For a Mass Party of Labor!

This November, millions of American workers will go to the polls to exercise their democratic right to vote. But since in most cases this means selecting which of the two bosses' candidates will rule their district, millions of others will stay home, unable to stomach such "choices."  As the only mass organizations representing the American working class, what role will the trade unions and the labor movement in general play in the elections? According to the Christian Science Monitor, the AFL-CIO and the split-off Change to Win Federation have formed a "national committee to coordinate political activities."  Unfortunately, in practice this means a "get out the vote" campaign for the Democratic Party.       

As we pointed out last summer, the decision to split the AFL-CIO was a bureaucratic move from above, not the result of the collective participation of the rank and file. Although the leadership of "Change to Win" claimed to have left in order to spend less money on electoral politics and more on organizing, this was not a split based on principled differences over the role the unions should play in politics: i.e. the need to break organized labor's long-time alliance with the Democratic Party.        

On all fundamental issues affecting working people at home and abroad, the actions of both the Republicans and the Democrats are virtually identical.  In both foreign and domestic policy, the differences are merely cosmetic. Both parties have supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  It was Clinton who signed NAFTA and gutted the social safety net.  Both parties support the Taft-Hartley Act, which has hobbled the labor movement for decades.        

The uproar over the Connecticut Democratic primaries clearly shows the ease with which a member of one of these parties can be embraced by the other.  It speaks volumes that Joe Lieberman, the once Democratic candidate for Vice President, can get the endorsement of the Republican president and his gang without changing his policies one iota.         

Unfortunately, the national leadership of both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation seem more interested in continuing their partnership with the bosses and their political parties than defending workers' interests.  This is all part of an ever-widening gulf between the needs of the movement (a class-independent party to fight for workers' interests) and the road taken by the current leadership.        

Only a mass party of labor with a class-independent program will be capable of meeting the pressing needs of working people in this country.  It really is as simple as that.  Despite the rich history of the U.S. labor movement, we remain one of the only advanced capitalist countries without a traditional, mass party of labor.  There have been many attempts to form one over the years, but for reasons we have explained in previous documents, no such party has yet taken hold. In the coming years, this contradiction must be resolved, leading to a radical transformation in the situation.           

The South Carolina Labor Party's (SCLP) recent campaign to gain ballot access in that state is an encouraging sign (they collected 16,500 signatures – far more than the 10,000 required). Working people everywhere should  follow these events carefully, and support the SCLP's efforts. But beyond this, we must encourage the Labor Party to fight on the electoral front beyond South Carolina.  Workers in the rest of the country need a party through which to express their interests as well.

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