Battle for Wisconsin #12: Sneak Attack

Wednesday morning we were all preparing for a compromise. The media blew up with stories that Scott Walker was willing to keep collective bargaining in place in exchange for the return of the fourteen Democrats and the passage of the rest of the bill, and activists on the ground scrambled looking for ways to strengthen their coalition and resist a compromise that could remove organized labor from the fight in order to conquer the rest of the working class.

The odd thing was that Wednesday evening, instead of continuing what appeared to be a very effective strategy to move forward on the austerity and disperse the movement, Republicans split the bill and moved to ramrod it through the Legislature that night; the bill has stalled out for as long as it has because they don’t have quorum to pass it as financial legislation, so they’ve split the bill to have a non-financial union-busting bill that they can pass with the numbers they have now. The Senate passed the union-busting split bill Wednesday night with no debate and with only 8 pages missing from over 140 total pages.

The response by protesters was furious: I must have gotten at least four phone calls and a dozen text messages saying “GET TO THE CAPITOL”–every network had been tapped.

Battle for Wisconsin #11: Regrouping and Reorienting

A quick note on process: I want to point out that the analysis and reporting that I’ve been doing has been the result of many collective discussions and debates with my comrades, members of Solidarity as well as fellow travelers. Mistakes or misjudgments are my own, and times where I feel like I’ve been off is because I haven’t been able to work through the situation collectively. Givin’ credit where credit’s due!

Let’s start with a recap of last week before getting into where we are now. A week ago, on the last weekend of February, the Legislature tried to close the capitol and ran up against a critical mass of demonstrators and a number of police defections. On Sunday evening, 2/27, about a hundred protesters refused to leave the capitol after a dispersal order and following some short deliberation the Capitol Police announced that they would not attempt any arrests. This all set up an intensified struggle over the capitol–would the continued occupation by a hundred activists reopen the capitol or would the capitol be closed out?

Battle for Wisconsin #10: Inside-Outside

Court is still in session and access to the capitol is restricted for the fourth consecutive day. About eighty people continue the sit-in inside the capitol, for hope that the combination of popular pressure and favorable judicial order will force the DOA and police to step aside and let the occupation of the capitol resume in full; if they leave, their understanding is that the capitol will be unrecoverable for the movement.

The resolve of people inside is nothing short of heroic. Many of the activists holding the floor at the capitol have been there for days, since last Friday even, committed to staying for every night that it was rumored people would be pushed out. But unlike last week where activists would go to meetings, get food, clean up and rush back to the capitol before being locked out, they have been basically unable to leave since the doors closed Sunday afternoon. Morale has had its highs and lows, higher at the start of the week and lower every day since as the isolation and feeling of powerlessness sets in. I got a call from a comrade inside yesterday and I said to them, “Its like you’re in fucking prison,” to which they responded, “Well actually in prison you could come visit me.”

Battle for Wisconsin #7: How do we win?

Its pretty clear that we are in an all out class war here and everyone seems to know it. Organized labor all across the United States knows it, they’re sending people here and looking at what to do at home; non-union workers know it and they’re moving forward their demands and tactics (like today’s occupation of the GOP office by ADAPT disability activists); and obviously, Walker, the Legislature, the Koch Brothers and the entire capitalist class knows it and they’re out for a complete crushing victory.

The Battle for Wisconsin Part Six: War of Maneuver

The strategic and tactical assessments of the situation have shifted a few times since this started last week–our goals and objectives have had to change with the developments here, the idea of what is possible and what a win means. Its all changed and changed again. When we arrived at what seemed like a kind of stalemate over the weekend, both sides were digging in and preparing to deal huge blows: Walker and the Legislature were expected to press the police and push the bill; workers had the threat of a general strike, a huge presence at the capitol and a lot of unrest in the state. Monday night/Tuesday early morning, there was a sense of immediacy that broke the interlude–people on the ground were getting ready to defend against a push by briefing each other on direct actions, legal support and emergency support to unions.

Battle for Wisconsin, Part Five: The Advance

Without a doubt, today is going to decide the course of the struggle. The last two and a half days have been a pause, with folks moving into position for Tuesday while guarding their backs in case of any unexpected developments. Rumors of strikes have come and gone depending on what the collective sense is of who’s in the lead and what the balance of forces is. The anxiety into Monday was in looking for some maneuvers or developments that would put one side in front of the other, a step forward by some local who to announce an action or a new position on the bill by anyone in the government, but basically everyone has just dug in and stayed the course.

Battle for Wisconsin, Part Four: Battle Plans

We’re into the fifth day now and its starting to take its toll–I’m pretty worn so hopefully this report is holding the standard. The capitol square has temporarily depopulated to the point that it almost looks like a normal business day–of course its Sunday and most people don’t do business with KILL THE BILL placards and “I am MTI” pins. The local newspapers are saying that the small turnout today is because of the bad weather (it’s grossly cold and wet) and that shows the resolve of protesters here. But people have been here days and nights and since there’s no imminent threat its a good time to go home, take care of yourself and get ready for the next day. Some are leaving Madison, back to the rest of Wisconsin for life, work or until the next round, so allies from around the country have come to take their places and keep a presence. And even though things seem pretty mellow, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

Battle for Wisconsin, Part Three: War of Attrition

One thing this week has become infamous for is the spread of rumors, and Friday night ended with a scare that a fleet of Tea Party buses were on their way to counter-protest with Sarah Palin at the head. WEAC members passed out flyers Friday afternoon briefing demonstrators on what to expect and how to conduct themselves, but apart from overworked activists and a few union bureaucrats, the crowd seemed unbothered by the right wing threat. Of course when a little more than a thousand tea party activists got to the capitol (sans Palin), most people seemed to think their presence was laughable and carried on without incident.

Battle for Wisconsin, Part II

Another update from Andrew in Madison.

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Thursday night ended with lots of energy and momentum as Democratic senators fled the state to break quorum and block a vote, and Friday seems to be a difficult and contradictory day. Public schools remain closed and thousands of UW students walked out today to join workers at the capitol, so there remains important grassroots energy but the situation is changing quickly.

Report from the Battle for Wisconsin

This is a report from a Madison comrade, Andrew, who has been heavily involved with the protests there. He makes great observations on the culture of the protests, how such movements are organized, contradictions between the labor bureaucracy and rank-and-file workers, and all kinds of other stuff you definitely won’t learn about in the mainstream media. This was written late Thursday, February 17.

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First, I think we’re all shocked at what’s happening here. There’s obviously been a build-up to this point, a few test battles in union-busting public sector workers and of course the (democratic) legislature stalling out and then rejecting state contracts, but the pace at which things have proceeded this week is mindblowing. Walker introduced the bill on Friday with intent to get it passed Wednesday, which pissed people off even more than the contents of the bill already had.