Will we be able to do it? Will we be able to hold together our current members while we look for the new members we need? The answer is a loud and clear "yes." Yes not only because I think we can do it, but because we no longer have much choice in the matter.
'We Don't Have Much Choice!'
For starters, survey the wreckage of the November elections. Participation was an abysmal 35 percent, the lowest in more than 60 years. Despite all the hoopla about a Democratic "victory," what we witnessed was a Republican fumble of massive proportions. Election night, Democrats broke out the champagne and partied into the night celebrating the fact that they were not obliterated. Republican pols stayed up late trying to figure out what happened and who to blame (Newt Gingrich). Working people went to bed early, not bothering to wait for election results.
The next morning, working people woke up to essentially the same political mess we were in before the election: A Republican Party obsessed with dragging down the President with impeachment and a Congress filled with both Democrats and Republicans who have no plans to confront the problems that are wrecking the lives of millions of working people. Dont expect anything from the coming 106th Congress. I mean nothing.
Real Reform or More (Big) Business as Usual?
The Republican majority has no plan to fix our national healthcare mess. Instead, theyre trying to figure out ways to make our system worse, more expensive, and more profitable for big business. Some Democrats will go along with them. Some will keep quiet and hope it blows over. A good number will promote big-sounding "bills of rights" and other fine-tunings that are hard to oppose, but even harder to get excited about. Meanwhile, the Labor Party will be working for real reform by launching our national campaign for Just Healthcare.
Republicans will lead the charge for the privatization rip-off of our Social Security system, joined by a growing number of Democrats. Some Democrats will promote various schemes that protect most of Social Security, while opening the door to limited privatization, in a vain attempt to pacify big business. Its up to the Labor Party to reach out to working people and declare our Social Security system off limits to Wall Street.
Company Unions ... or a (Real) Right to Organize?
What about the need to restore the right to organize and join a union in this country? An echoing silence in the halls of Congress. Instead, well have to beat back those now-familiar moves for "company unions" and repealing overtime pay. Itll be the Labor Party that rises to the occasion and fights for workers rights.
On trade and good jobs, working people will take it on the chin as both major parties continue to promote job-killing schemes such as "fast track" and the deadly MAI. But at least theres the Labor Party out there, fighting to save good jobs from the multinational profit machine.
Building the Labor Party has been hard work, and that wont change. But with our new push for recruitment around healthcare, Social Security, workers rights and fair trade, weve got some new tools in our hands. Lets get busy!
Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).
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