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U.S. | Labor & Workers

Wisconsin Labor Leads 2d American Revolution
by Labor Creates All Wealth
Saturday Feb 19th, 2011 3:40 PM
One year ago, on March 4, California students and teachers had a one-day strike for education, but nothing has improved because we did not have a general strike. Today, Wisconsin workers are striking and protesting the planned Democrat-Republican attack on the workingclass so as to maximize the profits of the capitalist class. The whole country should join this 2d American Revolution with all deliberate speed.
One year ago, on March 4, California students and teachers had a one-day strike for education, but nothing has improved because we did not have a general strike. Today, Wisconsin workers are striking and protesting the planned Democrat-Republican attack on the workingclass so as to maximize the profits of the capitalist class. The whole country should join this 2d American Revolution with all deliberate speed.

Here are some excerpts from the World Socialist Website describing mass protests in Wisconsin, home to 5 million people.

Protests, teacher walkouts mount in Wisconsin, Milwaukee schools closed, By Tom Eley
19 February 2011
From: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/feb2011/wisc-f19.shtml
The movement of Wisconsin workers and youth against budget-cutting and attacks on government workers continued to spread on Friday, with tens of thousands more teachers and students walking out of their classrooms, while the major demonstration in Madison continued unabated.

Demonstrations that began on Monday with an unexpectedly large march of 1,200 University of Wisconsin graduate and undergraduate students have since drawn hundreds of thousands more into struggle. The crowd surrounding the capitol building on Tuesday grew to between 13,000 and 20,000, and demonstrations have been estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000 on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. A major demonstration is also expected today.

Friday may have been the largest demonstration yet. Buses brought an estimated 11,000 students and university workers to Madison from the University of Wisconsin campuses at Milwaukee, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Superior, River Falls, Green Bay, and Stout, while teachers and government workers continued to arrive in large numbers.
Inspired by the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that brought down Egypt’s US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, thousands of occupiers, mainly students, have continuously occupied the capitol building since Tuesday.

The largest demonstrations in the history of Madison, and perhaps in the history of the state, have been peaceful, but there is a heavy police presence, and behind that the threat of Governor Scott Walker to deploy the National Guard.

Republican governor, is pushing a bill that would force government workers to more than double their out-of-pocket contributions to health care and pensions funds, resulting in pay cuts of between 8 and 20 percent, according to various estimates. Workers would lose the right to negotiate the terms of their work, and pay raises would be locked at or below increases in the Consumer Price Increase. The measure also arrogates to the governor new powers to fire workers if he declares a state of emergency.

In a bid to delay passage of the bill—under conditions where this would have set up an explosive political confrontation between the legislature and mass public opposition to Walker’s cuts—Democratic state senators fled Wisconsin yesterday. This maneuver stripped the Republicans of the three-fifths-present quorum required to vote on bills.

This is mere grandstanding by the Democrats, however, as they and the trade unions support similar social cuts as those proposed by Walker in other states, as well as in Washington—where President Barack Obama is preparing a budget call ing for over $1 trillion in cuts overwhelmingly directed against the working class. The Democrats’ maneuver aims to stabilize the political situation and allow negotiations to continue between the big-business parties and the trade unions, to secure passage of the cuts.

However, on Friday thousands more workers and youth from across the state joined a growing wave of walkouts and school closures, effectively refusing to hand over their struggle to the state Democratic Party and union heads.

On Friday, the walkout movement of Wisconsin school teachers forced the closure of Milwaukee Public Schools, by far the largest district in the state. Even before the start of the school day Friday, nearly 600 teachers had declared sick days in this city of 600,000 in order to attend demonstrations, forcing the shutdown of over 200 schools in the city. Only a day before, Superintendent Gregory Thornton had boasted to the media that he had succeeded in blocking the movement from reaching Milwaukee by threatening teachers with “disciplinary action.”

For the third day in a row, the second-largest school district in the state, Madison Public Schools, was also totally shutdown by the teacher strike. Fifteen other school districts in the Madison area remained closed. Teachers also walked out in Janesville, an industrial city of 60,000, hard hit by the 2010 closure of a decades-old General Motors assembly plant. Dozens of other school system were closed by teacher absences Friday.

To date there is not a published list of the number of schools that have been shut down by what is, in all but name, a strike wave, but it numbers at least in the hundreds—there are over 200 schools in Milwaukee alone. It has encompassed upwards of 10,000 teachers, and has affected at least 200,000 students.

At the same time, a movement of student walkouts affecting cities, small towns, and college campuses across the state has continued. Dozens of schools have been hit, and tens of thousands of students have been involved. By all accounts the walkout movement has been organized by students themselves, via Facebook and other social media, as well as word of mouth.

Students in the University of Wisconsin system, both undergraduate and graduate, have played an important role in the demonstrations. Graduate students, who typically work as teaching and research assistants, could see their tuition waivers and benefits cut under Walker’s plan. Undergraduates and their families are suffering under the weight of spiraling tuition costs that began under Walker’s Democratic predecessor Jim Doyle, and which could increase by as much as 10 percent next year.

The scope and intensity of the movement of workers and youth in Wisconsin has captured the attention of the national media and the Obama administration. They fear the rapid spread of similar demonstrations and strikes beyond Wisconsin.

There are signs this is already developing. Thousands of government workers have in recent days protested in Columbus, Ohio, against a similarly reactionary law being pushed by Governor John Kasich.

In Indiana, some 600 steelworkers descended on the capitol building in Indianapolis to protest against so-called “right to work” laws that would in fact further gut workers’ rights.

Over 100 students walked out of Southeastern High School in Detroit yesterday, protesting against ongoing cuts in funding of the fine arts.

Editorial from World Socialist Website:
Full support to Wisconsin workers! By Patrick Martin 2/19/11
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/feb2011/pers-f19.shtml

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature are moving to slash wages, gut health benefits and undermine pensions, while at the same time imposing a legal straitjacket on public employees, stripping them of collective bargaining rights over anything but wages, and requiring any wage rise above the rate of inflation to be approved by a statewide referendum vote.

No such controls are proposed, of course, for the gargantuan salaries of corporate CEOs or the windfall profits of the banks and big business. Nor will there be any limits imposed on the financial institutions that handle the issuing of state bonds—headed by Citigroup, the lead underwriter. The “sacrifices” decreed by the governor apply only to working people: Walker has actually increased the state deficit to provide tax cuts for Wisconsin-based corporations.

Tens of thousands of workers throughout Wisconsin have already gone into action against this assault on fundamental social and democratic rights. They have marched through the city of Madison on a daily basis, packed into the halls of the State Capitol, and staged protests and walkouts throughout the state.

Wisconsin state employees, school teachers, firefighters and other local government workers have been joined by private sector workers, university and high school students, and thousands of other working people who correctly recognize that the destruction of living standards and basic rights for public employees will have devastating consequences for the entire working class.

This class mobilization must be intensified and extended on the broadest possible basis, through the organization of a general strike of all workers in Wisconsin to put a stop to the attack on public employees. To wage such a struggle requires the building of new organizations, rank and file action committees of workers and students to unite public sector and private sector workers as well as youth in the workplaces, schools and neighborhoods.

The working class cannot allow this struggle to be channeled behind the perspective advanced by the state AFL-CIO and the teachers union WEAC, of putting pressure on Democratic and Republican state legislators to delay or block the legislation. Workers should oppose and denounce the position taken by the union leaders, that cuts in pay and benefits are acceptable provided that the unions themselves are involved in negotiating them.

There is a vast social gulf between the instinctive and heartfelt opposition to the cuts on the part of rank-and-file workers, and the posturing and demagogy by the union officials, who support the cuts so long as their own role and income from dues checkoff, and the salaries and the perks of the privileged bureaucracy, are maintained.

Thus Marty Beil, head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said yesterday: “We are prepared to implement the financial concessions proposed to help bring our state's budget into balance, but … we will not—I repeat we will not—be denied our rights to collectively bargain.” This only begs the question, however: what is there to bargain over if one starts by agreeing to all the concessions?

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared at Friday’s rally in Madison that the unions recognize and accept the economic reasons for cuts in state government. Who gave them that right? Trumka does not speak for workers struggling to get by on their existing salaries, under conditions of accelerating inflation, or facing the gutting of healthcare and pension plans. He speaks for the fifth column of highly paid officials who have transformed the unions into the enforcers of corporate and government demands for austerity and wage cutting.

The main goal of Trumka & Co. in Wisconsin is to prevent an uncontrollable explosion in which the working class actually demonstrates its enormous social power and exposes the weakness and isolation of the ultra-right politicians like Governor Walker. There is no question that the vast majority of the population of Wisconsin sympathizes with the state workers and will support them in a serious and sustained struggle. The AFL-CIO regards such an offensive by the working class as a disaster to be prevented at all costs.

The AFL-CIO aims to divert workers away from an all-out struggle against the Walker administration by boosting illusions in the Democratic Party, hailing the protest stunt by Democratic state legislators who have temporarily blocked the legislation by leaving the state and preventing a quorum. It will seek to shut down the growing strike movement in favor of appeals to the courts, the Obama administration and, ultimately, a campaign for the Democrats in the 2012 elections.

The truth is, however, that the Democratic Party is conducting identical attacks on workers at the local, state and federal level. The brutal attacks on Wisconsin workers are not unique to their state, but are taking place in every region of the country. Democratic governors in New York, North Carolina, Illinois and California are demanding similar cuts in wages and pensions, slashing jobs and attacking democratic rights such as the right to strike.

As for Obama, he has already demonstrated his class solidarity with Governor Walker by imposing a two-year freeze on federal workers and targeting public school teachers for attacks on seniority and job security. The Obama administration is now proposing a budget that demands working people pay, through cuts in domestic social spending, for the deficits produced by the bailout of Wall Street, tax cuts for the wealthy, and imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats make use of the unions as an instrument for enforcing the cuts, while the Republicans propose to dispense with the unions altogether. This difference is of utmost importance to the union officials—their incomes and privileges are at stake—but the end result for the workers is the same.
Workers in Wisconsin and those who support them nationwide must recognize that the first requirement of a real struggle against the destruction of jobs, wages, benefits and democratic rights is a political break with both the parties of big business, the Democrats as well as the Republicans. The working class must mobilize all the oppressed—workers, youth, the unemployed, the elderly—in the building of a new mass political party based on a socialist program.

Many of the workers demonstrating in Wisconsin have carried signs comparing Walker to ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, and expressing the desire to carry out a rebellion that is as powerful and liberating as that conducted by Egyptian workers over the last month. There is a profound objective truth expressed in this instinctive identification with the struggles of the international working class.

Like the workers in Egypt, the workers in Wisconsin are being propelled into struggle by the crisis and breakdown of the world capitalist system. Like them, they are as yet without the organizations, leadership and political program that are necessary for victory.

And here is a program to be considered for this Second American Revolution:
From: Unite workers and youth to defeat Wisconsin budget cuts
By the Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality
16 February 2011
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/feb2011/wist-f16.shtml
For such struggles to be victorious, however, a new political strategy and leadership is needed, based in the working class and fighting for socialist policies.

*Break with the Democrats and Republicans. Workers must break once and for all with the corporate-controlled two-party system and oppose claims that they can defend their interests through appeals to the Democratic Party. Nor can workers place their confidence in the trade unions. At the national level and in states with Democratic governors, the unions are supporting wage-cutting, just as they did in the auto industry and among Harley-Davidson workers in Wisconsin. The union bureaucrats only ask for a seat at the table and the preservation of the dues check-off system.

*Create independent rank-and-file worker and student committees. To wage their struggle, workers and students must create their own committees, independent from the Democrats and the trade unions. These committees can lay the basis for broadening the struggle to encompass workers in the private sector in Wisconsin and beyond. All workers, whether in the public or private sector, and in the US and internationally, are being subjected to the same corporate assault on wages and conditions.

* For the nationalization of the banks and major corporations! For a socialist program for jobs, education, and housing!

The right to a job, a livable income, health care and retirement is incompatible with a system in which the giant banks and corporations exercise a complete dictatorship over economic and political life. The capitalist system has failed and must be replaced with a new type of society based on social need, not private profit. That is the struggle for socialism.

To free up resources for public education, the working class must transform big corporations and banks into publicly owned and democratically controlled entities. The wealth of the American plutocracy, amassed through fraud and speculation, must be seized for the benefit of society as a whole.

The only way for the working class to carry out such policies is to take political power in its own hands. The Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality call on workers and youth to fight for this perspective and to make the decision to join them in the fight for socialism.