Labor Party Email Update – January 22, 2004
The State of Our Union by Mark Dudzic, National Organizer
Now that I'm the National Organizer, I consider it part of my job to watch the annual State of the Union address. It's not something I look forward to. The pomp and circumstance, the pompous news commentators, the blue suits and red dresses all leave me unmoved. Personally, I prefer watching the British parliament in action. There you have the give and take of real debate, the backbenchers hurling abuse, the speaker struggling for order. Much more like a union meeting.
This year I counted five lies coming from George Bush's mouth in the first 60 seconds of his speech: "America is more secure." "The American economy is growing stronger," "The tax relief you passed is working," "You're raising the standards for our public schools," and, the whopper of all whoppers, "You are giving our senior citizens prescription-drug coverage under Medicare." This kind of stuff almost puts last year's "weapons of mass destruction" fabrications into the same category as an inconsequential personal lie about one's extramarital sex life.
Not one backbencher, not one reporter had the courage to shout: "That's not the state of our Union! In our Union, two and a half million jobs have been destroyed in a little over three years' time. Millions of Americans are condemned to working lives of poverty, humiliation, and servitude in the Wal-Marts and temp agencies of the new economy. Employer-provided health care is becoming a relic of the past.
In our Union, labor unions are all but illegal. Our sons, daughters, and co-workers are recruited to fight endless wars, while the administration's business cronies grow fat from no-bid contracts. It is for these and a million other reasons that so many organizations and activists fighting for the interests of working people have concluded that the very survival of our movement depends on the outcome of the 2004 elections.
Only the most naive believe that a savior will emerge from among the candidates to lead our movement to the promised land. Most realize that we cannot win this coming election. But we sure could lose a whole lot more.
We in the Labor Party understand that, no matter what the outcome this November, the task of building independent working-class politics will still be with us the day after the election. And, as Eugene V. Debs pointed out nearly 100 years ago, this is a job that can only be done by the working people themselves.
But the immediate defense of our political interests in the 2004 elections and the long-term job of building a party of labor are not mutually exclusive. In fact, this election year provides a tremendous opportunity to organize and energize our base while beginning to set the terms of debate for a working-class politics of the future. It would be criminal if we squandered this opportunity.
In this election year, every candidate will promise us the moon (and Mars too). Everyone will be for "universal healthcare." Everyone will want to "save social security." Our job is to define these issues in ways that are meaningful for working people and to build the kind of power that will enforce some accountability once the elections are over.
We founded the Labor Party precisely because working people did not have the power to enforce any real accountability over the issues that affect our lives. We knew then and we know now that you cannot create that kind of power by simply wishing for it. You have to build it from the bottom up.
So how do we build that kind of power in the context of the coming elections? Focus on our national campaigns. They educate the activists and proclaim an expansive view of what working-class politics would look like. Bring in new affiliates and new members who have been mobilized by the political crisis. Bring the debate back to our issues and our agenda, not some artificial agenda put together by pollsters and political flacks. Get out there and get our hands dirty and organize.
Let our movement be stronger the day after this election than it was the day before. Let us live for the day when there will be no disconnect between the State of the Union and the state of our Union.
The Labor Party is a national organization made up of international unions and thousands of local unions – representing over two million workers – worker supportive organizations and individual members. Founded in 1996 at a convention of 1,400 delegates, the Labor Party exists to develop an independent working-class politics. We believe that on important issues such as health care, trade, and the rights to organize, bargain and strike, both the Democratic and Republican Parties have failed working people.
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