Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/714/14351

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 April 2012

USA: An 'inspiring vibrant movement'

The Battle of Wisconsin by George Martin Fell Brown reviewed by Dave Gorton

The Battle of Wisconsin by George Martin Fell Brown

The Battle of Wisconsin by George Martin Fell Brown

Time magazine's "Person of the year" for 2011 was simply "The Protester". From the Maghreb in North Africa to the colder climes of Madison, USA, public places echoed to the sounds of demonstrations, occupations and revolutions. 2011 was a warning to the ruling classes worldwide of things to come.

The Battle of Wisconsin by George Martin Fell Brown is the story of one of those momentous struggles. Recently issued as a pamphlet by Socialist Alternative (the US supporters of the CWI), it is required reading for socialists in Britain, as the lessons needing to be learnt in the US are no less relevant here.

The sleeping giant of the American working class began to wake up. While this battle did not succeed, it helped to pave the way for a potential revival of the US labour movement's militant traditions in general and the occupy movement later on last year in particular.

Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker's attempts to introduce a Budget Repair Bill were met with huge opposition. Little surprise as the bill abolished collective bargaining rights for public sector workers over anything other than pay.

But pay increases would be automatically capped to inflation so public sector unions would be left with bargaining rights only over pay cuts!

Mass protests

The bill was announced on Thursday 10 February. On Monday 14th, there was a small demonstration, a day later student walkouts occurred along with a rally of 10,000.

On Wednesday, thousands of students walked out state-wide and in Madison itself the whole school district was shut down for the day as 30,000 encircled the Wisconsin State Capitol building.

On Thursday, there was a state-wide 'sick-out' by 92,000 teachers and 50,000 were on the street demonstrations. By Saturday, an estimated 100,000 were outside the Capitol and 8,000 participating in a sit-in inside. As the author points out, "consciousness... transformed almost overnight".

But why did this movement after weeks of occupation of the Capitol in Wisconsin and tremendous mobilisations not win?

George deals with all of the many factors in the pamphlet. These include the lack of strength of the left; the dearth of recent experience in struggle in the unions; and the role of the union leaders who sunk all their faith in the "recall" campaign. Instead of using the potential of the movement to stop Walker with demonstrations, strikes and - as a next step - a one-day general strike, the movement was derailed to a process of recalling parliamentarians and Walker himself.

While parts of the movement were just inexperienced, a part of the union leadership did everything to channel anger into the big business Democratic Party. This meant subordinating their members' livelihoods to the politics of this party's candidates and a "recall" process which is now - one year later - still not over, while the laws are put in place.

This orientation of trade union leaders to a party of "lesser evil-ism" will sound so familiar to readers in Britain. The pressing need for a new mass party of the working class is no less urgent in the US than it is in Britain. What struck me reading the pamphlet is that I could have substituted the words Labour Party (in Britain) for Democratic Party over and over again.

The former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, is quoted as calling his former party "a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party".

He goes on: "I think the answer is a new political party that actually will advocate for and promote the interests of the public rather than the narrow interests of the wealthy."

General strike

The demand for a general strike, even of a one-day state-wide public sector nature to begin with, was aired by Socialist Alternative consistently as the only way to try and secure a defeat of the bill. This was probably the most discussed tactic among workers and one that received widespread support. But the idea of calling a general strike never got past the union bureaucrats.

The pamphlet contains an excellent analysis on the role of the police. Many in Wisconsin declared their support for the struggle. The police union sent messages of support. Some even joined the occupation themselves!

When the pressures of the movement are strong enough to prevent the ruling class from using the police against workers, a certain stalemate can be reached.

But the ruling class will always seek to use the police for their original aim - that of protecting the property interests of the rich. These contradictions led to some confusion in the ranks of many demonstrators.

"The Battle of Wisconsin" deserves to be read by labour movement activists (and their leaders!) worldwide. It relates "an inspiring, vibrant social movement" without "sugarcoating" the outcome.

As the author says, the working class in Wisconsin "in a few months... have learned more than can often be learned in years".

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 18 April 2012:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Strike on 10 May! Vote TUSC on 3 May!

10 May strike will re-ignite pensions battle

Scrap the act! Unions must call national demo to save NHS

The revolting philanthropy of the filthy rich

Welsh government slashes student grants

NUS needs a fighting leadership

Clegg's text message plans make us LOL!

Them & Us


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

On 3 May use your vote to: Shake up politics and fight all cuts!

Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on 3 May

Come and hear TUSC candidates standing in your area


Socialist Party workplace news

Re-elect the PCS fighting leadership

Usdaw conference

Health service pensions - reject the deal - coordinated action needed

Changing the trade unions into combative organisations


Socialist history

1932 - mass trespass won the right to roam


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Pro-choice action in Worthing

No to cuts: make the bosses pay!

Disabled people fighting back

Success at Varndean College, Brighton

Obituary: Arthur Deane


International socialist news and analysis

USA: An 'inspiring vibrant movement'

Tunisia: Brutal government crackdown on protesters will backfire


Reviews and Comment

Grim toll for hidden police racism

The Hunger Games


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 April 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  




Related links:

USA:

triangleThe fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

triangleExtreme weather events and global warming

triangleSouth-East London Socialist Party: USA - The fight against Trump and the struggle for a socialist alternative

triangleLambeth Socialist Party: Identity politics and Marxism

Police:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

triangleBending the knee v Trump

Pay:

triangleArriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

General strike:

triangleSupporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleSolidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

International

International

18/10/17

Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong

11/10/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

4/10/17

Catalonia

Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

4/10/17

Catalonia

Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

2/10/17

Catalonia

Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia

27/9/17

Germany

Germany: Election results in political earthquake

27/9/17

Catalonia

Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!

27/9/17

Germany

German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance

27/9/17

France

French Labour reform protests

25/9/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Student strike called

20/9/17

Myanmar

Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis

20/9/17

Catalonia

Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state

15/9/17

Germany

Berlin hospital strike

13/9/17

Korea

Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?

13/9/17

Students

Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2