Take a look at recent news from the point of view of the progressive movement. Keep in mind that only the working class, and working class issues, can truly pull the movement together. The entire working class will not unite over gun control, over the right to abortion, over civil rights, or any of the other important causes. Wages and working conditions will unite us, because all of us care most about them.
On May 6, Texas held the first primary elections of the season. Democrats were overjoyed to double the turnout that they had in the last mid-term elections. Republicans improved about 15%. But the raw number of votes determines election winners, not percentages of improvement. While the Democrats were able to get a million voters to the polls, the Republicans got half again as many. The leading Democrat, Beto O’Rourke for Senate, got 600,000 votes, while the Republican incumbent got 1.3 million! The same was true in the governor’s race.
One of the reasons for improved Democratic Party turnout was that they fielded candidates in every race, even in the ones where they were almost sure to lose. There’s a downside to that, because some of the contested seats were held by rock-solid working class incumbents with 100% pro-worker voting records. Politicians are mostly opportunists, not principled leaders.
Labor is calling the results “mostly good news” because over 90% of our endorsed candidates got into runoffs or won outright. But we lost three of the best of the state representatives, including Roberto Alonzo of Dallas who has been honored nationwide for his commitment to labor’s cause. Labor worked hard for their candidates
Progressive Movement Remains Fragmented
No one could deny that there is an upsurge in the progressive movement since the 2016 elections. The big improvement in voting statistics demonstrates it. But cohesion is not one of the grand characteristics. The most unifying theme among Democrats was dislike for President Trump, according to the pundits.
But the only way they could unite effectively is around the basic issues of the working class, and the election results did not show that trend. While the AFL-CIO could honestly claim a 90% success rate, another organization, Emily’s List, which only endorses on women’s issues, could claim 100%, according to the Politico news service. All their endorsed women were in runoffs or had won outright.
Labor’s candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor was controversial because of being a woman, a Latina, and gay; but she won a thumping big plurality and goes into the runoff with a big advantage among Democratic voters. It would be a stretch to claim that she did so well because of the AFL-CIO endorsement, when Emily’s List had better results.
People who want serious change remain confronted with this problem: how can we unite the progressive movement?
Best News Was Barely Reported
While pages and pages of newsprint covered the Texas elections, there was scant coverage of the teachers’ strike in West Virginia. But from the point of view of unifying the progressive movement around workers’ issues, the news from West Virginia was at least as important, if not more so. For the first time in years, American labor saw a well planned and well-executed strike create big gains for workers. By holding out statewide for nine days, those teachers won a 5% raise for themselves and for all state workers. They also got a freeze on health care costs. The AFL-CIO Executive Board endorsed the strike in, I think, about the 7th day. The American Federation of Teachers spoke encouragement, but I didn’t see any of the nationwide forces really throwing themselves into it. The main fund raising I saw was one of those “go fund me” accounts.
In today’s news, way back in the back pages, teachers in Oklahoma have issued an ultimatum to their legislature. Arizona teachers are also talking strike.
Historical View is Bad, but Mostly Good
A lot of people, including me, believe that economic conditions are leading the capitalist class toward choosing fascism as their preferred form of rule. The great robbery called the “tax cut” went through Congress in December with very little popular support. Despite their best efforts, it is unlikely that the rich will convince Americans to warm to it very much.
What I’m saying is that it is getting harder for the rich to continue robbing the American people. That’s why they are working so hard to disarm us with voter suppression, dangerous foreign policy, anti-union legislation and legal decisions, deregulation, redistricting, and destruction of civil rights and civil liberties. Once our rights are gone, we can’t defend ourselves at all. That’s fascism.
Even though I think the obscenely wealthy are likely to choose fascism, I don’t think they will be able to implement it. That’s the good news. We aren’t as dumb as they may think. Actually, we’re far better educated and far more capable of coming together than the Italians and Germans of the 1930s were.
This is the time to organize. Low unemployment and high discontent are the ingredients for a great upsurge. Despite the low voter turnout numbers, Americans have more energy, and it is more generalized, then at any time since World War II. We may be fragmented, but we won’t stay that way. Once we are united, nothing can stop us!