12 thoughts on “Labor Party Time?

  1. We’ve been calling for a Labor Party since my deceased husband, Richard Broadhead, wrote a pamphlet in the early 70s. We continue to support democrats and get sabotaged by them. Even if we do not participate in electoral politics because of our numbers, we could, at least, be offering some sane program for reducing our debt. preserving social security, medicare, medicaid, the environment, reducing the war machine, funding schools, etc.

  2. I was marginally involved with the Labor Party in the 90’s. Originally I was fairly optimistic of its prospects but eventually became disillusioned when it failed to develop a strategy for grass roots mobilizing. It focused singlemindedly on securing endorsements and affiliations from trade unions and when they failed to engage the national trade union leadership it simply had nowhere to go. For this one has to hold the founding leadership, Bob Wages and Tony Mazzocchi , responsible. They seem to have trying to recreate a US version of the British Labor Party, under unfavorable conditions, and in particular when the US unions were much weaker then their British counterparts at the beginning of the 20th century.

    The unions were simply not in a position to build a viable mass party solely around their own leadership and structure. It would take a broad united front of minorities, peace activists, women, progressive intellectuals along with trade union officials and activists. This meant there had to be a shared leadership and a broad, common program. Wages and Mazzocchi , in thier obsession with lining up trade union support and endorsement ignored these other sectors, and more importantly the dynamic of mass party building which involves engaging and mobilizing large numbers in political and social struggling from the beginning. Having disavowed any serious mass mobilization untill they secured the support of a significant echelon of the top union leadership, they had nowhere to go when this support failed to materialize.

    The article of Dudzik and Isaac fail to acknowledge the fundamental strategic flaw, and therefore lack a deep analysis of the Labor Party’s failure.
    In fact, while their article gives an interesting history, they cannot articulate the conditions under which a mass working class party becomes viable.To do that you have to focus on essential strategic issues, which they fail to do.

  3. Third party activists waste too much time and energy trying to elect presidential candidates. The example of the organized Tea Party activists in the House of Representatives shows how an organized Labor Party group with 10% of the House and even 5% of the Senate could could be effective in advancing or stopping legislation.

  4. Response to Labor Party Time

    A “Connective Party”?

    My name is Sean Sweeney and I served as a LP Chapter representative in
    the Interim National Council. I was also chair of the NY Metro
    Chapter and was active in New York State LP’s efforts to get off the
    ground in the late 1990s.

    I agree with those who say that Mark and Katherine’s piece was both
    timely and useful and, more importantly, the piece speaks to a need to
    re-open the discussion on the Labor Party with an eye on the future.

    In the early 1990s I was convinced that the trade unions would be,
    and should be, at the heart of the effort to build an independent
    working class party. I no longer believe this. Instead, I believe a
    segment of the labor movement will play an important role — perhaps a
    catalytic role — in launching a new party. But many unions have
    shown that they are still not ready to break with the Democratic
    Party, and there is no visible push on the part of rank and file
    groups — themselves in a weakened state — to challenge this state of

    But some national unions (perhaps a handful) and even some regional
    bodies and large locals could move away if certain conditions were
    right. Firstly, I do not consider the actions of the Democratic Party
    to be determinative in shaping this outcome. Labor is punch-drunk
    right now, and it’s not a case of one more slap across the face and
    then the great awakening will take place. A lot of labor leaders are
    past the tipping point and some have even joined ranks with enemies of
    labor, as seen with the alliance between the Building Trades and the
    American Petroleum Institute (including Koch industries) around the
    Keystone XL pipeline and the broader push to develop fossil fuels in
    North America. LiUNA just endorsed NJ Republican governor for
    re-election — the same governor who has terrorized unions since he
    came to office.

    No, more important will be the desire on the part of other
    organizations and networks outside of labor to begin to build an
    independent party. If key environmental, immigrant, youth and
    student, and indigenous organizations were to reach this conclusion
    and be ready to constructively engage in imagining and then building
    such a project, then we would be in business. Some of those mobilized
    by the Occupy movement must also be asking – where now? The core
    activists may still reject party politics as a matter of ideological
    principle, but others may see the sense in challenging the two
    pro-corporate parties by building an independent party with its eyes
    on winning political space and, eventually, political power.

    In the past the experience of Europe offered lessons – both positive and
    negative – for those wishing to build a Labor Party here in the US, but
    Europe today may also offer some insight into what a new party might
    look like. Traditional labor parties are losing support, but
    alternatives further to the left have enjoyed considerable growth in
    recent years. A new organizational concept has emerged from this,
    termed “the connective party.” There was no conscious decision to
    grow parties in this way, but this is what has happened.

    Looking at the left parties in Europe that have been relatively
    successful of late, such as Izquierda Unida in Spain, the Front de
    Gauche in France, and above all Syriza in Greece, these are all
    umbrella parties or party coalitions. This also applies to Die Linke
    in Germany, which emerged as a merger between the former communist
    party in the East and a left-wing labor-based party in the West that
    had broken with the neoliberal belly flop of the Social Democratic
    Party under Schroeder. Syriza grew out of a the efforts of social
    movements organizing huge demonstrations in Greece against the imposed
    austerity politics — with some Greek unions playing a constructive
    role while (most) others remained loyal to the pro-austerity PASOK. In the June 2012 elections, Syriza won 27% of the vote. The 5 Star Movement (5SM) in Italy is also worth watching. It is a left-leaning populist ‘internet party’ that
    has been organized around Beppe Grillo, a well known comedian. 5SM is
    presently polling at around 20% nationally and has already won some
    major mayoral elections.

    Is such a ‘connective’ party possible here? There are, of course,
    special challenges, not least of which is the electoral system system
    itself. There is no easy way around this in the short term. But this
    is another discussion, one that transcends the question of
    organization. Either way, it’s not only organized labor that is discontented with the
    Democrats, and an independent party must aspire to ‘connect’ other
    constituencies or the parts of the those constituencies that are ready
    to chart a new course. There are big differences between Europe and
    the US, but let’s not overlook the similarities – discontent with
    politics as usual, a lingering economic crisis, growing inequality, precariousness for workers, and so on.

    Building connections between different organizations and movements
    raises the issue of program. The left parties in Europe have managed
    to grow with an anti-austerity ‘program’ that is often light on
    details and still lacks a compelling vision. But perhaps there is a
    lesson here too. Maybe some broad principles – such as economic
    justice, true democracy, environmental and climate protection, etc.
    are enough for now. Keep it simple, but powerful. Begin a process
    where a real, living program can emerge.

    I look forward to being part of this important discussion.

  5. I have spent the better part of the morning reading about the Labor Party. Realizing that there is much I have missed, I am left with the nagging feeling that the LP are socialists that refuse to admit it. I am with the Democratic Socialists of America. I struggle with the “S” word as more of a hindrence than an asset, other than for the benefit of honesty. I’d be interested in responses as it relates to building a viable 3rd party.

  6. In the late nineteenth century Frederick Engels argued that in the US a broad mass based workers party was needed, rather than a more programmatic-ally perfect
    Deleonist type “socialist” party. Engels felt that the workers needed such a party as a way to learn from experience about politics and the need for workers to take power. I tend to agree with him in the current situation, although anti-communism has greatly abated in the US lately. The critical point I think, is the idea that workers should be running the country, not billionaires. From that flows the question of what would have to be done to make it a country worth living in for the majority. Inevitably socialist solutions would start to make more sense.

    “But above all give the movement time to consolidate, do not make the inevitable confusion of the first start worse confounded by forcing down people’s throats things which at present they cannot properly understand, but which they soon will learn. A million or two of workingmen’s votes next November for a bona fide workingmen’s party is worth infinitely more at present than a hundred thousand votes for a doctrinally perfect platform. The very first attempt–soon to be made if the movement progresses–to consolidate the moving masses on a national basis will bring them all face to face, Georgites, K. of L., Trade Unionists, and all; and if our German friends by that time have learnt enough of the language of the country to go in for a discussion, then will be the time for them to criticise the views of the others and thus, by showing up the inconsistencies of the various standpoints, to bring them gradually to understand their own actual position, the position made for them by the correlation of capital and wage labour. But anything that might delay or prevent that national consolidation of the workingmen’s party–no matter what platform–I should consider a great mistake, and therefore I do not think the time has arrived to speak out fully and exhaustively either with regard to H.G. or the K. of L.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/letters/86_12_28.htm

  7. I think Les Leopold may be right in that the name “Labor Party” may have had its day. Just like “Green Party” is crippled with baggage that will not allow it to ever be a main party, calling a party “Labor” may have the same handicap. And if you look at the Green Party platform, it is pretty good. It suffers from what it is perceived to be, and I think that is somewhat of an environmental, highly educated party of people who smack of elitism. I am not saying I agree with the perception, but it is surely one that keeps the party small and ineffective. We would not want a Labor Party to be the same.

    There are numerous progressives who agree around a series of core issues, such as universal health care, the demilitarization of the American economy, a government that reins in corporate power and control, etc. Seeking to build a movement around these issues while making Labor issues one of the main component of the platform has more viability and more mass appeal. That is why a national conference put together to draw all these progressives under one tent in on place, say St. Louis, the middle of the country, would be an important step in identifying what could be hammered out as an agreeable platform and also tell how broad the appeal might be. The toughest part, of course, and I attempt to rein in cynicism here, is getting these groups gathered to seek the larger goals, subsume some short term agendas to gain a broad consensus. I won’t itemize the groups that could be a part of this, but I am sure with the organizations many here belong to it could be quite vast in scope. Labor itself should seek to bring its organizational skills to run the conference. Herding cats is difficult, I know, but if one of the main agreements would be to leave sectarianism aside for the greater good, not a easy task I realize, then it could be seen just what is possible for a future party, one that is completely different from the present two corporate parties.

    Just some thoughts on a way forward.

  8. I do not want us to miss out on this opportunity this time around. There is no reason we can’t run candidates at the local and state level. However, I understand holding out on national candidates for the time being. State parties must first be able to show they can manage local and state campaigns, earning the confidence from the people there. So at the present moment, we can organize our respective states, and utilize in-state coalitions to help build something new.

    • the perspective is off – its not ptlcoiial parties that is the core of the problem, its personality types, i.e., there is nothing to “fix” in the republican party. It is a collection of people that relate, feel they have common outlook with other republicans. That commonality: authoritarian, violent, insecure, fear mongering, self-absorbed, bullying, oppressive, bigoted, ignorant, angry and everything else you describe is the problem. Whether you call them republicans, conservatives, violentarians, zealots, or anything else you better figure out how to appeal to and modify their hideous, distorted, indecent personalities if you wish to change the direction of the society.

  9. The time for discussion should be over. We need a party to field candidates. Why has there been so much dithering on this subject for so long? It won’t be easy, not in a rigid two party system but we should try. One tactic might be to field a presidential candidate, to aim to garner enough support to put him/her in the debates. It can be done. The Right is doing it–organizing, putting their candidates out there and what are we doing? Discussing? This country is going to the dogs (or the rich cats whichever metaphor you prefer) and we are going to have a forum? The only reason we are not out there fielding candidates is because some don’t want to upset the democratic party.

  10. I’m an independent moralist in ideology, and an independent voter in politics, usually holding my nose and voting Democratic on the basis that that supports what little real liberalism there may be left at the national level (the local Democrats and Republicans are as indistinguishable as the Wall Street Democrats and Wall Street Republicans on the national level).

    I was radicalized by the Oil Bubble of 2006-8, which deliberately wrecked the world and US economies, and from which economic attack we are still reeling:


    I was going to not vote in the 2008 campaign, for the first time since 1976, out of outrage at the complicity of “both” “parties” in that attack



    but was talked into voting for Obama on the off-chance he meant it when he said “Obama means change”–

    And got CFMA engineer Larry Summers as chief Presidential economic adviser.

    When the White House changes hands, one platoon returns to Wall Street, and a fresh one comes in.

    My study of our problem has led me to discover that the two-party-system has been a two-PLUTOCRATIC-party-system from the first


    and indeed a permanent opposition to his Majesty’s Administration would never have been tolerated until it was clear it would consist of and be led by the Right People: Foord’s classic account of the genesis of that system, His Majesty’s Opposition 1714-1830, referenced in the blog-post linked to above, hardly needs any reading between the lines at all as to the aristocratic-plutocratic nature of that system (shorn of the aristocratic when imported here), and has only one major lack, an ongoing synthesized treatment of contemporary property-qualifications for holding office and voting in the UK.

    Note that while FDR has long been belabored by the Loonie Right as a “Socialist”, he did exactly the minimum needed to avert revolution and preserve the plutocracy and its two-plutocratic-party-system–

    And who, after all, invented Social Security? the German Wilhelmine Imperial “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck, hardly by anyone’s measure either liberal or socialist.

    So how do we move beyond the two-plutocratic-party-system, which has been so devastatingly successful a weapon for plutocracy against democracy in the English-speaking countries?

    Publicly-discussed and grassroots-organization-adopted single Amendments, when coupled with campaigns demanding candidates for the US Congress support those Amendments as well as public debates and recorded votes on them in Congress, seem to me to be the most promising, best-controlled and safest way forward out of the present plutocratic abyss in our country.

    What Amendments, then? is the question.

    I submit that there should be at least two:

    First, a Populist Amendment returning control of government to the people, getting justice, law and government back out of the hands of the plutocracy and its “two” plutocratic “parties” and into the hands of the people where they belong.

    And then second a specifically Antiplutocratic Amendment, remedying the dismal failure of our Constitution to address plutocracy as it does aristocracy and theocracy.

    I examine the above strategy here


    and such Populist Amendment here


    the major reforms in which last are that the popular houses in the legislatures be selected by random lottery from the populace; that all trials be passed on by randomly-selected grand juries, and randomly-selected trial juries make all findings of fact and law, replacing judges, and counsel for both sides and to assist the jury be likewise randomly selected from attorneys attached to the court in question, and such system prevail at all levels up to and including the supreme; and that the ethics of government, corporation and union be monitored by randomly-selected ethics juries.

    Such Populist Amendment, and the succeeding Antiplutocratic Amendment needed, must both necessarily be somewhat complex, and I have therefore refined the two-phase strategy further into a three-phrase strategy:

    First, the adoption of an anti-Citizens-United or anti-corporate-personhood Amendment, of which several have already been filed in Congress, although I believe that the simplest possible one, “Corporations are not persons”, would be best, along with another Amendment embodying what is really the most fundamentally-popularly-empowering section of the “Populist Amendment” referred to above, its section 9, which allows the adult citizens of the States to amend the Federal Constitution without any participation by President or Congress or K Street, breaking the stranglehold thereof over further populist Constitutional reform; second, using those new popular powers to adopt whatever “Populist Amendment(s)” are deemed necessary; and, third, adoption of whatever “Antiplutocratic Amendment(s)” are deemed necessary:


    Finally, as to a Labor Party, which I’ve long maintained our country needs, the problem with parties is that they’re readily corrupted, whether with ordinary careerism, organizational self-interest, or outright plutocratic degeneration–see the sad state of the UK’s “London City Labour” Party today.

    But if such Party itself embodies in its charter and procedures, for example, the outside ethics monitoring mentioned above, along with any other methods that may recommend themselves to maintain its integrity, then there’s no reason that such Party cannot appeal to the Center, which is the weak spot in the two-plutocratic-party-system, and such Party might well be a valuable adjunct to the strategy outlined above.

    Finally, as a couple of examples of anti-plutocratic reforms that might be implemented by Amendment, see



    I apologize for commenting at such length, but this is something I’ve been brooding heavily over for the last five years . . . .

  11. I WANT to argue with everything John Kennard just said.

    But I CAN’T argue with ANY of it.

    So I won’t.


    As an economically conservative social liberal (a.k.a. Classical Liberal), my (formerly G)OP has left me in the dust, and I find it harder and harder to truck with today’s neoConservatives and Religious Wrong. But like Les Leopold and Michael Carano, I am troubled for the same reason they’ve expressed (plus other reasons of my own) by the name “Labor Party,” and so I am presently inclined to keep looking before jumping ship.