Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wisconsin's Lessons for the Working Class

‘The images of tens of thousands of workers and their supporters – including teachers, students and firefighters – who took part in the occupation of the Capitol Rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin for more than two weeks have reignited the morale and militancy of the labor movement. Even beyond labor, the scenes from Wisconsin have shown ordinary people the power they possess when they are organized and take bold action. Many who visited Madison in the first two weeks of the struggle commented on the breathtaking spirit of solidarity among the protesters, the efficient operation of self-organized demonstrators, and the display of democracy come to life.’

This statement by the labour journalist Brian Tierney on the self-organisation of working people to defend their democratic rights in the midst of the extended capitalist crisis brings out the realities of the current political and ideological struggles in the United States. Before the news of the multiple tragedies of earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis and massive loss of lives in Japan dominated the consciousness of people in all corners of the world, the images of hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrating for their rights as humans in Wisconsin competed with the images of uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Oman.

Wisconsin is one state in the USA where there are progressive traditions as well as very conservative heritages. It was the state that produced the dreaded Senator Joseph McCarthy who pursued one of the most systematic anti-communist witch-hunts during the Cold War. It is also the state where there were intense and militant demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Senator Russell Feingold was for a long time the representative for this state until the conservative forces nationally poured millions into the state to defeat him in the last round of elections in November 2010. In this Republican sweep Scott Walker became the governor of Wisconsin state and promised to continue the job of Ronald Reagan: Breaking the organised workers of the USA. Read more