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The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Urgent Need to Break the Grip of the Two-Party System

Statement by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP) and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) 

The United States, the global epicenter of capitalist inequality, has become in fact the global epicenter of disease and death. After 40 years of cutbacks and relentless efforts to destroy everything the working class has been able to build over a century and a half of struggle, we are confronted now with a triple-layered crisis: public-health, financial and political.

On the Public-Health Front: A Vulnerable Nation

The nationwide cuts to public-health budgets have been drastic, and they have been bipartisan. To give just one defining example: In California, a state with Democrats at the helm, per-capita public-health spending has been cut by 18% since 2008, essential public hospitals closed, and funding slashed for two state programs designed specifically for a statewide response in case of an epidemic emergency.

At the same time, 28 million working people nationwide remain without healthcare insurance, while an additional 59.6 million people are under-insured. The unjust character of the U.S. healthcare system was on full display with the recent death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster, Calif., who had been infected with COVID-19 and was turned away from a private hospital for lack of health insurance. The boy died shortly afterwards from septic shock. 

“Apocalytic” captures the situation described by medical personnel trying to cope with the situation at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital without essential protective gear and equipment. 

As these lines were written, 305 died in New York City in just one day (one person every 4.7 minutes), and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the City would run out of ventilators to keep people alive in a matter of a few days. 

It has been scarcely more than one month ago, Feb. 29, that the first U.S. death was reported. By April 3, the Center for Disease Control counted 5,443 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19. At 239,279, the U.S. ranks first in the world in the number of confirmed cases, and this at a time when test kits still remain largely unavailable. The actual number of people who contract the virus, including those who remain asymptomatic, never will be known.

On the Financial Front: Bail out Main Street, NOT Wall Street!

Both parties of Big Business — the Democrats and Republicans — created the conditions for the rapid spread of this pandemic. They are using it to enrich their corporate sponsors, and will pass the costs of stabilizing their profit system onto the working class. The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet is in essence a corporate bailout, with massive tax loopholes, forgivable loan terms, and provisions for increased deregulation and privatization. It features an unregulated $454 billion corporate slush fund to be administered by the Federal Reserve Board in conjunction with BlackRock, the financial corporation that bailed out Wall Street (not Main Street) during the 2007-2008 recession and that is destroying pension plans, jobs and public services the world over.

Leaders of the twin parties of the bosses tied the corporate bailout to the direct payments to workers and the unemployed with the full knowledge that the stimulus package would promote massive corporate consolidation and would further restructure the economy in favor of Wall Street and Big Business. 

There also was agreement to exclude the 22 million non-citizens from the payments and protections in the package. In fact, it is estimated that 140 million people living in or close to poverty will not get close to adequate funding to weather the pandemic. Their lives are at risk.

The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet, however, is just the tip of the bailout iceberg. The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, quickly allocated no less than $4.2 trillion to bail out the banks and investors, already flush with cash reserves from near-zero interest rates and the Trump tax cut. The Fed has promised to do more if needed and for as long as necessary.

Meanwhile, a record 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment the last week of March. The real number of unemployed is actually much higher. Economists predict that the unemployment rate could shoot up to 30% in the coming months. 

We know already to whom the two parties of the bosses will turn to bear the brunt of keeping capitalism intact unless we wage a united fightback in coordination with the unions and organizations of the oppressed communities. The working class still is reeling from the 2008 bailout. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the mantra will be that there are no funds to pay for essential social services, education, healthcare, and other public benefits. Employer-provided healthcare benefits, in particular, will be eliminated or the cost thrust onto workers since the insurance industry already has projected a 40% increase in rates. Wages, let alone wage increases and pension benefits, will be on the chopping block, too.

On the Political Front: A Bankrupt Two-Party System

Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, finance capital is working overtime to block the rising movements for environmental justice; healthcare as a human right (Medicare for All); a living wage for all; full labor, civil and democratic rights; and equality. 

Joe Biden, a candidate beholden to Wall Street, is on the verge of being anointed the party’s presidential nominee, after a concerted effort by the party leadership to smash the progressive challenge from within its ranks. At a time when the bankruptcy of the current heathcare system has been exposed for all to see, Biden announced that if elected president, he would veto any Medicare for All bill that came to his desk!

It is likely that the Democratic National Committee will cancel the July Milwaukee convention and declare Biden its nominee, sharpening the political crisis and improving vastly the chances of Trump’s re-election.

Instead of promoting peace and international solidarity to fight COVID-19, the twin parties of war have increased sanctions on countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, causing further hardship and death to innocent civilians. In yet another desperate move, the Trump administration, without a word of protest from the Democrats, has raised bogus charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in its determined effort to foster regime change.  

“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Organizing Meeting

In the face of a massive corporate assault that has been heightened by the pandemic, workers are fighting back; in fact, they are fighting for their very lives. The resurgent, fighting spirit on the shop floors and in workplaces across the country of the past two years is being expressed in nationwide wildcat strikes and other job actions by workers demanding protective gear and safe working conditions denied them by unscrupulous employers. 

The list of wildcat strikes is growing by the day. Those involved include Instacart, Amazon and Whole Food workers across the country; nurses in Watsonville, Calif.; sanitation workers in Pittsburgh; ironworkers in Maine’s shipyards; bus drivers in Detroit; Fiat-Chrysler workers in Warren, Mich.; McDonalds workers in Illinois; grocery-store workers in McAllen, Texas; and poultry workers in Georgia. The list goes on.

In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on evictions and gentrification, police brutality, and mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately). In Chicago, tenants unable to pay their rent came together to organize a rent strike. 

In Baltimore, a city where 30% of households live on an income of less than $25,000 a year, residents unable to pay their water bills are fighting back. Home owners are particularly outraged by the fact that major corporations and new developments in gentrified sections of the city have not been made to pay their water utility bills for years, while hundreds of homes were taken from low-income people for owing the city taxes or utility bills, thereby pushing Black and working class families out of the city to facilitate gentrification. 

The fight in defense of undocumented immigrants and prisoners’ rights also has stepped up. Appeals and actions, framed in both health and political terms, are growing to demand the closure of the immigrant detention centers and the release of all detainees, as well the release of prisoners from the over-crowded jails.

The current pandemic shows no sign of letting up any time soon in the United States, so given the restrictions on face-to-face conferences, our usual ways of building opposition and seeking justice will have to continue electronically at this time. We cannot take a break from promoting the desperately needed effort to jettison the two old parties of Big Business on our way to building a just society. 

In early March, the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party, and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) issued a call for a national conference to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System.” The conference was slated to take place in Baltimore on July 31 to August 2, 2020. [See Conference Call attached.]

To prepare this conference (which may have to be held via webinar or zoom), the three sponsoring organizations will be holding an expanded Baltimore Conference Organizing Meeting on April 25, 2020. 

If you are interested in participating in this Organizing Meeting to help us promote the political orientation and aims of the Baltimore conference as outlined in the attached call to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System,” please contact us as soon as possible at the email address above or at baltimorefightback@gmail.com. 

Our goal is to bring together unionists and community activists who support the Baltimore Conference Call and who are willing to join us in organizing a united fightback in our workplaces and communities and in projecting that fightback into the political arena by laying the groundwork for an independent working-class party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed.

Baltimore 2020 Conference for Independent Politics

Website: www.lcipcampaign.org — email: baltimorefightback@gmail.com
c/o LFN: PO Box 3101, Oakland, CA 94609
– – – – – – – – – –

UPDATED CONFERENCE APPEAL

“Breaking the Grip of the Two-Party System”

July 31 to Aug. 2, 2020Baltimore, Maryland

Sponsored by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)

Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the United States, a resurgent, fighting spirit has flared up among frontline workers deprived of protective gear and measures essential to ensure their safety and that of their families and broader communities. Their daily struggle has amplified the resistance of other workers — teachers, autoworkers, and others — who over the past few years have been fighting to take back their unions and fend off the bosses’ assault on their rights, wages, benefits, and working conditions. In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on police brutality, mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately), gentrification and evictions, environmental injustice, and attacks on immigrants. In many cases, these movements overlap and support each other.

As an expression of this urge to fight back, the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” gained widespread support. We recognize that this support for Sanders represented a massive and positive desire for fundamental change. Having said that we also recognize that Sanders has been running as a candidate in the Democratic Party, which is rightfully called the “graveyard of social movements.” He also has affirmed to this day that he will campaign for a Democratic Party victory — even with Joseph Biden, the corporate-sponsored frontrunner opposed to Sanders’ platform, anointed by the party leadership.

With inequality skyrocketing, healthcare costs and student debt mounting, climate change roiling the planet, democratic and civil rights (especially voting rights) under increased assault, wages and benefits evaporating, as well as gentrification and the lack of affordable housing on the rise, a majority in the United States (57%) called for a new independent political party. (Gallup Headlines, July 19, 2019)

Now the crisis confronting the working class and communities of the oppressed will deepen under the impact of the economic and social shutdown that has been imposed to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. How will working people pay the accumulated debts from unpaid rent, mortgages and other loans, as well as costly utilities? Will we be confronted with the unacceptable choice of paying astronomical increases in healthcare insurance or losing coverage? We know full well that it is the working class and communities of the oppressed who will bear the brunt of the corporate bailout – disguised as a stimulus package – as Democratic and Republican politicians will declare that there are no more public funds available and as bosses maneuver to break union contracts and coerce the rollback of wages and benefits.

Unfortunately, the leadership of unions and of many organizations representing oppressed nationalities remain to this day tied at the hip to the Democratic Party — a party that implements the permanent war agenda of global capitalism. This relationship is the number one obstacle to building working-class power and advancing the interests of the working class and all oppressed people.

A bolder worker fightback is essential.

New Openings for Independent Working Class Politics

More than 700 leading labor and community activists have endorsed a Statement of Purpose — at the initiative of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — that calls for running independent labor-community candidates at the local and state level, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass labor-based political party.

These candidates — mandated by local labor-community coalitions — are not limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in their fightback platforms. This will help to cement the alliance between labor and the oppressed communities.

An important step has been taken to promote this orientation, with the convening of the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” regional conference on December 7, 2019, in Cleveland, OH, sponsored by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP), in cooperation with the LFN and LCIP.

In keeping with these developments, the LFN, the Ujima People’s Progress Party (a Black workers-led party based in Baltimore), and LCIP are convening a national conference for independent working class politics.

Such a national conference, of course, needs to incorporate the fight for independent Black working-class political action. Nnamdi Lumumba, convener of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, expressed well the articulation of the struggle for independent Black working-class politics and for a Labor-based party at the December “Break the Grip” conference in Cleveland, stating:

“We need to organize people around their own class interests and their own interests as nationally oppressed people. Helping to break the active or even passive support to the two capitalist, imperialist and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental goal of our efforts as the Ujima People’s Progress Party, as we seek to build a Black workers-led electoral party.

“While we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed and exploited workers on the job and in their communities, we affirm that nationally oppressed people have to center the discussion and self-organization around their own specific oppression. … Having said that, we need to create a mass-based working-class party that says capitalism does not serve you, imperialism does not serve you, and racism does not serve you.”

If you agree, please endorse this call by filling out the coupon below. Let us know if you would like to build a coalition in your city with the aim of running independent labor-community candidates at the local level and advancing the struggle to build a new mass working-class party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed..

[See endorsement / support coupon below.]

CONFERENCE ENDORSEMENT / SUPPORT COUPON

[   ]  I endorse this conference.  [   ]  Our organization endorses this conference.  
[   ] Enclosed is a contribution of $ ____ to defray costs (check payable to LFN).

[   ]  I/We would like to build a coalition in our city with the aim of running independent labor- community candidates and advancing the effort to build a new mass working-class party.

NAME

UNION / ORG & Title (for id. only)

CITY       
STATE                  
TEL                  

EMAIL

 Return to LFN, PO Box 3101, Oakland, CA 94609 — or to above email address and/or baltimorefightback@gmail.com.

All Out on Jan. 25 to Stop U.S. War on Iran!

Statement by Labor Fightback Network

The Labor Fightback Network adds its voice to the global demand to stop the march toward war with Iran!

– Bring all the troops home now!

– End drone, missile and bomber attacks on other countries!

– End sanctions against the peoples of Iran and all other countries!

– Take to the streets on Saturday, January 25th to win these demands!

As our country moves dangerously close to war with Iran, let’s stop this march to war in its tracks! The Trump administration has been ramping up threats of war against Iran ever since Trump departed from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated during the Obama administration.

Secretary of State Pompeo has fabricated and pushed charges against Iran, just like George W. Bush, Mike Cheney and Colin Powell did in 2003 to wage an unjust war on Iraq. Pompeo claimed that the U.S. has shown restraint with Iran, referring to false flag incidents in the Gulf of Oman and an attack on a Japanese tanker in the Straits of Hormuz in May and June 2019, respectively. Following Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional acts of war, including military attacks in Iraq and Syria on December 30, 2019 and mimicking Obama’s signature policy of assassination by drone of Iran’s top military officer Major General Qassim Suleimani, in Iraq on a diplomatic mission, Trump ordered an additional 3,500 troops to the region.

In a tweet and off-the-cuff response, Trump promised retaliation against any Iranian attack, threatening to target 52 Iranian locations, including cultural sites. This would endanger civilians and constitute a war crime according to international law.

Now that Iran has retaliated with missile attacks on January 6, 2020, on two U.S. military bases in Iraq with no serious casualties, there’s no telling what the Trump administration will do. Despite a recent national address saying there will be no further strike against Iran, Trump offered no strategy, called for further isolation of Iran and rejected any plans for troop withdrawal, as the Iraqi parliament has recently demanded.

Anti-war actions are planned around the nation and the world. Around 200 organizations, including the United National Antiwar Coalition-(UNAC), ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, Popular Resistance, US Labor Against the War, the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) and others are calling for a Global Day of Protest – No War on Iran for January 25th, 2020 in Washington DC and across the nation. 

The Labor Fightback Network endorses this call for the January 25th Global Protest – No War on Iran. We further call for the U.S. to pull out all troops from Iraq, Syria and the region. End drone strikes and missile assaults on these and all countries. End all acts of war, economic as well as military. We also call for an end to collaboration with Israel and Saudi Arabia in further war designs.

Report on the Cleveland“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Conference

Cleveland, Ohio — December 7, 2019

By Labor Fightback Network

The people of the United States deserve better than what two-party politics has delivered on the important issues — jobs, healthcare, equal justice, peace and the environment. In fact, large numbers of people are ready to move toward independent politics. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57% of the people see the need for a third major political party. Virtually three-quarters of independents (72%) “support a third major political party.”

We may not get too many more chances to give an organized expression to this quest for independent, working class politics. The U.S. could be one cracked head away from Hong Kong, Gaza, Bolivia, or Baghdad. Civil and labor rights are already being strangled by the powerful corporate front group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is pushing anti-protest and anti-labor laws, and by the far-right turn of politics promoted by SCOTUS and by any U.S president who chooses to emulate his or her favorite oppressor of the week.

People of color and low-income people are still fighting for equal opportunity and justice. Mass incarceration rates in the U.S. exceed all other nations at 724 per 100,000 people. Workers struggle to survive on low wages, waiting for their piece of the “American Dream.” In 2016, people in this country spent twice as much on health care than other high-income nations, with 27.4 million people still without health insurance in that period. The U.S. “war on terror” — a bipartisan war on working people at home and abroad — has claimed millions of lives and is expected to cost taxpayers $6 trillion! It’s time to reclaim governance, equal rights, fair pay and dignity for all.

The Labor Fightback Network encourages community and labor activists to venture out and explore the options to build a Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).  We’ll be in Middleburg Heights, Ohio on December 7, 2019 for the “Break the Grip on the Two-Party System” conference https://www.facebook.com/events/486321765290865/ hosted by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP). We’ll be unpacking the main question of an independent political party. The topics for deliberation will include: (1) Medicare for All; (2) endless regime change wars and deadly sanctions vs. international working class solidarity; and (3) forced migration and deportation.

HEALTH CARE

The twin parties of Big Business fatten at the trough of health care, which is nearly 18% of the U.S. economy. Spending twice as much on health care per capita as the other industrialized countries, we in the U.S. have by far the worst outcomes in terms of infant mortality and longevity. We already spend enough to provide a high standard of care to everyone, but the Republican and Democratic parties maintain the unjust, unequal and inefficient status quo in order to preserve the cash flowing from the profiteers. They are bought and owned by the commercial health insurance corporations, hospital chains, the Wall Street drug cartel and so many vendors.

Dominated by the marketplace and finance capital, our health-care system is a story of haves and have-nots, with services and facilities shut down in working-class communities, particularly in communities of color, while gargantuan health-care empires grow through mergers and takeovers. A single-payer financing mechanism, such as expanded and improved Medicare for All, will value each one’s health and life equally, undercutting this drive toward inequality and weakening the grip of Big Capital on our lives. But the old parties of the bosses block us at every turn, terrified that we are finding the path to victory over their crushing oppression.

JOBS

The Republican Party is known for its anti-labor positions, so union workers have tended to support the Democrats to fight for U.S. workers and low-income people. Democrats have failed to push for meaningful labor law reform leaving loopholes and free rides for corporations. For example, employers must recognize unions once workers ratify an agreement in an election, but employers can delay elections for months or even years. Once a union shop is established, they face no obligation to reach a contract with their newly unionized workers. Employers are prohibited from firing workers or threatening to closing shop if workers organize to unionize, but the penalties for such violations are insufficient. Democrats also could have repealed the part of the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows states to pass “right to work” laws that penalize organized labor by allowing workers in unionized workplaces to enjoy the benefits without paying dues to the union that made that well-paying job possible.

Between 1978 and 2017, labor union membership in the United States dropped by more than half — from 26% of the workforce to 10.7%. The U.S. economy is breaking records in economic disparity, according to Census Bureau data. CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978, while typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time. [2] From 1979 to 2016, the wages of the top 1% grew nearly 150%, whereas the wages of the other 90% grew just 21.3%, about one-seventh as fast. Today’s low unemployment rate is not enough to spark any meaningful wage growth for most workers.

With a declining middle-class, workers want change. About half of all nonunion workers say they would vote for a union if given the opportunity. This is up by 50% when a similar survey was taken in 1995. Nationally, 64% of people are favorable toward unions, according to a 2019 Gallup survey. [3] Despite this reality, the National Labor Relations Board under Trump has stymied workers’ ability to form unions and engage in collective bargaining by curtailing worker protections and failing in its obligation to administer and enforce the National Labor Relations Act.

The Democrats also have failed the labor movement. Barack Obama won the election in 2008 by promising workers that once in office he would enact the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have removed the main obstacles to organizing unions in the workplaces across the country. During Obama’s first two years in office, the Democrats held a majority in both Houses of Congress. Passing EFCA was do-able. But the Democrats buckled to Big Business, which funds both the Democrats and the Republicans.

JUSTICE

Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million, with African Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. This was fueled by both major parties competing in “tough on crime” agendas.

Bill Clinton handed a huge gift to the private prison industry with the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill. This legislation gave federal approval for states to pass even more punitive laws and harsher practices by prosecutors and police, incarcerating more people and with longer sentences. The 1994 law shaped Democratic Party politics for years to come.

Under the leadership of Bill Clinton, Democrats sought to wrest control of crime issues from Republicans, so the two parties began a bidding war to increase penalties for crime, trying to outdo one another. Republicans continued their fear-mongering and pushed for more punitive policies in the states. Trump has ratcheted up white supremacy with his racist language and his directives aimed at rolling back federal oversight over police brutality and killings targeting African Americans.

The George W. Bush administration fostered a climate of fear and loathing for immigrants, particularly Muslim-Americans, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Unconstitutional policies — a regime of disappearances and torture, special registration of men from Muslim-majority nations, and expanded use of Guantanamo Bay Prison — were implemented under Bush. Fear in our nation allowed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Barack Obama continued all these policies and earned the name “Deporter-in-Chief.” Guantanamo is still holding 40 men indefinitely. Now under Trump, asylum seekers, immigrants and Jewish and Muslim-Americans are more predominately facing discrimination and the wrath and violence of hate groups.

PEACE

Our bloated military budget has averaged around $700 billion annually since 2008, and, rather than secure peace, it just fuels more wars, deaths and devastation. It’s true that the military supplies some union jobs, but that money could supply plenty more union jobs in the civilian sector. After World War II, the economic conversion movement played an important role in joining union leadership with the peace movement to figure out the nuts and bolts of converting from war time industry to peace time. A Just Transition to a peace economy is possible and necessary. Candidates from both parties are heavily funded by top weapons contractors at the rate of $26.5 million in 2008 and well over $30 million in 2016. There will be no peace as long as war parties are in charge.

THE CONFERENCE

With 80% of us now living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, a precarious nation is at its limits. Ominous economic data and politics as usual suggest that working people will be subjected to another economic downturn and another rigged Democratic primary. By taking steps now, we can be prepared to offer a genuine alternative in the face of those crises. Without it, Trump and the far right will continue to fill the growing void in political representation.

Join us for this two-fold conference to be held on Saturday, December 7. The first session, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. with luncheon, will take place at the Middleburg Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library, located at 16699 Bagley Road’ in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. It will be followed by a dinner session with speakers from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Brew Garden,18590 Bagley Road also in Middleburg Heights.

Speakers include:
• Margaret Flowers, MD, Co-chair Green Party US; • Dan Kovalik, labor and human rights lawyer, author, and radio and TV commentator; • Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO); • Nnamdi Lumumba, Representative, Ujima People’s Progress Party; • Kevin Zeese, public interest attorney who co-directs PopularResistance; • Robert Fitrakis, political science professor and investigative journalist; • Alan Benjamin, Editorial Board member, The Organizer newspaper; • Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, co-director, InterReligious Task Force on Central America; and • Don Bryant, Board member, Cleveland Peace Action, among others.

This conference is being held in cooperation with the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network that traces its continuity back to Tony Mazzocchi’s Labor Party Advocates and to the 1996 Labor Party Convention in Cleveland. Our organization, the Labor Education & Arts Project (LEAP), is indebted for their support. The 1996 Labor Party Convention in Cleveland was attended by 1,400 delegates from 9 international unions, over 300 union locals, state and regional bodies and 40 chapters nationwide with union and non-union workers as members. Though there was contention regarding running candidates immediately following the founding convention, it did accomplish adopting a constitution and program. Reconnecting with that effort today should be a top priority of the U.S. labor movement.

The conference is sponsored by the Labor Education & Arts Project (LEAP) and Labor Fightback Network (LFN) in cooperation with Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network of labor and community activists. On the web at: https://lcipcampaign.org/

Donations, gratefully received, may be sent to: LEAP, P.O. Box 5334, Cleveland, OH 44101 and made payable to same. Alternatively, a donate button appears on our Labor Education & Arts Project social media page: https://www.facebook.com/LaborEducation/.

Contributions are tax deductible in accordance with Section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. For donations of $25 and above, we will gladly send you, postage prepaid, copies of our LaborFest booklets: “Eugene Debs Centennial” and “A Tribute to the IWW a.k.a. The Wobblies.” If you choose to donate via the donate button on our Facebook page, please send your name and return address to newdeallaborart@gmail.com.

Mike Carano

Mike Carano is a unionist and political activist in Tallmadge, Ohio

Those demanding change must be pragmatic. First, we must organize and call for a national conference of unions and community and justice groups — local to national — to hammer out a two-fold program: a strong platform that takes on the systemic roots that created a 45-year decline in wages for working people and, a practical plan to form a new party whose candidates are embedded in the needs of the mass of Americans, not the needs of the corporate and financial class. It will be tragic once again if we waste our energies on an inside strategy that has time and again borne no fruit. 

The inside strategy is a dead end. We should not doubt that the centrist, corporate Democrats will do all they can in a replay of 2016 to keep brother Bernie Sanders from the nomination. And though we applaud Sanders for single-handedly changing the discussion and narratives in this country as no one has done in decades, the Democratic Party will not take us where we need to go. For that reason, we call on all Sanders supporters to join us, if not now then after the DNC and the mass media have cheated Sanders once again.  If we want real, systemic change, then we must not allow our energy, time, and money to once again get siphoned into a party that will never serve our needs.

Therefore, our efforts and needed political work must steer us in one direction — a formation of new party of, from, and for the working people of this nation. 

The younger generation is onto the two-party game and has no affinity or affection for the Democratic Party. And why should they? Their generation has been bludgeoned by the neoliberal two-party system.

The corporate parties gave them the distinction of being the first generation not to fare better than their parents, not to be able to find decent jobs with livable wages, to be straddled with a lifetime of student debt, to be unable to find affordable housing, and to be incapable of planning a future, if in fact a future is possible with the cloud of climate catastrophe circling over their heads.

So we must act. And therefore we call all like-minded people to join this effort. And those who still hope for a Sanders candidacy, if again disappointed, should know that we are here with the one solution, one that will not end in disappointment if we tirelessly exert our efforts in the needed work, one that runs candidates tied to a platform built around the real needs of working people. The door is open. Get in.

“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System: Labor & Community for an Independent Party”

Regional Conference

Cleveland, Ohio

December 7, 2019

cover of program booklet of 1918 LEAP-sponsored Debs Centennial Conference

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Please join us in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 7 at a regional conference titled, “Break the Grip of the Two-party System: Labor & Community for an Independent Party.” The conference is sponsored by Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP) in cooperation with Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).

This two-fold event will be held with a conference from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. followed by a dinner session with speakers from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. 

APWU President Mark Dimondstein

The Labor Education & Arts Project sponsored a Eugene V. Debs Centennial in October 2018 that featured the letter of greetings sent to the gathering by Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). In that letter Brother Dimondstein noted that, “the fundamental politics of both the Democratic and Republican parties … have undercut and failed the working class.”  

As was the case with the multi-panel Centennial, the topics for the conference and dinner will include the following: (1) a duopoly foreign policy and its regime change agenda via the endless drumbeat for war and, if not war, then the scourge of sanctions; (2) a white-supremacist inspired immigration policy as successor to Obama’s legacy as “Deporter in Chief;” and (3) the endlessly forestalled question of Medicare for All.

The list of speakers is still in formation and will include (1) Dan Kovalik, a labor and human rights lawyer and author; (2) Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO), (3) Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, (4) Nnamdi Lumumba, Representative, Ujima People’s Progress Party, and (5) Alan Benjamin, Editorial Board member, The Organizer newspaper.

For more information about time and place of the conference, and for an update on panels and speakers, please go to lcipcampaign.org — which is the website of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network of labor activists that traces its continuity back to Tony Mazzocchi’s Labor Party Advocates.

Best in Unity,

Tom Sodders

LEAP Corresponding Secretary

Campaign for Independent Black Political Action

IN THIS DOSSIER:

(1) Statement by Ujima People’s Progress Party in Support of LCIP

(2) Call to Exit Both Parties of the Bosses — Interview with Brandon Walker of the Ujima People’s Progress Party

(3)  A Contribution to the Discussion: For Independent Black Political Action! — by Alan Benjamin

(4) Statement by Clarence Thomas, Retired member of ILWU Local 10 and Co-Convener of the Million Worker March

* * * * * * * * * *

(1) Ujima People’s Progress Party Statement in Support of Labor & Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)

Since the launching of our campaign, the Ujima People’s Progress Party has called for the building of an alternate electoral option for working-class people. It has been obvious to us that support for the capitalist duopoly control of the electoral process has undermined the interests Black, Brown and working-class people. The support working people give to imperialist parties and their politics in the form of our votes, donations and political action to advance capitalist/imperialist interests only deepens our own misery.

Black workers, as well as all workers, must engage in independent political action to fight for our interests and oppose the actions of imperialist forces which threaten to take more and more resources from working and poor people. On the state and local level, we have called for a political party that is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and fights to empower Black, Brown and working-class people. There must be a national voice for these same calls and using the electoral process is opportunity to raise the consciousness of working-class people.

Politics is more than elections and voting but, in this era, it has become the most obvious form of political participation for the masses. We understand elections as non-violent struggles between elements of the ruling class for control of the State apparatus to implement policy to advance their economic interests.

On both the local and national levels, elections rarely offer working people options for transforming the world, so helping to break with active or even passive support to capitalist, imperialist and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental key goal of our efforts to build a Black workers-led electoral party.

There is a need to contend with the ideas of the ruling class in all political arenas. In addition to the local struggles workers must carry out on the electoral front, we have long supported the call for the national Labor & Community for an Independent Party work. Such a formation would unite the grassroot struggles of working people and put them squarely on the table for debate against the capitalist parties.

Working-class people need solutions that are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. They need to be organized and mobilized around policies that oppose imperialism, oppression and the exploitation of nations for their resources or cheap labor. The ideas from the two ruling class capitalist parties stunt the vision and unity of working people not only in this country but all over the world; the very justness of these ideas must be challenged.

As opposed to the parasitic and paternalistic relationship that the ruling class parties have forced upon Black, Brown and other oppressed peoples, we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed workers on the job as well as in their communities.

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(2) Call to Exit Both Parties of the Bosses: Interview with Brandon Walker

Presentation

Dear Friends and comrades,

Please find below brief excerpts from an interview with Brandon Walker, outreach coordinator of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, that was broadcast on The Real News Network, based in Baltimore. (The full interview has been posted to the LCIP website: lcipcampaign.org.)

The interview was conducted on September 29, 2019, by Jacqueline Loqman following a demonstration that we helped to organize to protest the participation of Black workers in the Democratic and Republican parties — both imperialist parties.

Specifically, it was a protest of a #Blexit conference organized in Baltimore by Candace Owens of the right-wing Turning Point USA organization. The aim of this right-wing group is to drive the Black community out of the deadly embrace of the Democratic Party and into the equally dangerous Republican party. 

We called for the exit of all capitalist and imperialist parties and the building of independent working class parties and movements.

In solidarity,

Nnamdi Lumumba (Ujima People’s Progress Party)

———–

Excerpts from Interview

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: This is Jackie Luqman with The Real News Network.

Trump’s recent disparaging comments about Baltimore have turned the attention of the right wing of America’s political apparatus onto the city. Never one to miss an opportunity to promote her new right-wing gimmick to allegedly attract Black voters away from the Democratic Party, Candace Owens of the organization Turning Point USA held the group’s #Blexit Conference at Baltimore’s Rams Head Live last week. 

Here to talk about the protest that took place at that event, and about the real political options for Black voters, is Brandon Walker. Brandon, a Baltimore native and resident, is the Outreach Coordinator for the Ujima People’s Progress Party in Baltimore. He is also a member of Black Alliance for Peace.

Let’s start with Trump’s rhetoric about Baltimore because that’s arguably the reason that Owens brought her rally to Rams Head Live. What’s your response to Trump’s comments about Baltimore?

BRANDON WALKER: Trump comes at the issue from a right-wing perspective when he casts an entire city as rat-infested.The right-wingers have taken advantage of this issue and used it as a political jab to slight the Democratic mis-leadership, as a way to gather up votes for the Republican Party in 2020. The right-wing activists have an agenda. They are telling a city with a majority Black population, “Hey, we’re your friends, leave the Democratic Party and come to the Republican Party!” — another imperialist party.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: When you’re talking about the Black mis-leadership class, what does that mean in terms of the situation in Baltimore?

BRANDON WALKER: For the past 150 years the Democrats and Republicans have controlled the mayor’s office; it’s gone back and forth. Out of those 150 years, 75% of the time, or more, saw Black faces in power, in servitude to white power, to the white ruling class. The issues confronting everyday folks such as myself, working-class folks who try to make a living and also take care of their families, tended to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, disparities and under-development in our communities increased, and people continued to get swindled out of their votes.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: So what we’re talking about in terms of Black mis-leadership is mostly the Democratic Party. This is the focus of Candace Owens and her #Blexit organization. That’s the kind of narrative she is seizing upon, but what you’re saying is that there is a bigger narrative than that. It’s not just that the Democratic Party doesn’t help Black people, it’s also that the Republican Party leadership in Baltimore hasn’t helped Black people. Is that correct?

BRANDON WALKER: Absolutely. What we have is a political mis-leadership — from the state house in Annapolis to Baltimore City down on Holliday Street — that does not have the political will to defend our interests as Black people. Every time we elect someone from the two major parties, we’re just electing white supremacy. He or she may have a different form of Black face, but nothing will be done for the constituents; only the interests of the white ruling class will be served.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: What you’re saying is that whether you elect a Black Democrat or a white Republican, or a white Democrat or a Black Republican, what you’re electing is someone who serves the ruling class and does not serve the working people at all.

BRANDON WALKER: Absolutely.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Tell us about the protest of the #Blexit conference last week at Ram’s Head Live. 

BRANDON WALKER: We were out in the streets to make sure that the media could not ignore the advocates of independent Black radical politics, as well as those who are fighting for the economic interests of poor and working-class folks. We wanted to get the word out that, hey, the city is in need of new leadership: Why go with Democratic Party version of white supremacy or with the Republican Party version of white supremacy?

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: I want to ask you this last question: Is our only choice between a Democratic Party that takes advantage of the Black vote and a Republican Party that ignores Black issues? Are those the only choices Black voters have before them, or do your organizations offer another choice to pursue the self-determination of Black voters in this country?

BRANDON WALKER: There are other choices. You have the Peoples Power Assembly and the Ujima People’s Progress Party. The idea is to win power back to the people using local campaigns and local elections. The idea is to bring change locally.

As workers and also as the Black left, we believe in the right to housing, education, clothing, access to education, and also jobs that pay a livable wage and transportation and environmental justice, against the racism. We are also opposed to the putrid two-party system. We no longer have any other choice but to invest in ourselves to move forward. Together as a coalition, we can do better.

———–

(c)  A Contribution to the Discussion: For Independent Black Political Action!

by Alan Benjamin (Editorial Board member, The Organizer)

There is a component of the fight for working-class unity and independent political action that must be a high priority: the Black struggle, which, in the aftermath of the uprising in the Black liberation movement since Ferguson, Missouri, has moved to center stage in U.S. politics. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson sparked the beginning of  a mass upsurge against police violence based on the assertion that Black Lives Matter. A new Civil Rights movement is taking shape.

We are at the beginning of a long struggle that must uproot white supremacy and a system based on racism. There is a state of emergency in Black America, with mass unemployment at depression levels, mass incarceration and an epidemic of police violence.Many gains of the Civil Rights era have been eroded or destroyed. Voting rights are under attack, and income inequality affects Black people at a disproportionate percentage. Austerity and the assault on public-sector employment have translated into a further setback for living standards in the Black community.

Because of a history and pattern of discrimination in the private sector, Black people are 30% more likely to find employment in the public sector. Budget cuts during the “Great Recession” were devastating to an already vulnerable population. The struggle against police brutality and racism is an urgent task that cannot be simply reduced to one of class against class. The oppressed can’t be expected to wait until the unions go into motion.

We must support the independent self-organization and activity of the oppressed Black people. We must support their right to self-determination. We must understand that white supremacy has been and continues to be the central source of division within the working class in the United States.

To help overcome this obstacle, we must fight for the unions to champion the rights of racially and nationally oppressed groups, and we must support and participate in the autonomous movements and organizations of Blacks and Latinos, as part of an overall strategy of building working-class unity. This will require breaking with the Democratic Party and forging a unity of equals with workers of other nationalities. It will require building an independent Black Working Class Party, which could be linked to the struggle for a labor-based party rooted in the trade unions and oppressed communities.

This is an important means today for U.S. workers and their organizations, with their oppressed allies, to break free of the stranglehold of the capitalist parties. 

– – – – –

(d) Statement by Clarence Thomas, retired member of ILWU Local 10 and co-convener of the Million Worker March

As an African-American trade unionist, past secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, and one of the founders of the Million Worker March (MWM) movement, I am endorsing the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). 

This Campaign is a continuation of the MWM’s call for workers in the U.S. to “mobilize in our own name,” independent of the ruling class-controlled political parties “around an independent agenda for working people acting in their own name.”

All those who believe in a political party that represents the interests of the working class and recognizes the right of self-determination for African Americans and all oppressed people will understand the importance of supporting this Campaign.

Sandy Eaton

Sandy Eaton, RN — Former chair, Legislative Council, National Nurses United

The United States has perhaps the most corrupt electoral system in the developed world. Our oligarchy rules through a two-party system which offers the illusion of choice, but the acceptable range of policy choices steadily shrinks and shifts to the right. Many struggle valiantly, but largely in vain, within this orbit to win fundamental victories over corporate control of all aspects of the economy. Every advance that is won is in constant danger so long as the ultimate power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.

As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for healthcare justice within our hospitals, unions, community groups and reform movements, I am frustrated and furious at our slow pace and at the blockade thrown up by industry elites and the State apparatus to maintain the deadly status quo.

In my home state of Massachusetts, for example, the Democratic Party has held a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of its legislature for as long as anyone can remember. No matter who sits in the corner office, corporate control of our extensive healthcare system has been maintained and strengthened. Our single-payer healthcare bill has never been allowed out of committee for a floor debate and vote. The same is true of other efforts for fundamental change.

So many of our unions and community organizations are bound to the Democratic Party. This 2019-2020 presidential election cycle provides a good example of candidates’ posturing regarding the Medicare for All question. The Democratic Party and its elite are tied to finance capital, which now controls almost all aspects of the medical-industrial complex and for whom health care provides a rich revenue stream.

Only a militant movement of the working class, organized in the workplace and in the community, can lead us out of this morass. We need a critical mass of unions and communities, particularly communities of color, to break free of the Democratic Party orbit and speak out with a unified voice. Political independence leading to the formation of a mass political party of the working class will shift the balance of power and allow us to win — and hold onto — decent jobs, affordable housing, safe infrastructure and a sustainable environment. Our unity will grow to the extent we end the attacks on people of color, women, immigrants and LGBTQ folks.

We need a united front against austerity, racism, war and fascism, an independent political movement bringing together these streams of struggle into a mighty force. Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) provides the basis for this unity in action for peace, prosperity, unity and hope.

Donna S. Dewitt

Donna S. Dewitt, President Emeritus (South Carolina AFL-CIO)

Today, more than ever, workers and families need to unite with communities to address the growing concerns of health care, education, economic and environmental justice, worker’s rights, criminal justice reform, women’s rights, immigrant rights and the list of issues and inequalities we are facing in our communities.

Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) is the perfect opportunity to bring labor and communities together to work on the issues that are most important. It was evident in the 2018 elections that communities came together on issues that impacted them and elected candidates that were addressing these issues.

South Carolina is the only state with a Labor Party ballot line and one area we feel voters would consider voting for a candidate on is Medicare for All. No matter what issues of concern arise, we are confident that the money saved with the implementation of Medicare for All would assist in eliminating many of the economic issues impacting South Carolina. LCIP is an opportunity to transcend the corporate agendas of political parties and focus efforts and resources to the issues that will organize labor and communities into a network of activists creating change for independent action.