To:      marxism-international
Subject: M-I: Jack Hill on the Labor Party in the US
Date:    Monday, April 13, 1998 5:44 AM

These two articles on the Labor Party were printed in the summer of 1996
by the two organizations that emerged from the Marxist-Leninist Party,
USA.  Neither of these organizations is free from problems but I believe
that both of these articles are fairly solid.

          -- 1 --
    The Labor Party --
    What is its Relationship to the Tasks of Building
    an Independent Movement of the Working Class?
    by Jack Hill -- Chicago Workers' Voice: #11

          -- 2 --
    Union bureaucrats establish "Labor Party"
     by Pete Brown -- Communist Voice: Vol 2, #4


                                by Jack Hill

     As many readers of this journal already know, the U.S. now
has an organization calling itself the Labor Party. It was
founded under slogans such as, "The bosses have two parties, we
need one of our own."  Certainly we do need our own party and
some people have high hopes that the Labor Party will fill this
need. The numbers of people connected to this party sound
impressive.  The founding convention in Cleveland was attended by
1,367 delegates.   The Labor Party has been endorsed by several
international  unions and many regional and local union bodies.
These unions have a total  membership of over one million
workers. There are Labor Party chapters with varying degrees of
activity in many of the major cities of the U.S.

     This Labor Party, however, is not a working class party. It
is not trying to advance the struggles of the working class.
Thus, it is not an instrument that the working class can use in
its struggle against the capitalist class. We can start to get
some understanding why this is so by looking at some of its
important features.

     Labor Party Advocates was formed in 1991, particularly
through the efforts of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers
Union (OCAW) and Tony Mazzocchi.  Initially the idea of LPA was
just to explore whether or not a Labor Party could be founded. By
this  Mazzocchi and the other leaders of LPA meant whether enough
support could be gathered from trade union leaders to make the
Labor Party financially and politically viable in mainstream U.S.
politics.  For the first period of its existence, you could not
even join LPA unless you represented a local union or higher
body.  Later you could join as long as you were in a union, even
if you couldn't get your local to support LPA.  More recently
membership is open to anyone willing to pay the $20 and agree to
its very vague principles.

     Since its beginning, certain left groups have taken it as
their duty to build LPA's organization while trying to push its
politics to the left.  The groups that I know that pursued this
policy are Trotskyist groups which have long held that the way to
advance the class struggle is to form a Labor Party based on the
trade unions.  (Particularly, I am thinking of the "Organizer"
group based in San Francisco, and the "Labor Militant" group.)
People in these groups believe that it was pressure from the base
that they organized in LPA which forced Mazzocchi and company to
change the membership rules, broadening its base, and to finally
call the convention that founded the Labor Party. Even if this is
true, it does not change the basic character of this Labor Party.

     Continuing to look at the history shows some of what that
is. During the early years of the LPA, it appeared to be more
dedicated to postponing or preventing the formation of a Labor
Party than to founding one.  The reason, I believe, can be found
in LPA's relationship with the trade union bureaucracy.  The
mainstream of LPA has always treated the AFL-CIO leadership with
kid gloves.  In the view of the LPA leaders, the AFL-CIO was
making a mistake in tying itself so closely to the Democratic
Party. All they ever got in return for their mindless support of
the Democrats was the D.P. joining with the Republicans to kill
the AFL-CIO's main legislative proposals and adopt the Reaganite
program.  The LPA was more a potential weapon to threaten the
Democrats than an organization trying to breaking the workers
from the Democratic Party.

     However, Clinton and the mainstream of the D.P. continued to
stiff the trade union leadership.  Pressure grew for Mazzocchi
and company to carry through on their rhetoric against the
Democrats.  Among rank and file union members there is a slowly
rising sentiment that we need to do something to hold back the
anti-worker political and economic tide.  This force and
particularly the pressure from various high profile struggles
such as the Staley workers and the Caterpillar workers are the
reason the Sweeney leadership of the AFL-CIO has taken a more
activist and "militant" public stance.  I think this same force
operates on Mazzocchi and company.  Given the headlong rightward
plunge of the Democratic Party, the LPA leaders probably felt
they needed something a little stronger to threaten the
Democrats.  However, the LPA leadership doesn't want to be
accused of actually hurting the Democrats.  They organized the
founding convention so close to the 1996 elections that a serious
presidential campaign that might actually draw some votes from
Clinton was obviously out of the question.

Another Undemocratic Political Convention

     The current character of the Labor Party can also be
understood by looking at what happened at the convention and how
it was controlled.  The voting was controlled by the
international unions which endorsed LPA; each international got
100 votes.  Individual locals which endorsed LPA got at least
three votes.  Chapters got three votes for their first 50 members
and one vote more for each additional 50.  Individuals who were
not elected as delegates from unions or a local chapter could
attend as at-large delegates.  Every 50 at-larger delegates got
one vote.

     Seating at the convention also followed this pattern.
International union representatives were front and center,
surrounded by local union reps.  In the back of the hall were the
chapter delegates and then the at-large delegates.  The decisive
votes were right in the front.  Every vote came out the way the
LPA leadership wanted it.  Many who were at the convention
noticed the political split between the more conservative front
of the hall and the more radical back.

     Big debates were held on two contentious issues, the
language of the abortion rights clause and whether or not to run
candidates under the Labor Party name.  In both cases debate was
forced by the dissension of one of the international unions.

     The California Nurses Association forced the debate on
abortion language.  Abortion is not referred to by name in the
program.  One clause in the section on health care calls for,
"Informed choice and unimpeded access to a full range of family
planning and reproductive services for men and women."  The
representatives of the FLOC (Farmworkers labor organizing
committee) said they would walk out if the word abortion was in
the program.  The CNA and many women's rights activists wanted a
clear and unambiguous statement in defense of a woman's right to
have an abortion.  This was the longest debate, but the CNA
position did not have the votes and the clause stayed the same.

     In the months leading up to the convention the biggest
debates inside many chapters were on whether or not the Labor
Party should run candidates.  The LPA leadership insisted that it
would be fatal to the Labor Party to run candidates this year or
any time in the foreseeable future, nationally or on a state or
local level.

     Adolf Reed justifies this stand in an article after the
convention.  "No one who argued for running candidates responded
directly on the convention floor to the several, very practical
opposing arguments. These were: 1) opting for an electoral
strategy would by law cut off access to the trade-union treasury
funds needed to finance the Party; 2) a number of key
international unions and locals that have endorsed the Labor
Party would withdraw their support if we were to enter electoral
politics at this point; 3) other unions that would consider
endorsing us wouldn't do so if we were to go the electoral route
prematurely; 4) we don't have the strength to be successful
electorally, and running losing campaigns only demoralizes our
base and drains resources because political candidacies are an
ineffective vehicle for organizing; and 5) even if we were to win
some offices, we aren't strong enough to keep officeholders in
line, to keep them from -  or help them avoid -  rolling over
corporate interests." (The Progressive, August 1996, p. 21)

     Reed is an important figure in the Chicago LPA chapter, was
on the program drafting committee, and is on the new national
leadership body established after the convention.  What he
doesn't admit in this statement is that the Labor Party
leadership does not want to do anything to hurt Clinton and the
Democratic Party this year.  Reed announced at a forum in Chicago
in August that he has signed a fund raising appeal for a local
"pro-labor" Democrat named Clem Balanoff.  Other leaders of the
Chicago chapter, sympathetic to the line of the Communist Party
USA, stated before the convention that they considered it
necessary to support Clinton as the lesser of two evils.

     Many of the more leftist activists in LPA charge that there
is an agreement, maybe formal, maybe just understood, that the
LPA will not attack the Democrats or the labor union leadership
and the AFL-CIO will not attack the Labor Party.  Note that
Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO, was in Cleveland during the LP
convention.  When asked for comment on the convention, he made a
mild statement that now was not the time to form a labor party.
I think the actions of the AFL-CIO leadership and the LP
leadership show that such a deal does exist.

     The ILWU (International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's
Union) proposed that state and local chapters of the Labor Party
should be allowed to run candidates in state and local elections
as they saw fit.  They forced a floor debate, but they lost the
vote.  (See p. 19 for Earl Silbar's note on the convention for
his view of this fight.)

     There is plenty of irony to add to the demagoguery of the
Labor Party slogan, "the bosses have two parties, we need one of
our own."  The bosses can run candidates but the workers can't?

     Indeed the Buffalo chapter of the Labor Party was suspended
for endorsing an autoworker union leader running as a Democrat.
As Adolf Reed pointed out to the forum mentioned above in
Chicago, all the members of the Buffalo chapter could have
individually endorsed this man; they just couldn't use the Labor
Party name. The LP leadership regretfully suspended their Buffalo
chapter, not to punish LP members for working to elect Democrats
(remember the D.P. is one of the bosses' parties), but as a stern
warning to any of the more leftist chapters that they better not
run candidates against the Democrats.

The LP stand on immigration

     As another example of the politics of the Labor Party, I
want to go into their stand on immigration.  I have been involved
in political work in defense of immigrants' rights for many years
and feel I have some knowledge of the issues related to
immigration.  I also proposed a resolution on immigrants' rights
to the local Chicago chapter of LPA which was not adopted.  The
Labor Party's stand on immigration is by no means the most
objectionable feature of this organization but it is a good
example of how their program caters to the politics of the
Democratic Party and the mainstream labor bureaucrats.

     Section 4 of the LP program is entitled, "End bigotry: An
injury to one is an injury to all."  Overall this section makes
many good points against discrimination in all its forms. The
section on immigrant rights, however, is inadequate. There are
two pertinent statements in this section.  "When immigrants are
scapegoated and denied full labor rights and civil rights, we are
all scapegoated and denied our rights. ...  We support an
immigration policy that does not discriminate on any basis; and a
trade policy that supports international fair labor standards and
works to alleviate the conditions that send people moving around
the globe in search of opportunity."    I believe that a correct
stand on immigration is to oppose all restrictions on immigration
and to demand full and equal rights for all immigrants.  It is
fatal to the working class cause to accept or allow any sort of
discrimination among workers.  I support the full implications of
the popular slogans of the immigrants' rights demonstrations,
"Full rights to all immigrants!  The working class has no
borders!  No human being is illegal!"

     The Labor Party's program does leave the door open for
immigration restrictions.  As long as there are such restrictions
there are going to be immigrant workers in this country who are
considered "illegal" and therefore workers with fewer or no
rights.  I also think that the immigration policies of the
Democrats and the Republicans need to be explicitly denounced.
Nowhere in the Labor Party program is the Democratic Party
denounced by name, yet the Democrats' complicity with the
Republican-sponsored crimes against immigrant workers is a major
feature of the current political landscape.

     I am also concerned that linking the issues of "free trade"
and immigration could be harmful to international worker
solidarity.  A favorite tactic of the soldout bureaucrats who run
our unions is to mobilize workers on a nationalist basis to
"protect American jobs" against some foreign threat.  Class
collaboration can be slipped in easily if workers are united as
"Americans" against the Japanese or Mexicans or some other
nationality.  When the Labor Party program talks about imposing
trade sanctions (giving high sounding moral reasons of course), I
fear that it is just a short step away from joining in the anti-
foreign campaigns of the chauvinist labor bureaucrats.

     In sum, the Labor Party statements on immigration do not
show any clear difference from the avowed program of the
Democrats.  Furthermore they fail to criticize the Democratic
Party for its anti-immigrant stance.

No criticism of the Democratic Party
or of the Labor Bureaucracy for any damn thing

     The two biggest obstacles to building a fighting workers'
movement are the Democratic Party and the labor bureaucracy.
These forces have smothered countless workers' struggles over the
years.  Those activists who have been working to build a militant
workers' movement are well aware of this fact.  However, instead
of trying to help workers' break their ties to these enemies and
traitors, the Labor Party develops these ties in a new form.

     The Labor Party is not organizing actions to support workers
who are fighting against the capitalists. In Detroit, newspaper
workers have been on strike since July, 1995. Did the Labor Party
plan to organize any actions in support of this strike. No. It is
not up to organizing any such thing on its own initiative. It did
call on the AFL-CIO to organize a national demonstration. This
idea has been floating around for a long time. And the AFL-CIO
didn t do it. (Of course, this type of action is very limited and
doesn t necessarily address how to organize the day to day
struggle. But the Labor Party couldn t even do this on its own
initiative.) The Labor Party is not launching any actions which
contradict the politics and policies of the AFL-CIO. It is not
taking the kinds of steps needed to help fighting workers.

     Further, the Labor Party is not launching any actions which
could hurt the Democratic Party's base among workers.  It is not
running candidates.  It is not running any sharp campaign
denouncing the Democrats as enemies of the working class.  Its
program does not even attempt to show what is wrong with the

     Now if the LP leadership had any intention of building a
movement of working people organizing  for their own class
interests they would do at least some of these things.

     I advocate building a fighting movement of working people,
independent of the rich and their political parties and their
opportunist trade union allies. To build such a movement we must
carry out actions against the rich and actions against the
Democratic Party.  We need to expose the Democrats and the trade
union bureaucrats.

     Others may be less radical or activist-minded and they might
think in terms of electoral politics.

     Regardless, the Labor Party is not up to the task, any task.
It is not for building a fighting movement in the streets and on
the picket lines; it is not even for a reformist campaign to
elect workers to the local school board!

     Many of the leaders of the Labor Party support Clinton's
reelection, either openly as a reluctant choice of the lesser of
two evils, or tacitly by joining with those who take the first

     At the forum in Chicago, Adolf Reed predicted that the
August meeting of the national leadership of the Labor Party
would take up a national campaign for a Constitutional amendment
guaranteeing everyone the right to a job at a living wage.  It
has now been announced that, indeed this is the first national
campaign of the Labor Party.  However, no concrete steps are
being taken nationally or in Chicago for this campaign.  Anyway,
such an abstract, pie-in-the-sky type campaign would not do any
concrete damage to the Democrats.  Nor would it expose the labor
bureaucrats who are stifling the workers' movement.  Moreover, I
don't expect these people to do much of anything in the name of
the Labor Party till after the Nov. elections just to avoid even
the appearance that they might be hurting Clinton.

A minor obstacle now, potentially a bigger obstacle

     In my view the Labor Party is worthless. It will not help
workers build a mass movement or aid in organizing our class in
any progressive way. It will not even run reform candidates
against the D.P.

     To a minor extent now, and maybe to a much larger extent in
the future, the Labor Party blocks worker activists from making a
real break with the politics of the Democratic Party and the
labor bureaucracy.

     The Democratic Party is abandoning the pro-labor, pro-
minority rights, pro-women's rights political rhetoric which has
been its mainstay since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
(e.g. Clinton's signing of the Republican's welfare reform bill).
The Labor Party is positioned to be a vehicle for the labor
bureaucracy to push the "old" FDR-New Deal type politics which
the "new" Democratic Party has thrown away.  I don't see how it
would be an advance to have workers looking to politicians for
solutions to their problems under the same type rhetoric the
Democrats have used for decades but now under the brand name
"Labor Party."  We need to develop a politics of mass struggle
and of contempt for slick talking, hypocritical politicians.

     There are those who say that we (the more radical left)
should not give up on the Labor Party, that we should join it,
stay in it and fight to change it.  Certainly it is necessary to
deal with the Labor Party as a political trend.  We should try to
clarify for activists who are in and around it, what the
difference is between the Labor Party's platform, tactics and
strategy and the platform, strategy and tactics needed to advance
the working class struggle.

     I disagree with those who say we should strive to take over
the leadership of this party, either locally in Chicago or
nationally.  This is an organization built by the bureaucrats for
their purposes which I have tried to analyze above.  No big waves
of worker activists fresh out of militant mass struggles have
joined this party.  Unfortunately, the level of militant mass
struggle among the working class is pretty low.  Most of the
people active in the Labor Party have been committed to the
politics of conciliating the Democratic Party and the soldout
labor bureaucracy for a considerable period of time.

     I think it is a waste of time and energy to try to transform
the Labor Party into a fighting organization dedicated to
advancing the workers' struggle.  The energies of worker
activists would be better spent elsewhere.

     To build an independent working class movement, the main
task is not to force the bureaucrats to do it.  Those of us who
see what needs to be done need to organize ourselves to do it,
independently of what the Labor Party does.  At a minimum we need
to be able to criticize and expose the labor bureaucrats for
their sabotage of workers' struggles.  We need to be able to
denounce any and all slick talking politicians, especially the
so-called "pro-labor" Democrats.  The Labor Party is not going to
do this; we can make sure everyone realizes this fact, but we
shouldn't make it a main focus to force the Labor Party to do
this.  Nor can we hold ourselves back for taking up these tasks
because the Labor Party is not willing to do them.

     Some people will join the Labor Party.  We should make sure
they understand the character of this party.  However, I think it
is wrong to recruit workers or activists to join the Labor Party.
Some people say we should recruit workers to join for the purpose
of changing the character of the Labor Party.  To me it makes
more sense to mobilize workers to join an organization that is
already committed to advancing the workers' movement.  This
brings up the point that a lot more work has to be done to build
suitable organizations for workers who want to fight for their
class.  It is better to put our efforts in this direction than
tying to take over the Labor Party. <>


     --- from list ---