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To Howard Dean on Leaving the Democrats PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Lang of the Twin Cities CMPL   
Monday, 17 June 2013 15:35

 Mr. Dean,

Your recent announcement that you may have to become an independent if the Obama administration’s sequestration budget gets passed sent an uproar through the news community and blogs across the internet. This bit of news has not gone unnoticed by those of us at the Campaign For a Mass Party of Labor (CMPL). We are of the belief that the two major parties are far more interested in the interests of big business, and believe the facts speak for themselves:

  • Obama golfed with oil executives during the recent 40,000-strong Keystone XL protests

  •  Obama has actually proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare by more than the Republicans

  •  As indicated in his proposal, Obama’s use of drone strikes internationally has sharply increased since the Bush administration despite very very mixed reactions from the domestic and international community

  •  The Guantanamo bay prison is still open

  •  Both Obama, the Republicans, and the Democrats have bucked consumer health in favor of the interests of the food industrial complex

  •  Obama capitulated on the fiscal cliff negotiations, the Economist points out the economy is still in a sorry state, and the sequestration is likely to affect millions of workers. Benefits for 3.8 million Americans will be cut by an average of $400 per month and funding for job centers will also be cut, making it even harder to find a job in an already desperate situation. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University estimates as many as 2.14 million jobs could be lost in total, pushing unemployment up by as much as 1.5% more. Another economist estimated that over 700,000 workers will lose their jobs by the end of this year alone. At the same time, up to 125,000 families will lose federal housing assistance aid

  •  Since you made your initial comments, the NSA spying scandal has erupted, with Obama and his administration coming out in defense of the NSA's approach to "scooping up" all telephonic and electronic communication between individuals

This is just a cursory look at a few issues. If now is not the time to break with the Democrats, then when? Austerity is austerity, whether it is shaped like a donkey or an elephant. The continued politics of “compromise” have gotten workers nothing, and Obama’s compromise strategy with Denis McDonough shows no sign of achieving anything but more of the same. 

You, however, have signaled a marked change in tone by insinuating a possible break with your party. While other “liberal” Democrats like Keith Ellison have expressed concern with the party's policies, they have continually gone back to the failed “lesser of two evils” strategy. Yet in poll after poll, we see that the voice of the working class has nothing to do with what is being passed. It is no accident that Congress's approval rating stands at a historic low of just 13%. The potential for a mass alternative outside the Democrats and Republicans is greater than ever. 

So if you do break, where do you turn? In all but a few extenuating circumstances, third parties have floundered, leaving many voters afraid to break with their familiar parties. We in the CMPL are not interested in building a third party; we want to build a first-party. 

As we pointed out in our open letter to Richard Trumka:

"The inspiring struggles of tens of thousands of workers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and in every other state in the union show that workers have had enough and are willing to fight. These mass actions send a clear message that workers want the right to be represented by a union. They also show that workers want jobs for all and job security, not to mention better pay, benefits, health care and working conditions. They show that workers are tired of getting the wrong end of the economic stick. They show that workers don't think it's fair that the rich―who caused the economic crisis―are busy stuffing their pockets with public cash while the rest of us are made to pay for their greed through cuts and austerity.

"However, without a clear political lead, the assumption is that workers should keep voting for the 'worker-friendly' Democrats, even when that party continues to sell workers out on one issue after another. Your declaration can change that. 

"A Labor Party would fight for living-wage jobs and unions for all. It would fight for universal health care and education, for safe housing and new infrastructure. It would fight for the repeal of Taft-Hartley along with every other anti-union law. It would fight against the bloated military budget and would bring the troops home now. It would lead the fight against racism discrimination, and equal rights/pay for our immigrant brothers and sisters, not to mention all women. It would mobilize the organized and the unorganized, and would reach out to the unemployed, retirees and the youth to fight tooth and nail against all cuts and concessions. It would build on the October 2nd 'We Are One' rally and organize mass marches for jobs and against cuts in every city in the country. Such a party could rally millions of voters behind it and turn U.S. politics upside down. Such a party could quickly become the number one party in the country, leaving the Republicans and Democrats to fight for second place. The potential for such a party is enormous. The time to build it is now.”

In the past, American workers have come close to forming a Labor Party with true national reach, but failed largely due to the fact that the majority of the unions remained tied to the Democrats. 

You can help change that. Left-leaning, pro-labor, and broadly progressive supporters of the Democratic party look to you. But the Democratic party, which you have been a member and leader of for many years, is a capitalist party. Despite its “worker friendly” image, it is in fact an anti-worker party, both in its foreign and domestic policies. One of the reasons organized labor has seen a steady decline in its membership over the last 30 years is precisely its relationship to this big business party. 

Having the former chairman of the DNC getting behind the need for a labor party would shake things up and begin turning around the bipartisan austerity in Washington and at all levels of politics. If you called on the labor leaders to break with the Democrats in favor of a mass independent labor party, millions of union members, their families, and those who would like to be in a union would see this as a breath of fresh air. They would be emboldened to build a party for the working class majority ― not the corporations. 

There’s no question that this would be a controversial move. Many will criticize you and you will lose some of your Democratic following. You will lambasted by the business press, the corporate-dominated mass media, and among the “pragmatic” members of the Democrats. But you will be able to trade it for political independence from big business, and the enthusiasm of millions of Americans who have had enough of the two party farce.

Big business has no care for the working people of this country. A cursory look at the corporate/Super PAC’s obscene record-breaking campaign contributions of the last election cycle demonstrates this quite clearly.

We and the workers of this country, however, are willing to fight. Only through struggle can we defend the hard-won gains of the working class that are now under attack by both Democrats and Republicans. We need a party of, by, and for the workers. By basing ourselves on the numbers, resources, and real-world social networks of the unions, such a party could rapidly become a force to contend with. As we explained to Brother Trumka, we in the Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor would like nothing better than to wrap up our modest campaign and throw our energies into fighting shoulder to shoulder with the rest of our union and non-union brothers and sisters in a serious, mass campaign to build such a party.

In solidarity,

Joe Lang for the Twin Cities CMPL