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Reporting on the St. Louis Launch of the Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor (CMPL)

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Labor Advocates Seek a New Way Forward for Workers

[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Tuesday evening, September 28th 2010; New and familiar faces from St. Louis’ activist and Labor Left alike came together at the Carpenter Library to hear an appeal from the Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor (CMPL) on the pressing need for a New Left political alignment in America to combat the rising tide of corporate power and poverty, and give real voice to America’s Working Class, minorities, immigrants and the oppressed alike.

Their solution: a mass Labor Party, based in the Unions and Working Class communities across the country.
The CMPL is a broad coalition of Left and Labor activists, community leaders, students and workers founded by the Workers International League (WIL), a national organization which advocates for the interests of the Working Class. The purpose of the campaign, as described on their website, is to:

1. Explain the need for the labor movement to break with the Democrats and Republicans, run independent labor candidates, and build a mass labor party based on the unions.
2. Connect this idea with the struggles of workers and youth.
3. Show how a mass labor party could change society for the benefit of the working class, which makes up the vast majority of the population.

Speakers at the event included Nikhil Kothegal, an unemployed full-time college student and former educator in St. Louis Public Schools and member of the WIL; Tim Kaminski, a retired UAW local 110 committeeman and production line worker at the Fenton, MO Chrysler plant; and David May, a local production line worker and also member of the WIL.

While the panel made a solid argument for the need for a mass Labor Party to continue the economic struggle of the Unions on the political stage, speaker Tim Kaminski stole the show with a fiery critique of decades of corrupt Union leadership, joined at the hip to the Democrats and often closer to the corporate executives on the other side of the table than they are to their own rank and file.

In his critique Kaminski was clear “we need to base this campaign on the unions, because they are the only true mass organizations the American Working Class has got left, but we can’t repeat the mistakes of the National Labor Party Advocates in the 1990’s. We’ve got to base this campaign on the rank and file – NOT the leadership – because when the leadership defends the interest of the corporations, of the bosses, instead of the workers; they are not on our side. If people want to ignore the truth like its still 1937 – it ain’t! – we won’t be able to sort out any of these problems which we, the working class, face each and every day. It’s got to come from the rank and file.”

The panel did not get by without some criticism, though. A lively discussion followed in which participants in the diverse audience raised questions on issues from the circular nature of the “race to the bottom”, the destruction of our communities and the ways in which workers are kept divided (union against non-union, white against black, immigrant vs. citizen and male vs. female workers).

Questions were raised as to the nature of the historic “Labor’s Giant Step” and the conflicting roles of the militant Congress of Industrial Organizations (the “CIO” in today’s ALF-CIO) opposed to Labor’s alliance with the Democrats, the production and prosperity boom of the post war period in the 1950’s, the current period of retreat and decline in the Labor Union movement, and the failure of the National Labor Party effort in the late 1990’s.

In reply to the panel’s answers to the questions and points raised by the audience, local activist Don DeVivo said “clearly you’re right about one thing; the two-party system isn’t working.” One participant, a local Labor activist and member of the Laborers, Bradley Veltry asked “this all sounds right, but what are the nuts and bolts of getting this started?”

The panel closed with David May of the WIL answering that question with an appeal to join and support a local committee that is tasked with reaching out to unions, community organizations, churches, student groups, the homeless and working class communities besieged and threatened by the economic crisis; to advocate for local independent Labor candidates and 3rd Party candidates when their campaigns are strongly pro-Labor; to advocate within union locals for the withholding of PAC funds from Democrats; to make contacts, build bridges, rally around struggling communities, and uncompromisingly raise the demands and interests of the Working Class majority.

Before the audience dismissed and rallied around a CMPL sign-up sheet on the other side of the room, David May proposed a thought: that the real reason we’ve not seen a serious fightback against cuts in public services and against attacks on working people’s communities is because our fractured Labor Movement is fighting on the economic front – but giving financial and political support to a pro-corporate, pro-capitalist party (the Democrats) who keep Wall Street especially close in their “Big Tent”, closer than Labor can ever be – and our fractured political Left is torn between one single issue campaign after another. Isn’t it time our unions, the fighting organizations of the Working Class, carried the economic struggle onto the political field and united all America’s oppressed minorities under their own organization, A mass Party of Labor?

May ended with a quote by Victor Hugo, which seemed strangely appropriate: “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

[FONT="Courier New"]Paul Poposky is a Socialist activist in the greater-St. Louis area involved in local and national social justice campaigns, and a proud member of CWA Local 6355.[/FONT]



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