In the run-up to the elections this November we are seeing more and more Tweets from US trade unions urging workers to “get out the vote” and desperately explaining to their members how critically important it is to support the Democratic Party – the “party of Labor” – or else the Republicans will control Congress and then… what, exactly?
As part of the revolutionary socialist Trotskyist movement we understand that the way to determine whether or not a political party supports or opposes the class interests of the workers is to examine the leadership and program of that party to see which side of the class line that organization lives on. In the case of the Democratic Party, it’s an easy call: the Democrats are every bit as pro-business and anti-worker as the Republicans. They actively seek – and receive – the financial support of major US corporations, banks and Wall St. speculators just as the Republicans do. Pro-Democrat liberal author Gore Vidal described the US political system as a one-party system with two right wings, which is exactly the case. Both political parties are owned and operated by the same filthy rich members of the US capitalist class, who hedge their investments in politics by purchasing all the politicians from both parties. What the working class needs in order to effectively operate politically in a capitalist nation state like the US is to have its very own independent party of the working class – financed and led by working class leaders who refuse to take money or accept favors of any kind from the capitalist class. Of course, this is precisely what the US capitalist class and their political gangsters in the Democratic and Republican parties have always literally killed in order to keep from happening. What most workers don’t understand is that the so-called leaders of the US trade union movement, the vast majority of whom are themselves pro-capitalist and in the pay of the capitalist class one way or another, have absolutely no intention of ever allowing “their” workers to form a working class political party separate from the Democratic Party. That is why so many unions have special clauses in their bylaws that specifically ban communists and those who call for the overthrow of the capitalist system from union membership. You can be a Nazi and be in the union; you can be a Klan member; but you can’t be a commie! That’s because neither the Klan or the Nazis represent a threat to the class rule of the capitalist class; only the communists do.
By now, any typically brainwashed pro-Democrat worker is probably thinking: “ah, that’s just the same old garbage the commies have always spouted! Where’s the proof?” They and you have never seen it, because the pro-capitalist news media – also controlled by the capitalist class – as well as your own union leaders keep this information hidden from you so that they can get you to vote for and continue to profit from the very same capitalist system that forces each and every member of the US working class to remain a loyal, flag-waving debt- and wage-slave.
Who really owns and runs the Democratic Party: the working class or the capitalist class? Do the leaders of the Democratic Party derive their key support from you, the workers manning their phone banks or do they derive it from the 1% who own most of the wealth in the US and who systematically rob you blind at work, school and everywhere you go? We’ll get to that shortly – but first here’s a bit of the history of the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party has for decades been trying to shed its rather recently and quite falsely acquired liberal, pro-worker image and to replace it with a more vicious pro-business program so as to successfully compete for national offices against the Republicans. The idea that the Democratic Party is a “friend of labor” has always been a lie – the Democratic Party was in fact the party not of “labor” but of the slaveholding southern aristocracy that led the Confederate States of America. After the slaveocracy lost the Civil War, they patched things up with the northern industrialists who led the Union forces against them and quickly led the fight to smash any attempt to allow the newly-freed slaves to attain equal rights with whites. The men who became the leaders of the Democratic Party during the short-lived Reconstruction era were often Ku Klux Klan members or sympathisers who hailed and alibied the torture and murder of thousands of men and women who had gone South after the war to attempt to build schools and social service organizations to help the emancipated slaves take their rightful place in the political and social life of the nation. The “Ku Klux Conspiracy” as it was called by the Radical Republican-led Reconstruction Congress that investigated it was a widespread conspiracy of pro-Confederacy southerners (Democrats) who drove freed blacks back into conditions of life just as brutally oppressive as had existed under slavery – the Jim Crow system.
After the Civil War black workers began to participate for the first time in the political life of the nation – not as Democrats but as Republicans. Until the late 1930s when the tepidly pro-labor New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was promulgated – solely in order to prevent the rapidly growing, communist-led Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unions from leading a workers revolution – you couldn’t hardly find a black Democrat in the United States! The massive union organizing drive of the 1930s, often led by communists, caused the populist northern leaders of the Democratic Party to shift rapidly to the left in order to keep their positions as leaders of the political machines in cities like Chicago, New York and Boston; but they never stopped trying to crush the workers movement.
In 1938 leading Democrats in Congress formed the Dies Committee. This cabal of red-baiting, worker-hating servants of the capitalist class originally pretended that it would “democratically” hunt down “extremists” of all kinds – reds, Nazis and Klansmen. But it was run by two virulently racist Dixiecrats – one from Texas (Congressman Martin Dies, Jr.) and one from Mississippi (Congressman John E. Rankin) – who quickly decided that it wasn’t necessary to go after the Klan after all because, as Rankin later put it: ” “the KKK is an old American institution.”
Having grudgingly tolerated the existence of communist-led unions during WWII when those unions were enforcing a no-strike pledge in the vital (and hugely profitable) war industries, as soon as the war was brought to a close by Democrat Harry Truman’s repulsive and militarily unnecessary use of the A-bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these Democratic Party political swindlers undertook to drive the communists out of the unions, eviscerating their militant leadership (this is a major reason why trade union membership peaked as a percentage of the total US working class around 1948). Changing the name of the Dies Committee to the “House Un-American Activities Committee” (HUAC), a series of bipartisan anti-communist witchhunts were organized. This committee, too, was loaded with “pro-labor” Dixiecrats and northern Democrats. Between 1945 and 1963 when HUAC was most active, 4 out of 5 of its chairmen were Democrats.
Need more information about the fake pro-labor history of the Democrats? Infamous and widely-hated Wisconsin Republican Joseph McCarthy, who led a parallel Senate anti-communist witch-hunting committee called the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), found powerful support for his activities among many US Catholics – including an up-and-coming Massachusetts family:
From Wikipedia: “McCarthy established a bond with the powerful Kennedy family, which had high visibility among Catholics. McCarthy became a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., himself a fervent anti-Communist, and was a frequent guest at the Kennedy compound […] He dated two of Kennedy’s daughters […] and was godfather to Robert F. Kennedy’s first child, Kathleen […] John F. Kennedy, who served in the Senate with McCarthy from 1953 until the latter’s death in 1957, never attacked McCarthy […] When a speaker at a February 1952 Final club dinner stated that he was glad McCarthy had not attended Harvard […] an angry [JFK] jumped up, denounced the speaker, and left the event.”
Liberal demigod and arch-anticommunist Robert F. Kennedy infamously attacked major trade unions as being “gangster controlled” throughout the late 50s (as chief counsel for McCarthy’s PSI) and early ’60s (as his brother John’s Attorney General), leading attacks especially against the Teamsters union headed at the time by Jimmy Hoffa. So much for the history of the “pro-labor” Democrats!
Who owns and operates the Democratic Party Today?
Far from being a “party of labor” today’s Democratic Party is more and more nakedly seeking to drive the liberals and pro-union forces out of the party and replace them and their money with cold, hard cash direct from the top capitalists – the one-percenters.
This isn’t something new. In an article written in 2001 for “The American Prospect” entitled “How the DLC Does It”, Robert Dreyfuss exposed the phoniness of the Democratic Party’s pretense of being “the party of labor” by exposing the true nature of what were then called “the Democratic Leadership Council”:
“Freeing Democrats from being, well, Democrats has been the Democratic Leadership Council’s mission since its founding 16 years ago by Al Gore, Chuck Robb, and a handful of other conservative, mostly southern Dems as a rump faction of disaffected elected officials and party activists. Producing and directing the DLC is Al From, its founder and CEO, who’s been the leader, visionary, and energizing force behind the New Democrat movement since Day One. A veteran of the Carter White House and Capitol Hill, where he’d worked for Louisiana Representative Gillis Long and served as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus, From helped build the Committee on Party Effectiveness, a forerunner of the DLC, in the early 1980s. To From, a key rationale for establishing the DLC in those days was to protect the Democrats’ eroding bastion in the South against mounting Republican gains, and indeed one of the DLC’s chief projects in the 1980s was to create and promote the Super Tuesday primary across the South, aimed at enhancing the clout of southern Dems in selecting presidential candidates.
“Privately funded and operating as an extraparty organization without official Democratic sanction, and calling themselves ‘New Democrats,’ the DLC sought nothing less than the miraculous: the transubstantiation of America’s oldest political party. Though the DLC painted itself using the palette of the liberal left–as ‘an effort to revive the Democratic Party’s progressive tradition,’ with New Democrats being the ‘trustees of the real tradition of the Democratic Party’–its mission was far more confrontational. With few resources, and taking heavy flak from the big guns of the Democratic left, the DLC proclaimed its intention, Mighty Mousestyle, to rescue the Democratic Party from the influence of 1960s-era activists and the AFL-CIO, to ease its identification with hot-button social issues, and, perhaps most centrally, to reinvent the party as one pledged to fiscal restraint, less government, and a probusiness, profree market outlook.
“It’s hard to argue that they haven’t succeeded.”
Dreyfuss goes on to describe how the DLC worked for Bill Clinton by convincing corporate America that the era of “New Deal Democrats” was over:
“[T]he DLC message of pro-market moderation is just what organized business wants to hear. From its modest beginnings–with a start-up budget of just $400,000 in its first year, cobbled together at fundraisers starring Robb, former President Jimmy Carter, and K Street Democratic eminence Bob Strauss–the DLC patiently cultivated wealthy individuals and corporate backers. By 1990 the combined DLC-PPI operation boasted revenues of $2.2 million, a big chunk of which came from a single source, New York hedge fund operator Michael Steinhardt, who pledged $500,000 a year for three years […]
“One by one, Fortune 500 corporate backers saw the DLC as a good investment. By 1990 major firms like AT&T and Philip Morris were important donors. Indeed, according to Reinventing Democrats, Kenneth S. Baer’s history of the DLC, Al From used the organization’s fundraising prowess as blandishment to attract an ambitious young Arkansas governor to replace Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia as DLC chairman. Drawing heavily on internal memos written by From, Bruce Reed, and other DLCers, Baer says that the DLC offered Clinton not only a national platform for his presidential aspirations but ‘entree into the Washington and New York fundraising communities.’ Early in the 1992 primaries, writes Baer, ‘financially, Clinton’s key Wall Street support was almost exclusively DLC-based,’ especially at firms like New York’s Goldman, Sachs.
“The DLC’s investment in Clinton paid off, of course, after the 1992 election. Not only did the DLC bask in its status as idea factory and influence broker for the White House, but it also reaped immediate financial rewards. One month after the election, Clinton headlined a fundraising dinner for the DLC that drew 2,200 to Washington’s Union Station, where tables went for $15,000 apiece. Corporate officials and lobbyists were lined up to meet the new White House occupant, including 139 trade associations, law firms, and companies who kicked in more than $2 million, for a total of $3.3 million raised in a single evening. The DLC-PPI’s revenues climbed steadily upward, reaching $5 million in 1996 and, according to its most recent available tax returns, $6.3 million for 1999. ‘Our revenues for 2000 will probably end up around $7.2 million,’ says Chuck Alston, the DLC’s executive director.”
Today, of course, the Democratic Party’s fundraising from corporate donors far exceeds these paltry numbers.
Want some more proof that the Democratic Party is not the “party of labor”? OK, check out this more recent analysis of today’s Democratic Party from four years ago:
“As Congress entered the final weeks of its struggle to overhaul regulation of Wall Street in May, several hundred friends and colleagues slipped out of Washington for a private weekend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Most were lobbyists for large banks, pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies, and big-ticket trade groups. However, 28 were members of Congress, and 29 were legislative staffers, all part of a coalition of House Democrats with a business-friendly agenda.
“The retreat was held in honor of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 69 lawmakers whose close relationship with several hundred Washington lobbyists has made their organization one of the most successful political money machines since the Republican K Street Project collapsed in 2007. In the past year and a half, New Democrats have pulled in more than $18 million in campaign contributions from their lobbyist fundraising network. The lobbyists, in turn, have mingled with lawmakers and their staffers at least 850 times during fundraising events and informal get-togethers.
“When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 they promised to usher in a new era that would end the excesses of what they labeled a Republican ‘culture of corruption.’ One of their prime targets was the K Street Project, in which the Republican congressional leadership placed political operatives in lobbying jobs so they could direct money from big business to GOP campaigns in exchange for access to lawmakers for their clients. The project collapsed after Democrats assumed power and several Republican congressmen, staffers, and lobbyists were convicted on corruption charges.
“Today, however, many of the same techniques and tactics that formed the basis of the K Street Project are still in use, this time by Democrats.”
[Source: ProPublica, “The New Democrats: The Coalition Pharma and Wall Street Love” by Sebastian Jones and Marcus Stern, 25 October 2010]
The article helpfully offered readers such multimedia features as “Is Your Member of Congress a New Democrat?” and “Inside the New Democrats’ $18 Million Fundraising Network” (which now sadly returns a 500 error).
Need something more recent? No problem! Vice News has this, published just last May:
“Looking for the fight over the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in the waning days of the Obama administration? Next Tuesday morning, take the elevator to the eighth floor of a downtown Washington, DC, building and step into the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), the premier lobbying group for some of the largest fracking companies in the world.
“While much of the talk about a progressive revival revolves around populist figures like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Elizabeth Warren, there are other, better funded efforts afoot. Corporate titans from finance to natural gas to big retail to telecom are attempting to steer the party, and as the midterms shape up, these interests are pushing to ensure they continue to have wide sway over America’s only viable outlet for center-left expression at the polls. Which brings us to the latest venture in corporate-centered party-building and the group hosting a chat in ANGA’s headquarters: The NewDEAL.
“This NewDEAL has little in common with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal platform, which pledged to save capitalism from itself by cracking down on predatory banking institutions and restoring workplace rights for Americans. No, this NewDEAL is a 501(c)(4) issue-advocacy nonprofit, a tax vehicle which allows campaign activity without disclosure of donors, and its name is an acronym for ‘Developing Exceptional American Leaders.’
“The group, touted as a platform to ‘highlight rising pro-business progressives,’ is led by Democrats who have made a name for themselves by bucking the populist trend. They include NewDeal co-chair Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, whose zeal for the charterization of public schools and love of Wall Street makes him indistinguishable from many across the aisle. The other co-chair, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, has staked a position in his state’s energy wars as a staunch defender of drillers.
“VICE has obtained a ‘supporter list’ showing donors of the NewDEAL, which reads like a who’s who of corporations seeking government access: Comcast, Fluor, Merck, Microsoft, New York Life, Pfizer, Qualcomm, Verizon, Wal-Mart, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, among others, including, of course, the host of Tuesday’s event, ANGA.”
[Source: Vice News, “The Democratic Party’s Future is Awash in Dark Money” by Lee Fang, 16 May 2014] Sadly, Vice did not decide to share that ‘supporter list’ with their readers.
Wow! Bet those AFL-CIO “get out the vote” organizers didn’t tell you that the “party of labor” was taking big bucks from Wal-Mart! Say it ain’t so, ghost of Joe McCarthy!
Working class people hustling votes for the Democrats reminds us of the slaves who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War: a tragic reminder of what happens in the absence of revolutionary leadership of the kind that can be found not among the pro-capitalist misleaders of today’s AFL-CIO trade unions but among the ranks of the revolutionary Trotskyist movement. This is because it is a fact that revolutionary consciousness does not arise spontaneously in the minds of the working class – it has to be brought from without by professional revolutionaries schooled in the history and art of revolutionary theory and tactics, just as workers can’t come to comprehend advanced physics just by sitting around watching apples fall out of trees:
“The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labor legislation, etc. The theory of socialism […] grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia […] [T]here can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement. he only choice is — either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology […] Without a strong organization skilled in waging political struggle under all circumstances and at all times, there can be no question of that systematic plan of action, illumined by firm principles and steadfastly carried out, which alone is worthy of the name of [revolutionary socialist – IWPCHI] tactics”.
[Source: Lenin, “What is to be Done?” Emphasis in original]
In short: in order to lead the fight for workers rights the working class needs its own party, a revolutionary workers party that fights intransigently for the objective of a post-capitalist socialist workers government. The Democratic Party is not a “party of labor” – it is a CAPITALIST party dedicated to the cause of sweet-talking the workers into accepting concessions acceptable to their capitalist masters rather than fighting for the overthrow of the capitalist class, their wholly-owned subsidiary the Democratic Party and the entire capitalist economic system! It should be obvious to even a dog that any support given by any working woman or man to the Democratic Party is a betrayal of the working class and a gift to the capitalists, who will return the favor back-handedly: with more exploitation, more unemployment, more war and the resulting destruction of our working-class sisters and brothers and eventually the entire planet. Stop knocking on those doors for the benefit of those who rob you every day! Stop calling up your fellow wage-slaves and urging them to vote for the paid lackeys of your common slavemasters! Break forever with the capitalist class and the Democratic Party! Break away from the capitalist system once and for all and take off your chains and start fighting for your rights as workers! Stop supporting the mass murder of your brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Gaza and all over the world! WAKE UP, FELLOW WORKERS AND UNITE AGAINST OUR COMMON ENEMY: THE CAPITALIST CLASS, THEIR POLITICIANS AND THEIR “LABOR LIEUTENANTS”! FREE YOURSELVES FROM WAGE AND DEBT SLAVERY!