The Internationalist  
  November 2012  

Just Another Ballot Line for the Democrats

Working Families Party:
Putting Lipstick on a Pig

PORTLAND, OR – The Working Families Party, in spite of what its name implies, is no more than a tool used by politicians and union bureaucrats to bolster support for the Democrats. What it does is offer another ballot line for Democratic candidates: hardly an alternative. It lures union members into voting for Democratic Party even though they've been repeatedly screwed by it, while giving right-wing union bureaucrats cover for supporting a capitalist party and trying to make the whole process look more appealing. In construction, there’s a term to describe slapping a coat of paint on a dilapidated building in order to hide its rotten structure and bad plumbing: it’s called “putting lipstick on a pig.” However you dress up Democratic politicians, no amount of make-up or ballot listings will change it, they're still the same pigs who preside over drone strikes, the racist death penalty and countless attacks on unions.

The Oregon Working Families Party is modeled on it namesake in New York. While dismissing “third party” candidates like the Greens as “ spoilers” and “divisive,” it promotes “fusion voting,” in which more than one party can nominate the same candidate. In practice, this means voting for certain Democratic candidates on the OWFP ballot line, and papering over differences on key issues. Claiming to be in favor of healthcare and workplace rights, the OWFP avoids the entire question of abortion and never even mentions birth control. The right to control pregnancies isn’t just a health issue for women, but an issue of workplace rights considering the cost and time off work required to carry a pregnancy to term. It would appear that the OWFP only cares about health and rights for the male half of Oregon's workforce. In fact, it is bowing to right-wing anti-abortion pressure just like its parent, the Democratic Party, does.

What we need as union members instead of a new gimmick to pretend that the Democrats are “pro-labor,” is a fighting opposition from within the union ranks to drive out the bureaucracy and break with all capitalist parties. Last year in New York, a supporter of Class Struggle Education Workers put forward a resolution in the Professional Staff Congress (AFT, representing faculty and staff at the City University of New York) opposing affiliation to the WFP and calling for a class-struggle workers party. The New York WFP nominated Barack Obama and Joe Biden, meaning support for mass deportations, imperialist war and occupation, and more cuts to public education. One of their cross-nominees, Democrat Tim Bishop in NY Congressional District 1, voted last year for S990, to extend the USA PATRIOT Act, which is a frontal assault on civil liberties. Bishop also voted for a bill that would have allowed U.S. troops in Libya. A certified warmonger if ever there was one, and a WFP endorsee.

Of their 47 nominees in Oregon, the WFP is supporting mostly Democrats, with at least two of their candidates being listed on the ballot as Democrat, Republican and Working Families. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, endorsed by the WFP for Congressional District 1, voted in favor of SB 767 expanding “virtual” charter schools (based largely on an online curriculum), accelerating the privatization of public schools, and contributing to the attacks on teachers unions. Democrat Peter DeFazio, cross nominee for Congressional District 4, voted for House Joint Resolution 2 for a “balanced budget” amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The failed amendment would make deficit spending unconstitutional except for during wartime, writing into the Constitution simultaneous massive cuts to social services and unlimited funding for U.S. global imperialism. The WFP-endorsed candidate for Congressional District 2, Democrat Joyce Segers owned a medical billing company where she directly profited from the private healthcare industry the WFP claims to be against.

By “cross nominating” candidates of another ruling-class party, the WFP perpetuates the lie that the working class can somehow benefit through supporting the bosses’ politicians. Ignoring social issues and focusing solely on electoral strategy, the WFP gives cover to Democrats and others who never have and never will stand up for workers. The Oregon Working Families Party Platform doesn't once mention oppression or exploitation, and even avoids using the word class. It supports the bourgeois electoral system, and the “change” it talks of to be handed from on high rather than won by the workers through their collective action. They promise a bigger piece of the pie, and instead support capitalist parties that offer nothing but grief and exploitation, while claiming to be “friends of labor.” But working people don’t need “pie in the sky, bye and bye,” as the syndicalist Wobblies used to say.

The Working Families Party is not any kind of workers party, it’s not really a party at all but an appendage of the Democrats. The WFP today recalls the American Labor Party in the 1930s and ’40s that enabled workers to vote for the Democrats while holding their noses (because it stank so much). Every once in awhile there have been attempts to form a supposedly independent “labor party” in the U.S., generally an electoral vehicle on the model of the British Labour Party. The stillborn “U.S. Labor Party” was the latest version. It was the creature of a handful of union bureaucrats (particularly Tony Mazzocchi of OCAW) and unions (ILWU, UMW, California Nurses) upset about the rightward shift of the Democratic Party. It waved the flag while pushing protectionist policies against foreign labor and refusing to call for full rights for undocumented immigrants. It shared the pro-capitalist outlook of the labor bureaucracy as a whole.

To build a real workers party that can lead the class struggle it’s necessary to break with all the capitalist parties, the Democrats first and foremost. And to do that, we have to drive out the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, which is tied to the Democrats by an umbilical cord. The party we need is one that fights the sellout misleaders of labor who have done nothing to stop the destruction of the unions. As Karl Marx said in an 1871 speech to the International Working Men’s Association in London, “our politics must be working-class politics. The workers’ party must never be the tagtail of any bourgeois party; it must be independent and have its goal and its own policy.” We need a workers party that fights on behalf of all those exploited and oppressed by capitalism, and for a workers government. Pinning a “labor” tail on the Democratic donkey won’t do. 

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com