justice for Abner Louima and an end to police brutality. The resolution outlined the vicious, dehumanizing torture and sexual abuse against Louima, a Haitian immigrant, by the New York police and called for an end to police brutality.
Further, it demanded prosecution of the police personnel involved in or covering up the torture and called for the Labor Party to be involved in protests against police brutality with slogans like “An Injury to one is an Injury to all!”
The launch of the state body on November 7-9th attracted thirty union locals and a bunch of LP membership chapters from across the state. A five person state executive committee was elected, and the body adopted a seven-stage plan to build the LP in New York state. A UNITE official from New York City commented, “We were impressed. This was a first for us. I can see our local becoming much more involved in the future.”
Socialist Ideas Relevant Today
One of the high points of the Schenectady conference was the keynote speech made by Noel Beasley, a leading UNITE trade unionist from the Midwest. Beasley called on the Labor Party to remember the efforts of Eugene Debs, the great socialist leader, on behalf of the working class and explained how his ideas are relevant to the struggles of workers today. The fight to wrest control of government from the established political parties will be difficult, Beasley said. Moreover, “We have to create a culture of struggle where it is assumed we will fight, where it is expected we will fight and, most importantly, that we enjoy the fight.”
Many delegates commented on the open and democratic nature of the convention. In a week when the New York Central Labor Council and most of the City’s unions endorsed the re-election of Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the launch of the New York State Labor Party came just at the right time. The new President of the New York LP, CWA 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes, is an outspoken critic of Giuliani. In a New York Chief Leader article covering the convention, Cheliotes commented, “I am more convinced than ever that this is a serious and viable effort… With the two major parties proving incapable of really representing working people’s needs, the facts are clear: labor needs a political voice, working people demand political representation, and labor activists confront the responsibility that flows from that.”
Beasley called on the Labor Party to remember the efforts of Eugene Debs, the great socialist leader, on behalf of the working class and explained how his ideas are relevant to the struggles of workers today.
Text of the Amended Resolution on Electoral Action
Whereas the founding convention of the National Labor Party decided that the Party would not run candidates for office during the first two years of its existence, and
Whereas the question of running candidates will again be considered by the Labor Party at its second national convention scheduled for October 1998, and
Whereas the founding convention of the NY Labor Party regards carefully planned electoral campaigns to be critical way to educate workers publicize the party program and build the party, and
Whereas the Labor Party has established an Electoral Strategy Committee to explore the electoral options facing the party,
Therefore be it resolved that the (founding_ convention of the NY Labor Party calls on the Electoral Committee to develop a viable electoral strategy for the Labor Party,
Be it further resolved that the Electoral Strategy Committee develop this strategy around clear political, organizational and legal criteria, and
Be it further resolved that this criteria requires that Labor Party candidates to be members of the Labor Party and uphold the Party’s program, and
Be it finally resolved that the NY Labor Party urges the upcoming second National Convention to debate and adopt a viable electoral strategy for the Labor Party.
Pittsburgh Convention of the Labor Party
The Challenge of Building a Political Alternative for Working People
Justice #13, November 1998
The June 1996 launch of the Labor Party in Cleveland was the culmination of years of work and preparation that stretched over the course of a decade. The launching of the party represented a response by a small section of the union movement to the 20-year impasse of the trade union leadership to deal with the offensive of big business on workers’ living standards and democratic rights, the further move of the Democratic Party to the right, the passing of NAFTA, privatization, and anti-union legislation.
It was a personal triumph for Tony Mazzocchi and a small army of trade unionists, rank and file as well as leadership, who resolutely stuck to the task of bringing a Labor Party into existence. The sight of 1400 delegates cheering the adoption of the Party’s Constitution remains an unforgettable experience for all those who took part in that important political event. At the time, we commented: “Working people now have an alternative political party, organized and funded by organized labor and other workers. Even though the party is still small and non-electoral, its formation represents an historic step toward the political independence of the working class.” (September 1996)
But after the joyous birth came the political equivalent of post-natal depression. At times, it seemed as if Cleveland had never happened. Many union officials around the Labor Party resumed their normal business, business that included committing resources to re-electing Democrats and, not infrequently, Republicans. It’s not that the Labor Party was low on the agenda; it seldom got on the agenda at all. As a result of the limited momentum in the unions, quite a number of Labor Party chapters slumped into virtual inactivity, as many activists got back into the regular struggle-to-struggle routine, perhaps wondering when “the Party” was going to happen, and why wasn’t somebody doing something to speed things up a little? In truth, there have been moments when even the most determined among us have wondered if the whole thing was just going nowhere. Over time it has become clear that a convention does not a party make, no magic formulas that meet the challenge of building a mass working class party in this country.
But as the second Convention of the Labor Party gets underway in Pittsburgh, it is evident that the spirit of Cleveland lives on. The Labor Party’s First Constitutional Convention has attracted the participation of considerably more unions than showed up for the founding convention, and a greater number of elected delegates, which is cause for optimism. As we go to press, 1,350 delegates have registered, a figure that reflects both the ongoing appeal of the Party and the tenacity and dogged determination of its active supporters. It’s also encouraging that many union locals are coming this time as affiliates to the Party, and not as simple endorsers. This fact alone reflects a growing degree of commitment to the process, although much work needs to be done to bring the Labor Party to the shop stewards and rank and file of these critical locals.
Unions are good at writing checks, and no doubt the Party could not function without this support, but what it needs is more active members.
Commitment to Action
But credit where credit is due. The union locals and internationals that have made it here to Pittsburgh to support the Labor Party are standing up for working class political independence, and their numbers are growing. We urge them not to forget about the Labor Party when the convention is over, but to take bold action. This means setting up organizing committees for the Party, helping local chapters with in-kind support, committing staff on building the Labor Party, and, above all, helping the Party get ready to contest for political office. Finally breaking with the Democrats and the Republicans requires the creation of an alternative option, and no amount of speech-making will make it happen.
The break with the old politics will only occur when there is something to take its place, and the responsibility lies on the shoulders of those who have the resources, the influence, and, hopefully, the trust of the union membership to make this a real priority. Justice applauds the UE, OCAW & BMWE for committing resources and staff to Labor Party work and for affiliating locals and recruiting serious numbers of new members. They have set the pace, and the success of Party depends on others finding what it takes to follow their example. We also salute the active membership in the chapters, for keeping up the fight during the last two years, for doing the mailings, making the phone calls, debating the resolutions, and for investing enormous time and energy into building the Party. With little by way of resources or encouragement, the Labor Party chapters have, in instances like the Detroit newspaper dispute and the boycotting of the scab ship Neptune Jade, led from the front. Last, but not least, we congratulate Tony Mazzocchi, Catherine Isaacs, and the staff at the national office in Washington for their tremendous work in pulling this convention together. We may have our political disagreements, but no one can afford to overlook their contribution to this historic project.
Socialists Have Helped Build the Labor Party
The presence of socialists in the forefront of many Labor Party chapters has provided the Party with much-needed staying power. Even in the unions, many Labor Party activists are rooted firmly in the left. For socialists in the United States, the formation of the Labor Party presents a tremendous opportunity to create the type of working class politics that will draw organized and unorganized working class people into the struggle for a better future. While many workers are at present unfamiliar or perhaps suspicious of democratic socialist ideas, they will see on the basis of their experience, beyond the limited horizon of capitalism’s economic madness to the need for a society where workers and social needs come before profit and private greed. They will seek a society where the working class has democratic control over the economy. And many young people, especially, will only participate in the Labor Party if those with radical ideas are permitted to organize and express themselves openly.
All the signs indicate that the Labor Party at this convention will adopt criteria for running its own candidates. Justice supports the Electoral Committee’s report. However, we are recommending delegates support changing the proposed requirement that asks for a chartered state Labor Party to be in place before we can contest the elections in a given area. Under the Party’s rules, 1000 members are needed for a chartered state party to exist. This figure is too arbitrary and fails to take into account states with small populations. For now, we feel that the criteria should require a “recognized” state Labor Party, not a “chartered” state party. This amendment, while it removes the 1,000 member limit, will not water down the Committee’s report because local electoral efforts will have to generate enough support to run credible campaigns.
A more flexible approach to electoral work will send the right signal to all those activists who are trying to balance Labor Party work with other activities. It will also help us in recruitment efforts, and give an edge to the soon to be launched Just Health Care campaign. But the electoral move will not be a cure-all; it will merely be a signal that all of us need to engage our creativity and resourcefulness to the historic task of getting this Party ready for battle.
The Struggle for Class Politics
The difficulties will be many. We meet here in Pittsburgh at a time when the labor movement continues to decline in size and strength. The leadership of the AFL-CIO seems to be failing in its limited attempt to revitalize the labor movement. And many unions seem more intent than ever to collaborate with the employers and their politicians. It used to be said that the labor movement’s political strategy was based on “rewarding its friends and punishing its enemies;” now it rewards its enemies because it has so few friends. Despite the rhetoric, labor’s political strategy has been reduced to a thousand back-room deals with mainly incumbent politicians from both parties. Federation leader John Sweeney says labor will support any politician, including Republicans, “who will stand up for working families”(!) Will the AFL-CIO support Labor Party candidates who come from the ranks of our movement? Will labor pump the millions it presently gives to big business politicians into the war chest of the Labor Party, a party of working people standing up for themselves? Not without a struggle. This makes it necessary for the Labor Party to continue to campaign inside the union movement and argue against the false and utopian ideas of the AFL-CIO leaders.
The struggle to elect Labor Party candidates, to become a national party visible to the unorganized and all those fighting injustice and exploitation, can not be separated from the struggle to mobilize all of labor behind a program of independent working class politics and to build a movement of resistance to Wall Street and big business.
The outcome of the struggle to build a mass working class party will determine if the working class will be prepared to conduct a successful defense of its living standards in the face of what could be the biggest economic crisis of capitalism in sixty years.
The Best Way to Build the Party
By Ramy Khalil, Ohio Delegate
Justice #13, November 1998
The most burning question confronting delegates to the Labor Party’s second national convention is: What is the most effective way the Labor Party can become a party of 50,000-100,000 members? The strategy of building the Labor Party (LP) so far has focused primarily on getting unions to endorse and affiliate to the Party. LP workplace committees and community chapters have recruited new members by campaigning for the right to a job at a living wage and by organizing solidarity to local struggles. These strategies of building the party are essential, so we must continue these efforts. But how can we reach a wider audience and recruit more activists? The best way is to stand candidates in local elections in selected areas that meet the LP electoral committee’s proposed criteria of having significant amount of support from unions and the community. However, there is one criterion in the current proposal that should be amended. The proposal requires a chartered state party with 1,000 members to exist before candidates can run for office which is unfair to Labor Party activists in states with small populations such as Vermont. Elections are the only arena with a large enough scope to build a party of 50-100,000 members. The LP current strategy is centered almost exclusively on the recruitment of labor organizations. But well-organized electoral campaigns would allow the party to break into the struggles and issues that affect communities and young people as well as trade unionists.
Challenging the big business politicians would open many doors to increase our membership and bring the program and message of the Labor Party to thousands of people. It would start to give us more of a presence in the media. We could directly debate with the corporate and political machine politicians and have much greater success at forcing them to address issues in our platform and above all allow us to be involved in registering new voters to increase political participation. Standing in elections would give us the opportunity to recruit more people during the rare time in this largely apolitical country when most people think and talk about politics. If we select a number of areas and set a realistic goal of winning 15-30% of the vote and campaign to reach that goal, then it will be a tremendous encouragement and a concrete example to show the labor movement. Running candidates would allow the Labor Party to go to union locals and Central Labor Councils to ask for endorsements and support and explain why they need to break with the Democratic Party.
Electoral Strategy: A Party-Building Tool
The main argument against running candidates is that we have to recruit more people before we can take on an electoral system that is dominated by the corporations. This argument assumes that the first time we run candidates, we will fail if we don’t get into office. Realistically, it will be difficult to get a majority of the vote in a local area in one year if so few people have even heard of the Labor Party.
Another argument against running candidates is that the LP will lose all its finances because laws supposedly prohibits unions from donating to a political party that runs candidates. However, at least three first-rate labor lawyers have been consulted on this issue, and they agree that unions can contribute financially to the Labor Party as a whole, but unions cannot support a particular candidate. Polls in 1992 and 1994 showed that majorities as high as 63% of eligible voters would support a new party. More than half of eligible voters did not even bother to vote in the 1996 presidential elections, which was the lowest turn-out since 1921 and preliminary results of the November ’98 midterm elections showed the trend of very low participation continuing as people see no real alternatives. If the Labor Party does not act, candidates like Jesse “the Body” Ventura in Minnesota will move to exploit the anger that is developing against the politicians of big business. An electoral strategy is not a panacea. F or example following the flawed examples of the New Party or the misnamed “Working Families Party” to endorse Democrats through a different party label would be disastrous for the Labor Party as it would identify the Party with the political establishment rather than highlighting the need for independent working class politics and candidates. If the electoral resolution is passed at this Convention, the Labor Party will be taking an important step in the right direction and will open the way for local activists, chapters and unions to begin to put together the necessary forces for a working class political alternative.
NY Metro Chapter Elections Marred by Fraud
By Alan Jones
Justice #19, March-April 2000
The NY Metro chapter of the Labor Party had a hotly contested election for the Executive Committee in November 1999. The Metro Chapter is the largest chapter of the Labor Party with over 1,000 members at present, (there were over 50 delegates at the last convention) and has a record of playing a trailblazing role in terms of initiatives, campaigns, public events and politics in the party writes ALAN JONES.
The election was marred by fraud and a conscious violation of any sense of democratic process by a grouping (called New Directions—no relation to the genuine union opposition group that exists in the Transit Workers Union in New York) hat n the end succeeded in defeating the former majority in the Executive Committee (who ran as the United Action slate) after an intense campaign. Several members of Socialist Alternative and supporters of Justice ran and campaigned for the United Action slate.
Suspicions of fraud were aroused when the night before ballots were to be sent out, (November 12) membership coupons for scores of new members were handed to the Chapter’s Election committee. A large portion of these—77—were the recruits of one individual candidate of New Directions, who had no record of recruiting anyone before becoming a candidate.
A group of United Action supporters visited those new “members” to try to give them election materials only to discover that the “recruits” included children as young as one year old, 7 years old, ten years old, instances of an address where 8 of the new recruits ostensibly lived there but there was only one person actually living there, and people who had no clue about being members of the Labor Party other than they knew or were related to the New Directions candidate.
A report detailing the fraud was produced with the findings and was sent to the National Office, the NY State Labor Party Council and the Election Committee demanding that action be taken against it in December. At the same time, United Action and Justice supporters spread the word of what was happening and the need ot organize the membership of the chapter to fight against it. A United Action Bulletin was produced in the beginning of January and sent to all the members in the chapter detailing the situation and asking members to take action and join the opposition to the fraudulent election.
National Organizer Tony Mazzochi reacted to the report by deferring to the Election Committee, and the NY State Council ordered that the count go ahead along the lines of a union election, with the right to challenge ballots.
Two members of the Election Committee argued sharply that New Directions and the one candidate in particular was deliberately violating all standards of democratic process. They were in the minority as the Election Committee chair demanded “proof” in order to separate the ballots that were challenged on reasonable grounds before the count.
The Election Committee chair, Larry Adams, (President of Mailhandlers Union Local 300) accepted only 8 challenges from the 77 from one New Directions candidate, ignoring the pattern of fraud indicated by the revelation that children and one dead person actually voted in the election, that most of the ballots were mailed the same day and from the same location, etc. The result, in which New Directions candidates elected all 17 of their slate by an average differential of about 60 votes, was indelibly tainted and strongly suggests that they had to resort to these methods in order to steal the election.
While for some of the members in the chapter it appeared as if the dispute was over who was going to get elected and feuding groups of activists, the reality is that there are substantive political differences—mainly relating to the role and the political direction of the Metro Chapter, and the Labor Party as a whole.
These issues were brought up in the United Action caucus Bulletin which explained: “we believe that the issues we will be taking up—complete independence from the Democrats, the need for a Labor Party that runs candidates, and a more determined approach to party building—will only be advanced if members are organized to fight around those issues within the chapter… and against those who have an altogether different agenda—‘fusion’ politics, stunted discussion and sanitized forms of activism.”
This could be seen in the election material published by the two slates during the election. The New Directions literature nowhere mentions anything about running candidates. In one of the flyers, “Five Ways to Alienate the Labor Movement” they complain about discussion in the Chapter to picket the “Central Labor Council because it endorsed Giuliani; Organize a campaign to ‘call on’ DC 37 to rescind its Gore endorsement,” and complained about a flyer which explained to public sector workers that “our unions have rolled over at contract time.” New Direction clearly did not think that speaking about these issues to union members in the chapter and beyond was appropriate. Their approach is determined by an acceptance and compliance with the policies of the existing conservative union leadership in the City.
Despite the absence of any significant union support and the outright hostility of a large section of union officials (who remain firmly embedded in the Democratic Party and even supported the right-wing Republican Mayor Giuliani for mayor because it looked like he was going to win) the Metro Chapter managed to grow and create a political space in New York at a time of retreat, defeats for labor, student and community movement.
This was possible because of the unflinching support, hard work and leadership of a number of socialists, supporters of this newspaper, and other activists who were prepared to campaign for the idea of an independent political party of the working class since before the LP was established and helped promote the idea that led to the creation of Labor Party Advocates—years ago and later the founding of the Labor Party.
Among the achievements of the Metro Chapter was not only the membership growth, but also the organizing of regular political events, organizing support for strikes and international struggles, (including support for Mumia, support for the Liverpool dock workers, campaign and support for the Detroit News workers, the Transit Workers in New York, tenant struggles, support for postal workers, and many more.) Several campaigns and high-profile events were organized including an event on the need for single payer healthcare and more recently and event commemorating labor martyr Karen Silkwood which was attended by 700 people.
Campaigning for an Electoral Strategy
Since the beginning of last year, United Action activists in the chapter moved in the direction of building local groups in Brooklyn, Queens and other areas with a view of preparing the ground for electoral work in the 2001 elections for City Council. In terms of New York politics, the Chapter produced leaflets and material that called on public sector and other workers to reject the bankrupt strategy of the leadership of the Central Labor Council and major unions in the city of support for the Democrats or Republicans and opposed the endorsement without discussion of Al Gore, for president and Hillary Clinton for senator by major unions in the city.
It was in reality this course of action taken by the chapter that New Directions and their backroom supporters are opposed to. As they explained in their various speeches and campaign literature, opposing union officials because of their public stance on issues, may ‘alienate’ them and they will not look favorably toward joining the Labor Party! (Incidental to the kind of union officials New Directions is looking to appeal to was Lou Albano, from AFSCME Local DC 37 who was involved in fraud in his own local when he was challenged by a reform slate a couple of years ago.)
The handful of unions that support the Labor Party in New York (CWA Local 1180, OSA) have been lukewarm in their support. At the last convention, they were at the forefront arguing as campaigning for the Labor Party to adopt a ‘fusion’ plank in order to endorse ‘progressive’ Democrats, presumably the way the Working Families Party is doing with Hillary Clinton for the senate race (after ‘tactically’ endorsing the darling of the real estate industry Peter Vallone for governor last year). This would have been the kiss of death for a party that aims to organize independently and on the basis of a working class program. At the convention, the Metro chapter was in clear opposition to the NY union officials who support the Labor Party, but also continue to be involved in the Democratic Party, the New Party and the Working Families Party (which have now merged in NY). The Chair of the NY State Labor Party Arthur Cheliotes (CWA local 1180) is also very active with the Working Families Party.
The possibility that the Metro chapter would be campaigning to run credible campaigns for the city council represented a serious threat to all those who see the Labor Party as more or less an educational effort, that would be better off keeping a low, non-confrontational and non-electoral profile. Naturally, such a strategy would hardly keep the interest of activists and would tend to lead the party into stagnation at best.
Another key issue that brought the New Directions grouping together was their conscious and well-organized redbaiting campaign against organized socialists and leftists hwo have been in the leadership of the chapter for a long time and have a record of building the party. Having no serious political record of achievements in building the party, New Directions retreated in this time-honored, bankrupt method of political struggle in order to confuse, create suspicion and divert from the issues. In one of their campaign flyers, the New Directions slate argued: “We come together in respect for democratic process, working for an effective multi-tendency chapter that no single organization can dominate or use for its own purposes.” This was a mild rendition of their long-standing orchestrated campaign against supporters of Justice and Socialist Alternative (formerly Labor Militant) in the chapter. But they have no evidence either of domination or “use for its own purposes.” As for New Directions respect for democratic process, their involvement with fraud in this election, says it all.
Responding to the redbaiting, United Action states in its principles: “We stand for the right of individual socialists and socialist groups to be constructively engaged in building the Labor Party. We are absolutely opposed to the redbaiting, back-stabbing and innuendo aimed at other Party members.”
The fact that nominal socialists, including members of Solidarity, lent a left cover to the redbaiting campaign—probably believing that this will serve them to get closer to the good graces of union officials—shows how easily people can lose their way and how easily the lessons of the past can be forgotten. They forget that to this day we are paying the price for the redbaiting campaigns against the left in the unions from decades ago. Furthermore, if these methods can be used against one group, they will be used again when the time is right against another, opening the door for bureaucratization and destruction of democratic debate and political rights in the party.
On a Destructive Course
New Directions and their backers are unlikely to stop their destructive course. In fact they are now bound to go to the offensive to undermine precisely the kind of politics Metro Chapter has campaigned for. Supporters of Justice, the United Action caucus and other activists will continue to fight against the policies and methods of the New Directions caucus. The real struggle will be to find ways to continue the campaigns that the Labor Party ahs launched on healthcare, workers’ rights, and local organizing committees, which can prepare the way for electoral initiatives to be taken in New York.
After failing to intervene on the issue of the fraud, Labor Party national organizer, Tony Mazzocchi, announced the formation of a committee of union officials to investigate the situation in the Metro Chapter in New York. But as a result of Tony Mazzocchi’s inaction, the election result has been allowed to stand. There will be further appeals against the election result in the coming months. However, little confidence can be placed in this committee because there is no rank and file representation, no representation from the United Action slate and some members of the committee are hostile to the previous leadership of the chapter.
The key issue is to clarify the political questions raises, educate end recruit new members who want to see the Labor Party in New York and nationally develop and build a real working class alternative to the parties of the bosses. Furthermore, these struggles inside the Labor Party will continue to occur.
Inevitably there would be conflict over the direction and program of the party between those seeking to pull the party in a conservative direction and against the influence of socialist and radical ideas in the party. Socialists, while welcoming the participation of more unions and new members in the Labor Party, will continue to campaign for a clear program that can take the class struggle forward in the US, and explain the need forr democracy and freedom of expression in the party.
The Labor Party will only be able to grow and attract mass support if it shows that it is not a bureaucratic, top-down organization run in a similar way as the unions which repels many young people and activists.
Justice and Socialist Alternative will continue to support and collaborate with all who want to build the Labor Party in New York and other cities because it represents a genuine step forward for working class people, and will continue to make constructive proposals and recommendations about what is the best course to build a working class political alternative. Members of the Labor Party across the country should be informed about the events in the NY elections and should send letters to the National Office to overturn the fraudulent election result.
Join Justice/Socialist Alternative and campaign to build a strong, democratic and electoral Labor Party!
New York Metro Chapter Suspended by State Executive Committee
How NOT to Build the Labor Party
By Alan Jones
Justice #20, June-July 2000
In May, the New York Labor Party State Executive Committee suspended the New York Metro Chapter of the Labor Party, the largest Labor Party chapter in the country. This action constitutes a serious violation of democratic rights and internal democracy that will affect all local chapters around the country
In response, we have launched a campaign among NY Metro Chapter members and suspended officers to lift the suspension and re-establish the democratic rights of all members. Members of the chapters have asked Labor Party members and all chapters to send letters of protest and resolution against the suspension to the Interim National Council before it meets in July.
The suspension of the 900-member NY Metro Chapter came after a period of intense conflict about the political direction of the party in New York. The struggle came to a head last Fall during a sharply-contested election for chapter Executive Committee.
Members of the United Action Slate, including several members of Socialist Alternative and supporters of Justice newspaper, documented and exposed that infants, children, phantom members and at least one dead person voted for the New Directions slate.
At this time, no investigation has been conducted either by the Election Convention majority or the national office. The formal appeal presented to the State executive in early January has not been considered and there are no plans nor any stated intentions to do so. In January, we made a formal appeal to the State executive, but it has not yet been considered.
In early March, a special Commission met to discuss in the chapter. This report released on March 28, noted that “New Directions supporters… clearly engaged in questionable practices to advance their immediate agenda.” These practices, said the Commission, “shed discredit on the Labor Party and they must be condemned.” New Directions won 17 of the 20 slots in the election.
The fraud factor clearly determined the outcome of this election, but the State Executive Committee and the National Organizer of the Labor Party Tony Mazzocchi did not attempt to protect the rights of the membership on this crucial issue.
The Ny LP State Executive Committee announced in early May that membership meetings would be suspended and elected delegates would be banned from attending the state convention in May.
In response the State Executive announced that it would recognize members of the fraudulently elected Executive Committee of the chapter! The State Executive Committee refused to circulate the Commission’s report and put a gag order on any member who wanted to discuss their actions.
A number of banned delegates elected at the April membership meeting organized a protest outside the State Convention and talked to other delegates about the situation in the chapter. We pointed out that the actions of the State Executive Committee violate article VIII.4 of the NYLP’s own bylaws (Membership Bill of Rights) which states that “Members shall not be restricted in the exercise of their rights to freedom of speech concerning the operation of the NY Labor Party and its related bodies. Active and open discussion of party affairs and the expressions of Members’ views shall be protected within the party.”
Furthermore, the NY State Executive prohibited the attendance of any delegates who are not EC members. At the Metro Chapter meeting on April 7, 60 members of the Chapter elected 14 delegates to the state convention, according to the chapter and state party bylaws
The State Convention
In May, the state convention of the Labor Party attracted approximately 40 people, including guests. By contrast, two years ago over 100 delegates and observers from several chapters and affiliated unions from across the state attended.
The former chair of the NY State Labor Party, Arthur Cheliotes, announced recently his intention to run with the Working Families Party, a pressure group supporting the Democratic Party. Another officer of the State Labor Party, Howard Botwinick, refused to run for re-election or attend the May Convention. There are no functioning organizations (chapters, etc.) of the Labor Party in upstate New York, and the unions that have supported the Labor Party are now drifting towards the Working Families Party.
One of the featured speakers was Reform Party presidential candidate Bob Bowman (who among his other credentials is a rocket scientist who worked on the Star Wars program of Reagan). He stands for single payer health care, and is “pro-labor.” After his stump speech, Brenda Stokely, the new chair of the New York State Labor Party, pronounced that Bowman was a candidate “who all could vote for.’ The suspension of the Labor Party’s largest chapter in the country received barely a mention at the hand-picked Convention, despite the efforts of those who had been suspended to raise their issues. Membership among unions affiliated with the LP has stagnated since the last Convention. Clearly, state leadership is not willing or able to build the Labor Party in New York State. In reality, the NY State Labor Party does not exist. It will have to be rebuilt by the efforts of individuals and activists.
Previously the chapter had risen to over 900 members and started to organize local committees to campaign on health care and workers’ rights. It also kept the membership active through meetings, forums and events.
The United Action Caucus submitted a serious strategy to build the party, which included running local candidates. It also called for an open debate in the labor movement about the presidential elections. United Action Caucus campaigned for the Labor Party to run local candidates for the City Council as a way to build the party as a working class alternative to the Democrats and their appendage, the Working Families Party.
Thus, there exists an impasse in the Labor Party in New York and explains why the attack on the Metro Chapter is taking place. The Metro Chapter is taking place. The Metro chapter’s program of activism threatens the status quo of the labor movement—both inside and outside the Labor Party.
New Directions openly used red-baiting in the campaign for the Executive Committee due mainly to the fact that supporters of United Action are open and honest socialists. These activists should be credited for the chapter’s achievements over the past several years.
Members and officers of the chapter launched a campaign to immediately re-instate the Metro Chapter’s officers and bylaws.
We plan to mail the Commission’s findings to the chapter membership, and will convene a full membership meeting of the Metro Chapter to discuss all proposals pertaining to the chapter and the party for debate and a democratic vote.
Despite the suspension of democratic rights, the State Executive Committee has nto taken away our First Amendment rights. Labor Party members will continue to meet and be active regardless of the status of the chapter and will continue to build the Labor Party and serious working class political alternatives in New York. This can only be done, on the basis of a struggle to reject the false ideas of support for the appendages of the Democrats and to build a strong, democratic Labor Party and prepare the way for independent electoral campaigns for the city council next year.
We are asking you to write letters of protest about the suspension of the democratic rights of the Metro Chapter by the officers of the State Executive Committee to:
Labor Party Interim National Council:
PO Box 53117
Washington, DC 20009
Pleace send copies to
3311 Mission Street, Suite 135,
San Francisco, CA 94110
For further information on the Metro Chapter contact:
Margaret Collins, Former Executive Committee Member and banned delegate
Sean Sweeney, suspended Chapter Chair, member INC,
Why the Labor Party Should Support Nader
By Philip Locker, founding LP member
Justice #21, September-October 2000
The campaign of Ralph Nader for president represents an historic break in US politics. It has created a new situation that contains major opportunities for the construction of a mass workers party, but also important dangers, which hinge on the ability of the Labor Party and socialists to effectively intervene in this process.
Ralph Nader, a member of the LP (Labor Party), is running as an independent, and is the only candidate to consistently defend unions, workers and the environment and to attack racism and discrimination. His campaign is capitalizing on the unprecedented disgust with the Democrats and Republicans and is an electoral expression of the newly emerging movement seen in Seattle-Washington-Philadelphia and Los Angeles of workers and young people against corporate domination of society.
Socialist Alternative decided to give critical support to Nader’s campaign in February when it became clear that neither the LP nor the AFL-CIO was willing to put forward a workers alternative in the presidential election. A real workers’ candidate would have been preferable to the campaign of Ralph Nader, a radical middle class populist.
Unfortunately, the LP leadership decided to abstain from this central event in American politics and refused to launch a serious campaign inside the AFL-CIO for the unions to break from the Democrats and run their own candidate. The leaders of the union movement and the Labor Party refused to fill this vacuum to the left of the Democrats and give a fighting expression to the growing anger of workers and youth. Nader and the Greens have stepped up and catapulted themselves onto the political stage.
In light of this new situation, Socialist Alternative calls on the LP to give critical support to Ralph Nader by launching an energetic campaign to intervene in this election, putting forward the LP working class agenda and a call for a mass workers’ party as the only real alternative to the Republicrats. By taking such an approach, the LP could position themselves to capitalize on the anger of rank and file unionists at the Democrats, and deepen this mood. Such an effort would open up a massive debate in the unions, greatly raising the profile of the LP and attracting around it the best union militants.
If the LP had conducted such a campaign earlier this year, it would have been able to pounce on the debates inside the UAW and Teamsters union on whether to endorse Gore or Nader. By throwing its weight into these crucial struggles, the LP could have tipped the debate in the direction of Nader. Instead, the LP stayed out of these crucial battles.
”Rules” and Reality
It does no good to hide our heads in the sand and repeat formulas, “rules,” and speak of “the constitution.” The INC (Interim National Council — the LP leadership structure) was elected precisely for and authorized to take decisions on issues before the Party that are new and pressing.
This is also why it is incorrect to hold conventions of the LP only once every 3.5 years. Standard practice around the world for workers’ parties is to have annual conventions, for the purpose of being able to democratically discuss, debate and act on sudden changes in the situation.
LP activists must not be distracted by technicalities — when rules get in the way of building a mass workers party, we must throw the rules out the window! Besides, as activists have seen in the recent dispute in the NY Metro LP chapter, the LP leadership is willing to look the other way, or even participate in outrageous violations of the LP’s by-laws and constitution, much less the democratic process, if it serves their political agenda.
The Labor Party’s Electoral Strategy Put to the Test
Nader’s campaign has proven that the opportunity to build a party to challenge big business, the Democrats and Republicans, and fight for working people exists. Nader has also demonstrated the invaluable role that elections can play in building a party, recruiting members, strengthening a movement on the ground, popularizing its program and raising its profile. Nader’s campaign has disproved the contention of the LP leadership that you should not run for office unless you have an excellent chance of winning with the backing of the majority of the union movement.
Instead, Nader tossed his hat into the ring, with modest resources, limited union support and a few activists. He wasn’t afraid to start somewhere, and fight to build from there. Since he launched his campaign, he has raised over two million dollars, won the support of millions of workers and young people, and won the endorsement of the California Nurses Association, and the United Electrical Workers (both active in the LP no less!) caused a debate inside the UAW and Teamsters, and could well end up winning more union endorsements (most likely the Farm Labor Organizing Committee), and especially from union locals.
Nader has accomplished this despite his limited program and the middle class approach of the Green Party. The LP, with a working class program and roots in the unions, would have gotten an even better response with a systematic campaign among the rank and file.
As Socialist Alternative (formerly Labor Militant) has consistently warned from the LP’s founding convention, if the party does not begin to step into the electoral arena it will become deadlocked, stagnate and eventually be bypassed by other formations. We fought for the LP to run candidates to actively challenge the two parties as the most effective way, at this stage, of building the LP. Without such an approach, we warned, the LP would remain isolated and cut off from real struggles and remain unknown to the vast majority of rank and file union members and working class communities.
The LP should have set out on a course of systematically running local candidates after its convention in 1996, gaining electoral experience and positioning itself to be the left challenger in the 2000 elections. If this strategy had been adopted, the LP would have been positioned in 2000 to make a qualitative, historic breakthrough. It could have become a nationally known political force, popularized its program and message to tens of millions of workers, rapidly increased its membership, and provoked a massive debate inside the unions, possibly leading to sections of the AFL-CIO breaking from the Democrats and joining the LP.
Instead the LP has been out-maneuvered by a radical, middle class party (the Greens) and a left populist, Ralph Nader. The danger is posed that the Greens may consolidate to their program and party an important layer of voters (including many workers and youth) and the newly emerging movement that began in Seattle. This will hold back for many years the struggle to build a mass working class party based on the trade unions.
It is in order to combat this danger that the LP must forcefully intervene in the Nader campaign, to win the best workers and youth to its program and class orientation.
If all this is true, than why do the LP leaders steadfastly refuse to seriously run candidates? Because the leadership of the major unions affiliated to the LP refuse to break with the Democrats where it hurts (in elections) and the LP leadership is mortified at the idea of provoking the wrath of the AFL-CIO leadership.
We need a fighting, uncompromising leadership that will place the needs of workers and building the LP ahead of all other considerations. Building a mass LP will inevitably cause massive convulsions and fights inside the AFL-CIO. This cannot be avoided. We need a leadership that is clear on this necessity, and has the political will and strategy to face up to this reality.
For a Mass Workers’ Party!
The question of a mass workers’ party has now been concretely placed on the immediate agenda by Nader’s challenge in 2000. If his campaign continues to do well, it will greatly increase the opportunities to break the unions away from the Democratic Party. Millions will be looking for a new “third party.”
The movement will face an important fork in the road: will it stop short as only a single electoral campaign around one individual, or will it go forward? Will it form a new, broad party that provides a vehicle to deepen and extend the emerging mass movement on the ground while continually challenging the Democrats and Republicans in the electoral arena?
Second, what will be the character of this party? A middle class party with a confused program (along the lines of the Green Party), or a working class party?
The resolution of these challenges will be determined by the conscious intervention of those forces that understand the need for a mass workers party.
Socialist Alternative is campaigning for the creation of a new, broad, workers party to emerge from Nader’s campaign.
We call on Ralph Nader, who has enormous authority and prestige, to convene a conference after the elections, of students, unions, community, civil rights, left, and environmentalist organizations to form such a party.
We appeal to the LP, and all LP activists to join us in this effort.
Labor Party’s 3rd National Convention
The Fight for a Workers’ Party Continues
By Ramy Khalil, ATU Local 587, Seattle
Justice #30, June-August 2002
From July 25 to 28 the Labor Party is holding its third national convention in Washington, D.C. However, there is a sharp contrast between the lack of interest in this convention and the excitement of the 1996 founding convention. The founding convention in Cleveland attracted 1,400 delegates from 9 international unions and hundreds of union locals. A number of enthusiastic union activists came hoping that severing ties with the Democrats and building a Labor Party could halt labor's 20 years of defeats.
Since then, only a slice of union officials and activists have even heard of the Labor Party. The LP has not been able to get its Just Health Care campaign off the ground, and chapter membership has dried up. Going into the LP's 2nd national convention in 1998, the party's newspaper was full of interviews and debates between LP activists about how to build the party effectively. This time, there are so few activists left that The LP Press did not run a single article about convention debates - just the invitation to the conference.
LP leaders explain away the LP's stagnation with similar explanations that "experts" use to rationalize low voter turnout - American workers are complacent and content; change won't happen overnight. But many Americans have stopped voting because they see through the lies and broken promises of both the Democrats and Republicans. In fact, polls repeatedly show Americans want a third party. A Gallup/CNN/USA poll on 10/27/00, for example, found that 67% of Americans want a strong third party to run candidates for national office.
What Happened to the Labor Party?
The LP's decline is not due to a lack of interest, but rather the LP leadership's refusal to run candidates. How can people take the Labor Party seriously if it does not run candidates?
While getting candidates elected cannot change society, elections can be an important tool to reach a wider audience and build grassroots movements in the streets. The LP will only be seen as an attractive force if it boldly puts its program out there in elections and leads workers in struggles that bring about real improvements in their lives.
Justice argued since the founding of the LP that if it did not run candidates to fill the political vacuum opening up by the increasing anger at the corporations and their two parties, then other parties would. The Presidential campaign of left populist Ralph Nader did exactly that. Nader's campaign was a major step forward for the emerging movement against corporate globalization, popularizing its basic ideas among millions of people, and uniting different single-issue movements into a common struggle against corporate rule.
When the LP failed to run a Presidential candidate or join the Nader campaign, it missed a huge opportunity to raise its profile and recruit from the crowds of 10-15,000 that Nader drew in many cities. Instead, the Green Party was the only large organized force in the Nader campaign, which lacked the working class base and program of the LP, which could have attracted many more Americans. The LP is also oriented towards the labor movement, which has the institutional resources and the powerful working class base necessary to seriously challenge the twin parties of big business.
The LP has not connected with most living struggles and movements. It has been totally unattractive to the growing anti-corporate youth movement (unlike Nader who won massive support amongst anti-corporate youth and workers in the 2000 elections).
The LP leadership's failure to openly and publicly oppose Bush's war on Afghanistan was a dangerous mistake. The LP should have taken a principled stand by condemning the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 but also explaining how Bush's war in no way represents the interests of workers and will only exacerbate terrorism. A fighting workers' party would win support by standing in elections and opposing the two parties' identical agenda of budget cuts, attacks on democratic rights, racism and war.
If the Labor Party is unable to maintain an independent working class position in times of war, then it wouldn't be able to withstand the enormous pressures to compromise with big business if it were to get candidates elected to office. Workers' parties in other countries have ended up carrying out attacks on working people because they lacked a socialist program and an independent class position on all issues. Either a workers' party changes the system, or else the system will change the workers' party.
Another factor in the LP's decline has been its lack of democracy. A key turning point was the shutting down of the New York Metropolitan chapter – the largest, most vibrant chapter in the country with over 1000 members. The LP Interim National Council turned a blind eye when the NY State LP body disbanded the local chapter because Socialist Alternative members had been elected into the leadership of the chapter and were preparing to run local LP candidates.
The LP's Relationship with the AFL-CIO
Many left-wing union officials endorsed or affiliated to the LP on paper. Yet they refused to allow the LP to run candidates because if it did, they knew AFL-CIO President John Sweeney would have declared war on the LP and the union officials who supported it.
A Labor Party would have to seize this opportunity to open up a debate in the labor movement, from the rank-and-file on up, on why the AFL-CIO continues to waste members' dues on the same Democratic party that gave us NAFTA, the WTO, and other attacks on labor. As LP polls have indicated, there is more support for a labor party than the Democrats or Republicans.
Instead, LP leader Tony Mazzocchi's strategy was to avoid this inevitable clash with the AFL-CIO leaders by getting a significant number of labor leaders to endorse the LP before running candidates.
However, history shows that mass workers' parties have only been built through titanic events and class battles, provoking crises and debates within the unions. Well-paid union officials cannot be rationally convinced of the need to break their cozy alliance with the Democrats. On the contrary, the AFL-CIO leadership will fight hard to maintain their links with the Democrats because of their overall support for capitalism.
The key force in building a mass workers' party will be millions of politicized and active workers and youth. Labor leaders have historically only supported independent workers' parties when they absolutely had to, once it became so popular among union members that labor leaders would be voted out if they didn't jump on the bandwagon.
The LP's stagnation does not prove that things will never change in America. On the contrary, the formation of the LP (and the movement against corporate globalization, the Nader campaign, the Reform Party, etc.) are signs of the deep cracks in the two-party system. Since the end of the post-war economic boom in 1973, corporations have been attacking the living standards of the working class, setting the stage for social upheaval and the eventual emergence of a mass workers' party.
While the space has been opening up for a workers' party, the experience of the LP demonstrates that it is not enough to just sit back and wait for people to come flocking to the party. A workers' party needs to actively fill the vacuum and harness the growing anger at the two parties. This requires a leadership that bases itself on the needs of the movement and the capacity of workers to struggle, not the boundaries set by the top AFL-CIO officials.
The AFL-CIO should use its powerful resources to run independent candidates across the country in November. With a bold working class program, they would win the support of millions, laying the basis for the formation of a mass workers' party. The LP and union members should argue for this within the AFL-CIO.
The LP Convention delegates should also adopt a strategy of running selected independent candidates in the November Congressional and local races. On this basis, the Labor Party could become a pole of attraction to hundreds of thousands of the most far-sighted workers and youth seeking a political alternative. Otherwise, the LP will continue stagnating, wither away or collapse.
Whatever happens at the LP convention, union, community, anti-globalization, anti-war, LP, Green, and socialist activists should form local coalitions and run independent candidates as the next step in the struggle to build a workers' party.
Our history within the Labor Party featured maybe ten years of intense
activity. I ended up feeling betrayed by the so-called "progressive"
unions, but I know that I was and am naive about union power politics.
We started there as Labor Militant, and we briefly had a Campaign for
a Labor Party--I remember Peter Taaffe coming over for an organizing
event for the CLP--until we stepped aside for Labor Party Advocates,
the predecessor of the Labor Party. We did a lot to organize chapters
until we were told that many of them didn't qualify as chapters (like
our short-lived "chapter" in Lansing). But we had leadership positions
in New York City and Boston and elsewhere.
I attended all three national conferences of the Labor
Party--Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and the shameful final one in
Washington, D.C.--but living in Midwest I also remember an important
early meeting at the Royce Hotel at Detroit Metro Airport and a
meeting on platform in Toledo. Both were well-attended. The Healyites
(now SEP) showed up to denounce us all. Steve Edwards from Chicago
played a role in both those conferences--as did other Chicago
comrades, not in SA now. I also remember Lorraine Dardis, now in
London, leading a workshop in Toledo.
Occupying the streets of Cleveland at our founding meeting left the
impression that the LP would be not only electoral but activist. (I
remember our comrade Martha courageously holding up copies of our
paper when the large and spirited march left the streets and occupied
the Marriott Hotel.) But the Labor Party proved neither electoral nor
When my health improves, I need to get together with Jeff to find out
more about why the unions screwed us and the working class by shutting
down this hopeful initiative.