Once more, the people prove unworthy of the process

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday June 6, 2012 08:44 PM

M'sieu l'Maire, quoi donc que c'est qu'un bibiscite ?
- C'est un mot latin qui veut dire oui. (*)

Doug Henwood had some good things to say about the (entirely predictable) Wisconsin debacle:

.... the horrible mistake of channelling a popular uprising into electoral politics.... It’s the same damn story over and over. The state AFL-CIO chooses litigation and electoral politics over popular action, which dissolves everything into mush.
It did seem kind of amazing that they ran somebody against Walker who had already lost to him. But isn't that the Democrats for you in a nutshell? The graveyard of activism, as a pal of mine calls the dear old Donkle.

Here's a bit more of old Daumier on the electoral process:

The machine may be unfamiliar: it's a kind of old-fashioned mousetrap, a guillotine or garrote in reverse.


(*) Mistah Mayah, so what's this blebiscite thing?
-- It's a Latin word that means 'yes'.

Comments (26)


Michael Yates was even better:

The MSNBC pundits and liberals in general are blaming the big money that went to Walker. But if this doesn't show the bankruptcy of the labor union leadership-Democratic Party alliance I don't know what does. Neither seems to care at all about ordinary working people. They fear them and have disdain for them at the same time. They look to their power and the money that derives from this. Nothing else matters. Look at the dog the Dems ran against Walker. I might add that given all the prescient things about all of this we say in our book, Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back, it should be a bestseller.
This was on MY's facebook page but I certainly recommend his blog:


Damn the people, they seem completely oblivious to the better future that their betters are always offering them.


Maybe it's time "To dissolve the people / And elect another?" (for laughs hit CC in video and compare that translation with this).

And this, folks, is why Daumier is one of my heroes:


Right on about the Donkeycratic Party being the "graveyard of activism", too. I dare say there's a cartoon in that.

Henwood totally nailed it, though if you'll allow me to brag a bit, I totally smelled this coming a mile away:


If Henwood nailed it, then Yates hit it so hard that the head is sunk into the wood.

You're right on with the classic Brecht statement on dissolving the people and electing another. Seriously, man. And while we're busy piling onto The People™, here's my man George Carlin:


Stupid, I'm tellin' ya. Muthafuckin' rock stupid.


"Choosing litigation and electoral politics over popular action ..."

An utterly false choice
The pompous pinko-rad line about "popular action"
As if that is as easy a mode of operation

L and E politics
those are modes of least social effort

Calling on the people to take direct action
has it's budget limits too

part ties exist as the agency for efficient organizing
And the limited mobilization budget is always on the calculating table

Wisconsin's citizenry put out a noble effort over the last year and a half
But the state and it's two guardian parties delayed channeled and sapped
that effort 24/7 ...that's what hierarchies are for

And to pin this bad
on the existence of these nasty institutions like the Demoronic party
A party so clearly instituted among us from what ...1796
Fails to make all the necessary set of distinctions

Look several state senators got turkey roped

Progressive electoral campaigns win on occasion ...no?

State Min wage hikes
higher income tax rates on a state's plutonians

yes it's Steven Douglas politics
Unworthy of a John brown perhaps
But a smart left operates on several levels at once

It's a matter of selecting your fights and your modes each time

There's a time to use the system and a time to abuse the system
A time to confront the system and a time to ignore the system

But to toss a giant fault blanket over unions
for this pursuit and even collaborating with the official party of the people
Is patently ridiculous

Its of course Hogwood Dugs SOP

of it's energy at all stages


In this case the recall law looked onerous at best
and decisively dissipative at worst

Hard call to make way back when
General strike time ?
I doubt it

Union roll
Well once it was obviously a deal only do-able
with a team of Jack asses
Up on the quarter deck....

Tell me the unions better avenue of struggle ?

Yes the militant left may have had better uses of it's local " forces"
but just what
might that have been ?


Actually this pink rad reaction disgusts me
Here was a local mobilization of mass proportions and certain strenuously rad pink rads called for non participation

To me tis is little more then self isolation

Trying to equate say re elect ohbummer with remove Scott walker
Strikes me as the summit noodle head take
Yes it rids you of a hard call by categorical means
But to what end

The husbanding of limited militant forces is not identical with
Preserving the pedigree by self imposed abstinence

Frankly I'm glad they tried

Yes going for the head and missing is frightfully dangerous
In this case we can expect a wave of GOP state level anti union action
Including pension slashing

The brutes are on the move again
Redoubled in their confidence

Such are the zig zags of struggle

What now ?

Certainly not
Abandon the state level electoral struggle
For pure "popular action"

What about right to work initiatives and state level slashing
of the transfer system ?

Popular action alone ?

The OWS uprising has a very different lesson then that I think

To have direct action so splendidly vindicated is not
to end all
Inside the system activity is it ?

Yes I know where my hero fluggy will come out on this
But despite that
I really find nihilistic triumphalism grotesque under the circumstances

A sign of unearned contentment

A sigh of complacent satisfaction
with bathing in ones own bitter juices

Al Schumann:

Owen, I'm in favor of working with whatever tools the system offers. It takes collective discipline, but it can be done. The outcome won't be revolutionary, but a little meliorism has its own merits. Unfortunately, there's just no way to accomplish even that much with perjured institutions as allies.

When it comes down to it, I think the Democrats and the union leadership enjoy sinking popular movements. They'd do it even if there were no gains to be had. It's as much a virtue for them as hijacked victimhood is for conservatives.

MJS, Thanks for the kind words. I was on a labor radio station in Cleveland this morning (5:10 my time, so I hope I was coherent). The host said that 25% of union members voted for Walker. Labor is saying that this means that workers in unions voted overwhelmingly for Barrett. but maybe what this shows is the disconnect between the members and the leaders. Maybe the recall effort could have been combined with a mass education campaign, voter registration in poor neighborhoods, an effort to reach out to the black community (Wisconsin has a higher fraction of black people in prison that Mississippi and Georgia), immigrants, etc. Try to do on a state level what the OWS and them members and their families did with the art handlers' lockout at Sotheby's in NYC. A lot of organizing is going on in Wisconsin, and hopefully this will bear fruit. Workers are in for a shitload of troubles in the future. It is certain that the Dem. Party and top labor leaders have little to offer them. For proof in terms of the latter, read Autoworkers Under the Gun by Gregg Shotwell.


Clear and present wisdom in your words Al

Though I have less call to lump Demoronics with the stack of pie cards

The pie card options strike me as well rooted
in one or three strata of the present wage class

And god knows the pub sec union clique
must have been prepared to league with trots if necessary
to pull off a mass based reversal of verdicts
as we maoites call these struggles

For them it's literally an existential issue

It isn't entirely theatrics
To call this tussle
A " To be or not to be that is the referendum "
Pub u wise

Look at what has is and will happen to these cadre types
With the de establishment of dues check and annual re certs

Now let me make my position crystal clear

A complete demolishment of the pub sec union automatic funding mechanisms
has certain highly progressive aspects

Much as the fall of the soviet Kamp
Unionism public and semi public - civic and profiteer private fighting unions
All need a series of huge and in particular cases devastating jolts

But taking this Olympian long view
Though perhaps the only solace
Clio provides to us losers after this

Still and all tis a dark week indeed


Mr y

My son in law long connected to the sothebys fight
Was relieved at it's resolution
It had become a quagmire a place were activism went
If not to
Give blood to Dracula
To spill it over little better then a cup
Of small boho linked potatoes

That despite the teamster label

I take it however you share the beware all pie card position

My daughter works in one of these outfits
It's a dark comedy indeed
But the bill foster line strikes her as no less true today
then in the era of Gompers and Green

The CIO was funded by Lewis and hillman's dues stream

Only if the pie cards allow fraternizing with occ types can us pro rads break out of our seclusion occlusion

My generation the wood stock rebellion
Never tied into the wage class struggles effectively

We were to radicalism what pols like Clinton are to electoral politics

In the end once the armada went on vacation
Stricktly cultural-identity progressives
That in the vast majority
And spasmotic fragmentary and purely symbolic action type flame outs
At the fringe

Surely this generation can do far far better then that

Al Schumann:

Owen, I found myself hoping the recall would work even if it did mean tidal waves of liberal triumphalism. It's the kind of victory that would be threatening to the victors. The last thing they want is a popular movement with momentum.


The Paine clan are certainly closer to the actualities of union work than I am. But from where I sit it's difficult not to regard the struggle as a rout. It appears to me that the unions have in effect been chased out of the field and it's sauve-qui-peut time. And as allies they're about as useful as a cinder block to a drowning man. I know the Occupiers were very glad when the union contingents showed up last fall, and it was damned exciting, but the promise seems to have exceeded the performance.


But for the cinder block generality I agree with father
And it can certainly free up spirits for a refoundation of the union movement

The right to work states have public sector unions in some way shape or form
Despite no dues check off nor universal dues imposition
They trudge on earning every dollar they suck in

The task
How do we replicate this status in the profiteer sector

What sort of job site rights movement must we mount
To make it safe in fact to organize inside corporate amerika
The right in law has existed since Wagner put it there in1935

But like the amendments of reconstruction only the 1960's saw the realization



That about sets the table
Lose ..deluge
Win satanic temptations

But we coulda used the W

Battle on however we will

Op sez on 06.07.12 @07:47:
Yes I know where my hero fluggy will come out on this
But despite that
I really find nihilistic triumphalism grotesque under the circumstances

A sign of unearned contentment

Yeah, sure, man; I'll bite.

I can't say I'm feeling triumphant about this; that scumbucket Walker managed to scrape through, and the labor movement has got a tough fight ahead of it, made even tougher after having its energy drained by the vampiric Donkeycratic Party and diverted into a failed effort to elect an already-once-failed candidate.

Perhaps if the "elections" process in this country were actually legitimate, and not so twisted and perverted and contaminated with corporate influence and turned into a freak circus by the media, I might think it'd be an effective avenue of action along with direct action outside of the electoral process. As it stands today, this country's "elections" are just a huge energy, enthusiasm and soul-sucking black hole, an obstruction to real change.

A little while ago, on one of my customary trips down to the kitchen for coffee and a sandwich, I did my customary peek into the bedroom to see what the DW has babbling on the TV. Predictably, it was MSNBC's Party apologists spinning and pissing and moaning about the results in Wisconsin. They were airing yet another interview with DNC chair "Little Debbie" Wasserman-Schultz; she complained about the influence of SuperPAC money in the Wisconsin recall election. "I'm speaking, of course, of money not donated to Obama's SuperPAC", Little Debbie neglected to add.

What added insult to injury -- at least for me, personally -- was when MSNBC then brought on some mouthpiece for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for some more complaining about how much cash the GOP poured into Wisconsin. This really made me want to knee the Democratic Party in the groin, especially as I remember this night late last year:


Fadduh Smiff sez on 06.07.12 @10:00:
I know the Occupiers were very glad when the union contingents showed up last fall, and it was damned exciting, but the promise seems to have exceeded the performance...

Yeah, we were glad fersure, but we weren't fooling ourselves about the mainstream unions and how deep they are in the hip pocket of the Donkeycrats. That's why Occupy worked outside the mainstream union leadership to agitate for May Day, and called on workers to organize and act on their own behalf, regardless of the official legality -- or lack of same -- of their participation in the strikes.

As I mentioned a while back, it's time to "get our Greek on".


I like your response fluggles
Yes the demoronics are part of the problem
And yes so far the top pie cards have not been usefully part of the solution

And I agree union members need to be approached directly

But consider the record here

The union hierarchy has very effective ways of washing out
"alien influences "
The activist approaching a union needs to liaison with the top pies in my estimation
Last years west coast docker story
has many positive and negative lessons

If we are to unite with the unions this must include union leaders to be effective
All union leaders?
Certainly not

But a nice big hunk of em

Which my generation never got during the kold war


I'm with Mike on this one. Always admired the Greeks.


Speaking of crooked ballot boxing rules etc

Obviously the referendum should have been Scott in or out

If out he is out and replaced by the lt governor until a new election process comes round or is specially legislated
Just as it would be if the sitting governor died

This is a political execution after all
But those shaggy old progressives drafted up the law to create this gimcrackery
where it's rawly just a new election for governor

That however doesn't strike me as sufficient reason to oppose
a dump movement

The unions wanted some one other then mayor hack as u know
But he beat her in the primary


The more basic point
Referenda can work
It put taxes on rich bastards in oregon
And raised some state minimum wage rates and indexed a few to CPI too

Selective pink pwog rad participation in such endevors
looks rather sensible to me


For once I agree with Owen: the problem is not so much with plebiscites as such (pace Daumier) as with the fact that in Wisconsin it was just another damn two-party election: a completely undeserved do-over for the Donks. The question was not "should we throw the bum out" but rather the usual "which bum do you hate less, and if neither excites you, stay home."


I agree with all of the misgivings, and even, like Mike F, felt some spiteful glee at the recall's defeat (which most of us could see coming from miles away). But I still think labor would be in a better place today had Walker been ousted, and I know capital is in a better place.

Had the recall succeeded, who knows what that might --- might --- have unleashed? Who knows where things might've gone?

What Al said: "It's the kind of victory that would be threatening to the victors. The last thing they want is a popular movement with momentum."


I'm not happy to hear the recall was defeated. Spiting the Dems isn't worth the pain this defeat might cause. I despise lesser evilism but a victory in this fight would have been a positive thing no matter who ran against Walker.

This post on Henwood's article got me thinking about my own foolish consistency on the hobgoblins of lesser evil. Could a vote for the Dems occasionally have real strategic value with no potential downside other than to maintain the status quo? This seems like a case where voting for the Democrat would have been worth the nausea in doing so.


"Why must Marxists–forgive me, “Leftists”–approach these situations in a bourgeois moralistic fashion that dictates absolute ideological purity? Surely it costs little to vote against one’s worst enemies in an election. The time required is not very great. It is perfectly possible to be organizing, supporting, and engaging in popular action during the rest of the time. If you are really behind popular action, you lose nothing by taking an hour or two for a vote that, at worst, only serves to preserve the status quo....

I can’t help thinking that leftists who rail against any vote for any Demicrap ever, or who insist on opposing existing labor unions 100% across the board, are actually guilty themselves of a sentimental weakness for the electoral process. To such people, the vote is still somehow precious–its bestowal a kind of sacrament–and not to be granted lightly. But the reality is that the government of the United States and the state and local governments, like the corporations they serve, are almost completely illegitimate. The vote itself, therefore, is of very little value. Shouldn’t this make us less, rather than more, reluctant to waste said vote–or use it to secure any tactical advantage, however temporary, in the rare circumstance where it is likely to make some difference?"


The vote secures the hierarchy within its matrix of relations. Makes it stronger. Validates it. The temporary win for the good guys is invariably part and parcel of a longer term defeat.

Look at all of the "progressive era" regulation. The end result was "regulatory agencies" which were incorporated into the already captive commons, and which were subject to purchase by the people who get the best state they can buy: the ruling class, in all its fractive glory. That same process alienates labor - and oppressed castes within the class divisions - from its native capacity to resist by withdrawing work, organizing, striking, sabotage, stoppage et cetera.

It takes a function which is situationally inherent to the working and poor classes and hands it over to the auctioneer. And we all know who can post the highest bid.

Al Schumann:

It seems to me that a vote to preserve the status quo is based on some confusion between two negative progressions. One is viewed as a slower dive off the cliff. It's rarely the case—although it can happen. I could, for example, understand why people would hold noses and vote for Kucinich over Kaptur. It wouldn't amount to much of anything, but that is a marginally slower dive off the cliff.

chomskyzinn sez on 06.07.12 @16:47:
Had the recall succeeded, who knows what that might --- might --- have unleashed? Who knows where things might've gone?

Nothing would have been unleashed. The Pwogs and unionists would've put down their signs and banners, gone home and shut up -- just as the Pwogs and Liberals did after Obummer became the Decider-In-Chief.


Mike F, I am afraid you're probably right. Hence, my spiteful glee and ambivalence. But old habits and beliefs die hard.

I turn increasingly to Occupy, and the Quebec kids, for hope. None of these folks appear remotely at risk of party co-optation.

The accounts from our Montreal correspondent on the other post are thrilling.

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Wednesday June 6, 2012 08:44 PM.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31