The effort to build a Labor Party, initiated by Tony Mazzocchi, is one of the most important progressive initiatives of recent decades. The successes and failures. potentialities and limitations of the effort need to be understood by labor and progressive activists of today. That is why we are sharing this analysis, which includes proposals for positive action, and why we encourage further discussion on the important issues it raises.–Talking Union.
During the first of the 2012 presidential debates, President Obama opined to Governor Romney, “I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.” This should come as no surprise to those of us paying attention. Since at least July of the previous year, President Obama has been dangling a “grand bargain” in front of congressional Republicans: cuts in Social Security and Medicare in exchange for a temporary agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling. While Republicans continue to hold out for deeper cuts and more extensive concessions, this offer is still very much on the bargaining table. And it is sure to be part of the post-election “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
That a Democratic President would be willing to trade away the crown jewels of the social safety net that have defined the party’s identity in the minds of millions of Americans for generations is astounding. Coming after the Obama Administration’s first-term failure to deliver on its campaign promises to labor on job-creation and labor law reform, its embrace of the “Bush Doctrine” and escalation of war in Afghanistan, and its repeated capitulations in the fight to pass substantive health care legislation, the proposed gutting of Social Security and Medicare should have marked the date when labor finally disowned the Democratic Party and declared its support for the establishment of a political party with a working-class agenda. Instead, one union after another rushed to endorse Obama for a second term, asking for little or nothing in return.
Obama owes his re-election to the labor movement. Its massive ground campaign mobilizations surely made the difference in the key battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Labor did so mainly because the “greater of two evils” alternative-the inauguration of a national union-busting regime committed to a Greek-style austerity program-was, quite simply, unacceptable. But the question still must be asked: will labor, as a social movement, be stronger in four years than it is today? Will the lives of working people be better or more secure?