Labor's Gotta Play Hardball to Win!

Showdown on West Coast Docks: The Battle of Longview
(November 2011). 
click on photo for article

Chicago Plant Occupation Electrifies Labor
(December 2008). 
click on photo for article

May Day Strike Against the War Shuts Down
U.S. West Coast Ports

(May 2008)

click on photo for article



                Struggle Education Workers  
October 2013  

Liberal Democrat NYC Mayoral Candidate Won’t End “Stop and Frisk,” Charters or Privatization of Public Education

Despite the Hype, de Blasio
Will Be “Bloomberg Lite”

By Class Struggle Education Workers/UFT

In the upcoming November 6 New York City mayoral elections, Democrat Bill de Blasio is sure to clobber Republican Joe Lhota. With polls currently giving de Blasio a 45-point lead (78% to 23%), in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six-to-one, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. De Blasio has mounted a liberal campaign, calling to raise taxes on the rich (by less than 1%) and criticizing the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” tactics as racial profiling, while Lhota has run a race-baiting, red-baiting, fear-mongering campaign appealing to conservative billionaires and Tea Party reactionaries. With the prospect of an end to 20 years of Republican mayors, liberals, labor bureaucrats and quite a few would-be leftists are gaga for Bill.

De Blasio has made his campaign theme the “Tale of Two Cities,” one for the super-rich and another for those struggling to make ends meet. For his part, on primary night, Lhota said the campaign would highlight “two completely different visions for the future of our city.”  The media has pitched the contest as the “unapologetic liberal” versus the “hardnosed conservative.” One banker labeled the prospect of de Blasio as mayor “terrifying.” At a diamond-studded September 11 charity gala of wealthy patrons at the Waldorf-Astoria honoring Michael Bloomberg, a guest cried out, “Mayor Bloomberg should be mayor forever!” (New York Times, 11 September). But in reality, the contrast is not nearly so sharp. A Mayor de Blasio promises to be Bloomberg lite.

An alarmed editorial in the Wall Street Journal (29 October), “Occupy City Hall,” shuddered that “New York voters are about to elect the Occupy movement to run America's largest city.” Perish the thought. But if the voice of the titans of high finance endorsed Lhota, the ultra-establishment New York Times (27 October), which backed Bloomberg all three times he ran, came out for “Bill Blasio for Mayor.” To those who have “already anointed him leader of a national rebirth of left-wing populism,” the Times retorted, “Hold on.” The de Blasio it was supporting was “someone to sustain and build on the 12-year legacy of Michael Bloomberg,” and “never mind the revolution.”

After campaigning for various competing Democrats in the primary (UFT, Teamsters 237, TWU 100 for Thompson; AFSCME DC 37 and DC 1707 for Liu; RWDSU and 32BJ SEIU FOR Quinn; 1199 SEIU, CWA 1, UNITE/HERE and PSC for de Blasio), labor officialdom unanimously embraced the Democratic primary winner. That would be no surprise, as the union bureaucracy chains the ranks to the phony “friends of labor” Democrats, except that the UFT tops adopted a position of pro-Bloomberg neutrality the last two times around. (Lot of good it did them.) But the reformist oppositionists in the teachers union also look favorably on de Blasio, although some are wary to say so out loud as it would expose their pseudo-socialist pretensions.

In contrast, Class Struggle Education Workers and the Internationalist Group tell the bitter truth: neither candidate in this election defends the interests of the poor and working people who make this city run, of the African Americans, Latinos, Asians and immigrants who are the targets of racist repression. Democrats and Republicans both defend the interests of capital. And if Bill de Blasio could be portrayed as the candidate of Occupy Wall Street, that is only because that populist movement, when it demanded anything at all, at most sought minor reforms to capitalism rather than to replace the dictatorship of finance capital with the rule of those it exploits and oppresses.

The wide support for de Blasio, who at first was dismissed by the professional pundits as an “unelectable liberal,” stems from the fact that millions of working people are hurting badly and fed up with a mayor and government of, by and for the plutocrats. Even by government statistics, unemployment in New York City is over 15%, the poverty rate is over 20% and rising while incomes for the bottom half of the population are falling. Despite a huge public outcry, the racial profiling by the NYPD and attacks on the public schools by the Department of Education continue unabated. But all the Democratic candidate proposes to do is to tweak the Bloomberg policies to make them a little less blatantly offensive.

Income gap? Not enough says the current mayor (whose net worth soared from $3 billion to $31 billion during his 12 years in office), claiming it would be a “godsend” if “we could get every billionaire in the world to move here.” Racial profiling? Bloomberg wants more. Although 87% of those “stopped and frisked” by the police are blacks and Latinos, he says they “stop whites too much and minorities too little.” If working-class residents of the “outer boroughs” are trapped by snowstorms of inundated by floods, the CEO of NYC tells them to kick back and watch TV (if they have power, that is) or take in a Broadway show (if they can shovel their way out). The race and class arrogance of this would-be master of the universe is boundless.

Republican Joe Lhota, who after leaving the Giuliani administration was a highly paid gofer for the Dolan family (owners of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision), has promised more of the same. He accuses de Blasio of waging “class warfare,” of being a “Marxist” and Sandinista, referring to a stint the future Democratic candidate did in the 1980s working for the Jesuits’ Quixote Center delivering food, clothing and medical supplies to Nicaragua. (Just imagine what wannabe contra Lhota would have said if de Blasio had worked with the Maryknolls!) Meanwhile Lhota’s attack ads on TV are blatant racial fear-mongering, talking about “wilding,” the phrase used to frame up the innocent black youths who due to media hysteria and racist police coercion unjustly spent years in jail in the 1989 rape of the Central Park jogger.

Photo: New York Post

What turned the mayoral race around by all accounts. and what distinguished de Blasio from the other Democratic contenders, was his TV ad against “stop and frisk” featuring his son Dante. While the media chatter is all about his (now presidentially sanctioned) afro hairstyle, what grabbed people is that they could see that Dante was precisely the kind of young black man that the cops would go after. The victims of racist stop and frisk were no longer nameless and faceless. Meanwhile, most of other Democrats were tiptoeing around the issue, talking of modifying it. Yet the only Democratic candidate who said he would actually stop “stop and frisk” was John Liu, but he couldn’t get past the campaign finance issue.

The fact is that Bill de Blasio is NOT, repeat NOT, calling to end the policy of cops wantonly stopping black and Latino young men on the street. Instead, he explicitly says “Stop and frisk is a valid police tool.” His platform only calls for “meaningful stop-and-frisk reforms.” Meaning what, exactly? Meaning that he will sign a City Council bill against racial profiling and call on the NYPD to “reduce unwarranted stops.” Yet the job of the police is to enforce racist “law and order.” In fact, the entire policy is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Any serious opponent of racism and defender civil liberties must demand an end to all random police stops and entrapment.

The question of the police is a perfect example of what the Democratic candidate actually stands for. He calls for “community policing,” “focused deterrence” and for “increasing the number of Argus cameras — particularly in high-crime areas in the outer boroughs.” So he wants to blanket the projects in East New York or the South Bronx with police surveillance cameras like they have done to Lower Manhattan. De Blasio praises his role in enacting the “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative in the Dinkins administration which “significantly expanded the number of NYPD officers on the streets,” and calls for putting 500 more cops on the streets today by taking them off of civilian duties. This is a program for more focused racist repression, not to end it.

Class Struggle Education Workers, Internationalist Group and CUNY Internationalist Clubs at protest in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, March 24, protesting police murder of Kimani Gray. (Internationalist photo)

Similarly with de Blasio’s education policies. He does NOT call for an end to privately run “charter” schools or to school closures, only for a temporary pause (moratorium) and opposing “unfair” shutdowns. He calls for charging rent to charters “co-located” in public schools, and for “increasing parental engagement and communication in the co-location process,” instead of opposing and undoing this practice which has caused endless disruption in the service of a program of privatizing public education. So after holding off for awhile and charging them a token lease, Eva Moskowitz and her ilk will still be able to go about their wrecking operation on the public schools.

In fact, the future Democratic mayor SUPPORTS mayoral control which has done so much damage to New York City’s public schools, he only spouts empty phrases about “involving and listening to parents.” Meaning what, exactly? Meaning he would “allow Community Education Councils an advisory vote on major school utilization changes” and to “provide insight to the Panel for Education Policy (PEP).” Big deal. Those of us who defend public education in the interests of working people oppose mayoral control lock, stock and barrel, we call for abolition of the puppet PEP and for the schools to be governed by councils of teachers, students, parents and workers, which would decide on such issues as school closures.

De Blasio recognizes that “unfair suspensions and arrests to solve minor student behavior” are used to “disproportionately hurt students of color and students with disabilities.” But what is his answer? A “Graduated Response Protocol” prior to arrests. So students will still be marched out of school in handcuffs, the police will just “conference” with principals first. The CSEW demands: cops out of the schools. De Blasio calls to “improve school transportation,” but he doesn’t say a word about the Bloomberg administration bidding criteria aimed at breaking the school bus workers’ union and replacing qualified drivers and matrons. The CSEW (unlike the reformist oppositions in the UFT) went all out to support the school bus workers strike earlier this year.

Sure, Democratic candidate de Blasio wants universal pre-K, as do Democratic president Obama and Democratic governor Cuomo. Sure, but hardly cutting-edge: ever since Head Start was begun in the 1960s it has been shown that pre-school programs have a major impact on education. He wants school breakfasts more available. Of course – it’s hard for students to learn when they’re hungry. Against bullying and for more after-school programs. Fine, but all this is to sidestep the fact that there is a war on public education, against teachers and against teacher unions, and that war is being spearheaded by the Democratic Party, from Barack Obama on down.

As a loyal Democrat, a Mayor de Blasio will carry out that war. He will enforce “the new teacher evaluations mandated by the state,” which have nothing to do with improving education and everything to do with driving out union-conscious experienced teachers. Far from opposing the privatization of public education, he wants to develop “a minimum of 100 community schools” based on the model of Harlem Children’s Zone, the charter run by millionaire Geoffrey Canada. He wants to connect technical high schools to a college, industry or business. This is Obama’s campaign for corporate takeovers of schools, by Microsoft, Motorola and Verizon in Chicago, and by the IBM-connected P-Tech that gutted Paul Robeson HS in Crown Heights.

Contrary to portrayals of de Blasio as a “liberal firebrand” (New York Times), a theme which plays well in liberal New York, de Blasio is basically a “mainstream” Clinton Democrat (he was an official in the Housing and Urban Development Department under Bill’s administration and managed Hillary’s Senate campaign in New York). Along with his populist rhetoric, he has been cozy with real estate developers, notably Bruce Ratner, who co-hosted de Blasio’s 50th birthday fundraiser party and who has yet to build any of the promised affordable housing in the Atlantic Yards boondoggle backed by de Blasio.

Since the primary, de Blasio has been assiduously appealing to business tycoons, saying finance is New York’s “hometown industry.” He had a private sit-down with media moguls Murdoch and Zuckerman, as well as with the heads of Goldman Sachs, Viacom and other top-tier Wall Streeters. And according to the Wall Street Journal, de Blasio has raked in far more in campaign contributions from big-ticket donors ($4.2 million) than has Lhota ($1.3 million).

Meanwhile, New York City public employee unions are all pushing to “back Bill.” Almost all their contracts have run out, as Bloomberg’s City Hall dragged its feet (and union leaders preferred to wait for the successor to the labor-hating mayor). The powerful Transport Workers Union Local 100 demonstrated October 29 several thousand strong for a new contract, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is gearing up its phone-banking operations to get out the vote next week. But as de Blasio poses as the classic “friend of labor” Democrat, even he is saying that there is no way the unions will get full retroactive pay hikes.

As for opposition currents in the unions, an October 25 posting on the ICE (Independent Community of Educators) blog asks, “Is There Room For Optimism Under de Blasio?” Its answer is that a letter from the Democratic candidate to Bloomberg’s puppet PEP calling for a moratorium on school co-locations and closures, “is cause for a little optimism.” An earlier post (“No Tale of Two de Blasios,” 6 October) argued that “The odds of a sell out will increase significantly if we do nothing and just sit back and wait for de Blasio to do right by the public schools.” Since the Democratic soon-to-be mayor supports mayoral control, it called for recommending that he name “strong public education activists” for the toothless PEP. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig!

At a special UFT Delegate Assembly in September on endorsement of a mayoral candidate following the Democratic primary, Marjorie Stamberg, a delegate from District 79 who is an activist of Class Struggle Education Workers, sought to speak against endorsing Democrat de Blasio and to call for a workers party. In the past she has several times called to oppose any candidate with “D” or an “R” after their name on the ballot, or indeed any capitalist candidate. But in flagrant violation of Robert’s Rules of Order, UFT president Michael Mulgrew refused to allow any opposition speaker, and the motion was rammed through, with delegates of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) either voting for it or sitting on their hands.

The massive discontent in the ranks of labor and among the poor and working people which has fueled the outpouring of support for de Blasio, as happened before with the election of black Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, will inevitably be frustrated. The reason  is simple: the war on the unions, on immigrants, on hard-hit African American, Latino and Asian populations in the U.S. are the result not of a policy or even a party, but of the decaying capitalist system, as are the imperialist wars waged by the U.S. in the Middle East. To confront this onslaught, no amount of tinkering or tweaking or “triangulating” by supposedly “progressive” capitalist politicians will make a damn bit of difference.

We need a class-struggle workers party to fight for a workers government, and we need it now! ■