The rout of the Democratic Party and the unions in Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election has provoked a predictable response across the official political spectrum, from crude triumphalism on the extreme right to self-justification and hand-wringing among the liberal and pseudo-left apologists for the Obama administration.
The Wall Street Journal trumpeted the victory of Republican Governor Scott Walker, calling it the defeat of “a furious and well-fed special interest that wants a permanent, monopoly claim on taxpayer wallets.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blamed “Texas billionaires” and “multinational corporations” that backed Walker financially. Expressing the cynicism and complacency of the union officialdom, Trumka said there would be no change in his political strategy.
Completely absent in any quarter of official politics was a serious analysis of the origins of the June 5 debacle. It was, in fact, the predictable culmination of the intervention by the unions and the Democratic Party to suppress mass workers’ protests and strikes that erupted in Wisconsin last year against the anti-worker, budget-cutting legislation pushed through by Walker.
The events of February-March 2011 were a critical political experience of the American working class and captured the attention of workers internationally. In response to Walker’s surprise introduction of a measure to virtually eliminate bargaining rights for public employees and slash billions from workers’ benefits and social programs such as BadgerCare (Medicaid), tens of thousands of workers took part in demonstrations and an occupation of the Capitol rotunda in Madison.
After the Republican-controlled state legislature ignored the protests and passed the anti-worker legislation, there was a growing movement for a general strike. The South Central Federation of Labor in Madison passed a resolution in favor of a general strike, not with any intention of carrying it out but as a sop to the growing militancy of the rank-and-file. The Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site took up an aggressive campaign for general strike action, issuing statements and distributing them in the thousands at anti-Walker rallies.
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