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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...

What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Class Consciousness & Politics

Former Attorney General and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party candidate for governor Mike Hatch is now gone from his $100,000.00 a year job to which he was appointed by his cloned successor Lori Swanson. Mike Hatch is gone from state government; good riddance. But the politics he represented remain

The real question that now needs to be asked, and answered, is, "How did such a self-centered, self-serving, opportunist politician who has stood for absolutely nothing ever get nominated, then elected in the first place?"

Mike Hatch used issues of importance to working people to grand-stand; rather than getting problems solved. On the national political scene John McCain is a master of this tactic; as were fascists Hitler, Franco and Mussolini.

Mike Hatch was well trained by those who put forth the idea that what is needed to win in elections was "progressive sounding policy directions" without providing progressive solutions.

Two issues that readily come to mind where Hatch did this are predatory lending and health care. Both issues of enormous importance and consequences to working-class families.

The real solution to predatory lending is the establishment of a state bank to loan money to anyone who wants a home with payments in line with income. There is no reason why a working class family shouldn't have a modest home to live in just because some banker says "no" to a loan.

Hatch used the old, "Help me win and I will take care of you after the election" technique. He used this one real well with the United Automobile Workers leadership regarding the closing of the Ford Plant; Gettelfinger and Williams just sucked this right up and told local UAW leaders, "Get Hatch elected and your problems are good as solved." Now that the going is getting rough, Gettelfinger and Williams are no place to be seen; they don't want to hear about the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant; nor do they want to participate in a discussion of the only way to save the Ford Plant: Public Ownership.

This says a great deal about the role of money, corruption, manipulation, and
control in Minnesota politics generally, and in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party specifically.

Too many workers have bought into all the bullshit from Gettelfinger, Williams and Ray Waldron about workers being "middle-class."

Workers are working-class.

The well-heeled of the "Summit Hill Club," the DFL Business Caucus, the CEO's of Ford Motor Company, the casino managements, the CEO's of the insurance, HMO's, pharmaceutical, mining, forestry, power generating, and banking industries... these are the capitalist class. The spokespersons for this capitalist class include the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association among other lobbying groups who are employed by this capitalist class which lives off the labor of the working class.

The lack of class consciousness in politics is what allows opportunist politicians like Mike Hatch, Amy Klobuchar, and Keith Ellison, together with the majority of the State DFL legislative caucus to continue to get away with offering up nice sounding progressive policy directions at election time without offering forth a single solution once elected because they are fully aware that those who are funding their campaigns would have to pay for real solutions to the problems working people are experiencing; this is what class struggle is all about... if workers were to be paid real living wages this would come out of the corporate bottom line... profits would suffer; wouldn't that be the pits?

The United States is not immune from the class struggle as apologists for the capitalist system turned political science instructors turned politicians like State Senator Leroy Stumpf tells his students; but the again, Leroy Stumpf is the only DFL'er ever to get campaign contributions from the Marvin family, owners of Marvin Windows and Doors where the family got rich paying poverty wages and beating up union organizers... and laughing and boasting about the beatings to boot.

In fact, there isn't a single problem where the class struggle is not apparent... from the Ford Plant closing issue to single-payer, universal health care. Working people want to keep the Ford Plant open; the business community wants this plant demolished and out of site, out of mind as quickly as possible because this plant represents this class struggle; a struggle between the bosses and the workers; the workers have struggled for almost a century to get wages up and to make working conditions better... we can't have this example of the determined struggle of working people for a better life serving as an example to all those other workers employed in the area getting poverty wages, can we? We all know the issue: The higher the wages paid, the less profits for business. This is the capitalist system when everything else is stripped aside.

Seventy-two percent of the DFL convention delegates voted for single-payer,
universal health care as a result of a very prolonged grass-roots organizing
effort; in fact, this struggle for single-payer, universal health care has been going on as long as the Ford Plant has been around. Legislation supporting single-payer has not been forthcoming from the DFL caucus in the Senate or the House. We need to know why because this gets us down to the nitty-gritty: the DFL Business Caucus and the well-heeled are firmly in control of the Minnesota DFL and they have blocked any attempt by working-class Minnesotans to have their health care problems resolved through legislation. This is a battle between working people and the HMO's and the insurance industry; again, what is good for working people is seen as bad for the capitalists. Again, class struggle... which makes it imperative that working people develop a class conscious outlook towards problems; otherwise, these problems in health care will never be solved.

Not only in the areas of health care and the Ford Plant closing is this lack of class consciousness on the part of working people an obstacle to solving problems; but also on a number of other issues of importance to working people: the lack of rights for over 20,000 casino workers employed in this state at poverty wages who go to work in smoke-filled casinos as workers wearing union jackets and buttons plunk their hard earned money into slot machines without any consideration for their fellow workers who don't even have the basic package of rights all other workers enjoy; Minnesota's "At-will hiring, At-will firing" legislation, the major impediment to union organizing that not even "card check" will solve has yet to be repealed to reflect real human rights in our modern world; Minnesota's unemployment Compensation laws are among the most backwards in the United States--- giving employers the right to appeal decisions without providing any reason... talk about a class issue! Enabling, through legislation, the right of the employers, without reason, to challenge the claim of a worker to the miserly little bit provided by unemployment compensation... this is the very clear example of just how class based politics really is.

The real irony in all of this is that the leadership of the Minnesota AFL-CIO
and other unions dumped so much money from members' dues along with other union
resources into supporting both Hatch and his clone, Lori Swanson... and what do
they get in return? A kick in the butt; because the trade union movement, for the most part, lacks class consciousness; and, the rank-and-file members have not established any kind of rank-and-file organizations in order to keep the leadership accountable for fostering a progressive working class agenda as an alternative to the capitalist agenda put forward by the big-business community.

This should send a message to rank-and-file union members to get involved in
their unions and do some house cleaning, too.

Had the rank-and-file members of the UAW Ford Local 879 been organized independently of the administrative caucus of Gettelfinger and Williams, they would be in a much better position today to fight to save the plant and their jobs. Here again, you have this union leadership of Gettelfinger that pursues the same line of thinking as the leadership of the Minnesota DFL... posture for the membership and their local elected leaders with nice sounding progressive policy statements... and once the wrecking ball hits come out fighting mad... but by then it is too late.

It takes class consciousness to figure this all out.

No wonder Humphrey and Mondale threw Elmer Benson and the Red Finns out of the Minnesota DFL; and Reuther threw the Reds out of the UAW... its all about class consciousness.

The sooner working people start thinking about life and their problems as being part of the working class, rather than the middle class, the quicker we can get on with establishing a political agenda that sets for itself the task of solving real problems with real solutions. Until then, I'm afraid we can kiss the Ford Plant good-bye, and forget about single-payer, universal health care.

Alan L. Maki

Director of Organizing,
Red Lake, Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees' Union Organizing Committee


Member of the MN DFL State Central Committee, Roseau County