Democratic Party

Why Do We Need a Mass Labor Party?

There are many workers who voted for the Democrats because they hoped they would bring about reforms such as universal health care, job creation, stronger unions and an end to the wars in the Middle East.  Many are already disappointed as the Democrats basically continue Bush’s policies, with a few cosmetic changes.  Many workers would like there to be an alternative to the political parties of big business.  The WIL would like to address a few questions that often come up in discussions regarding our call for the unions to break with the Democrats and build a mass labor party.

Is the Democratic Party a workers’ party? 

Democratic PartyThe Democratic Party was not created by the working class, nor is it under the democratic control of the working class.  The Democratic Party has a long history that goes back to the days of slavery, when it represented the southern slave owners.  Since the aftermath of the Civil War, the Democrats have been one of the two main parties of American big business.  Whatever differences they might claim to have with the Republicans, their fundamental policy is based on maintaining capitalism and imperialism, which means the exploitation of American workers and the super-exploitation of workers in the “under-developed world.”  Even the labor leaders do not speak of the Democrats as a workers’ party, but call them “friends of labor.” However, with friends like these, who needs enemies!

How does the capitalist class control the Republicans and Democrats?

Due to the populist movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Capitalist class set up a system of state-controlled primary elections. This was supposedly done to take control of nominating party candidates away from party bosses and put it in the hands of the people. In primary elections, candidates must first win the nomination of the party and then proceed to the general election. In practice, it takes lots of money and media coverage to win the primary campaign and then even more money to win the general election.  This is perfect for the capitalist class.  They have the money and they own the newspapers, magazines, book publishers, and radio and television stations.  Even many billboards on highways are owned by the same companies that own the television networks and cable channels. This is one example of how they control the candidates of both major parties long before they are even elected.

Why not run candidates in the Democratic Party’s primary elections?  Couldn’t labor “take over” the Democratic Party?

Theoretically, the labor movement could run candidates in a party primary and try to secure the nomination, and then run in the general election.  However, in order to accomplish this task, it would require the labor movement to come together in a political organization to determine policy and program, candidates and strategy. In other words, the labor movement would have to build a “party within a party.”

Such a strategy would be bad for a number of reasons.  The labor movement would have to spend its precious resources in the primary election campaign and would then have less money left over for the general election. This is not a problem for the capitalists who control the media and have tons of money available for politics. If a genuine labor candidate fighting on a socialist or even moderately radical program won the Democratic primary, the party would quickly either dis-own the candidate or otherwise try to sabotage the campaign. An example of this can be seen with former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who was basically driven out of the Democratic Party because she was perceived as being “too far to the left.” Also, more people turn out for the general elections than vote in the primaries. This is due to the fact that many people do not identify with the big business political parties.  It would not be a step forward in developing class consciousness to encourage workers to join or support the Democrats, a non-workers’ party.  However, it would be an enormous step forward in class consciousness for the workers to come to the conclusion that we need a party to represent our class: a mass labor party! This is why we consistently call on workers to break with the Democrats and form such a party. However, until a mass party of labor is created, many workers will either remain with the Democrats as a “lesser evil,” or simply abstain from voting.

Why does the WIL call for a Labor Party?

Those of us who depend on our ability to work and on the paycheck we receive from it in order to support our living standards are the working class. The working class is the overwhelming majority of the population of the USA. Our class has interests separate and diametrically opposed to interests of the richest 2%, who own and control big business and the two major parties.  The working class has built unions to represent its interests at the workplace and it now needs its own party to represent its political interests at all levels of government.

What would a mass Labor Party look like?

Unions would directly affiliate to this party and would have voting rights based on their membership.  The unions should vote according to the democratic will of their membership. Also, a mass labor party would have local branches, which anyone who believed in the cause of labor, whether or not they were a member of a union, could join. These branches should also be able to vote in the Labor Party.  A mass labor party should also organize a youth wing, mobilizing young workers, students and unemployed.  This youth wing should also be allowed voting rights in the party.

Would a mass labor party lead to a Republican victory?

Some will argue that a mass labor party would “split the Democratic Party vote” and lead to victory for the Republican Party.  One consequence of “lesser evil” politics is that eventually, you always get the “greater” evil.  Right now, with the Democrats in control of Congress and the Presidency, how much has really changed for the better?  If a mass labor party is not built, as anger over the status quo builds up, what will happen?  If there is no alternative, the Republican Party will eventually take back power and this party could move even further to the right. Without a labor party, the lesser evil politics that the present labor leadership practices has provided no resistance to the Capitalists as they have pushed politics to the right in the last few decades as a way to deal with their crisis ridden system.  At present, there is no political party that answers the lies and propaganda of big business.

The founding of a mass labor party would begin to educate the mass of workers and youth in this country as to how we can fight for the interests of the working class and combat the lies of Capitalism and their political parties.  Deep down, many workers and youth sense that the two parties don’t represent them, but they feel that there is no realistic alternative. A labor party would win these people over.  A labor party would gain votes from young people and many who now choose not to vote at all, but it would also take votes from the two major political parties, with more probably coming from the Democrats. Eventually, a mass Labor Party could become the largest party as disgust with the two major parties increases. It should be noted that in Canada, their labor party, known as the New Democratic Party (NDP), is still just third in size compared with the big business parties, yet its existence has forced the Canadian Capitalists to give more reforms. That is why, for example, Canadian workers have free universal health care and American workers do not.

Since organized labor is so small today, how could such a party be built today?

UAW union workersEven though less that 14% of the labor force is in unions, that is still more than 12 million workers!  These members and their families and the resources of the labor movement would have a huge political impact. We should also include the millions of retired union members. The party would also reach out to the millions of workers who would like to be members of a union, but who fear employer retaliation such as being fired or the workplace being closed. This would include the most oppressed and exploited workers, including the undocumented.  A labor party should fight to attain voting and trade union rights for all those who live here.  Many people concerned about ending the wars abroad, getting free universal health care and fighting for more funding for education would also look to a labor party.   A labor party could win over those concerned about pollution and the environment as it would be the force that would struggle against the business-controlled parties that have allowed so much damage to occur.  It can be seen how quickly a large majority could be built up.

The Labour Party government in Britain, under Blair and Brown, invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.  In light of this, why would a Labor Party be an improvement?

When a labor party is established and wins control of government, it basically has two choices.  It can mobilize the working class for the socialist transformation of society or it can attempt to change things by merely tinkering with capitalism. When it chooses the later and capitalism is in crisis, the logic of the system leads the “Labour Government” to cut workers’ living standards and do the bidding of big business at home and abroad.  In Great Britain, the workers need to re-claim the Labour Party and the trade unions so they can become instruments to transform society. However, there are still important benefits in Britain that workers here do not have, and this is due to past reforms attained through the Labour party.  In the US, we need to build a labor party and learn the lessons of Britain.  Our labor party needs to lead the working class to transform society by putting an end to capitalism  and establishing socialism based on workers’ democracy.

Why does the WIL believe that a labor party should stand for socialism? 

Capitalism is in a serious crisis and cannot be fixed or regulated back to health. As a result of the crisis, everyone is affected, but it is the workers, the poor and the middle class who shoulder the biggest burden. Therefore, it is not in the interest of workers to continue to be exploited by this rotten system.  Socialism would mean that society could democratically plan the use of natural resources and technology to meet human needs and wants in a way that does not destroy the earth and make it unlivable.

It would be a society of full employment, free universal health care and education, plenty of quality affordable housing, and well-maintained roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.  Small businesses and worker co-operatives would be coordinated with worker-controlled state-owned industry to achieve these goals.  However, as stated above, a labor party government that tried to manage capitalist crisis rather than transform society would lead to disaster and the public would turn away from such a party. The WIL would argue for these socialist policies within such a party, even if we were a small minority at first. We are confident that through patient explanation and on the basis of workers’ own experience, the majority will eventually draw the conclusion that capitalism must be replaced by socialism.

What happened to the Labor Party established in the 1990s?

In the 1990s, there was the beginning of a labor party in the US, but the vast majority of the unions in this country refused to break with the Democrats and Republicans and join this party.  Even a few of the unions who supported the Labor Party also continued their support of some Democrats. The Labor Party could have played an educational role in developing a future mass labor party. It would have needed to organize rallies, mass meetings and run at least some candidates in a few elections. The fact that it did not do this led many people to drop out as they could not see it developing further.

What changes will need to happen in the labor movement, prior to the establishment of a mass labor party?  
The economic crisis facing us today will develop into a deepening social and political crisis in the future. This will eventually be reflected in the labor movement. Any labor leaders that take a step toward a labor party, independent of the two big business parties, should be supported. If leaders representing a noticeable section of the labor movement did so, this could open the flood gates and create an unstoppable movement.

What does the WIL do today, to help build a labor party?

The WIL raises the issue of the need for a labor party in every union where we have supporters. We see the struggle to change the union leadership’s policies of supporting the big business political parties as part of a struggle for more democratic unions that will the fight against give-backs  to the boss and use more militant tactics to win strike battles.  The WIL works with any and all who struggle for these changes in the unions. We also bring the issue of the need for a mass labor party to other campaigns such as the immigrants’ rights and anti-war movements.

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