COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT, NOVEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
CHICAGO LABOR AND ARTS NOTES
[Anthony Mazzocchi, 76, a labor leader instrumental in securing U.S. national safety and health legislation in the work place, died on Saturday, October 5, after a year of battling pancreatic cancer.Mazzocchi, a native of Brooklyn, New York, who lived in Montclair, New Jersey, and in Washington, died at his Washington home.]
NATIONAL ORGANIZER STATEMENT
the Labor Party national organizer
As many as you
know, I am both afflicted with an incurable disease and blessed with an
incurable optimism. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to convey my sense
of what we've accomplished, what we've learned and where we should head. I feel
tremendously privileged to be serving as National Organizer. I could ask for no
greater challenge and no greater opportunity than to serve working people in
this era of incredible difficulties and opportunities.
For the first
time in twenty years, Corporate America is losing legitimacy. It is cracking
under the weight of its own greed. No longer can it play the goose that lays the
golden eggs----the eggs that were supposed to become our 401(k) nest eggs.
Instead, the goose is a pack of corporate foxes that have stolen the eggs and
devoured them in an orgy of greed. Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing are the
foxes' names, with more to come. These corporate foxes have done what comes
naturally to them---they have run off with hundreds of millions of dollars
At the same
time, Corporate America has accelerated its drive for the globalization of
greed---an international trade regime that is killing millions of good paying
jobs here and impoverishing workers around the world. The ray
This means that
our agenda, the only agenda that speaks unequivocally for the interests of
working people, has great potential to form the basis for a new anti-corporate
is also an era of labor decline. When Labor Party Advocates was formed in 1990,
labor represented 12 percent of the private sector. By 1996, when the Labor
Party was founded, the percentage had dropped to 10.2. A new spirit of optimism
was sweeping through the movement as progressives took office at the AFL-CIO
pledging themselves to massive organizing. But corporate power did not yield.
Six years later we stand at less than 9 percent. The implications of this
decline for the Labor Party are many and profound. Unions are besieged.
They are losing
ground on every front. They are consumed with day-to-day struggles. Except for a
very few, they are in retreat. Several prominent labor leaders have told me that
while they agree with the Labor Party ideologically, they have to be very
pragmatic in this era. They fear losing access to politicians needed to help
them survive. Others agree with our platform but don't have the time to build
for the future. This state of siege, indeed, is a formidable obstacle.
We must be
mindful of these difficulties while mining the opportunities. There is much that
we have accomplished, and much that we have learned that can guide us in the
should be exceedingly proud of our working class agenda. It speaks directly and
forcefully for and to the needs of working people throughout our country.
We alone forged
an anti-corporate message that resonates with workers in every sector. Although
our agenda is broad, we need to be clear that the core of our agenda is working
class economics--the highest common denominator that brings us together.
However, while our agenda has remarkable resonance, we must also recognize that
many of us passionately disagree on a wide variety of questions. There is no
shortcut to resolving such issues. Passing a resolution by a small margin on
controversial questions will not help us organize or grow.
In fact, to
many it will surely shut the door on us before we can even offer our powerful
As a result, we
must show considerable patience. I urge that we refrain from tackling issues
that deeply divide us. We need to show tolerance for a diversity of views that
allows us to reach out to all segments of the working class. We need to find the
balance between remaining principled and building our anti-corporate core. Now
is the time to help shape workers' rage and frustration against Corporate
We have also
learned a great deal about our organizing strategy and tactics. Our party was
formed around unions, big and small. To complement that base, we expanded into
securing mass individual memberships. As a result, the party has tremendously
gained from the enormous contributions of individual members throughout the
country. We must continue to treasure and support those contributions. However,
we must also realize that such an organizing strategy is premature. We simply do
not have the resources needed for such an organizing drive.
At the same
time, our labor base, with a few notable exceptions, remains rock solid, and
offers the possibility of expansion. Again, we need patience to guide us
forward. History is an exacting teacher. It has taught us to concentrate on our
labor base and build outward from it.
We have also
learned a great deal from our organizing campaigns. The outstanding organizing
efforts on Just Health Care, Free Higher Education and Worker Rights show a
great deal of promise. They offer the Labor Party ways to shape national
debates, to make our agenda heard. And equally important they open the door to
holding discussions with unions who believe in our agenda, but are not ready to
join the party. While these issues resonate with working people, they are not
the only elements of our platform that ultimately must turn into campaigns.
However, resource realities limit us to three or four campaigns at most. We
should take pride in clarity of vision expressed by these campaigns.
have learned about the wisdom of our basic electoral strategy. From the start we
resolved never to play the role of spoiler. Our electoral rules insure that the
Labor Party would always have broad labor support when it engaged in electoral
politics. That policy has served as well.
As I reflect on
these lessons, one thing is crystal clear: we have survived against formidable
odds because we remained committed to our hardheaded organizing tactics, based
on the realities of resources, and based on building a strong union foundation.
Because the odds are still long, we must rededicate our commitment to the
initial organizing strategies. But also, there is reason for
National Organizer ##
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