Labor and the Iowa Caucuses

David Smithers cautions against the class-collaboration on display at the Working Families Summit in Ames

Pep rally politics

The Iowa AFL-CIO News May 2015 reports on a Working Families Summit in Ames on the 16th, sponsored by the trade unions and the liberal organization Progress Iowa. Coincidentally or not, the small city of Ames had been for several cycles the site of the Republican Presidential Straw Poll held during spring /summer the year before January’s Iowa Caucuses. This year’s GOP circus has moved west down highway 30 and the next county over, in Boone – population 12,000.

The summit promises that “issues are what can unite us against the money changers who seem to be buying our government and our future. Whether you are a Democrat, Independent, Republican or Green party member, there is broader agreement on many more issues than you hear about in the media. While the parties seem to be interested in courting the money, we need to take the issues and make those who want our votes address our issues.”

We hope so. But our concerns are not a few. Will this be a working class struggle or a mourning for reviving the fortunes of the “middle class” that the labor leadership and the Democrats talk about so often? The new terminology distances us from the class struggle. If “middle class” just means “not rich or poor”, it means nothing at all. Talking about it only hides the real class contradictions. Instead of drumming up support for liberal (and not so liberal) Democrats, labor should spend its time organizing workplaces and fighting in its own name for issues that affect working people.

Electoral action is one part of that. The Red Party has endorsed the idea of united socialist candidates against the capitalist parties, including the minor capitalist parties. The Greens and Libertarians aren’t even fully real parties, floating back into the Democrats and Republicans especially during caucus seasons.

Socialists and militant trade unionists should by all means attend these events – but be wary. They’re meant as a way to lead activists into the Democratic camp, but we can use them as a way to push for independent class politics.

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