Update on Wisconsin: Elections and Austerity

Since the massive protests came to an end and the campaign to get the current Governor recalled from his position, workers have remained silent, largely hoping that an election of Democrats will stop the attacks on their wages and working conditions. Patriotism and democratism stand like a pair of blinders on the working class while the capitalists are already preparing more attacks. As reactionary as a given faction of our ruling bourgeois class may be the other bourgeois faction will simply carry out the same attacks as soon as elected.

A whole shelf of books has been published on the protests of last year here in Wisconsin. The doctors who wrote sick notes for the workers who walked off the job have been sanctioned. Now the unions have no purpose and serve no function for workers at all. Stripped down to the bone, with only the faithful left as members, with union meetings too small even to take a proper vote on anything. It is like sitting through a wake, only with voting. Now there are no third party grievance procedures, no transfer rights, no contract bargaining and (still) no formal "right" to strike. Overtime rules have been gutted. Now the leading Democratic challengers for Governor aren't even claiming to give back anything workers have lost, even if they managed to get elected. There were certainly never be any recovering the lost take-home pay for state workers.

The flagship university in the University of Wisconsin system is located in Madison, not far from the seat of state government. The university administrators have managed to get the UW Madison separated from the rest of the state civil service, even separated institutionally from the UW system schools themselves. The university has been privatized. A series of "Human Resources Redesign" meetings have been held with the aim of making a show of inclusiveness in making their new system. To encourage cronyism and division among workers "merit pay" is an idea being strongly pushed by state management at these meetings. To separate the UW Madison workers from their counterparts working the same office jobs for the branches of state government bureaucracy strengthens the hand of the capitalists considerably. For the university administration the austerity decree of the Governor gave the perfect opportunity for the UW to give itself less oversight and more opportunities for cronyism and a more suitably divided workforce. More sinisterly, the Human Resources staff who are holding these Human Resource Redesign meetings for workers are asking workers what would be the best way to conduct layoffs. Indeed if the UW officials are bothering to ask workers such questions they are probably expecting to have to conduct mass layoffs sooner or later. What is also evidently clear since the end of the old contract is that the administration wants to introduce a "merit pay" scheme whereby management decides which of their favorite workers get a miniscule raise. Grievance procedures gave workers a slim chance of placing a union in between themselves and management when handling a grievance. Now the state sector will have its own grievance board, thus the capitalist bureaucracy will be policing itself, or not as is likely.

Recall elections on May 8th has made Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett the official alternate candidate of the bourgeoisie. The Democratic Party is well practiced at eclipsing such things. Without the unions workers are faced with a need to create a broader organization of workers that doesn't allow itself to be divided from workplace to workplace. Workers can wait for one election after another but unless revolutionary class politics become de-stigmatized and revolutionaries start making themselves heard among their fellow workers the present state of affairs will be unlikely to change for the better.

Monday, May 21, 2012


We don't need or want the "right" to strike. We just do it. If you wait for permission to do it, there'll be no point. Asking for a wage increase, cap in hand, is only stage one. If you get an increase it'll soon be eaten up. We have to get rid of the Great Satan: the abhorrent and now unworkable and bankrupt system called capitalism. We won't be given permission, or given the "right" to do this. From the bosses point of view we'll be acting illegally. We don't need their approval to get rid of them and their blood-sucking system. The way of life we will replace theirs with is called communism, and it is an unimaginably better system than they can ever come up with. They've had their day.

So, as a beginning, don't ask for the right to strike. Just organize and do it.

I fully agree with you that no worker should be asking the capitalists for a right to strike. Most workers involved in the protests simply accept that they are "citizens" in a grand old republic and that this requires them to play by the established rules. In Wisconsin things, in a matter of days went from a walkout situation to a go back to work and wait for a whole year to go to the polling places to lose themselves an election. The Democrats swooped down, took over effortlessly and derailed everything. In the Oakland protests these stayed out of the Democratic Party orbit a little better. Anyway, your comments are very appreciated and I will keep posting on this as things arise.