|The CMPL at Labor Notes in Chicago|
|Written by CMPL|
|Tuesday, 15 May 2012 13:13|
On the weekend of May 4-6, Labor Notes held its biennial conference, this time in Chicago, IL. Some 1,500 "troublemaker" labor activists from around the country and around the world participated, sharing their experiences and building solidarity. From New Jersey and New York Verizon workers, to Longview, WA and Charleston, SC longshoremen; from the Sotheby's art handlers, to labor leaders from Madison, WI; from an Egyptian trade union leader from the Mahalla textile works, to a locked-out Colombian auto worker, the spirit of class struggle was in the air. This was the largest Labor Notes conference ever, an indication of the renewed energy that is slowly but surely waking up the working class of this country and beyond. 150 workshops were held, along with several energetic plenary sessions, and the vendors' hall was full of tables stacked with books, leaflets, petitions, and constant discussion. Past participants noted that this was the best Labor Notes event ever, with many young people and many first-time attendees.
CMPL supporters from Minneapolis, Madison, St. Louis, New Jersey, New York, and Boston were in attendance, participating in a variety of sessions, handing out hundreds of CMPL leaflets, engaging in individual discussions and in workshops, and signing up dozens of people to learn more about the campaign. We consistently and patiently raised the need for the unions to break with the Democrats and Republicans and to form a labor party based on the unions. We argued that it was still not too late to run independent labor candidates against the parties of big business, even in 2012. The response to this perspective was overwhelmingly positive.
For example, running a candidate from the ILWU or even a national AFL-CIO officer would send a strong message to Washington--and above all to the millions of voiceless workers who are disappointed by Obama and the Democrats but do not want the Republicans in power either. Much of the Labor Notes conference focused on the need for bold initiative and action when it comes to fighting the boss on the shop floor. The same can be said of the need to provide workers with a bold lead when it comes to electoral politics. Dozens of other non-CMPL members also raised the question of the labor party during many sessions, proof that the idea of a labor party is again firmly on the advanced labor activists' radar. For example, comments by Dan Coffman, president of ILWU Local 21 in Longview, to the effect that Taft-Hartley must be repealed, show that workers in struggle instinctively understand that we must also fight on the political front. Otherwise, workers are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs! This message must now be brought to the rank-and-file!
On Saturday afternoon, the CMPL organized a spontaneous "Do-It-Yourself" workshop on the need for a labor party. Despite being organized with only a few hours' notice, and at an inconvenient time (during a break right before the banquet dinner), 19 people showed up and we held a wide-ranging discussion. Several former Labor Party members and leading activists were present, including the head of the Kansas City Labor Party, the Alachua County Labor Party in Florida, and Mark Dudzic, former National Organizer for the Labor Party, who worked closely with former Labor Party leader Tony Mazzocchi before his untimely death from cancer.
John Peterson from the Twin Cities CMPL facilitated the discussion. Tom Trottier from the New York CMPL introduced the discussion by explaining what the CMPL is and how a labor party would transform U.S. politics and the life of U.S. workers. His message was clear: cuts, austerity, and concessions are the only thing we can expect if we do not join together and fight the bosses both at the workplace and at the polls. Mike Palacek, National Union Rep for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, then spoke about the NDP in Canada, and how its very existence forced the Canadian ruling class to make concessions on universal health care, benefits, and wages.
During the discussion that followed, much of the focus was on the experience of the Labor Party in the 1990s. Mark Dudzic gave a broad overview of its history and perspectives for its revival, a brother from Chicago shared his disappointment in the Labor Party's never quite taking off, and Bill Onasch from Kansas City also spoke of the ups and downs of the last effort to build a labor party in the U.S. Many others joined the discussion, including a brother proud to be a member of the British Labour Party. and it was clear that if we had been able to organize an official workshop on this topic, there would have been even more people attending. Perhaps at the next Labor Notes conference, in 2014!
It was a busy but exciting weekend. Those who have a pessimistic view of the prospects for a revival of the American labor movement need look no further than this year's Labor Notes conference. It is clear that beneath the apparently "calm" or "apathetic" surface of society, serious discontent is percolating. Sooner or later, this will find a mass expression in the unions. Wisconsin and Occupy were just the beginning. Yes, there have been defeats, and there will be many more, but the Labor Notes conference is further evidence that the advanced workers are learning from the experience of the capitalist crisis. Sooner or later, the "troublemakers" mood of Labor Notes will "infect" the broader working class. Then the real class struggle "fireworks" will begin!For independent labor candidates to challenge the candidates of the bosses' parties! For a mass party of labor based on the unions!