The Wisconsin left failed to form a powerful opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s regime. That failure was the catalyst for the recall strategy. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin was able to utilize mass protest and street action for its own selfish goals, and hoped to gain power through a bourgeois electoral process which would pit one capitalist against another.
In February 2011, Governor Scott Walker introduced Act 10, which included cutting collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. Wisconsin reacted in fury. Mass protests resulted, with tens of thousands lining the streets and thousands occupying Madison’s Capitol building. Unions, teachers, students and firefighters all joined in to oppose the dictatorial measures taken by Governor Walker. Wisconsin was at a fever pitch, a perfect moment for revolutionary action; for a general strike to begin.
The Industrial Workers of the World union, as well as other revolutionary organizations called for an immediate general strike. Instead, the Democrats and liberals won out and the mass movement was co-opted into the recall effort. No general strike ever came to fruition.
14 state Democrats left Wisconsin in opposition to Act 10. These Democrats were seen as heroes, standing up for the working class. In reality, the Democratic Party made the issue at hand a Party issue, rather than a class issue. The Democratic Party’s candidate, Tom Barrett, did not have sufficient means from the national Party to defeat Scott Walker. This is in part due to the lack of caring the Democratic Party has for the working class. They view the working class as commodities used in elections and to gain support.
The re-election of Governor Scott Walker is a sign that the liberal ideology of petitioning grievances before government does not work. Mass action needs to carry the threat of further disobedience. This can only come about through organization.
The unions in Wisconsin have become so ossified from years of capitulation that they have forgotten how to struggle and cannot lead their own members. A major deficiency of the U.S. Left is a lack of appreciation for organization and the capacity that it provides. It is time to discard the Democratic Party and liberalism. It is time to implement more radical tactics for solutions to capitalism.
Matthew Andrews, Joanna Straughn and Zach