by Playthell Benjamin
There is no hotter topic in Americans politics just now than the defeat of the recall effort against Wisconsin’s right-wing Republican Governor, Scott Walker. Naturally, the Republicans are claiming victory for their vision of where America needs to go. However as of today the polls from that Midwestern state shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by nine points in the forthcoming presidential election. This begs the questions: What does the election results mean? And what are the minimum essential lessons we are to take from this political fiasco?
What the outcome of the recall drive means, on the most fundamental level, is that organized labor took on the plutocrats in a pitched battle in a state where labor has a long and honorable history and got creamed. But instead of retreating to lick our wounds, the progressive left needs to take a pause for the cause, essay our strengths and weaknesses, rearm ourselves with new knowledge, and retake the field to continue the fight for our vision of America with enhanced vigor in the coming national elections. The quality of our lives, and perhaps life itself, depends upon it!
In order to succeed in the impending struggle there are certain minimal essential lessons we must digest and address or, like all political actors who refuse to learn from their errors and continue following an outdated script, we will repeat our history of defeat.
The first lesson that we must learn is that the plutocrats, the filthy rich who own the lion’s share of this country’s wealth, are clear in their purpose and have the financial resources to electronically beam carefully constructed disinformation directly into the brains of millions of potential voters 24/7; as the masses of workers remain clueless and confused.
In wisconsin that confusion was aided, actually promoted, by money from billionaires like the nefarious Koch brothers; which enabled the embattled Republican governor to outspend his Democratic challenger on media ads at a rate of 8 to1! While the Plebeians are amusing themselves with bread and circuses, the Plutocrats are running hog wild plotting the destruction of the working class.
We must especially help workers understand that the recent Citizen’s United decision is a green light for corrupt amoral billionaires to buy politicians; shameless whores who will serve as shills for private wealth against the public interests. They are by nature the enemies of labor. The Wisconsin recall effort also exposed the fact that Republicans are employing a well-planned strategy of “divide and conquer” toward workers; in the words of triumphant Governor Scott Walker.
The result of the Governor’s strategy is that members of private sector unions were persuaded to vote against the bargaining rights of their public sector counterparts; thus helping to reelect the a man who is arguably the most anti-working class Governor in Wisconsin history. This is a very dangerous development that could lead to the working class cannibalizing itself based on the ubiquitous lie – funded by the plutocrats – that it is public sector workers who are responsible for the financial problems of our cities.
This is view designed to justify the unwillingness of the rich to pay taxes at a rate that is sufficient to seriously address the decay of our cities, which they helped bring about. Blaming financial crisis on public employees is a malicious fiction that does not take into account the radical changes in the structure of our urban economies over the last half century, when our cities were transformed from manufacturing centers to service economies.
This silent revolution has resulted in the impoverishment of the working class due the flight of well-paying factory work overseas, relocating in countries with labor standards American workers fought a century to abolish. By some estimates there are ten million people working for “American” corporations in foreign countries; leaving only low paying service jobs and prolonged structural unemployment here at home. This phenomenon has been well documented in “When Work Disappears,” by Dr. William Julius Wilson, Professor of social Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
Hence the activist left, in conjunction with labor unions, must launch an ongoing mass education project to explain the structural nature of the unemployment crisis and the benefits of unionization. They should concentrate on victories of the union movement that has enhanced the life style and chances of the working class. Things such as paid vacations, health care benefits, unemployment compensation, etc. are benefits of the union movement that all workers now enjoy. We must help workers to understand that there is no such thing as “job security” without unions.
And, finally, we have to teach workers the advantages of union membership as a vehicle for gaining both economic justice and political power; that the power of workers is in unity. The plutocrats have the money but we have the numbers. Thus when working in class conscious unity we also have the power to keep the plutocrats away from the levers of political power.
The working class must learn that government regulation is our only defense against the pillage of heartless billionaires, who bought the election in Wisconsin. That the anti-government propaganda spouted by the right is a ruse designed to persuade workers to vote against their interests. For without government regulation of their activities we are at the mercy of heartless capitalists like Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
And union organizers must also attempt to give direction to the Occupy Wall Street movement; which is unfocused, apolitical, and like Jack the Bear is making tracks but going nowhere. Because without clearly defined political demands and a specific enemy on which to focus the movement’s energies, the demonstrations which has mobilized thousands of well meaning young activist from coast to coast, will yield few concrete gains for the working class. Alas, it will become, as Shakespeare wrote at the close of McBeth, “A tale told by an idiot/ all sound and fury….signifying nothing!” That’s the most essential lesson of all.
“The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
– Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity
Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.