US labour party is no fantasy

Submitted by Matthew on 19 September, 2012 - 9:24

Eric Lee (Solidarity 255) creates a straw man when he counterposes a mass revolutionary party as the fantasy alternative to a “realistic” orientation to the US Democrats.

The issue is whether the US working class has an independent political voice — a labour party. He ignores the most recent attempt to create a labour party and the lessons to draw from it.

In 1996 I attended the Founding Convention of the Labor Party in Cleveland. The new party was supported by a number of the smaller US unions — the Oil and Chemical Workers, the United Electrical Workers, the Farm Workers and others — and by its predecessor organisation, Labor Party Advocates, which had campaigned under the slogan “The bosses have two parties. We need one of our own.”

It turned out that the party was still-born. The reason was not too much independence from the Democrats. Rather, at the behest of the unions, the Convention adopted a self-denying ordinance that it would undertake no electoral activity on the grounds that it was 'premature'.

Thus there was to be no direct challenge to the Democrats and, with the exception of a few areas such as Vermont, local activity withered almost before it had begun.

It can be argued that the launching of the party was premature in that it should have been preceded by a longer period of campaigning. And whether it would have ultimately been successful is, of course, a historical might-have-been — unlike attempts to “realign” the Democrats which have failed many times.

But the attempt was neither fantasy nor precluded by a supposed active orientation of the US working class to the Democrats.

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