Therefore political power must, for the working classes, come straight out of the Industrial
The interest that so many have expressed in forming a workers/labor party shows that many are disgusted by our current political system. This disgust is shared by many throughout our state (Iowa) and country but has manifested itself in different directions, not entirely in our favor. There is no doubt in my mind that a workers/labor party is essential to securing political victories for the working class; however, I think that a clear and sober look at the current class dynamics within our state and country is necessary to establish our next steps.
The struggle between capital and labor waged throughout the twentieth century had battlefields all throughout the United States. Due to industrial pressure inflicted by the working class, many workers were able to secure a decent standard of living across the country from the 1940s until the 1970s-1980s. But the position of workers, their communities, their politics, and their unions was hollowed out by the neoliberal politics that was to arise out of the Reagan administration and remained unchecked by the Democratic opposition. In fact, it was largely adapted by the Democratic Party itself. From the 1980s until today, the Democratic Party has seen its support amongst workers eroding. At one point, the Party was a vehicle for workers to gain political concessions, but since the 80s, and even more specifically in 2016, workers left the Party in favor of the politics of Trump. The collective workers struggle was struck down by Reagan and it is a shame that workers turned around and voted for Trump, who on the one hand, gave lip service to American workers and on the other hand has implemented many
Reagan-esque policies. A sign of how far the struggle has fallen.
In 2016 and in 2020 the opposition to neoliberalism has been entirely based around the politics of Bernie Sanders. He seemed to articulate an alternative to politics as usual and his appeal in 2016 reached into areas that the Democrats had been failing to reach. As impressive as Bernie’s two campaigns were, the movement for socialism in the United States was never going to be successful upon the back of an individual alone. There are a lot of things that we need to learn from Bernie and the movement that surrounded him. And it is our imperative to learn from the successes and failures in order to continue the struggle for socialism in the United States. As socialists, we believe that there are twin pillars of power within society, the industrial and the political. Bernie’s campaign showed how disconnected the two struggles were and yet, Bernie was unable to marry the two completely. Bernie was able to bring many young and apolitical people into his movement but his movement remained largely a political one. Historically, socialists moved from the industrial battlefield to the political battlefield, whereas
Bernie’s movement attempted to do the opposite. It is our imperative then, if we wish to continue any sort of left movement within the United States, to focus on the industrial wing of our movement; a wing that has been neglected by the left over the past decades. The industrial wing is our base and our electoral success or failure will be a reflection of our progress on the industrial battlefield.
As the conquest of the political state is the echo of the industrial struggle, the industrial struggle is best represented by the state of our labor movement. After four decades of neoliberal assault upon the labor movement, the movement itself remains extremely weak. Our unions have been placed on their back foot and have had to accept trade deals and legislation that have hindered their ability to organize. The deindustrialization that has ruined many communities throughout the country played no small part. But even with that concerted effort on behalf of capital, we see in the midst of the crisis today, that it is labor, not capital, that keeps the world
It then becomes the imperative of socialists to focus on the point of production, the workplace, in order to build the base for future electoral movements. It was James Connolly who stated, “the socialism which is not an outgrowth and expression of that economic struggle is not worth a moment’s serious consideration.” If we should take anything from Bernie, it should be his insistence upon rebuilding a fractured labor movement in the United States. We mustn’t put the cart before the horse. As Eugene Debs noted, “We can have no effective Labor Party without the backing and support of the labor unions.” That isn’t to say that the political struggle is currently irrelevant, but rather that we need to rebuild the base of our political struggle. To paraphrase Connolly, when labor finds itself in the position to control industry by economic pressure, it finds that the state must bend to our will – or break.