Battle for Wisconsin #7: How do we win?

Posted February 25, 2011

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.

There was a moment yesterday when the question was posed, “Will the Republicans reign in Walker?” The answer, I think, is that they will not. Executives at Koch Industries issued a statement saying that after the leaked Walker prank they are more determined than ever to push this thing through. They know that backing away from Walker will cede some ground and they’ve realized that if they can get this thing through completely as is, it will deal a crushing blow to the movement that’s emerged. But their decision is not without its costs: the Wisconsin Professional Police Association issued a statement saying that they will not clear the capitol out, as demanded by the Legislature, and in fact they will be joining the sleep-in. Moreover, the scene inside during the Assembly vote this morning was unbelievable: representatives were throwing paper and cups of water, confronting Republicans chanting “SHAME! SHAME!” There are serious cracks in the order of things, and while there are still many legislators, State Patrol and Capitol Police who may be following orders, these are signs of defection.

As more layers come out against the bill, we’re once again at the position of looking not only at what a win is, but how does that happen? The win here has to be a complete defeat of the bill, no concessions. That’s had to evolve, but as the alliance of forces has come together and we see how much both sides have invested in this, a win must mean that the whole bill goes. If the union-busting parts are thrown out and the rest goes through, not only do we have the objective reality of cuts to everything imaginable, the movement coalition will be shattered because non-union workers will know that they were abandoned. What’s more, we know that the full budget will be unveiled on Tuesday, which will be even worse than this bill. If we have any hope of fighting that budget, we have to have the morale and experience of winning that must come from beating the bill.

So how do we do it? How do we actually kill the whole bill, what does that look like? This is the trickier part. For people who get this far, the notion is typically that we find three Republican Senators to change their vote and we’re in the clear. I think that’s a mistake. First off, we have no guarantee that if they agree to change their votes that they will actually vote that way if the fourteen Senators are recalled. Walker himself said that he wanted to bait them with just this kind of move. Second, and this is less serious, even if we could win like that, the way in which we will matters. If they agree to change their votes and the Democrats come back, that kind of victory would be credited more to the Senators than to the people who made it happen; it has the danger of co-opting the independent working class movement. Obviously, if it comes down to this kind of victory or no victory, take the fucking Senators’ for the victory!

What seems the most sensible, the safest and surest way to beat the bill is to force them to withdraw it. If the Assembly vote is ruled illegal (they violated Assembly rules), it’ll buy some more time and it gives more possibility for them to withdraw the bill from that chamber. More likely, it’ll have to be withdrawn from the Senate since they’re the ones that have the most political pressure on them and have become the symbol for where the movement’s power lies.

Its not for me to say which course must be taken because its contingent on the development of the struggle. But what is clear about both options is that the only way the bill can be either voted down or withdrawn is with immense popular pressure. We’ve gotten this far because of the pressure the movement has put on, through the sit-ins blocking the Legislature from meeting, the sleep-ins at the capitol, the enormous rallies and now the actions on specific targets. The Assembly Democrats have only gone as far as they have because of the critical mass of people and to kill this thing the social cost of the bill will have to raise even more.

It remains to be seen if Walker’s maneuvers, intimidating teachers and doctors, working through the courts and militarizing the capitol, will have the effect he’s hoping they’ll have, or if the coalition can survive the increasing presence of the international unions and their organizing staff who are attempting to undercut the influence and impact of local militants, but if today has shown us anything its that this is a general working class revolt and we should expect more surprises.


9 responses to “Battle for Wisconsin #7: How do we win?”

  1. Earl Avatar

    I was at Sunday’s meeting chaired by the NNU. One speaker did identify himself as being with the Kill the Whole Bill Coalition as did at least one other from the floor, so it appears to exist.

    From asking about 25-30 folks on Sat. if they’d heard of the South Central Fed delegates vote to endorse a general one day strike to kill the whole bill, most were very supportive but had heard not a word.

    From that experience and public statements that they already agreed to the cuts, I’d say that the union leaders have not communicated this to the locals or through them to members.

    Any movement for grass-roots, workplace action appears to face the opposition of most of the state-level union leaders. On the other side, some Madison locals are holding meetings and organizing comm.s to prep for a strike. Or, possibly,other forms of workplace actions like rolling strikes,

  2. Andrew Avatar

    I have to say that the various “left” forces have worked together really well and as a whole it looks pretty good.

    A lot of the infrastructure inside the capitol the second week was built by anarchists who don’t identify with the class struggle here but do see the community inside the capitol as attractive and valuable. Whether I agree with their perspective or not, they have been prioritized the food, medical and children’s spaces, which has been helpful to the movement as a whole.

    The IWW was also the largest proponent of the general strike and their work advanced the SCFL resolution–they are now the ones broadcasting that message at the grassroots level while the fed does the formal work.

    The socialist groups have been experimenting with how to find a beneficial relationship given some real differences. It seems like the exchange of information and analysis has been the most fruitful part of the relationship, though there is an attempt to find common work as well. Its as good as its ever been.

  3. Andrew S Avatar
    Andrew S

    I stand corrected. I have talked to an ISO supporter in Madison and was told that no formal coalition exists, simply healthy collaboration among forces attempting to resist concessions, including a “no concessions” meeting sponsored by the NNU that the ISO and others participated in (there is no National Nurses Union) as well as different small campaigns to apply counterpressure to the misleadership of the TU officials. I was also told that there has been excellent unity on the ground btw socialists and other radicals, despite different focuses of activity. I hope this continues on all sides given how weak the Left is and how much is at stake in Wisconsin.

  4. Andrew Avatar

    FYI, Andrew S who just posted wasn’t me, in case that wasn’t clear.

    I’m going to be talking to some ISO folks here to see how they think the coalition turned out. It seems like a similar project is taking place through the National Nurses Union, who held a meeting today at the Labor Temple.

    Some Solidarity members have attended meetings for the coalition, but on a whole its not something that we’ve worked on.

  5. Chai Montgomery Avatar
    Chai Montgomery

    This coalition sounds great. I’d love to know more about it. I read Robin Gee’s article on the Socialist Worker web site, and checked out the AFT Locals web page, and I read Rose Ann Demoro’s piece. There’s not much in terms of the KTWB Coalition effort, but I suppose it being only 5 days old or so, it’s presence is limited to “in-person” and “in Madison” (or, it’s a bureaucratic thing that has no grass roots entry point, I hope not). As a Solidarity supporter, I’d like to know how we can participate, and that would probably best be done by asking the ISO, right?

  6. Andrew s. Avatar
    Andrew s.

    The ISO is also publishing articles every day at and has initiated a Kill The Whole Bill Coalition along with National Nurses United and a number of grassroots groups and union activists. Is Solidarity participating in this coalition?

  7. David McCullough Avatar
    David McCullough

    Good work. Solidarity is the only major socialist organization I can find on the web publishing daily reports from Wisconsin.

  8. chai Avatar

    That would be SHUT it down! Oops!

  9. CHai Avatar

    I think it’s the same kind of pressure that got the Assembly Dems to leave town for this long that will get Repubs to withdraw their beloved bill. I.e., mass action. There are few times in my life that I’ve considered getting arrested for a cause, but this would be one in which I would. Leading a charge, or being part of a minority charge into the bowels of the capitol to occupy it and shut down government in Madison, could back-fire and end up with mass arrests, if it’s not backed by the full weight of the “kill the bill” rank and file supporters. But I doubt that Repubs will withdraw the bill if they have any other choice; and I doubt the Assem-Dems will stay out for too long if their is space for them to come back (i.e., the Assembly is open for business). Rank and file members could also pledge non-compliance with the bill, and declare the intent to strike if it passes; better yet, they could declare a general strike now to support the campaign in the Capitol.
    You’re right, of course: immense popular pressure will kill this bill. But the form of the pressure is critical to its force. The struggle so far shows us that the demonstration of an opinion, as clear and unquestionable as 100,000 people in the streets can make it, is a weak force against the power of unabashedly, unwaveringly pro-capitalist state legislators. Shit it down.