Proving yet again that the working class can’t trust a Democrat any farther than you can throw one, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis took a page out of the old-school playbook of the AFL-CIO and used a bogus VOICE VOTE to drive the lousy contract she and her team negotiated with the Chicago Public Schools down the throats of the CTU membership last night. Instead of giving capitalist puppet Rahm Emanuel and his student-bashing school board a hard lesson in working-class struggle, Karen Lewis and the CTU bureaucracy gave the entire working class of the world a lesson in the many ways workers can be robbed of almost certain victory when their organizations are led by people who are dedicated to the defense of the capitalist system. It is impossible for any union to win a strike with a union leadership that defends capitalism, a system that is fundamentally based on the exploitation of the working class; and the Chicago Teachers Union was saddled with just such a leadership. Even though this strike had every prospect of success: a united angry, dedicated union membership; tremendous support from the working class of Chicago and especially the parents and students; and a Democratic Party city administration that was widely despised and was doing everything it could to alienate public support for their union-busting schemes, the pro-capitalist cop-loving Democratic Party hacks at the top of the Chicago Teachers Union managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. This is a lesson the members of the Chicago Teachers Union and the working class of Chicago – and the whole world – must never forget.
No one will ever know how many of the 800 CTU delegates voted down the rotten deal Lewis and her crew concocted over months of negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools because Lewis – who made a huge pretense at being dedicated to the principles of union democracy all these many months – used the time-dishonored bureaucratic technique of demanding a VOICE VOTE on this critically important decision. This extremely undemocratic method of deciding an issue boils down to allowing the CTU bureaucrats to determine whether the “yeas” or the “nays” shouted the loudest. This classic type of Chicago backroom political swindle is second nature to the worthless AFL-CIO leadership, pro-capitalist to the end, who are more interested in feathering their own nests than risking their cozy jobs in a battle to improve the lives of their union members, and by extension the lives of all working class people everywhere. Lewis herself admitted as much last Saturday at the big CTU rally in Union Park, Chicago, where she feigned humility by tut-tutting the crowd’s chants of “Karen for President” and “Karen for Mayor”. “How about ‘Karen for retirement?’ “, she quipped. It seemed funny then, but now it seems all too clear that she is indeed looking forward to her own cushy retirement and had no intention of ever risking that important goal for the mere purpose of defending the rights of Chicago’s public school children to a quality public school education.
We warned the teachers this week that to expect a pro-cop, pro-capitalist Democrat like Karen Lewis to lead a militant strike was highly doubtful. Yet we had not expected her to completely stab the membership in the back this blatantly. After the House of Delegates voted not to end the strike on Sunday, we truly believed that, once they saw the details of this rotten “tentative framework”, the Delegates would vote to continue the strike. But the allegiance to the capitalist class that is at the heart of every Democratic Party politician proved to be the deciding factor in the next maneuvers of Lewis and her gang of union piecards. First, instead of presenting the members of the House of Delegates with a complete copy of the “tentative framework” it had taken her and her sellout “negotiating team” MONTHS to cultivate, she only gave them a crappy 23-page summary of the original 180-page-plus document to take back to the membership for discussion! As a 17-year old high school senior stated to the press upon hearing of this treachery: “I’m only 17 years old and I know that I would not sign a contract that I had not fully read.” [Source: Chicago Tribune: “CPS fails to get immediate court order ending teachers strike” 17 September 2012] Yet that’s exactly what Karen Lewis and her cabal “running” the CTU intended to force the House of Delegates to do.
For her next great betrayal, Lewis, at the House of Delegates meeting on Tuesday urged the delegates to vote to end the strike and then she used her trump card – the blunt instrument of a voice vote, the political equivalent of a 2×4, bludgeoning the opposition to her scheme into silence. Having already harangued the delegates on her absolute certainty that the brutal deal she was trying to sell was the best the membership could get under the circumstances, and having prepared, no doubt, a claque of lickspittle bureaucrats to shout down any voice of opposition that someone dared to raise, she stuck the knife in with the voice vote. Nicely done. The same capitalist press that has been ripping her to shreds for weeks will now applaud her; her “guy” in the Oval Office will probably invite her to his house for dinner the next time he’s in town to congratulate her on her “labor statesmanlike” performance.
But any intelligent member of the CTU should know this truth: the crappy contract Lewis just saddled the union with isn’t the best the CTU members could get, or that a militant, class struggle, socialist workers leadership could get: it’s just the best KAREN LEWIS and her sellout team of pro-capitalist Democrats could get!
You see, Karen Lewis, being a pro-capitalist Democrat and friend of “her guy” Wall St. sock puppet Barack Obama and all, can only think wayyyyy inside the capitalist system’s box. She would never dream of demanding anything that she knew would be considered “unreasonable” by her party bosses and their capitalist owners. That means that the vast majority of what is necessary for the union to demand in order for it to remain an actual union and not a severely crippled company union was never “on the table” as far as Karen Lewis and her “negotiating team” were concerned. They wouldn’t dream of alienating and embarrassing their “friends” in Washington – in a presidential election year, no less! – by actually leading a militant fight to completely smash the Emanuel administration’s privatization schemes, or their gutting of union seniority, or their intent to close over 100 schools in the next several years! To Karen Lewis, all these things are “inevitable”; her Democratic Party’s leaders have already told her so! Only the “unreasonable radicals” would deny that the privatizations and closing of schools and the gutting of social services being organized by the Democrats as you read this – are “in the bag”. To the apologists for the capitalist class – which every Democratic Party leader, no matter how well they make “radical” or “militant” sounding speeches – workers MUST “make concessions so that the capitalist system’s weak economic recovery won’t be jeopardized”! We workers must struggle, hand in hand with our exploiters, the capitalists and their politicians, TO SAVE THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM – AN ECONOMIC SYSTEM WHICH IS NOTHING BUT A CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED AND PERFECTED MACHINE BUILT SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF ROBBING THE WORKERS BLIND! For the working class to do anything else but defend the capitalist system which is destroying their living standards and throwing families homeless into the streets of the United States is “unthinkable” to people like Karen Lewis and the Democrats!
The working class – and make no mistake, by the way: the teachers are not “middle class” they are “working class”; the term “middle class” means “small businessman”, it is only empty flattery used by the capitalist politicians to blow smoke in the eyes of the unionized workers – must come to fully understand that so long as they remain pledged to supporting the capitalist system, so long as they continue to elect pro-capitalist politicians to power and pro-capitalist people to lead their unions, the workers will continue to lose every strike, and their standards of living will continue to be driven down, even to a level below that necessary to survive. This is what capitalism is all about. It’s about maximizing profits – and profits can only be increased if wages and benefits are DECREASED. Every single compromise made by the workers – every pay cut, every giveback, every loss in benefits – goes directly into the bank accounts of the filthy rich capitalist class. It’s a redistribution of wealth: from the poor to the rich. We do not find it a bit ironic that on the very day that the cop-and-capitalism-loving Democratic Party leadership of the CTU was knifing its own membership in the back for the benefit of Chicago’s capitalist class, the Reuters news agency was running a headline that stated: “Richest 400 Americans’ Net Worth Jumps 13% to $1.7 Trillion”!
As a wise man once said: “American workers had better get their heads out of their asses and start paying attention to what’s happening around them – and how those “friends of labor” Democrats keep selling them out – before it’s too late – once again!”
If the well-educated teacher-members of the CTU can get their asses handed to them while they cheer and clap their hands, what hope is there for the rest of the working class, completely unorganized as it is? As the revolutionary socialists have always said: there is a crisis of leadership among the workers. Without leaders who are schooled in the lessons of history, who have studied the many ways that unionized workers have been taken to the cleaners by their own leaders over and over again – in other words, without revolutionary SOCIALIST leadership, the workers are going to find themselves in blind alley after blind alley getting robbed while the capitalist class drinks champagne toasts to the ignorance of the workers and the craftiness of the bought-and-paid-for pro-capitalist “leaders” of the working class.
Ever the optimists, we can still see a way that this strike could be won, but it will be a very difficult road to travel given the fact that at least 75% of the CTU leadership is both pro-capitalist and pro-Democrat. Karen Lewis lied to the press last night when she claimed that “maybe 2%” of the members of the House of Delegates voted against her sellout deal; it was actually more like 10%.
As this 10% starts spreading the bad news about what’s actually in this rotten deal, and as cocksure Rahm Emanuel pushes his luck by crowing about how happy he is with it, the teachers may become so angry about how they’ve been had by the phony militant Karen Lewis that they’ll vote this piece of shit contract down by a large margin at their first opportunity. If that happens – and it’s possible it could – then it would be absolutely necessary for the teachers to immediately elect a new strike leadership, jettisoning Lewis and sending her to retirement a bit earlier than she’d planned for – and organizing a new phase of the strike. This would mean taking over – physically occupying 24/7 – the schools in order to prevent any attempt by the CPS to bring in scabs – and starting the whole strike over again. This could be done. In this phase of the struggle, a militant class-struggle leadership would have to come to the fore very quickly and prepare to be attacked far more vigorously than anything the CTU has seen so far, including mass arrests by those “friends of the CTU”, the Chicago Police. The courts would undoubtedly issue injunctions against the CTU at that point – injunctions that would have to be completely ignored as the pieces of paper they are.
There’s more than that, but it remains to be seen if there is anyone in the CTU capable of leading such a major class battle as I’ve described here. If anyone in the CTU would like to lead such a struggle and would like to discuss this further, you know where we are! We’d love to hear from you – especially that stalwart group of CTU members who had the courage to vote against Karen Lewis’ ripoff deal at the House of Delegates meeting last night!