Following protests by thousands of Wisconsin workers and their supporters in response to new legislation that bans collective bargaining by public sector workers, Horace Campbell places the struggles in the state in the wider social and political struggles in the US. As in Tunisia and Egypt, workers faced austerity measures, decline in income, dispossession, and states that were more accountable to the corporates than citizenry, Campbell notes.
‘The images of tens of thousands of workers and their supporters – including teachers, students and firefighters – who took part in the occupation of the Capitol Rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin for more than two weeks have reignited the morale and militancy of the labor movement. Even beyond labor, the scenes from Wisconsin have shown ordinary people the power they possess when they are organized and take bold action. Many who visited Madison in the first two weeks of the struggle commented on the breathtaking spirit of solidarity among the protesters, the efficient operation of self-organized demonstrators, and the display of democracy come to life.’
This statement by the labour journalist Brian Tierney on the self-organisation of working people to defend their democratic rights in the midst of the extended capitalist crisis brings out the realities of the current political and ideological struggles in the United States. Before the news of the multiple tragedies of earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis and massive loss of lives in Japan dominated the consciousness of people in all corners of the world, the images of hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrating for their rights as humans in Wisconsin competed with the images of uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Oman.
Wisconsin is one state in the USA where there are progressive traditions as well as very conservative heritages. It was the state that produced the dreaded Senator Joseph McCarthy who pursued one of the most systematic anti-communist witch-hunts during the Cold War. It is also the state where there were intense and militant demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Senator Russell Feingold was for a long time the representative for this state until the conservative forces nationally poured millions into the state to defeat him in the last round of elections in November 2010. In this Republican sweep Scott Walker became the governor of Wisconsin state and promised to continue the job of Ronald Reagan: Breaking the organised workers of the USA.
The threats to take away the basic democratic rights, including the right to elect local leaders had come after three decades when the neoliberal ideas of trickle-down wealth had launched a forthright attack on working peoples all over the world. From Durban, South Africa to Athens, Greece; from Jakarta, Indonesia to Mumbai, India; and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Rio De Janiero in Brazil, working peoples have been struggling against ‘austerity’ measures where the costs of the capitalist crisis were being transferred to working peoples. After the impressive struggles by the youth, women, workers and students in Egypt to remove a dictatorial regime, the workers of Wisconsin in the USA gained inspiration and courage from these revolutions in Africa and stood their ground against a governor who had signed into law the removal of collective bargaining rights by workers. For a brief period after the financial meltdown and the capitalists were exposed in September 2008, the capitalist class in the USA was on the defensive, but under the Obama administration, this class recovered its nerve along with the extraction of wealth as high rates of corporate profits have returned with all forms of government support, and now are pushing an all out counter-revolutionary campaign to destroy the last vestiges of the collective rights of the US working class. After stoking the fires of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, this class decided to go after the last vestige of popular democracy in the USA, taking away the ability of working people to bargain, which also represents an attack on a key piece of the Democratic Party political machine and is thus a opening political salvo of the 2012 Presidential campaign in the United States
In my analysis this week, I seek to place the struggles in Wisconsin in the wider social and political struggles in the United States.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND THE WORKING CLASS IN THE UNITED STATES
When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law, on 11 March 2011, a bill that bans collective bargaining by most of the state’s public sector workers, he was striking at one of the fundamental pillars of the democratic rights of workers in the USA. Liberal democracy in the US had emerged after centuries of struggles where the working people fought for the right to vote and the right to collective bargaining – including the fundamental right to organise and bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions. These struggles had matured after the Civil War in a society that had denied Africans the rights to be citizens and the rights to be free. The war against enslavement was the first major working class struggles in the United States. When this Civil War ended in 1865, the conservatives sought to divide black and white workers by placing the stamp of whiteness on sections of the working class so that labour was divided between black and white workers.
Despite this division, the depths of exploitation and brutality were so deep in the USA that the struggles for the eight-hour workday strengthened the resolve of workers internationally. The Haymarket uprisings and the battles in Illinois at the end of the 19th century are now part of the legend of working class struggles internationally. Yet, despite these epic struggles in the industrial heartland of the USA over decades, the ideological push of the US rulers sought to inculcate the idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstrap into the minds of working peoples. This idea was that every worker could become a member of the capitalist class if they worked harder. The media was deployed to divide the working class so that although the struggle for the eight hour workday galvanised workers in the USA, May 1 is not celebrated as a worker holiday in the USA. US workers were told to see themselves as part of the ‘middle class.’ However, police violence, ideological confusion and goon squads could not halt the long-term workers’ struggles. During the capitalist depression of the thirties, the organised workers of the US combined to defend their interests.
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in most countries of the world, but pundits prefer to speak of ‘the market’ or ‘globalisation’ in order to mask the realities of social production of goods and services and private appropriation of wealth. Under this system, the means for producing and distributing goods (the land, factories, technology, transport system etc) are owned by a small minority of people. We refer to this group of people as the capitalist class. The majority of people must sell their ability to work in return for a wage or salary (who we refer to as the working class.) At all times, this capitalist class believe in socialism for the rich, that is they are the ones who benefit from the gains of the system while the majority of the poor absorb the losses. This socialisation of the dangers of capitalism is best exemplified in the areas of environmental destruction when capitalists plunder nature and society bears the social costs of the clean-up.
Under the present mode of economic organisation, the dominant capitalist class profits from the exploitation of labour. During periods of extended capitalist crises, especially during a depression – when there is a severe economic downturn that lasts several years – the capitalist classes seek to drop all of the usual legalities of the rights for workers, whether the right to vote or the right to collective bargaining. In the most extreme cases, when the capitalist class seize total power, there is the rise of fascism. The strength of the working class movement, especially the organised resistance of black workers ensured that the US escaped the worst aspects of fascism, although local fascism was manifest in the activities of the Ku Klux Klan and the extreme white supremacists. During the last major depression (1929-1945), US workers consolidated the gains that we take for granted today: The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, social security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance. These concessions were won because the struggles were linked internationally and organisations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) opposed the division of working peoples internationally.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, it was accepted internationally that the right to collective bargaining should be one of the fundamental rights of workers in all parts of the world and this right was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Collective bargaining asserted the right of workers, organising together (usually in unions) to meet, discuss, and negotiate upon the work conditions with their employers. For a generation after the Second World War, it was accepted that collective bargaining was as important a right as the right to freedom of association or the right to vote. In fact Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated,
1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Hence when the Governor of Wisconsin signed into law a bill that banned the right to collective bargaining by public sector workers, it was a major attack on the US worker as well as an attack on a right recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even the New York Times opined that, ‘Workers’ rights — including the fundamental right to organize and bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions — are under attack in states from Maine to Ohio, from Wisconsin to Florida.’
WEAKENING THE US WORKERS
The very strength of the US workers in the aftermath of the 1939-1945 war challenged the capitalist class to find ways to weaken the organized workers. This was effected through a massive brainwashing campaign to separate US workers from international working class struggles by mobilizing US workers as a privileged sector of humanity who could plunder the resources of the planet. In this way, even the trade union centers in the US were mobilised as accessories to US military adventures overseas. Hence, the trade union bureaucracy supported the military attacks against the peoples of Vietnam and the support for counter-revolution in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This counter-revolutionary mobilisation took a fillip under Ronald Reagan when the idea of anti-communism was used to scare US workers. The dismissal by Ronald Reagan of Air Traffic Controllers was the first blow in the savage attack carried out by capital against workers in the USA and amplified across the world. It was under this period that the ideas of social democratic rights for workers around the world were attacked. Social democratic ideas stipulating that workers must have basic rights such as the right to health care, the right to sanitation, clean environment and the right to organise were being replaced with the neoliberal dogma of privatisation and liberalisation. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, under the impact of neoliberalism, sweatshop conditions were praised and US capitalists shipped jobs overseas in an effort to weaken workers in the USA. The de-industrialisation of the USA meant the systematic weakening of the US workers to the point where by 2009, only 12.3 per cent of the US workers were organised in trade unions.
The number of organised workers in the USA were always small relative to the organisation of workers in Western Europe but from the peak of 33 per cent of the US workers organised in Unions in 1955, the drop to 12. 3 per cent by 2009 was the lowest level of organized workers activity since 1935. In 1957 manufacturing accounted for 27 per cent of US GDP, while finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) accounted for only 13 per cent. By 2008 the relationship had reversed, with the share of manufacturing dropping to 12 per cent and FIRE rising to 20 per cent. Despite the fact that over 20 per cent of the GDP came from the financial sector, one of the most graphic features of this sector of the economy was that workers in this sector were not unionised and had no legal protection against the financial speculators.
PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS AND THE CAPITALIST DEPRESSION
With unorganised service workers of the FIRE sector and the success of US companies outsourcing manufacturing jobs overseas, public sector workers became the dominant section of the organised workers in the USA so that in 2010 for the first time in US history, public sector union members outnumbered their private sector counterparts. According to the labour bureau 7.2 per cent of private-sector workers were union members last year, down from 7.6 per cent the previous year. This is the lowest percentage of private-sector workers in unions in the USA since 1900. ‘Overall union membership fell by 771,000 in 2009, to 15.3 million, largely because employment declined over all. But the rate of private-sector unionization fell because two sectors where unions are especially strong — manufacturing and construction — suffered especially large job losses. Construction lost more than 900,000 jobs last year, falling to 5.9 million, while 1.3 million factory jobs were lost, declining to 11.6 million.’
Public employees were the most tenacious in defending their rights and they were intimately connected to the social programs being slashed by every level of government throughout the country. When Republicans felt confident of their resurgence in 2010, one of the talking points of Republican strategists across the USA was to weaken public sector employees, because these workers were conscious of the need to defend basic rights to pensions, minimum wage and quality health care.
FINANCIAL CAPITALISTS AGAINST WORKING PEOPLES
There was always an ideological onslaught against working peoples. The weakening of organized workers went hand in glove with the rise of speculative capital and the new financial instruments such as derivatives and other such opaque phenomenon that were called Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps. These ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ created by the powerful Wall Street banks were backed by the military power of the US army, and it was in this period that major financial institutions such as Cerberus, General Electric, Halliburton and the Carlyle Group became outright owners of private armies in the military-industrial-financial-information complex. The US dollar as the currency of world trade was backed up by the military and organisations such as Halliburton and Cerberus, which set about establishing private military structures in the era of financialisation. Many readers may not know that a major private military contractor such as DynCorp (active all over the world, especially in Africa) is owned by the capital management group, Cerberus.
Militarisation and financialisation further shifted the center of gravity of the capitalist economy from production to finance. Monthly Review identified the following features of financialisation: (1) increasing financial profits as a share of total profits; (2) rising debt relative to GDP; (3) the growth of FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) as a share of national income; (4) the proliferation of exotic and opaque financial instruments; and (5) the expanding role of financial bubbles.
The full implications of this financialisation and militarisation came to a head by 2008 when the US military adventures were discredited in Afghanistan and Iraq and workers were no longer deceived by the so-called ‘War on Terrorism’. When the full bubble was exposed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and American International Group (AIG) the capitalists ducked temporarily, until they realised that the election of Barack Obama would not be a threat to their interests. Despite the popular momentum that swept Obama into the Oval Office, Obama surrounded himself with the same elements that were at the front of the bubbles, and under his administration there has been a continuation of the vast transfer of wealth from the working class to the richest one percent of society.
Trillions of dollars were expended to bail out the banks while state and local government, under both Democrats and Republicans, went about responding to budget deficits by closing schools, libraries, clinics and other public facilities, and carrying out attacks on state and municipal employees. This attack went the furthest in the state of Michigan where the governor more or less declared ‘financial martial law’ against communities in the form of ‘financial managers.’ The governor was doing what neoliberal governments have been doing all over the world, giving the executive the power to abrogate contracts at will and supersede the democratic process.
According to the law, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, which was approved earlier this year, the governor will be able to declare ‘financial emergency‘ in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services. Under the law, whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down. The governor can appoint managers to fire local elected officials, break labor agreements, suspend collective bargaining rights for five years, order millage elections, take over pension funds and even dissolve local governments.
These draconian measures came after a decade of dividing workers against each other. When it was no longer possible to mobilise workers on the basis of fighting overseas, there was a major campaign to divide workers with an explicit attack on workers from the Latino/Latina community. Conservative commentators and conservative politicians in states such as Arizona moved to implement legislation that divided immigrant workers who were the most unorganized and part of the super-exploited sections of the US working class. Of the working class in the society the black and immigrant workers belonged to the bottom rung of the ladder. Billionaires mobilised groups such as the Tea Party and other quasi religious fronts to support greed and the obscene consumption of the top one per cent of the population. Issues of reproductive rights for women and the rights of same gender loving persons were placed at the top of the political agenda while conservative ‘evangelists’ preached division and celebrated religion as a business.
WORKERS FIGHT BACK
The struggles of workers internationally must be seen as part of the global fight back against the welcome mat for authoritarianism and dictatorship. From Greece to Ireland and from Tunisia to Egypt working peoples mobilized to oppose the ‘austerity measures’ that rewarded the billionaires for their plunder of humans and nature. In Egypt this liberalisation of the economy strengthened the cronies of the Mubarak regime while millions were unemployed. There was the spectacle of hundreds of graduates jostling for job as tourist guides mounting foreigners onto camels. It was not by chance that the maturation of the anti-dictatorial struggles in Egypt acted as an inspiration to workers in all continents, because after decades of militant activities, these workers and their children had learnt new tactics of revolutionary non-violence to counter the structural and direct violence of one of the allies of US imperialism. Egyptian workers had gained self-confidence in their fight against austerity measures and when the workers of Wisconsin started to mobilise they carried placards pointing to the solidarity with workers in Egypt.
Inside the USA, all sections of the workers have been mobilising with organised and spontaneous actions to defend their living standards. Since 2008, the number of industrial actions by workers in the USA has increased in every sector of the economy, with workers going on strike in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Illinois, Washington State, New York State, and other parts of the country. These struggles have taken up many of the central issues of working peoples: health care, benefits, pensions, layoffs, and the general questions of safety of work and occupational health issues. The workers movement, environmental justice movement, the peace movement and the student movement mobilised in numerous forms of engagement and one of the lost prolonged struggles is continuing in California where students fought against tuition increases and attacks on their living and working conditions. All across California students occupied universities, blocked roadways, and attempts were made at creating assemblies and drawing teachers and staff and other parts of the California working class out in support.
The attack on trade union and the collective bargaining rights of workers in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and other areas of the USA represents the boldness of capital in this age. These attacks, while not new, are new to workers in the US. The dismissal by Ronald Reagan of air traffic controllers was the first blow in the savage attack carried out by capital against workers across the world. There are not isolated attacks. It is part of the liberalisation project, what is sometimes called neoliberalism, neocolonism, and the Washington consensus. Since the mid 1980s we have witnessed a concerted effort on the part of global capital to destroy trade unions as a way of creating a more fertile playground for business. Such a playground has been created in the Export Promotion Zones in Mexico, China, India, Guatemala, Jamaica, El Salvador, Barbados, and most other countries. Republican Governors such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Kasick of Ohio, Christie of New Jersey are now in the process of creating the equivalent of EPZs in these states to make it possible for education to be further privatised, and to privatise the public sector.
THE WISCONSIN DIMENSIONS OF THE FIGHT BACK AGAINST COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Wisconsin is one of the many states in the USA that had blossomed in the post-war period when US capitalism expanded and the workers were able to live at a comfortable standard of living. However, since 1970 Wisconsin has become one of the former rustbelt states that suffered the effects of deindustrialisation. As stated above, it inherited two strong traditions of US society, the conservatism of settler colonial ideas and the radicalism of populist working class struggles. Senator Joseph McCarthy was the mirror image of this conservative/neo-fascist tradition, while political leaders such as Russell Feingold represented the long anti-war traditions. The working class had built strong communities and strong institutions and the levels of public services were respected all over the country. Wisconsin was also the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and boasted long traditions of committed public employees mobilisation.
In the past 30 years, cities such as Milwaukee, the principal working class center in the state reflected the rising inequalities in the period of de-industrialisation. In the city of Madison the strength of the Public service employees had maintained a level of progressive politics that set Wisconsin aside in the USA. Madison earned the distinction of one of the most livable cities in the USA. This was a statement on the levels of social cohesion that had prevented the kind of hollowing out of major urban areas as was the case in cities such as Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Youngstown, Ohio. The alliance between politicians and real estate developers had robbed urban areas of a base for regeneration and this alliance paved the way for the big republican resurgence all over the USA. When the Republicans made their major electoral gains in the Midterm elections in November 2010, the Republican leadership calculated that if they were able to break the power of AFSCME in Wisconsin, it would be possible to attack workers’ rights in every state of the USA.
From Ohio to Indiana and from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, conservative Republican governors strategised to take away collective bargaining rights from workers. In Tennessee, a law that would abolish collective bargaining rights for teachers passed a State Senate committee. The attack on teachers, nurses and other public servants was part of a double-pronged attack on trade unions and also the sectors that blocked the complete destruction of the rights of worker to education and health.
Using shortfalls in the budget as the pretense to attack workers, these governors called for ‘austerity measures’ in order to cut the deficit of the states. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin was seeking to carve out a national niche for himself and proposed a sweeping measure to cut benefits for public employees in the state and to take away most of their unions’ ability to bargain. Democratic senators fled the state in order to deny the Republicans a quorum and workers began to demonstrate to defend their right to collective bargaining.
In February 2011, while the bill was before the Wisconsin state legislature, public service workers mobilised in one of the most prolonged and consistent demonstration of worker protest in the USA to the point where these demonstrations made international headlines. When the governor attempted to stir up trouble by fomenting violence, sections of the police forces threw their support behind the workers. University students from the University of Wisconsin, especially those organised in the union of teaching assistants threw their energies into the demonstrations. High school students brought a new level of intergenerational energy as there were actions of solidarity from all parts of the country and internationally. The solidarity took many forms with one Pizza owner gaining international notoriety because there were people from all over the world ordering free pizzas in support of the demonstrators in Wisconsin.
However, the boldness of the conservative Republicans could not be deterred by hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrating over three week period. After a three-week struggles where workers occupied the buildings of the Wisconsin State Capitol, Republicans in the state found a procedural way to force Mr Walker’s signature measure through the legislature despite the absence of the Democrats in the state senate. Mr Walker then signed the bill into law on 10 March 2011 over the objections of the unions and the Democrats. Among the items listed in the bill until the night of Wednesday 9 March, were selloffs of state power generation facilities – in no-bid contracts. According to, Michael Hudson:
‘The 37 facilities he wants to sell off that produce heating and cooling at low cost to the state's universities and prisons. Walker's budget repair bill would have unloaded them at a low price, presumably to campaign contributors such as Koch Industries – and then stick the bill for producing this power at higher rates to Wisconsin taxpayers in perpetuity.’
We are reliably informed by the New York Times that:
‘Among key provisions of Mr. Walker’s plan: limiting collective bargaining for most state and local government employees to the issue of wages (instead of an array of issues, like health coverage or vacations); requiring government workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pensions, much more than now; and requiring state employees to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now).’
CLASS WARFARE IN THE UNITED STATES
Although there have been consistent struggles by workers in the USA, the divisions of the US workers on numerous grounds had weakened the working class. Ideological and propaganda wars against workers had suborned the dominant section of the white working class to see themselves as whites and not as workers. The capitalist crisis and prolonged recession (some say depression) forced all workers to defend their rights and the boldness of the conservative republicans led to an escalation of class warfare. In the same week that Scott Walker signed the anti collective bargaining bill into law, Forbes magazine printed the information on the billionaires in the world. The list, showing that the USA still has the largest number of billionaires in the world, reminded workers that great wealth emanate from extreme forms of exploitation. The myth that these billionaires made their wealth from hard work and sacrifice was being exposed as Scott Brown exposed his fawning admiration for the Koch brothers, one of the billionaires in the USA who are financing neo-fascist causes. Michael Moore, the film-maker who made the documentary, ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’, was one of the many supporters who traveled to Madison Wisconsin to show solidarity to the workers. In his speech he spoke for workers all over the United States when he said:
‘America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages and settle for the life your great grandparents had. America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it is not in your hands.’
Calling the great conservative redistribution of America’s wealth a heist he continued by speaking of the wealth in this way:
‘It has been transferred in the greatest heist in American history from the workers and consumers to the banks and portfolios of the super-rich. Right now this afternoon just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again, and please someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once. We’re not greedy. We’ll be happy to hear it just once. 400 obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 now have more cash, stock, and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.’
Moore finished his speech by pointing to the epic nature of the struggles being fought in Wisconsin:
‘Wisconsin isn’t only about freedom of unions and collective bargaining. At a deeper level, Wisconsin is about the systemic redistribution of wealth that the Republican Party has overseen since 1980. It is about creating an economic caste system where the rich always stay rich and rest of us are destined to serve them. Conservatives have expertly hid their true motives for years with distractions like the culture wars, and sometimes shooting wars like in Iraq. While America was focusing on the terror alert level, George W. Bush was picking up the mantle of Ronald Reagan and redistributing wealth. If Republicans and their puppet masters are successful in breaking the back of organized labor then millions of Americans will be returned to a form of economic serfdom that was once thought to have been banished decades ago.
‘Wisconsin is the battle field and unions are our last line of defense, and nothing less than economic liberty, and the American Dream hinge on the outcome.’
THE NEW STAGE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MOMENT
Just as how the Egyptian revolution gave the workers and youth a sense of dignity and self esteem, the massive revolt of the workers in Wisconsin has given workers across the USA a new sense that there are social classes in the USA and that the idea that upward mobility is for the majority of working peoples, is simply a myth. Working peoples are beginning to re-awaken from the slumber and pacification of the corporate media and refuse to support jingoism and islamophobia. In the absence of committed leadership from the mainstream democratic party and the trade union bureaucracy, the working peoples are now thinking of defensive actions as the Republican Congress outlined plans to slash a trillion dollars from vitally needed social services, to pay for the bailout of Wall Street, the extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the rich and the Pentagon war machine.
It is in the midst of these struggles when we are witnessing the massive loss of lives with the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophy in Japan. As we seek to grasp the depth of the tragedy, the mainstream media trivialises the depth of the disaster by crying about the drop in the stock market and the fall of share prices. The callous reporting of the US media was one more reminder of the ways in which money was more important than human lives. Yet, it was one more reminder that the struggles for the rights of workers in the USA was part of the struggles against nuclear power and against all forms of capitalist plunder in all part of the world. In this period of neo-liberal capitalism, conservatives said that the idea of trade unions to defend workers was a depression era concept. Workers are now saying that in this depression, unions are needed as the struggles of workers in Wisconsin and the spreading of this movement around the country pose the necessity for a political struggle against the capitalist system.
Deregulation, privatisation, and the liberalisation doctrine of neoliberal capitalism were unleashed as weapons of war against the livelihood and rights of working people in Wisconsin and elsewhere, regardless of race, sex, and geography. In these struggles the ant-racist traditions remind workers that in order to put up an effective resistance, there must also be a concerted fight against racism and sexism. There is no better time to stand up to neoliberal capitalism in a manner that transcends racial, gender, and geographical barriers. This call for resistance across geographical borders was summed up by Michael Moore who linked the struggles of Tunisia, Egypt and Wisconsin when he said, ‘Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.’
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