The Wisconsin recall and the long march
On Wednesday, June 5, Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, issued the following positive spin on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker surviving a recall vote in a battle over collective bargaining and budget cutting:
“Today’s recall election was another step in a long march to restore worker freedom in Wisconsin. We’re disappointed in the results of the governor’s race, but it doesn’t erase the incredible journey so many citizens made from standing in the snow and sleeping under the dome to forcing their governor to answer for dividing their state.
“We must put things in perspective. Last spring, Scott Walker and his majority in the legislature were able to ram through their radical agenda unchecked. In response, more than a million men and women in Wisconsin triggered a recall with their signatures. Now, in Wisconsin, we have a pro-worker majority in the state senate, a federal court decision that restores some union rights, and a stalled right-wing agenda.
“It’s hard to imagine how different America would be today without the brave workers of Wisconsin. Their example inspired worker freedom in Ohio, stopped so-called ‘right to work’ legislation in Minnesota and New Hampshire, and stalled efforts in Florida to sell off public safety to the lowest corporate bidder. American workers across the country have beaten the odds—and we have the spirit of Wisconsin to thank.
“This election showed that corporate cash is distorting our democracy and drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. After Citizens United, Scott Walker has turned Wisconsin into a state that is bought and paid for by the billionaire Koch Brothers and other Wall Street barons.
“Scott Walker is the face of austerity for America’s working class. He wants to take everything away from everybody so greedy CEOs can make more money.
“We will continue our march to restore worker freedom in Wisconsin and stop the attacks on the American working class nationwide. One day longer, one day stronger.”
MSNBC host Ed Schultz was campaigning all over the state for Walker’s recall. He was frustrated and tongue-tied when confronted with union members who were going to vote against recalling Walker—a governor who had done everything he could to strip union members of collective bargaining rights. According to Robert L. Borosage, “Walker won 38% of the vote of people who said they were members of a union household.” The New York Times reported: “The recall race unfolded against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, with only 2 in 10 voters saying their family’s finances have improved in the two years since Mr. Walker was elected. About a third said their financial situation had grown worse, and more than 4 in 10 said their finances had stayed the same.”
How can working people vote against their own interests? How can union members or even unorganized workers vote for someone like Walker who clearly is intent on defending the interests of billionaires like the Koch brothers and crushing the interests of workers?
The obvious answer is that most workers don’t really understand their situation. They have come to believe the propaganda of billionaires, “We are the job-creators. If you would just be nice to us we could turn this economy around. If you would just give us tax breaks and more money we would create jobs.” The only thing billionaires and Wall Street care about is the bottom line. If it’s cheaper for them to build a product in a non-union state in the South, they’ll build it there. If it’s cheaper to build it in Mexico, they’ll build it there. And, if it’s cheaper to build it in China, they’ll build it there and ship it back. And all the time they’ll flood Washington with lobbyists asking for more handouts and fighting regulations that might protect the environment and consumers.
The attack on collective bargaining and the rights of workers is not new to Walker and Wisconsin. Perhaps the most famous collaboration between big business and an authoritarian government is in Nazi Germany. In his opening statement at the Nuremberg Trials, the American prosecutor, Robert Jackson, said, “On May 19, 1933, by government decree, it was provided that ‘trustees’ of labor, appointed by Hitler, should regulate the conditions of all labor contracts, replacing the former process of collective bargaining. On Jan. 20, 1934, a decree ‘regulating national labor’ introduced the fuehrer-principle into industrial relations. It provided that the owners of enterprises should be the ‘fuehrers’ and the workers should be the followers. The enterpriser-fuehrers should ‘make decisions for employees and laborers in all matters concerning the enterprise.’”
But it wasn’t just the attack on unions that was the hallmark of Walker and the Koch Brothers’ campaign, there was a special campaign designed to appeal to macho pride. Most polls, according to the New York Times, showed that “a majority of men had supported Mr. Walker, while most women had voted for Mr. Barrett.” The Walker campaign sent out letters to male voters telling them the Democrats were going to take away their deer rifles. This fits the national Republican Party agenda of a war on women, which they deny is a war on women even as Republican Senators (on the day of the election in Wisconsin) block a pay equity bill that would have allowed women to sue for equal pay. Even when they make abortion more difficult for women, even when they block birth control for women, they insist they are doing so to protect women.
They insist they have the highest regard for women. They want to put them on a pedestal—barefoot, pregnant and behind an ironing board, but on a pedestal.
This too has historical precedent:
“If we say the world of the man is the state, the world of the man is his commitment, his struggle on behalf of the community, we could then perhaps say the world of the woman is a smaller world. For her world is her husband, her family, her children and her home. But where would the big world be if no one wanted to look after the small world? How could the big world continue to exist if there was no one to make the task of caring for the small world the center of their lives? No, the big world rests on this small world. The big world cannot survive if this small world is not secure.” … Adolf Hitler, speech to the National Socialist women’s organizations, Nuremberg Party Rally, Sept. 8, 1934.