Battle for Wisconsin #7: How do we win?
Its pretty clear that we are in an all out class war here and everyone seems to know it. Organized labor all across the United States knows it, they're sending people here and looking at what to do at home; non-union workers know it and they're moving forward their demands and tactics (like today's occupation of the GOP office by ADAPT disability activists); and obviously, Walker, the Legislature, the Koch Brothers and the entire capitalist class knows it and they're out for a complete crushing victory.
There was a moment yesterday when the question was posed, "Will the Republicans reign in Walker?" The answer, I think, is that they will not. Executives at Koch Industries issued a statement saying that after the leaked Walker prank they are more determined than ever to push this thing through. They know that backing away from Walker will cede some ground and they've realized that if they can get this thing through completely as is, it will deal a crushing blow to the movement that's emerged. But their decision is not without its costs: the Wisconsin Professional Police Association issued a statement saying that they will not clear the capitol out, as demanded by the Legislature, and in fact they will be joining the sleep-in. Moreover, the scene inside during the Assembly vote this morning was unbelievable: representatives were throwing paper and cups of water, confronting Republicans chanting "SHAME! SHAME!" There are serious cracks in the order of things, and while there are still many legislators, State Patrol and Capitol Police who may be following orders, these are signs of defection.
As more layers come out against the bill, we're once again at the position of looking not only at what a win is, but how does that happen? The win here has to be a complete defeat of the bill, no concessions. That's had to evolve, but as the alliance of forces has come together and we see how much both sides have invested in this, a win must mean that the whole bill goes. If the union-busting parts are thrown out and the rest goes through, not only do we have the objective reality of cuts to everything imaginable, the movement coalition will be shattered because non-union workers will know that they were abandoned. What's more, we know that the full budget will be unveiled on Tuesday, which will be even worse than this bill. If we have any hope of fighting that budget, we have to have the morale and experience of winning that must come from beating the bill.
So how do we do it? How do we actually kill the whole bill, what does that look like? This is the trickier part. For people who get this far, the notion is typically that we find three Republican Senators to change their vote and we're in the clear. I think that's a mistake. First off, we have no guarantee that if they agree to change their votes that they will actually vote that way if the fourteen Senators are recalled. Walker himself said that he wanted to bait them with just this kind of move. Second, and this is less serious, even if we could win like that, the way in which we will matters. If they agree to change their votes and the Democrats come back, that kind of victory would be credited more to the Senators than to the people who made it happen; it has the danger of co-opting the independent working class movement. Obviously, if it comes down to this kind of victory or no victory, take the fucking Senators' for the victory!
What seems the most sensible, the safest and surest way to beat the bill is to force them to withdraw it. If the Assembly vote is ruled illegal (they violated Assembly rules), it'll buy some more time and it gives more possibility for them to withdraw the bill from that chamber. More likely, it'll have to be withdrawn from the Senate since they're the ones that have the most political pressure on them and have become the symbol for where the movement's power lies.
Its not for me to say which course must be taken because its contingent on the development of the struggle. But what is clear about both options is that the only way the bill can be either voted down or withdrawn is with immense popular pressure. We've gotten this far because of the pressure the movement has put on, through the sit-ins blocking the Legislature from meeting, the sleep-ins at the capitol, the enormous rallies and now the actions on specific targets. The Assembly Democrats have only gone as far as they have because of the critical mass of people and to kill this thing the social cost of the bill will have to raise even more.
It remains to be seen if Walker's maneuvers, intimidating teachers and doctors, working through the courts and militarizing the capitol, will have the effect he's hoping they'll have, or if the coalition can survive the increasing presence of the international unions and their organizing staff who are attempting to undercut the influence and impact of local militants, but if today has shown us anything its that this is a general working class revolt and we should expect more surprises.