Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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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...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Are we sticking with the Democrats in 2010 and 2012?

I hope people will distribute this widely for discussion in spite of its controversial aspects.

This is an interesting article below for discussion by Howie Hawkins.

I would like to point out two major problems in this article:

First; the Green Party while somewhat of an alternative to the two-party trap; it hardly qualifies, in most areas, as a "left" alternative. .. it is actually mostly a junior Democratic Party with some of the same anti-labor biases. There are some very notable exceptions, like in Michigan; but, the pathetic Minnesota Green Party is not one of these notable exceptions... in fact, the Green Party in Minnesota of which I am most familiar is comprised of many racist bigots and anti-labor members whose anti-communist, anti-socialist positions are well documented. Many members of the Minnesota Greens have quit in disgust over various issues--- some moving left, others, unfortunately looking for a quick fix by making alliances with the supporters of John Birchers Rand and Ron Paul; and most members of the Minnesota Green Party wouldn't lift a finger to help Cynthia McKinney's very excellent and noteworthy campaign centered around a very progressive and decidedly progressive-left agenda which included her very pro-labor agenda including her support for saving, through public ownership, the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, some 2,000 good union jobs.

Second; this statement from this essay is factually incorrect:

"As the Works Progress Administration, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Social Security Act were enacted that year, the third party movement subsided."

In fact, it was mainly socialist Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson's untimely death that served to hold back the growing momentum for a National-Farmer Labor Party similar to what was so successful in Minnesota combined with the refusal of the Socialist Party to become part of this "people's front" movement on the political scene. The Trotskyites, although quite insignificant, also played a very divisive role in trying to forge a national Farmer-Labor Party. 

In my opinion; liberals, progressives and the left would do well to consider a national ticket headed up by Cynthia McKinney and Cindy Sheehan coupled with people running for congress and the senate and state legislatures.

I think the majority of the American people would love to see a ticket focused on real health care reform paid for with peace dividends derived from ending these dirty imperialist wars. What is needed is some kind of "Declaration of Independence" from the Democratic and Republican Parties aimed at accomplishing and building such unity.

Why even bother to quibble over other differences when we have two important unifying issues--- peace and health care--- bringing all of us together?

We now have tens of millions of people in this country who, from the very beginning, saw right through the farce we call Obama and now there is a growing segment of Obama supporters who have already jumped ship with many more about to take the plunge... fertile ground for building the base of a true anti-monopoly worker based, progressive political party.

For the most part these aren't rats jumping from Obama's sinking ship--- except of course those like Tom Hayden and some of his followers.

For the most part those jumping from Obama's sinking ship are jumping into rough, choppy cold waters because there are no life-boats--- an alternative progressive/left/liberal political party--- in sight.

It is rather obvious that many, many people in this country are just plain "fed up."

Up here in northern Minnesota we held a meeting this afternoon which included four DFL county chairs from around the state and a number of Obama supporters... all fed up and ready to bolt the Democratic Party except there is not yet any other place for them to go.

Reports are now coming in that people are telling the DFL candidates running for governor they want no part of any of their campaigns because these eleven politicians have not demonstrated any concern for their problems. The same problem has surfaced with Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party precinct caucuses now less than a month away--- people who turned out in droves just two years ago are refusing to participate; making it clear they are "fed up" with the Democrat's and Obama's betrayals on peace and health care reform. People--- from all walks of life--- all over the state of Minnesota are asking, "Where's the change?"  

Being able to build a political party capable of robbing the Democrats of an unearned and undeserved victory, even if the Republicans win, is an important component in building a real people's alternative to the present Democratic Party.

We shouldn't buy into this crap and nonsense that we need to continue supporting the Democrats because they are the only team in town capable of "winning."

It is possible to build a progressive political party which even if defeated at the polls simultaneously carries the struggles of the people into the streets, and just as important, into the mines, mills, factories and schools which is capable of winning major UNIVERSAL reforms making life better for most people.

It seems to me we really need to take note that much of the confusion around what Obama represents-- - Wall Street's interests--- stems from people not being able to understand the difference between reforms which help segments of society instead of UNIVERSAL reforms which make life better for everyone. Obama and the Democrats have played this lack of understanding about reforms to the hilt in dividing the people--- the struggle for health care reform being the primary example where we see union "leaders"--- as distinct from the rank-and-file--- coming in and crippling, then killing the single-payer movement to come back and object to Obama and the Democrats wanting to tax health insurance benefits and then being so stupid to think that people are going to jump to support a narrow segment of the working class which receives adequate health care benefits after betraying the entire working class--- most of which has little to no health care benefits. This is the epitome of what has been passed off on working people as union leadership in this country since about 1947… and with such union “leadership” working people have suffered defeat after defeat.

We see all the union pork-choppers lined up behind these kinds of very selfish and short-sighted policies based upon the sell-out ideas of those like Walter Reuther and George Meany--- John Sweeney and Richard Trumpka, while pushing a line using different words still have the same class collaborationist mind-set holding back, thwarting and trying to prevent the working class from moving outside of the two-party structural trap built by big-business using the imperialist ideology of "pragmatism. "

Fear of a Republican victory at the polls is no excuse for continuing to support and vote for a bunch of pathetic Dumb Donkeys; but, it is important that people understand that it is necessary to build this alterative around a PROGRESSIVE AGENDA because we don't want to confuse the fascist movement like that which sprang up around Huey Long with an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.

The populist right-wing movement that was the base of Huey Long should not be confused in any way with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party of Floyd Olson, Elmer Benson and John Bernard... that Howie Hawkins has sown such confusion as to lead people to assume that Huey Long's movement is an alternative to the Democrats is an unacceptable analysis which could lead to all kinds of problems, including leading people to think that there might be some benefit in linking up with Birchites Rand and Ron Paul who peddle a fascist message very similar to that of Huey Long.

At some point progressives are going to need some kind of list serve that allows the freedom to thrash out these problems hindering and retarding the development of an alternative to the two-party trap... an alternative to the Democrats is never going to happen without some kind of liberal-progressive -left unity which eluded the movements of the 1930's and 1940's.

Now is as good as time as any we will ever have with the Democrats having so openly betrayed the American people on everything from health care reform to escalating these dirty wars.

As liberals, progressives and leftists we have every right--- and responsibility- -- to take full advantage of the opportunities that have opened up before us as Obama and the Democrats plunge in the polls.

Make no mistake; the Democrats are a racist, anti-labor, warmongering political party looking after the big-business interests of Wall Street and Barack Obama has facilitated this big-business agenda.

We see the desperation growing in the Democratic Party all over the United States where the wealthy leaders, led by such noteworthy but disgusting elements like those associated with major support for Barack Obama like the law-firm/lobbyists--- Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Schreck, which is not only the lawfirm/lobbyist of choice of the mobsters in the casino industry, but of much of corporate America… working overtime with the likes of wealthy corporate  lawyers like Brian Melendez and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association to silence, badger and bully progressives into silence inside the Democratic Party. Because we are for breaking with the Democratic Party is no reason not to continue pushing forward with a progressive agenda inside the Democratic Party even as we prepare to break with it.

Progressives should be bringing forward resolutions as well as challenging the big-business interests controlling the Democratic Party in order to get discussion going which encourages people to re-think and think about what it will take to turn this country around placing people before profits.

We would all do well to consider, that even on this issue of affirmative action in hiring, Barack Obama and the Democrats along with the AFL-CIO and Change To Win who cried racism as they decried the lack of support Obama was getting from working class voters and no matter what is said about Obama’s supposed popularity, the Democrats had many non-voters in 2008 among the working class and it looks like left to Obama and the Democrats without a progressive third party formation, even fewer working people will bother making the trip to the polls in 2010 and 2012… that those who screamed “racism” at the lack of support Obama was receiving, these same people like Richard Trumka and Leo Gerard, have not lifted one finger or raised their booming voices to demand full implementation of affirmative action guidelines and policies in hiring women and people of color even when huge public funding is being used on huge public projects.

Those middle class intellectuals associated with the Century Foundation and its “partners” have steered the labor “leadership” on a course where the only important thing is electing Democrats even when it means betraying working people on peace, affirmative action and health care reform. This is what has to end.

Spread the word:

No peace; no votes.

No real health care reform; no votes.

No enforcement of affirmative action; no votes.

The time has come to declare our independence from the Democrats (working people have long ago declared their independence from the Republicans).

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Check out my blog:

--- On Tue, 1/5/10, Rick Kisséll wrote:

From: Rick Kisséll
Subject: [progressivesforoba ma] "2010: Third party time for progressives and independents? " by Howie Hawkins
To: "Progressive Wisconsin list"
Date: Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 3:53 AM

 Slightly edited...

2010: Third party time for progressives and independents?
by Howie Hawkins

December opened up with another escalation in Afghanistan. Then there was the sabotage of binding carbon reductions in Copenhagen. On Christmas Eve, there was the Insurance Company Entitlement Act masquerading as health care reform.

By the end of the month a sharp debate had broken out in the progressive media and blogosphere. The number of progressives airing their nagging doubts about the wisdom of putting all their eggs in the basket of the Democrats reached a critical mass.

It is not enough to say that Obama and the Democrats have betrayed progressives, or that, as always, the path to change begins with grassroots mobilization. A critical part of the solution is a progressive third party. Without the political independence of progressives, both major parties ignore progressives who are left holding their nose and voting for the Democrats as the lesser evil.

All the doubts in the back of progressives' minds are coming into sharp focus. The recycled Bushies and Clintonites appointed by the administration. The trillions for war and Wall Street while unemployment, foreclosures, and economic stagnation deepened. Single payer "off the table." Card check union recognition abandoned. Complicity in Bush-era war crimes by refusing to "look back" and prosecute. New crimes committed with the continuation of extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, torture by proxy, targeted assassinations, indefinite detention, habeas suspension, state secrets, military commissions, and warrantless wiretapping. Tacit support for the Honduran military coup. "Secret" wars in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The list goes on.

We shouldn't be surprised. History shows that for more than a century the Democrats' role in the two-party system of corporate rule has been to co-opt, absorb, weaken, and defeat movements for progressive change. Right now, the evidence for this corporate function of the Democratic Party is as stark as it has ever been. The Democrats swept the election and the corporate agenda swept the Congress.

Most progressives spent the 2000s working to put the Democrats back in charge of Congress and the White House. They can't blame the Republicans now. The Democrats have the power. Progressive Democrats got what they wished for, but what do they have to show for it? It's a year later and their mandate for change is fast eroding. Democratic politicians and progressive leaders were merely cheerleaders who never made demands and backed them up with action. The Democrats' corporate backers weren't so naïve. They demanded and received their IOUs.

The Democrats are pursuing corporatist policies across the board, using big government to subsidize big business in return for big campaign contributions. It's just a rebranding as Democratic of Republican policies of corporate welfare for the rich, which is supposed to "trickle down" as jobs and income for working people, but never does. Even before the election, it was the Democratic leadership in Congress, with Obama's outspoken support, who pushed through the $700 billion TARP bailout for Wall Street just days after it was at first defeated in the face of popular outrage.

The Democrats are not only alienating voters on the Left, but also independents in the Center. Polls now indicate that these independents are swinging back to the Republicans as the lesser evil because their small government rhetoric at least promises to cut taxes. Many voters realize they are being ripped off by both major parties. They correctly understand that Democratic power brokers don't look out for the little guys anymore than Republicans do. If the Left doesn't offer a progressive alternative to the Democratic corporate liberals, the Republican corporate conservatives will be the only alternative that angry voters will have in 2010 to get back at the party in power.

It could have been different. When the Democrats swept into power, they had a mandate for bold progressive change. They could have enacted, with broad Center-to-Left popular support, a Green New Deal to address the interrelated crises of energy, climate, and economic depression. Instead of bailing out the big banks and automakers, they could have nationalized them on the cheap when they were insolvent. Public banks could have then restructured millions of mortgages on affordable, long-term, fixed-rate terms for homeowners facing foreclosure. The automakers could have been retrofitted to produce electric cars, mass transit, wind turbines, and solar panels just as the federal government had them make tanks, trucks, and airplanes for World War II. With investments from public banks and federal infrastructure spending guaranteeing a market for a green reconstruction of the nation's energy and transportation systems, US manufacturing, jobs, and the whole economy could have been renewed on a sustainable basis.

It could have been different. But what to do now?

Some progressives are rallying to the defense of the Democrats, defending the indefensible as the lesser evil to Republican reaction. They want to "save the Obama Presidency" no matter what he does. This approach will only discredit the Left and demoralize its voters, who will sit out the 2010 elections in large numbers. It will also lose much of the independent Center, which will swing back to the Republicans if only in disgust and protest.

Other progressives say it's time to challenge conservative Democrats in the primaries. But it was the progressive Democrats in office who never planted their flag or refused to compromise any further while Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress made one concession after another to Republicans and Blue Dogs on the stimulus bill, health care, labor law reform, global warming, and the wars. Progressive Democratic politicians went along with the concessions because they know, as well as conservative Democrats know, that the Left has nowhere else to go with their votes.

Another school of progressives says it is time to build protest movements that can make the Democrats live up to their reform promises, citing how the labor movement pushed through New Deal reforms in the 1930s. These progressives forget that the impact of the labor movement was multiplied tremendously by the election of many third party progressives as Representatives, Senators, and Governors. By early 1935, Floyd Olson, the Farmer-Labor Governor of Minnesota, Robert La Follette, Jr., the Progressive Governor of Wisconsin, and Huey Long, the "Share Our Wealth" Democratic Senator from Louisiana, were all potentially powerful populist third party presidential candidates. Democratic National Committee polling found such an electoral challenge might cost Franklin Roosevelt the election in 1936. This third party electoral threat played a major role in instigating the more progressive Second New Deal of 1935. As the Works Progress Administration, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Social Security Act were enacted that year, the third party movement subsided.

No doubt social movements and protest demonstrations are needed. But without an independent progressive electoral alternative, the Democrats know they can take the votes of progressive social movements for granted. Witness the failure of the massive anti Iraq war demonstrations in early 2003 to move the Democrats to take an antiwar stand. The Democrats voted funding for Bush's war throughout three national election cycles because they knew the peace movement would support them anyway.

What is missing is the political independence of progressives. Progressives need to build independent social movements, not movements dependent on electing and lobbying Democrats. And the independent social movements need their own party to exercise their own independent power. With a powerful party on the Left, the Democrats will no longer be able to take progressive movements and votes for granted. The Left will be able to speak directly to the people with its own voice, for its own program, on its own power, without having their progressive demands mistranslated and watered down by Democratic politicians who appeal to their Right while they count on their captive voters on the Left.

A strong Left party would also win over many independents in the Center, the largest bloc of voters. Polling shows these independents would prefer a Green New Deal of public jobs, health care, and enterprise to the Democrats' tribute payments to big business and the Republicans' domestic spending cutbacks that will devastate public services and worsen the interrelated crises of energy, climate, and economy.

It is time for progressives to face the reality of a two-party system of corporate rule where competing coalitions of corporate investors in the political process fundamentally agree on a bipartisan consensus for empire abroad and anti-worker policies at home. Democrats and Republicans limit their advertised competition mainly to liberal vs. conservative approaches to cultural issues. The Democrats are more beholden to campaign contributions from Big FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) than they are to their voters. The main financial base of the Republicans is Big Fossil (Coal, Oil, Gas), hence their anti-scientific denial of climate change. When Big FIRE vs. Big Fossil dominates politics, the ordinary people get screwed.

The best way to fight the Right is to build an independent party of the Left. The Right we have to fight is the corporatist bi-partisan consensus for empire and exploitation. The corporate bosses have two parties. It is time that working people built one of their own.

Yes, the American electoral system of winner takes all in single member districts is stacked against third parties. But that system did not stop progressive third parties from realigning the party systems in Mexico and New Zealand to the point where they could institute more democratic electoral systems based on proportional representation. Almost all of the few remaining countries that don't have proportional representation have still been able to create major third parties, notably Canada and the UK. Because these countries have independent leftwing parties based on labor and other progressive movements, they have won standards of workers' rights, public services, social welfare, corporate regulation, environmental protection, and defense-oriented militaries that are far more progressive than US standards.

While the electoral system presents serious obstacles, the far bigger obstacle in the US has been the unwavering commitment of the leaders of labor, peace, and environmental organizations to the Democrats who consistently betray their progressive goals. We can end these self-inflicted defeats through independent political action. It is the grassroots organizers and activists who will have to lead the break out. Most of the leadership and staff of these organizations are too tied to Democratic politicians and operatives through patronage, grants, jobs, and their social class, status, and networks.

The Green Party has been organizing toward an independent progressive alternative for years. The Greens have won hundreds of local elections throughout the country in recent years, almost a third of those they enter. Their percentage of votes in state and national legislative elections has steadily climbed, often to double digits. These results indicate the potential. But it will not be realized until a critical mass of progressive organizers and activist break with the Democrats.

The Democratic Party has been the graveyard for every broad progressive movement since the Populists more than a century ago. 2010 should be the year when progressive movements finally break their dependence on the corporate-sponsored Democrats and present their programs directly to the voters through their own independent candidates and party.

Let's make the choice in 2010 between a Green New Deal and the corporatism of the two old parties.

Howie Hawkins is a Teamster who unloads trucks at UPS in Syracuse, New York. He has been an organizer in peace, justice, labor, and the environmental movements since the late 1960s and was a co-founder of the Green Party in the United States.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk