It’s not just Wisconsin: a nationwide counteroffensive is emerging


This is a moment of heightened class and democratic struggle. The signs are everywhere - not least in states in the nation's heartland. It isn't a time for the fainthearted.

The Republican right is squeezing labor and other sectors of the people's movement at the federal, state and local level. Nothing like it has occurred in the post-World-War-II period. And we haven't seen the worst of it.

Public workers are at the center of this attack to be sure, but it also reaches beyond them to the entire working class and people.

While right-wing Republicans are doing the dirty work, not far behind, pulling the strings where necessary, are major sections of the capitalist class.

The aim of this coordinated attack is twofold.

One aim is to shift the costs of the current crisis of capitalism onto the American people, who had no hand in its making. This is what the capitalists always do in the midst of any economic crisis no matter if it is deep or shallow.

The other aim - and this is what makes this crisis response from the top layers of capital different - is to strategically undermine labor's power in the political arena, much like it has done to labor in the field of collective bargaining.

If successful, it would leave the organized section of the working class, the main social force combating right-wing extremism, a badly weakened actor in U.S. politics and society.

But as Robert Burns said about "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men," they go oft astray. Neither labor nor its allies is rolling over and throwing in the towel. Instead, a working class led counteroffensive is emerging - so much so that it is fair to say a new phase of a struggle is afoot, in which labor and its allies could turn the tables decisively in their favor.

The battle in Wisconsin electrified (for good reasons) the whole country. But the counteroffensive is not just Wisconsin - it is national in scope, diverse in form, creative in tactics, and united in action. This nationwide tapestry of struggle is multi-threaded, woven in varied patterns, loops and colors.

It is accompanied by a change in class mood, feeling and consciousness the likes of which we have not seen in recent decades. In the felt experience of tens of millions, capitalism isn't working for working people, the American Dream is crumbling, something better is needed.

The counteroffensive in my view dates back to the 2006 elections, where labor and its allies scored a victory and thus threw the Bush administration on the defensive for the first time.

It continued in 2008 when tens of millions danced in unison on the political stage and elected an African American president who promised a u-turn from the far-right policies of the Bush years.

There was an unfortunate lull in this counteroffensive in the first two years of the new administration, during which time the right and corporate class regrouped and went immediately into attack mode. But the lull is over. Labor's counteroffensive is resurfacing in a strikingly new and promising way.

This augurs well for the future, even though Republicans at the state and federal level, fresh from a victory at the polls last fall, are pressing their advantage.

In the coming months, the GOP because of its legislative majorities may register some victories, but they will be short lived.

In politics, winning and losing isn't a matter of simple arithmetic, not simply a matter of tallying up what was won and what was lost. Rather, it depends on which side is able to expand its support, deepen its unity, and capture the initiative. It also depends on which side is best able to frame the debate and win the battle for public opinion. And on these counts, labor and the people's movements are scoring well.

Already casting a long and ever-present shadow over the nation's politics, economics and public discourse is the 2012 elections.

No struggle has the same possibility to rearrange the political balance of forces in a progressive direction as does the 2012 elections and its outcome. No other struggle has the same possibility to throw the working class and people's counteroffensive onto an entirely new forward trajectory.

Labor may have fewer financial resources in 2012, but its army of activists will be far bigger and its ground game will be bolder.

As we dig into today's struggles, it's not too early to be thinking about what has to be done to defeat right-wing extremism at the polls next year.

Photo: The scene in Madison, Wis., February 18. People's World



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  • @ Pancho, Dr King would understand what Sam stated, " In politics, winning and losing isn't a matter of simple arithmetic, not simply a matter of tallying up what was won and what was lost. Rather, it depends on which side is able to expand its support, deepen its unity, and capture the initiative. It also depends on which side is best able to frame the debate and win the battle for public opinion."

    If a base of support existed for the alternative that you speak of, it would exist.

    It takes time for working people to come to understand that a more just world is possible, and united we can make it happen.

    The process of how that understanding takes place is by getting involved in the day to day struggles and bring that knowledge to them. That includes working within the Democratic Party, where working people are. It is hard work requiring not pessimism, but persistence, steadfastness, motivated only by the knowledge that it will happen someday.

    Posted by Audrey, 04/04/2011 5:50pm (5 years ago)

  • Mr. Webb is right, this is a decisive moment and not a time for the fainthearted. That is why we need to contact everyone we know, from the White House to Main Street and ask them to clearly and publicly come out on the side of the workers in Wisconsin and around this country. Time for everyone, President and factory worker, teacher and farm worker, to put on her or his marching shoes.

    Posted by Joe, 04/04/2011 5:40pm (5 years ago)

  • It's certainly true that the attacks against working people and the counteroffensive are both unprecedented in most people's lifetimes. Every fight is critical for our side, including the 2012 elections.

    The only really decisive victory will be socialism.
    --jim lane in Dallas

    Posted by jim lane, 04/04/2011 5:04pm (5 years ago)

  • Right on!
    Years ago, an uncle of mine who'd been in the CP in the 40s and 50s and who remained involved in progressive causes until his death a few years back, told me the way to stay engaged over the long haul is to "Pace yourself." Choose a level of activism that you can sustain, and don't try to do more or you'll burn out.

    I feel we have arrived at a moment when ordinary people have to act in an extraordinary way, and start choosing to live a life of permanent activism at whatever level they can manage. Because they have to! We are fighting the class war, like it or not, and Right Wing Corporate Capital is not giving up without a cataclysmic struggle. I happen to like the CP, but I work with a number of other groups as well. It's time for folks to start thinking about their lives in a new way, and devote a percentage of every day to the struggle. Otherwise, I'm afraid, we lose.

    Posted by Eric, 04/04/2011 4:09pm (5 years ago)

  • What needs to be done is for organized labor and all other progressives to seriously reconsider their "obsession" with the Democratic Party. Election after election the dems promise us this and they promise us that and seldom deliver. Reminds me of a bad marriage or better yet an abusive marriage. The abuser promiser her not to hit her anymore, but the violence continues. After awhile she either leaves the fool or he kills her.

    Einstein once said; "The definition of insantity is repeating the same failed thing over and over expecting a different outcome." Organized labor and the general progressive movement is stuck in insanity if it truly believes that the Democrats can "deliver" us from the clearly evident rise of fascism in the U.S.

    Now more than ever we need a viable alternative to the DP and RP. An alternative NOT corrupted with corporate bribes and anti-union attitudes!

    On this anniversary of Dr. King's assasination we must stop and look at what is occurring. Would King support a president or a party that continues to wage war? Would he support a president or party that buckles into the demands of the right wing, without so much as a fight? I think NOT!

    Posted by Pancho Valdez, 04/04/2011 3:45pm (5 years ago)

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